It Wasn’t a Stylish Marriage — They Could Barely Afford a Carriage

It seems odd that the last wedding story I have to tell you will be a short one, because I have very little information to draw from.  No photographs, no news coverage, no bridal veil stored away for use by future generations . . . and yet the bride and groom were my own parents, Ezra Mae and Jack Wild.

My parents met at Park Methodist Church in Lexington, when they were college students, in the young adult Sunday School class taught by Mrs. Annette Adams.  One of the things they had in common was the loss of a parent at a young age: Mother’s parents had both died before she was eight years old, and my father’s mother died when he was twelve.

After graduation from the University of Kentucky, my mother obtained a job teaching elementary school in the Tway Coal Camp in Harlan, Kentucky. With journalism jobs being hard to come by, my father took a position as a high school English teacher in Independence, Kentucky. After one year of being apart, they decided to marry.

The wedding was on August 25, 1935, as shown in this announcement sent out by my mother’s sister, Evelyn, and they set up house in the Martanna Apartments in Covington, now part of the Wallace Woods Historic District.

EM wedding announcement

martanna apts

The newspaper account of the wedding was written fifteen years later, by the groom, in his column “Jest Among Us” dated August 17, 1950:

The first wedding I had anything to do with was a bit more exciting for the spectators. The bride was nervous, understandably so, from thoughts of what she was getting into. The groom, on the other hand, was poised and self-assured — poised and self-assured, that is, up to the smack middle of the ceremony when the bride burst into tears. At that point the groom, so calm, so cool, so fully panicked, let out a giggle like a school girl on her first date.

If ever there was a photograph taken at the wedding of my parents, I never saw it. I share with you this picture, taken about that time, when they were obviously joyously happy — perhaps it was on their honeymoon . . . if they had a honeymoon.

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Jack and Ezra Mae Wild

By the time they settled down in Lexington, Kentucky, they had lived in Covington; Madison, Wisconsin; Athens, Ohio; Morgantown, West Virginia; College Park, Maryland; and Lansing, Michigan. Between 1936 and 1951 they had three children. I’m sorry to say that they divorced after 28 years of marriage. My father died in 1991, at age 79, and my mother passed away in 2014, three weeks shy of her 101st birthday.

 

A Storybook Romance

Their marriage was called “the happy ending of a storybook romance” — she “tall and willowy, with manners of exceptional sweetness and grace” and he “soft-spoken and handsome” and “exceedingly popular.”

The groom was my fourth cousin twice removed, Joseph Swagar Sherley, known as “Swagar,”  Louisville native and son of Thomas Huffman Sherley who was a nationally prominent distiller and President of the Kentucky Distillers Association. Swagar’s bride was Mignon Critten, daughter of De Frees Critten, successful New York textile manufacturer with political connections.

Swagar Sherley was born November 28, 1871, graduated from Louisville Male High School, and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. He returned to Louisville to open a law practice and begin what would be a life-long influence on American politics. In 1903 Swagar was elected to Congress from Kentucky’s Fifth District, ultimately serving eight consecutive terms and achieving an enviable reputation among statesmen.

The Courier-Journal wrote at his death that “[h]is speeches, relying on logic and fact, were described as masterpieces. He did not indulge in the tricks of the professional orator, but the cold logic and reasoning which went into his speeches brought members scurrying from cloakrooms in the House whenever the word passed that ‘Sherley is speaking.'” The Saturday Evening Post once listed Sherley, Representative John J. Fitzgerald of Brooklyn and Oscar Underwood as the three most brilliant men in the Democratic party.

In 1905, Congressman Sherley was invited to join a group of 80 on a congressional junket to Asia organized by then-Secretary of War William H. Taft. It was on this tour that Swagar began courting Miss Mignon Critten who had been invited on the trip because her father was a friend of Mr. Taft and she was a friend of Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. Interestingly, it was also on this tour that Swagar’s colleague, Representative Nicholas Longworth, became romantically involved with Alice.

Manchuria.jpg

“The Loveboat” — Alice first row center, Mignon first row fifth from right.(From The Alice Roosevelt Longworth Collection of Photographs from the 1905 Taft Mission to Asia, 1905, Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, 1050 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20013-7012)

 

Stories of the engagements of these high-powered couples filled the society pages for months. From The Washington Post, 28 Jan 1906:

The steamer Manchuria, in its course through the white-capped Pacific last summer, left for a while the mark of its keel in the waters, which soon disappeared. The same cannot be said, however, of those invisible threads of life which were woven and strengthened by the guiding hand of fate during the comparatively short journey. An expedition designed ostensibly for diplomatic purposes developed favorable conditions for the advent of Dan Cupid, and to-day four are pledged to enter upon that mysterious path.

The [December 1905] engagement of Miss Roosevelt and Mr. Longworth is known to the world, and everywhere its possibilities are being discussed and felicitations are uttered. The engagement of Miss Mignon Critten, of Staten Island, N.Y., and Representative Swagar Sherley, of Louisville, Ky., recently made public, is another romance made possible by this Oriental tour. The handsome bride to be is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. De Frees Critten, her father being a prominent New York business man and a friend of Mr. Taft. Mr. Sherley’s rise in the Congressional ranks has been rapid, and he is exceedingly popular with both parties. He is a member of the Metropolitan Club, of this city, and the Pendennis Club, in Louisville. Miss Critten has been the guest of her fiance’s mother, Mrs. Thomas Hoffman Sherley, at the New Willard, for the last few weeks, and during her stay here has received much pleasant attention. . . .Miss Critten is more than pretty, she is charming, and possesses a manner that at once wins the hearts of those with whom she comes in contact. Attractive, popular, and with everything to make life bright, she carried with her the best wishes of her many friends at the Capital, which in a few short weeks she will again grace with her presence.

On the same day, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported:

The toast of the hour in Washington society is Miss Mignon Critten, of “Olivecrest,” Staten Island, the unqualifiedly charming fiancee of the Hon. Swagar Sherley. Miss Critten, who is the guest at the Willard of her future mother-in-law, received with Mrs. Sherley on Tuesday afternoon, when more than two hundred prominent persons called, many diplomats among them. Mrs. Sherley wore a costume of black net pailletted. Miss Critten was girlish and lovely in a quaint toilet of rich silk, white, with large, shadowly blue flowers over it, garnished sumptuously in lace. She is tall and willowy, with manners of exceptional sweetness and grace. Countless entertainments have been arranged in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Sherley and Miss Critten. Mr. Nicholas Longworth gave them a luncheon at the Capitol, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Parson, of New York, a dinner, Mrs. Wadsworth a luncheon to meet Mrs. George Vanderbilt, Senator and Mrs. Newlands a dinner to the four fiancees, Mr. Longworth and Miss Roosevelt, Mr. Sherley and Miss Critten; Mr. and Mrs. Severance a box party, Miss Boardman a dinner, the guests selected from the Taft party; Secretary Taft a reception in compliment to his recent campagnons de voyage, and so the gay story goes. Miss Critten will remain until February 2d, with every hour almost crowded with attentions.

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Joseph Swagar Sherley

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Mignon Critten

The wedding took place on April 21, 1906. The New York Times carried the story:

Miss Mignon Critten, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. De Frees Critten of Stapleton, R.I., and Congressman Swagar Sherley of Louisville, Ky., were married at the home of the bride’s parents yesterday afternoon.

Up to 4 o’clock, the hour set for the ceremony, it was hoped that Secretary Taft and Mrs. Taft and Representative Longworth and Mrs. Longworth would be present, but at that hour telegrams were received saying they would be unable to attend.  The telegram from Secretary Taft explained that his absence was unavoidable, owing to the pressure of business arising from the San Francisco [earthquake] disaster, and Mr. Longworth was unable to be present, the telegram said, owing to the illness of Mrs. Longworth.

Archdeacon George D. Johnson of Christ Church, New Brighton, assisted by the Rev. Frank Crowder, performed the ceremony.  The decorations included Japanese cherry blossoms, pleasantly suggestive of the Mikado’s kingdom, where Miss Critten and Mr. Sherley became engaged.  They were both members of the Taft party that visited the Far East.

The bride was given away by her father.  Her only attendant was her sister, Miss Madge Critten.  The best man was Henry Clifford Smith of Louisville, and the ushers were Arthur Peter and Louis Brownlow of Washington, D.C.; Avery Robinson of Louisville, Ky., and Jack Lory of Bears Spring, Tenn.

Among those present were Congressman John W. Gaines, Congressman W. A. Jones and Mrs. Jones of Virginia, Mrs. T. F. Sherley, Fulton Maxville, Mrs. Maxville, Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Lewis, Sherley Lewis, and Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Nixon.

The wedding gifts included an aquamarine pendant from the members of the Taft party, a card table from Mrs. Longworth, and a loving cup from the bridegroom’s Congressional colleagues of Kentucky.

Although the Sherleys made their home in Washington, Swagar always boasted of his Kentucky birth. “I don’t get back very often, he said once, “and I have lived in the capital so long I am considered a Washingtonian, but I am and always have been a Kentuckian and my home is in Louisville.”

During Sherley’s Congressional terms, he was known for many important advances:

  • He fought for and had an important part in passing the proposal for a comprehensive budget to show the taxpayer what the Government proposed to spend in advance of the outlay.
  • He led and won the fight to fortify the Panama Canal.
  • He provided for enlargement of Government arsenals, reducing the cost of munitions 20 to 40 percent.
  • He led the fight for the Fortification Act which provided for an eight-hour day for Government arsenals.
  • He amended the Public Health Law to provide for investigation and treatment of trachoma, a plague in the Kentucky mountains.
  •  He was chairman of House Appropriations Committee in January, 1918. He supervised the largest batch of appropriation bills in history when he steered measures calling for $27,000,000,000 through the House in one session.
  • During the World War he was close to Woodrow Wilson who depended on him to whip recalcitrant members into line.

Sherley’s long Congressional service ended in 1919, broken by a Republican landslide. He opened a law office in Washington and served a year as director of the division of finance in the United States Railroad Administration. Through the years, he continued to be an advisor to the country’s leaders, particularly President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who commissioned him to supervise the formation of plans for a complete reorganization of the entire Government, aided by a number of leading economists and Government experts.

On the home front, Swagar and Mignon had five children, all of whom were born in Kentucky, evidence of Swagar’s continuing ties to his home state.

mignon sherley and children (1)

Swagar Sherley died at the age of 69, on February 13, 1941, at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. His death was attributed to fluid build-up around the heart and brain following a prostatectomy. His gravestone in Cave Hill Cemetery reads: “Behold the upright man, for the end of that man is peace.”

Mignon lived 28 more years in Washington, DC, to the age of 91.

 

Double the Pleasure

My fourth cousin three times removed was Carrie Smith, of Howard County, Indiana. She married Henry Albright, a Kokomo shoe salesman, and raised five sons. Before her marriage, Carrie had been a music teacher, and clearly her creative abilities were passed on to at least some of her descendants. One grandson, T. Lockwood Albright, was an actor, known for his role in Citizen Kane. Her sons Fred Egbert Albright and Ned Egbert Albright (yes, they were twins) became professional musicians.

Ned & Fred Albright

As twins often do, Fred and Ned shared more than the same birthdate.  A 1930 newspaper article noted:   “When the Albright twins were mere boys their supreme affection for each other was manifest and their mother, now passed from the scenes of earth, was never successful in securing their consent to remain apart. They shared all in common and were not to be denied sharing their playthings and keeping constantly in one another’s company. Their rare talent as musicians was early manifested and the parents afforded them the best of instruction.”

When WWI came around, they enlisted in the Army on the same date and were sent to Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville. Fred was placed in the Fourth Regiment Band with the rank of musician, first class. The twins became separated for the first time when Fred was transferred to the Sixty-seventh Field Artillery Band at Camp Knox, West Point, Kentucky.

After discharge from the service, Ned and Fred returned to Kokomo, where they were theatre musicians, and began to plan for their future, including their weddings. Apparently a double wedding was planned so that they would share both a birthdate and an anniversary (less chance of forgetting, I suppose). The Logansport Pharos-Tribune of August 17, 1920 reported:

Two weddings which will be of more than usual interest to their many friends were those of Fred Albright and Miss Ethyl Burton, which took place Saturday afternoon at Mr. Sterling, Ill., and Ned Albright and Miss Jane Garland, which was solemnized Sunday morning at Logansport. The young men are twin sons of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Albright, 717 North Indiana avenue. It was only by a trick of fate that the weddings did not take place on the same day, unavoidable circumstances arising which necessitated the postponing of the one wedding. The Albright twins, as they are known to everyone, are as much alike in appearance as they are in actions and from childhood their interests have been identical. They have gone through school together, enlisted in the army on the same date, were stationed at the same camp, are both talented musicians and both have married musicians. Their wedding dates were kept a secret from each other, but both selected August 14, a traditional date in the Albright family, for this day marks the wedding anniversaries of their two brothers, Neil and Harry Albright.

The Albright twins continued to pique the interest of their hometown residents, who were kept informed by The Kokomo Tribune, as in this article from March 21, 1930:

TED AND NED DO WELL
Albright Twins, Separated, Pine for Each Other’s Company.

 

Fred and Ned Albright, twin sons of Henry B. Albright, 711 North Indiana avenue, are doing splendidly in their musical employments, Ted being in New York City and Ned is stationed at Mansfield, Ohio. However well they are doing there is a discontent with them both, as seldom separated during their lives they seek companionship with each other. This longing to be together was found to be a potent factor in their lives early in their childhood and as far as possible they have sought such employments as enabled them to be near each other, or together. Both are highly gifted in music. Even during their war service they managed to keep together.

Of late months they have been separated. Fred Albright has won deserved recognition in his New York success. He is one of the most skilled performers in the Lucky Strike orchestra at the Palais D’Or, Broadway at 48th street, New York City. This organization is on duty from noon to 1 in the morning. The Palais D’Or is a famed Chinese American restaurant, the programs of which are broadcast.

Ned Albright, the other twin, is winning signal recognition at Mansfield, Ohio, where he is under contract.

Despite this fact the plaint of the boys to their father is that they want to get contracts for their services sometime when they can star together. In the midst of their success they never fail to write home and indicate their affections for their parent and the former home life.

Apparently Ned and Fred were not able to accomplish their goal in this life, for on January 20 of 1938 Ned was killed in a car accident.

An automobile crash near Cleveland, Ohio, late Thursday night took the life of Ned Egbert Albright, World War veteran, prominent musician, and former resident of Kokomo. For the past several years he had resided with his family at Ashland, where he was supervisor of music in the high school. . . . The information in the telephone call indicated that Mr. Albright was instantly killed in a crash which occurred on road 43, a broad paved highway between Ashland and Cleveland, where the musician maintained a studio. It is believed that he was returning from Cleveland to his home at the time of the accident. An Associated Press dispatch to the Tribune said that Albright’s car collided with a truck driven by Fred Payton, 18, of Huntington, W. Va.

Mr. Albright was well known to a large number of local friends. During his residence here he was prominent in musical circles and was widely recognized as an artist on the drums and other tympani. More recently he had centered much of his activity on the xylophone. It was the initiative and skill of Ned Albright which resulted in the formation of the first drum and bugle corps in the local post of the American Legion, of which he was a member.

Ned was 40 years old when he died. Fred continued to build his reputation as a talented musician. In addition to his orchestra performances, he taught promising students and published several music books for snare drum. A 1999 article about Bob Grauso, “one of the nation’s premiere studio percussionists,” who invented the first fiberglass drums, says that he was sent at age 11 to study with Fred Albright. The article said Fred was “a renowned studio musician and percussionist with the NBC Radio Symphony Orchestra.” Legendary jazz drummer Sam Ulano also studied with Fred.

Fred lived to the age of 85 and died in San Mateo, California, in 1983. When the thunder rumbles in the night sky, one might imagine the Albright twins making heavenly music, together once again.

Built for a Bride

In many cultures, it is expected that the newlywed couple will reside with their in-laws, at least until they are able to start a family and homestead of their own. Often, parents who had large land holdings would divide it into tracts for their grown children to build on and live close by through their lifetimes. One interesting “starter home” was the Sherley Mansion, which played a role in the weddings of two generations of prominent Jefferson County families and became a storied landmark.

Susannah Henning Hobbs was one of six children of Edward Dorsey Hobbs, Sr. (1810-1888). At age 21, Mr. Hobbs was the youngest man ever elected city surveyor, and he spent five years surveying Louisville’s streets and the riverfront and publishing maps of the area. He later founded the Louisville Savings Institution; was elected three times to the Kentucky General Assembly; became President and Director of the Louisville and Frankfort Railroad Company; and owned farmland in Middletown valued in 1860 at $80,000 (about $2.5 million in today’s dollars). During the Civil War, he was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to be special agent of the Treasury Department for northern Kentucky. Hobbs was also an ardent horticulturist and founded one of the country’s largest nurseries before the Civil War. He was responsible for the planting of hundreds of trees and shrubs in his community, then named Hobbs Station and now called Anchorage.

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Susannah Henning Hobbs Sherley

Susannah Hobbs was engaged to be married to my third cousin three times removed, John Colmesneil Sherley, son of the wealthy steamboat captain Zachariah Madison Sherley. John was involved in the Sherley ship chandlery enterprises in Louisville and became a partner in an extensive tobacco warehouse.

It was only fitting that the young couple have a home reflecting their social status, so on the occasion of their 1865 marriage, Edward Hobbs gifted his daughter with land and a house. The property included 160 acres, named “Valley View,” and was accessed from Evergreen Road by Valley View Lane. The home, an Italianate structure, became known as “The Sherley Mansion,” which right away tells you something about its character.

John and Sue had two children: Nanine Tarascon Sherley and Edward Hobbs Sherley. In 1890, all of Anchorage anxiously awaited another Sherley wedding: that of Nanine to Dr. Hersey Goodwin Locke. Locke was born in Oldham County, Kentucky, on the plantation of his grandfather. At the close of the Civil War, the Lockes moved to Boston, where they were highly successful corn and grain merchants. Son Goodwin graduated from Harvard and became a neurologist.

The nuptial planning was extensive and even included a facelift for the Sherley Mansion, where the reception would be held. The house was converted to a high Victorian style of architecture and included a large wrap-around porch and tower.

The Louisville Courier-Journal of June 5, 1890, covered the happy occasion:

Society in the pleasant little suburb of Anchorage was most pleasantly agitated last evening by the culmination of an affair which has been on the tapis for some time, and for which extensive preparations had been made — the wedding of one of Kentucky’s daughters to a distinguished young physician of New York city. The event occurred at the beautiful little Methodist Memorial church at Anchorage at 8 p.m., and the principals were Dr. Hersey Goodwin Locke, of New York, and Miss Nanine Tarascon Sherley, of Anchorage.

Yesterday several wagon-loads of choice flowers and shrubs were sent out by the florists, with which the church and the home of the bride were handsomely decorated. The church altar was banked with shrubs, potted plants and cut flowers, while above hung a bow and arrow, trimmed with ribbons and flowers, and festoons of evergreens swung across the body of the edifice from front to rear.

The ceremony took place at 8 o’clock, and the entire community was present to attest the esteem in which the bride and her family are held. Miss Sherley is a daughter of Mr. John Sherley, a niece of Mr. Thomas H. Sherley, and a relative of the Hobbs family, who were pioneers in that region.

The ceremony was performed by Rev. Gross Alexander, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who came expressly to officiate. There were eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen, beside the maid of honor and the best man. . . . The toilets were beautiful. The bride wore a Parisian gown of white satin, veiled with white embroidered gauze, and trimmed in white rosebuds. The veil was caught with a coronet of white roses.

The eight bridesmaids were dressed alike, in white, embroidered mull en train, round necked and short sleeved, with green sashes and green gloves. . . .

After the ceremony had been said at the church the assemblage repaired to the home of the bride’s father, where an elegant reception was held from 8 to 12 o’clock; and where the young people received the congratulations of a host of relatives and friends. At 12 o’clock they took the train for the East, purposing a somewhat extended bridal tour.

It appears that the Lockes divided their time between Kentucky and New York. Their son, John Sherley Locke, was born on October 30, 1893, in Louisville, and the Lockes were included in the New York Social Register which came out in February of 1894. But the couple soon was faced with tragedy when their son died of pneumonia on December 3, 1894, not long after his first birthday, and life took one of those unwelcome turns.

One can only speculate about what transpired in the next few years, but records show that in 1898 Dr. Locke was in practice in Syracuse, and in 1902 he married Mrs. Julia Williams Emory. I have found no evidence, or even society news report, about a divorce, but clearly Nanine and Goodwin Locke went their separate ways.

The Sherley Mansion was sold in 1900 to none other than Isaac W. Bernheim, the renowned Louisville distiller and philanthropist. Bernheim is known for his donation of land for the Bernheim Forest in Bullitt County, Kentucky. He constructed an access road to the home, Stonegate Road, and named the property “Homewood.” Bernheim hired the well known landscape firm Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, to landscape the property and advise him on renovating the home. The iron gate entrance and stone pillars were added, as were the three-story southwest addition topped by the crenelated tower, the current front porch and the porte-cochere.

Bernheim sold the property in 1929 to Jefferson County Sheriff William O. Gray, who hired the architectural firm Nevin, Kolbrook & Morgan, to design an extensive interior and exterior renovation. Gray sold to Judge Alonzo Wood in 1937. In 1951 it was purchased by William G. Reynolds (Reynolds Metal Co.). Reynolds sold the  property in 1971 to his mother, who was near death.  She donated the property to St. Andrews Episcopal Church with a 5-year “life estate” for her granddaughter, Louise Reynolds Florman Belmont, William G. Reynolds’ daughter.  Louise was expected to maintain the property and pay the taxes. (At that time, any property owned by a church but not used for church purposes was subject to property taxes.) When Louise chose not to perform either of her two obligations, the church had no option but to ask her to leave and sell the property. In 1977 St. Andrews sold the Sherley Mansion to Woods Investment Co. who subdivided the property into the current seven lots.  William M. and Patricia M. Wetherton purchased the home and 5-1/2 acres in 1977, now with the address 2018 Homewood Drive. In 1983 the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

 

This is the “Sherley Mansion” (or Homewood) today:

john sherley house

Susannah Hobbs’ wedding present from her daddy still sits splendidly, in beautiful surroundings. But what of its early residents?

Sue and John were married for almost 47 years. After they sold the mansion in 1900, they lived with her brother and his wife on Evergreen Avenue in Anchorage. John died in 1912 and Sue passed away in 1917.

Dr. Goodwin Locke became a prominent physician and researcher in Syracuse, opening a “psychopathic hospital.” His first wife and son are not mentioned in his medical biographical sketches, nor were they in his 1922 obituary.

Nanine did not remarry and continued to go by “Nanine T. S. Locke” until she died in an Anchorage sanitarium from heart disease in 1930. Her death certificate states that she was “a widow,” indicating perhaps that she viewed her marriage to Dr. Locke as inviolable. Or she may have chosen to avoid the disparagement associated with divorce.

Interestingly, Edward Dorsey Hobbs, Susannah’s generous father, also donated land for the Hobbs Memorial Chapel in Anchorage. The church was completed in  1877 and was used for both Methodist and Episcopal services. It was damaged by fire and razed in 1957, but the original iron gates and Gothic vestibule remain. The site is today used as a romantic wedding venue by many a Kentucky bride.

Hobbs Memorial Chapel

 

All’s Fair in Love

Oliver Perry Gaar was my fifth cousin twice removed, son of the very wealthy Abram Gaar, president of Gaar, Scott Co., in Richmond, Indiana, manufacturers of threshing machinery and steam engines in the late 1800s. Oliver apparently never had to earn a living, as the census records state that he had his “own income.”

On February 18, 1880, Oliver married Mary Alice Huchinson, much to the dismay of his mother, Agnes: Mary Alice had been Agnes Gaar’s seamstress and so was felt to be beneath the Gaars’ high social standing. After all, as an heir to the family fortune, Oliver P. Gaar was one of the most eligible bachelors in his day, and at one time he was slated to marry a socialite. While he could have had his pick of any blue-blooded girl in Richmond, Indiana, his pick was Mary Alice Hutchinson, a working girl.

While traditionally Gaar family weddings were quite elaborate, Oliver married Mary Alice on February 18, 1880, in a quiet ceremony. After their marriage, the couple lived at his parents’ home until they could finish building their own. In 1881, Oliver and Mary Alice moved to an Italianate style home located at 302 N. 12th Street in Richmond, that was clearly designed as a visible statement that the new bride was equal to her position as a Gaar.

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While the Gaar residences in Richmond, Indiana, were all stunning, this one clearly was a mansion. The exterior was of gray brick, with Ionic columns, dentils, pediments and other detailing in the Classical Revival style.  On the interior, there were gold-washed lighting fixtures, silk wall coverings, painted or coffered ceilings, wainscoting, inlaid floors and Art Nouveau stained glass windows. A magnificent oak staircase led to the second floor. Some of the rooms had built-in marble lavatories. Every room in the home had a gas-burning fireplace, each one different from the others. A 2,000-square-foot ballroom on the third floor would accommodate any of the dances of the period held in Richmond, Indiana. There were quarters for live-in servants, and a call box/intercom system and dumb waiter aided in the smooth provision of services to the owners. A porte-cochere on the side entrance allowed a horse and carriage or car to pass under to allow its occupants to exit to the home without encountering any inclement weather. A two-story carriage house was situated behind the residence.

One time, Oliver crossed the street to look at his home with all the lights on. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “I just wanted to see what the whole damn thing looks like lit up at night!”

Oliver and Mary Alice Gaar had one child, a daughter named Mary Agnes, named for her mother, Mary Alice, and her grandmother, Agnes Adams Gaar. Some say that it was through this daughter that Oliver’s mother perhaps had the last say regarding the marriage of her first-born, 23 years before, a match which she felt was beneath him.

The Indianapolis Morning Star of July 20, 1903, tells the story:

 

SOCIETY GIRL WEDS SECRETLY
Agnes Gaar, of Richmond, Announces
She Has Been Married Since May.
EFFORTS OF PARENTS TO PREVENT
CEREMONY FAIL
Young Couple Used License Procured for
an Earlier Marriage Which
Did Not Take Place.

A sensation was created in Richmond society by the announcement that Richard Study, son of attorney Thomas J. Study, and Miss Agnes Garr, daughter of Oliver Garr, both society leaders, were married secretly on May 4. The marriage was kept secret until last night, when the young couple left quietly for Petoskey, Mich., and then told their parents.

The bride is nineteen years old and is heiress to a large fortune. The home of her parents is the most palatial in Richmond. Mr. Study had been paying his attentions to the young lady for a long time, despite the objections of the girl’s parents. Miss Garr had promised to marry Study, but when the consent of her parents was asked the girl was met with a refusal.

In spite of their efforts to prevent it, Mr. Study continued to pay his attentions and the young couple last January prepared to marry, notwithstanding the difficulties which they encountered. One evening just before the office of the county clerk was closed, a marriage license was issued to them.

Just why the ceremony did not take place at that time has never been told, but it is said that at the last minute the bride-to-be weakened and confessed to her parents what had been planned.

Young Study was disappointed, but kept the license. Mr. and Mrs. Garr sent their daughter to Palm Beach, Fla., and she spent the balance of the winter there, but absence only increased the affection between the two, and upon her return their marriage was again planned. Miss Garr confided her story to her grandmother and enlisted her sympathy. It was arranged that they should be married at the grandmother’s home, and on May 4 the ceremony was performed. The bride returned to her home and remained until last night with her parents, who were totally unconscious of what had occurred. Last night Mr. Study and his bride boarded the Northland express on the G.R.&I., and it was not until they were speeding northward that her parents learned of the marriage. Her mother is prostrated.

Oliver and Mary Alice were married for 45 years; he died in 1923 and she died in 1945. After Oliver’s death, his wife sold the home to Deskin Jones and Elmer Plack, who operated it as a very successful funeral home. In the early 2000s it became a salon and day spa. It is now a special events venue and home of Queen Bee Confections.

Their daughter, Mary Agnes, and Richard Study were married for 40 years. She died of cancer in 1942, aged 57, and he died the following year at the age of 63. They had no children.

The Runaway Bride

Maud Fowler was my second cousin once removed. She was one of the eight children of William Wesley Fowler and Hannah Wright. The family lived in Garnettsville, in Meade County, Kentucky, a little town on the banks of Otter Creek that is now extinct, having been swallowed up by the military installation at Fort Knox. William supported his family in 1900 as a fisherman, an indication that area trout fishing was at least as good back then as it is today. Census records tell us that by 1910 William had been appointed Meade County Postmaster.

Maud and her daddy made the news in 1907 when she and her intended, Joseph Shelton, also of Meade County, eloped. In fact, the story made the front page of the Louisville Courier-Journal on June 23, 1907:

 

ELOPERS ELUDE BRIDE’S FATHER AND WALK
MILES TO REACH ALTAR ALMOST BREATHLESS
Miss Maud Fowler and Joseph Shelton, of Rockhaven,
Reach Louisville and Wed In Jeffersonville.
After undergoing a number of hardships on the way, Joseph Shelton, who will be twenty-four years old in October, and Miss Maud Fowler, who was eighteen a few days ago, reached Jeffersonville yesterday and were married by Magistrate Charles S. Ferguson after eloping from Rockhaven, Meade county, Ky. Part of the journey was made on foot and a portion of it on a train. For several miles they were pursued by the father of Miss Fowler, but for some reason he gave up the chase. The bride is a pretty young woman and was attired in a white duck suit that she slipped out of her home and carried with her in a bundle until she reached Louisville, where she dressed for the wedding.

In her hurry to get away Miss Fowler left home without a hat, but in Louisville borrowed one from a friend until she could get a new one, which was purchased by her prospective husband. The strain Miss Fowler underwent did not affect her nerves until it came time for her to sign her name to an application for a marriage license. She then said it was a hard matter for her to write. Nothing was said at the courthouse in Jeffersonville about the eventful trip.

Shelton visited the courthouse Friday afternoon with Roy Smith, a Louisville friend, and was under the impression he could secure the license without Miss Fowler being present, but was told he could not do so. He said she was at Rockhaven, but that he would go back after her and be at the courthouse yesterday afternoon. He made out the application blank for himself, paid for the license and left instructions for a Magistrate to be called in time to perform the marriage ceremony. Shelton then went back to Rockhaven, managed to get Miss Fowler out of the house after night and across country afoot they started for Hardin county, where they expected to catch a train at a small town on the Illinois Central railway.

At the point Shelton has relatives and arriving there late in the night, tired and footsore after a walk of seven miles, during part of which they were pursued by William Fowler, father of Miss Fowler, they remained until break of day, when the train came along. This they boarded and on reaching Louisville they found Smith in waiting. Miss Fowler discarded her travel-stained attire, put on that she carried with her as quickly as possible and hurried to Jeffersonville. Up to this time the elopers had not taken time to wash, but after reaching Indiana soil this was one of the first things attended to and at the millinery Miss Fowler rearranged her toilet.

When Shelton, Miss Fowler and Smith reached the courthouse, they were several hours ahead of time, but it so happened that Magistrate Ferguson, who did not know of their coming, was there and ready to serve them. The papers were completed and after Smith had made an affidavit the license was issued. The groom is a railroad man and a son of Charles Shelton, who lives at Rock Haven. The bride gave her occupation as that of a milliner. She is a native of Meade county, Ky.

Maud and Joe were married for sixty years, had four children, seven grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. Although the article describing their nuptials described Joe as a railroad man, in 1920 he was making a living as a fisherman on the Salt River in West Point, Kentucky, much like his father-in-law had done. The family moved to a farm in Bullitt County, Kentucky, and Joe made his living off the land instead of pulling it from the waters. Maud kept up her sewing skills, working as a seamstress in 1940. Joe died in 1967 at the age of 85, and Maud followed in 1969, aged 78.

 

Bullets and Bridesmaids

The 1865 wedding of Captain James Slaughter Carpenter (CSA) to Miss Emily Alston Leach of Tuscaloosa might be called a “shotgun wedding,” but not because the groom wasn’t willing.

Captain Carpenter was my first cousin four times removed, born in Bardstown, Kentucky, on January 23, 1840. He joined the Confederate Army in 1861 under General Sidney Johnston, 9th Kentucky Infantry (“The Orphan Brigade”). After the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, he was assigned to duty in the commissary department at Demopolis, Alabama. It was there that he met Emily Leach and the couple planned to marry.

The following details of the event were extracted from a document compiled by Mathew W. Clinton, President of the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Historical Society, dated April 1965, entitled “The Federal Invasion of Tuscaloosa, 1865.”

There was a romantic side to it all, for the romance did not die when war came to the land; in fact it flowered in full bloom all through the dark days. Tuscaloosa was in a romantic state of mind that day for the reason that there was to be a wedding that night in one of the best homes in town.  Miss Emily Leach, daughter of Dr. Sewell J. Leach, was to be married to Captain James S. Carpenter, a gallant young confederate soldier from Kentucky, then on duty at Demopolis.  Invitations had been issued and an elaborate “war time” supper was being prepared. All society was in a state of excitement and anticipation, and for the moment they forgot their many troubles, and there was no fear in the minds of the people, as they prepared their shabby finery for the night’s great event, which was to take place at 8 o’clock.

Dr. Leach’s home was on Fourth Street and only two blocks from the top of the river hill.  There were then several other fine homes in the neighborhood and these were naturally the first places to be visited by the hungry and loot-seeking raiders, who were even then silently drawing nearer and nearer.  Soon after dark, the entire street from one end to the other was filled with the carriages and buggies of the assembled guests.

The wedding ceremony was performed at 8 o’clock by Reverend Phillip Fitts, a relative of the bride.  Young Tom Leach, only a boy soldier, just home from the battle of Nashville, with two old felt hats tied around his partly-frozen feet, a brother of the bride, was present.  He had carried the colors, and having them shot from the staff, he hid the precious colors in his shirt and brought them home.  This Confederate battle flag became the central motif of the decorations, being draped from the central chandelier under which the bride and groom stood as they were being wed.

Captain Carpenter was dressed in his best Confederate uniform, and his attendants, all soldiers on leave or local duty, were uniformed.  The bridesmaids, all dressed in borrowed finery, were: Misses Mary and Laura Matthews, Belle Woodruff, a local beauty, Louella Cochrane, Alice Stafford, Lydia Peck and Mollie Fink of Selma, Alabama. Miss Mary Matthews, who later became Mrs. Force of Selma, and who served that city as postmistress for many years, wrote, in her later years, a most gripping and romantic story of the wedding and it was from this and local stories that the account of this social affair has been documented and can be considered authentic.

Following the ceremony, an elegant dinner, considering the times, was served. The ladies were served first, and as was the custom, the men were left in the dining room for the drinks, such as they were.  The ladies repaired to the parlors where they engaged in singing wartime songs.  As the men drifted in, the couples paired off for dancing, and by nine o’clock happiness reigned supreme with never a thought of trouble.  Suddenly firing was heard in the distance, down towards the bridge, and instantly every face blanched with fear and dread; only too well they knew what it might mean. They knew right then that the war had at last come to Tuscaloosa.  Much excitement was apparent in the street outside, and as much inside.  Valuables were hastily removed and hidden, the men passing their watches to the ladies who placed them in their slippers and beneath their garters, while their capacious bustles were stuffed with other valuables.  A negro slave snatched the confederate flag from the chandelier and stuck it in the kitchen stove, a most thoughtful act.

The street was in an uproar, and the firing was increasing and drawing nearer and soon bullets were heard striking the walls of the house.  The men might have escaped to the deep gulley in the rear, but they chose to remain with the ladies for whatever protection they might afford.  One of them, just out of prison, bemoaned the fact that he would have to return to its horrors.  One fellow hid under the back steps but a vicious dog ran him back indoors.

Dr. and Mrs. Leach remained calm under it all, and comforted their guests as best they could.  The bride and her maids repaired to the upstairs, where they tried to comfort her in her distress.  The men decided to surrender as resistance would have been useless, and would have brought on more serious trouble.  One young lady attempted to leave by the front door and the first soldier to come on the porch fired at her, but Mrs. Leach, who had followed her out, managed to throw the gun up and no one was hurt.  The enemy swarmed in in a short while, first placing all the men under arrest except Dr. Leach, who was an old man and in a low state of health. Following this they demanded food. Mrs. Leach graciously served them what was left, much to the disgust of the negroes.  She apologized that she had no wine to serve them.  Then the looting began, which continued all through the night and they made a clean job of it.  Herding the men together, they prepared to take them across to the camp over the river. Captain Carpenter pleaded for the right to say farewell to his bride, and with a guard he was allowed to go upstairs, where he took a hasty, if tearful, farewell less than an hour after his marriage.  Leaving the room, blinded with tears, he stumbled and fell down the steps, to the amusement of his captors.  He was carried away and across to Newport.  It is said that after reaching camp, Captain Carpenter was recognized by an old school mate, and he persuaded General Croxton to allow him to return to his bride under promise that he would not attempt to escape.  He later returned to the camp and remained a prisoner for several days, being later paroled and allowed his freedom.

At the close of the Civil War, the Carpenters loaded their belongings in a wagon and moved back to Kentucky.  James became a prominent businessman, a general agent for the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company.  He and Emily made their home at 1211 Second Street, in what is now “Old Louisville,” and raised six children. Emily died just one week before their Golden Wedding Anniversary, due to an abdominal tumor and acute uraemia. The Captain died five months later after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. The couple is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, but the story of their war-time wedding lives on in recollections of life in the South in Civil War times.

The photo below was taken by Louisville Courier-Journal photographer Frank Wybrant at the Sixth Reunion of the Orphan Brigade in Bardstown, Kentucky, in 1887. Although James Carpenter’s name is on the roster of attendees, we don’t know whether he appears in the photo. He would have been 47 years old.

Orphan_Brigade_Reunion

Here Comes the Bride!

It’s June, a time when many of us marry . . . or attend weddings of others. There are many theories about why June is a popular month for weddings — including the one that explains that in olden days folks bathed only once a year, in the spring, and so in June they were likely to smell better than at other times!

Clearly, that explanation no longer holds water (pun intended), but still we tend to think about June brides, and wedding planners, florists and churches are always booked up for the month of June.

I thought you might enjoy some of the wedding pictures from my family history, although not all of the celebrations occurred in the fabled month of June. In the coming days, I’ll also be sharing interesting stories about how some couples embarked on wedded bliss.

Jesse & Frances Carpenter honeymoon

Fannie Gardner & Jesse Carpenter (4th cousin 3 rem) on their honeymoon

ann hardin

Ann Hardin (7th cousin) & Barney Grimes

anna born

Anna Born (4th cousin), bride of Clarence Cox

david wild wedding

David Wild (brother) & Ann Hudson

Gaul wedding2

George Gaul & Easter Cusick (grandparents)

edgar wayland

Yvonne Shaner & Edgar Wayland (6th Cousin 1 rem)

ellen rush

Ellen Rush (4th Cousin) & Tom Barrick

Jane Cusick Parker

John Parker & Jane Cusick (2nd cousin 1 rem)

john reed2

John Reed & Erma Wild Taylor (aunt)

joseph & Mary broyles

Joseph Broyles (4th cousin 3 rem) & Mary Walker

judith mckay

Judith McKay (6th cousin 1 rem) & Richard Sides

kari noblett

Spencer Essenpreis & Kari Noblett (3rd cousin 2 rem)

laura howe

Barbour Howe (6th cousin 1 rem), bride of Dudley Pilcher

Laura Guenthner (1)

Laura Guenthner (3rd cousin 1 rem), bride of Gregory Debeer

lena fowler

Lena Fowler (3rd cousin) & Bob Kinsella

lena yeager

Lena Yeager (5th cousin 2 rem) & John Gilbert

louise spelling wedding.jpg

Ray Wild & Louise Spelling (grandparents)

mariana jordan

Mariana Jordan & Stanton Ramsey (6th cousin)

marion beam

Suzie Short & Marion Beam (3rd cousin)

mary leone beam

Mary Leone Beam (3rd cousin) & William Cox

mattie shirley

Samuel Shirley (3rd cousin 4 rem) & Mattie Hunt

Franklin and Leila Broyles

Leila Watkins & Franklin Broyles (4th cousin 1 rem)

Mary Lee Van Meter

Stonewall Dorsey (5th Cousin 1 rem) & Mary Lee Van Meter

Nannie and Fielden Hust wedding

Lewis Hust & Nannie Benham (2nd cousin 1 rem)

Tom & Beulah Hopson wedding

Tom Hopson & Beulah Ransdell (7th cousin)

ethyl swan broyles

Watkins Broyles (5th cousin 1 rem) & Ethel Swan

thelma allen

Clifford Strader & Thelma Allen (7th cousin 1 rem)

Frederic Wayland

Frederick Wayland (6th cousin 1 rem) & Sarah Meredith

mary boyd

Mary Agnes Boyd (6th cousin 1 rem), bride of Lewis Summers

jphn carrell

John Carrell & Margaret Vertrees (2nd cousin 2 rem)

Nancy Shirley Baber

Nancy Shirley Baber (5th cousin 1 rem), bride of John Kern

norman & phyllis coats

Phyllis Prien & Norman Coats (7th cousin 1 rem)

Rodney & Jane Ashby

Jane Stevenson & Rodney Ashby (6th cousin 1 rem)

Virgil Mattingly (1)

Virgil Mattingly (4th cousin 1 rem) & Mary Pearl Cissell (2nd cousin 1 rem)

wm clyde corbett

Clyde Corbett (3rd cousin 1 rem) & Emma Eisenschreiber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Memoriam: My Korean War Soldier

The final memorial to my cousins who gave their lives in defense of liberty is for my fifth cousin once removed, a Kentucky boy, Charles Curtis Goff of Louisville.

Charles was born in Louisville on November 16, 1931. He graduated from duPont Manual High School and worked for two years for Henricks-Byrum Company, engravers, 307 W. Liberty, before joining the Marines in January, 1951. He was sent to Korea seven months later with Battery H, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

charles goff

Pfc. Charles Curtis Goff

In March of 1952, the 1st Division Marines deployed to the area of Korea known as the “Western outposts.” It was there, on June 24, 1952, that Goff was killed, a victim of multiple fragmentation wounds.

U.S. Marine Operations in Korea: Operations in West Korea, by Lt. Col. Pat Meid and Maj. James M. Yingling, describes the situation this way:

Mention the Korean War and almost immediately it evokes the memory of Marines at Pusan, Inchon, Chosin Reservoir, or the Punchbowl. Americans everywhere remember the Marine Corps’ combat readiness, courage, and military skills that were largely responsible for the success of these early operations in 1950-1951. Not as dramatic or well-known are the important accomplishments of the Marines during the latter part of the Korean War.

In March 1952 the 1st Marine Division redeployed from the East-Central front to West Korea. This new sector, nearly 35 miles in length, anchored the far western end of I corps and was one of the most critical of the entire Eighth Army line. Here the marines blocked the enemy’s goal of penetrating to Seoul, the South Korean capital. Northwest of the Marine Main Line of Resistance, less than five miles distant, lay Panmunjom, site of the sporadic truce negotiations.

Defense of their strategic area exposed the Marines to continuous and deadly Communist probes and limited objective attacks. . . . For the ground Marines, supported by 1st Marine Aircraft Wing squadrons, the fighting continued until the last day of the war, 27 July 1953.

. . . [Before the troops moved to the Western outposts, there] had been little time for a thorough reconnaissance and selection of positions by any of the frontline regiments. When the 1st Marines moved into its assigned position on the MLR, the troops soon discovered many minefields, ‘some marked, some poorly marked, and some not marked at all.’ . . . As it was to turn out, during the first weeks in the I Corps sector, mines of all types caused 50 percent of total Marine casualties.

According to The Courier-Journal, on the same day that his parents were notified of their son’s death, they received two letters from him, saying that he expected to be home in August.

Pfc. Goff was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Service Ribbon, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Korean War Service Medal. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

charles goff grave

 

 

 

 

In Memoriam: My WW II Soldiers – Part 4

Most of my mother’s ancestors headed “west” from Virginia — but not too far west.  One large branch of my tree, however, were Mormon Pioneers, going all the way to Utah with Brigham Young in 1847. The soldier I will tell you about today was a descendant of Fielding Garr, who had quite a story of his own  . . . one for another day.

Mac S. Groesbeck was my 7th cousin, born June 19, 1916, in Holden, Utah. The family left Holden to live in Roosevent and then Highland, where his father, Hyrum, was a chicken rancher. Hyrum died of kidney disease in 1931, leaving Mac (age 14) and his five siblings to be raised by their mother. Mac graduated from high school there and then attended Utah State Agriculture College for one year, studying diesel mechanics. Mac served in the military during WW II — in fact, at one point his mother had four sons serving at the same time. Mac enlisted in the armed services on April 25, 1941, and became  a gunner on B-17E #41-2635, assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 30th Bombardment Squadron.

dnews sgt. Mac Groesbeck

Sgt. Groesbeck volunteered for a mission from Papua New Guinea, to bomb Japanese shipping in Tonolei Harbor in the Solomon Islands. He was in one of six B-17s that took off in the early morning hours of November 1, 1942. Mac’s plane failed to return from the night mission, and the official report said it was “last seen in the vicinity of Tonolei Harbor, Solomon Islands, held by enemy searchlights and receiving heavy anti-aircraft fire. The aircraft is believed to have been shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire over Tonolei Harbor, Bougainville, Solomon Islands.”  Later it was found that Groesbeck’s B-17 had impacted the northern side of a ridge line in the vicinity of Milne Bay in southeastern Papua New Guinea and was most likely attempting to descend below bad weather. Fire from the fuel tanks after impact destroyed most of the fuselage. Two 1,000-pound bombs failed to explode.

groesbeck crash

Groesbeck’s crash site in Papua New Guinea

Sgt. Groesbeck was one of eight declared Missing in Action in that crash. Here is the rest of his story, as told in The Salt Lake Tribune, March 17, 2005:

The telegram came in December 1942, one of more than 75,000 sent to the families of U.S. servicemen who went missing during World War II.

It was, Mac Groesbeck’s family feared, the last they would know of the 26-year-old Army Air Force sergeant, who was lost alongside seven others during a Nov. 1 bombing mission near the Solomon Islands.

Yet, this weekend — more than 62 years since Groesbeck’s disappearance — his remains will be interred in a Richfield cemetery.

Never the same: It was Groesbeck’s youngest brother, Leslie, who plucked the envelope from the mailbox of his family’s Highland home and delivered it to his mother.

“I was 14 years old at that time, just a snot-nosed kid, you know,” Paul Groesbeck recalled Wednesday. “I didn’t know until we opened it —  it said he was missing in action.”

Paul Groesbeck said his family was never the same.

Byron Groesbeck, who also served on Air Force bombers in the Pacific theater during World War II, returned to Utah without his younger brother. In 1959, he moved to Fremont, Calif. — but he never stopped talking about his fast-driving, chance-taking, happy-go-lucky sibling.

“Even today, he is still always talking about Mac,” says Byron’s wife, Myrtle. “He missed him so.”

Then, in 1984, another letter arrived. A man in Nevada, a relative of a soldier who served with Groesbeck, had discovered the lost sergeant’s diary. The tattered leather journal arrived at Byron Groesbeck’s Fremont home a few weeks later.

Its final entry, dated two days before the crash, was brief: “I spent all morning in my tent. Bob got back from Cloncurry and seems to have had a good time. I guess I missed out on a good time myself.”

So that, Byron Groesbeck figured, was the last he would know of his younger brother, who was just one week from coming home when he volunteered to be the tailgunner on the ill-fated mission.

Found:  High in the tree-lined mountains near the town of Alotau, near Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea in 1998, a native hunter — searching for betel nuts — came upon the wreckage of an American airplane. He returned with several others to find a watch, a comb, what appeared to be human bones — and a dog tag.

The metal tag’s top line read: JAMES W. CARVER.

Carver was the co-pilot on the unnamed B-17. Like Mac Groesbeck, the first lieutenant affectionately known as “Scootie” had volunteered to ride in the shorthanded Flying Fortress during a mission to bomb Japanese installations near Faisi Island.

Like Groesbeck — and 1st Lt. John Hancock, Sgt. Robert Burns, Sgt. Edward Cipriani, Sgt. Raymond Maxwell, Cpl. Curtis Longenberger and Cpl. Hiram Wilkinson — Carver’s remains would stay hidden under a thick tree canopy for six decades.

By 2001, a team from the Army’s Central Identification Laboratory had taken custody of the artifacts and remains.

The archaeological investigators quickly surmised what happened: The aircraft, flying in the darkness of night and in bad weather, hit the northern side of a ridge line on approach to its target. A fire appears to have destroyed most of the fuselage.

Among the wreckage, the Army team would locate another set of dog tags, belonging to Groesbeck, along with a watch bearing his initials.

An entry in Groesbeck’s journal detailed the day he had the timepiece engraved.

“Mike Zundel, Ross Lewis and myself went downtown,” the Dec. 31, 1941, entry reads. “I had my initials engraved on my watch and then went and bought me a Kodak.”

Identification: It would be several years after the discovery before the hard-to-reach site would be completely excavated and the process of identification was complete.

Groesbeck’s siblings learned in the summer of 2001 of the discovery of their long-lost brother’s watch and dog tags. Paul Groesbeck quickly volunteered to provide a DNA sample so that his brother’s remains could be sorted from those of the other airmen who perished alongside him.

Using mitochondrial DNA — which is preserved well in bones — Army technicians compared Paul Groesbeck’s sample with samples taken at the crash site. But before the process could be completed, the team of forensic scientists working at Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base were given a new assignment: helping identify the remains of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Though they were eager to lay their brother to rest, the Groesbeck family understood the delay and remained grateful.

“For me, it’s just amazing that the government does this,” said Mac Groesbeck’s younger brother, Leslie. “It’s really important.”

In January of this year, Army officials from Washington, D.C., visited Paul Groesbeck at his Utah home, carrying the watch and dog tags and news of the positive identification.

Ultimately, the lab was able to match Paul Groesbeck’s DNA with just a few of the bones found at the crash site.

“It was good and bad, as I’m sure anyone can understand,” Paul Groesbeck said.

Laid to rest: In all, the remains of six of the eight servicemen lost in the crash were positively identified by the Army technicians and have been returned to their families for burial.

A memorial service will be held honoring Mac Groesbeck at noon Saturday in the Neal S. Magelby and Sons Mortuary Chapel in Richfield. A graveside service, with military honors, will follow at 1 p.m. in the Richfield City Cemetery.

The remaining unidentified remains are scheduled to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on April 28.

groesbeck grave

Arlington National Cemetery

Sgt. Groesbeck received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.