Thursday, December 9, 2010

Am Well and Having a Good Time

Ed's Grandfather Crowell had the best name: Uriah Benedict Fisk Crowell. Is that not wonderfully New England?

Uriah was born on Cape Cod in 1892. His mother was Maggie Fisk, the adopted daughter of Uriah Benedict Fisk, a greatly respected retired sea captain who was a philanthropist and an astute businessman, well known and successful. Uriah's father, Clarence was a nurse, an unusual profession for a man in present day, to say nothing of a century ago. Clarence was the son of several generations of sea captains and fishermen, but apparently decided not to go into the family business. We have a few pictures of Uriah and some clippings from newspapers I found on line that tell us a little something about Uriah who died in 1977.

From his WWI draft documents we learn that he is tall, slender and has blue eyes brown hair and no disabilities. From the rakish smile on his face, I can tell he's Ed's grandfather.

Uriah grew up on Cape Cod, his family going back as far back as the first settlers of the town of Yarmouth, in 1638, after stopping first in Charlestown after leaving England. In a book entitled John Crowe and His Descendants, published in 1903, the author talks about the Crowe family in Kent and in Wales, from which Ed's immigrant ancestors came. Crowe became Crowell sometime after they arrived in Charlestown. The author talks about how noble the original family was, although he isn't altogether certain he has the right lineage. He then adds this:

In a republican community it is of little importance to a man whether his ancestor who died three centuries ago was of noble or ignoble blood, because he is mainly indebted to himself for the character he sustains in life, and he may say with the poet,

“Go if your ancient but ignoble blood
Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood;
Go, and pretend your family is young,
Now own your fathers have been fools so long.”1

I am not sure who the poet is who is quoted here, but I find it kind of ironic that the author chose it because he writes about Sir Sackville Crow of  Llanherne (don't you love that name, too?) had at one time been a Baronet. And, in fact, if nobility is unimportant to those of us living in a republic, why is it then that the first thing people wonder about when they are researching their familiesis if there is royalty in their ancestry? The second thing they usually wonder about is whether there are any horse thieves in the tree. Personally, I find the horse thieves much more interesting.

But Uriah was neither a horse thief nor a Baronet, from what we know. He was just an ordinary fellow from a small Cape Cod town where life could be hard sometimes but where he was surrounded by family and friends he'd known all his life. I found a small paragraph about his graduation from High school in 1910. Here is a complete list of the graduating class:

Gladys L. Darling
Violet G. Wilson
Viola F. Eldridge
Uriah B. F. Crowell

He was just a guy whose parents really never went too far from the Cape, nor did he, with one exception. After graduating and spending some time as a fisherman, World War I broke out, and Uriah went into the army, training at Fort Devens in Ayer, MA sometime in the spring of 1917. An article in the Hyannis Patriot, December 24, 1917 tells us that Uriah had returned to Devens after being "ill at home since Thanksgiving."

Several other articles over the next few months mention that he was visiting his parents, along with 3 other local boys over a weekend, and another account places him on the Army's "Honor Role".

Just like any 20 something kid, I am sure he was told by his mother or his father that his Grandmother missed him and worried about him. A postcard sent to Uriah's grandmother, Mary Chapman Crowell, is one of Ed's family treasures.

"Am well and having a good time. Uriah"
As far as I can tell, being at Devens, Uriah would have been part of the 76th Division. I know he was assigned to Co. H 302d Infantry. The 76th was the first division at Devens and the first one formed to train civilians in the draft for the war. Almost all of the men from the 76th were from New England, although there were also a few from New York. Some units went to France, as did Uriah's, in the summer of 1918. The 76th was broken up soon after it arrived over there and it was reorganized as a "depot division" training and supplying men to replace combat troops at the front. 2

Just now as I was researching these infantry division numbers and the history behind them for today's blog I was thinking how my Grandfather Leslie Hall, who lived in New York, had been in WWI and had gone to France as well, probably just about the same time.

Leslie C Hall as a teenager, shortly before going into WWI
Digging a little deeper, and having my Grandfather's discharge papers to refer to, I find that he was in the 151st Depot Brigade. The 151st Depot Brigade was comprised of several companies, including Uriah's 302nd. They were both in France at the same time in the same Brigade. I know there were thousands upon thousands there, but discovering that still gave me goosebumps.

I have no knowledge of Uriah's military achievements. Ed knows more, I am sure, and perhaps he'll add a comment for us here. But learning just a little about both of our Grandfathers' roles in the war as well as so many others in our families' histories who served our country during every war since the American Revolution makes me realize they are all heros just for going. And they are, in more ways than one, responsible for the lives we live today.

Uriah in France, 1918
Uriah did come home after the war. And we find him again at home on Cape Cod in 1920, a carpenter, living with his folks, Maggie and Clarence, the nurse, and his 80 year old Grandmother Mary. I know she was so happy, relieved and proud to have him back home where he belonged. 

1John Crowe and His Descendants, Levi Crowell Link: