Daniel Goodwin Durbin’s Tale

I haven’t written very much yet about my husband’s family but this story is pretty interesting for us so I wanted to share.  My husband’s grandmother Barb had heard a very long time that her grandfather had died during World War I but she didn’t know the specific circumstances other than he probably died on the boat over to Europe.  So when I began researching her side of the tree, I kept that in the back of my mind when looking at the life and death of Daniel Goodwin Durbin.

Early on, I found this un-cited clipping from somewhere/someone that told Daniel’s tale.  It was reported in this clipping that Daniel left 24 June 1918 to Camp Lee, Virginia, and the Washington barracks for training.  Then it says that he sailed from Camp Merritt, New Jersey, for overseas duties in late September 1918.  It says that the family received a card announcing his “safe arrival” overseas but nothing had been heard since.  It also talks about the armistice being signed and that news of his being “killed in action” came as a “severe shock.”  The news article also says that he married Edith Curry earlier in the year (who is now with her parents) and is survived by his parents, two brothers, and two sisters.  No mention of his infant daughter, Marguerite. 

This is the results of my research into Daniel’s life and death which serves to disprove several of the statements made in that initial clipping I found.  Daniel was born 31 May 1890 in Greene County, Pennsylvania, to Jefferson Davis Durbin & his wife Luanna “Annie” Supler.  I recently verified through Greene County, PA, that Daniel married Edith Curry (1899-1925) on the 10th of June 1918 in Waynesburg.

The story Grandma Barb was told, was that Daniel only saw his daughter, Marguerite once before he shipped out. But that couldn’t be since Marguerite was born 27 May 1918, they married on the 10th of June (so the baby had already arrived), and he didn’t leave for Camp Lee until the 24th of June.  He shipped out for France on the 25th of September as we’ll see below.  That’s plenty of time for him to see his daughter more than just once.

The news article reports Daniel leaving out of Camp Merritt, New Jersey, to head overseas.  That’s misleading in a way.  Soldiers at Camp Merritt traditionally boarded ferries and went to Hoboken to ship out but for whatever reason, Daniel can be found on an outbound military passenger list on the 25th of September 1918 in New York on the ship Teucer in route to Liverpool with the 605th Engineers, Second Battalion, Company D.  Little did he know that would be the last time he’d see American shores with his own eyes.

In the initial news article above, it says that Daniel had been “killed in action.”  In reality, while in route to England, Daniel contracted influenza and/or pneumonia (depending on what you’re reading) and died in a Liverpool hospital on the 9th of October, a day after their ship made port.  Daniel’s death is also reported in newspapers back home as death from “wounds received” in the war effort on December 5th, 1918.  However, this is corrected on the 24th in the paper as “dying from disease” which is more in line with Grandma Barb’s story and a Pennsylvania WWI Veterans Service and Compensation File card which says pneumonia caused his death.  (Even more fascinating is that there are questions in several modern papers online about the Teucer and other ships used in the military transport system, having been used to carry Chinese workers to France and rumors swirled that the Spanish influenza was brought over on these ships, which is an interesting theory. )

Reading Times, 24 Dec 1918, pg 6

The item I can’t resolve is the card received saying he arrived safely.  He couldn’t have sent it since he died a day after docking.  Was it an automated thing sent by the government to quell worrisome families at home?  Another item of curious note is that the armistice was signed November 11, 1918, which was after his death… so why would the author of that original clipping write that?  

Here’s where it gets more interesting… his granddaughter Barb assumed his body was sent immediately home for burial as he IS interred at the  Jacksonville Cemetery in Wind Ridge, Greene County, Pennsylvania.  But, what she didn’t realize was that he was FIRST buried in the Everton Cemetery along with others who had perished in the hospital at Liverpool.  During World War I, “almost 700 American servicemen died in Liverpool’s military hospitals and most of them were buried in Everton cemetery.”  In 1920, their remains were removed to the Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial in Surrey.

New York Tribune, 8 Aug 1920, pg 16

One year and 9 months later after his death, Daniel’s name appears on a passenger manifest of “Military Deceased” on the ship Antigone leaving Liverpool on the 26th of July in 1920.  (The notation at the top of this passenger list shows these remains came from the Everton cemetery.)  The Antigone was carrying nearly 1600 bodies home – the largest shipment of soldier’s bodies being returned to America.  It made the papers everywhere when it docked on August 7th in Hoboken, New Jersey.  On August 15th, Daniel’s family was notified that his body was on its way home.

His widow Edith would remarry in November 1920 shortly after his burial.  Sadly, she would die in 1925 from preeclampsia complications during a pregnancy, leaving her and Daniel’s seven-year-old daughter Marguerite to be cared for by her Curry grandparents. 

Daniel Durbin and other Greene County men who died in World War 1 are commemorated on the Rain Day Boys Project and you can read more about them by clicking here.  There will be a memorial dedication to them on November 11th at 11 am in Waynesburg, PA. 

General James Clinton & I

I have said it before that my genealogical journey has always been quite serendipitous in nature.  Good things and wonderful people have just seemed to cross my path time and again.  With it, though, comes a great amount of weird coincidences that I could never have expected or anticipated.  Here is one of those “strange incidences” that happened as of late…

I am a member of the DAR and my patriot is John Wickham.  I’ve written about him before but just to recap for new readers, John was in the French & Indian War and was recruited as a drill sergeant during the American Revolution to teach others how to fight/shoot.  John was from Rhode Island originally, moved to New York when he was 8 (and where he served during the Revolution), and then moved to Ohio after the war, where he applied for a pension right before he died at 101 years old.

I grew up in Ohio, nearly two hours from where John is buried in Noble County but I never knew about John until I moved to New York and my family tree exploded.  Here’s part of where it gets kinda neat – I didn’t just move to New York.  I moved right smack into the thick of where my grandfather served.  My husband is stationed at the United States Military Academy at West Point which is 7 minutes and one left hand turn from Fort Montgomery where my grandfather served before it was taken by the British.  I was able to go to Fort Montgomery and walk the very ground that John did and stand on the same cliff overlooking the Hudson River that he did.  It was surreal, to be sure!

In John’s pension file, he names those captains and generals he served under.  He served under Arnold at Bemis Heights, which is super cool since I have a Woodhull family connection and if you watch the show TURN, you’ll know I’m so excited by that!  Then, I somehow magically forgot who John served under.  It was one of those details that just slipped my mind.  (Probably because I read General Arnold and THAT’S what sticks out.)  I got into the DAR some two years ago and then all those little details just faded into the back of my mind…. until today.

And here’s where it gets kinda funky monkey… a few months ago, my friend Colleen and I cleaned the headstones and monuments of the Clinton plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in New Windsor, NY for the town.  We needed practice for our headstone cleaning business and they needed a nice, clean showpiece for the cemetery since they’d just taken it over in recent months and this would prime the monuments for its grand re-opening this next spring.

You may be wondering by now why this is so awesomely weird for me?  It’s because of whose plot we cleaned – General James Clinton and his family. My grandfather John served under General Clinton at Fort Montgomery before it was taken by the British and it was actually General Clinton that gave him his discharge papers. (Before you history buffs point out there were, in fact, TWO Clinton generals on the American side at Forts Montgomery and Clinton -and there were- John specifically said James Clinton, not George, in his pension papers.)  My grandfather served him and now I have served him in my own way, too.  How round robin is that?  The coincidence is just astounding to me and made those two days polishing and scrubbing those stones even more special and meaningful.

Anyways, I thought perhaps you all might enjoy seeing the pictures of the stones being cleaned.  They were in wretched shape and covered with lichen.  They are flat table-top stones and they are weathering terribly to where some of them are just practically illegible, James’ probably being the worst and then Mary Little Gray, one of his wives.   The stone of James’ sister, Catherine Clinton McClaughry , was so thick with lichen, we didn’t know there was a poem underneath the edges of the stone until it had been cleaned completely off.  It was amazing to see the before and after on these stones and I feel completely honored to have been a part of extending James Clinton’s legacy by caring for his monument properly.  I like to think my grandfather John would have been proud.


Questioning Your DNA

I have been working on our Stewart/Steward family line for eons… truly …and I cannot break through this brick wall that ends with John Steward and his wife Minerva. You can see my pedigree over there to the right.

Now I’m not a DNA pro by any means but I get the basics.  I have had my DNA (my mom’s and that of my children) floating around on Ancestry, 23andMe, and GEDMatch with positively ZERO hits on our Stewart line.  Three years plus and no hits anywhere, no DNA circles, not even the generic email from a possible relative with a match looking for info… just NOTHING.  So, recently, I decided to go through our DNA circles again to take a closer look.  I have 101 circles with NO Stewart matches and my mom has 25 circles with NO Stewart matches either.  (My circles are much larger because my dad’s KY line is huge.)  Puzzled… I began to dig deeper into our tree.

Long Sought After Info Found on Emma Drake Herman

Ever have that one relative whose story that you just can’t get out of your mind?  I have several of those relatives like that but one that stands out for me is my 4th great aunt, Emma Drake Leist Herman.  February of last year, I wrote about what I knew of her story which included the suicide of her last husband, Henry Herman, who drank carbolic acid they morning after they had a fight.  As incredible as that tidbit was, Emma’s story continued to be fascinating as her death certificate revealed she died at 8 pm on 2 June 1916 at age 39 from shock with a contributory cause as lightning.  What was she doing outside in a storm at 8 pm?  Color me fascinated!

Updates Coming!

Our site will be undergoing a makeover sometime here in the next month so if it looks a bit different or is down for a bit, please bear with us!  We will be back – promise!