Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Near Miss and a Coincidence

I was recently contacted by a lovely gentlemen through's message system. His wife's great great grand aunt was the sister of the first wife of my great grandfather. (I descend from his second wife.) Charles Edward Jennings' first wife was also his first cousin once removed, but honestly it's too confusing to figure how else I may be related to my new contact's wife. As we shared information about the common people in our trees, he mentioned he had a book about the Miller and Duff families of Virginia, which included a chapter entitled Jennings connections, as the families had so intermarried.

I have been using the information in that chapter to verify what my father had in his tree, source, and extend it using records available now, which were not at the time he did his research. Along the way, I've met many interesting ancestors. One of which is Arline Vivian Goff.

Arline was born on 6 May 1925 in Lynchburg, Virginia, to William Thomas and Viola (Martin) Goff. In 1940, Viola was living alone with her children and claimed to a widow. However, her husband, William Goff, had married Cora Cash Timmons by 1939, so I suspect he had left or abandoned his first family. William and Cora moved to Norfolk, Virginia, some time after 1940. Cora was given an absolute divorce decree in 1947 due to adultery on William's part. William apparently hung himself with his belt, or was killed by another prisoner, in a police station in Norfolk the next year.

Virginia Death Record for William Goff; image courtesy of

But back to William's daughter, Arline...

In 1944 Arline lived at 310 West 25th Street in Norfolk. This address was listed as her father's usual residence on his death certificate. She and Frank Beasley, an aviation mechanic likely with the Navy, applied for a marriage license on 14 January 1944. He was born in Kentucky, but lived in Los Angeles at the time. He was a World War I veteran and had re-enlisted in 1942. He had also been married previously and had a child, though he claimed never to have been married when he and Arline applied for the license.

Virginia Marriage Record for Frank Beasley and Arline Goff; image courtesy

Something happened to their relationship, however, as a note on their marriage record where the minister certifies the marriage took place said, "Rescinded not executed 22 May 1945." Perhaps she found out about Frank's previous marital history or one of them simply got cold feet.

She was back in her hometown of Lynchburg when she and Lee Hall Beasley married there on 13 February 1948. Lee Hall Beasley was the son of Robert Parker and Willie (McConville) Beasley. He was also my third cousin once removed. Lee had been married previously and had a daughter. He and his first wife were divorced in 1940. At the time Lee and Arline applied for their marriage license neither were working.

Virginia Marriage Record for Lee Beasley and Arline Goff; image courtesy

In 1949 Lee was a trainee at Brown-Morrison, a shoe store or factory, and the following year, he worked there as a salesman. When he died in 1960, he was retired from the U.S. Post Office, where he had sorted mail. Arline died on 30 August 2009 at the age of  84. Lee and Arline were interred Spring Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg.

I have not found any familial relationship between Arline's "almost" husband, Frank Beasley, and her husband, Lee Hall Beasley. But what a coincidence that the two men she considered marrying had the same surname!

I am just loving the new Virginia vital records on Ancestry and the stories they are revealing!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

52 Ancestors #39: For the Love of the Game

Ancestor Name: Lester "Les" Evans Willis (1908-1982)

Lester Evans Willis was born on 17 January 1908 in Nacogdoches, Texas, to Elijah David and Mary Cordelia Ford. Two years later the family lived in Walker County, Texas, where Lester's father worked at a saw mill. Les attended East Texas Baptist University in Marshall for two years where he likely played on the school's baseball team. When he left school, he lived with his sister and brother-in-law, Ovie and Ruth Pevoto in Beaumont, Texas, and worked as a pumper at an oil refinery.

Five years later he was playing minor league baseball. He spent 12 years in the minors as a left-handed pitcher. In 1932 he played for Shreveport-Tyler Sports. The next year he played for the Baton Rouge Solons and the Jackson Senators. He started the 1934 season with the Joplin Miners and was traded to the El Dorado Lions where he remained for part of the 1935 season. He ended that season with the Fort Worth Cats. He pitched for the Pine Bluff Judges for the next two seasons. In 1938 he was with the Louisville Colonels and in 1939, the Milwaukee Brewers, an AA club. In 1940 through 1942 he played with the Memphis Chickasaws, another AA club. I'm not sure exactly if he played in 1943-1945 seasons. If he did, there is no record of it.  Les ended his minor league career with the Chickasaws where he won 18 out of 25 games.

Lester Evan Willis, 1947 Cleveland Indians pitcher; photograph courtesy of FAG
volunteer Gordon Brett Echols

During the winter meeting of major league general managers, the Rule 5 Draft is held. The rule aims to prevent major league teams from stockpiling their minor league teams with too many young players. The team with the worst record the previous season drafts first and can draft eligible players from any other teams' minor leagues. Les Willis was chosen by the Cleveland Indians during the 1946 Rule 5 Draft. He played with them for the 1947 season, which was his last in professional baseball, and worked in 22 games, starting twice.

He married Minnie Edith Stringer, my fourth cousin, sometime before 1940. When the census was enumerated that year, they lived in Jasper, Texas, and had one son, Lester Evans Willis, Jr. They owned their own home, which was valued at $1,200. Les' occupation was listed as professional baseball player for the Southern Association. He had worked 52 weeks the previous year, 48 hours each week, and made $2,000.

Minnie died 30 May 1966 at a hospital in Beaumont, Texas. Her residence was listed as 404 West. Collier Street, Jasper, Texas. Sometime after that Les married Emma Jetta Bowen. Les died on 22 January 1982. He stilled lived at the West Collier Street address at the time of his death. He was interred at Memorial Park Cemetery in Jasper. Both his wives were interred there as well.

I first learned Les was a professional baseball player when this hint was provided by

Les Willis' record from's Professional Baseball
Players, 1876-2004, database

It was an unusual source about which I had never before known.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Unusual.

The title of a Kevin Costner movie was used as the title of this post.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Worldwide Genealogy: Writing about Scottish Soldiers in World War I

Today is the 25th so it's my day to contribute a bi-monthly post to Worldwide Genealogy -- A Genealogical Collaboration.  We're a group of global genealogy and family history bloggers so I try to write about topics with wide appeal. I thought what I've been learning about researching British soldiers during World War I might be such a topic. I had to go back to "school," so to speak before I succeeded in learning much.

Unfortunately, records about their service are spotty at best. German bombers struck the War Ministry repository in 1940. More than half of the military service records pertaining to World War I were destroyed.

Damage caused during September 1940 German bombing raid of London;
photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

I hope you'll click over to my post and read about what I've learned and what resources I use.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Hess Affair

In one of the oddest pieces of World War II history, Rudolf Hess, Deputy Furher and Reich Minister without portfolio, and second in line to succeed Hitler, parachuted from the plane he was piloting and landed at Floors Farm south of Glasgow, Scotland. He was initially captured by a local ploughman.

Wreckage of Rudolf Hess' Messerschmitt BF 110; photograph courtesy of

Hess' destination was Dungavel House. It was a 19th century hunting lodge and summer retreat of the dukes of Hamilton. It became their permanent home when Hamilton Palace was demolished because it was sinking due to mining actives in the very mines owned by the Hamilton family. The duke sold Dungavel House to the coal board in 1947. The board later sold it to the government, who turned it into an open prison. It is currently a holding center for asylum seekers.

Dungavel House, seat of the Duke of Hamilton after 1919; photograph courtesy
of Strathaven Past and Present

Douglas Douglas-Hamilton was the 14th Duke of Hamilton and 11th Duke of Brandon at the time of Hess' ill-fated flight. The duke had attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin but claimed not have met Rudolf Hess during his stay in Germany.

Rudolf Hess stated he had journeyed to Scotland in a bold attempt to meet with the duke and plot a secret peace treaty that would ensure Germany's supremacy in Europe. When Hitler heard the news on 11 May 1941, he was horrified. He ordered the German press to label Hess a madman, who flew to Scotland solely on his own authority. Hess was stripped of all party and state offices and was to be shot on sight if he ever returned to Germany.

Hess was imprisoned in England until the end of the war in Europe. He was tried as a war criminal during the Nuremberg Trials and imprisoned at Spandau. He committed suicide on 17 August 1987 at the prison. He was the last Nazi prisoner of war at Spandau, which was demolished later that same year.

So how is the Hess Affair connected with my family? My grandmother's paternal ancestors were coal miners who worked in mines owned by the Duke of Hamilton and lived in what was then Lanarkshire. What they must have thought of the Hess hoo-ha!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

52 Ancestors #38: Describing War

Ancestor Name: John Edward Jennings

I have loved the subject history for much longer than I've been obsessed about researching my family history; and when I can weave history into my posts about family, those are often my favorites posts to write. I have several ancestors who fought in the Civil War on both sides but the ones I've written about most frequently are my Confederate soldiers from Virginia. I use the Virginia Regimental series of books, which are available at my local library, to glean the trivia of camp life and battle tactics.

Died at Elmira POW Camp Peterson Stanfield Key (1828-1864)
Second Bloodiest Day of the Civil War William Stephen Shepherd (1826-1863)
Captured at Waynesboro William Henry Jennings (1838-1929)
A Lover, Not a Fighter Charles Edward Jennings (1843-1917)

I've yet to tell the tales from the War of 1812 but it's an oversight that I'll correct shortly. I've even written about my 4X great grandfathers' service in the Revolutionary War. A delightful find in Samuel Beard's widow's pension affidavit was learning George Washington spoke, or should I say mildly chastised him.

George Washington Spoke to Him Samuel Beard (1750-1814)
Revolutionary War Soldier Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815)

As I began researching my Scottish Muir family, I learned how to research British soldiers who fought in World War I. I hired Chris Baker, of The Long, Long Trail, for the in-depth research that helped me tell moving stories of my ancestors who lost their lives in that horrendous war. As part of his deliverable, he provides unit diaries, which are invaluable in telling their stories. I cannot recommend him strongly enough.

Killed in Action in the Spring Offensive William Lively (1899-1918)
He Died on a Flanders Field Oswald Dykes Riddell Dick (1888-1917)

However, my absolute favorite thing about researching and writing about war is the partnership I've developed with my youngest brother. He has been seriously researching and writing about World War II for so long, I can't remember when he started. Now, when I find an ancestor who served in that war, my brother will often write what we call a set-up post that I publish on the my blog the day before my post. His provides the historical context of what our ancestors faced and I write about the details of their service. I wish I had half the writing talent my brother has.

When Pursuit Comes to an End
When Things Went Sour on the Sauer
First Shot at Pearl Harbor
On Patton's Flank
Saga of the Lost USS Indianapolis
70th Anniversary of D-Day
"Stay Alive in 1945"

My guest blogger, my youngest brother, and me in the mid-1980s in front
of our parents house in North Carolina; personal collection

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Favorite Place. My favorite place varies depending on which ancestor I am researching; I don't have just one. So I improvised more than a bit on this theme.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Pure Coincidence

Pete and I are playing tourist today. This past weekend we were in Detroit, Michigan, where my husband was born and raised. We were there to visit one of his sisters and to photograph the headstones of several ancestors buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery. In preparation, I ran a report from my database of all the people buried in that cemetery. I used the cemetery's website to identify each person's burial location and entered those locations into my report.

When Pete saw the report, he asked how he was related to several people with the surname Chutorash. He thought he recognized two of them, Richard and Ronald, and said they were twins. We looked in my database and, sure enough, Richard and Ronald were twins born on 14 June 1953. Their parents were Gustave Joseph and Margaret (Remington) Chutorash, Jr. It turns out Pete went to Aquinas High School with the Chutorash boys. He brought his 1971 yearbook out and showed me their photographs.

Richard (1953-2014) and Ronald (1953-1999) Chutorash; source personal

So how are my husband and Richard and Ronald Chutorash related? Elmer and Theresia (Fishtahler) Marvin are the grand aunt and uncle of all three classmates though they share no blood relationship.

How my husband and the Chutorash twins are related

What a coincidence!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Daughters of Charity

Yesterday, 14 September 1975, was the 40th anniversary of the canonization of Elizabeth Ann (Bayley) Seton, the first American to be canonized. After she was widowed she converted to the Catholic faith and moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she founded Sisters of Charity. In 1850 the order formally affiliated with Mother House of the Daughters of Charity in Paris and adopted the blue habit and white collar and cornette.

Today 18,000 Sisters of Charity serve in 94 countries addressing the needs of food, water, sanitation, and shelter; their sustaining work includes health care, migrant and refugee assistance and education.

In 1940, Mary Margaret Luckett, my Aunt Katherine's first cousin once removed, became Sister Adele in the Sisters of Charity order. She was the administrator of the provincial house of the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg when she died. She had a long career as a teacher in several Catholic schools in Virginia; served as principal in schools in Baltimore, Maryland; Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; and Utica, New York. She was honored as Principal of the Year for the Diocese of Richmond in 1989.

She was born on 11 August 1921 in Indian Head, Maryland, to Francis Savage and Hazel Irene (Walter) Luckett. She was the fourth of eight children. She grew up in Mount Rainier, Maryland, where her father worked as an engineer for a railroad. He later worked for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC.  She graduated from Immaculate Conception Academy in Washington and St. Joseph's Academy in Emmitsburg. She received a master's degree from Boston University. Sister Adele died 31 January 1993 at a hospital in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She was buried at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg.

National Shrine (and minor basilica) of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; photograph
courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1945, Sister Adele's younger sister, Regina M. Luckett, became Sister Mary Elizabeth of the Daughters of Charity order. She was 18 years old at the time. She worked as a teacher and principal in Catholic schools Bridgeport, Connecticut; Greensboro, North Carolina; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and several cities in Maryland. Sometime during her career Sister Mary Elizabeth changed her name back to Regina.

She was born in Indian Head, Maryland, on 19 May 1926 to Francis Savage and Hazel Irene (Walter) Luckett. She was their seventh child out of eight. Like her sister, Mary Margaret, she grew up in Mount Rainier. Regina graduated from Immaculate Conception Academy and St. Joseph's College in Emmitsburg. She later received a master's degree in business administration from Catholic University. Sister Regina died on 16 April 1972 in Emmitsburg. She was interred at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Their older brother Edwin A. Luckett was a Catholic priest.

The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is a religious site and educational center. The site includes a cemetery, which my husband and I visited this past summer. As we parked, I noticed they had an archive building. So I will be learning about accessing those archives for further research about Sisters Adele and Regina.

Statue of St. Vincent de Paul in the cemetery at the National
Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; personal collection

Monday, September 14, 2015

52 Ancestors #37: Three Brothers Married Three Sisters

Ancestor Names: John Arias Jennings (1848-1925), Leroy Peter Jennings (1841-1919), and William T Jennings (1853-1908)

John William Jennings, Jr. was a grandson of Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815), who fought in the Revolutionary War, and a son of John William Jennings, Sr. (c1777-1858), who was a veteran of the War of 1812. John Sr. moved his family to Amherst County, Virginia, by 1850. Many of his descendants still live in Amherst County.

John Jr. married Elizabeth "Eliza" Ann Vernon on 32 Mar 1832. They were married over 50 years and had 11 known children, including three sons who married three sisters.

John William and Eliza Ann (Vernon)
Jennings, Jr.; photograph courtesy of member jeaniespence777

Leroy Peter Jennings

Leroy Peter, or Leroy Powhatan as he is known by his Texas descendants, Jennings was born on 23 November 1841. He served in the 19th Virginia Regiment during the Civil War and was promoted at least twice. On 10 August 1865 he married Isabella M. White, daughter of Willis and Jane (Drummond) White. According to Leroy's obituary, they had 11 children together. Two died in infancy and a daughter died at the age of 24. Isabella died on 12 April 1883 at the age of 41. Leroy married Sarah Ellen Clements, daughter of James P. and Eliza Jane (Allen) Clements on 29 October 1884. The couple moved that same year to Texas, where they had ten children. Leroy died on 18 May 1919 in Mineola, Texas. Sarah died in 1951. They are interred in Cedars Memorial Gardens in Mineola.

Leroy Peter Jennings; photograph courtesy of
member buffalo4me

Known children of Leroy Peter and Isabella M. (White) Jennings
  • Oscar William born 1 March 1867, Amherst County, Virginia; died 17 July 1952, San Diego County, California; married 1) Emma (maiden name unknown) and 2) Irma Bernard Harris
  • Minnie Etta born 23 October 1869, Amherst County; died 9 February 1961, Kirbyville, Texas; married James A. Henry
  • Jane born circa 1869 in Amherst County; died 4 November 1871 in Amherst County
  • Edgar Willis born 8 April 1871, Amherst County; died 21 April 1962, Houston, Texas; married Betty Elizabeth Henry
  • Harry Lee born 19 April 1873, Amherst County; died 22 December 1958, Ojai, California; married Leona May Jameson
  • Charles Marion born 1 Mary 1875, Amherst County; died 1 March 1971, Palestine, Texas; married Mary Elizabeth Harrington
  • Rosa Bell born 31 March 1877, Amherst County; died 23 April 1930, Tulia, Texas; married George Stanley Key
  • Archie Herbert born 25 June 1878, Amherst County; died 9 July 1943, San Bernardino County, California; married Stella E. Marchand
  • Virginia Verna born 6 December 1879, Amherst County; died 1903
  • Cora Jane born 13 April 1881, Amherst County; died 31 May 1965, Hearne, Texas; married 1) Edward Henry Jennings, her first cousin, and 2) Oscar Thomas Gray

William T. Jennings

Leroy's brother, William T. Jennings, was born on 21 April 1853. He he married Isabella M. White's sister, Emma T. White, on 1 July 1875 in Amherst County. They had one known son before Emma died of pneumonia in April 1880.  When the census was enumerated that year, William and his two-year-old son were living with William's parents and he worked on his father's farm. He married Victoria A. Old on 5 April 1882 and they had two children in Amherst County before moving to Lynchburg by 1897. In Lynchburg, William and his family lived at 812 Main Street and he ran a boarding house. Two children were born in Lynchburg. By 1916 Victoria was listed in the Lynchburg city directory as a widow and proprietor of Jennings House and Monticello Hotel. She eventually moved to Washington, DC, where she lived at 173 New York Avenue, NE and owned her own home. She was not working and two youngest children were living with her. Nothing more about Victoria is known after 1920. A fellow Jennings researcher provided 1908 as the date of William T. Jennings' death, but I have been unable to find any documentation to support that date.

Child of William T. and Emma T. (White) Jennings:
  • Albert Lewis born 22 November 1876, Amherst County; died 25 February 1941, Bedford, Virginia; divorced

John Arias Jennings

Last among the Jennings brothers to marry a White sister was Leroy's brother John Arias Jennings. He married Roberta F. White on 3 November 1870 in Amherst County. The couple had six known children before Roberta died on 11 August 1886. She was buried in the Jennings family cemetery in Willow, Virginia. John then married Mary M. Craft on 3 November 1870. By 1900 the couple lived in Lynchburg, Virginia, at 523 Monroe Street and John worked at Murrell's Dairy. However, in 1910, John owned a farm in Stonewall, Virginia. John had farmed before on land in Amherst County. I do not know if he owned that farm or rented it. If he owned, perhaps it was lost in the Panic of 1893, which until the Great Depression, was the worst economic downturn the U.S. had experienced. John died on 15 July 1925 of aortic regurgitation caused by cancer of the liver. He was interred in the Hebron Baptist Church Cemetery in Stonewall. His second wife, Mary, was alive at the time of his death. I have not yet been able to trace her after John's death.

Top: Headstone of John Arias Jennings, courtesy of FAG volunteer Joan Mays;
Bottom: Headstone of Roberta F. (White) Jennings; courtesy of FAG volunteer
Marlene Fitzgerald

Children of John Arias and Roberta F. (White) Jennings:
  • Edward Thomas born 24 December 1873, Amherst County; died 6 October 1965, Los Angeles County, California;
  • Roberta  "Berta" E born 1876, Amherst County; died 26 Nov 1927, Lynchburg; married James Spencer Morgan
  • Willis W born 6 July 1877, Lynchburg; death unknown; married Mary (maiden name unknown)
  • Zachariah "Zack" Charles born 23 December 1878, Amherst County; died 20 December 1958, Los Angeles County; married 1) Mary Gertrude Eldridge and 2) Fannie Green or Bohachek
  • Maude Florence born 10 October 1881, Amherst County; died 23 October 1952, Richmond, Virginia; married Clarence William Franklin
  • Isabelle born 11 April 1883, Virginia; died 30 August 1946; married Raymond J. Davis
This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional them Large Family.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Killed in Belgium in Heavy Fighting

Wallace Jennings Horton was my 3rd cousin once removed. He was born on 30 April 1925 to Richard White and Virginia "Jennie" Ellen (Jennings) Horton. Jennie was a daughter of John William Jennings, III, a first cousin of my great grandfather. Wallace's family lived in Clifton Forge, Virginia, where they owned a home valued at $1,200 in 1930. His father worked as a conductor for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

Wallace's father died of coronary sclerosis at the C&O Hospital in Clifton Forge on 14 March 1939. The next year, when the census was enumerated, widowed Jennie lived at 112 Seventh Street in Clifton Forge with five of her children. Wallace attended Clifton Forge High School and was on the school's boxing team, which went 2-2-1 that year.

1939-1940 Clifton Forge High School Boxing team; photograph courtesy of

Three years later, at the age of 18, Wallace was drafted. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on 17 August 1943 in Roanoke, Virginia and served with the 119th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division. He likely spent the remainder of 1943 in Camp Blanding near Starke, Florida, training. The division sailed for Europe on 12 February 1944 and continued training on the south coast of England. They entered Europe four days after D-Day at Omaha Beach and were almost immediately thrown into action. Germans called the division "Roosevelt's SS" because of the constant pressure the unit brought to bear on their enemy's elite 1st SS Division.

During Operation Cobra, the breakout of the hedgerows, in late July, the division experienced devastating friendly fire by U.S. bombers. They broke up the German's spearhead during its drive to Avranches. After the liberation of Paris, the division drove east through Belgium crossing the Meuse river at Vise on 10 September. Maastricht fell the next day. Wallace Jennings Horton died on 13 September 1944 near Henri-Chapelle, Belgium. He received a Purple Heart so we do not know if he was killed in action or died from wounds sustained earlier.  He was 19 years old.

He was interred at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial.

Headstone for Wallace Jennings Horton; photograph courtesy
of FAG volunteer Des Phillippet

To read about the conditions in which Wallace and his fellow soldiers of the 30th Infantry Division fought, read my brother's guest blog.

15 February 2016 Update: As I continued my research into the descendants of my three times great grandfather, John William Jennings, Sr., I discovered Nathaniel Thomas Miller, a third cousin once removed of Wallace, served in the same infantry regiment. He died just 16 days after Wallace.

Cousins: Served Together, Died Together
When Pursuit Comes to an End

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Guest Blog: When Pursuit Comes to an End

My brother John is back with another guest blog, describing the conditions in which our third cousin once removed, Wallace Jennings Horton, died during World War II on 13 September 1944.

By John Edward Jennings

Napoleon famously said “An army marches on its stomach.”  It was his testament to the importance of logistics to the success of a military operation.  More than a hundred years later Napoleon’s wisdom was still evident when the Allied armies in Europe during World War II found that long, fragile logistical trails sapped every bit as much strength from their fighting forces as a determined enemy counter-attack.  When the German Army fighting the D-Day landings finally collapsed in Normandy the entire German western front was laid bare.  As the American, British and Canadian troops leapt over the Seine River, they began a pursuit of the fleeing enemy the like of which has seldom been seen in history.  Generals Bradley, Patton and Montgomery pushed their forces forward in a mad dash across Northern France and into Belgium and the Netherlands toward the German frontier.  With the Germans in complete disarray the Allied spearheads plunged ahead ever farther, advancing up to seventy-five miles a day against negligible opposition.  But they advanced so far, so fast that they outran their supplies.

Military historians often use the term ‘tyranny of logistics’ when describing how constraints of supply imposes its own cruel authority over operations.  For the Allied armies in Western Europe in 1944, the tyrant proved less want of supplies than of transport.  Each mile their armies advanced toward Germany took them that much farther from their supply depots near the Normandy beaches.  By the time the troops approached the German frontier in early September their lines of supply stretched over 500 miles.  Every truck that could be rounded up was pressed into a transport service called the Red Ball Express, but even this expediency could not quench the thirst of the field armies.  The thirty-six Allied divisions at the front needed some 20,000 tons of supplies per day, including 800,000 gallons of gasoline.  The Red Ball Express delivered an average of less than 7000 tons per day and consumed 300,000 gallons of gasoline to do so.  Under such tyranny the Allied advance simply could not be maintained.

Operation Cobra, photograph courtesy of Battle of Normandy Tours

US 30th Infantry Division experienced fully the tyrannical lessons of Napoleon.  The division had come ashore at Omaha Beach on 10th June, 1944, just four days after the bloody battle there on D-Day.  In late July the division took part in Operation Cobra, the breakout from the Normandy beachhead.  And then early the next month they made one of the great defensive stands of the war around Mortain, where a battalion was surrounded for several days.  Undaunted, the encircled troops fought on, calling down artillery on enemy columns streaming past, thus helping to check a German counter-attack aimed at cutting off the American breakout.  During the pursuit 30th Infantry Division marched through Cambrai (France), Tournai (Belgium) and Mesh (the Netherlands).  In the process they retraced some of the same ground the division had traversed in World War I and became the first Allied soldiers to enter both the Kingdom of Belgium and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  But gasoline could not be brought up to them fast enough and one-by-one vehicles dropped out of the march line as they ran out of fuel.

30th Infantry Division personnel looking east toward Maastricht;

The Germans used the respite brought about by the Allies’ logistical difficulties to good effect to reorganize their shattered forces and reestablish a coherent front.  German histories refer to this as the ‘Miracle in the West’.  Particular attention was paid to the sector opposite US 30th Infantry Division, where fresh reinforcements occupied well-entrenched positions along the Meuse River and Albert Canal to guard the approaches to Maastricht.  So when the troops of 30th Division set off again the second week of September to attack Maastricht the complexion of the fighting had completely changed.  Long gone was the double-time march of the pursuit.  They were instead confronted with the long, hard grind of positional warfare in which a successful advance is measured in yards, not miles…and which takes such a terrible toll on the poor foot soldier.

Men from the 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, October
1944; courtesy of Old Hickory

Tune in tomorrow to read about the experiences of our ancestors, Wallace Jennings Horton.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Remembering Mom

Today is the one-year anniversary of Mom's death and I think I am finally able to share with you the eulogy her minister prepared for her memorial service, which was truly beautiful and uplifting.

Mom's high school yearbook photo; personal

Beloved we have come together to remember and celebrate the life of Dorothy Lange Jennings who was born on June 20, 1930 and who died this past Tuesday, September 9, 2014. We have come to remember a very, very dear friend, mother, sister, and wife. To the family we express on behalf of this church and community our deepest sympathy and love. You have truly lost a most beloved and remarkable person in your lives. It is our prayer that you will be comforted and blessed today in this memorial service and especially by the grace and love of God. May the very precious memories that now gather around you of your mother, wife and sister fill you with gratitude and joy.
I believe it was in the early 80s that Ted and Dot moved to Pamlico County and built a beautiful home on Dawson Creek. Previously they have been living in the Washington, DC area and on a trip back north they passed through New Bern and crossed the Neuse River Bridge. They were thinking at the time of a place to retire and Ted, who has always loved the water, boats, and race cars, thought that this might just be the ideal place. They began to look around and found waterfront property on Dawson Creek and there they built their new home. When I met Ted and Dot in 1985 they had already become members of Bethany Christian Church and were faithful participants in all the activities of the church. The graciousness of their hospitality and love made visiting with them one of my favorite things to do. Though they were relative new residents in the community when I first met them they soon found their way into all our hearts. I know of no couple who is more dearly loved by the members of this congregation and community than Ted and Dot.

Dad and Mom about the time they moved to North
Carolina, c. 1978; personal collection

Dorothy came from an amazing family. Her family is amazing not because they are renown in the world but beause theirs is a family shaped by the love of their parents. They infused all their children with a great sense of dignity, of what is right and wrong, of hard work and a desire to be the best they could be at whatever they did. Schalene on her blog included a piece written by Dot about her parents. Her parents were immigrants from Europe who first settled in Canada. They eventually made their way to Brandywine, Maryland. They came there in 1919 and bought a 196-acre farm. It was there that Dorothy was born. All the children in the family, and there were nine of them, worked hard to help put food on the table and to pay for the farm. Their father started a poultry business. He sold eggs in Washington, delivering some even to Senators in the Senate Office Building. On a tree on the family farm their son Arthur carved these words as a tribute to their parents: "1919 came here. Sold pulpwood, eggs to pay for 196 acres. Thanks to Mom & Dad. We all had a good life. In God we trust."

Uncle Arthur's tree carving; personal collection

Dorothy has often spoken to me about her family roots and it is clear that her upbringing contributed greatly to the wonderful person she became. Her mother was an excellent seamstress and Dorothy inherited those same skills. She made all of Schalene's clothes when she was a child and she sewed for other people as well. She had an old Singer sewing machine which she used then, and even in Croatan Village where she and Ted lived, she still used that same machine. Dorothy was also an artist. She painted some amazing pictures. I think she did take some lessons at Pamlico Community College, but the talent she had was a natural inborn talent. But most of all she was a devoted and amzing mother to her children. Schalene wrote of her mother: "She guarded her children as fiercely as a momma bear but never once blamed the teachers as many parents do today when their children get in trouble. We were punished if we misbehaved in school. The teacher was always right."
Dorothy was also determined that her children would succeed at whatever they did or at least never give up on things they set out to do. Again Schalene has written of her mom: "Mom was sure I must have musical talent. Her father played a brass instrument in a marching band and the violin. I should have piano lessons. We bought a used piano and I began taking lessons with the wife of our church's musical director. I had wonderful form, but absolutely no talent. I played the piece as well the first time as the fiftieth. But Mom wouldn't let me quit. Until one day, when I came home from school, she told a story on herself. She was in the kitchen getting ready to clean up after breakfast and she heard someone playing the piano. Since the only person in the house that played was me, she was sure I was late for school. She came in the room to tell me to stop practicing and get to school and discovered our Beagle walking up and down the keyboard, shredding a tissue. Quitting my lessons was only one of the very few battles I won. My argument was simple. If she couldn't tell the difference between my playing and the dog's, I had no talent."
Also, this one last word in tribute to her mother: "She is stronger than anyone I know, but let Dad take care of her for 55 years of their 57-year marriage. Now during the last two years she has become the caregiver." And an excellent caregiver she was. She oversaw the selling of their beautiful house in Quail Woods so they could be together in Croatan Village. They needed to be together and not separated -- for his sake and for hers. Dot and Ted have had a wonderful marriage and life together. Their love for each other has always been evident. Their love produced a family that loves each other dearly. Even in these last several weeks when her condition became truly debilitating Dot's greatest concern was about what was going to happen to Ted and I did my best to assure her that everything would be OK. Her children would be there for her and for Ted as they both have been there for them.

Mom and Dad in April 2014 on our last vacation together;
personal collection

Beloved, when life has been lived to its fullest, there is absolutely nothing more important than the relationships we share with each other and also with God. You can have your wealth and your fame and all that goes with it, but give me family and let me live in loving relationships within the family and also with God. It is not simply that this is what will be important when we breathe our last breath. It is what is important now as we live. It is what sustains us and makes us who we are. Just think what a better world it would be if there were more moms and wives like Dot Jennings and more parents like the parents she had. When you live in gratitude for the relationships of love and caring that you have had, life is just better. I believe you are formed into a more complete and whole person. And I know you are living in a manner that is in harmony with the will of God for you and for the world.
One of the beautiful and compelling metaphors used in the Gospel of John for heaven is that of a house. In John Jesus says to us: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you." A house is a place where family members dwell. To say there are many rooms in God's house is to say there is a room for everyone. The vision we have here of our dwelling with God in the life to come is a vision of family dwelling together in a single house -- God's house.
If your experience in family has been a good and blessed one -- and I admit that is not the case for everyone -- but if it was, the image of house and home conjures up feelings and thoughts that are filled with gratitude and joy. Your house may not have been a mansion, and it may be that in the house of your upbringing there are now some empty rooms. They are empty because loved ones have departed from this life. But still I dare say that when you think about that house you think about the joy of times when family was together, when love and caring were evident, when laughter filled the rooms, and when the family was whole and complete.

Dad after Mom's memorial service; about a month later he was diagnosed
with a tumor of the brain lining; personal collection

In this world we live a fragmented life. Breaks in relationships happen. Unwanted separations from one another come and are unavoidable. It is the nature of life in this broken and dying world. But the image Jesus gives us of our dwelling with God is that of a house where we are together again and where there are no more separations. This is a comforting and reassuring image of life to come. Even if your famiy life in this world was not so good, the promise is when you trust in Jesus you can be sure that life in the family of God is now and will be forever a blessed life.
It is into the fuller expression of that life that our beloved Dorothy Jennings has now entered. This is the promise that Jesus made to her and to us. In the book of Revalation it is described in this way: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."


A special thanks to the Women's group of Bethany Christian Church in Arapahoe, North Carolina, who saw to the refreshments and decorating of the fellowship hall after Mom's service. And to all the attendees of Mom's service, who stood up and shared such wonderful memories of Mom.

Monday, September 7, 2015

West Virginia Mine Wars, 1920-21

Robert Muir's oldest daughter, Alice (Muir) Jennings (my paternal grandmother) said her father was a union organizer, who was blackballed from several mines, run out of coal towns and shot at more than once. We know his daughter, Henrietta, was born in 1920 in Tralee, West Virginia, and that he lived in Iaeger, West Virginia from at least 1936 to 1942. Was he part of the West Virginia Mine Wars of 1920-21? The following article is excerpted from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History's website.

U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 sparked a boom in the coal industry, increasing wages. However, the end of the war resulted in a national recession. Coal operators laid off miners and attempted to reduce wages to pre-war levels. In response to the 1912-13 strike, coal operators' associations in southern West Virginia had strengthened their system for combating labor. By 1919, the largest non-unionized coal region in the eastern United States consisted of Logan and Mingo counties. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) targeted southwestern West Virginia as its top priority. The Logan Coal Operators Association paid Logan County Sheriff, Don Chafin, to keep union organizers out of the area. Chafin and his deputies harassed, beat, and arrested those suspected of participating in labor meetings. He hired a small army of additional deputies, paid directly by the association.

In late summer 1919, rumors reached Charleston of atrocities on the part of Chafin's men. On September 4, armed miners began gathering at Marmet for a march on Logan County. By the 5th, their numbers had grown to 5,000. Governor John J. Cornwell and Frank Keeney dissuaded most of the miners from marching in exchange for a governmental investigation into the alleged abuses. Approximately 1,500 of the 5,000 men marched to Danville, Boone County, before turning back. Cornwell appointed a commission whose findings did not support the union.

Fred Mooney and Frank Keeney (right); photograph courtesy of the West
Virginia State Archives, Coal Life Collection

A few months later, operators lowered wages in southern coalfields. To compound problems, the U.S. Coal Commission granted a wage increase to union miners, which excluded those in southwestern West Virginia. Non-union miners in Mingo County went on strike in the spring of 1920 and called for assistance from the District 17 office in Charleston. On May 6, Fred Mooney and Bill Blizzard, one of the leaders of the 1912-13 strike, spoke to around 3,000 miners at Matewan. Over the next two weeks, about half that number joined the UMWA. On May 19, twelve Baldwin-Felts detectives arrived in Matewan. Families of miners who had joined the union were evicted from their company-owned houses. The town's chief of police, Sid Hatfield, encouraged Matewan residents to arm themselves. Gunfire erupted when Albert and Lee Felts attempted to arrest Hatfield. At the end of the battle, seven detectives and four townspeople lay dead, including Mayor C.C. Tersterman. Shortly thereafter, Hatfield married Testerman's widow, Jessie, prompting speculation that Hatfield himself had shot the mayor.

On July 1, UMWA miners went on strike in the region. By this time, over 90 percent of Mingo County's miners had joined the union. Over the next 13 months, a virtual war existed in the county. Non-union mines were dynamited, miners' tent colonies were attacked, and there were numerous deaths on both sides of the cause. During this period, governors Cornwell and Ephraim F. Morgan declared martial law on three occasions.

In late summer 1921, a series of events destroyed the UMWA's tenuous hold in southern West Virginia. On August 1, Sid Hatfield, who had been acquitted of his actions in the "Matewan Massacre," was to stand trial for a shooting at the Mohawk coal camp in McDowell County. As he and a fellow defendant, Ed Chambers, walked up the steps of the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch, shots rang out. Hatfield and Chambers were murdered by Baldwin-Felts detectives.

As a result of the Matewan Massacre, Hatfield had become a hero to many of the miners. On August 7, a crowd varyingly estimated from 700 to 5,000 gathered on the capitol grounds in Charleston to protest the killing. Among others, UMWA's leaders Frank Keeney and Bill Blizzard urged the miners to fight. Over the next two weeks, Keeney traveled around the state, calling for a march on Logan. On August 20, miners began assembling at Marmet. Mother Jones, sensing the inevitable failure of the mission, tried to discourage the miners. At one point, she held up a telegram, supposedly from President Warren G. Harding, in which he offered to end the mine guard system and help the miners if they did not march. Keene told the miners he had checked with the White House and the telegram was a fake. To this day, it is uncertain who was lying.

On August 24, the march began as approximately 5,000 men crossed Lens Creek Mountain. The miners wore red bandanas, which earned them the nickname, "red necks." In Logan County, Don Chafin mobilized an army of deputies, mine guards, store clerks, and state police. Meanwhile after a request by Governor Morgan for federal troops, President Harding dispatched World War I hero Henry Bandholtz to Charleston to survey the situation. On the 26th, Bandholtz and the governor met with Keeney and Mooney and explained that if the march continued, the miners and the UMWA leaders could be charged with treason. That afternoon, Keeney met a majority of the miners at a ballfield in Madison and instructed them to turn back. As a result, some of the miners ended their march. However, two factors led many to continue. First, special trains promised by Keeney to transport the miners back to Kanawha County were late in arriving. Second, the state police raided a group of miners at Sharples on the night of the 27th, killing two. In response, many miners began marching toward Sharples, just across the Logan County line.

The town of Logan was protected by a natural barrier, Blair Mountain, located south of Sharples. Chafin's forces now under the command of Colonel William Eubank of the National Guard, took positions on the crest of Blair Mountain as the miners assembled in the town of Blair, near the bottom of the mountain. On the 28th, the marchers took their first prisoners, four Logan County deputies and the son of another deputy. On the evening of the 30th, Baptist minister, James E. Wilburn, organized a small armed company to support the miners. On the 31st, Wilburn's men shot and killed three of Chafin's deputies, including John Gore, the father of one of the men captured previously. During the skirmish, a deputy killed one of Wilburn's followers, Eli Kemp. Over the next three days, there was intense fighting as Eubank's troops brought in planes to drop bombs.

Battle of Blair Mountain; photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

On September 1, President Harding finally sent federal troops from Fort Thomas, Kentucky. War hero Billy Mitchell led an air squadron from Langley Field near Washington, DC. The squadron set up headquarters in a vacant field in the present Kanawha City section of Charleston. Several planes did not make it, crashing in such distant places as Nicholas county, Raleigh County, and southwestern Virginia, and military air power played no important part in the battle. On the 3rd, the first federal troops arrive at Jeffrey, Sharples, Blair, and Logan. Confronted with the possibility of fighting against U.S. troops, most of the miners surrendered. Some of the miners on Blair Mountain continued fighting until the 4th, at which time virtually all surrendered or returned to their homes. During the fighting, at least twelve miners and four men from Chafin's army were killed.

Those who surrendered were placed on trains and sent home. However, those perceived as leaders were to be held accountable for the actions of all miners. Special grand juries handed down 1,217 indictments, including 325 for murder and 24 for treason against the state. The only treason conviction was against that of Bill Blizzard, considered by authorities to the be "general" of the miners' army. In a change of venue, Blizzard's trial was held in the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town, the same building in which John Brown had been convicted of treason in 1859. After several trials in different locations, all charges against Blizzard were dropped. Keene and Mooney were also acquitted of murder charges. James E. Wilburn and his son were convicted of murdering the Logan County deputies. Both were pardoned by Governor Howard Gore after serving only three years of their 11-year sentences.

The defeat of the miners at Blair Mountain temporarily ended the UMWA's organizing efforts in the southern coalfields. By 1924, UMWA membership in the state had dropped by about half of its total in 1921. Both Keeney and Mooney were forced out of the union, while Blizzard remained a strong force in District 17 until being ousted in the 1950s. In 1993, the National Industrial Recovery Act protected the rights of unions and allowed for the rapid organization of the southern coalfields.

Miners turn over their weapons after the defeat on Blair Mountain;
photograph courtesy of Preservation Alliance of West Virginia

Blair Mountain stands as a powerful symbol for workers to this day. The miners who participated vowed never to discuss the details of the march to protect themselves from the authorities. For many years, the story of the march was communicated by word of mouth as an inspiration to union activists. It serves as a vivid reminder of the deadly violence so often associated with labor-management disputes. The mine wars also demonstration the inability of the state and federal governments to defuse situations short of armed intervention.

Occupations in a Coal Mine

Sunday, September 6, 2015

52 Ancestors Week #36: Occupations in a Coal Mine

Ancestor Name: Dedicated to all my coal mining ancestors

Like his father and grandfather before him, my great grandfather, Robert Muir, was a coal miner all his working life. He worked in both subsurface, or underground, mines and drift mines. According to my grandmother, his oldest daughter, he was an organizer for the United Mine Workers (UMW) of American and was blackballed from employment by mine owners and even shot at to encourage him to leave town. He may have been involved in the bloody West Virginia Mine Wars in the early 1920s as his daughter, Henrietta Muir, was born in Tralee, West Virginia, in 1920. Tralee was a company coal town of housing and stores for miners.

Tomorrow, on Labor Day in the United States, our holiday to celebrate the American labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers, I will post more about the West Virginia Mine Wars of 1920-1921. Coal miners had some of the hardest labor struggles in our Nation's history. Owners employed private detectives to stop union organizing efforts, used their political influence to enact laws that were tilted in their favor. They kept miners and their families on extremely short leashes. Miners were not paid in cash; they were paid in scrip, which could only be used in company-owned stores. These stores contained few choices at exorbitant prices. Housing was provided by the owners, but the cost was taken out of their wages. In anthracite mines fields of Pennsylvania, there were only two towns where miners could own their own property.

Company-owned miner housing in Tralee, West Virginia, where my
grand aunt, Henrietta Muir, was born in 1920; from Coal Towns of West
Virginia: A Pictorial Recollection
by Mary Legg Stevenson

Today, I'd like to focus on the different occupations found in coal mines. Understanding these occupations and what the were required to do helped me understand the working lives of my coal mining ancestors much better. These are descriptions of the various jobs in a coal mine from the early 1800s until the mines became more mechanized.

Banksman -- a person in charge of the cages at the pithead that transported miners down into the mine and up at the end of their shift.
Bottomer -- a person who attended to the bottom of the shaft, usually where the cage that transported workers up and down the shaft
Breaker boys -- young children who worker in the breaker, sorting and breaking coal before it was dumped in a railroad car
Brakeman -- one employed to work the machinery used to raise coal up from the mine
Brusher -- a person employed to blast the roof or floor of the mine to give it more height

Pennsylvania breaker boys, 1911; courtesy of Wikipedia

Clearer -- unskilled labor used to clear away trash and other debris
Coal carrier -- people responsible for the transport of coal
Coalcawer -- person responsible for the transport of coal
Coal hewer -- person who cuts coal from the mine walls
Coaltrimmer -- person who stores or shifts coal on barges
Collier -- a person who works in a mine; it is a general term
Coupler -- usually a boy hired to connect tubs of coal into a train
Craneman -- a strong man who worked the crane

Dook headman -- a person who tended the top of a roadway incline
Drawer -- a person, often a child, who pushes or pulls a cart full of coal using ropes or chains

Engine tender -- a person who looked after and maintained the machinery that had engines

Furnace man -- the person who tended the air ventilation furnace

Hitcher -- a person who but the trams into the cage to raise or lower them

Journeyman -- between an apprentice and a master of a trade

Lamp keeper -- the person in charge of the lamps miners used so they had light while they worked

Pit shanker or shanksman -- a person who works at a coal pit, especially sinking, repairing, or inspecting shafts
Pit sinker -- a person who works sinking mine shafts
Pitman -- a person who works at a coal mine but at the surface and not usually underground
Putter -- a man or boy employed to bring carts from the coal face to the bottom of the shaft for removal

Postcard of a pit shaft and the cage that transported miners in and out of
the mine; courtesy of

Trapper -- a person, often a boy, who opens and shuts gates underground for people and coal to go through

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Working for a Living.

Tralee, West Virginia: A Coal Camp

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Great Baltimore Fire of 1904

My Aunt Katherine's great grandfather, Aloysius Walter, moved his family to Baltimore just before the turn of the twentieth century. Some members of the family worked at the Marsh Market selling produce and others worked in the cigar factories. On 7 February 1904 their lives were disrupted by disaster, which occurred mere blocks away from their rented home.

"Sunday morning, 7 February 1904, was a very cold day in Baltimore. February is always the most wintery month, and this was a typical February day. The skies were clear, but a biting northwest wind was blowing across the city. Uptown those so inclined were on their way to their churches. The downtown districts, as was natural on Sunday morning, were deserted by all but watchmen and an occasional policeman sheltering himself from the icy blast in a doorway on the windward side of the street.

Archibald McAllister, a private watchman employed by a number of big wholesalers to keep an eye on their warehouses, was passing the corner of German Street and Hopkins Place when he saw a puff of smoke emerge from a grating in the sidewalk before the stuffed warehouse of John E. Hurst and Company, one of the major establishments in the Southern trade. He immediately sounded a fire alarm. Another alarm had already been sounded from the automatic system in the building. Firemen were on the scene in a few minutes and prepared to fight what they thought was an ordinary basement fire.

Extra edition of The Sun published in the aftermath of the fire; image
courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

But this was not an ordinary fire. Already it had gained headway among the inflammable dry goods piled up in the building in preparation for the spring visit of the Southern buyers. The gases engendered had to find an outlet. They got it by blowing out the front wall of the building in the very faces of the leisurely firemen. Thus they were made to realize they had something major on their hands and called out more equipment. Before this could be put into action the fire had complete possession of the Hurst building and had begun to spread. Frantically the fireman sounded still more alarms.

They had no chance of controlling it. Even after special trains had brought apparatus from Washington, then Wilmington and then Philadelphia and New York -- and, of course, from York and Hanover in Pennsylvania -- the flames roared on, paying no attention to the then streams of water from the innumerable hoses which the fireman hooked to the hydrants. Every new hose meant a lessening of the water pressure, never high enough to make an effective weapon against a first-class fire. The flames, whipped by the winds, leapt clear over the buildings upon which the firemen were concentrating their efforts and often hemmed them in so that they were forced to flee for their lives, leaving their equipment behind.

Some said that the fire could be stopped by dynamite, and experts were brought in to try this method. Building after building toppled before this roaring assault, but the flames leapt across the gaps created and started afresh on the leeward side.

Not many Baltimoreans slept that night. From Federal Hill, where thousands gathered, the whole extent of the lurid panorama was visible. The warehouses, from that height, would be intact one minute and the next great torches, sending roaring flames hundreds of feet in the air. Large sections of wooden roof or cornice, caught in the upward blast, would fall perhaps a quarter of a mile away and start a new blaze where they landed.

In the threatened streets employers directed clerks in the frantic effort to save records and other valuables before the fire came upon them. In some instances they were in time, but because it was Sunday sufficient volunteers were not immediately available. Oftener than not the would-be salvagers arrived too late to get at the threatened building.

Great Baltimore Fire from across the river; source unknown

On a front almost half a mile wide the flames rushed eastward. New tall buildings with steel frames and brick curtain walls were no less vulnerable than the old solid brick structures whose fronts, in imitation of that of The Sun's famous iron building, had been plated with cast-iron columns.

Scene during the fire; image courtesy of Wikipedia

The new courthouse, of Beaver Dam marble, stood as a bulwark on the left flank of the advance and though it crumbled a bit, still it saved the post office and the City Hall. Here and there, scattered through the district, there were low and solidly built banking houses. Over these, in a few instances, the flames leapt impatiently. The little building of Alexander Brown & Sons was one of those which escaped, because it was small and compact and because its roof could withstand the rain of blazing debris. But everything else went.

The aftermath; image courtesy of the Library of Congress

By Monday evening the destroying enemy reached the Falls. The wind had died down, and, save for a few dying thrusts at the lumberyards across the stream, he made no further conquests. From Liberty Street east to the Falls and from the basin north to Lexington Street little was left save the segment protected by the courthouse. Every major wholesale warehouse, every major downtown hotel, most of the banks, all the newspapers save one small one, and all save one or two office buildings had gone down. The official count said that 1,343 buildings had been burned in the area of 139.9 acres. The damage could hardly be estimated. The accepted figure is $150 million...Baltimore had never suffered a calamity like this before."[1]

Map of the area of Baltimore that burned in the 1904 fire; image courtesy
of The Sun

[1]The description of the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 is from Hamilton Owen's 1941 book, Baltimore on the Chesapeake.