Third Great Aunt Sarah Ann (Lipsett) Hiltz

Sarah Ann Lipsett, oldest daughter and second oldest child of Robert Bruce Lipsett and Christina McMaster, was born on January 30, 1861 in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia.

Sarah immigrated to Massachusetts between 1881 and 1886 (perhaps she came over with her brother Stanley). It looks like she was never naturalized as a U.S. citizen.

On November 22, 1886, Sarah married Charles Albert Hiltz in Gloucester, Essex County, MA. Judging by their oldest child’s 1900 Census data, it looks like Sarah and Charles returned to Nova Scotia in 1887, but came back to Gloucester in 1889.

Their children:

  • Rita M., born 1887 in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia Naturalized in the 1920s. Never married.
  • Ethel Morton, born on December 13, 1890 in Gloucester. Married Charles N. Lipsett (her 1st cousin) on June 12, 1916. (This is the cousin that my great-grandmother Eva lived with during the early years of her marriage, while her husband Thomas F. Atwell was at sea.)
  • Christina Lipsett, born on January 20, 1893 in Gloucester. Married William R.C. Burke on November 22, 1919.
  • Robert Clifton, born on November 25, 1895 in Gloucester. Married Bessie Christian Larsen on April 4, 1915.
  • Jennie Leona, born on March 13, 1901 in Gloucester. Married Walter Carl Monroe on August 18, 1918.

On August 31, 1907, Charles died of stomach cancer. Sarah was now a single mother of five children aged six to twenty. I’m sure Rita helped support the family, but Sarah turned to what many widowed women did back in those days: take in a boarder. Now it seems that Sarah and Charles had a number of boarders back in 1900 (some of whom seemed to be family), but by the 1910 Census they were all gone.

Enter the mysterious (to me) Frank Dauphinee, a Gloucester fisherman born in Nova Scotia around 1871. Frank not only lived with them at least from the 1910’s to the end of his life in 1940, but he is also buried at Beech Brook Cemetery in Gloucester on the family plot. (A special thanks to Sharon Cohen, the Find-a-Grave contributor who photographed and annotated the layout of the plot.) I’ve found very little information on Frank, except that he was in the U.S. Navy, stationed in Samoa in 1900. In any case, he obviously held a special place in the family’s hearts.

A typical Gloucester fisherman.  Courtesy Library of Congress.

A typical Gloucester fisherman. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Back to Sarah: she lived with Rita until her death on February 9, 1926. Along with her husband, children, and most of their spouses (and Frank, of course), she is buried in Beech Brook Cemetery.

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Military Appreciation: Great Grandfather Thomas Francis Atwell I

From my great-grandfather’s obituary, I know that Thomas Francis Atwell I enlisted in the Navy in 1909 at age 18. Born and raised in Providence, RI, It seems that he went straight to the US Naval Training Station in nearby Newport. He is listed there in the 1910 census as an apprentice.

Thomas F. Atwell prior to 1917.  Source:  unknown Providence, RI newspaper.

Thomas F. Atwell prior to 1917. Source: unknown Providence, RI newspaper.

By the time the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Thomas was a Boatswain’s Mate, First Class. From what I can gather, boatswain’s mates were in charge of the external parts of the ships: the deck, the rigging, boats, external equipment and organizing the other members of the crew in using these items. (To me, it seems that one must have a lot of attention to detail and organization skills in this job.)

In May of 1917, Thomas was part of gun crew/armed guard (commanded by Chief Turret Captain William J. Clark) on the SS Silver Shell, a commercial steamship owned by Shell Oil Company. The ship departed New York and was headed to Marseilles, France. According the the Official U.S. Bulletin, In the early afternoon of May 30 in the Mediterranean Sea, a German “submarine was first seen at about 7,000 yards. She had a 6-inch gun forward and another aft. She flew no flag. Upon sight of the submarine the steamer hoisted the American flag and waited about 10 minutes. As the submarine approached the steamer fired. The submarine responded. The steamer kept a speed that would permit the submarine to come within range. Then followed a fight lasting for an hour and a half. the submarine came to a distance of about 2,300 yards. By that time the submarine had fired 35 shots and the steamer 25. The last shot of the steamer apparently struck the submarine, which raised clear out of the water and stood stern end up for a few seconds. Then she disappeared.” The Silver Shell was able to complete her journey to Marseilles.

Being the first American crew to sink a German U-boat, this story made newspapers all over the country. The incident lead to the U.S. policy of arming merchant vessels to protect themselves as they carried cargo to the Allies.

SS Silver Shell in 1915.  Courtesy:  Dept. of the Navy, Naval Historical Center.

SS Silver Shell in 1915. Courtesy: Dept. of the Navy, Naval Historical Center.

I don’t know how the rest of my great-grandfather’s time went during the war, but by 1920 Thomas achieved the rank of Chief Boatswain’s Mate, the highest rank he could attain as an enlisted man. He retained this title for the rest of his naval career. The census of January 20, 1920 found him on the USS Utah at sea. He was not on the Utah for long, because in June he married my great-grandmother, Eva Christina Lipsett in Salem, MA.

The 1920s knit the Atwells together. Their two children were born at this time (Eugenie in 1924 and Thomas II in 1926). Perhaps that led to Thomas obtaining a commission closer to home. On the April 7, 1930 Census, he was stationed in Boston harbor on the USS Southery. By the late 1930s, he no longer seemed to be navy, but worked as a superintendent in an office building.

Like many Americans, Thomas must have seen the writing on the wall as World War II progressed in Europe and Asia. It was inevitable that the United States would eventually join the war, so Thomas re-entered the Navy in October 1941, working as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate at the Boston Navy Yard, where he would remain for the rest of the war. With so many ships coming and going, I am certain his many years of experience helped the operations run smoothly.

Finally in 1947, Thomas retired from the Navy. He moved permanently into civilian life, working for many years and having plenty of time for retirement. He passed away on January 16, 1988 and received a military funeral. Like his wife Eva, he was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery.

Military Appreciation: Grandfather George Edmund Pleau

For Military Appreciation Month, I thought I would highlight a few of my military ancestors and relatives. The first is my paternal grandfather, George Edmund Pleau. Yes, the son of George Edmund Pleau (of Rochester) and Bertha Colomy (of Lynn), who I’ve written about before.

By the time Word War II rolled around, not only were my grandfather’s parents dead, but my grandfather was married to Eugenie Beryl Atwell and had a baby son (my father). It seems that George’s young family was living with his in-laws, Thomas Francis Atwell I, Eva Christina (Lipsett) Atwell, and his younger brother-in-law, Thomas Francis Atwell II. A veteran of The Great War, the elder Thomas went back into active duty in the Navy at nearby Boston Harbor (more on that in a future post). Not long after turning eighteen in 1942, the younger Thomas followed his father’s footsteps into the Navy (more on him in the future as well).

For some reason, George did not go into the military right away. Was it because he was newly married? Was there an immediate need for him at home at the beginning of the war? Whatever the reason, he did eventually join the Navy before October 20, 1944 (the date of a picture of him in uniform). (I’m sure being in a family of Navy men and the proximity to Boston Harbor were factors.) While I have not yet found any records prior to his muster rolls on active duty, George must have gone to naval basic training, which I assume was in nearby Newport, Rhode Island. On Friday, March 2, 1945, George boarded the Evarts class destroyer escort, USS Dobler (Hull No. DE-48) in Boston Harbor. The weather was overcast and cold, but warming as the day went on, in spite of a brief snow squall. Perhaps his father-in-law was able to see him off or shake his hand; at the very least, I’m sure Thomas Atwell knew his son-in-law would be boarding the ship that would protect Allied submarines and other ships in the Atlantic.

George Edmund Pleau, October 20, 1944.  Author's collection.

George Edmund Pleau, October 20, 1944. Author’s collection.

I have found exactly three muster rolls for George’s time in the Navy: March 18, March 31, and June 30. During that time, his rank was Seaman, First Class (Gunner’s Mate), and also during that time, the war in Europe ended! (V-E Day being May 8.) I’m not sure exactly when his time on the Dobler concluded. According to Wikipedia, the Dobler went to New London, CT for training duty on July 18 and was finally decommissioned in New York City on September 11, 1945. I assume that one of these two dates was when George disembarked and went home, as the remainder of the war had already come to an end in August. I imagine that George probably saw minimal battle action, if any, considering the point of the war at which he was at sea.

Battle or no, my grandfather received the military honors due him at his death. I remember the American flag draped over his coffin, then carefully folded into a triangle and gently laid in my grandmother’s arms. A special military marker denotes his place of burial at Pine Grove Cemetery in Plot T, Section 3.

George Edmund Pleau Sr.  WWII plaque at Pine Grove Cemetery.  Author's collection.

George Edmund Pleau Sr. WWII plaque at Pine Grove Cemetery. Author’s collection.