Behind every life, I suppose there is a story. Behind every family, I suppose there is a history. Some are more interesting than others, but there is probably someone, somewhere, who at some point would be interested in every story. At least that’s the idea behind this website.
My life has been fairly common. I have occasionally thought it might contain events that others would find interesting, or that future generations might think important, but not enough so for me to start putting pen to paper.
The lives of my parents and grandparents however, were quite complicated, and to me, intriguing and awe-inspiring. As I researched the early history of both sets of my grandparents, I was struck by their sheer courage. Both were involved in what has been declared to be the largest migration in human history, the migration from Europe to the new world of America and Canada in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
My paternal grandparents were first generation immigrants from England into the undeveloped countryside and sometimes hostile weather environment of Canada around the turn of the century. They were both part of immigration schemes advanced in England to relieve over-crowding and poverty and to populate the British colonies. Despite being part of these immigration schemes, they had little or no support of any family or friends. Theirs was a story of courage and adventure. My paternal grandfather came from England to Canada in 1907 by himself at the age of 19 in hopes of securing a land grant to develop his own farm and homestead. He crossed the Atlantic to the new world from England by steamship, and traveled by rail across the breadth of Canada to its western plains as part of the historical “Harvest Excursions” in order to secure a foothold in the new world. My paternal grandmother came from England to Canada by steamship, alone with her single mother in 1905, along with a group of other women who were Salvation Army adherents – “Salvationists.” They settled in Toronto. She was nine years of age and her mother was 45. They hoped to be a part of the effort to populate the colony and to establish the work of The Salvation Army and its founder, William Booth in the new world.
My maternal grandparents were both born around the turn of the century in the harsh conditions of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, both children of parents who were mining immigrants from Cornwall, England and Scotland. Their families endured and persevered through the most difficult of circumstances as my great grandparents carved out an existence and living as miners of copper, iron ore and coal. They and their families moved, indeed “migrated” from town to town in the bitter and foreboding Copper Country of the Upper Peninsula as mines opened and closed. They struggled with the language; they faced death, illness and danger on a daily basis. Indeed, my great-great grandfather was killed in a mining accident in Mexico at the age of 45.
Through all of this, my four grandparents found deep meaning in their lives, driven by their own inner strength, courage, Christian faith and an over-arching thankfulness to be in and be a part of the new world – to be in America, indeed to be an American.
My parents were members of “The Greatest Generation” as defined by author, Tom Brokaw, and they were fairly typical members thereof. They were born into the optimism of the roaring twenties which soon turned into the desperation of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s. They were first thrust into the realities of the world tyranny and horror that became World War II, and then did their part that led to victory. Both grew up in somewhat transient families that were humble, devout and non-materialistic – children of Salvation Army officers. They developed into bright students, good musicians, creative and productive citizens and committed Christians with a strong sense of family, independence and self-esteem. They carried the value that seemed to mark this entire generation so vividly – the importance of personal productivity and responsibility. In World War II, as a member of 8th Air Force, my father flew 33 combat missions over Nazi occupied Europe in B-24 heavy bombers that were shot down more often than they returned to base. After World War II, my parents married and joined the rest of their generation, determined to be productive and raise families with strong values. Like most of their peers, they struggled in a sense to raise their family, but never looked for anyone to blame, and never believed that anyone owed them anything. In the process, they helped build this country into the great nation that it is.
I was your proto-typical “Baby Boomer” – born into the optimism and opportunity of the post World War II era. My life seems imminently more boring than that of my ancestors. At age 55, I believe my generation will be remembered as the most privileged generation in the history of America, yea even the world. I am keenly aware of how fortunate I am to have been to be a member of this generation and a citizen of the United States of America. I find myself at times experiencing a sense of guilt when I compare my good fortune to the circumstances into which my parents and grandparents were born. And I am not particularly proud of what this privilege has produced within my generation. For myself, I believe that I owe this good fortune to the grace of God, and to the values, efforts, perseverance and courage of my parents and grandparents and those that preceded them. I hope I have been worthy of what I have been bequeathed. Like most Baby Boomer parents, one of my most basic motivations has been the hope for my children to enjoy a better world, with more opportunity than I had; however, at this juncture, I am not optimistic that this will be realized, at least in America, and this is a source of sadness for me. My fear is that 2-3 generations in the future, my heirs will look back to find the above sentiments to be true.
Altogether, throughout these four generations there have been elements of courage, success, love, tragedy, struggle, human failure, fame, accomplishment, heartbreak, gratification, spirituality, artistic creation, luck, adventure, perseverance and faith. Although I’ve always been fascinated with, and learned bits and pieces of this family history over the years, I’ve never quite had the full story and the timetable in focus, and there were several chapters that I never fully understood. For many years, I’ve wanted to learn more, but it is only of late that I have had the time and wherewithal to do the related research. As I began to search and learn in order to clarify the timetable in my mind and develop a more complete understanding of our history, an amazing story emerged. I then became driven to “put pen to paper” (or launch my word processor, as the case may be) and attempt to capture this story and perhaps help preserve it for future generations. I also began to search for a way in which to share the results of my research which has led to the development of this website.
I’m also interested in what is typically thought of as genealogical research, but that is not what I am undertaking here. However, I have a love for and fascination with photographs, documents, artifacts and memorabilia. And I love a good story. We are fortunate as a family to have come from ancestors who saved many things; partly because they were packrats, but mainly, I believe, because they were simple people, who did not have many material possessions, and who thus valued the effects of their lives more than anything – photos, letters, documents, memorabilia, etc. I also come from a family filled with good storytellers. Lastly, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful memory. It seemed to me that all of this could be woven into something interesting.
Thus, I plunged into this project. Before we go any further, it is extremely important to me that two overall observations be made.
The Salvation Army
As you will soon learn, the story of our family cannot be told or understood without some understanding of The Salvation Army. To many people, The Salvation Army is a strange and obscure organization. And, it is widely misunderstood. For instance, most current Americans know of The Salvation Army. They see it in disaster relief projects, and they see the Red Kettles at Christmas, but they really can’t tell you much about the organization. And what they can tell you is often inaccurate. My uncle, Philip Cox was never interested in following his parents’ footsteps and pursuing a career in The Salvation Army, in part because, “it was such a strange organization to try to explain.” The confusion is compounded because the Army has substantially changed as an organization over the last 50 years; thus, it is difficult for people today to understand the Salvation Army experience of my grandparents and parents based on what they see and know of The Salvation Army today.
First of all, The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.
Most people today perceive The Salvation Army to be a mere charitable organization trying to provide social services to help those in need, similar to the Red Cross. They seemingly ignore the “Salvation” in the name, “Salvation Army.” It is in this area that most readers of this story will be confused. During the lives of my grandparents and the early adult lives of my parents, the Salvation Army, in addition to its social work, was much like a substantial Christian denomination. Their congregations, found at the local Salvation Army Corps, were large and active. They were “Salvationists,” as opposed to Baptist or Presbyterian. Their services were dynamic, with great music provided by their famous brass bands and songster brigades, and the Bible teaching and evangelistic preaching was moving and inspirational. To this day, some of the highest quality of theological preaching I have heard in my life came from Salvation Army officers.
My ancestors’ lives, whether they served the Army as officers or adherents (more fully explained later), centered around the activities, programs and services at “The Corps.” They preached, taught, prayed, sang and played all manner of brass and other musical instruments in their service to the Army and to God. Today, even though this “church” or “congregational” element of the Army still exists, sadly it has diminished in its effectiveness and scope – to the point that only the most knowledgeable know it to even be a functioning part of the organization. Without this background, the story of this family can not be fully understood.
Meanwhile, from a charitable standpoint, The Salvation Army is today, America’s favorite charity, based on total receipts. It is almost universally loved. From a social services perspective, while the Army is devoted to supplying goods and services to meet social needs without discrimination, it unashamedly continues to do so in the name of Christ, all the while attempting to spread the Gospel message and save souls. A person in crisis need not be a Christian to receive assistance by the Army; however, to the Army, a person’s spiritual welfare is as important as their physical well-being, and it is in spiritual healing and the gift of Salvation that they believe the pathway to self-improvement is paved. “Soup, Soap and Salvation” has been their motto. Again, my ancestors devoted their lives to the delivery of these social services in many different manifestations.
The Army was founded by William Booth in England during the industrial revolution in 1865. The streets of London were filled with those in desperate need. Yet the wealthy and privileged failed to adequately minister to the desperate and growing masses, and the churches of England excluded them from their congregations. The need was so great that Booth felt that Christians should declare war on poverty and physical and spiritual depravity. The Salvation Army was thus founded and “Blood and Fire” became their battle cry – the blood of Jesus Christ and the fire of the Holy Spirit. Booth’s Army was organized as a quasi-military style organization with military-style traditions and terminology, including uniforms, ranks, and a military-like organizational structure headed by the top-ranked Army official, The General. It currently operates in 104 countries around the world.
In 1880, one of William Booth’s protégés, George Scott Railton promoted the idea of bringing The Salvation Army to America. While the Army had actively tried to partner with the British Crown to send Salvationists to the colonies in connection with many different immigration schemes, they had been slower to attempt to expand into independent America. Booth’s wife, Catherine, who was a very strong co-leader along with William, liked the idea, and she and Railton ultimately convinced William. Catherine and Railton both promoted an element of The Salvation Army that was unique for its day, and has continued to be unique to this day, and that is the advancement of women into positions of usefulness and leadership. William Booth once said that, “Some of my best men…….are women.” This aspect of Salvation Army service has had a profound impact on my family.
Railton hit upon the idea to make the initial expedition and foray in America entirely an expedition of women. The promotional aspect of this spurred his imagination. He convinced the Booths to go along and he identified seven strong Salvationist women in London for the task. The women were known as the “Hallelujah Seven”, or at other times, the “Hallelujah Lassies.” On March 10, 1880, Railton and the seven Hallelujah Lassies disembarked in New York City from the steamer Australia in full uniform, with banners and flags waving. The Salvation Army had reached America.
Initially, the spread of The Salvation Army in America was concentrated in the Northeast and the Mid-West. It was also proving enormously popular in Canada. Waves of immigrants were coming to America and Canada, many from England and Scotland where the work of The Salvation Army was well-known and widespread. Salvation Army Corps (churches) began developing in the immigrant communities of America and Canada in great numbers. In 1927, the Army came to the U.S. southland with the establishment of Atlanta as Territorial Headquarters for the newly formed Southern Territory. The southeastern states of the Eastern Territory and the southwestern states of the Central Territory were combined to form the new territory. However, many other Salvation Army officers from the Northeast, the Midwest and Canada received new appointments and came southward to be part of the new frontier. Both sets of my grandparents were directly or indirectly a part of this movement of the Army to the South.
A clarification of some terminology might enhance your understanding of our story.
The Salvation Army’s International headquarters is in London. In the U.S., the work of the Army is divided into somewhat autonomous “Territories”. Currently, there are four U.S. Territories – East, South, Central and West. Each Territory is under the command of the Territorial Commander, who carries the rank of Commissioner, an antiquated term from English military history. Each Territorial Commander reports to The General in London. Each Territory is further divided into “Divisions,” generally by state, or groupings of states. For instance, today the Southern Territory operates in 15 Southeastern states and Washington, D.C. and has seven Divisions. Each Division has a Divisional Commander who reports to the Territorial Commander.
Within each Division one finds the most basic Army “field unit”- the Corps. These are in essence local churches that also operate as the administrative heart of The Salvation Army’s religious and social work in a community. At Territorial and Divisional Headquarters you find senior Army officers who work at a more administrative and leadership level; however, at the Corps, you find the hands-on leaders of The Salvation Army in a community, the “Corps Officers” who work “on the field.”
Corps Officers must be well-rounded individuals. At the same time, they must be pastors, youth counselors, marriage and family counselors, social workers, civic leaders, music ministers and public speakers. Salvation Army officers are said to have to work “both sides of the street.” That is, they must have the heart to minister to the spiritually lost, and to serve the depraved and needy; however, they must also be able to form relationships with the established community in order to raise funds. They must earn the respect of and be able to effectively deal with the wealthy and more influential individuals in society.
Each Territory of the Army has what is referred to as a Training College. These are not accredited or degree-awarding institutions, but are unique, intense programs conducted by senior Army officers and other professionals, with curriculum in theology and social work specifically designed by The Salvation Army to train its future officers. Upon successful completion of the program, a “cadet” is commissioned as an “officer” (traditionally with rank of Lieutenant), and is ordained as a minister of the Gospel. This is currently a two-year program, but was a one-year program until the mid-1960s. Each year’s graduating class is referred to as a “Session” which is assigned a name by the General. Each training college is under the guidance of a senior Army officer, the Principal. My paternal grandfather served as Principal of the Southern Territory Training College.
Upon commissioning, officers pledge their lifetime service to God and the Army. They are not salaried, but are paid a very meager living allowance. They are provided with living quarters and automobiles, medical coverage and a pension; however, they live a sacrificial lifestyle. My maternal grandmother lived to age 96, never having lived as an adult in a home that she owned.
However, I believe that the sacrificial nature of their service has been instrumental in establishing The Salvation Army as “America’s Favorite Charity”, a position that they have held for some time. No one becomes a Salvation Army Officer for material gain. Officers pledge to even serve without compensation if circumstances dictate, relying on their faith that God will sustain. Lastly, Salvation Army officers serve in “appointments.” That is, they serve where they are ordered to serve by the Army brass. It is an on-going phenomenon that the Army continually moves its personnel as it grows, reorganizes, and officers are moved into more challenging assignments. My grandparents and parents served in appointments throughout the breadth of Canada and the U.S. Southern Territory, and frequently moved after receiving orders for a new appointment. In summary, officership is a calling, not an avocation, and their lives are journeys of faith, not ambition.
Those who are drawn into the religious program of the local Corps, and who choose to affiliate with the Army are referred to as “adherents,” or “soldiers”. One can join the local Corps, much like you would join a church, at which time one becomes a “soldier” and wears a Salvation Army uniform, with somewhat different insignia than that of an officer. Soldiers are not employees of the Army in the same sense as an officer. They are “civilians” from various walks of life. Together, officers, soldiers and adherents are sometimes generically referred to as “Salvationists.” My family is permeated with “Salvationists” – mostly adherents, although all four of my grandparents were commissioned officers, and many of their siblings and offspring are officers.
All Salvationists profess belief in Salvation Army Doctrine. This is comprised of 11 doctrinal statements not terribly different from doctrine found in a protestant church – Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian. However, this is extremely important to Salvationists, and the doctrine is deeply embedded into their minds and souls.
The turn of the century in the U.S. was the era of the big, brass bands. John Phillips Sousa, W.C. Handy and others reached national fame and celebrity status as band conductors. Communities revolved around the local brass bands organized by churches, civic organizations, etc. Band concerts in the town park were a holiday staple. If you’ve seen “The Music Man” you’d recognize the theme.
The Salvation Army, with its military traditions, from its origin in England adopted brass bands as one of its trademark symbols, and this tradition blossomed in America during this era. Plus, the Army found a unique way to recruit youth to its Corps – teach a kid to play a horn and give them one to play, and they’d be there every Sunday and bring their parents with them. Hundreds of thousands of kids around the world have learned how to play a brass horn in a Salvation Army band. A brass horn has been what has led them to Salvation in countless instances. The services at most Salvation Army Corps were and are led by brass bands, not piano and organ. The band is always present at Salvation Army functions. The Army became famous in part because of the tradition of their brass bands. They were extremely important to the Army, and the musicianship of Army bands is widely renowned. And as you will learn, my family’s history with the Army is inextricably linked to brass bands. During her youth and early adulthood, my mother learned to play every brass instrument used in a Salvation Army band.
The Salvation Army, as with any organization, has strategies to recruit people and grow the organization. They start early. Historically, they try to introduce neighborhood youth to their programs and Corps activities, with a hope that they can be a positive influence in their life, lead them to become Christians and perhaps ultimately adherents, soldiers, or even candidates for officership. A wide array of programs is developed, events are planned and activities are conducted which are designed to appeal to youth. Locally, Divisionally and Territorially, these programs and efforts are under the leadership of a Youth Secretary. You might call them a “Youth Minister” in a Methodist or Baptist Church, but the emphasis in the Army is somewhat different. Both of my grandfathers at times served as “Youth Secretaries.”
As previously mentioned, since its founding, The Salvation Army has promoted the usefulness of women in its work and in its leadership. Catherine Booth became the 2nd General of the Army before the turn of the century. This commitment to women manifests itself primarily in service that is and must be conducted by couples, if an officer is married. Each spouse is equal in rank and somewhat equal in responsibility. This was a hallmark of my parents’ and grandparents’ lives. I saw my grandparents serve as co-equals, both equally involved with the work of the Army. “Women’s Liberation” was a bit of a strange concept to me. All of the women in my family worked and served in leadership roles. And I’ve never understood the barrier that has prevented women from serving in our churches. My mother and grandmothers were just as effective ministers of the Gospel as were my father and grandfathers, with perhaps a different twist. They prayed in public. They preached from the pulpit. They led congregations. They were Christian role models for me.
I have lived my life since infancy aware of the effect of our family’s Salvation Army background. It influenced much of my formative life. However, during this project, and not until I embarked upon this project, did I discover another major story of my family’s history – the story of immigration.
The Immigration Experience
Until the last couple of years, I never understood my family’s story to be part of the great immigration story of the late 19th and early 20th century. I knew that my father’s parents were from England, and that my family at large did not trace back for multiple generations in America; but the great American immigration story was for other families in my mind. I’ll confess that I even felt that my family was “a little above that.” I visited Ellis Island, the great immigration station in New York harbor as a tourist in the early 1990s, just after it was opened as a museum, and while I found it historically interesting, I never connected the Ellis Island history to the history of my family. As I stood in the great registry hall, I had no idea I was standing on hallowed ground, where many of my ancestors had once waited in crowded lines to be examined, questioned and processed by immigration officers to determine if they would be allowed to become new Americans. I now understand a new reality of my family’s history and am humbled by this new discovery. Perspectives on immigration have been awakened in what previously was a vacuum in my mind.
But, the immigration story for my family exists in distinct chapters.
I previously related the story of my paternal grandparents separately immigrating from England to Canada – part of the process of the English populating their colonies around the world. Although their experience was not part of the American immigration story of that era, there were elements of that story that were consistent to their lives. My grandfather was the son of a shoemaker in a small town in central England. I’ve never heard it said that his family was poor, but they likely had a very modest existence economically. This was in the middle of the industrial revolution in England that savaged the rural areas economically. Adventure beckoned as the colonies were promoted and advertised in England as great lands of opportunity to relieve the poverty of the homeland. My grandmother was the late child of an older lady whose husband seemingly had disappeared from society based upon the results of our efforts to learn about him. She was living in London with no meaningful source of support. A faithful Salvation Army adherent, I believe her primary purpose for immigrating from England was religious – to be part of spreading the work of The Salvation Army in Canada. But, I also believe that she believed that opportunities might be found in the New World. If not available to her, perhaps her young daughter would be the beneficiary.
On my mother’s father’s side of the family, my great great grandparents were the original immigrants of my family from Cornwall, England. This was in the early to mid part of the 19th century, before the great mass migration that occurred later in the 19th century. Immigration to America during this era was steady, but not massive. Immigrants mainly consisted of the poor from England, Ireland, and Europe fleeing famine and poverty. My great great grandfather was an experienced miner from Cornwall, England. I believe the motive for his immigration traced to the fact that the tin mines in Cornwall were playing out, combined with a sheer desire to ply his trade in better economic environments. In America, that was in the great iron, coal and copper mines of the northern Midwest. That said, this was before America was so widely seen throughout the world as the great land of freedom and opportunity. They undoubtedly crossed the Atlantic on one of the great sailing ships of that era to pursue these mining operations in America.
The experience of my mother’s mother’s side of the family was much different. In the late 19th century, the steamship gradually replaced the sailing ship. What was once a voyage of 1-3 months could now take only 1-2 weeks, and the cost was greatly reduced. $12 would buy passage in steerage class – the equivalent of $100 today. The industrial revolution in England and Europe was driving rural land dwellers from their land. Poverty was severe and prevalent, and America was developing as a great “Promise Land” of freedom and opportunity. My great grandfather was the son of a shepherd in the rural village in Leadhills, Scotland. The lure of the New World captured his passion. In 1887 at age 24, he immigrated, along with a brother and a sister to the Copper Country of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They were part of what has been called the largest mass migration in human history, part of the “Ellis Island” immigration story, if you will. While Ellis Island did not open as the great immigration station until 1892, he likely cleared immigration in New York at its predecessor, the Castle Garden immigration station. I have traced other relatives of his to Ellis Island manifests in the decade of the 1890s. Their presence on Ellis Island further confirms their status as “Steerage” class passengers – the poor and unprivileged. 1st and 2nd class passengers disembarked from the ship first, with minimal examinations, while the steerage class waited to be ferried to Ellis Island to endure a long series of questioning and humiliating examinations to determine if they indeed would be allowed to enter the “Golden Doors” to America – the promised land.
At age 56, I tried to learn more about this immigration movement and researched the history of Ellis Island. It is beyond the scope of this introduction to convey this story of “The Isle of Hope, The Isle of Tears,” although I do hope all of my family will endeavor to learn of it. However, as I read and studied, one comment by one immigrant made a lasting impression on me, “We left nothing, we brought nothing, we had nothing. We sought opportunity, all the while knowing that our real hope was for our children and grandchildren to realize the American Dream.”
It is this gift, bequeathed to me and my generation by ancestors who braved unbelievable elements to adventure to a new world, who endured these examinations by immigration officers, who labored in harsh conditions for minimal wages, who lived lives of sacrifice and unselfishness, that I now value as the most precious thing in my life, for I have lived the American Dream, thanks to them.
Somewhat as a side note to this story of immigration, but as one who is fascinated by boats and ships, I have also been amazed to learn of the extent to which my ancestors traveled the world in the latter half of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century aboard the great steamships of that era. One of my great grandfathers sailed from England to America in 1885 on the steamship, City Of Richmond. His father, born in 1846, was a miner that traveled continually between Mexico and England in pursuit of his mining trade, undoubtedly aboard steamers. My paternal grandfather’s brother was an English opera singer, born in 1880, that performed with an opera company in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. My maternal grandfather sailed to England in 1927 aboard the RMS Aquatania and returned aboard RMS Berenguaria. My paternal grandfather immigrated to Canada aboard Empress Of Britain, and my paternal grandmother did the same aboard SS Kensington, both shortly after the turn of the century. The parents of my maternal grandparents all immigrated in the late 1800’s aboard similar ships. Finally, my father was sent to England in World War II aboard the most famous ship in all of maritime lore, the queen of the high seas, RMS Queen Mary, herself. The courage required, and sense of adventure associated with these voyages, in an era of limited technology, is simply mind-boggling to me, and makes today’s cruises on the likes of Carnival Cruise Lines seem like child’s’ play.
Thanks for indulging me with that rather lengthy introduction. With that as background, I hope you enjoy as I share what I have compiled as the archives of my family’s history.