Some of my fondest memories of Uncle Lionel are centered around his visits, when I was a young child, to the small summer cottage my parents owned in Charlestown, Rhode Island–about a mile from the water. They had built the two-room cottage themselves, around the 1950 mark, with family members pitching in to help. Every year, with the exception of one, my whole summer was spent at the cottage location and it was always a special day when Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth would drive down for a visit. Generally, they would bring Gra Gra down with them, too. If you would like to learn a bit more about Gra Gra, please see my previous post: Intro to Gra Gra & Volunteering at Kent Hospital
Lionel Henry James was born on September 7th, 1892, in Providence, RI. He was brother to Bertha (Gra Gra) and Howard Allen James (1894-1963).
Their parents were George L. P. James and Martha Ella (Carr) James Cady. Their younger siblings, Vincent and Lester, were born of George’s second wife Susan Henrich. Although I still have research to do on the Henrich family, you could read a little more about them from my previous post: What’s in a Name, Lena Henrich?
My thoughts have been focused a lot on Uncle Lionel in recent weeks, with all the talk about the first World War ending 100 years ago and my remembering having knowledge of his military service, during that era. Fortunately, I found a couple of the postcards that he wrote during the war–I know there are others.
The featured postcard, shown again below of both the front and back side, was sent by Uncle Lionel and postmarked July 20, 1915 from Fort Greble, R.I. The card was sent to his sister Mrs. William Watts (Gra Gra), in Riverpoint, R.I.
Looking first at his message, I was able to learn a few details of his service. At the time of his writing, in 1915, he was of the rank Quartermaster Sergeant, serving in the 11th Co., C.A.C., R.I. N.J., stationed at Fort Greble, R.I. According to Wikipedia, the C.A.C. stands for the U.S. Army, Coast Artillery Corps which served coastal, harbor defense from 1901 to 1950.
The publisher of this postcard was Bobbe Litho Co., from New York City.
Fort Greble was on Dutch Island, which is located mid-way from Saunderstown (on the mainland) to Jamestown (Conanicut Island), and is part of the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island. According to Preservation RI, the island contains approximately 110-acres. The island was acquired by the federal government during the Civil War to serve as a coastal defense site.
In 1872-73, a barracks for government workers was built. On that featured postcard is shown pictures of two barrack buildings and a hospital.
During 1897-98, Battery Hale was constructed in honor of Captain Nathan Hale, of the Revolutionary War era. The battery had positions for three 10-inch guns with disappearing carriages.
The postcard, shown above, shows one of the 10″ guns from Fort Greble. This card was sent by Uncle Howard, it was postmarked on July 20, 1915 from Fort Greble, and was sent to Mr. & Mrs. T. W. Watts (Gra Gra and Pop Pop), in Riverpoint, R.I.
From this postcard, I was able to learn that Uncle Howard served during the first World War at Fort Greble, along with Uncle Lionel. The handwritten message from Howard reads: Dear Brother and Sister, Having a fine time, hope to see you Friday. Howard xxxxx.
Fort Greble operated from 1898 to 1947 and was named in honor of 1st Lt. John Trout Greble, 2nd Artillery–who was killed in the Civil War.
During the early 1900s, Battery Hale served in protection of the western entrance to Narragansett Bay, along with Fort Getty, in Jamestown and Fort Kearny, in Saunderstown (now the site of URI school of oceanography)–Narragansett Bay Harbor Defense System.
During the first World War, Fort Greble housed 14 companies of RI National Guardsmen, in a circa 1900 enlisted mens’ barracks near the northeastern end of the island. The batteries of Fort Greble were disarmed between 1917 and 1943 and use of the fort facility was ended in 1947. In 1958, Dutch Island was given to the state for conservation use.
During my research, for this blog posting, I was able to locate the World War I Draft Registration card records for both Lionel and Howard. In addition, I was able to find one for their cousin Clifford Foster James, born Aug, 29, 1885. He was the son of William and Mabel (Dollof) James–they lived for many years in Hyde Park, Mass. William was brother to George L. P. James, the father of Lionel and Howard.
Below are two pictures; one is of Clifford in 1937 and the other includes Clifford standing on the far right, with his Uncle Martin and his dad William (I believe William is the one standing in the middle).
According to Clifford’s WWI Draft Registration from 1917, his nearest relative was Mabel Alice James, with address listed as: 52 Cleveland St, in Hyde Park. His occupation was listed as a painter for Farnum & Nelson, 1822 Aboretum, in Roslindale, Mass.
The date of the WWI Draft Registration for Lionel was June 5, 1917. It listed previous military service as six years and rank as QM Serg. (Quartermaster Sergeant). His address at that time was listed as: 52 Cleveland Street, Hyde Park, Boston, Mass. This was the same address as was listed on Clifford’s record, which would lead me to believe that Uncle Lionel was living with his Uncle William and Aunt Mabel during that time in 1917. His occupation was listed as wood finisher for John T. Robinson & Co, in Hyde Park. This company manufactured fine paper box and card cutting machinery.
In future blog stories, I hope to explore the family of William and Mabel James a bit further and this Hyde Park area, which is located on the outskirts of Boston. In the meantime, below are shown three unposted postcards of places located in Hyde Park. They were published by Herbert W. Rhodes of Norwood, Mass. They would date to 1907 or earlier, since they each have undivided backs. These cards were part of Aunt Etta’s collection, learn more about her in my previous post: Intro to Aunt Etta And Her Great Adventures.
I was able to find Uncle Howard’s WWI Draft Registration, dated June 5, 1917 and his address was listed as: 141 Lynnfield St., in Peabody, Mass. He was 22 years old and his occupation was listed as Shipping Clerk for Densten Hair Co., in Peabody, Mass., located off of Lynnfield Street. At that time, he was married to his first wife, Alfreda (Tedford) James. The card lists his Military service Rank as: 1st Class Gunner Sergeant, Coast Artillery, for one year, in Rhode Island. There is a question on the card saying: Has person lost arm, leg, hand, foot or both eyes, or is he otherwise disabled? The answer said: First finger, left hand, disfigured. This injury is something I never knew or heard about and I have to wonder if he received the injury during his service at Fort Greble.
Unfortunately, I am unable to locate a photo of Uncle Howard at this time. I am sure that I must have one in the large volume of pictures that have passed down to me but it will have to wait until a future story.
Since Uncle Howard died in 1963, I did not have the pleasure of knowing him as well as Uncle Lionel. I can remember his first wife, Aunt Freda, visiting on several occasions to Gra Gra’s house while I was there on a weekend or school vacation week. I do remember that she drove down from Massachusetts, so I believe she remained living in the Peabody area after they divorced.
According to Gra Gra’s family bible records, Uncle Howard married a second time to Mary E. Dempsey, in January of 1924. I do remember Aunt Mary fairly well and she lived nearby. Since the primary focus of this blog post is on Uncle Lionel, I will save Howard’s family details for a future post.
In November of 1917, Uncle Lionel married Mary Elizabeth Whitney, they had ten children–two of whom are still living and are in their late 80’s.
I found record of Uncle Lionel’s World War II Old Man’s Draft Registration, which was dated April 27, 1942. This registration was required for men born on or after April 28, 1877 and on or before Feb. 16, 1897. On this 1942 record, his address was listed as: 239 Bayview Avenue, in Cranston, RI. His employer was listed as Oscar Leach, Leach England Works, Charles Street, in Providence, RI.
In later years, Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth moved to West Warwick and lived for a time in a multi-family home on Youngs Avenue, which was the next street over from Gra’s Gra’s house on South Street.
Music was, and still is, an important element in the James family. My great-grandfather, George L. P. James, was a banjo player–known for playing throughout the Pawtuxet Valley area during the early 1900’s. According to a handwritten record by George, he states that his grandfather, William James, was said to have given music lessons, in Providence.
Gra Gra played the piano, the ukulele and the Hawaiian Guitar. I remember that Uncle Lionel played the banjo but I am not sure if he played any other instruments. I do believe all of his son’s played instruments: drums, banjo, guitar, piano and at one time they had a band.
Below are two pictures of the apartment where Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth lived during the early 1960’s, it was located on Youngs Ave., in West Warwick, R.I.
My grandmother relied on her brother Lionel when she needed help with “handy” things and I guess that would include snow-shoveling. Apparently, there was a big snowstorm during 1963 and I found three pictures of Uncle Lionel in the snow.
During 1964, the town constructed their first elderly residence facility, the West Warwick Manor, and Uncle Lionel and Aunt Elizabeth were part of the first residents to live there. In 1967, they celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary and there was a big party (I think it was a surprise) for them in the recreation hall of the manor. It was a great time and there was a honky-tonk band which kept everyone on their feet, including me–dancing and dancing along with my cousin Kim. It is one of my greatest memories.
Around that timeframe, Uncle Lionel was beginning to have some serious health issues and I can remember he was in and out of the hospital a few times. One of the things I loved most about him was his great sense of humor. Although his failing health was no joke he would try to make light of it by telling stories of the hospital nurses giving him the nickname “Old Ironsides”.
His body rebounded on several occasions, even though fighting a tough battle. However, his fight ended on January 19th, 1969. I can still remember that I had to bring a note into school for permission to be released early in order to attend his visiting hours. I was in sixth grade, at the time, and we were in Science lesson when I had to leave for the day. I do not remember going to the actual funeral, only the visiting hours, so I think my mom did not have me attend it.
Aunt Elizabeth was then alone to finish her journey in life, until I believe 1971. I am not positive on the year and I made an effort to find that information to be sure. I did find an entry in the family Bible of February 13th but there was no year listed. I remember her as having a huge heart. She treated everyone in a kind manner and seemed to have boundless energy. I can remember many events at church with her always being there–lending a helping hand.
Below is a picture of Aunt Elizabeth taken at Gra Gra’s house (I recognize the chair) and it may be one of the last pictures of her.
It was my intention to complete this posting sooner, closer to Veteran’s Day, but clearly that did not happen. I wish that I had thought about the first World War family connection sooner in order to allow for me to complete it in time. However, it is always nice to learn a little more about family history and how it ties into local locations. I really did not know much about Fort Greble prior to conducting some research for putting this piece together.
With the clues provided by the family postcards it really helps to serve as a base to learning more about history–events, places and people.
Until next time…