Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The event shocked the population of a nation who had been enjoying a typical American Sunday…until they received news of the attack that damaged or sank the entire U.S. fleet which resided in Pearl Harbor.  The devastation that occurred wasn’t contained to property or the immediate aftermath of the attack.  Many military personnel were injured or died and collateral damage was widespread, stretching from the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans to the tragedy of years of war.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view (Wikipedia)
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view1

Among those military personnel serving in Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack was my husband’s grand uncle, James M. Newell.  Uncle Jimmy served as a “lookout man in the crow’s nest on one of the American warships.”2  He was on board one of the fleet ships when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred.  Soon after news of the attack was published, his death was reported on 12 December 1941 in The Wichita Eagle3 and also in The Emporia Gazette.4  But unlike many military personnel, Jimmy’s story doesn’t end there.  He was not one of the many casualties of Pearl Harbor, though for at least five days his family thought he was.  On 3 January 1942, The Emporia Gazette reported: “Mr. and Mrs. Harry Newell, Wichita, have official word their son, James M. Newell, 18, was not killed in the Pearl Harbor attack as they previously had been notified.  Five days after being notified the soldier had been killed, the Newells received a card from him.”5

What an emotional roller coaster that must have been for the family.  It must have been devastating to receive the news of his death.  And how joyous it must have been to receive Jimmy’s subsequent card.  And what an experience for young Jimmy.  Newspapers say he was 18 when Pearl Harbor occurred.  He couldn’t have been in the Navy for very long and must have just finished his training not long before December 1941.

An original copy of the newspaper containing the front page article announcing young Jimmy’s death hangs, framed, in the hallway of my in-laws’ house.  It was quite an eye-catching piece for a confirmed genealogy-addict like myself and I couldn’t resist asking for details about it.  My most-wonderful-father-in-law very much enjoys telling a good story and was happy to share Jimmy’s tale with me.  What perseverance it took for the men and women of that time period to gather the shattered pieces of the world they knew and move forward.

“The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.” Mark Twain6

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve7

Please take a moment to remember all military personnel today.  If you see one, thank them for their service.  “All gave some and some gave all.”8

American Flag from Unsplash by Jake Ingle
Photo by Jake Ingle9


1 “Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view” by Unknown – Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor_Japanese_planes_view.jpg#/media/File:Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor_Japanese_planes_view.jpg

2 “James M. Newell Is First Reported Casualty of City,” The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS),  [12 December 1941], p. 1: col. 1; microfilm image.

3 “James M. Newell Is First Reported Casualty of City,” The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS),  [12 December 1941], p. 1: col. 1; microfilm image.

4 Unknown Author, “Wichita Sailor Killed at Sea,” The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, KS), electronic newspaper, archived, (https://www.newspapers.com/image/10245496/?terms=james%2Bm.%2Bnewell: accessed 7 December 2015), p.8, col. 5.

5 Unknown Author, “Good News,” The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, KS), electronic newspaper, archived, (https://www.newspapers.com/image/10248545/?terms=james%2Bm.%2Bnewell: accessed 7 December 2015), p.1, col. 2, para. 1.

6 Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and Albert Bigelow Paine, The Mark Twain Autobiography + 3 Biographies (e-Art Now Editions, 2014); digital images, Google Books, https://books.google.com (https://books.google.com/books?id=fmlCBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=isbn:8026804643&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjA6Jag38vJAhVHtoMKHcyIBO8Q6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false: acccessed 7 December 2015).

7 Christopher Reeve, Still Me, (New York, The Random House Publishing Group, 1999), p. 267.

8 Cyrus, Billy Ray. Some Gave All. S.n, 1992. CD.

9 Untitled Photo of American Flag, Unsplash, digital images, https://unsplash.com (https://unsplash.com/photos/-rTqa1F_FaU: accessed 7 December 2015).

Christmas Came Early In Genealogy-land

This past weekend has been an absolute whirlwind of activity and discovery for me.  I had to travel to Fort Worth, Texas for work Thursday and Friday and I took the opportunity to go see the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.  Dealey Plaza is where President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963.  The Sixth Floor Museum is the former Texas Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK from.  It was a very interesting site.  I also did the walking tour of Dealey Plaza and the surrounding area.  I highly recommend both.


The former Texas Book Depository Building, now known as the
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

 


Dealey Plaza as viewed from the Triple Underpass.  The
Texas Book Depository Building is on the left behind the
trees on the infamous grassy knoll.

As I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight back Friday night and checking my email to see if there was anything interesting going on, I saw an email from the Registrar of the Daughters of the American Revolution chapter I had applied to join.  She was letting me know that my application for the DAR had been approved by National and I would be receiving my paperwork soon!  How exciting!!!!!  It only took me a few months to gather my documentation and complete my paperwork, from May to December.  Luckily my patriot had already been proven through a different branch of the family so I only had to prove back to the son of my patriot, Guian McKee.  Guian McKee was a Private serving under Captain James Montgomery and Colonel McKay, Colonel Brodhead and Colonel Bayard.  He was from Pennsylvania and most likely somehow related to Colonel McKay.  It seems that the name McKay may have morphed into McKee somewhere between Ireland, Scotland and America.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, a few weeks earlier I had been contacted through my blog by a non-relative who had purchased a batch of my family’s ephemera from a flea market.  I was floored and couldn’t imagine how some family items could have ended up in a flea market in Oklahoma.  So I went to the only source I could think of that might have some knowledge of how this could have happened.  According to the maternal unit, a cousin who lived in Oklahoma had passed away and the children of this cousin had sold off all contents of the shed of the cousin’s property without looking through it.  And so, the items had ended up with someone unrelated who began researching my family.

I haven’t written about this part of my family much simply because I have been working on other parts of my genealogy.  Tombstone Tuesday afforded me the opportunity to touch on them briefly when I highlighted my grandparents, Edward Bell Conwell Jr. and Edith M. Brown Conwell.  My Tombstone Tuesday post on my grandfather, Edward Jr., is what caught the attention of the gentleman in Oklahoma.  What was it about the post that caught his attention?  It wasn’t Grandpa Edward but his relation to Frank R. Conwell that caught this gentleman’s attention.  Frank Russell Conwell was my great-uncle.  I remember meeting him when I was younger.  He was a widower who was living in a trailer in California when I met him.  To me, he was a distant relative whom my Grandpa Edward wanted to visit.  I was more interested in cool stuff we were seeing while we were traveling to visit Frank than I was in Frank himself.  And what a shame that was, since Frank had quite a few interesting experiences I didn’t learn about until later.

Frank was born 1 August 1912 in Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri to Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. and Zella May McCabe, who I’ve been using as guinea pigs in my posts about what you can find on the U.S. census records (so far we’ve looked at the 1930, 1920, 1910 and 1900 census records.  I’ve also used Zella as a guinea pig for a post on death records and Edward Sr. and Zella as guinea pigs for a post on marriage records).  He married Maybelle Victoria “Mabel” Boileau 19 November 1940 in Norwich, New London, Connecticut.  They didn’t have any children together and Mabel died 27 May 1988 in Jamul, San Diego, California.  Frank lived several more years and died 13 April 2001 in El Cahon, San Diego, California and is buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, California.

So what makes Frank such an interesting individual that a non-relative would want to learn about him?  Frank was a Navy-man, as were his brothers, Edward and Milford.  He assisted in the salvage recovery of the U.S.S. Squalus, a submarine that sank off the coast of New Hampshire on May 23, 1939 and he was awarded the Navy Cross for his work on the salvage recovery.  And that is what made him such an interesting subject for research.  As a child I knew he’d been a Navy diver, but I was never aware that he’d helped salvage the wreckage of a submarine or that he had been honored with a medal.  I learned of it when I was older and of the fact that he saved a woman who had fallen overboard while watching the recovery of the Squalus.  My family never made a huge deal over these two instances that I can remember.  It was just a fact added to our genealogy and accepted as what needed to be done.  My family has always just done whatever was necessary to get things done without making a big deal out of it.

Which led me to this past weekend.  I made a trip with the most wonderful mother-in-law to pick up all the ephemera which the gentleman from Oklahoma so kindly sold to me.


Family items picked up in Tulsa, Oklahoma
this past weekend

I’m so excited about these items.  Some of them are about my cousin, some about my great-aunt and some about my great-uncle.  I’ve just begun going through and sorting the items but this is one of my favorite.


Hand painted picture of Zella May (McCabe) Conwell

This is a picture of my great-grandmother, Zella May McCabe (who was married to Edward Bell Conwell, Sr.)  It’s a picture I’ve never seen before; I’ve only seen her as an elderly woman in black and white photographs.  She was very beautiful when she was younger and I feel very privileged to have been able to bring this picture back into the family.  With all these goodies I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to scan, share and preserve them.  It feels like Christmas in Genealogy-land!!!!  Stay tuned to see some follow up posts on Grandpa Edward, Uncle Frank, Uncle Milford, Aunt Edna and some of the other cousins who are intertwined with these individuals 🙂