Monday, February 28, 2011

My Family in the Civil War

Civil War Canon - James A. Ramage Civil War Museum

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The Civil War or the War of the Rebellion began 150 years ago on April 11th, 1861 with the Battle at Ft. Sumter.  When it was over, there were approximately 620,000 casualties from death and disease.

I had always known that I had a gg-grandfather, Britton Wainright, who died of heat stroke when he was marching to meet John Hunt Morgan of Morgan's Raiders fame. I was able to get extensive documentation of the impact his death had on his family. You can read about him in this previous post.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I actually had four direct ancestors and two siblings of ancestors who served in the war -- all on the Union side. It also seemed to be a family affair. In the case of Britton Wainright, two brother-in-laws also served: Joseph Bickerdyke Darby and Robert Willis Darby. Britton's wife was Mary Elizabeth Darby. These three family members are from my paternal side.

On my maternal side, there were three additional soldiers: my gg-grandfather Charles C. Gross, his brother-in-law, Victor Becker, and Fred Wocher (from a separate branch). Fred Wocher and Victor Becker interest me because Fred lived in Covington, Kentucky and Victor, at one point, served in a Kentucky Cavalry unit. Despite Kentucky's official neutrality in the war, people owned slaves in northern Kentucky and the state was quite divided in its allegiance.

My plan is to post what I know about each of these ancestors over the next couple of weeks.  Their experiences range from no actual fighting to death (in the case of Britton).  Those who fought descend from ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War, newly-arrived immigrants from Germany, and one who was born in the United States of immigrants from England.  At least in two of the cases they signed up when Cincinnati was under threat.  In sharing their stories, I hope to honor these men who stepped up to the plate in a war that still impacts our country 150 years later.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

2269 Columbia Ave. - Part II

Yesterday I visited the Cincinnati Historical Society at the Museum Center to see what information their files might contain on the conversion of Columbia Ave. to Columbia Parkway in about 1930.  If you missed the earlier post, let me explain that this was the site of my father's first home.  The house was purchased through eminent domain, and the family relocated to 2424 Eastern Ave.

My Dad's home would have been located on the cleared area on the left.
Luckily for me, they did have a picture in their files that showed what Columbia Parkway looked like in its early days.  This picture was taken from Collins Ave. facing left.  You can see on the left where the houses had been cleared away.  On the right you can see the substantial retaining wall that was built to prevent mudslides from the hills above -- an occurrence that seems to happen every few years even today.

They also had two other pictures in their possession that were of interest to me.

This one shows what Columbia Ave. looked like facing east from Stites before the road was improved.  You can see how primitive the road looks.  It is unpaved and has no curbs.  This location was a couple of miles east of where my father lived in what is called the Columbia-Tusculum area.

Once the parkway was in place there was a lot of public sentiment favoring the destruction of the remaining homes in order to allow commuters to have a view of the Ohio River.  I can tell you that it is magnificent.  Over the years access to Columbia Parkway has become increasingly limited.  Given the amount of traffic that this road handles now, it would not be a suitable place for any home.  The Cincinnati Times-Star had an article on January 22, 1933 promoting the destruction of the homes pictured below.

I have to admit that this parkway is one of the jewels in the crown of the Queen City and one that was definitely necessary if we were to grow and expand from the central core. The parkway has special meaning for me and my family as we look over that magnificent Ohio River view and feel at home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Graham Crackers and Corn Flakes

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia
What do these two foods have in common?  If I had to guess I'd probably say they both have a crunch, are made made from grains, and are pretty bland.  I would say they are both pantry staples.  (I love a bowl of corn flakes in the morning).

I've been doing a lot of research for my next series of posts. I've been reading up on "insanity" and how it was typically handled around 1879. I found out that a relative, yet to be discussed, was diagnosed as "insane" when he died at the age of 37. He was an "inmate" at the time of his death in "Longview Lunatic Asylum" -- a well-known mental hospital here in Cincinnati that was closed permanently in 1993. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Spring Grove Cemetery and his Death Certificate also says that he was suffering from Bright's Disease -- a name used to describe kidney diseases in the 1870s.

So what do graham crackers and corn flakes have to do with any of this?  Through my research I discovered that doctors at the end of the 19th Century thought that one of the main causes of mental illness was masturbation or what they referred to as "self-abuse".  If you can believe it, during the time in question, 16% of the patients in Longview had their "insanity" attributed to masturbation.  Doctors went to great lengths to try to prevent patients from masturbating.

Note: Click on the image above for a link to the full 1881 report to the Governor and State Assembly of Ohio contained in Google Books.
According to Wikipedia, "The Graham cracker was originally marketed as "Dr. Graham's Honey Biskets" and was conceived of as a health food as part of the Graham Diet, a regimen to suppress what he considered unhealthy carnal urges, the source of many maladies according to Graham. Reverend Graham would often lecture about the adverse effects of masturbation or "self-abuse" as it was commonly called. One of his many theories was that one could curb one's sexual appetite by eating bland foods. Another man who held this belief was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of the Corn Flakes cereal."
I'll never be able to think about my bowl of corn flakes in quite the same way.  I don't even want to think about the bananas.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crashing the Ryan Dinner

Kath, Tim, Tom, Dusty and Linda Jones
When I realized how many people I did not photograph at today's get-together, two brothers and their wives and I decided to "crash" the Ryan monthly dinner. So five Joneses added their names to the 14 Ryans who actually had a reservation. There I was able to get many of the pictures I lacked taking earlier in the day.

Jim and Carol Ryan

Mike and Doloures Ryan
Kath, Pat Gallagher and Dan Ryan

Since our families are so large, we do not get together very often. We had a great time, made all the better because it was unplanned.
Pat, Kathy, Peggy and Terry
 So Paul and Mario -- email me a picture. I'll include it in this post.


In Honor of James Nicholaus Ryan

You knew this one was coming.  This morning descendants of Ray and Roy Ryan, brothers of James, got together to share stories, information and artifacts.  The children, grandchildren, and spouses from the Ray Ryan branch included Jim, Peggy and Tim Ryan, Pat and Matt Biederman, and Chris, Paul and Mark DiBenedetto and Paul's son, Mario.  Descendants of Roy Ryan included Jim Ryan and his wife. Carol, Pat Gallagher, Mike and his wife, Doloures, and Dan Ryan.  The Jones branch was represented by Tim and Dusty, and Kath. Evelyn and Charles McCafferty had to cancel due to illness.

We had a wonderful time.  Everyone brought artifacts and stories.  Starting with James Hugh Ryan (gr-grandfather to me) was a brass moulder by profession.  You can  read more about him here and here.
James Hugh Ryan, grandson of the first James Hugh brought a working brass cannon. Mike Ryan, great-grandson brought an eagle and a very interesting bottle opener.  Look at it carefully!

Pat Biederman, daughter of Ray, had several samples of Rose Ryan's embroidery.  She brought the piece pictured at the left that had never been completed.

She also had a lacy nightcap that Rose had made.  Rose's mother had at one time had an embroidery shop run in conjunction with her Becker siblings.

Pat also shared with us a purse her grandfather (James Hugh) had brought back from the 1904 World's Fair for her mother, Rose.

Matt and Pat Biederman with purse

Probably one of my favorite items was a very little change purse that had been on the person of James Hugh at the time of his death.  It contained three pennies from the 1890's.

In addition to those items pictured, Mike Ryan brought numerous pictures of our grandfather, Roy, and Matt Biederman brought many of the items featured earlier this month in posts about James Nicholaus, the sailor.

My only regret is that I was so focused on all of the wonderful stories and trying to figure out who belonged to whom that I neglected to get pictures of everyone in attendance. I guess that means we have to do it again. I did manage to get a picture of a some of the new to me second cousins and spouses.

Chris DiBenedetto, Tim Ryan, Mark DiBenedetto, and Matt Biederman
Jim, Tim and Peggy Ryan
Tim, Peggy, Mark, Matt, Pat and Mike Ryan

I apologize to Jim, Carol, Paul, Mario, Tim, Dusty, Pat, Dan and Doloures for not getting a picture of you.  Next time, we put someone in charge of photography.  I so enjoyed meeting everyone.


Note:  You can double-click on pictures to enlarge.  I would LOVE it if you would click on the comments box and add to the discussion.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On the Hunt for 2269 Columbia Ave. - My Dad's Birthplace

Note:  Double-click on all pictures to enlarge.

Five Jones Siblings
A few days ago, my cousin, Tony Scardina, emailed this picture to me.  Several of us debated the possible location, but leave it to my brother, Tim, to recognize that it was Columbia Ave.  That led me to do some immediate research.

We had always known that my father lived on Columbia Ave. at the time of his birth in 1920.  The family rented space from my grandfather's Uncle Tom and Aunt Ella in a two-family home.  My Dad used to talk about how horses hauled milk trucks past their home in those "old" days.  They were forced to move to Eastern Ave. when the city decided to turn Columbia Ave. into Columbia Parkway -- a main east/west thoroughfare that followed the north bank of the Ohio River.

Instantly the picture took on more meaning, because to my knowledge, it is the only picture that any of us has that shows their initial home.  A little research was in order.  I looked at the 1920 Census where Tom, Ella, Fred, Norine, Edith, Charley and Bob were listed.  My Dad would be born later that year.  The address was 2269 Columbia Ave.  The next trip was to the Main Library to check the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for 1904-1930.  I was told by the librarian that as changes to the maps took place over the 26-year period, they would "cover up" the previous version.  Here is the segment from the map. (I highlighted the area that had been their property and labeled it with the 2269 address).  I then drove to Collins Ave. and the current Columbia Parkway to see if the property was accessible.

Next I contacted my partners-in-crime, my brother Tim and his wife, Dusty.  Tim and Dusty kindly accommodated me (aka the "Crip") as we climbed through the honeysuckle, bamboo and other brush that has taken over the hillside.  It was worth it.

We first came across what appeared to be an old wall or part of an old foundation.  Tim found an easier access route by going up to Columbia Parkway from the opposite side and crossing this four-lane, highly-traveled road.  He was able to capture pictures of what would have been the view of the Ohio River from their home and the hillside that was directly across the road.  The hillside has a substantial retaining wall designed to prevent mudslides, which are so common on this parkway.

Records from the Cincinnati Historical Society, state that these homes were purchased when the Parkway began construction in 1929.  Mom's notes say that the home they built down the hill at 2424 Eastern Ave. was purchased just as the Stock Market crashed in 1929.  They paid $5500  for the house and sold it in 1966 for $7500.  The homes on Columbia Ave. did not have indoor plumbing, so their new home must have felt like a palace.

View of the Ohio River from Columbia Ave. location

Dusty and Tim
From this spot we walked down to Gladstone to try to search out the foundation of the home where Pop had grown up.  Three houses in a row had been torn down and we were unsure which one of the three had been the location of the house.

Tim on Collins Ave.
No trip would be complete without taking a picture of the 90 degree turn on Collins Ave. underneath the railroad tracks.  Because the road is so narrow there, Dad would always beep his horn as a warning to oncoming cars.

It's hard to believe that starting with Alexander and Elizabeth Jones, four generations of our Jones family lived within a few blocks of the beautiful Ohio River.  It really is true that a river runs through us.

Note:  I followed up this post with a visit to the Cincinnati Historical Society to see if they had any newspaper articles or old photographs in their files.  You can see what I was able to get from them by clicking on this link.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dear Punky Boo - Letter from John Reed to Frances Reed

My husband, Bill, is a sweetheart.  After my previous post about how I don't care about Valentine's Day (at least in a commercial way), he spent way too much time trying to find the "perfect" Valentine's Day card.  He succeeded.  I love it.

I had been thinking all day about a letter Bill's Dad sent to his mother when Bill was just a little boy. According to the postmark, it was mailed in November 1941, when my husband was five years old. We all have difficulty imagining our parents expressing their love for each other, but this was clearly that. I'm including a transcription.

                                                                                                                   Mon. P.M.
Dear Punky Boo,
Seems our letters take a long time to get through the mail.  Your letter you wrote Thursday was delivered today.

I'll bet the weather wasn't so good in Washington the last few days.  Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings it has been cold and a light snow has fallen almost constantly.

Today Que Wilder, staff and I worked in South Hills. The house was all closed in and we had a fire in the grate.  It was swell. Worked with only a sweater over one of my new flannel shirts and sometimes almost took the sweater off.  It won't be so nice on other jobs though most of the time.  We and four carpenters sat around the grate fire and barbecued our sandwiches over the fire on long sticks with a wire loop on the end.

Ruth is going to Dick and Theo's wedding tonight.  Had the Ford filled with anti-freeze today as they say it's going down low tonight. So why put it off any longer?  First time we have had an auto that the anti-freeze would not leak and I didn't have to drain every night except for the roadster which I drained from force of habit.

My cold is somewhat better, don't cough so much at night lately.  Slept until 11 A.M. yesterday -- guess that ought to help a little.  I worked on Lou's auto heater yesterday afternoon soldering leaks.  it still leaks after a dozen patches.  Guess it's shot for good now.

Tell Billy that hair cut is only a luxury as I got a new pair of snips I can use to cut hair with when necessary.  The Washington Monument don't look that high.  Is it?

If any of Aunt Vi's friends, if male, want a date, tell them nothing doing as you have a sweet, loving husband at home that wouldn't like it. Gee, ain't I jealous but I bet there isn't anything as cute in Washington as you.  Every day I miss you more and can't wait until I meet you at the Depot.  I'll practically crush you when I get a hold of you.  (Don't let anyone read this letter as it is awful). But don't rush home.  Have a good time so you can tell me all about it.

Make sure the letter you send next will get to me in time if it has a definite time for your arrival in it.  Sorry this letter got butter and coffee all over it as I wrote it at the supper table.  Bye now, John.  Here is my picture.  (Picture shows John behind bars in a zoo).

I never met my husband's father, John, but it gives me a great deal of pleasure to know that he was born into a loving relationship.  I can't help but wonder if they could have anticipated the changes to their lives that were about to take place.  This letter was postmarked almost a month to the day before our country was plunged into war as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day - 2011

Happy Valentine's Day to all of my family, friends, and readers!

I'm curious -- is it just us or are there others among you who view Valentine's Day as a chance for the florists. candy and card makers to help keep their part of the economy going?  I love the "idea" of Valentine's Day.  I wish, honestly, that my husband and I would spend more time being romantic.  But having to go out and buy candy (never want), flowers (highly-inflated for Valentine's Day) or a card just doesn't really cut it for me. An expression of love on this day does a much better job of hitting the mark for me.

I guess I believe that we should spend our money on things that truly make us happy -- and for my husband and me, it's travel.  The times that I am happiest is when we are sharing our lives in new and different places.  Those are the memories I cherish and that will stick with me always.

So I truly do want all of you to enjoy this day and think about those who enrich your life through their RELATIONSHIP with you.  It's what makes the world go round.  Meanwhile, I'll be thinking about my next trip.



Note:  Check out the beautiful Valentine's that are a part of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's collection.  In their virtual library, they have numerous Victorian era Valentines.  They also have made several available to send to your Valentine free of charge. I like to sing the praises of this fine public library every chance I have.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Outwitting Sr. Mary Reparata

There is a story about Ray that MUST be shared.  When young Ray was finally released from Bethesda Hospital at the age of 11, he was not placed in school at the age-appropriate grade level.  Back then no one tried to accommodate you.  If you left school at second grade and returned three years later, it was back to second grade with you.

Such was Ray's plight.  Not only was Ray not exactly thrilled at the prospect of being in school with much younger students, but apparently Sr. Mary Reparata was not too thrilled either.  She quickly came to view Ray as a "troublemaker."  Ray's daughter told me that one day, Ray's class was taken into the church to go to Confession.  (You have to be a Catholic of a certain age to remember this).  When it was Ray's turn to enter the confessional, Sr. Reparata opened the door to where the priest was and told him that he was about to hear the confession of Ray Ryan, implying that it had better be good (in terms of number of sins).  Ray dutifully made his confession and the priest told Ray that for his penance, he had to say a rosary every day until his next confession.  For those not in the know, a typical penance for a kid might be to say "Three Our Fathers and Three Hail Marys" -- a total of six prayers.  A rosary has almost sixty prayers.

Ray accepted his penance and walked over to the next confessional.  He then said the expected refrain, "Bless me father for I have sinned, my last confession was two minutes ago."  Ray had figured out at a very young age how to outwit and outsmart Sr. Mary Reparata.  Why is the thought so pleasurable for me?

Well, we've come a long way -- the Church has actually given its imprimatur to an iphone app to help you prepare for Confession (now known as the Sacrament of  Reconciliation).  Here's the description from the app store. (Click to enlarge)

What would Sr. Reparata think?

Still need a smile? Check this out:

Cartoon Credit:  Purchased for Blog Use

Bone Tuberculosis? Who Knew?

Rose Batchelor, Florence Boisseau, Bea Lammert and Ray Ryan
About a month ago, I was contacted by Pat Biederman, daughter of Ray Ryan.  Ray is my Great-Uncle and brother to my grandfather, Roy.  He is the youngest of the nine Ryan children and brother to James N. Ryan (recently profiled).  I remember Uncle Ray but knew little about his life.

Pat's stories about her father touched me.  She told me that her father had suffered from bone tuberculosis from the age of about eight to eleven.  Bone tuberculosis?  I'd never heard of that.  Through reading I learned that, in fact, it does exist although rarely.  The problem was that at the time young Ray contracted it, there were no antibiotics for this bacterially-based disease.

Pat told me that Ray's TB manifested itself in his leg and that he lived at Bethesda Hospital for three years.  He was in a wheel chair and treatment involved bone grafts.  Apparently treatment was progressing when Ray, sitting on the hospital porch in a wheel chair, called to a large dog he saw. The dog enthusiastically ran to Ray, knocking his wheel chair over and down some steps.  Treatment had to start over.

When Ray was well enough to return home, his father had died leaving the family in extreme poverty.  His father, while running for mayor of the small village of Elmwood Place, caught pneumonia and died.  Pat told me that when Ray returned home it was near Christmas.  When Ray asked about Christmas his mother told him that Christmas died with his father.  Ouch!

Ray was initially unable to walk to school at St. Aloysius.  Miraculously, a large St. Bernard dog showed up out of nowhere and befriended Ray.  They called the dog "Buster."  Ray would literally ride Buster to school each day.  Pat said that Ray's mother would call for Buster each day when it was time for Ray to come home from school and tell the dog to go get Ray.  The dog would meet Ray at school and ride Ray home.

Over time, Ray's ability to walk improved and he no longer needed to ride Buster.  Buster seemed to be disappointed that he was no longer needed and vanished within two days, never to be seen again.  The family felt that it was some kind of miracle that the dog appeared out of nowhere when needed and disappeared when no longer needed.  No one ever knew where he came from.  Pat said that Buster was a familiar site in Elmwood and known by everyone to be Ray's dog.  Despite searchers for Buster, he was never found.

Ray walked proudly for the rest of his life, despite a limp and eventually having to use a cane.  Everyone remembers his great sense of humor and what a wonderful father he was.  In the next post I'll tell a priceless story Pat shared with me that left me wishing that I had known him better.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Anniversary of Dad's Death

Clockwise:  Edith holding Margaret Ann, "Bud", Bob and Johnny  Credit:  Tony Scardina

It's hard for me to believe, but it's the 33rd anniversary of my Dad's death.  This means that he has been dead for more than half of my life.  Those of us who lived through it need no reminders -- but it occurred to me that perhaps my nieces and nephews and the grandchildren may wonder some day about the circumstances of his death.

My Dad was diagnosed at the age of 56 with colon cancer.  My mother, was diagnosed with breast cancer within the same three-week period.  It didn't look good for either one of them.  They scheduled Dad for a probable colostomy, only to discover that the cancer had spread to his liver.  They just closed him up.  The prognosis was grim -- they gave Dad about six months.  (He lived for nine).

The sad thing is that none of this had to happen.  Dad had had signs and symptoms for quite a while previous to his "official" diagnosis.  Due to an earlier uncomfortable medical exam, Dad had avoided returning to the doctor -- he was in denial.  Colonoscopies were not as common nor as pain free as they are now.

We all knew Dad was terminal.  When his liver stopped functioning, his stomach filled with fluid.  Gallons of fluid would have to be drained periodically.  Still -- I was shocked that he died the day he died.  I was a young teacher, pregnant with Elizabeth, and teaching at Pleasant Hill Elementary.  Ginny Hannan called the school office to tell me that Dad had been taken to the hospital and that she thought I needed to come to the hospital.  Our school day ended at 2:30 and I asked if I could wait until the end of the school day.  She suggested I leave right away.  Now I was the one in denial.

When I arrived at the hospital Dad was conscious, talking and even joking with the nurses.  We had to "corner" a nurse to try to ascertain whether or not we needed to tell Karen, living in Miami, to come immediately.  She suggested that Karen come NOW.  I guess that's when reality hit.  We told Dad that Karen was on her way.

Fr. Allison came to the hospital and gave Dad communion. Dad asked him if this meant he was "converted." (After attending the Catholic Church for more than 30 years as head of our household, Dad never wanted to "convert." I think this was out of respect for his father). Fr. Allison replied that he didn't think he ever needed to convert. Good response.

My Dad and Grandma Ryan had this constant back and forth about who was going to die first. I still remember Grandma walking down the hallway of the hospital to Dad's room where he had died minutes before. The shock on her face is etched into my memory. Dad won the race. Grandma was 79 and I know she would have gladly traded places.

My Dad was only 57 years old when he died. It was preventable. To honor him each of his children get regular colonoscopies. We'll all eventually die of something, but I'm confident it won't be of colon cancer.

There will always be posts that celebrate the life of my Dad, Mom and siblings -- but on this day, I couldn't help but recall his death. I hope when my time comes, I die as peacefully, surrounded by those who love me -- and there were many.

Dad (from Karen's pictures)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ted's 55th Birthday!

Today is my brother Ted's birthday!  He is the 5th of seven children -- but he is the oldest of the three "little kids" in our family.  As mentioned in earlier posts the experiences of the "big kids" are completely different than those of the "little kids."  It's almost like we were not raised in the same family.

Ted was the clear leader of the little kids -- all three were boys.  He kept them in line (or so I hear). Dan and Don need to leave a comment. When "Teddy" was a baby, we idolized him.  We would all sing to him in his baby bed and make him laugh.  We used to have this stupid little song that we made up and would sing. The words were:
Teddydore, Teddydore, always standing by the door . . .
If he hollers let 'em go, he falls down on the floor.

This makes absolutely no sense, but I remember it to this day.  

We lived in our first house in Golf Manor until Ted was three. Here he is pictured celebrating his third birthday.  My mother was already pregnant with child number six.  Within four months of Ted's birthday, the family would have added Dan to the family and moved into a new (to us), bigger home.  

As I write this I was just hit by the fact that my Mom and Dad had to try to market a too small house with five kids when she was VERY pregnant.  In addition, with a six-week old baby they had to pack everything and move. No one got to be "the baby" for long.
Karen, Tim and Ted celebrating his 5th birthday.
Ted is the one standing in the middle.
There were a couple of really "hokey" songs that we used to sing that were on an old 78 RPM record -- google it.  One of them included a version of the "Happy Birthday" song that is sung in our family to this day.  A few years ago, my nephew Mark borrowed the record and digitized it.  So to honor Ted's birthday, I decided to dig up a few "old" pictures to go along with this "old" recording.

Ted -- be sure to check them out.  You may not even be aware that some of these pictures exist.  Happy birthday from all of us.

Links to the photoshows:  Open Your Gifts
                                        Happy Birthday (Jones Version)
Be sure to click to see them "full screen."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

James N. Ryan - Fact or Fiction

In the initial post about Jim Ryan, sailor, I referred to him as "St. James." This is because of the fact that over time, it's been hard to separate fact from fiction.  One of the biggest legends has to do with Jim "saving the day" on the USS Virginia by using his skills as a "moulder" to forge a critical piece that enabled the ship to continue its mission.  I believe the evidence suggests that there is truth to this legend.

In his naval career, Jim was promoted to "blacksmith"/foundryman. It is said that while at sea, Jim was able to "save the day" by forging a critical part that enabled the USS Virginia to continue on a tour.  From here the story becomes unclear.  My Uncle Jim Ryan told me that the piece in question was the ship's prop.  He said that Jim was able to dive down, remove the prop and make the critical repair.  Even as he told me the story, he agreed that this version was not feasible.  Pat Biederman told me that Alvin Wulfekuhl had been to the National Archives and verified the story.  I talked with Alvin and he claimed it was not him.  My cousin, Mike Ryan, told me that in a conversation with his Great-Aunt Rose (sister of the sailor) that she said because of Jim's success, a forge for the first time became a standard part of all ships moving forward.

This is a story that is going to require more investigation.  Apparently Jim told members of the crew that if they could get a hot enough fire, that he could make the repair.  Given the fact that he had worked with his father as a "moulder" before his enlistment, it appears that there has to be some factual basis to these commonly held
stories.  I've not yet figured out how to "prove" this, but should I or any of my readers solve this problem, I will update the blog.

I thought it would be fun to have a "snopes-like" question and answer about some of the things that have been said about James Nicholas Ryan.  So see how well you know Jim.

Claim:  Jim was 16 years old when he lied about his age in order to enlist in the navy.
PARTIALLY TRUE  Jim did "lie" about his age on his enlistment papers, but he was 18 at the time of enlistment
        -- not 16.

Claim:  Jim was a Junior, named after his father.
PARTIALLY TRUE  Jim has the same first name as his father, but his middle name is Nicholas (instead of Hugh).

Claim:  Jim died at the age of 22, a few days after his birthday.
Jim died on May 1, 1911.  His 22nd birthday was April 28th. (Some newspaper articles are incorrect).

Claim:  Jim died as the result of choking on tobacco.
 The cause of death was diphtheria.

Claim:  There is a building in Washington, D.C. named after Jim.
There is a building that houses students on the campus of Catholic University in Washington, D.C. named after James Hugh Ryan.  However, this James Hugh Ryan was a Rector at the university and later the Archbishop of the Diocese of Omaha.

Claim:  James N. Ryan is buried in an unmarked grave in St. John's Cemetery in St. Bernard, OH.
Not only is Jim buried in an unmarked grave in St. John's, but also his father, mother and six other relatives.  The family was very poor at the time.  When James Hugh died, he was buried in a single grave.  Rose Ryan was also buried in a single grave.  The others are in the same plot.  

Claim:  James and his father had a very close relationship.
UNDETERMINED  The letters between father and son and the "Father's Lament" published in the previous post suggest a very close relationship.  However, some family members were of the opinion that Jim enlisted to get away from his father. (I tend to think they were close).

Claim: At the time of Jim's death he was a blacksmith in the navy.
Jim was promoted to blacksmith/foundryman on January 1, 1910.

Claim:  Due to Jim's success in making a repair at sea, a forge was installed in all future battleships.
 UNDETERMINED  The evidence at this point is "oral tradition."  This is a question that also will require additional research.

To my Great-Uncle Jim -- You'd be surprised to hear of the impact that you've continued to have on your extended family.  Several family members still have your picture on display.  It is because of you that many of us hope to meet for the first time a week from Saturday.  Thanks for your story.