Category Archives: Historic Events

Veterans in the Family–William J. Anderson

Seabee William J. Anderson

I have listed all the veterans in my family as I find them.  Please pay tribute to them here. (You will also find the names of the people in the family picture below by clicking on that link.) However, I must admit, I have many more veterans to add that I have discovered the in the past year. Those include Charles Morgan, son of my great-great grandfather and his first wife, who fought in the Civil War for the North.

Now I would like to focus on one particular World War II veteran, now deceased, my uncle William J. Anderson.

Bill and Sarah Anderson 1942 or 1943

Bill and Sarah Anderson, August 1943 in Killbuck, Ohio

World War II Family 1942 or 1943

World War II Family August 1943 gathered in Killbuck Ohio home of Guy and Vera Anderson. William J. Anderson is seated on the right hand side in his Navy blues.


Uncle Bill served in the United States Navy as a “SeaBee”–C.B., Construction Battalion, in the islands of the South Pacific roughly between 1943 and 1946. In 1942 or 1943 he and other relatives gathered at the home of my Grandmother and Grandfather Vera and Guy Anderson in Killbuck, Ohio. He was probably at the end of his initial training period and would be shipped out to the Pacific in December 1943.

William J. Anderson Change of Address Card

Not only does this give me some interesting information about Uncle Bill, but it also highlights when my own family moved from Ames Iowa to Chicago Illinois during the war.

As for William J. Anderson, we learn that in December 1943,  he is with the 12th Specialists Battalion,  Company B-2. He holds the rank of EM 3/C, and his ship is in the Pacific–fleet post office San Francisco.  What does all that mean?

For one thing, it means that the nagging question I had as a five- and six-year-old was finally going to be answered.  We never knew where my uncles and cousin were in the Pacific. Once one of them sent us a souvenir book with pictures and maps showing Pacific islands, and I was convinced (having read too many Bobsey Twins mysteries) that they were sending us a secret code through the book to tell us where they were. I puzzled over it throughout the war, but never learned their locations.

Part way through the war, the Navy created Special Construction Battalions (also called Seabee Specials) for stevedores and longshoremen who unloaded ships in battle zones.  According to a history of the Seabees, the 12th Specialists were trained initially at Camp Peary in Virginia for three weeks and then in Port Hueme in California for six weeks before being shipped out in 1943, arriving in January 1944 at the Russell Islands in the Pacific. After unloading ships in the Russels for sixteen months, the 12th Spec. Battalion left its base and arrived in Okinawa on May 21, 1945. [Okinawa

Seabees emblem.

Seabees emblem.

William J. Anderson Dog Tag

I recently found Uncle Bill’s dog tags, and then saw this picture of him wearing the dog tag as he stood on a tropical island.

I have not been able to find what the meaning is of the serial number. If you know how to decode Navy serial numbers, please let me know.  If you are looking to decode an army serial number, Amy Johnson Crow comes to the rescue here.   However, I did learn that the “O” is for blood type, and the T 6/43 means he got a tetanus shot in June, 1943. I am not sure why he is USNR (Navy Reserve).

History of the 12th Special Battalion

Uncle Bill’s cheerful demeanor hints that this was probably the first post in the Russels, because the next post was not a piece of cake. Okinawa saw the most ferocious fighting in the Pacific, and the 12th was still there when the Japanese surrendered  in August 1945. [See a later post with a letter he writes from the Solomon Islands.]

From Wikipedia: “Between the American landing on 1 April and 25 May, seven major kamikaze attacks were attempted, involving more than 1,500 planes.”

The Seabees arrived at a most unwelcoming time of year, as Wikipedia graphically describes.

“By the end of May, monsoon rains which turned contested hills and roads into a morass exacerbated both the tactical and medical situations. The ground advance began to resemble a World War I battlefield as troops became mired in mud and flooded roads greatly inhibited evacuation of wounded to the rear. Troops lived on a field sodden by rain, part garbage dump and part graveyard. Unburied Japanese and American bodies decayed, sank in the mud, and became part of a noxious stew. Anyone sliding down the greasy slopes could easily find their pockets full of maggots at the end of the journey

You can see a film of the battle of Okinawa at the History website.

It is probably just as well that we did not know he was on Okinawa. We worried enough just listening to the radio news of the war, and seeing the newsreels that followed the features at the movie theater and reading screaming headlines. Had we known he was on Okinawa during that horrible battle, I don’t know how we would have coped. For that matter, I don’t know how HE coped, but he seemed to come through just fine.

William J. Anderson Life Details

The Rank on the change of Address card is EM 3/C, which means Electrician’s Mate, third Class.  While I know that Uncle Bill was proficient at fixing electrical things after the war, he was also handy at a great many chores.  His stories of the war, on a par with the tales in Catch 22,  indicated that he spent more time making deals with incoming ships to get good whiskey and special food for his commanding officer than working on wiring. But the Navy does not have a ranking for Finagling Deal Maker.

William J. Anderson would have been thirty-eight years old when he shipped off to a Pacific Island. That seems old for a warrior, but I read in a history of the Seabees that the average enlisted age of those construction battalion workers was thirty-seven. They were paid $140 a month, which made them one of the highest paid groups in the military.

Military life was not entirely foreign to Uncle Bill, as I described in this story about him in post-WWI civilian camp.

My other uncle, Herbert Anderson, was also a Seabee, as was my cousin, Robert Anderson.

They all came home safe after World War II, although Robert Anderson stayed in the Navy as a career.

I thank them all for their enormous contribution to our Nation during World War II.


How I am Related

Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of

Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the sister of

William J. Anderson

Why Chautauqua County, Jesse Morgan?

When I ask a question like “Grandpa Jesse Morgan, why did you go to Chautauqua County and why did you move to Ohio?”  a lot of people just shrug and say, “You’ll never know.”  I love challenges!

Answering the Basic Questions

Just as in journalism, family historians are constantly seeking What, Who, Where, When. But the all-important Why is the most difficult thing for us to find when the ancestors are long gone and did not leave a journal or letters to explain their actions.

The Who, What and Where

Last week, I concluded that Jesse Morgan moved to Ohio because of the encouragement he received from a nephew, Aaron Purdy in an 1835 letter addressed to Jesse at Volusia, Chautauqua County, New York. Ironically, as my great-great grandfather, Jesse Morgan, was moving to Ohio, Aaron was giving up his grocery store in Holmes County, Ohio and taking off for the Pacific Northwest.

In searching for motivations for Jesse’s relocations, I found answers in a very unlikely place. I had searched birth dates for Jesse’s children to see where he lived when they were born, and looked for the cemeteries where they were buried. I had looked at the family of Mary Pelton, his first wife and where they lived. I had read portions of a history of Chautauqua County, a history of the Morgan family and a portion of a book about the Pelton family.

Taking time off from genealogy research (I thought) I was reading the historical account of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She traces the backgrounds of the three men who worked most closely with Abraham Lincoln.  As I read about William H. Seward, who became Lincoln’s Secretary of State, a location jumped out at me: Westfield, Chautauqua, New York. Volusia, the place where Jesse was living in 1835, was a hamlet within the town of Westfield.

The book, Team of Rivals, introduced me to the housing boom in Chautauqua County and the Holland Land Company.  Perhaps that boom is what took Jesse there.  His wife-to-be had lived in the area on the Pelton family farm close to the nearby town of Sherman, so it is likely he met her after he moved. I may never know what Jesse was doing there.  Was he speculating in land? Was he teaching–a sometime later occupation? There was a Westfield Acadamy founded the year that he probably moved to Westfield, so I can speculate that he may have gone there to teach, and met his wife there.

Holland Land Company

Map of Western New York from late 18th or early 19th century,including land owned by Holland Land Company.


The Holland Land Company was an investment company owned by investors from Amsterdam. The original landholders never left Amsterdam to see the vast country they acquired in New York and a bit of northern Pennsylvania. One of the many towns that evolved from that original purchase was Westfield, Chautauqua County, New York.

Although the land company and its successors who bought smaller portions of the properties were generous in their terms, sometimes charging no down payment at all, I was interested to learn that settlers complained that interest was too high and a serious revolt developed. This unrest by settlers seems to be a foreshadowing of Jesse Morgan’s fate.

The first settlers of Westfield came from Pennsylvania, just as Jesse did. In 1801 two Pennsylvania men had purchased the land that would incorporate the new town and in 1805 the first post office was established and by 1803 there was a school.


Mary Pelton’s father  moved his family to Cuyahoga County from Oneida County in 1827, and Mary and Jesse Morgan’s first child was born in 1830, so they were probably married in 1829.

Jesse and his first wife lived in Westfield before they moved to Ohio in roughly 1837.  Their four children who survived to adulthood were born in Westfield in 1830, 32, 34 and 36. What drew him to Westfield from his father’s home in northwestern Pennsylvania?  And why did he leave?

In 1835, according to Team of Rivals, William H. Seward was hired as the manager to handle the legal details of land transfers and moved into a  rented house in Westfield, where he also ran the land business with five clerks. That means that William Seward and my great-great grandfather Morgan might very well have known each other, since Seward’s time in Westfield (1835-1838) overlaps Jesse (1829-1837). The “pleasant village” as Seward’s wife described it, had a population of just under 3000 in 1837.


I knew that something gave the restless Jesse reason to depart for greener pastures around 1837 or 1838. The reason became clear when I learned about a terrible recession, known as the Panic of 1837, that hit the booming housing developments of Chautauqua County very hard. William Seward had no sooner established himself there with a job with the Holland Land Company, than property sales plummeted.

This “panic” of 1837 brought widespread misery in its wake–bankrupt businesses, high unemployment, a run on banks, plummeting real estate values, escalating poverty.  “I am almost in despair,” Seward wrote home.  “I have to dismiss three clerks…”

From a letter by William Seward in fall, 1837, quoted in Team of Rivals.

Panic of 1837

US Whig poster showing unemployment in 1837

This family of a tradesman parallels Jesse’s family in 1837–two boys and two girls.

  • Father: I have no money, and cannot get any work.
  • Little girl: Father, Can I get a piece of bread.
  • Boy in blue: I say, Father, could you get some Specie Claws? (A play on the “Specie clause” by which president Andrew Jackson mandated that payment for land be in gold or silver rather than bank-printed paper notes)
  • Boy in brown: I’m so hungry
  • Mother: My dear, cannot you contrive to get some food for the children? I care not for myself.
  • Man at door: I say, Sam, I wonder when we are to get our costs? (Poster words: Warrant, Destraint for Rent.)
  • Posters on the wall show Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Jackson had been president during the lead up to the panic, and the unfortunate Van Buren, inherited the panic, which started five weeks after he took office.

In the midst of this great recession, largely driven by land speculation, Jesse joined the large movement into the new state of Ohio. His interest in Westfield continued, as I have a photocopy of a letter sent to him  in Ohio many years later from an old friend in Westfield that outlines the economy.

To Be Continued

As you will see as I continue the story of Jesse, his move to Ohio did not solve his financial problems.  Again, I am not sure what he intended to do in Ohio. Mother thought that he taught at Keene Academy in Coshocton County and that is where he met his second wife, my great-great-grandmother Mary Bassett Platt, but as I look at the documents that possibility is looking less likely.  Jesse and his first wife’s infant son (who probably died as an infant) was born in Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio.

Mary Bassett Platt’s first husband died in 1833 in Killbuck, and she received letters addressed to Killbuck, so there is no record proving that she went back to her home town of Keene to teach in the academy after her husband died. Because the records of Keene Academy seem to have disappeared, I have to say her teaching at Keene and meeting Jesse  could be a possibility, unproven.

Note: If I ever go on a research trip to Westfield, I can stay in the William Seward House which is now a Bed and Breakfast Inn. According to one account, William did not actually live in that house, but purchased it and oversaw (by mail) its remodeling by his brother Benjamin who succeeded him as land agent from 1838 to 1840. Furthermore, the Inn was saved from destruction, by moving it, so it is no longer even in the same location as the original mansion/land office.

Notes on Research

Federal Census, 1830, Chautauqua County, New York. 1820, Oneida County, New York, 1850 Marrion, Oregon Territory.

Letter from Aaron Purdy to Jesse Morgan, August 7, 1835, photocopy in author’s possession

James Morgan and his Descendants, by Nataniel Morgan, 1869, Hartford: Case, Lockhard and Bernard, available on line at

Genealogy of the Pelton Family in America, J. M. Pelton, 1892, Albany: Joel Munson’s Sons Publishers. Available on line at

Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin, 2005: New York: Simon &  Schuster Paperbacks

History of Chautauqua County, New York: from its settlement to the present time, Andrew White Young, 1875, Buffalo: Matthews and Warren. Available on line at



A Slice of My Life–Me and a Political Convention

Vera Marie Badertscher

Vera Marie Badertscher sitting in the Presidential Box at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans 1988.

Little did I know when I was nine that forty years later I would sit in the Presidential Box at a National Political Convention!

It started like this:

“Because the other party has been in the White House for too long. It isn’t fair.”

My sense of fair play said that after 12 1/2 years of one Democrat, and 3 1/2 years of another in the White House, the Republicans should get a turn.

I expressed my first political opinion, expressed by my 9-year-old self to my fourth grade teacher in the heat of the 1948 campaign pitting Democrat Harry Truman against Republican Thomas Dewey.  You remember that campaign and how it turned out? Everyone KNEW that Thomas Dewey was going to win.  The newspapers even printed headlines to go out the morning after the election. As you can clearly tell by the smile on his face–it was Truman who won.

Harry Truman - Thomas Dewey

President Harry Truman holds up a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune declaring his defeat to Thomas Dewey in the presidential election. St. Louis, MIssouri: November, 1948.
(Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

I had been right about one thing, the Republicans had been wandering in the wilderness for many, many years.

The election held a harsh set of lessons for a 9-year-old.

  1. You can’t always believe what you read in the newspaper.
  2. You can’t make assumptions about who is going to win an election.
  3. Politics isn’t always about what is “fair.”

But the election of 1948 also lit a fire in me because the election was exciting, people got very involved, and I could see (although my thinking was not very sophisticated!) that it involved some very important principles of Democracy.

Thanks to the introduction four years prior by My Weekly Reader, the newspaper for elementary school kids,I took an interest in current affairs and started reading the newspaper. Thanks to my teacher asking her students to give a speech in favor of their favorite candidate in 1948, I was ready by 1952 to absorb some of the more subtle aspects of politics .

I Like Ike Button

1952 button for the Eisenhower button.

I remember being glued to the radio until late at night, in 1952, listening to the Republican convention that nominated war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower. My interest waned when I was a teenager, but was ignited again in 1960 when, for the first time, I was able to vote in a presidential election.

As the years rolled on, I got involved in community activities, and that led to working in political campaigns, which led to several years as a professional campaign manager and strategist. Working for a Congressman, I was fortunate to be able to attend a political convention in 1988.

As much as technology has changed, the basics of a political convention are the same, I learned when I attended the 1988 Republican Nominating Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Parties and Entertainment

Political Convention Pin

New Orleans Political Convention Pin 1988

Funny Clothes, from Cowboy hats for Texans to lobster hats for Maine’s delegates, and this vest that was the official garb of the delegates from Arizona in 1988.

Political Convention vest

Back of Arizona delegates vest, 1988 Republican Convention.

And, of course–Buttons. In this picture, you can see a few I wore on my vest (borrowed, since I was not an official delegate, but rather  there as an assistant to a Congressman.)

Republican Political Convention 1988

The Buttons I wore on my vest at the 1988 Republican Political Convention

Sellers of various keepsakes and paraphernalia…and buttons… line the halls and the sidewalks.  This is a sampling of the various styles on sale in 1988 at the Republican Political Convention.

George Bush buttons

George Bush Campaign buttons and New Orleans mementos from the 1988 political convention.

And of course the place swarms with Press. Here is an interview in 1988 with my boss, Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona.

John Kolbe and Rep. Jim Kolbe

John Kolbe (dec.), reporter for the Arizona Republic, interviews his brother Congressman Jim Kolbe at Republican Convention 1988.

The excitement always runs high.  Here is the crowd listening to an address by the nominee, then Vice-President George H. W. Bush. (You can see him in the top left on a video monitor.)

George H. W. Bush

Top left hand corner shows the nominee, then Vice President Bush speaking to the convention.

The big event of the speech of the candidate is followed by the equally big event of the BALLOON DROP.

1988 Republican Convention

The balloon drop that signals the end.

All parties come to an end–for some with new friends and warm feelings, for some with a headache that will take four years to heal.

The end of the convention.

After the ball is over…

Note: This has been one of a monthly series I am doing on family and ancestors in politics. Not only did my nine-year old self not suspect that I would be so deeply involved in politics as an adult, I did not realize what depth of political involvement there was in my family history.

Politics in the Family

You can read past posts about my mother and father, Paul and Harriette Kaser and the losingest Presidential campaign ever.

Sardine Stone, an office holder and supporter of James Madison.

William Cochran, who worked for the election of William Henry Harrison.

And before the present series, I wrote about two other polticially active ancestors.

Even Civil War fighter Erasmus Anderson exercised his political opinions in a letter home. (Hint: he disliked one of our most revered presidents.

My uncle Keith Kaser ran for office himself, in one party as my father was working for the opposing party at the same timel


The buttons and vest and poster of New Orleans, and the political convention photos are part of my own collection of Political Convention Memorabilia. I found the image on line of a happy Truman with the mistaken headline. That makes this post partly about Heirlooms.