St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Thank You Charlie of Co. C

Veterans Day is almost here. It's time to remember America's heroes. It's time to honor Charlie of Co. C.

Charlie of Co. C was my grandfather, Charles Edward Simmons. Born in Dec. 1888 in Washington Co, PA, he was descended from those men who fought for the beginning of America, the War of 1812 and the War of the Recent Unpleasantness. As was true to the family line, he fulfilled his patriotic service in the Infantry. Charlie's draft registration card tells us he signed up in June 1917. The 11th Infantry men were shipped overseas in June 1918 to face an opponent who was skilled in chemical warfare. America was unprepared for this type of war, and her soldiers suffered the consequences. Charlie was one of the many who suffered from the effect of mustard gas exposure.

The United States joined the war to end all wars in 1917. In reading more about the time while Charlie was in France, I learned that in mid-July 1917, over 12,000 doughboys were within 30 miles of the front, all without gas masks or training in chemical warfare¹. The 11th Infantry saw 43 days of combat with casualties of 386. Of these, 348 were wounded in action. The unit returned to US soil in June 1919.

Poor Charlie. Not only did he suffer the effects of mustard gas while in France, he was also wounded. A picture I have in my possession shows his bandage on his left leg right below the knee. In this picture, he is sitting on a bench outside of what appears to be Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. He wears his uniform and his crutches and my grandmother are at his side. On another picture of Charlie proudly wearing his doughboy uniform, my father had written the following on the back: "He was exposed to mustard gas in WWI and injured in the leg. One inch of bone had to be removed from his left leg."

I have written to the Army to try and find Charlie's records. All I received was the confirmation he was in the Army in the unit I thought. Apparently, his records were in the big fire they had way back when.

Mustard gas. The weapon of choice in World War I which still produces shivers down my spine. It was extremely caustic and penetrated everything- even clothing. While I do not know the extent of Charlie's short term exposure, I have heard family lore of the long term effects. The exposure was said to have changed him. He did marry, he did have three sons, and he died young. The death certificate suggests he had renal failure and sepsis. His widow and small children were left to carry on. Unfortunately, they had to leave their home on Bosses Alley in Crucible, PA. Yes, Bosses Alley was the street on the hill above the Crucible Mine. The housing was company owned and was for the managers. Charlie was the chief clerk for the mine. I've heard from others that Charlie and his brother-in-law who owned the bank walked around town surrounded by coal and iron policemen-- especially on pay day. Charlie was also the local mine baseball team manager and was a member of the school board which had a new high school built. This high school was dedicated in June 1929.

So Charlie - with tears in my eyes, thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your life. Thank you for your smile. Thank you for my dad.

Thank you for protecting your unborn grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We remember you - everyday.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


There are some wonderful feelings in this world. We all like to hug
and be hugged. We all like the thrill of victory. I also find it
thrilling to shout "Gotcha" from time to time. The best "gotcha" is
unraveling the many clues in digging up the family.

I've been researching the children of John HENRY (abt 1750-1838) for
about ten years now. I've made contact with descendants of over half
of his 12 children. I'm determined to find more.

My house just shook with my gleeful shout of joy. GOTCHA!

Samuel Smith HENRY was of the children of the first wife of John
HENRY. I had already identified Samuel's two wives and had also been
in touch with a descendant of his inlaws. Eleanor LAIRD, as was
common in 1822, died in childbirth. Samuel arranged for the care of
the motherless wee lass. Her guardians, who were family members,
moved to Ohio from Allegheny Co, PA and had a great life. Letters
from the grandchildren tell us more of her early life. We find her
father, Samuel, paid for her education and visited her often. We
find her happy.

What I hadn't found was the fates of Samuel's other four children by
his second wife, Jane Cook. One son was named Ashman C HENRY. Now
you would think that would be a fairly easy name to locate in the
1860 census. Not so. Not until I got creative and expanded my way
of thinking. When I looked at the 1850 census, I find Samuel listed
as SS living in Ohio. That's news to me- but ok. The census also
lists the four children. However, Ashman was listed as AC. Hmmm........

No AC Henry surfaces again for awhile. Here's one in CA in 1880.
He's a banker. Since I don't know his wife's name, I can't say if he
is mine or not. More surfing needs to be done.

I know that Ashman had a sister who married a William REED. GOTCHA!
There he is-- a judge in Ohio. So I sent an inquiry to one of my
geni lists for help in Ohio. GOTCHA! Since he was a judge, there
was a really nice family bio in a history book of the county. In
this book, it mentions that Ashman had gone to CA. GOTCHA!

Now it's back to CA records. Now I look in earnest for AC and find
Ashmun C Henry- a banker who becomes the mayor of Oakland in 1883.
Now I will look for his descendants.

The kind volunteer geni in OH also provided the death date and
probate dates for Samuel, Ashman's father. Now I will search for a
way to get my hands on copies of those papers.

Got to shout "GOTCHA" from time to time. It's what keeps me
motivated in this unending quest to put flesh on the bones of my
ancestors. So, as you come up against your proverbial brick wall in
your own research, take a break. Look at another line. Come back
with an open mind and be willing to ask for help. Be willing to
assist others in their own quests. Be ready. One day, you will
shout "GOTCHA" and shake your house, too.