illuminate history

Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)

History from the inside out

For research the last few months I’ve been traveling through Emma 1899-croppedtime–via the internet, of course, rather than flying to different cities to enhance the few family documents I have for this segment. I’m now channeling my paternal grandmother Emma, the third of my three main characters in  Women Absent Their Men.

She was the only one of the three who went away to college and was awarded a degree–in nursing, from the Cleveland Training School for Nurses in 1902. She returned to her hometown, Jackson, Michigan, where she JRB Sr.earned a living as a visiting home nurse for a dozen years, married an alcoholic dentist, whom she divorced getting to know my grandfather.

In a way, John Bailey was ‘the boy next door.’ But he’d gone to work for the Michigan Central Railroad and married Hattie Bush, the Division Superintendent’s lovely blonde daughter in 1893. They made beautiful music together, but had no children. John was devastated when Hattie died suddenly in 1903 of botched surgery for appendicitis.Edith close up

I think it must have been John’s sister Edith who eventually drew the two of them together, over their mother’s resistance. Mrs. Bailey strove to be ‘upwardly mobile’. Hattie had been the perfect socially prominent daughter-in-law. Emma simply wouldn’t do. Her father owned a tavern!

But, under the gathering clouds of World War I, on October 15, 1914, John did marry Emma. She knew of his Army connections and shared his desire to live in different places. My father was born June 3, 1916, the day the National Defense Act was passed. The Act included creation of the Reserve Officers Corps; John opted for the Quartermaster Corps.

He received orders to report to the Boston Quartermaster Depot immediately after Congress declared war on April 7, 1917. (You’ll have to read the book later for the complicated details.) John supervised quality control in factories that manufactured military boots. They spent the year and a half that the US was in the War shifting between Boston, Framingham and Newburyport, MA. Then they went to Jeffersonville, IN, where he was in charge of the saddlery until that was closed in 1922. He was sent along with those operations to Ft. McKinley, Philippines. They were still making saddles, just not in Indiana.John, Edith,Emma,Louis-circa 1924-small

By this time, they had two more children: Louis and Edith. I’m now in the process of  pulling together data that will help me visualize the day-to-day details of  my grandmother’s life during the five years they spent there.

I’ve found accounts of Gen. Leonard Wood’s somewhat controversial tenure as Governor General of the Philippines from 1921-27. I’ve found The Journal of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, which provides good background on why American interests resisted Philippine independence. Also of interest are the ads for San Miguel beer and Bacardi Rum–during Prohibition!

Best of all, while looking for material on the Philippine Scouts, who served valiantly with the US Army in both WWI and WWII, I found a map of Ft. McKinley dated 1937. This was the period between the wars;  I don’t think much changed between 1922 and 1937. Before you look at the map, I must tell you that I’d already ‘invented’ their address as “Quarters 47.” If you look very closely, you’ll see that there really is a Quarters 47 several units to the left of the Commanding Officer’s quarters.

Ft. Mckinley map

My grandfather was an Army captain then, but quarters #47 doesn’t look any bigger than the ones farther away on either side. I also like that the school is less than a mile away, en route to Quartermaster Corps (QMC) operations on the diagonally opposite side of the compound.

My guess about the QMC reference at the cemetery is that it relates to the fact that bodies of soldiers who died elsewhere had to be shipped home for burial. The QMC operation at Ft. McKinley probably took care of bodies going in both directions.

Ft. McKinley was closer to the inland lagoon than the Bay beaches, but I expect that they found time to drive out to the beach often enough. There must have been a fairly good breeze there, which would alleviate hot tropical summers.

I’ve also found photos of Officer’s Row and the Officer’s Club:officersRow Fort McKinley-Emma


Officers Club Fort McKinley-Emma


OfficersQuarters Fort McKinley-Emma

Now look again at the photo of Emma and her three children. This was taken in early 1924. Junior was eight, Edith was four, Emma herself was forty-six and Louis was six.John, Edith,Emma,Louis-circa 1924-small What did they do every day for five years? Neither she nor my father ever talked to me about how they lived in the Philippines, but I’m resolved to make the best guesses I can based on what I do know about what Emma thought and what I saw that she liked to do.

2 comments on “History from the inside out

  1. Dian
    May 14, 2017

    Really love reading about your process ! Inspiring to search deeper for my family history.

  2. Ruth
    May 14, 2017

    I love this historical look at your ancestors after those who could have given more information to you have since died! Great pictures and I hope you can find more of what you are looking fir!

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This entry was posted on May 13, 2017 by in Army brats, family history, historical fiction, Philippine Islands, US History, Writing.
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