A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid. – J.R.R. Tolkien
Charles Alfred Pyatt (1896-1985), my paternal grandfather, was a young man of 22 in 1918. World War I was in full force across the sea in Europe. He was inducted into the Army on May 28, 1918. He became part of the 88th Division, 349th Infantry, Company “M”.
The 88th Division originated and was trained at Camp Dodge outside of Des Moines, Iowa.
Company “M” of the 349th Infantry left the United States aboard the RMS Olympic (the Titanic sister ship) out of New York on August 9, 1918. They arrived in Southhampton, England on August 16, 1918. Over the next few days, they boarded ships to Le Harve, France.
“The 88th Division although not permitted to come to France until the summer of 1918, trained and sent forty thousand men to France with other units to represent it gloriously there. Immediately on arrival in France, it was rushed into the line in a quiet sector. Without transportation, without equipment, the Division rendered a splendid account of itself in the Haute Alsace sector. By its activity there it prevented the Germans from withdrawing troops on the south to be sent against our forces in the Meuse Argonne offensive. By its activity in Haute Alsace and by its presence later as IV American Army Corps and Second American Army Reserve it permitted other American Divisions to be used directly with the First American Army in the Argonne Forest and along the Meuse.”
Excerpt from the book “The 88th Division in the World War 1914-1918”. (See reference below).
The war ended November 11, 1918. But the 88th would have to wait for transportation back until May 1919. The troops initially received more military training but commanders soon realizing this training would not benefit the troops once they returned to the United States. A new school was built for training troops in agriculture, automotive repair, carpentry and various trades that would prepare them for their return to civilian life. Many took this opportunity to see Europe with many leaves granted to the men allowing them to visit Britain, Spain and various other countries.
On May 19, 1919, the 349th Infantry was among the first of the 88th Division to leave France and return to the United States. Company “M” departed aboard the SS Rijndam at St. Nazaire, France and returned to Hoboken, New Jersey on May 30, 1919. Troops boarded trains back to Camp Dodge where they were returned to civilian status and many then returned to their previous lives.
**I discovered this book on Google Books. Click here for the link to take you to this book. On page 135 I found my grandfather’s name and hometown listed among the roster of men in the 88th Division, Charles A. Pyatt, Chetopa, Kan. I also found another “Pyatt” on the roster, also in the 349th but in Company “F”. James W. Pyatt, Gladden, Mo. After researching I have discovered that James is Charles’ cousin. They were both on the Olympic together traveling to France and on the Rijndam on the way back. Somehow it gives me comfort knowing that my grandfather was with his cousin during this episode of his life.
My father, Earl E. Pyatt, often talked about living on an Indian reservation when he was young. He always commented to us on how all they had to eat was pinto beans and creamed corn. He loved pinto beans but never really acquired a liking for creamed corn…hardly remember it ever being served at our house. My nephew was doing a report in school on Indians of the Southwest and my father sent the following information to him regarding his life there.
Excerpt from my Dad’s letter dated 8/31/2003 to Steven (his grandson) regarding life on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
“When I was about four years old my father worked for an oil drilling company and we lived in company housing on the Navajo reservation. This was in the Four Corner’s area west of Shiprock, NM along the Utah-Arizona border. I was the only kid in the oil camp and so the kids I could play with were all Navajo. They didn’t speak any English, but I did learn a few words in Navajo. I guess we used a sort of sign language and didn’t need words just to play.
I remember playing in and around their hogan and remember the smoky mesquite aroma from their clothing and inside where their mother cooked their meals. Another thing I remember was playing “stick horse” – running around after each other with a broomstick between our legs pretending it was a horse.
We lived there until I was school age and then moved to a town in New Mexico so I could go to school. Later, during World War II, I was in the New Mexico National Guard and had several friends there who were Navajo. In the combat area in the Philippines, they were in charge of telephone communications and passed information in Navajo so they would not be understood by the enemy. All the Navajo people I have known were very nice people and I enjoyed knowing them.”
Finally bit the bullet and had my DNA analysis done through Ancestry.com. Two things I found interesting…one, that there is no Native American blood, as was often mentioned on my father’s side. And two, I wasn’t expecting that much Irish in me! But with a married name of O’Neill – I guess that’s a good thing. Have over 600 possible matches from others in the database, ranging from 4th cousins and closer. Closest being 2nd cousin. I have already connected with a 2nd cousin 1 x removed from my Grandpa Pyatt’s brother’s family! Will take some time to sort through them. My hopes with submitting my DNA is to see if I can break thru a brick wall with my 2nd great-grandfather, Needham Stephens, on my mother’s side. Will keep you up to date on any findings!
Stay tuned for a post on my husband’s results!
Several years ago I posted about a family mystery that existed on the Pyatt side of my family. Click here to see my original post. The mystery concerned what happened to my Grand Aunt, Maggie Elizabeth Pyatt, who passed away at the age of 17. Over the years, I have done numerous searches on various sites in my quest to find her. No luck. Nothing. I knew, from my father’s recollection, she either moved to Chicago or Detroit. For some reason I decided to check out records available in Detroit first…good thing I did! I discovered that Michigan has all their death certificates digitalized and copies made available online. In searching their database I found Maggie’s death certificate, although her name was spelled a little differently. Her death certificate listed her as Margarette Elizabeth Piatt. After years of researching my Pyatt side of the family, I have become aware of the numerous variations in spelling of the name! What further convinced me that this was my Grand Aunt was that her parents are listed on the certificate and they matched up to my Great-grandparents. John M. Pyatt (Piatt) and Sarah Keele (Keell) both from Missouri. Below is a copy of her death certificate:
What intrigued me even more about the death certificate was the mention of an Inquest Pending, and the cause of death “Shock from being run over by automobile“. One has to remember, this was back in 1907. Commercial production of the automobile in the United States began at the beginning of the 1900’s. This had to have been an unusual case. After doing further research and finding two newspaper articles regarding this incident, it became clear the circumstances of this incident. The headlines of the paper read “SHOCK CAUSED DEATH Margaret Piatt was victim of auto. Young Woman Makes Fifth Whose Lives Have Been Sacrificed to Speeding Machines.” An inquest was scheduled and a jury empaneled to hear the evidence in the case. “Something should and can be done to stop the slaughter of persons by reckless automobilists” states the Prosecutor. On July 4, 1907, a jury heard evidence regarding the incident. Apparently a sightseeing auto was driving along the street when Margaret stepped out in front of it. She sustained “fractures of both bones of the lower right leg and that both the right and left femurs were broken, the former being a compound fracture. Death occurred due to those injuries and the shock.” One witness stated that no warning signal was given by the auto…but another witness stated that Margaret “became confused and the cause of the accident was from her own carelessness.” There was a dispute as to how fast the car was traveling with some witnesses says between six to eight mph and others saying twelve to fifteen. Therefore, according to the article, the differences confused the Coroner’s Jury and no responsibility was fixed. No further action was taken against the driver.
I am so thrilled to have been able to find this information, all online! I only wish I could have found this our before my father passed away in 2010…I am sure he would have loved to learn the true facts surrounding Maggie’s death. There is also a mention of a Mrs. Mary Archer, both on the death certificate and in the newspaper articles, who is said to be Margaret’s aunt. This name is unfamiliar to me in my research…so looks like another mystery that needs to be solved!
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
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