* Genealogy of the Clark Family *
(version October 4, 2021)
Please email corrections to Mike Clark
 

 

James F. Clark, Sr. (1889-1942)

by Michael S. Clark, grandson

 

Early Years - My sisters, my brother, and I know very little about the life of our grandfather, James Frederick Clark, Sr., prior to the time when he enlisted at age 27 in the U.S. Army. In fact, his enlistment date of Dec. 5, 1916, which we know from his army discharge papers, is the first official mention that we have of him. His life before then we know mainly from recollections, our so-called "family stories" that were told to us by his only son, who is our father James F. Clark, Jr. However, our Dad has since passed away, and he was only 18-years old in 1942 when both of his parents died. Thus, he really only knew his father for a few short years, and he readily admitted to us that he knew very little about his dad's early life. He also cautioned that what he did know may not have been totally accurate.

Our Dad when he was growing up was told that his father's parents were immigrants, who had come to the United States to seek a better life. He thought that his grandfather came from the Scottish Highlands, and became a British soldier, who was sent in the late 1800’s to Ireland. He married at some point an Irish girl, but we do not know when nor where, and he emigrated at some point to the United States, but whether this was before or after he married his Irish wife, we also do not know. We do know that on the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Census he gave his father's birthplace as Scotland on the first, and England on the second, and his mother's birthplace on both census returns as Ireland.

We know of two documents that list the names of the parents of James, Sr. One of these documents is his 1923 marriage certificate, in which he names his father as James Frederick Clark, and his mother as Carrie Finnegan. Thus, the first James F. Clark is the father of James F. Clark, Sr, and the grandfather of our Dad, James F. Clark Jr. There is also the Michigan Census of WWI Veterans of 1917-1919, which was compiled in 1923 by the Daughters of the American Revolution from data on a questionaire that they mailed out to the veteran's last known address on military records. The address that the D.A.R. almost certainly used for James Sr. was 62-32nd Street in Detroit, which we know was the residence from about 1881 to about 1911 of a John Lewandowski / Lewandofske (1851-1936), who we think was probably an uncle of James, Sr. This census confirms James as the name of his father, but shows Madge to be his mother's name. There is also DNA evidence that indicates Carrie and Madge may be different women, Carrie perhaps being his stepmother, and Madge perhaps being his biologic mother. Madge is also likely to have been a sister of John Lewandowski.

Most European immigrants of the late 1800s came to the United States to find better lives, but many found found life in America to be little better than what they left behind. The family stories relate that our grandfather's parents died in Detroit not long after the birth of their children. We were told that three children were born in Detroit - an older sister, James, and a sickly younger brother, who died young. However, we cannot discount the possibility that James was actually an only child, and that these other children were not his true siblings. He recalled being only 5 or 6 years old when both of his parents died, so his memories of them were probably faint. He also claimed to have learned a little Gaelic from one of them, and his childhood memories included dancing the Scottish Sword Dance and the Highland Fling with his father. The family stories tell us nothing more about his life with his parents.

Although James, Sr. always gave his birth date as May 14, 1889, and his birth place as Detroit, no records have been found in the Michigan State Archives to confirm either fact. This makes it possible that he had the date wrong, or that he was born somewhere else, perhaps Canada. However, he was probably born at home, likely with a midwife or relative in attendance, rather than a doctor, and even though births were supposed to be reported to the city, many were not - especially births to immigrant parents. In fact, it is estimated that from 1880 to 1902 only 60% to 70% of the births in Michigan were duly recorded. In addition, we have found at least three other clearly different men, all of whom were also named James F. Clark, and all of whom were also born on May 14, 1889 in the United States. One of these men was even born in Michigan, and another, like our grandfather, also served during WWI in the U.S. Army.

We do not know where in Detroit James and his parents lived. However, he was fluent in German, which implies, on the one hand, that he may have spent time in his youth in a house where German was spoken, but he may have also picked up his German fluency during WWI when he served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army. He was was also fluent in Yiddish, which is a German dialect spoken by many of the Jewish communities from Europe. Detroit in those days was a city of over 250,000 people, with a large Jewish population, as well as a large population of German immigrants. James said that he learned Yiddish by growing up on the city streets with Jewish playmates. This implies that some of the early years of his life may have been spent either on or near Hastings Street, which was the heart of the Jewish district in Detroit at the turn of the century. However, Yiddish was also spoken in other parts of the city.

The Jewish quarter of Detroit, which was also known as "Little Jerusalem", was more-or-less bordered on the north end in the late 1890s by Brush, Orleans, Montcalm and Watson Streets, with Hastings Street running north-south straight up the middle and forming the heart of the district. Wards 1, 3, 5, and 7 ran from north to south through the quarter. Yiddish-speaking German Jews made up the bulk of this community, and Hastings Street was described at the turn of the century as overcrowded, noisy and teeming "with foreignness and a queer Yiddish dialect”. Today most of Hastings Street is gone, having been demolished to make way for the Interstate 75 Freeway (Chrysler Freeway) that leads to downtown Detroit.

The Hastings district in the 1920s and 1930s began to decline and deterorate into slums, leading many Jewish families to relocate to nearby Dexter, Linwood and 12th Streets (Rosa Parks Avenue), which are just north and west of the old Jewish quarter. 12th Street at this time took the place of Hastings Street as the new hub of Detroit's Jewish culture. More affluent members of the Jewish community moved to Windsor, which was on the Canadian side of the Detroit River, just opposite from downtown Detroit.

Yiddish was also spoken by some families living in German neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city. The older of these neighborhoods was on the east side in a corridor between Gratiot Street and Jefferson Avenue, and the newer was on the west side, past the Irish district of Corktown and centered along Michigan Avenue. The Yiddish speakers here were German and Polish Jews. Poland at the turn of the century was part of the German Empire, and not an independant country. Hence many Polish and German Jews chose to live in German neighborhoods among their Lutheran and Catholic countrymen, rather than in the Jewish district, where many households were Jews from Russia and central Europe.

When James was about 5 or 6 years old, possibly around 1894 or 1895, he became an orphan, and was sent to live with a German family. Because he was fluent as an adult in German, it seems likely that German was spoken in his new home. We do not know the names of his foster parents, but he gave to the U.S. Army in 1918 the name of a cousin, Amos Lemmons of Detroit, and later in late 1919 the name of a family friend, Mrs. Belle Groh (neé Edgeworth) of Windsor, Canada, as his next of kin. Either one of these people may have been associated with his foster family. The address that he provided for Amos Lemmons is 62-32nd Street in Detroit, which was in District 16 on the west side of the city. This address during the years James lived in Detroit (i.e., 1889 to about 1901) was also the home of John Lewandofske (Lewandowski), to whom James is linked by DNA evidence. Interestingly, the 1901 Detroit City directory lists at this same address an August A. Lemon, who might be a relative of, or maybe is the same man as, Amos Lemmons. The last year that James definitely lived in Detroit was probably 1901 or 1902, which makes it quite possible that his foster parents were members of the Lewandowski family, either in this household, or in that that of a Lewandowski relative. In fact, we strongly suspect that James' foster parents were his biologic uncle and aunt, William and Anna Lewandowski - William being a brother of the aforementioned John Lewandofske of 32nd Street.

Another family story that we used to hear is that James had a grown step brother or foster brother, who had spent time in the "Old West", and who came back to Detroit for a visit. Once our father implied that this foster brother may have been in Detroit to hide out from the law. Someone in the house, either this foster brother or James' foster father, was evidently a violent person, who made life miserable for James. Once when James was home, he was sitting at the top of the stairs, when one of these men came home in a drunken rage and kicked James down the stairs. The fall caused James to either break or dislocate his shoulder or collar bone, an injury that gave him trouble for the rest of his life. Again, these are just stories that came down to us second hand, and they may or may not be accurate. We strongly suspect now that the grown foster brother was actually a kind man who was the brother-in-law of James' foster father, and that it may have actually the foster father himself who kicked James down the stairs.

When James was perhaps 8- to 10-years old, his foster father sent him to work in the Detroit railroad yards, which are shown in the photo on the left. There he worked as a rail car brakeman, which was a very dangerous job, especially for a youngster. The brakes were applied from the back of the train to the front, one car at a time, by turning an upright wheel on the roof of each car. The brakeman would then run across the top of the moving car, jumping over to the next car to apply the next set of brakes. Then so on and so forth until the train slowly lurched to a stop. Falling off a car, or worse yet in between two cars, usually resulted in injury or death. James also later worked as a railroad clerk, but possibly not until much later when he was an adult.

Although working for the railroad was no doubt hard, with long hours in all types of weather, James apparently made friends in train yards all across the Midwest. Unhappy at home, he sought the help of his railroad buddies, and made plans to run away from home. When the time was right, he caught a train out of the city, and did not return to Detroit until nearly twenty years years later.

James managed to save two five-dollar gold pieces, which was a lot of money for those days, and he used this money to finance his escape. So that no one could follow him, he would take a train for a short distance in one direction, then change to a new train heading in an entirely new direction. By repeating this process several times, with several trains all going in different directions to different places, and friends pre-arranged at each stop to smuggle him onto the next train, he made it all but impossible for his foster father to come after him.

We know little about those early years of James' life after he left Detroit, and he may have worked many jobs in many places. At some point, he ended up working on combine (harvester) crews working the wheat fields of the Midwest. The combines would start in the South and work their way north, harvesting wheat, all the way up into Canada. When the weather began to change, the crews would turn around and work their way back south again.

Staying one step ahead of winter, the combine crews eventually ended up in New Orleans where the workers were paid the entire season’s wages in full. Thus, for the first time in many months, James and his companions found themselves with idle time on their hands, and money in their pockets. A few nights of drunken revelry were usually in order; and the men afterwards, carrying with them everything they owned, would look for winter quarters to wait out until the combines returned in the spring.

One night in New Orleans, having just received his season wages, James was out on the town when he was rolled, and robbed of everything he owned but the clothes he was wearing. Penniless, with no place to go and no one to turn to, he had few options. Rather than sleep in the streets, he enlisted on Dec. 5, 1916 at the age of 27 in the U.S. Army, and the army became his new home. He was assigned to the 28th Infantry stationed at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans, where he said that "life was good", as he received clothes, room and board, and six dollars a month in pay. Army life was similar to the communal life of the combine crews, and James probably had little trouble adjusting.

The year 1916, when James enlisted, was a time of turmoil. Europe was overcome by a long, drawn-out war that embroiled most of the continent, and the United States was facing the prospect of a war with Mexico. General Venustiano Carranza, having just seized power in Mexico, was threatened by the rebel bands of his adversary Pancho Villa. When the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson gave formal recognition to Carranza’s government, Villa was enraged, and vowed to seek revenge against U.S. towns sitting north the Mexican border.

Villa on March 16 crossed the border from Mexico into the U.S., and burned the town of Columbus, New Mexico. Sixteen men, women and children in the town were killed by Villa's "banditos", and President Wilson lodged an immediate protest with Carranza. However, the Mexican general did little to allay American fears, and further raids seemed likely. Consequently, Wilson sent in American troops the next day under the command of General John J. Pershing to pursue Villa into Mexico. Carranza condemned Pershing's pursuit as an invasion, and threatened war. So when James enlisted in the army in December of 1916, the U.S. was already massing troops in Texas and New Mexico in the event of war, and James' regiment was soon dispatced to the border.

The above narrative is based on stories that our grandfather told our father, and then he in turn, related them to us many years later. Our grandfather died a decade or more before I and my siblings were born, so he was never able to relate to us any aspects of his life. Consequently, all of the above is third-hand information filtered through the memory of our father, who sadly passed away many years ago. Despite many years of research, I have not been able to verify any of the information above with public records - no vital records, no census returns, nothing. Most of it is probably more or less true, but it will no doubt need to be revised if some records ever surface that cover these early years of our grandfather's life.

 

A disastrous fire on July 12, 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (also known as the 1973 National Archives fire) destroyed roughly 16 to 18 million military personnel files, which included about 80% of the official records of men and women who from November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960 were discharged from the U.S. Army. Both our grandfather's and father's army records were among those lost. Fortunately, we have our grandfather's own personal copy of his personnel file that was given to him when he was discharged. Thus, we are very confident as to the accuracy of the narrative that follows, which covers his life from 1916 on, as we have been able to verify it with both his own military record, and with a variety of civilian records.

 

Above: Views of old Detroit that James F. Clark, Sr. would have been familiar with. Left: An 1891 view looking down Woodward Avenue to the Ferry Depot for crossing the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, which can be seen on the other side. Center: A postcard dated 1905 showing the Michigan Central Railroad Passenger Depot, which was used from 1884 until 1913, when it burned down. Right: A photo dated 10/8/1907 looking west along the M.C.R.R. tracks towards 24th Street. James F. Clark would have traveled these tracks often when he worked as a railcar brakeman.

 


 

The Military Record of James F. Clark, Sr.

(serial number R-56613)

 

Dec. 5, 1916 - Enlisted in Company A of the 28th Army Infantry at Jackson Barracks in Louisiana for $6.00/month plus clothes, room, and board. At the time, American troops under the command of General John J. Pershing, were pursuing the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa deep into Mexico. Eventually, the 28th was sent to Texas in support of the pursuit. However, the 28th remained on the American side of the border and never made the crossing into Mexico.

Feb. 5, 1917 - United States troops are recalled back across the border in order to avoid an open conflict with Mexico, but border skirmishes continue for the next several months. In one incident, Private Jim Clark entered a shack near the border and was attacked by a bandito swinging a machete. Holding up his rifle to protect himself, he deflected the blow; but the unprotected fingers of Jim’s left hand, holding tightly onto the stock of his gun, caught the full force of the blade. Portions of his first and second finger tips were cut off just below the fingernails before Jim bayoneted his adversary to the wall. It states on the back of his 1942 WWII Draft Registration Card that the "first joint of index and second finger of right hand missing."

April 6, 1917 - War is declared against Germany; and the Mexican campaign, in light of the greater conflict, is quickly forgotten. Curiously, this date is shown in the Veterans Administration Master Card Index as the date for Jim's enlistment into the U.S. Army. However, he actually enlisted four months earlier, the earlier enlistment date being confirmed in other records.

May 29, 1917 - Promoted to Corporal at Fort Ringgold in Texas.

June 14, 1917 - The 28th Infantry sails for Europe from the port of Hoboken, New Jersey with the 196 men and two officers of Company A on the S.S. Antilles. Capt. Francis Henry Burr (1881-1960) is in command of the company. The departure was originally scheduled for June 7, but there were many delays. Nonetheless the S.S. Antilles, which previously had been a commercial passenger liner, is among the first ships to leave. The 28th is one of the four infantry regiments (the 16th, 18th, 26th, and 28th) of the 1st Division of the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.). Fifteen days later the A.E.F. lands at Brest in northern France, and the soldiers of the 1st Division become the first American troops to enter the war. A few months later the S.S. Antilles is sunk on Oct. 17, 1917 by German submarine U-62.


Left: The SS Antilles in 1917 with troops enroute to France. Right: The SS Antilles in a French port with troops on board.

 

Aug. 1, 1917 - Rank reverted to Private 1st Class. It is not known if this represents an expiration of a temporary promotion to corporal, or if it was a demotion resulting from some sort of disciplinary action. Because there is no mention of any diciplinary action in his military records, and because his military record in fact states that his character was excellent, it is quite possible that this promotion was never intended to be permanent, and that Jim may have been made a corporal by the 28th Infantry just for the voyage to France. If so, the warrant (contract) for this rank was never intended to extend, and indeed did not extend, when the voyage concluded, and the 28th was assigned to new duties on arriving in France.

The French and British commanders were anxious to send the untested, green American troops into the trenches to fill the gaps in their own war-weary ranks. However, Pershing had no desire to engage his command in the war of stalemate and attrition that the Allied and Axis powers had waged for three long years. Instead, the Americans were assigned to quiet defensive sectors to gain experience while Pershing worked on developing an offensive strategy.

Far removed from the fighting at the front, the men of the A.E.F. were at their leisure to enjoy the French countryside and learn French lifestyles and customs. One day, some of the officers of the 28th decided that, as a gesture of goodwill towards the locals, the Americans would haul away a number of large, foul-smelling manure piles that graced the front yards of several houses in a nearby farm village. Early one morning, the deed was done. However, when the farmers awoke and discovered what the Americans had done, the intended good deed was viewed as something more akin to an act of war. Apparently, the manure was fertilizer for the village fields, and the town elders demanded the immediate return of the piles. The soldiers quickly hauled the offending piles back into town, thereby avoiding conflict with the French peasantry.

 

Oct. 20 to Nov. 20, 1917 - Lunneville Defensive Sector, a minor defensive operation.

Jan. 15 to April 3, 1918 - Toul Defensive Sector, a minor defensive operation.

April 25, 1918 - Montidider-Noyen Offensive begins, a major offensive operation, lasting until July 7 and fought alongside French and British troops. This operation involved several battles and was the first time that American troops were engaged in actual combat.

 

On the eve of being shipped to the front, the men of the 28th were given passes for the evening. Virtually all of the troops headed into town for some serious drinking - possibly the last party that many of them would ever know. When the time came to return to camp and board the trains for the front, most of the 28th was still in town, drinking up a storm and hoping to delay the trip to the trenches for as long as possible.

Jim and a friend or two staggered back into camp at the appointed hour, drunk and happy. Despite their condition, they were given the task of helping to round up drunken comrades and place them on a train for the front. The gathering of the 28th proved to be a difficult task. As soon as a partying soldier was caught and thrown on the train, another would slip out the nearest window and head back into town. After a few soldiers had been apprehended several times, the officers finally figured out what was happening and posted an armed guard to watch the train windows. Thus, with fixed bayonets blocking the avenues of escape, the men of the 28th were rounded up, thrown into trains, and shipped to the front.

The soldiers of the 28th had good reason to fear the front. The dampness and disease of the trenches were legend, and when these discomforts were combined with the technological horrors of modern warfare, utilized in battle for the first time in history, the Great War became truly one of the most terrifying episodes in the human experience. Fighting machines - including tanks, armored cars, and airplanes - appeared in battle for the first time; and technologically-advanced weapons - such as machine guns, flame-throwers, and poison gas - added new dimensions of terror unknown in previous wars.

Wary of facing death at the hands of so many new forms of destruction, both sides opted for a defensive war. Miles and miles of trenches, from within which to hide, were dug across the French and Belgian countryside. In grim irony, the trenches merely became focusing points for the terrors of the Great War; and the dampness, disease, starvation, poison gas attacks, endless artillery bombardments, and brutal hand-to-hand combat of the trenches were magnified when combined with the terror of fighting machines and mechanized weapons.

Once, Jim was issued a hand ax and advised that this tool was one of the better weapons for hand to hand combat in the close quarters of a trench. Meat cleavers, sharpened trenching shovels, and small pick axes were also weapons of choice. Apparently, the standard 24” American bayonet was much too long to swing around in the narrow confines of a trench; and European bayonets, at 30” to 36”, were said to be even worse.

After four years in the trenches, the war-weary ranks of both sides were growing thin. Fresh troops were in short supply, and men of all ages were pressed into service. Jim remembered one instance when, after an especially bloody and brutal trench fight, he noticed that the dead German soldiers he had helped to kill were mostly 14 and 15 year old boys whose “rifles were bigger than they were”.

 

May 28 to 30, 1918 - The Battle of Cantigny was the first all-American offensive in the war and was fought with French and British support. The battle began on the morning of May 28 with an hour-long artillery bombardment, followed at 6:45 a.m. by the American advance, which crossed a front of 2,200 yards in 45 minutes to reach the German trenches. Although Cantigny was an American victory, with close to 250 German prisoners taken, the Americans by one account lost 45 officers and 1,022 men. Another account states that there were 1,603 American casualties, with 318 deaths. Despite fierce counter attacks over the next three days, the Germans were unable to retake the captured positions. Shown to the right are the Coat of Arms adopted by the 28th Infantry after WWI, when they were nicknamed the "Black Lions of Cantigny", in recognition of their sacrifice.

 

Jim was wounded at Cantigny during the American charge on the first day of battle, and though he lived to fight again, he was left emotionally and physically scarred for life. His unit on the morning of the 28th was given orders to storm the enemy positions after an artillery bombardment had hopefully weakened the German positions. The Americans issued forth from their trenches at the appointed time, and began the long charge across the crater-pocked expanse of “no-man’s land” to engage the enemy. Running through a smoke-obscured hail of bullets and shrapnel, with shells exploding all around, Jim saw the head of his best friend blown off in an explosion, and yet the headless body, bloody and torn, continued to run until it disappeared into the smoky mists. Shrapnel from another explosion tore off part of the heal from Jim’s foot, and, unable to run any further, he stumbled into the crater of a shell hole, where he sought refuge with two companions.

The artillery bombardment continued, and the Germans, in an attempt to stem the American advance, released clouds of deadly mustard gas. The dense fumes settled into the low spots of no-man’s land, and the shell holes in the battlefield became gas-filled death traps. Jim, dazed from his heel wound, was unable to get his gas mask on by himself. He later told his son that he would have coughed his lungs out and died had he been by himself, but one of his companions helped him on with his mask just in the nick of time. The battle continued, and the artillery barrage never let up the entire time. The recent memory of a friend’s horrible death, the ceaseless pounding of the big guns, and the loss of blood eventually took their toll. When medical help finally arrived, Jim had succumbed to "shell shock", a type of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) that Wikipedia describes as, "a reaction to the intensity of the bombardment and fighting that produced a helplessness appearing variously as panic and being scared, flight, or an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk".

Wounded, gassed and shell-shocked, Jim was sent to the rear to recover in a field hospital. The head medical officer, regimental surgeon Major Clarence E. Fronk, [1] nursed Jim back to health. Many years later, after Fronk had become a close family friend, Fronk often joked that in order to repair Jim’s wound he had “to graft a dog bone onto his heel”. The U.S. Army on July 1, 1918 acknowledged that Private James F. Clark was severely wounded in action in an announcement of casualties that was made in the "Official Bulletin of Casualties Reported by Gen. Pershing" (U.S. Committee of Public Safety, v. 2, p. 7). This announcement lists "Amos Lemmons of 62 Thirty-second Street, Detroit, Michigan" as next-of-kin. The name Amos Lemmons surfaces once again in Jim's army records more than a year later in transport papers dated June 15, 1919, wherein Amos Lemmons is listed as a cousin. Unfortunately we know nothing further of Amos Lemmons, nor what became of him.

Jim remained in the rear, out of action, for a short time during the summer of 1918. During this time, he sat out the main engagement of the Mondidier-Noyon offensive from June 9-13. For this reason, he may not have qualified for a Mondidier-Noyon battle clasp, despite having been wounded at the Battle of Cantigny. He also missed the battles of Soissons, Saizerais and Vancoulers, which were part of the Aisne-Marne offensive of July 18 to August 6. His wounds apparently had healed shortly after the latter offensive, as he was back by September with the 1st Division at the front.

 

Sept. 12 to 16, 1918 - The Battle of St. Mihiel was the first offensive fought by the Americans without the support of French or British troops. The Americans attacked the St. Mihiel Salient, 20 miles southeast of Verdun, during an evacuation of the German troops. The Americans cut off the retreating Germans on the first day of battle and took over 16,000 German prisoners at a cost of fewer than 7,500 American lives.

Sept 29 to Oct. 10, 1918 - The Battle of the Meuse-Argonne Forest followed the St. Mihiel victory and was a major offensive fought by combined French and American forces. The battle resulted in the final breakdown of German resistance and led to the final surrender of Germany. A second Meuse-Argonne operation took place Oct. 25 to Nov. 11, but Jim Clark had been transferred out of the infantry by this time and did not participate.

Oct. 18, 1918 - Transferred to the medical department as a consequence of his wounds, which resulted in Jim finishing out the war behind American lines. The unit he was assigned to was probably "Evacuation Hospital No. 9", as this is the unit he was with when he came home to the U.S. after the war had ended.

Despite this acknowledgment in his military records — Wounds received in service: Cantigny May 28, 1918, in action — Jim never applied for, and therefore never received a Purple Heart medal, which was not even issued until February 22, 1932, many years afer WWI ended. He did receive a victory medal with three battle clasps – Defensive Sector, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Forest. Others in his division, the First, also qualified for the Mondidier-Noyon (June 9-13, 1918) and Aisne-Marne (July 18-20, 1918) clasps, but Jim was wounded and out of action during those battles. He also had a medal called the Military Order of the Cootie that was issued for membership in a non-profit, service organization that after 1923 was associated with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). However, he used to tell his son that he was given the medal for having "fought lice in the trenches".

Although the Battle of Cantigny, in which Jim was severely wounded, was the first major U.S. battle of WWI, the American military command chose not honor those who served there with a separate battle clasp. Instead Cantigny was relegated to one of the qualifying engagements for the Defensive Sector clasp that Jim did receive. A total of 3,564 American soldiers fought at Cantigny, which resulted in 1,603 (45%) American casualties. There were 318 American deaths, of which 199 were killed that day.

Nov. 11, 1918 - Armistice Day - Germany surrenders and the Great War comes to an end.

Dec. 15, 1918 to May 20, 1919 - Assigned to the Army of Occupation in Germany. Since Jim had grown up in a German-Jew neighborhood in Detroit, he spoke Yiddish, which is a dialect spoken by German Jews. He also may have lived as a child in a home in which regular German was spoken. Irregardless, he was fluent in both German and Yiddish, which led to his being being stationed after the war with the Army of Occupation in Germany as a military interpreter. He remembered this duty as “the good life”, since responsibilities were few, life was easy, and there was always plenty of food. We were given a photograph Jim's old unit of Company A, 28th Infantry from when it was stationed after the war with the Army of Occupation in Dernbach, Germany, but Jim is missing in the photograph, as he was working as a German interpreter by then with Evacuation Hospital No. 9.

April 21, 1919 - Promoted to Corporal by Company A, 28th Infantry. This represents the second time that Jim was promoted to the rank of Corporal by the 28th Infantry, having previously served from May 29 to Aug. 1, 1917 before, during and just after the 28th sailed to France with the U.S. entry into WWI. Thus, this second promotion represents a reinstatement of Jim by his old unit to his previous rank.

June 15, 1919 - Sailed from St Nazaire, France on a military transport ship named the S.S. Texan and arrived on June 27, 1919 at the harbor of Newport News, Virginia. His unit is listed on his transport papers as Evacuation Hospital No. 9, with his rank as Corporal M.D. He listed his next-of-kin on these papers as a cousin named Mr. Amos Lemmons at 62 Thirty-second Street in Detroit, Michigan. Lemmons was previously named as next-of-kin on July 1, 1918 when the army announced that Jim had been wounded in battle. Although we have these two mentions of Amos Lemmons, he does not appear by that name in the Detroit City Directories, and we have found no mention of him in any of the U.S. or Canadian census returns for the Detroit-Windsor area. However, the 1901 Detroit City Directory does show an August A. Lemon living at 62 - 32nd St in the home of John Levandofske (Lewandowski), and we suspect that this August A. Lemon and Amos Lemmons are the same person.

 

Jim’s "older sister", who may have actually been a family friend and not a relative, is said to have lived in Canada. He wrote to her regularly, and sent her his paychecks, with the understanding that she would safeguard his earnings. Thus, if Jim survived the war he would have a "grub stake" with which to start life anew, but if he did not survive, then his money would be hers to keep.

When Jim finished his tour of duty in Germany, he took an extended leave of absence to return home to Detroit so that he could visit family and friends, and reclaim the savings that he had placed in the care of his sister. So Jim, after being away for 18 or more years, finally came home. He likely tried to visit his cousin, and next-of-kin, Amos Lemmons, who Jim remembered as living at the home of John Levandofske at 62 - 32nd St. However, Jim probably had no way of knowing that by 1919 the Levandofske family no longer lived there. Thus, he may have lost contact with Lemmons. In addition, many of Levandofske's family had passed away by then, and Jim may not have been able to find, or perhaps had little interest in finding, those still living.

Jim of course went to visit his sister, who lived across the border in Canada, most likely in the town of Windsor. However, when he called on her, she was cold and unfriendly, and the money he had sent her was gone. So he returned to the U.S., and never wrote her, nor saw her ever again. We strongly suspect that this "older sister" was actually Mrs. Belle Groh, of whom we have more to tell later. Once again without money, home or family, Jim turned to the army.

 

Dec. 5, 1919 - Re-enlisted at Fort Sheridan in Illinois for another three years. Jim as a re-enlisting veteran had his choice of assignments, and he chose Hawaii.

Jan. 28, 1920 - The U.S. Census shows James F. Clark at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay near Marin, California with several other soldiers, presumably in transit to Hawaii.

Feb. 5, 1920 - Sailed from San Francisco Harbor on a military transport ship named the S.S. Logan and arrived on Feb. 15, 1920 at Honolulu Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii. He listed his next-of-kin on his departure papers as a friend named Mrs. Belle Groh (neé Isabella Edgeworth) at 39 McKay Avenue in Windsor, Canada, which is located just a short distance away on the other side of the river from the Detroit address he previously listed for his cousin Amos Lemmons. The fact that he listed her and not Amos, indicates that Amos may no longer have been around, or that Jim for whatever reason was no longer in contact with Amos.

Unfortunately, we know nothing of the relationship to Jim of this Belle Groh (c.1869-1940), whom he listed on his army transport papers as a friend, in place of his next-of-kin. Belle was about seventeen years older than Jim, which indicates that she was probably more of a mentor than a friend. Although she was Irish-Protestant, not German, either she, or perhaps her German-born husband, may have been associated in some way with the German foster family that raised Jim after his parents died. Perhaps she is the woman referred to in family stories as his "older sister"? We may never know.

We do know that Belle was born Isabelle Edgeworth in 1872 or earler into an Irish family in Ontario, Canada, and that she married Andrew Groh (1870-1944) in Canada. Her husband Andrew had been born in Germany, and lived in Cleveland, Ohio before their marriage. We do not know one way or the other, but Andrew may have had ties to Groh Bros, which was a Cleveland company owned by three brothers from Germany - Andrew (1851-1915), George (1856-1940) and Charles (1868-1927), and their company included at times a livery stable, carriage house, and funeral parlor. Belle and Andrew listed their faith as Baptists, not Jewish, and they lived most of their married life on McKay Avenue in Windsor, probably at the same house, where they had five children - Irene (1902-1984), William (1905-1967), Genevieve (1910-1940), Milton (1908-1908) and Clifford (1914-1976). There was also a daughter named Jessie (1894-1987), who is listed in the records as Belle's child with a man named Walter. Belle and Andrew died in Windsor, and both are buried nearby in Rose Hill Cemetery in Amherstburg, Ontario.

Nov. 5, 1921 - Promoted to sergeant at Fort Shafter in Honolulu, Hawaii. Later, Jim was stationed at Tripler General Hospital where he worked as a medical orderly. His commanding officer at Tripler was Colonel Clarence Fronk, the same Dr. Fronk who had nursed him back to health in France three years earlier in the aftermath of Cantigny.

 

Jim intended to make the army his career, but in Honolulu he met and fell in love with Louise de Harne. He asked her to marry him, but Louise refused to marry a soldier. She gave Jim the choice between her and the army. He chose Louise, and when his tour of duty ended he left the army to become a civilian again.

 

Dec. 4, 1922 - Discharged from Tripler General Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii and mustered out of the U.S. Army. His discharge papers give his height as 5 feet 7½ inches tall, his eye color as blue, and his hair color as light brown. His commanding officer at Tripler also included with Jim's discharge papers a handwritten letter of recommendation stating that Jim was, "a reliable, sober, industrious and trustworthy man and deserving of a good position."

 

Jim was mustered out of the military with one official war medal:

        1 — Victory Medal with three battle clasps (Defensive Sector, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne)

Other medals that he could have received, had he or his son applied for them, were:

        2 — Mexican Border Service (created July 9, 1918)

        3 — Purple Heart (revived February 22, 1932)

        4 — Army of Occupation of Germany (created November 21, 1941)

 

Left: The jump-off at Cantigny. After a violent artillery preparation of one hour, the 28th Inf, Col. Hanson E. Ely commanding, began the attack on Cantigny at 6:45 a.m., May 28. The objective was reached "per schedule" at 7:20 a.m. Private C.W. Foley, Co. E. 28th Inf., now connected with the Pictorial Bureau, says that this remarkable picture was snapped by a French photographer who arrived on the scene in a tank.
Right: A portrait taken in 1919 of Company A of the 28th Infantry Regiment when they were stationed in Dernbach, Germany with the Army of Occupation. Private Jim Clark is not in this photograph, as he was reassigned to the Medical Department in October of 1918. However, he served with these men and fought alongside of them for many months prior to his reassignment. There are only 46 men in this portrait, but there were 196 men and 2 officers in the unit when it left the U.S. in June of 1917 to enter the war. This photo originally belonged to William Edward Stephens (1895-1945), who is on the far right, first row.

 


 

Later Years - Jim left the Army in December of 1922 and worked at various odd jobs. He apparently had a problem holding jobs because of his poor health, and a very bad temper. Soon after leaving the army, he was working as a “luna wai”, or water boss, on one of the large pineapple plantations on Oahu, where he supervised the distribution of drinking water to the field hands. His position was distinguished from that of a “luna hana”, or work boss, who oversaw the cultivating and picking of the pineapples. This plantation was run by the Pearl City Fruit Company, which had been founded in 1892 by Greek-born George Lycurgus (1858-1960), who was known to his many friends as "Uncle George". Presumably when Jim left this position, it was on good terms, as he and "Uncle George" were good friends in later years.

He was introduced to his future wife Louise de Harne by an old army friend named Joe Walsh, who was in the Army Medical Department with Jim. Joe was destined to become Jim's future brother-in-law. I believe that the event where the introduction took place was a dance of some sort that was put on to help soldiers meet unmarried women, but I may or may not not remember the facts of the story correctly. In any event, Jim and Louise fell in love, and they were married by Reverend Father Theodose on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 1923 at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on 1717 Wilder Avenue in Honolulu (Punahou). He was 34, and she was 31 years old. Louise's silbings Alice and Edward de Harne were witnesses.

Jim and Louise went to live with Louise's mother Frances de Harne in a large house at 1245 Wilder Avenue, which was just a short distance from the church where they were married. They also lived briefly in apartment no. 4 at 1268 Young Street, but this was probably right after they were married, and they may not have been able to afford the rent. Besides Jim, Louise and Frances, who was known to everyone as grandma, Louise's siblings Helen, Eleanor and Eddie also lived in the Wilder house. There were at least two bedrooms upstairs in the attic, and Jim and Louise stayed in one of the bedrooms, with Louise's brother Eddie in the other bedroom. This was where Jim and Louise stayed for the next 20 years.

Our father, James Frederick Clark, Jr., was born on Nov. 9, 1924 at the old maternity house on Beretania Street in Honolulu, where he was delivered by Doctor Fronk, his father's army friend from Tripler Hospital. James, Sr. wanted his son to be named Jamie, the Scottish version of his own name, but the registrar incorrectly recorded the name on the birth certificate as James, which is said to have saddened James, Sr. Back home, the rest of the family - his de Harne aunts, uncles, and cousins - called young James either "Jimmy" or "Junior", depending on their mood, even though he hated being called Junior.

*     *     *

James, Sr. held many jobs over the years. When he and Louise got married, he was working as a "water boss" (luna) on a pineapple plantation. Later he went to work as a packing foreman for Theo H. Davis & Co., whose founder was a factor (mercantile and colonial agent), and a member of one of the original missionary families in Hawaii. Theo Davies was also one of the "Big Five" sugar companies on the island, but they diversified early on into many different businesses. Although we do not know this certain, Jim probably worked in the dry goods department of the company. We do know that from 1924 to 1928 he is listed in city directories as a clerk for Theo Davies. Unfortunately, Jim had a very bad temper, and he was fired when he got into a fight of some sort at one of the company packing houses.

He is next listed in the 1929 Honolulu city directory as a salesman for Mel Nicoll & Co, which was owned by Melvin Adam Nicoll (1889-1935) who had formerly been a manager in the dry goods department of Theo Davies. Mel, like Jim, was very active in Elks Lodge 616, and it seems likely that he and Jim probably worked together at Theo Davies. However, all we know for sure about their relationship is that Jim at one time was one of Nicoll's employees.

James, Sr. remained close friends though the years with his former Army Medical Corp commanding officer Colonel Clarence Fronk, whom he first met on the battlefield in France when Fronk had tended to him at an army field hospital. Fronk was not only a valued family friend, but also the family doctor. Fronk was Jewish, as well as a passionate big game hunter who traveled all over the world in search of trophies. Fronk was also fluent in Yiddish, and he and Jim greatly enjoyed conversing with each other in that obscure German dialect.

James, Sr. was not a well man, and he had problems with ulcers as a consequence of his war injuries. His friend Colonel Fronk arranged for him to have an ulcer operation at the Navy hospital at Pearl Harbor, even though the Colonel was a former surgeon at Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu. Apparently, the Navy hospital gave better care than Tripler, and Fronk wanted Jim to have nothing but the best. This was probably in the latter part of 1928, as it was sometime after Jim was fired from the Theo Davies job, and sometime before he went to the Volcano House on Kilauea Volcano for an "extended vacation" to recover from the operation.

One of the more interesting jobs that James, Sr. held was when he worked for the National Park Service for about eighteen months at some point following his ulcer operation. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park had been established on ther "Big Island" of Hawaii only 15 years earlier, and Jim worked on various projects from a military camp near Kilauea Volcano within the park. He also helped to explore several lava tubes that were near the camp, and there was at one time an old photograph showing him entering one of these tubes. However, we have not seen that photograph now for many years.

An interesting coincidence is that when James, Sr. was exploring lava tubes in the National Park, there was another Jim Clark in the area, who was also exploring the tubes. This other Jim Clark is referred to in newspaper accounts as "Jim Clark of Honolulu", and he was a foreman for the Honolulu (Lucas) Planing Mill. He was also a good friend of E.H. Edwards, who owned the Waiohino Ranch on the southern tip of the Big Island. When he was in the area exploring lava tubes, he generally stayed at the Volcano House, a hotel concession near Kilauea Volcano in the National Park. The Clark Cave near Waiohino is a lava tube that is named after this other Jim Clark.

Our Jim Clark, who the papers identify as James F. Clark, also spent 10 weeks starting in December of 1928 staying at the Volcano House. While there, he helped in building of a 115-room expansion of the facility. Presumably this was before he worked for the park service, but it may also have been after. The Volcano House at the time was owned by the Inter-Island Stream Navigation Company, but it previously was owned by "Uncle George" Lycurkas, who James had worked for in 1923 as a water boss for the Pearl City Fruit Company. Inter-Island Steam operated the hotel as a concession for the National Park Service, but when the concession went bankrupt in 1932, Lycurkas, bought it back. My Dad recalled that his father was a good friend of the Lycurkas family, which makes it possible that his stay at the Volcano House was arranged by "Uncle George" himself.

James, Sr. in late 1932 was working as a salesman for a printer shop in Honolulu known as Hawaiian Printers. However, we do not know when he started this job, nor how long he held it. Possibly he took this job after he left the National Park Service, but there may have been other jobs in between.

Eventually, Colonel Fronk found James a job working in the Iolani Palace as an investigator for the Attorney General’s Office of the Territory of Hawaii. He was appointed to this position on May 1, 1934 to replace Antone Manuel, who had held the job for many years under a Republican administration. President Franklin D. Roosevelt only three months earlier had appointed Joseph B. Poindexter (1869-1951) to the governorship of the Territory of Hawaii, and Poindexter like Roosevelt was a Democrat. Because James' appointment to his new job was endorsed by the Democratic Precinct Club, which James belonged to, it would appear that it was basically a political appointment. Presumably this job was an office position, as my Dad used to refer to his father as a clerk. He enjoyed this job, and he held it right up to the time of his premature death.

The Iolani Palace, where the Attorney General’s office was located, was near the main post office of the city, and James, Sr. stopped there often to bring home stamps and cachets for his son Jimmy’s stamp collection, cachets being embossed evelopes commemorating special postal events. Some of these cachets are quite elaborate, and we still have one with signatures on it that James, Sr. collected from both the postmaster and Governor Poindexter.

James, Sr. had many interests, foremost of which was his membership in the Elks Club (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks). He was a very active member of Lodge 616 in Honolulu, which met in a hall in Waikiki, and he proudly wore a pocket watch with an Elk's tooth on it. He was elected in 1932 to the office of Tyler (Inner Guard of the Door) for the Lodge, and we believe that he held this office for several years. He also served the Lodge as chairman of the Milk Fund, which bought and distributed milk to the poor, and he helped out during the Holidays with the distribution of Christmas baskets to the needy.

Another organization that he was active in, at least in the 1920s, was the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), whose membership consists of "veterans who, as soldiers, sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and airmen, served the U.S. in wars, campaigns, and expeditions on foreign soil or in hostile waters." In addition to the VFW, he was a member of the Military Order of the Cootie (MOC), which was founded in 1920 by WWI veterans, and then chartered in 1923 by the VFW as a separate and subordinate auxiliary organization that still exists today. Its services include supporting veterans hospitals and the VFW Home for Children. Medals that James, Sr. received from these organizations are shown on the right.

James, Sr. was also an avid golfer, and he played on a team in the Honolulu Commercial Golf League. His team was known as the Territorialists, and it was made up of comrades from the Attorney General’s Office. He apparently was one of the leaders of the team, and he coordinated a number of their events. We still have a newspaper clipping that shows a photo of him presenting to Governor Poindexter a golf trophy that the Territorialists had won. We also have a medal that James, Sr. won in golf tournament

Religion was important to James, Sr., as it was to his wife's family, and he, Louise and Jimmy regularly attended the Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Punahou) that was located just down the street from their Wilder Avenue home. This was the same church where James and Louise had been married. When the church on Sunday, Oct. 17, 1926 organized a new branch of the Holy Name Society, James was selected as a member of the first advisory board for the branch. Then James on Jan. 1, 1928 was named the branch president, to succeed the founding president Ambrose Wirtz.

Another of James' interests was politics, and he was a member of the Democratic Precinct Club, which represented the Democratic Party in his part of the city (16th Precinct, 4th District). Because he was a Democrat, this sometimes put him at odds with other members of the de Harne family, all of whom were Republicans. He served the party at one time as county chairman, and another time as treasuer, and when he took his job as investigator for the Attorney General's Office, it was with the endorsement of the Democratic Pary. His wife's sister Alice apparently did not like him, and his political affiliation may have been part of the reason.

James, Sr. was not a big man, and we know from his 1942 WWII draft registration that he was 5'7" tall, 140 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion. He had a good tenor voice, and he liked to sing. He also enjoyed gambling, particularly at card games, often playing cribbage and poker at the Elks Lodge, where he is said to have seldom lost. He was also an excellent swimmer, and my Dad recalled that his father often went for afternoon swims in the ocean. The fact that he knew how to swim at all is interesting, given his childhood in the Detroit slums.

Because James, Sr. spoke fluent Yiddish, he mad many Jewish friends, among them Colonel Fronk. He could also speak German well, having learned it as an army interpreter during war. My Dad used to recount how his father once befriended a German sailor during the depression. My Dad had gone with his father to Pearl Harbor to see a giant German battleship that was docking there, when they encountered a German sailor in uniform walked along the dock. Apparently, the German did not speak any English, yet he and James Sr. were able to converse easily in German. My Dad had no idea that his father knew any German at all, and he was completely amazed to see his father speaking fluently in the language.

Despite his golf and swimmingg, which might indicate otherwise, James, Sr. was never a well man, his physical and emotional health having been compromised from when he was wounded, gassed, shell-shocked in WWI at the Battle of Cantigny. He had a bad heart, and suffered several minor heart attacks over the years. Because of this he needed to always carry with him ammonia capsules to revive himself in the event an attack. He also had traumatic ulcers that reacted violently to acidic foods, like tomatoes and pineapples. Yet he loved tomatoes, so from time to time he ate them anyway, which meant that Louise would end up staying with him half the night inducing him to drink hot water and vomit them up.

Because his memories of the war never left him, he suffred from severe "post traumatic stress syndrome" (PTSD) that resulted in chronic nightmares, during which he would roam the house at night while in his sleep, reliving the horrors of the war in his dreams, and looking for Germans to kill. During these episodes, Louise would grab little Jimmy from his crib, and the two of them would hide together under the bed until the nightmares were over. During waking hours, loud noises reminded him of past battles, and once, when opening the front door to his house on Wilder Avenue, a dynamite blast two or three blocks away caused him to shake uncontrollably. Another time a string of firecrackers that someone threw behind him caused the same reaction.

Even though James, Sr. was a Democrat, and his brother-in-law Maurice de Harne a Republican, he and Maurice were very close friends. James in fact often spent the night visiting Maurice and his wife Helen at their Wahiawa home in the central part of the island. It was on one such visit that James rose early on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 to see Japanese planes flying over the mountains on the leeward side of the island. Realizing that Oahu was under attack, he raced home in his car, bombs exploding on either side of the road, to get to his wife and son, driving past Pearl Harbor just as the battleship U.S.S. Arizona blew up and sank. Fortunately, Louise and Jimmy were safe at home when he arrived there, Jimmy watching the attack from the roof of their house.

Louise was safe, but not well, as she contracted cancer (carcinoma) of the ear in the months following the attack. Despite a trip to the mainland for an operation, her condition steadily worsened, and she died on Oct. 8, 1942, just a few days before her 51st birthday, after a long and painful illness. James, Sr. missed her terribly, and he lived only two months longer than she. He died very suddenly of a heart attack on Dec. 14, 1942 at the age of 53 years. Apparently, he had been swimming the afternoon before without any trauma. However, a heart attack came quite unexpectedly that night; and although Colonel Fronk arrived immediately to tend to him, there was little that the good doctor could do.

Jimmy was out working at the time of his father’s heart attack, and no one told him what had happened when he came home that evening. Apparently, James, Sr. had asked Helen, Louise’s younger sister, not tell Jimmy about the heart attack until the next morning since "Jimmy had to work all day and needs his sleep." James, Sr. died late that night with his friend and physician Dr. Fronk at his bedside. The next day, Fronk told Jimmy what had happened and added that Jimmy’s father had never been a well man and that "it was amazing that he lived as long as he did". James Sr. was buried beside wife Louise at Diamond Head Memorial Park in Honolulu with Elks Lodge 616 performing a ritual ceremony at the funeral.


[1] Clarence Elmer Fronk was born March 30, 1883 in Conway, Iowa, and died on February 17, 1968 in Honolulu, Hawaii, just short of his 85th birthday. He founded the Fronk Clinic in Honolulu, after having been a surgeon at Tripler Army Hospital, and he served for a time as Chairman of the Board of Parks and Recreation in Honolulu. He was also an avid big game hunter with animal trophies from all over the world.

 

 

 



Copyright © Michael S. Clark, Ph.D., 1998- - All rights reserved.