Saturday, March 15, 2014

Society Saturday, Opium and Southworth Gammons

Southworth Gammons, my 4th great grandfather was born in Middleboro Massachusetts in 1769.  He died on July 25, 1827, suddenly, it is written, by opium. Now that caught my attention and I just had to learn more.

At the beginning of the 19th century, opium was used as an everyday remedy for common ailments. Even President Harrison was treated with opium in 1841.  During the Civil War the Union Army used opium, a predecessor to morphine. They treated conditions such as malaria, known as "ague".

My 2nd great grandfather, Philip Roesch, who served in the Civil War wrote in his diary that he suffered from the ague and was put on a ship with others that were sick.  He wrote, "The person at my head,  and to the left and right side of me rolled over in death, yet I continued to get well".   Now I realize that he too was most likely treated with opium.

Other ailments treated with opium included rheumatism, diarrhea, excessive drinking, and even childbirth.  So now I can include my great grandmothers and great aunts for they too might have treated? Opium was known as "God's Own Medicine".

I wonder how many ancestors were treated with opium and perhaps even died because they became addicted?

The acceptance of opium was so general that societies gave awards for growing the poppy and medical practitioners were among the prize winners. It wasn't until 1879 that a growing number of doctors documented the dangers of addiction with opium use.  It wasn't classified as a dangerous drug until 1920.

So where does this lead us?  Remember the Wizard of Oz and that massive field covered in poppies.  Poor Dorothy, the lion, and the scarecrow all fell asleep. I guess they had a massive overdose of opium. That witch really was wicked. The book was written in 1900, 20 years before opium was declared a dangerous drug. 

Oh well, the Wizard of Oz is still a good movie.  Just close your children's eyes and ears as Dorothy and the gang run across the opium field.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thankful Thursday, Forrest Has Been Found

In August of 2007, I wrote:  Forrest was rumored to have moved somewhere out west with his wife. We are told that his mother did not like his wife.  When Forrest and his wife wanted to return home due to financial problems, he was told  you can come but your wife, Marie, (marriage 1926) can not.  Forrest was never heard from again. 

For the last seven years I have been searching for my grandfather's brother, my great uncle Forrest. Finally, I have found him, perseverance has paid off.

Forrest was 5'8" tall.  He lived at one time with his wife Marie on 31 Jefferson Road, Scarsdale, NY. It appears that he and Marie had no children.  In 1938 at the age of 37  Forrest, listed as a widower, joined the Merchant Marines. In 1943 he became a seaman on the SS John Catron, a Liberty Ship, working as a wiper right until 1955 to the age of 54 when this search ends. 

A wiper is the most junior crew member in the engine room of a ship. The role of a wiper consists of cleaning the engine spaces and machinery, and assisting the engineers as directed.

The SS Catron ship construction began on September 3, 1942 and launched on July 11 1943.  Its' fate was to be scrapped in 1972.




Liberty Ship Construction began in 1936

In 1936, the American Merchant Marine Act was passed to subsidize the annual construction of 50 commercial merchant vessels to be used in wartime by the United States Navy as naval auxiliaries. The number was doubled in 1939 and again in 1940 to 200 ships a year.
 

 Merchant Marine Act of 1936 The Merchant Marine Act of 1936, provided for establishment of Federal training for merchant marine officers. The U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps was officially founded March 15, 1938 under the auspices of the U.S. Maritime Commission, chaired by Joseph P. Kennedy (father of President John F. Kennedy), a position taken over by Admiral Emory Scott Land.

Initially, training of cadets was given aboard government-subsidized ships under the direction of shore-based Port Inspector-Instructors. In February 1942, administration of the training program was turned over to the Coast Guard, but in July 1942 it was given to the War Shipping Administration.

In 1941, the requirements for appointment as cadet were:
American citizen between 18 and 25
Good moral character, unmarried
Between 5'4" and 6'4," in height
Meet Navy physical requirements
Meet requirements for sight, color perception, speech and hearing
At least 15 high school credits
Good teeth, good feet, good posture
The U.S. Merchant Marines are made up of individuals who work on U.S. civilian-owned American flagged vessels that are responsible for transporting services, goods and people to markets outside the country, for the purposes of commerce.


Duties


An ordinary seaman works two four hour watches a day, seven days a week. His duties include the following:


Upkeep — Painting, cleaning, and polishing of ship bright work; the collection and disposal of garbage; maintenance and repair of various types of equipment
Cargo — Handling ropes and wires; storing and securing of items; assisting with the movement of cargo on and off the ship.
Lookout — Standing watch both in port and at sea.Other Duties — Assisting with any aspect of the ship's operation and maintenance that the superior Seamen or Officers feel is necessary.

In the United States Merchant Marine, in order to be occupied as a wiper a person has to have a Merchant Mariner's Document and STCW certificate issued by the United States Coast Guard. Because of international conventions and agreements, all wipers who sail internationally are similarly documented by their respective countries.

Never willing to give up, I will continue my search to discover the rest of his life. 
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