Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bound Away: Abel Sant in Australia

This story surprised me so much I just had to share it at face value.

A couple of months ago I was reading The Fatal Shore:  The Story of Australia's Founding by Robert Hughes.  It was good but I didn't get all the way through--it was getting a little too in depth and I had something else I wanted to read.  I thought it was interesting and didn't know much about the topic; I particularly liked the section about what it was like was to live in London after the American Revolution--my Haynes ancestors are from London--but as far as I know no one in my family got deported to Australia, what's this got to do with me?  So I put it down.  And soon ate my words.
Coast of Australia, formerly known as New South Wales

While looking at some pioneer histories last night I came across this story about our ancestor Abel Sant on FamilySearch.  I will include excerpts of it here as I found it.  It's pretty amazing and the author has done some great research. (You can even view some of the original documents on FamilySearch.) After that is an account of how one of Abel's great-great grandsons tracked down the lost branch of the family in Australia while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around 1906.  I have a few thoughts on the matter that I will include afterwards.

(Me>Mom>Beverly Ely>LaRue McCann>Thomas Ravenhill McCann>Betsy Sant>John Sant>Abel Sant)

Contributed to FamilyTree by Laura H. Perry.   Source "The Children of Isaac and Martha Sant".

Abel's father Isaac was a sawyer and, as was tradition in those days, Abel and his brothers followed their father's profession. He was soon a gang leader (of Sawyers) and was well respected for his hard work.

Abel seems to have committed his first crime when, at the age of 19, he married Margaret Bayley. The problem was that Abel was a staunch protestant and Margaret came from a devout catholic family. He brothers just couldn't accept their sister marrying a heretic and producing 8 children who also followed the heresy. They moved heaven and earth to break this man and his family.

Abel had been working in a saw mill with his son Tom when the Australian Government asked the crown for more sawyers to be sent over as there was a great shortage of skilled men who could work on building houses and workshops for the growing community. The English government sent a number of sawyers over on the same ship, with the same 7 year sentence. While these men had been at work, wheat and tools had been placed in some of their lunch pails - the authorities were waiting. It happened that young Tom's pail was one of these and as soon as Abel realised it, he claimed it as his own, telling his son that is was him they wanted to get rid of so he would be the one to go.
So - is this fact, or just a story passed on to ease what was once seen as the shame of convict ancestry?...
  
Abel appeared at the Quarter Sessions at the Chester assizes on 9 January 1821, in front of a bench lead by one of the De Trafford family - the charge being that he had stolen a quantity of wheat. At the trial it was brought up that his brother Moses had been transported a year earlier for a number of thefts - therefore it was clearly a case of a "bad family". Abel was sentenced to 7 years transportation. The Quarter Sessions records state the following:

"Case Number 7 January 1821
Abel Sant aged 39

Charge: Stealing a quantity of wheat
 Sentence: Transported 7 years
 How behaved in jail: Good
 How behaved since trial: Good
 Connextion and former course in life: Bad
 Temper and disposition: Good
 Character as far as known: Very bad
 State of health: Good
 Comments: A very bad character and connextions very bad, his brother MOSES was transported in May last year and put on board the "INSTITUTION"

It was customary for convicts to be sent to the hulks before they were allocated a ship
A Hulk: unseaworthy ship used for a prison.
and sent to Australia, they were usually held there for months, sometimes years and many died there. This did not happen with the sawyers. Transportation papers, signed by Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth, the Home Secretary - which authorised Abel (and others) to be sent to the hulk Justitia to await deportation, were sent to the High Sheriff of Chester on 16th January 1821.

One of 15 men from the Chester assizes, who were tried at the same time, Abel arrived at the hulks at Woolwich 16th January 1821 to be examined and listed as healthy enough to travel. He was placed aboard the Hulk Justitia and the receipt for his reception is still in existence, signed by Robert Smyth, the overseer of the Justitia, I have a copy of all the transportation papers and receipts.

 ****************************************************
Aboard the Justitia Abel would have worn the standard prison uniform nicknamed "Magpie Suits".
 The only known surviving example is in the National Museum of Australia and is pictured below.
He was certified as "Free from putrid and infectious disorders" and fit to be transported on 22nd January 1821.
Magpie suit for Australian Convicts.

Abel was taken from the Justitia and put on the "Adamant" (built in 1811), the Adamant set sail on 29 March 1821 and arrived in New South Wales on 8th September 1821 - 144 men set out, 142 arrived in Sidney, two men having died on the journey. I have a copy of the ships register listing every man on board, where they were tried, and the length of their sentences.

On arriving in Sydney, New South Wales on 8th September 1821 his links with the judicial system did not end. However it was as a witness that this relationship with the law continued:

The Story of the Adamant
"Occasionally the prisoners might be starved, as happened in the Adamant in 1821. This ship reached Port Jackson from England on September 8th, but the convicts, so far as extant records reveal, had no complaints, although the surgeon-superintendent, James Hamilton, refused to sign the masters accounts until the latter agreed to credit the government with the value of medical comforts that were deficient. On October 24th 1821 when the ship had almost cleared Sidney harbour on her return voyage, police officers boarded her and seized 386 lb. of sugar, 752lbs of beef, 35lbs of soap, and varying quantities of wine, vinegar, pepper, ginger, chocolate, suet, oatmeal, bread, preserved meat and portable soup alleged to have been stolen from provisions and medical comforts supplied for the prisoners on the outward passage.

The seizure followed a quarrel between the Adamant's Master, William Ebsworthy, and the ship's steward, George Farris. The latter had sold some wine to a woman innkeeper and had collected payment, but Ebsworthy had insisted that the money should be paid to him and threatened to seize the wine. When a constable arrived Farris swore that he sold the wine on the masters instructions and it had been embezzled, along with other goods secreted in the ship, from the convicts provisions. "Just before we crossed the line" asserted Farris in sworn statement "The captain had a scuttle cut in the after hold for the purpose of adulterating the king's stores, and by his order I drew off twelve or fourteen gallons from each puncheon and made up the deficiency with water".

The evidence is contradictory as to whether Ebsworthy or Farris was the instigator, but there is no doubt that the prisoners received water and wine and that portions of rations were embezzled. Ebsworthy, when the matter came before the magistrates, refused to submit a written defence, and the evidence was forwarded to the Commissioners of the Navy without comment."

 From: The Convict Ships by Charles Bateson.

Abel was called to give evidence in this case, having been transported on the ship. He was also found in court records in Picton Court House in 1830 as a witness - 1832 as a witness - 1942 suing for non payment of wages - 1855 as surety for an Oliver Whiting - 10th August 1855 for a Slaughtering Licence - 1856 Leake v Sant for non payment of wages.
Release & Freedom:

 Abel was granted a "Ticket of Leave" (number 27/41) on 21st March 1827 at Camden Bench. This meant Abel could actively seek work but he could not leave the area.
 The system was an early form of early release on probation. This was followed by a "Certificate of Freedom" (number 28/329) on 22nd April 1828. The information on the certificate is as follows:
"Date: 22nd April 1828 - Name: Abel Sant - Ship: Adamant - Master: Ebsworthy - Year: 1821 - Native Place: Cheshire - Trade or Calling: Sawyer - Place of Trial: Chester Quarter Sessions - Date of Trial: 9th January 1821 - Sentence: Seven years - Year of Birth: 1780 - Height 5 feet 10 +1/2 inches - Complexion: Fair - Hair: Sandy - Eyes: Grey - General remarks: Had a ticket of leave 27/41 dated 21 March 1827, now turned in & cancelled."

 A New life:
Abel knew he would never return home, and his application to remarry was granted and he married Ellen Smith on 20th January 1841 at St John's Cambeltown, Cumberland, New South Wales. He he was working there for a family called Antill.
 Abel & Ellen had one son, Isaac in 1845.

The skill of Abel is reinforced by an article which appeared in the Camden News of October 1896 under the heading "Early days in Picton":

 "Two noted fencers of their day were Rozette and Abel Sant, father of the present Isaac Sant. His reputation in this respect has been maintained by his son. Part of a fence erected by them is still to be seen at Jarvisfield. It is 70 years old. Abel lived in a cottage opposite the present rifle range."

His relationship with the Antill family seems to have remained throughout Abel's life. When he died on 4th December 1858, from skinning a cow infected with the Cumberland Disease (Anthrax), it was an Antill who notified the death.

Abel was buried in the cemetery of St Marks, Picton, New South Wales.

Isaac, Abel's son went on to become a much respected citizen and managed a silver mine called the Golden Gates, from which he made a very good living. There are still descendants in Australia today.
And now the Rest of the Story, also contributed to FamilyTree by Laura H. Perry.  Source:  Sant History by Alfred C. Sant.

 We are fortunate to have the story of the life of Grandfather Abel Sant sometime after the year of 1817, as related by Alfred C. Sant in connection with some of this missionary experiences.

In the year of 1906 my brother Alma came home from the Southern States Mission and upon his return Bishop Hyman said to my father, “Now it’s Fred’s turn to go.”

My father replied: “I’ll be glad for him to go and I will pay his way, but if he is called to the Islands or among the natives, I will rebel.” I was working on the survey line when I received the letter and my call for a mission to New Zealand. I returned home with the news and in due time father (George) asked, “Where are you going.” I replied, “To New Zealand.” Father did not approve and said, “It is impossible for you to go. I won’t let you go among the natives.” Therefore my desire of going where I wanted to stood in the balance. I wanted to go where I was called and my father didn’t want me to go to the Isles of the sea.
Alfred Sant

As time passed we learned there were two missions in New Zealand– an European and a Moari. At this father consented for me to go and gave me $20.00 and told me if I was sent among the Moaries I was to send a telegram immediately and he would send me a ticket so I could return home. He told me to keep this in mind. I was in quite a ponder. I wanted to go where I was called to serve and I didn’t want to disobey my father. It seemed hard for me to disobey one and obey the other. But anyway I was sent to the New Zealand mission to serve where I was most needed and to do my best.

I left home on the 7th of July, 1908, and went to Salt Lake City where I was set apart on the 8th to go to New Zealand. I was alone and perhaps a bit lonely as my brother, Orson, was born the day I left and mother and father were unable to be with me. They were not able to go with me to the mission home or the temple. However, my father, sister, and sweetheart met me at the Oxford depot and father gave me another $20.00, saying, “Be sure to send me a telegram if you get put among the natives and I’ll have you come home.”

In due time I was assigned to the South Island Mission, in the city of Christchurch, a beautiful city and a lot like Salt Lake. The streets were built straight and I was very happy there.

As time passed, I gave a great deal of thought to some of the Sant people. When I left home I visited Uncle Johnny and Aunt Benta and he gave me $10.00 and said, “There are Sant people in that country, I want you to keep your eyes open and ears open and find them.

My Uncle Tom gave me $5.00 and said, “Fred, I hope you find some Sant people there because I know there are some.” My grandfather also gave me $5.00 with the same wish to try and locate some of the Sants in Australia.

I kept my eyes and ears open and was ever alert for something about the Sants. It was not until the 1910 census was taken on the Island of New Zealand that my desires were fulfilled. All the names of the peoples of the Island were published in a large directory. One day when I went into the Post Office I found lying on the desk a copy of this directory. I immediately turned to the ‘S’ section and, to my surprise, I found Alfred C. Sant, Mormon Missionary, and Walter Sant, Patoni, Wellington, New Zealand.

I anxiously took his name and address and upon arriving home (my mission headquarters) wrote a letter to him. I told him that I was searching for Sant people that I knew were there and he was the first one I had found. He was happy to get the letter and sent it on to Australia to his father. His father in return wrote back to him saying he was glad to know there were some Sants there besides his family and he would be very happy to meet me.

Walter was very glad to hear from me and was a fine correspondent. We wrote to each other many times before I broke down and told him the man I was looking for had been transported and he began to burn my letter when his wife interceded and said, “Walter, don’t burn the letter, send it on to your father and when you get a reply from him perhaps your feelings will be changed.”

Walter did send my letter on to his father, Isaac Sant, in Australia. When the answer came back the reply was: “Yes, Walter, tell the man the ancestor he is looking for was a transport.” This of course was sad news to them because it had been a secret that had been kept all the days of his life.

I was invited to come to Patoni, New Zealand, to visit with Walter and family. I did and was treated very royally, and we discussed a great deal about the family which he had never heard about. His father, Isaac Sant, was very secretive and was only 13 years old when his father Abel Sant died. In his last words he told his son not to join any church because it was church and religion that had influenced his being transported to Australia. He (Able) knew that his brother-in-laws were Catholic and he was a Protestant and he wouldn’t join the Catholic Church, therefore, they had used their influence in getting him transported to remove the stain of a Protestant being mingled with the family.

Then an invitation was extended to me to visit in Australia with Isaac, the father of Walter and son of Abel, who was getting along in years. This I accomplished after I finished my mission in New Zealand in February 1911. I went over to Australia to spend some time getting to their place way up in the mountains. They seemed to be much like my own folks; wonderful pioneers, they like the pioneering of places. They moved up into Combind Australia, cleared the ground and planted their seed and also had some cattle. They helped in building communities and the family lived there and were some of it’s finest citizens....

I had notified them that I would visit them sometime that month, but they didn’t know which day.

Isaac Sant was doing some black-smithing and was standing out by the anvil upon my arrival and I took his picture with my camera. When I arrived at my grandmother in Smithfield, Utah, I showed her the picture of Isaac Sant in Australia; this was on her 53rd wedding anniversary. She looked at it and then looked at my Grandfather George and said, “When did you ever have this garb on?” Isaac Sant looked so much like my Grandfather George that no one could have doubted their mind or their eyes that he was a Sant. Isaac was taller than George and had short pants on and also short sleeves in his shirt because it was 105° in the shade at the time the picture was taken.

I was treated very nice and met all the folks and children that were there. I got the record of where they were born, from Isaac, son of Abel who was transported to Australia from England to his home at Combind, Australia.

I left them photographs of my grandmother, father, mother, and a few more I had with me. They seemed very pleased to have some of the pictures of their relatives. I left all my church books which they seemed to appreciate. I didn’t know whether they ever received any missionaries or whether any ever found them, because it was a long way to their place.

I was impressed with their wonderful statures, their bodies were built tall and straight. They were brilliant and very well thought of by everyone I talked to.

While I was at Isaac’s home I received a first hand account of his father, Abel Sant. Isaac was just a boy of 13 years when his father died. His father, Abel, had told him all about the transporting of himself from England to Australia. He was a top sawyer in a saw pit, and the Australian government wrote to England asking for some good sawyers to be sent over to work in the mills because you couldn’t get people to go there at that time. It was not a nice thing to be called a transport.

This is the Story as Isaac Sant told it to me:

“My father was working in a saw mill when his son Tom and they wanted these sawyers to come over to Australia. The English government sent 67 top sawyers over on the same boat, with the same charge and gave them the same punishment, 7 years in Van Demon’s land. While these men had been at work, files had been placed in each lunch bucket. It so happened that Tom’s bucket had the files in it but his father claimed the bucket and said, “It’s me they want to get rid of, you stay and I’ll go.” So the father took the rap for the boy and was transported to Australia along with 66 other sawyers all on the same ship. It is plain to see it was nothing but a trumped up charge that caused him to be sent to Australia. He left his wife and family of 12 children in England fearing he would probably never see them again.

“After his arrival in Australia he lived under convict rule for 3 months then he was sent to the saw mills at Melbourne and was never under any surveillance after that time. After 3 years he was released entirely. The only thing that was object was he could not go back to England until seven years had passed. He never got any word from any of his folks although he continued to send letters to his family in England.

“The oldest son, Tom (For whom he came to Australia) came to Melbourne in a sailing vessel and tried to find his father, but before the word got to the father at the mill and back again the vessel had set sail to Sydney, then Brisbane. He was never able to catch up with Tom, because the boat always left a couple of days before he got there, so he never got to see any of his kin after he left England. He was years alone, then married Ellen Smith from Australia and they had one son, Isaac.” (End)

I did not try to do missionary work there.

When I was ready to come home I planned to go overland, because I was afraid to ride that boat again for fear it would sink. When I checked my purse, I found I didn’t have money enough to go overland, so I had to take the boat. When I left Combind, everyone I met and told I was a Sant asked if I was a relative of the Sants there and of course I was happy to say I have never met nicer people anywhere than the Sant people in Australia.

I have received many very nice letters from Walter Sant over the years, corresponding with him over a period of 30 years. I sure missed him when he passed away. He never had any children of his own, however, his wife Annie had two daughters. They married but I was not well acquainted with them, but Walter and I were close and corresponded and exchanged photographs. At present I do not have any contact with New Zealand.
Isn't that an amazing story?  Abel is lucky to have even survived.  If he had been among the first few waves of settlers starting in 1788, his odds would have been slim, and life would have been HORRIFIC for quite some time.  England basically didn't even know anything about Australia--they had a single report about this mysterious continent from Captain Cook from years earlier--and they just started dumping people there, and the guards tended to be sadistic and violent.  Hopefully it was somewhat better there after the 1820s (and even then, Abel's ship was starved by the food being withheld for profit).  Of course, when you are basically a white slave, torn from your family, it's not going to be good by any means.

After reading about the convict transport system, I am pretty inclined to believe Abel's innocence.
1. The whole system was pretty corrupt, a lot of the leaders of the colony were stealing money and supplies and taking cuts off the top like crazy.  This sounds exactly like a real plot to fix quotas.
2. The system was mostly used to clean up the "bad element", mostly petty thieves, those who would be fined for misdemeanors today, usually caused by homelessness and poverty.  (The really bad element, the felons, were just hung and therefore, were not a problematic population.)  It sounds like Abel had a good job and would not have been one of these homeless dregs of society, etc.  Too bad his inlaws had it in for him.  Did you notice how the courts made such a big deal of his brother Moses having been already transported?  Criminality was considered a genetic trait at the time, (which is why Abel's Australian descendants would have kept it so secret--it was a very shameful thing) and there was no such thing as "reform". 
 
The Penal Colony transport system started, of all things, because England lost the war with America and needed a new place to send their riffraff.  It is very ironic that the circumstances that brought so much freedom--especially religious freedom and the blessings of membership in the LDS church to Abel's descendants, were the same ones that tore this family apart and caused so much suffering elsewhere. 

PS.  If you find a stapler and an extra sandwich in your lunchbox, head for the hills!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ebert and The Great Bambino

During a recent visit with my Grandpa Heagy, I asked him to retell the story of when he met Babe Ruth as a kid in Great Falls, Montana.

Here is the recording of his answer.  I also LOVE that he totally fills in the technical details about the
View of City of Great Falls from Gore Hill.
airplane, so typical since he is a retired airplane mechanic for the Air National Guard, and spent most of his adult life working very near where this story takes place.

I also just love listening to his grovely voice.  Too bad he's not also humming on the recording.

Ebert's Babe Ruth story recording

 Isn't this a great postcard of the Great Falls airport?  (Below)  It would have looked much the same when Grandpa rode there on his bike.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tragedy by Train: George Haynes

In trying to gather more primary documents about our Haynes family in America and England, I was hoping to find some obituaries but came across this dreadful story instead.  Grandpa Happy Jack had told me about what happened to his Uncle George but to read the newspaper account was just heart-wrenching. 

The print may be a little hard to read, (and actually more graphic than I think would be allowed today), so I'll give you a basic summary.

Henry (Harry) Haynes, George's father.
The Hayneses were train men.  They lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Henry, the father, (who went by Harry) worked on the train and actually had an injury that left him somewhat crippled (although I'm not sure when), so he received a pension and turned to farming.  George and Charles, the elder sons, also "were railroaders".  Harry (who went by Roy!), the younger son, my great-grandfather, amazingly also "went to railroading, switching.  Railroading was kind of natural for me because both my brothers were railroaders.  I was a brakeman and I got me a job braking."  He didn't stay long because of the pay, but even after moving to Utah he was drawn to the work, being "a trolley engineer for the city of Ogden."

I say it was amazing that he wanted to work in the railroad, because when Grandpa Harry (Roy) was about 13, he and his father kept a silent vigil all night while workers tried to free the mangled body of his brother George from a horrible train wreck.  I would guess that was probably one of the worst experiences of Harry's life. (The newspaper said it was George's father and brother, not sure which brother stayed to watch, it might have been Charles.)

George's young children were subsequently raised by their Haynes grandparents, and Roy became like a big brother to them.

Here is one article.  The second article is quite a bit more descriptive but I can't get the print very big, so I'm also adding a link to where you can read that one as part of the paper, with a magnifying glass tool.  I couldn't find a picture online of the wreck (I suppose I could contact the historical society), but there were several other wrecks that year, including one that killed 14 members of the Purdue football team.

Here is a link if you would like to read this second one easier.  You will probably need to sign up to read it, but it's totally free and no big deal.  Cedar Rapids newspaper archives
Sources:

Cedar Rapids newspaper archives, online

"Uncle Roy Haynes", interview transcript of Harry Raymond Haynes, ca. 1980.

"Jack Drake Haynes", manuscript by Jack Haynes, 2006.

Notes from interview with Jack Drake Haynes, 2013.

Henry Haynes photo from FamilySearch.org, Henry Haynes profile.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rescued! Peter John Bloom

This story tells of the multiple rescues of a man named Peter John Bloom.

First Rescue

 Pehr Jonsson Bloom was a Swedish shoemaker.  He had a wife, Kerstin, a son, Jonas, and three little daughters, Kerstin (Christine in America), Margta, and Karin.  They lived in the Alfta Parish of Gavleborg—near the center of Sweden.  It sounds simple, but his life was becoming more complicated.  Unbearable, even. 

Sweden has not been at war since 1806, when Peter was tiny.  While he was growing up Sweden had faded into the background of political and economic power among the countries of Europe.  Sweden was poor, illiterate and drunken. There were some positive changes happening, though.  Education was becoming more available to the masses.  This, of course, led to increased literacy.  Lo and behold, the people began to want to study the Holy Bible for themselves.  A new religious movement was vibrant in Peter’s home province of Hälsingland around 1825, when Peter was a young adult, called Devotionalism, or Läsare (readers).  The Läsare would gather in private homes to study the Bible.  (Public religious gatherings without official clergy were highly illegal.) 


Many of the Läsare were disgusted by the corruption and alcoholism of the clergy.  For example, one of Peter’s fellow immigrants, a leader named Jonas Olson, witnessed a drunken priest conducting a mockery of the Last Supper at a dance.  The Läsare wanted a purer religion and a higher degree of reverence and piety.  They were also active in the temperance movement.  Although they wanted change, the Läsare were not yet separatists from the state-sponsored Lutheran religion.  Things continued on in this uneasy impasse for seventeen years, when the time was ripe for a hero to emerge.  This man’s name was Erik Janson, and he would change Peter’s life and the life of his descendants forever. 

It is unknown at what point the Bloom family became Jansonists, whether they had been Läsare for years and then followed Janson, or if they were swept up in his movement in the 1840’s, when Peter was nearly forty.  In any case, they threw their lot in with his, so something must have compelled them to make such a tremendous choice.  Stay with me here while we learn a bit about Erik Janson. Because Peter Bloom was one of his followers, the two have a valuable shared history.

Erik Janson was an eloquent, dynamic man who had had a profound religious experience.  At age 26, while plowing in the fields, he suffered such a painful attack of his chronic rheumatism that he fainted. 

“On regaining consciousness, he heard a voice saying: ‘It is writ that whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive; all things are possible to him that believeth.  If ye shall ask anything in my name, I shall do it, saith the Lord.’  Eric Janson recognized in the voice a message from God, and, falling upon his knees, prayed long and fervently that his lack of faith might be forgiven him and that his health might be restored.  On arising, his pains had disappeared, never to return.” 

This occurrence completely changed Janson and made him want to learn anything he could about religion.  He read everything he could get his hands on but became frustrated with religious commentary, finding solace only in the Bible.  More study made him disagree with core Lutheran beliefs.  He began to preach stricter adherence to the Bible, increased faith, and a return to “primitive Christianity”. 

In 1842, Janson heard of the Läsare movement and preached at many of their gatherings.    He gained many followers, attracting the negative attention of Sweden’s Established Church.  The Church took harsh religious measures, denying any of Janson’s followers the sacrament.  Jansonists were also denied the legal right to testify in court, basically becoming defenseless against the law. 

 "As the influence of Janson increased, so also the number and hostility of his enemies.  His followers were subjected to the abuse and insult of the rabble.  Their meetings were disturbed, their houses pelted with stones, and their persons assaulted.  But they praised the Lord who tried their faith by allowing them to be persecuted.  They marched along the public highways at night and sang spiritual hymns, or gathered in front of the parsonages to pray for the conversion of their unregenerate pastors.  When their conventicles were prohibited they assembled in the woods and in out of the way places to partake of the Holy Communion.  Faint rumors of these midnight gatherings came to church authorities, and the spectre of a new peasant insurrection stalked abroad.  Eric Janson…was charged with all sorts of atrocious crimes.” 

 Things came to a head in June of 1844.  All along, Janson had preached against using so-called devotional literature, such as the writings of Martin Luther and others.  He considered them to be usurpers of the Bible.  He decided to stage a book burning.  The burning drew a crowd and caused general outrage.  Janson was arrested two days later, possibly in Langhed, Alfta Parish—Peter Bloom’s hometown.  He was eventually released without any decrease in followers and back at the pulpit. 

More book burnings, arrests, and persecutions were to follow, until Janson became an outlaw with a price on his head.  He hid out in the mountains of Alfta, masterminded a mass emigration of his followers, and then escaped in 1846 to New York and Illinois, where he met up, as planned, with another Jansonist leader.  They created a city in Henry County, Illinois, and named it Bishop Hill, the English term for Janson’s birthplace, Bishopskulla.
Colony Church at Bishop Hill, built 1848.

By this point Janson’s views had expanded considerably; he considered himself “the second coming of Christ”, that he would “far exceed that of the work accomplished by Jesus and his Apostles.” For starters, he wanted to build a utopian community, a “New Jerusalem” in America, which would eventually expand to fill the earth.  This would usher in the millennium, where Eric Janson or his heirs would “reign to the end of all time.”  (He should have stuck to reading the Bible.)

Megalomania aside, Janson did manage a mass migration from Sweden to America, really the first to do so.  These brave Swedes, (around 1,100) were fleeing their home country because they desired religious freedom.  Peter’s granddaughter Martha confirmed this, years later, in writing that her mother’s family had immigrated because “At that time there was much religious persecution in Sweden.”  Because of this, we will deem Eric Janson’s influence, drawing Peter Bloom out of Sweden and bringing him to a free land, the First Rescue.

Original Nauvoo Temple
America provided a perfect situation for a community looking for religious freedom, or so it would seem.  At this point of the narration I must interrupt and bring to light an enormous irony:   The Jansonists planted their religious city-on-a-hill in Henry County, Illinois, in 1846.  Less than 100 miles to the west lay another religious city, violently forced to vacate or be destroyed,  THAT VERY YEAR.  This religious persecution was sanctioned by the government, or at the very least, not in any way prevented by the government.  It was Joseph Smith’s beautiful Nauvoo, and the people were known as the Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).  Joseph Smith was martyred, shot to death in 1844.  Eric Janson would suffer the SAME fate in 1850, albeit at the hand of a single man, not an angry mob.  Janson may have been a bit reckless (or ignorant?) to start a religious community in such close vicinity to the violence at a time when prejudices were running high, but he was lucky, and Bishop Hill was not really bothered.  Janson’s religious community would formally disband in 1860, its people morphing into traditional churches.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints remains, and is a vibrant, growing international church, numbering in the 15 millions.  (This author is descended from members of both groups.) 

Both Nauvoo and Bishop Hill have restored buildings from the period and museums.  You can visit the two in a single day.

Second Rescue

The Mormons had a wonderful system for helping its converts get to America from Europe.  It was called the Perpetual Immigration Fund, and worked as a kind of rotating loan that would pay for passage on ships, etc.  The Jansonists could have used such a thing.  They were poor as a group, and had to take passage on whatever floated, whatever room it had, passenger ship or not, seaworthy or not.  This sometimes meant that part of a family would disembark while the rest of the family waited for whatever became available, sometimes for years.  Peter Bloom’s family was able to travel together as a unit, but this blessing was bittersweet, as we will soon see.

Peter and family left Sweden in early fall of 1846, arriving in New York in October.  They would have been part of the second or third wave of Jansonists to leave.  The journey was harrowing, to say the very least.  The family would have sailed out of the port city of Gävle (most of the Jansonists left from here—and there was a “feverish excitement” to leave because they assumed Sweden would be destroyed for its wickedness!) 

Looking at a map of Sweden, you will see that it is no picnic to leave town.  Unlike other immigrants, such as those coming from Ireland or Plymouth, England, the Gävle, Sweden travelers had to sail through the Baltic Sea, around Denmark, through the North Sea, and then either through the English Channel or North of Scotland through the Norwegian Sea, passing Iceland and Greenland.  (I’m not sure which route was taken.)  That sounds dreadful even in the best of circumstances. 

And it was most certainly not the best of circumstances.  The first ship of Jansonists to leave Sweden wrecked before even getting to Denmark.  Another ship was lost completely, with about 50 souls aboard.  A third ship was shipwrecked off the coast of Newfoundland.   And the colonists were constantly starving or sick, stalked by the quick killing Asiatic cholera, THE plague of the 19th century.  At this point in our story the timeline becomes a little unclear, but the bare, for-certain facts are these: 

1. Peter left Sweden with a wife and four children.   
2. He was shipwrecked off Newfoundland. 
3. He arrived in New York in 1846 with a wife and two children. 

Christine’s daughter Martha wrote in a short memoir that “Among the passengers on the ship the Asiatic cholera broke out and my mothers’ two little sisters died of it and were buried in the sea”.  What a detail for a six year old to live with and pass down to her children!  (Note: It also made me emotional to realize that Christine named her daughter Martha, the English form of Margta, her four year old sister who perished. They were probably close playmates.)

The "Yellow Jack" sometimes has a black circle or black checks.
Asiatic cholera was a horrible pandemic that would affect much of the world for decades at a time.  It was a bacterial disease affecting the small intestine that first began in India.  Spread by contaminated water or food, it would cause severe vomiting and a strange white diarrhea, sometimes even seizures, leading to death by dehydration within a matter of a few days or even hours.  Ironically, abstinence from water was thought to be a cure.  Cholera still kills hundreds of thousands of people, mostly in third world countries.  Imagine being trapped on a ship (and probably a rickety one at that) with such a plague.  It must have been horrifying.  I wonder if the captain flew the quarantine flag (as required) or if he looked the other way. 

Then came the shipwreck.

Martha’s memoir does not capture the full story.  Martha’s brother Frederick adds this detail.  “On the voyage over they suffered shipwreck and one of his [Peter’s] daughters was lost”.  This statement makes it sound like one of the daughters was lost during the shipwreck (or it could just mean that she was also lost during the voyage and the two facts were put into the same sentence).  This particular wreck did claim at least three casualties among the Jansonist passengers, so Frederick Cooper’s version is entirely plausible.  With that in mind, picture this scenario:

Somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland.
What would cause a child to die in a shipwreck when many other passengers, including the child’s parents, survived?  Wouldn’t a child be protected by his or her parent?  My two guesses would be that the child was washed overboard, or I think even more likely, that the people were actually in the water (with parents doing their best to hang on to their children) and hypothermia set in.  Grim.  I think I prefer the “lost to cholera” version.  We may never know which is the truth.

We don’t know many of the details of the wreck.  One source claims the ship was called the Betty Cathrine, but this could also refer to one of the other two Jansonist ships that wrecked.  Other sources say the wreck was the Caroline.  If this was the case, we know the Caroline must have been repaired well enough to bring Peter and his family the rest of the way to New York, where they are recorded as arriving on that ship’s manifest.  The Caroline was also shipshape enough to bring another load of Jansonists to America in 1854.  We don’t know what caused the shipwreck, but that far north it could have been an iceberg, bad weather, or even the rocky coastline.

Peter’s ship was wrecked somewhere near the coast of Newfoundland.  I couldn’t find any newspaper accounts of the wreck for that time period, particularly since I don’t know where on the coast it wrecked, and also because that is a pretty rustic part of the world with not a lot of newspaper coverage—it was 1846.  Newfoundland claims a huge number of the shipwrecks on the Northern Maritime Research’s database, including an unsinkable ship named the Titanic.

And how do we know the wreck was somewhere near the coast?  According to Peter’s obituary, the passengers were actually rescued by fishermen and then taken to Newfoundland.  I don’t know in what manner the fishermen rescued them—if they pulled people from the water, or if they came upon a sinking ship or lifeboats and provided passage, or if they somehow towed a floundering ship to shore. 

They may have been unaware of the danger, but if the captain had been flying the quarantine flag, these fishermen were doubly brave, knowing that they were putting at risk their lives and the lives of their families to rescue strangers.  Hopefully all the lives of the rescuers were spared from the plague.

Third Rescue

This sad tale takes two more turns for the worse before it gets better.  When Peter and the remainder of his family arrived in New York, they had two children.  By the time they reached Illinois, their thirteen-year old son had also died; I’m assuming that the cholera carried over.  Since the Jansonists traveled on the wondrous Erie Canal and then across the Great Lakes, odds are very good that Peter’s son Jonas was buried “at sea” in the Great Lakes.

Travel on the Erie Canal.
Peter, Kerstin, and their lone little six-year-old daughter Christine arrived in Chicago and then traveled on foot or by wagon to Bishop Hill.  It was an extremely difficult winter with little food and rough shelters—communal dugouts, tents, and cabins.  Many died, so many that there were new bodies to remove almost every morning. They were buried in mass graves.  Kerstin, around age 38, worn down by grief and the physical difficulties, was one of these deaths, probably killed by cholera, joining her lost children.  She is most likely buried in an unmarked mass grave at Bishop Hill.  There are no lists of the dead from that first winter.
Rendering of the early habitations at Bishop Hill.

Like her children who had been buried at sea, Kerstin was wrapped in a sheet.

At this point Peter must have thought his life was over.  He had no more desire to remain at the Bishop Hill colony, whether caused by grief alone or by disillusionment with Janson’s so-called utopia and America in general.  He also had probably been weakened by sickness and starvation himself.  What happened next was really a miracle, a case of angels among us.  He was rescued and because of the Good Samaritan kindness of others, I am an American today.

I love the few tender details in his granddaughter Martha’s account.

Many of the people of the colony died there [at Bishop Hill], among them my mothers mother. 

After they were there a while my grandfather took my mother by the hand and started to walk to New York City to go back to Sweden.  When he went as far as Layfayette, Ill. [only about ten miles from Bishop Hill] he became so sick he went into a barn and laid down on the hay and the owner found them there early one morning.  He took them in the house and his wife doctored him till he was well.  He stayed there with Ira Reed and his good wife for a few years and, being a shoe maker, he made shoes and Ira Reed drove around the country and sold them.

Later my mother and her father went back to Bishop Hill and he married a Mrs. Johnson who had a boy Peter, and two girls, Ann and Kate.  Later a boy was born to them, Fred Bloom.  Grandfather bought a farm close to Bishop Hill and spent the remainder of his life there.  He lived to be eighty three years old. [Actually eighty one.]

As my mother did not enjoy her step mother nor step sisters very much she did not stay long at one time with them.  She lived between times with Mrs. Reed, who taught her to be a good housekeeper and all kinds of needle work.  She later went to Peoria to work, where she met my father, Thos. Cooper, and they were married there when she was seventeen yrs old. 

Ira Reed of Layfayette (yes, the locals really pronounce it that way) and his wife Maria were younger than Peter.  When Peter basically collapsed in their barn Ira would have been around 26.  They would have had a little two-year old boy named Robert.  Ira’s farm as shown on the 1850 Census was a sizable 3200 acres, but interestingly, after years of working with Peter, he claims his profession as “shoemaker”.  By 1850 Peter had moved back to Bishop Hill to start his second family.  Mrs. Reed really did serve as a foster mother to Christine—the little “orphan” is present in the Reed home in 1850 as Christine “Peterson” (remember, she is “Peter’s” daughter) from Sweden, age 8.  She must have looked small, she was actually 10.

It seems that Peter’s story has come to a happy end, and Christine grew up, married, and had a family of her own, ironically spending much of that happy time on a boat.  (Her husband Thomas ran a fleet that shipped produce to Chicago.)  There is one more rescue, however, that I wanted to include here.

Fourth Rescue

Whenever it is time for me to choose a new research subject, I make it a matter of prayer.  I believe that we are closer than we think to those who have gone beyond the veil.  I remembered vaguely the sad story of Peter Bloom’s children and began to feel increasingly drawn to them and their story.  I found myself thinking about them often.  I believe that this intensifying interest is caused by the subjects themselves—they WANT to be found.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I also believe that the members of this little torn-apart family wanted to have the chance to be reunited once and forever.  For that, though, I needed to know their names.

As I learned more about Swedish research and started combing the histories of Bishop Hill I began to despair that we would never know the names of Christine’s mother or her siblings since those names were not included in Martha’s memoirs.  Since they died at sea (or in Kerstin’s case, were buried in a mass grave) we have no record of their death.  I did not know the name of the ship they traveled on to be able to check for ship’s manifests.  And they came from Sweden!  The land of Peter Petersons and John Johnsons! Christine’s death certificate is not to be found, which should have listed her mother’s maiden name.  What few living relations there are do not have any record (or photos, which would have been nice) of this family.  I did not know the all-important name of the home parish in Sweden, only having Christine’s birthday and Martha’s incorrect guess that her mother was born in Stockholm.  I checked the holdings at the Family History Library in Salt Lake and found nothing.  I was really stuck. 

There was one general reference book about Swedish Immigration that caught my eye, but I was sure it would be too general.

Finally, I threw a hail Mary and wrote an email to the Bishop Hill Heritage Association, at least hoping that they would have more information about Peter’s shipwreck.

Not so much the shipwreck, but they did have a file on Peter John Bloom.  And vital statistics on his entire family, as taken from the parish records in Sweden. 

Some of the information they sent me was taken from a certain general reference book about Swedish Immigration, the same one that had caught my eye.  It would have been my next step.

I am certain that Peter and his family wanted to be rescued one more time.  

Source List

Biographical and Genealogical Record of La Salle County, Illinois.  Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1900.  Internet Archives.  http://www.archive.org : 2014. 

Dowell, Cheryll, Bishop Hill Heritage Association.  Report to Jaclyn Day, 6 Oct 2014.

Galva, Illinois.  Galva News.  27 March 1884.

Heagy, Martha J. (Cooper).  Manuscript.  April 1842.  Privately held by Ebert Heagy, Fairfield, Montana, 2014.

Illinois.  Stark County.  1850 U.S. census, population schedule.  Digital images.  FamilySearch.org.  http://www.familysearch.org : 2014.

Issakson, Olov, and Read, Albert (translator).  Bishop Hill, Illinois:  A Utopia of the Prairie.  Stockholm:  LT Publishing House, 1969.

Johnson, Eric.  Svenskarne i Illinois.  Chicago, Illinois: Tryckt Hos, 1880.  Internet Archives.  http://www.archive.org : 2014. 

Mikkelsen, Michael A.  “The Bishop Hill Colony:  A Religious Communistic Settlement in Henry County, Illinois.”  Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Tenth Series, No. 1, (January 1892).  Google Books. http://www.books.google.com  : 2014.

Northern Maritime Research.  http://www.northernmaritimeresearch.com : 2014.

Olson, Ernst W.  The Swedish Element in Illinois: Survey of the Past Seven Decades.   Chicago:  Swedish-American Biographical Association Publishers, 1917.

Olsson, Nils William. Swedish Passenger Arrivals in New York, 1820-1850. Chicago: Swedish Pioneer Historical Society, 1967.

Setterdahl, Lilly.  “Emigrant Letters by Bishop Hill Colonists.”  Western Illinois Regional Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2, (Fall 1978).  Internet Archives.  http://www.archive.org : 2014. 

Wikipedia.  http://www.wikipedia.org : 2014.

Notes

First Rescue
1. shoemaker:  Martha J. (Cooper) Heagy, (MS, April 1942), p. 4;  privately held by Ebert Heagy, Fairfield, MT, 2014.  Martha was the granddaughter of Peter John Bloom.
2. names of wife and children:  Cheryll Dowell, Bishop Hill Heritage Association, report to Jaclyn Day, response to inquiry on Peter John Bloom, 6 Oct 2014.
3. Alfta parish:  Dowell, response to inquiry on Peter John Bloom.
4. increased literacy:  Lilly Setterdahl, “Emigrant Letters by Bishop Hill Colonists”, Western Illinois Regional Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Fall 1978); Internet Archives (http://www.archive.org : accessed 6 Nov 2014), p. 124.
5. Devotionalism in Hälsingland:  Michael A. Mikkelsen, “The Bishop Hill Colony:  A Religious Communistic Settlement in Henry County, Illinois,” Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Tenth Series, No. 1 (January 1892); Google Books (http://www.books.google.com : accessed 6 November 2014), p. 13.  
6. Läsare:  Setterdahl, “Emigrant Letters by Bishop Hill Colonists,” p. 124.
7. gatherings illegal:  Ibid.
8. Jonas Olson’s account of corruption:  Mikkelsen, “The Bishop Hill Colony”, p. 12.
9. “On regaining consciousness…”:  Ibid., p. 17.
10. return to primitive Christianity:  Ibid., p. 20.
11. Janson’s preaches to Läsare :  Ibid., p. 19.
12. denied right to testify:  Ernst W. Olson, The Swedish Element in Illinois:  Survey of the Past Seven Decades, (Chicago, Illinois:  Swedish-American Biographical Association Publishers:  1917), p. 40.
13. arrested in Langhed, Alfta:  Eric Johnson, Svenskarne i Illinois (Chicago, Illinois: Tryckt Hos, 1880), p. 25.  Internet Archives. ( http://www.archive.org : accessed 11 November 2014).  Assisted by Google Translate! 
14. mountains of Alfta:  Mikkelsen, “The Bishop Hill Colony”, p. 24.
15. Bishopskulla:  Bishop Hill, Illinois”, Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org : accessed 12 November 2014).
16. Janson’s expanded views:  Ibid., p. 25.
17. first mass migration:  Bishop Hill, Illinois”, Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org : accessed 12 November 2014).
18. 1,100 immigrants:  Mikkelsen, “The Bishop Hill Colony”, p. 28.
19. “much religious persecution”:  Heagy, (MS, April 1942), p. 3. 

Second Rescue
1. poor as a group:  Olov Issakson, Bishop Hill, Illinois:  A Utopia of the Prairie, (Stockholm:  LT Publishing House, 1969).
2. fall of 1846:  Nils William Olsson, Swedish Passenger Arrivals in New York:  1820-1850, (Chicago:  Swedish Pioneer Historical Society, 1967), p. 118.  Entry for Peter Jonsson. 
3. third or fourth wave:   Mikkelsen, “The Bishop Hill Colony”, p. 29-30.
4. Sweden would be destroyed:  Ibid., p. 28.
5. three shipwrecks:  Olson, The Swedish Element in Illlinois, p. 41.
6. left with four children: Peter’s obituary says he lost three children on the journey (one survived).  “Peter J. Bloom,” obituary, Galva (Illinois) News, 27 March 1884.  Transcribed by Cheryl Dowell, Bishop Hill Heritage Association, report to Jaclyn Day, response to inquiry on Peter John Bloom, 6 Oct 2014.
7. shipwrecked off Newfoundland:  Ibid.
8. New York with two children:  Olsson, Swedish Passenger Arrivals in New York:  1820-1850,  p. 118.  Entry for Peter Jonsson. 
9. “Among the passengers”:  Heagy, (MS, April 1942), p. 3.
10. Margta was four:  Dowell, response to inquiry on Peter John Bloom, 6 Oct 2014.
11. Asiatic cholera:  “Cholera”, Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org : accessed 12 November 2014)
12. “on the voyage over”:   Biographical and Genealogical Record of La Salle County, Illinois,  (Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1900), entry for “Frederick G. Cooper”, p. 404.  Internet Archives.  http://www.archive.org : 2014.  This article contains several factual errors but does mention some facts that can be confirmed elsewhere.
13. Betty Cathrine:  Olov Issakson, Bishop Hill, Illinois:  A Utopia of the Prairie, (Stockholm:  LT Publishing House, 1969).
14. Caroline wreck:  Setterdahl, “Emigrant Letters by Bishop Hill Colonists,” p. 126.
15. three casualties:  Ibid., p. 126
16. Newfoundland claims:  “Newfoundland Shipwrecks”, Northern Maritime Research (http://www.northernmaritimeresearch.com : accessed 30 November 2014)

Third Rescue
1. arrived in New York:  Olsson, Swedish Passenger Arrivals in New York, p. 118.  Entry for Peter Jonsson.
2. son died before Illinois:  “Peter J. Bloom,” Galva News, 27 Mar 1884.  The obit mentions that Peter lost three children in the crossing but we know that only the two younger daughters died before New York.
3. canal and Great Lakes to Chicago:  Mikkelsen, “The Bishop Hill Colony”, p. 29.
4. dugouts and tents and cabins:  Ibid., p. 30.
5. new bodies every morning:  Ibid., p. 30.
6. mass graves:  Olson, The Swedish Element, p. 44.
7. Kerstin died:  “Peter J. Bloom,” Galva News, 27 Mar 1884.  A letter from the Bishop Hill Heritage Society confirms that her death was probably caused by cholera.
8. no lists of the dead:  Dowell, Bishop Hill Heritage Association, response to inquiry on Peter John Bloom.
9. wrapped in a sheet:  Olson, The Swedish Element, p. 44.
10.  “Many of the people…”:  Heagy, (MS, April 1942), p. 3. 
11. Ira Reed’s family:  1850 U.S. census, Stark County, Illinois, population schedule, p. 429 (handwritten), dwelling 275, family 312, Ira C. Reed and Christine Peterson; digital image, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 30 November 2014); citing NARA publication M432, image 00052. 
12. Peter’s second family:  Heagy, (MS, April 1942), p. 4.  Peter married a Mrs. Mary Johnson in 1850. 
13. Christine lived on a boat:  Heagy, (MS, April 1942), p. 4. 

Fourth Rescue
1. Stockholm: Heagy, (MS, April 1942), p. 3.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fighting Jungleer: Harry Van De Riet, Jr.

Harry Van De Riet, Jr. served in the Army in World War II, fighting in the Pacific, mostly on New Guinea.  My Grandma LaVonne was his adoring little sister and she loved to tell stories about both Harry and also their brothers Jack and Ray, who served in the Air Force.
Ray, Harry Jr., and Jack Van De Riet

Tough guys are heroes in this family, and Harry was a tough guy.  He even looked tough: dark, tall and muscular, with one brown eye and one blue eye.  (Does that sound like a villain on a James Bond movie?)  Luckily he was also handsome and charming.  For his future wife, Irene, it was love at first sight when she saw him in his uniform.  (Well, second sight.  The two were babies together but their families hadn't kept in contact.)  The feeling was mutual but the couple agreed not to wed until Harry returned safely.

Irene and Harry Jr., March 4, 1945
Harry did indeed return, but not without some major close calls with kingdom come.  He came home bearing serious internal injuries, shrapnel, numerous medals and ribbons, a Japanese pistol and binoculars, and an ancient Samurai Sword won in mortal combat.

On the Pacific front, very bluntly, the main objective was to kill.  They got on those little islands and there wasn't really much of a system for taking prisoners, for either the Allies or the Japanese.  With that in mind, one day Harry was out in the jungle.  Possibly for reconnaissance, possibly hunting down any Japanese soldiers on the island, probably being hunted himself.  He looked up and saw a pistol pointed right to his forehead, held by a lone Japanese officer. (Harry could tell he was an officer, possibly high-ranking because only those with rank were allowed to carry regalia such as swords).  The pistols used by the Japanese army were infamous for misfiring, and sure enough, when the officer pulled the trigger on Harry, he heard a click and another click.  Harry reacted, knocking the pistol away and grappling with the soldier in hand-to-hand combat.  He was able to kill the man, breaking his neck.

Harry took the malfunctioning pistol, a small pair of binoculars that have since been lost, and the sword, because "He wouldn't be needing it anymore."

At some point during Harry's service, he received a stab wound to the left (brown) eye socket between the skull and eye, and also a defensive wound on his hand that left a raised, half-moon scar.  It is possible that he got either of those wounds in this fight (although Harry did keep the officer from drawing his sword).  The eye wound was serious and for a while it was thought that he would lose the eye.  The big question was, would he get another brown eye or a blue one to match?  The eye wound was stitched with a blond hair on the battlefield, the story goes that it was from a nurse, but Harry's daughter doesn't think there would have been female nurses in that situation, so maybe it was a restitch job that got the blond hair.  Medical supplies were notably short on New Guinea, so...

The men weren't really supposed to take souvenirs but many did.  Harry actually did make it legal by acquiring permission from the army to keep the sword, and his family holds the release document. Until the paperwork came through, though, it was a bit of a trick to have such a showy item.  He somehow managed to keep it hidden or maybe just wasn't challenged about it, until it was time to ship out.

The story goes that there was a commanding officer who was a bit green (perhaps a little unsure of himself) who had charge of Harry's unit.  The men had to stand at attention for several hours while they waited to board a ship.  This CO used the time to inspect the men.  Harry, aware that this might happen, had shoved the sword down his pant leg to hide it.  It wasn't a very good job, and the CO barked at him "Whatever you've got in there, take it out and throw it over there on the pile."  Harry stuck out his chest and told him in a threatening voice, "You can get this the same way I got it..."  The CO chose to ignore him, kept walking, and Harry and sword were off scot-free.

The sword was so sharp that Harry passed the time on the boat home purposely dulling it down.  When he got home he put the sword in the safekeeping of his father Harry Sr. and then he was off to Fort Lewis, Washington for another year of active duty.

Some years later, Harry was contacted by a federal official who told him that the family of the Japanese soldier wanted their sword back, and they were willing to pay a million dollars for it.  However..., the official claimed, Harry was not allowed to have any contact with the Japanese--he would have to give this man the sword and then the man would get him his money.  Harry told the Fed that he was willing to return the sword, but that he would only give it to the Japanese family personally.  The matter was dropped.  Good for you, Harry, sounds like a great big scam to me.  If you are wondering how anyone could have known Harry had the sword--the Army did have documentation that Harry had it.  As far as the Japanese family tracking him down, it's a stretch, but it's a slight possibility that Harry might have retrieved the Japanese officer's dog tags and turned them in with the documentation for the sword.  Seems pretty bogus though.  Also, as the current owner mentions, what would be the ramifications of returning such an item? In Japanese culture it may be considered a shameful or dishonorable thing to have war bounty returned.  It would only highlight that their family member was defeated.

The writing on the shank is only visible when the handle is removed.
Is it worth a million dollars?  Intrinsically, no.  As a family or historical artifact, though, it is priceless, especially since the Japanese characters for the successive owners, probably passed father to son, are inscribed on the shank.  The markings date back to possibly the 1600s.  Harry had a Japanese professor who worked at the GSA (General Services Administration) in Auburn, WA, examine the sword, and he couldn't translate the characters all the way back to the first owner because the language had evolved enough over that time to make them indecipherable to a reader of modern Japanese.

Is it a Samurai sword?  Yes.  Here is how wikipedia.com describes a "Samurai" sword, or "katana".

"Historically, katana were one of the traditionally made Japanese swords that were used in feudal Japan, also commonly referred to as a "samurai sword".  Modern versions of the katana are sometimes made using non-traditional materials and methods.

The katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, slender, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. It has historically been associated with the samurai of feudal Japan."  (wikipedia "katana" if you'd like to see the example photo.) 

So, history detectives...how does our sword compare?  Curved, slender single-edge blade? Check.  Circular guard?  Check.  Long grip for two hands?  Check.  Dates from feudal Japan?  Check.  I think we can safely call it a Samurai sword.  It is also very beautiful.  The light areas on the handle are covered in cream/pinkish seed pearls. 
Can you see the hero worship on their faces?  My brother Jake Haynes and two of his handsome sons.
Did Harry have to use the sword?  No, he didn't use it, but there are blood stains on the blade.

Two other stories from the front.

Harry was involved in a terrible jeep wreck.  Either the jeep was bombed, or drove over a land mine or was hit by a mortar shell.  Harry received some bad internal injuries.  They fixed him up as best as they could there, but when after he had been home for a short while, and married, he got sick and had to have his kidney removed.  His spleen was so bad that although the doctors left it in, they told him that if he jerked quick, like accidentally stepping off a curb or something, it could rupture.  He was discharged.  A few years later, it did rupture, and Harry got peritonitis.  He had to have it out, along with half of his stomach.

Harry's unit took part in the Battle of Buna-Gona, back on New Guinea, November 1942-January 1943.    It was a battle drawn out over a matter of months, and included three major skirmishes.  For an in-depth article about this battle on Wikipedia, click here



This picture of  3 Americans casualties at Buna-Gona was actually the first photograph of Americans dead on the battlefield to be published (LIFE, 20 Sept 1943), authorized by FDR, who thought we were becoming too complacent over cost of human life.  (From Wikipedia.)


Buna-Gona was notably bad.  Conditions were horrible: a difficult, swampy jungle environment, lack of food and medicine (that would rapidly disintegrate in the humidity, anyway) and ammunition, disease, even some evidence of cannibalism for both the Allies and the Japanese (who had basically been


abandoned there but were determined to defend their post).  Foxholes and bunkers filled up with water.
The men at the front in New Guinea were perhaps among the most wretched-looking soldiers ever to wear the American uniform. They were gaunt and thin, with deep black circles under their sunken eyes. They were covered with tropical sores. ... They were clothed in tattered, stained jackets and pants. ... Often the soles had been sucked off their shoes by the tenacious, stinking mud. Many of them fought for days with fevers and didn't know it. ... Malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, and, in a few cases, typhus hit man after man. There was hardly a soldier, among the thousands who went into the jungle, who didn't come down with some kind of fever at least once.[75]

One of the generals involved, General Eichelberger, likened the casualties at Buna-Gona to the statistics of a Civil War battle, instead of one in World War II.  From wikipedia:
In his book, Our Jungle Road to Tokyo written in 1950, Eichelberger wrote, "Buna was...bought at a substantial price in death, wounds, disease, despair, and human suffering. No one who fought there, however hard he tries, will ever forget it." Fatalities, he concluded, "closely approach, percentage-wise, the heaviest losses in our Civil War battles." He also commented, "I am a reasonably unimaginative man, but Buna is still to me, in retrospect, a nightmare. This long after, I can still remember every day and most of the nights."[87]
Lucky for Harry, his regiment, the 163rd of the 41st Infantry, were the reinforcements that were finally called

in January, "fresh from Australia", so hopefully he avoided the worst of the suffering.  (Although, I'm pretty sure I remember my Dad mentioning once that Harry had to eat monkeys.  Wonder if it was during this period?)  The 163rd "took over the two roadblocks and relieved the Australians".  It was on a detail while defending the Huggins Roadblock that Harry earned either his Silver Star for Gallantry in Action or his Campaign Service Medal, for service in an emergency situation.  Here is the description of the incident taken from 41st Infantry Division, Fighting Jungleers II.  Pardon the military shorthand--we'll try to make some sense of it.


  I Co. 163 Inf Storms Perimeter U

On 15 Jan. Nips got mad at us.  Sent up the trail from Huggins 200 yards to salvage a blitz buggy,[a jeep], a 1/pln squad walked into a Jap MG [Machine Gun] sighted on the buggy.  We dived off in all directions.  S/Sgt Van De Riet fell into a hole beside an old Jap Corpse, but did not mind the company.
With 2/Lt John Olson and Sgt Whitehorn, Van De Riet pulled us all back to safety.
     Back at Huggins, most of I Co. fearfully regarded a tall dead jungle tree with only a few green vines up its trunk.  Invisible except from a side view, a Jap sniper still hung by his safety rope.  Meanwhile, we worked on Sanananda Road again. And a large "I" detail also helped dig up the few Yank dead at Musket, to rebury them in a more suitable place.  The memory of this horror of corpses stayed with us in the next days of combat.
When Harry's daughter was describing this story to me, she mentioned Harry's recoil when remembering the maggots and the smell.  (She also described the whole incident as a "squirmish" instead of a "skirmish", which is one of the best Freudian slips I've ever heard.)  One location in the Buna-Gona Battle was in fact nicknamed "Maggot Beach" because of all the rotting bodies.  On New Guinea, Harry received a battlefield commission (Sergeant) and was sent to two weeks of officer's training in Australia. I don't know if it was before or after this incident, but the book here describes him as S/Sgt.

Some members of the family have heard a story that at the moment Harry was awarded one of his medals he reached up and plucked an emerging piece of shrapnel from his temple and tossed it.  Harry's daughter does not think he had shrapnel at his temple, but he did have it in other places on his body.  She also thinks that the Silver Star would have come in the mail to his home.  This version actually makes more sense of the shrapnel story.  I imagine Harry opening the official missive in front of his family (including his little sister who became my grandmother, who passed on the story) and tossing the shrapnel as an exclamation point, much to everyone's amusement.

Harry's wife Irene wrote that after they got engaged, when Harry was safely back on American soil, "[he] went back to Montana, to rest and relax, he saddled up his horse Chief, two packhorses and went up in to the mountains and spent some time by himself."

Chief, I hope you were an easy ride and a soothing companion for this warrior returned.

SOURCES:

Personal Visits and Interviews with Harry's children

41st Infantry Division Association.  41st Infantry Division:  Fighting Jungleers II.  Turner Publishing Company.  1997.

“Battle of Buna-Gona” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., date last updated (28 August 2014). Web. Date accessed (28 Aug. 2014). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Buna_Gona.

 “Katana.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., date last updated (28 August 2014). Web. Date accessed (28 Aug. 2014). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katana

 Van De Riet, Irene.  "Life with Harry". Manuscript. Van De Riet Family History Binder.  Compiled by Sheila Jackman, 2002.  Privately held by Jaclyn Day.