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Category Archives: Times and Places

Testimony of an American Patriot – Part 2

On 7 June 1822, under an Act of Congress, the United States made provisions for veterans to receive a pension for their service during the American Revolution.  William Kerby (or Curbo) was among those that filed an application for a pension.  His pension hearing was held in the Precinct Court on 16 Sept 1833 in Jackson County, Tennessee before the Honorable Abraham Caruthers, Circuit Judge for the Third Judicial Court in Jackson County as follows:

On the 16th day of September, 1833 personally appeared before the Honorable Abraham Caruthers, Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit for the State aforesaid, now presiding in the County of Jackson and State of Tennessee, William Kerby, or as it is sometimes written William Curbo, a resident of the county and state aforesaid, aged seventy-four years on the 6th of July last {this suggests a birth year of 1758} who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the pension made by the Act of Congress passed June 7, 1932.

That he enlisted into the Army of the United States in the year 1775 {he would have been 17 years old} as he believes, but being wholly illiterate, in this he may be mistaken.  He will however proceed with the narration of such facts or will enable the department without any difficulty to ascertain the justice or injustice of his application.  He enlisted with Captain Thomas Harris, and served in the 4th Regiment of the North Carolina line, as he now understands it.

The regiment to which he belonged was commanded by Col. Thomas Polk, who was from the County of Mecklenburg, North Carolina.  The first Major of the Regiment was George Davidson – long after this period Major Davidson was killed at Beatty’s Ford on the Catouba {Catawba??} River in a skirmish with the British and this declarant is of opinion and his recollection is so that at the time of his death he held the rank of General, in the state troops of North Carolina.  James Fair was lieutenant in Capt. Harris’ Company.  James Costs was Ensign.  When he entered the guard he resided in Anson County, North Carolina near the town of Wadesborrough. 

Captain Harris’ company joined the Regiment at Wilmington, North Carolina.  The next day after reaching Wilmington, they set out on their march for Headley’s Point, near Charleston, South Carolina – where they remained in winter quarters until the following spring.  From Charleston, the troops returned to Wilmington, where they remained, he believes about a month.  From Wilmington, the troops marched to the town of Halifax, North Carolina.  There were then at that place according to his recollection, five Regiments – General Francis Nash had the chief command of what troops were there – they remained there something like a month.  From there they marched to Fredericksburg, Virginia where they only remained a few days and continued their march to the head of Elk in Pennsylvania, where they joined General Washington’s army.  {Yes – the General Washington – future President George Washington!}  From there they went to Philadelphia, by the way of what was called “the floating bridge” on the Schuylkill {River}.   

The Army remained some time in Philadelphia, how long he does not distinctly remember, but according to his recollection, he was in Philadelphia on the day that independence was declared.  {Did you just get the goosebumps?  I did – this is American history in action!}  He was in the Battle of Brandywine [September 11, 1777] where he received a wound in the right arm near the shoulder.  This wound was given by one of the British dragoons with a sword.  {When I first read this I thought that a “dragoon” was a type of weapon; however, I found out that it was actually a type of soldier known as a Dragoon Guard.  This designation was given to refer to a certain type of cavalry regiment in the British Army.}  The wound is now distinctly to be seen, or rather the scar which the found first ??? and will be visible while he lives.  At the same time and as he suppose from the same sword, he received a wound in the right hand, which in like manner has left an indelible mark.  After the Battle of Brandywine, he went with the main Army into winter quarters at Valley Forge, there a great many of the North Carolina troops died, and this declarant, with others, was transferred to the Company commanded by Captain John Somers of Somers.  The name of the Lieutenant was McGibboney.  The name of the Ensign was Blount Whitmil. 

He states that previously to going into winter quarters at Valley Forge, he was in the Battle of Germantown.  The winter of 1776 they occupied Valley Forge as winter quarters.  The following summer, and according to his recollection, on the 17th day of July 1777, he was in the Battle of Monmouth.  They remained, he says in Jersey, the winter of 1777.  The following year, the period of his enlistment which was for three years, expired, and he obtained a discharge, signed by General Washington{I wonder what that would be worth if we had that now??!}  His father’s house was burnt in Anson County, North Carolina, at which time his discharge was burnt.  This was during the war, and while this declarant was in the militia service.  He had gone out as a substitute for his brother Joseph Kerby or Curbo, and the discharge had been left with his father, John Kerby.  The whole period which he served his country was six years and three months; but, he was only three years in the regular or United States Army.  He experienced many privations and hardships while in the militia, and on one occasion, at the capture of Charleston, was taken prisoner.

After, reading and digesting William’s testimony, I was overwhelmed with the wealth of information it contained.  I wondered – was William Kerby just a fanciful story-teller?  Or did he really live out this very fascinating piece of our American history?  The oral family history insists that “William and Joseph were present when Cromwell surrendered to General Washington.”  At first I thought – sure – wishful thinking!  Now, I’m not so quick to disregard this family story.  I found out that he was in fact not a storyteller – all of his claims are historical fact.  (See my notes below regarding the people he mentions in his testimony.)  In the end, William’s testimony was credible and the Judge ruled favorably by stating,,,,,and the said Court does hereby declare their opinion that the above-named applicant was a revolutionary soldier and served as he states.  

Captain Thomas Harris, the Army officer that William claims to have enlisted with, did in fact exist.  He was a resident of Iredell County, North Carolina.  His pension hearing took place on 24 May 1821.  On his oath he declared that he joined the continental army in April 1776 as a captain in the Fourth North Carolina Regiment and served in that army for {page torn} years in which time he rose to the rank of Major.  He then on account of his health and other circumstances resigned his commission but afterwards went out in the Militia and acted as Aid to General Griffith Rutherford and was wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Camdon  on 16 Aug 1780.

The following commanding officers – all served in the Revolution – actually existed – and are documented:

Thomas Polk – born abt 1732 in Pennsylvania – was one of the original settlers in the area now known as Charlotte, North Carolina.  During the 1750s, this area was located in Anson County, North Carolina.  In 1775, Thomas was one of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.  He was a revolutionary war officer and rose to the rank of Brigadier General.  He died in June of 1794.

George Davidson – born abt 1738 in Ireland – was a Captain who commanded the First Regiment of the North Carolina Line from Sept. 1775 to Feb 1777.  He later rose to the rank of Colonel of the North Carolina Militia.  He died in Iredell County, North Carolina.

John Summers/Somers – He served in the North Carolina Regiment as Lieutenant and later as Captain.  He was taken prisoner at William’s Plantation in July of 1780.  He retired from military service in 1883.

Patrick McGibboney – was a Captain with the Fourth Regiment, North Carolina Continental Line.  He was born in Scotland about 1743 and died in Greensboro, Gilford County, North Carolina in February of 1804.

Thomas Blunt Whitmill – was known as Blunt.  His widow filed an application for his pension.  She stated that he was a Lieutenant in the North Carolina Continental line.  She states that her husband received a land grant for his service; that he participated in the Battle of Brandywine.  She stated that her husband died in September of 1798.

General Francis Nash – was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia in 1742.  Early in his life his parents moved to North Carolina.  At a young age, General Nash became a merchant, attorney and Justice of the Peace.  In 1775, he was elected Lieutenant Col. of the First North Carolina Regiment, Continental Army.  He took part in the expedition to Charleston – and was in short order promoted to Brigadier General.  He received orders to march his troops north to join the Army of General George Washington.  While in the north, General Nash commanded a bridge at the Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania where on 4 Oct 1777 he was mortally wounded.  Further, when researching life in the City of Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, I found out that what is now known as Market Street Bridge is located where Market Street crosses the Schuylkill River.  Before the bridge was built, the citizens depended on ferry boats and a couple of crude floating bridges to cross the river.  While the British were in possession of Philadelphia during the war, there existed a pontoon bridge at this location and later a plank floor bridge of floating logs.  I suppose this could be the “floating bridge” of which William speaks in his testimony.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – brick walls – a contest – and a prize !!

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Curbow, Times and Places

 

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Honoring Our Veterans

Our combined family consists of dedicated veterans who have served, fought and died for our freedoms in every American conflict starting with the American Revolution all the way through to the present conflict in Afghanistan.  We have had family members who served proudly in every branch of service, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines – and even the United States Coast Guard.  Some of our veterans suffered greatly as prisoners of war; some have received Purple Hearts; some just quietly served and never spoke of their experiences – many more served during peace time around the world.  I am proud and grateful for each and every single one of them.  The sacrifice to the veteran and his family cannot be measured.  Today we stand up and remember you – and we thank you for your sacrifice and service to our country.  Without you there would be no us.

Below is only a small sampling of our family members who have served our country valiantly.

American Patriots:  James Curbow; Joseph Curbow; William Curbow; Leonard Miles – American Revolution

Willis D. West – Texas Revolution; Siege of Bexar

James L. Atwood; Tilman P. Curbow; Wiseman Curbow; John Montgomery Ham –Civil War

William Henry Lytle; Nathaniel Sheridan Murry; Frank Edward Story – World War I

Roy Orville Curbow; David Alfonso Montoya; Leonard Lee Setliff; Milton Pete Zimmerle – World War II

Gene Oliver Curbow – Korea

Richard Ernest Montoya (my father); Roy Oliver Curbow, Jr. – Vietnam

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Odds and Ends, Times and Places

 

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America – On the Move

As most of you know, when I delve into the life of an ancestor, I very often am not satisfied with only obtaining their statistics – I want to understand the time period and the circumstances that they lived in. In addition to learning about the various family branches, I have truly enjoyed receiving a lesson in American history – in fact – learning much more than I ever did in history class!  As I scoot around town in my little Nissan – whether it’s heading off to work or to church or running a spur-of-the-moment errand – I, like most of us, take it for granted – not realizing the many difficulties and challenges our ancestors faced when traveling from place to place.

My father, Richard Montoya - can anyone tell me the year, model and make?!

In the 1800s, the most practical (and quickest) mode of transportation for our ancestors was via our country’s waterways. Because of this, many towns and settlements cropped up close to rivers, lakes and coast lines. By way of example, the family of Richard Spencer and Mary Earnshaw, my gg-grandparents, sailed from the Port of Liverpool, England on 7 Feb 1841 and arrived at the Port of New Orleans six weeks later on 31 Mar 1841. The family then made their way up the Mississippi River (presumably by riverboat) to the “Kanesville Branch” in Pottawattamie County, Iowa (present day Council Bluffs).

George Washington Grantham

A few roads did exist during that time period; however, they were clustered in and around settled areas and were time-consuming and difficult to travel. After Richard’s death, the widow Mary Earnshaw Spencer and her children began their journey across the prairie from the outfitting post at Kanesville, Iowa on 7 Jun 1852. Their journey lasted over three months. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 27 Sept 1852. The company consisted of 293 individuals – 10 total families – and about 65 wagons. Many of these people walked, pulled hand carts, rode horses, etc., etc. Those lucky enough had oxen which pulled their belongings in a covered wagon. It is no small wonder that many of our ancestors lived and died in the same region – some never leaving the county they were born in. I can speak for myself – I probably would not have lasted one day!

The coming of the railroad changed the course of American history. Between 1830 and 1860 America experienced a massive railway building boom. The railroad began to transport food items, livestock and coal to outlying areas – something which would have previously been impossible to undertake. The railroad provided jobs to thousands and was a boon to many industries. People began to spread their wings and many settlements began to sprout up along the new rail routes. By 1869, rail workers completed the first coast-to-coast rail line. By about 1900, the average American was enjoying such things as fruits and vegetables from California and store-bought clothes from the Sears & Roebuck catalog – all thanks to the speed and efficiency of the railroad.

Atwood Family – Migration from Missouri to Texas

And then at the turn of the century came the beloved American automobile. At first only the upper class could purchase this new contraption. By 1920, eight million Americans owned their own automobile. The burden of travel was slowly lifting; however, automobile travel remained difficult for some period of time as few good roads existed. In addition, it should be remembered that in the 1920s and even into the 1930s, horse-drawn wagons and cars shared the same road.

By the 1930s, more than half of America’s families own an automobile. This further fueled businesses such as repair shops, tire stores and gas stations. By the 1950s, nearly 50 million cars were on America’s roadways.  And we do love our cars, don’t we?!  In fact, it became part of the much spoken of “American Dream,” symbolizing our freedom and independence.  Today, most American households have multiple vehicles.  We have the freedom to shop and work practically anywhere we want.  Our cities have grown large and sprawling.  We started with riverboats and horses – and for most of us, the automobile is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity.

Samuel David "Mack" Ham with new bride Ruby

And then there was the Saturday morning that my husband quit his job – and we promptly went to the car dealership and bought a new car AND a new pick-up.  That’s just how us Curbows roll – I wonder what the ancestors would have thought about that?!

Floyd M. Puckett and new bride Mable Jemima Ham

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Grantham, Ham, Montoya, Times and Places

 

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Bravo Blast

Gene Oliver Curbow was born 5 Nov 1933 in Roswell, Chaves County, New Mexico, the middle son of Roy Oliver Curbow and Allie Ernestine Ham. He married Thelma Bernice Raincrow, a member of the Cherokee Nation, in 1952. This couple had one son and divorced shortly after his birth. A few years later Gene married Cleta Fern Payne in July of 1952. This couple had three daughters. While I never had the opportunity to meet Gene Curbow personally, what interests me about him is his military service to our country and how he played his role in American history. You see, Gene Curbow was the weatherman on Bikini Island on the day of the Bravo Blast.

Gene enlisted into the United States Air Force in August of 1951. According to his younger brother, Gene was stationed on an island as a weatherman and was discharged from the Air Force with some type of disability. Many years ago Don saw Gene being interviewed by Linder Ellerbe on television regarding a radioactive contamination incident.

At military enlistment - with father Roy; mother Allie; and older brother Roy

After some research it was confirmed that Gene Curbow was one of twenty-eight servicemen present on Bikini Island the morning of March 1, 1954 when the Bravo Blast occurred. Detonated on a reef on Bikini Atoll, the Bravo test was the first United States explosion of a deliverable hydrogen bomb. The scientists (having grossly underestimated the size of the explosion) produced a yield of 15-megatons, making it more than 1,000 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast tore a crater more than ½ mile wide and several hundred feet deep and threw millions of tons of radioactive debris into the air. The fireball was almost three miles in diameter.  The Bravo Blast resulted in the worst single incident of fallout exposure in all the U.S. atmospheric testing programs. Twenty-three Japanese fishermen, 28 U.S. servicemen (Gene among them) and more than 200 Marshallese were caught in the fallout.

Quote from Gene Curbow, HQ Weather Reporting element (U.S. Air Force) on Rongerik Atoll, 1954: Prior to…and for weeks leading up to the blast the prevailing upper level troughs indicated that wind was blowing to the vicinity of our island.

In an article entitled, Deadly Snow written by Robert Milliken in 1986 he states that: One of the weathermen, Gene Curbow, is suffering from leukemia and is suing the U.S. government. He attributes his cancer, like that suffered by many Marshallese since Bravo, directly to radiation exposure

Actual Photograph of Bravo Blast Mushroom Cloud

It appears that there were numerous lawsuits filed in the aftermath of the Bravo Blast; however, one of the most significant included: Curbow, et al v. United States.  The lawsuit sought damages of $10 million dollars on behalf of five of the American servicemen who were subjected to the Bravo Blast fallout on Rongerik Atoll. I do not know if any of these cases ever went to trial or were settled. From the Petition:

The wind had been blowing straight at us for days before the test. It was blowing straight at us during the test and straight at us after it. The wind never shifted. Gene Curbow, senior weather technician on the neighboring atoll of Rongerik, who took radio-sound weather measurements up to an altitude of 30,000 meters before and after Bravo. Curbow and U.S. veterans stationed there have suffered since from a variety of illnesses, including cancer, tumors, heart and thyroid conditions, and urinary and bladder disorders that they say were related to Bravo. Three of them said they had difficulty fathering children or had had sickly offspring.

From a newspaper article dated 13 Feb 1983, when asked why the servicemen waited so long to file suit, Gene Curbow, replied: It was a mixture of patriotism and ignorance. The article goes on to state that: The government admits that the men were exposed to large doses of radiation but denies that their injuries are related. They say the U.S. and its contractors knew that east winds would carry the bomb’s fallout to the Marshall Islands but gave the go-ahead for the test and later attempted a coverup. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Weatherman

There is a series of videos posted on YouTube entiled “Half Life” which pertain to the Bravo Blast coverup.  See the video here – scroll to about minute 4.40 and you will see Gene Curbow giving a statement. 

After Gene’s retirement from military service, he spent time in Texas and Kentucky and then settled in Roanoke, Virginia with his wife and children.  He died there 12 Feb 1994 at the age of 60.  He is laid to rest in Evergreen Burial Park.

To Gene Curbow – and all others involved in the Bravo Blast – it doesn’t appear as if America treated you honorably in this instance.  But we, all these many years later, nonetheless acknowledge your sacrifice and service and thank you for your service to America.

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Curbow, Times and Places

 

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The Greatest Generation

It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced ~ Tom Brokaw

The Greatest Generation is a term coined by NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw in his book aptly also named, The Greatest Generation, which he wrote in 1998. Brokaw uses this term to describe the American generation who survived and grew up during the Great Depression and who later went on to protect America in World War II and then came home to rebuild the nation, if not the entire western world. This generation full well knew and understood the meaning of self-sacrifice – both here at home and on the battlefield; they took personal responsibility for their lives; they were frugal and hard-working; they loved God, family and country – and they did it all with humility. I concur with Tom Brokaw – they were truly our finest and greatest generation of Americans.

When you look at our combined family ancestry – it contains many outstanding military men – men who have fought in every American conflict from the American Revolution to the Iraq War. None stands out more than Milton Pete Zimmerle.

Milton was born 22 Aug 1918 – and grew up in and around Taylor County, Texas – the son of Oscar Zimmerle and Ella Lillian Norris. He is laid to rest in the Dewey Cemetery in Lawn, Taylor County, Texas. The emblem on Milton’s headstone tells us everything that we need to know about Milton’s World War II experience. You see – he was a member of what has become known as The Lost Battalion.

From the Association website:

The Lost Battalion Association is composed of the men of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery and those men who swam ashore from the Cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) when it was sunk, and who survived forty-two months of “hell” as prisoners of the Japanese during World War II. (The USS Houston was nicknamed the “Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast,” and she was sunk at the Battle of Sunda Strait on 1 March 1942.) At the time a Japanese fleet, consisting of an aircraft carrier, five cruisers, 11 destroyers and several PT boats was in the Strait, covering the landing of Jap troops from 40 transports. When the HMAS Perth and the USS Houston reached the strait late that night (February 28, 1942) they found themselves surrounded by enemy ships. After putting up a tremendous battle, first the HMAS Perth and then the USS Houston were sent to the bottom. Only 368 of the total complement of 1011 men of the USS Houston managed to reach shore. The remaining 643 shipmates, including their skipper, Captain Rooks, went down with the ship. Within a few days, all the survivors became prisoners of the Japanese.  The USS Houston is pictured below.

Within a few weeks, the Japanese had all of the American prisoners from the USS Houston and the 131st F. A. (less “E” Battery) together in the 10th Battalion Bicycle Camp, a former Dutch installation in Batavia (Jakarta) Java. Battery “E” remained in the Soerabaja area until moved to Nagasaki and other areas in Japan via Batavia and Singapore in November and December 1942. Thus, two Units of the American Armed Forces, consisting of 902 men, seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth (and became one unit), sacrificed in a clearly hopeless effort to save the Netherland East Indies from overwhelming numbers of the enemy. Now began an unbelievable string of events which, for some, would last three and one-half years and was to weld the “Phantoms” of the USS Houston (CA-30) and the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery together in a Bond closer than blood. This Army and Navy group of POWs suffered together through 42 months of humiliation, degradation, physical and mental torture, starvation and horrible tropical diseases, with no medication. The hardest part was watching friends die slowly, day by day, with the survivors often thinking, fleetingly, that maybe they were the “lucky ones.”

One of the toughest pills to swallow was not being able to communicate with families and loved ones at home. Sharing all this mental and physical anguish together built a special relationship among the survivors and each man knows how the other will react in almost any “chips-down” situation and most are pleased at what they have learned about their fellow survivors. Moving by ship from Java to Singapore and thence to Burma, Thailand or Japan, the men were packed like cattle in the lower holds, taking turns sitting, squatting, standing or laying down while suffering from sea sickness, dysentery, malaria or other tropical diseases, while standing in their own, or their neighbor’s filth, because it was impossible, or not permitted to get to the ship side latrine on the main deck. Then, the men worked in the steaming jungles and the “monsoon” seasons of Burma chopping down jungle trees, hand building road beds and bridges and laying ties and rails with primitive tools in construction of the now infamous “Burma-Siam Death Railway”. Some of the men were mining coal and/or working on the docks in Japan while living in sub-standard housing, without any heat or sufficient cover during two Japanese winters, where real starvation was a daily companion. Of the 902 men taken Prisoner, 668 were sent to Burma and Thailand and worked on the “Death Railway” (of Bridge on the River Kwaii fame). Of the total 163 men who died in Prisoner of War Camps, 133 died working on the railroad. After completion of the railroad, 236 of the men were disbursed to Japan and other Southeast Asian Countries to work in coal mines, shipyards, docks, etc. and a few remained at “Bicycle Camp” in Java.

Milton’s niece, Beverly Neil Atwood, remembers her uncle speaking occasionally of his POW experience.  Milton told the story of a Japanese girl who would bring a pint of milk every day for him and one other prisoner.  Milton feels certain that he would have died without that compassionate help.  He feels equally as sure that the girl would have been killed had she been caught.  Milton said they were so desperate and hungry for food that when a poor (and unsuspecting) dog strayed through the prison camp, they caught it and ate it.  Milton told Beverly that when they first arrived at the POW camp the men were given rations or rice – with bugs in it.  At first the men picked out the bugs with disgust – but later – it was just something more to eat.  Upon their liberation from the Japanese the men were running from the camp and down a hill.  At the base of the hill stood a Japanese man pulling a cart.  The men in their eagerness ran over, trampled and killed the Japanese man.

It appears that Milton Pete Zimmerle was liberated sometime in the Fall of 1945 and that Milton was back on American soil by November of that year.

Once home, Milton Pete Zimmerle went on to marry and have children.  He lived the rest of his life in Taylor County, Texas.

The facts and stories detailed here are incomprehensible to most of us.  Not many today have the mental and physical fortitude to endure what this generation of men did.  Milton Pete Zimmerle – America is forever in your debt, and we salute you.

For further reading on The Lost Battalion, you might enjoy a book written by one of the prisoners, Kyle Thompson, A Thousand Cups of Rice: Surviving the Death Railway.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Times and Places, Zimmerle

 

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Robert Thomas Havins – Part 2

As so often is the case – ask and you shall receive! This picture of Thomas Robert Havins came to us yesterday from cousin Beverly Atwood Blankenship of Lawn, Texas. Thanks Beverly!

 

As we learned in Part 1, our great grand-uncle, Thomas Robert Havins, served in the United States Army as a Captain during World War II. Since he was a long-time resident of Brownwood, Texas, I wondered if he had received his military training at Camp Bowie.

My husband has recounted childhood memories of hunting and camping on “Bowie” mountain; however, it wasn’t until now that I realized that Camp Bowie was an actual military training center (which grew to be one of the largest in Texas during World War II).

After I started digging into the history of Camp Bowie, I was surprised to read that not only was it a training center for our young soldiers – it was also a prison camp which consisted of two separate prisons – one was known as the rehabilitation center (that restored men back to health and duty – I don’t know why this would be considered a prison); and the other was a German Prisoner of War Camp. This camp also housed a small amount of Italian and Japanese prisoners and was known as Camp Bowie Internment Camp.

The first German prisoners of war began arriving at Camp Bowie during August of 1943 – there would eventually be about 2,700 men. Most of these men were members of Rommel’s Afrika Corps. The men were made to work either on the camp or as day laborers for local farmers and ranchers, often times picking cotton or corn.

Compared to how our boys were treated, it sounds like these prisoners had it fairly easy. The prisoners were up by 5:45 a.m. and lights were out at 10:00 p.m. They were given English lessons and many other classes including farming, forestry, electrical, bookkeeping, etc. Musical groups were formed, including a 10-piece orchestra. Each compound had a theater, wood working shop and day rooms with ping-pong tables, cards and other forms of entertainment. Exercise was encouraged on the two soccer fields and tennis courts. Movies were shown twice per week. The prisoners farmed 125 acres producing their own fruits and vegetables. The prisoners were provided medical and dental care – by one American doctor; one American dentist; three German doctors; and one German dental assistant.

Camp Bowie – Entrance

At this point in time, we know that Robert served in World War II from 1942-1945; however, we don’t know a lot about his service locations. However, I came across a small treasure on the internet. The letter below was written by Thomas’ wife, Mrs. T. R. Havins (Mottie Frierson) to Dr. Karl H. Moore (Pastor, First Baptist Church, Brownwood, Brown County, Texas), in which she thanks him for praying for her “boys” who were in the military. The letter is postmarked March 26, 1943, Brownwood, Texas, and reads as follows: Dear Dr. Moore: I want to express my appreciation for the Church Bulletin of March 14. I am so happy to know that my boys name is on your Church Roll, and that you are interested in him as well as all the other boys of your church, who are in the armed forces. I will deeply appreciate your prayers for him. 

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Atwood, Havins, Times and Places

 

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Whatever Happened to Mayberry?

I live in a cookie-cutter house in a cookie-cutter suburb of Austin, Texas. As I was mindlessly getting ready for work this morning, with Good Morning America droning in the background, I started wondering about what it would be like to live in small-town America.

When I left for work this morning, I noticed our young neighbor who lives his life in a house just yards away. I know nothing about him – not even his name. He refused to meet my gaze, never smiled or even looked my way at all. I observed his untended and dying landscape and sadly realized that I had not seen his wife in months. City life – with all its supposed sophistication, excitement and busyness – somehow seems to numb a person’s ability to relate and care about others. However, well-meaning – there are never enough hours in a day. What happened to the friendliness, and the feeling of knowing one’s neighbors and in turn being known by them? These traits seem to be part of a world which is rapidly fading away.

This feeling was reiterated as I made my way to the freeway (feeling like part of an ant colony on a mission – or better yet a frantic rat caught in a trap). Every car held one lonely occupant – lost in their own desperate thoughts – gearing up to face another day of corporate America. Now please understand, I know that “every day life” whether city or small town – both now and then – was and is difficult. However, sometimes as I am facing another day – I am transported back in time – to a place of quiet, tree-lined streets, with neat and well-tended frame houses, whose doors are never locked, and a pie is always cooling in the kitchen – where life appeared to be just a little bit simpler and where “everybody knew your name.”

My husband grew up in the small west Texas town of Brownwood. Although I, as a city girl, have had a hard time relating at times, I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the many stories of living life in small town America. Stories which include Eddie and Jimmy King – two brothers who owned the small neighborhood grocery store – King’s Grocery. My husband was employed there as a grocery stocker and a bag boy. Not only was he expected to bag the groceries with a smile – he was expected to walk them home AND unpack them too! Milk, sugar, eggs and lives were shared freely with each other – much time was made for family and friends – hardships and burdens were borne together. The men worked hard and long making a living and the women worked long and hard tending to their families. And of course, everyone knew when the man across the street had one too many drinks the night before at the local bar. I’m told that he regularly bashed his car through the garage door – leaving the evidence for all to see!

It seems that everything was blabbed in the newspapers back then!

Below is a short list of what I’ve learned from my small town American family and friends.  Let me know if any other things come to your mind!   

  • Parents still discipline their children in small town America. Instead of caving into peer pressure (and/or exhaustion) and plopping their kids in front of the TV or newest game system – small town kids are expected to pitch in on the farm, ranch or perform other chores around the house. Small town families still spend a good deal of time and attention to teaching their kids proper values, respect and manners – “yes sir,” “no ma’am” and “thank you – please.” In small town America most teenagers hold a job and work for the things they have. What could us city folk learn from that example?

  • In small town America – folks still take care of their elderly – in fact, not only do they take care of them – they respect and value their wisdom and life experiences too!

Busted!

  • I’ve observed that in small town America you are included in everything. Maybe this is because there are fewer people – and so everyone is needed to pitch in?! It seems that you are invited to every imaginable charitable cause, church function and family reunion. No one is ever left out of anything!

  • God and country are still first in small town America – enough said.

The kindness and hospitality of small town America (and especially small town TEXAS) is real – it is genuine. Small town folks DO care about their neighbors. You can be assured that there is always someone watching your back. Neighbors will gladly watch over your house, your yard, your truck, your livestock and will even smack your kids around if they need it.  They know when you are out-of-town and they know when you return. As my friend Susan told me – she once received a call from her mother’s neighbor who had grown concerned because Susan’s mother hadn’t checked the mail at her regular time that day. City folks may sneer at that and call it nosey – some just call it being neighborly.

So I’ll leave you with this southern greeting from my friend Susan – a native of Alabama – “How’s yo momma and them?”

 
 

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