Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

An American Soldier; the story of Private Jonathan Bowen

In LaSalle, Off to War on July 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm
Margaret, Jon and Brendan

Margaret, Jon and Brendan.  Jon is wearing his Purple Heart.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 16,112,566 individuals were members of the United States armed forces during World War II. In November 2012, it was estimated that approximately 1,462,809 American veterans from this war were still living. Most are in their 80’s and 90’s. This past week my son, Brendan, and I had the privilege of meeting with a veteran from World War II, Jonathan Bowen, and his wife, Margaret. Brendan has a great deal of interest in World War II and often surprises us with his knowledge of historical events of this period. He plans on joining the military one day himself. He was especially delighted to meet with Mr. Bowen and to hear what it was really like to be a private during World War II.

Jonathan Bowen 2

The back of this photograph reads simply:  Love Jonnie Bowen (1945, Germany)

Mr. Bowen, like my son, lived in the village of LaSalle, and attended local schools. In 1942, while a student at Niagara University, he received a notice to sign for a draft card for military service. This was just the beginning. For this notice would change his life. By April of 1943, he was officially inducted into the Army but was granted a continuation in order to allow him to finish his sophomore year of college. In June, he reported to Fort Niagara and trained for several weeks. Uniforms were issued at Fort Niagara. From there he was sent on a New York Central train to Camp Fannin, Texas, for 12 weeks of basic training. It was the middle of the night when he first arrived. The men slept on cots–some double decker. They were given their guns at Camp Fannin. They learned how to shoot and how to clean them. They marched. They crawled around on the ground while live rounds and grenades passed over their heads. They trained this way both in the day time and at night. They always carried their rifles. Training was rough for this boy from Niagara Falls. And hot. He especially recalls the stifling Texas heat and being thirsty all of the time.

Jonathan Bowen 1

Jonathan in his army uniform (possibly outside of his home in La Salle)

Scoring exceptionally well on the entrance tests for the military, Mr. Bowen was accepted into the Army’s Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Following basic training at Camp Fannin, he was sent to Philadelphia for eight weeks of study at the Drexel Institute of Technology. About five of the men were housed together at Hotel Philadelphia during this time period. Mr. Bowen remembers this as a pleasant experience—much more akin to how he had envisioned his life. He studied chemistry and physics. Unfortunately, the Drexel Institute of Technology was short lived. The war was at a critical crossroads and there was a great need for more troops. He was suddenly pulled from the training program and sent to another camp in Louisiana with the 84th Division, Company E, and then shipped off to the European Theater. Louisiana, during the summer, was also extremely hot and humid.

Following training in Louisiana, Jonathan went by troop train to New York and embarked on the sister ship to the luxury liner, Morrow Castle, to England. The ships filled with soldiers sailed in formation with convoy ships in the center, tankers next and destroyers on the outside. On the boat the men slept on hammocks. They landed in South Hampton, England, and stayed at Winchester Barracks, until they were summoned to Europe.

It was actually a beautiful Fall day when Jonathan and about 1,000 men landed upon Utah Beach. There was quite a bit of fighting ahead as many had come before them. He did not know what to expect however he was prepared for anything. They were sent on to Belgium where they lived in foxholes. There were no tents. Under constant shelling, his company (E Company) had three days on the frontlines, followed by two days of relief. It was during this time, about November of 1944, that Jonathan was wounded in an attack against the Germans. Not even realizing that he had been shot, another soldier noticed his foot was bleeding. He remembers that it had felt as if he had been hit with a stone. He was in the hospital tent for 7 to 10 days. Medics extracted the shrapnel from his left heel while buzz bombs whizzed overhead. After a brief recuperation, he was released and sent back to the 84th Infantry Division.

Jonathan 4

jonathan 5

Some Niagara Men wounded and missing listed in the Niagara Gazette. 

Back with his company, he was immediately loaded into a truck and brought to the front lines and to the Battle of the Bulge. Lodged in foxholes on a hillside, he and the other men suffered terrible hardship. As weather conditions deteriorated, the Germans had decided to advance. They awaited the Germans in their foxholes. He recalls a time that he was on patrol and he and his group had noticed a lone German tank. They were afraid it may have been booby-trapped. The men dispersed and were shot at as they left. Upon returning with armor piercing weapons, it was determined that there were no Germans in the tank, nor was it booby-trapped. It was merely abandoned.

Another incident took place where three Germans were taken prisoner. The Americans were going through a pass, in single file, all the while Germans shot at them. These Germans were overcome and taken as prisoners.

Life was not easy for the privates. The artillery was neverending. They were in constant fear for their lives. They stayed in the same foxholes for long periods. In the field the men went weeks without showers and “trench foot” was a real concern as their feet were always wet. They had only K-rations for food. They included cans of cheese, instant coffee, chocolate bars, lemonade. Jonathan saw the Army, and the war, as a job that he needed to get done. He chose not to make close friends. Perhaps, it frightened him to become close to anyone, as he had witnessed so much sadness and death. However, as strange as it sounds, Jonathan did run into a classmate while serving overseas. A private named, Nick Napolitano, was also with the 84th Division.

Jonathan and the guys

“Hunsinger, Ackman, Cowan, Rico, Epley…Jon Bowen and Friends, Europe”

Jon is standing on the far right with mess kit.

As the Germans continued to withdraw, Jonathan’s company moved forward. The Americans rented houses in Belgium. He shared a couple of rooms with four or five other privates. They slept anywhere there was space. Soon they found themselves in Hanover, Germany. They were told not to fraternize with the Germans. Their motto was always: “kill or be killed.” However, they did speak with the Germans. He had a friend who spoke German well and he learned to speak German, too. Although he found Germany pretty and filled with beautiful trees, it was also a mess of tanks, equipment and bombed out villages. They were never sure when the war actually ended. At one point, they had been told it was over, but were strafed by a couple of airplanes. Some men were even wounded and possibly killed.

When the war had officially ended, Jonathan was sent to Reims, France. He worked as an agent on the railroad and had a nice place to stay where a German POW cleaned the rooms. He and the other men walked daily to the train station waiting for word that they would be going home. He lived comfortably in Reims and was able to spend some time in Paris and London. It may be during this time that he was able to see President Truman and General Eisenhower in person. He remembers that the soldiers had all of their bullets taken from their rifles during the visit of these two very important men—just in case.

Eventually, Jonathan was sent by train to Le Havre. During the stormy season on the North Sea they boarded boats and embarked upon a 12-day trip to New York City. While in New York City, he saw his girlfriend, Eleanor (they had met at Drexel), and then finally returned to Niagara Falls. Margaret was at Buffalo State College when the war ended. They were friends for some time and actually wrote letters back and forth during the war.

Following the war, Jonathan was intent on being a civilian once again. He left the Army as soon as possible and although he refused to wear civilian clothes (and wore his uniform until it wore thin) he had a difficult time adjusting to home life. His parents thought he was “funny.” All of his friends were getting back into their life, or had chosen to stay in the Army for some time. His parents had hoped he would return immediately to school—but he just was not ready at the time. Eventually he did return to school under the GI Bill and he pursued the career in science that he had originally set out to pursue before the war ripped him away. He and Margaret were married and lived happily ever after. They have two children: Jonathan, Jr., and Glenn; four grandchildren: Heather, Melanie, Nathan and Joshua; and two great grandchildren: Chloe and Anastasia One of their grandsons, Joshua, is serving in the Army and has spent time in Afghanistan.Margaret

Jon and Margaret’s Engagement notice in the Niagara Falls Gazette

March 29, 1947

Mr. Bowen has left the war behind him for now. It was over 60 years ago that he was a young private landing on a beach in France. I think my son and I were startled at how much he does remember of that strange adventure in Europe. And he doesn’t recall it with sadness or regret. He knew he had a job to do and he followed through without complaint. And, yes, he was lucky enough to come home and to live a full life and to meet on a hot day in July in the library with another young boy from LaSalle.

St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Cemetery Register, January 26, 1969 to May 22, 1978

In St. Joseph's Cemetery Records, St. Joseph's Church, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on July 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm

This book contains records from the Cemetery Register from St. Joseph’s Cemetery, from January 26, 1969 to May 22, 1978.

Index A-D
Index D-M
Index M-S
Index T-Z
January 26, 1969-August 25, 1968
September 1, 1969-February 3, 1972
January 26, 1970-August 5, 1970
March 13, 1971-November 13, 1971
December 30, 1972-July 3, 1973
April 20, 1973-January 9, 1974
January 6, 1974-July 11, 1974
May 11, 1974-November 29, 1974
November 26, 1974-May 25, 1975
April 3, 1975-November 28, 1975
March 6, 1976-August 18, 1976
August 16, 1976-March 31, 1977
January 15, 1977-August 6, 1977
August 11, 1977-March 18, 1978
January 12, 1978-May 25, 1978

The Remarkableness of Carl Goodrich; The Death Adventure of a Boy from LaSalle by Michelle Kratts

In Bring Out Your Dead, Dangerous Waters, Deaths, Ghost Stories, If This House Could Talk, LaSalle, Niagara Falls on July 3, 2013 at 11:49 am

It’s been 100 years since Carl left our house for his fateful trip into eternity.

The Journal of the Dead Beats Society

Once upon a time, ninety nine years ago, there was a young man who lived in our house. His name was Carl Goodrich and his story fell into my lap–along with an old newspaper clipping—just a few days before we moved into a big old farmhouse on Lindbergh Avenue in the LaSalle section of Niagara Falls. As a genealogist, I was excited about the possibilities of the lives of those who came before us but I must admit that I was unprepared for Carl Goodrich….

Of course, when you buy an old house everyone wonders if you have ghosts—especially if the past residents experienced violent or tragic deaths. I have wondered about that myself but so far haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. The doors swing open by themselves…but old house doors do that. There are strange creaking noises…but old houses do that. And the cats stare into the…

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Beautiful as the Day

In As Niagara Falls, Bathing Beauties, Niagara in Summer, Pictures at Niagara Falls on July 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Ladies 1

Ladies 4

Ladies 5

Ladies 6

Ladies 7

Ladies 8

Ladies 9

Ladies 10

Ladies 12

Enjoy these vintage photographs from a recently acquired collection belonging to Amy Wall. It is believed that all of the photographs in this collection were taken in Niagara Falls around one hundred years ago.

This is just a sampling of some beautiful ladies from Niagara’s past. The nurses are most likely from St. Mary’s Hospital. We don’t know their names. We are just left with timeless images captured in some photographs.

One Union Soldier by Beverly Bidak

In Civil War, Family Scrapbook, Finding My Grandfather's War, Off to War on July 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm
Grave of Samuel McGee, courtesy Findagrave

Grave of Samuel McGee, courtesy Findagrave

When I started researching my husband’s and my family histories years ago, it was my intention to give my sons a look into their families past. To help them understand who they are and where they came from. While searching, I have learned that genealogy is not just about names, dates and places. It’s about people, our ancestors, our famlies and how they lived and left their mark.

With the help of a fellow researcher, I have uncovered the story of one interesting person from my past, my paternal great-grandfather. Samuel A. McGee was a third generation American of Scot-Irish descent. He was born on 9 April 1841 in Young Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. He was the third of eleven children born to Robert and Catherine (Graffius) McGee and raised on the family farm. He was a farmer and lumberman.

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Samuel was 20 years old. He felt it was his duty to serve his country so he went to Pittsburg and enrolled in the Union Army on 3 September 1861. He was mustered in Company F of the 105th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry as a private on 9 September for a three-year term. The 105th was also known as the Wild Cat Regiment because the men were principally from the Congressional District popularly known as the Wild Cat District embracing the counties of Jefferson, Clarion and Clearfield. The regiment’s field officers were: Amor A. McKnight, Colonel; W.W. Corbett, Lieutenant Colonel; and M.M. Dick, Major. Captain Robert Kirk headed “F” Company.

The regiment was ordered to Washington in October of 1861 and assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division III Corp. in Camp Jameson near Alexandria, Virginia. While in the winter camp, the regiment was carefully and rididly trained. Upon leaving the camp on 17 March 1862, the regiment took part in the siege at Yorktown and the battles of Williamsburg and Fair Oaks. After a month spent on picket duty, the 105th was again in action at Glensdale and Malvern Hill and, by the time it reached Harrison’s Landing, the ranks were so reduced by wounds and sickness that less than 100 men were fit for active duty. The 105th was at Fredericksburg, after which it spent the winter in camp near Brandy Station. In May 1863, the regiment was engaged at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Colonel McKnight and Captain were killed in that battle.

On 3 July 1863, the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Samuel A. McGee was wounded when a shell passed through his right thigh. He was treated at a field hospital and then transferred, as a private, to Company G, 11th Regiment, Veterans Reserve Corp (Invalid Corps) where he spent the remainder of his enlistment in the hospital until he was honorably discharged on 8 September 1864.

Samuel returned home and to farming. He married Mary Jane Crawford on 16 August 1866 in Suthersburgh, Pennsylvania. Mary Jane, a teacher, was born 8 March 1843 in Marchand, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Allen and Nancy (Brown) Crawford. The couple set up housekeeping in Bell Township, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. Samuel and Mary Jane bred and raised five chidren: William Clay (born 21 November 1867), Olive Murtle (born 13 May 1870), Crawford Herbert (born 16 July 1873), Robert Earl (born 2 May 1875) my grandfather, and Alice Bertha (born 2 June 1877).

The war injury disabled Samuel but did not incapacitate him. He stood tall at 5 feet 11 inches although the right leg was a little shorter than the left; he limped and suffered soreness and pain as the years went on. He filed for and received a small disability pension, $2.00 a month, in 1876 and he continued to work his farm and raise his family.

Samuel lost his wife in 1903. In November of 1910 he was admitted to and resided in the National Soldiers’ Home in Elizabeth City Clounty, Virginia, a national home for disabled veteran soldiers. In September 1911, Samuel took a 90 day leave of absence from the home and returned to Mahaffey, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, where he died on 17 November 1911. Samuel A. McGee and Mary Jane (Crawford) McGee are both interred at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Clover Run, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.

St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Single Graves, March 1931-March 1942

In Niagara Deaths, Niagara Falls, St. Joseph's Cemetery Records, St. Joseph's Church, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on July 1, 2013 at 8:30 pm

This book contains the burials at St. Joseph’s Cemetery from March 1931 to March of 1942.

March 21, 1931-August 29, 1931

September 7, 1931-September 1, 1932

September 3, 1932-August 2, 1933

August 7, 1933- March 15, 1935

April 1, 1935-March 16, 1936

March 26, 1936-June 2, 1937

July 21, 1937-June 2, 1938

June 2, 1939-August 23, 1941

September 21, 1941-May 28, 1942 (some 1922)

St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Death Register, 1922-1942, Sections A,B,C,D, Six and Twelve Grave Lots

In Niagara Deaths, Niagara Falls, St. Joseph's Cemetery Records, St. Joseph's Church, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on July 1, 2013 at 6:46 pm

This book contains graves listed in the Death Register from May 1922 to March 1942 that are located in Sections A,B,C and D.

May 5, 1922-Feb, 15, 1925

March 12, 1925-June 11, 1927

July 9, 1927-May 28, 1928

July 7, 1929-January 23, 1932

February 10, 1932-February 5, 1934

February 15, 1934-October 19, 1936

November 8, 1936-December 9, 1938

January 3, 1939-March 12, 1941

March 15, 1941-March 30, 1942