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John F. Stanton, Brakeman

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If you want to come to an Irishman's wake, then come to mine.

John F. Stanton, my grandfather, died too young. He was only 48 years old when he passed away in 1923.  I was born far too late, in 1954.  So it is very likely that even if he had lived longer, I might not have known him.  He would have been 79 at my birth. Nevertheless, my mother, Catherine (Stanton) DuLong, often told me stories of him as a child and I have always cherished his memory.  Everything I have learned about him from his children--my mother, aunts, and uncles--points to him being a congenial person.  I regret that we never had a chance to meet one another.  This web page is dedicated to his memory and his role as a railroad worker on the Duluth, South Shore, and Atlantic Railway (DSS&A).

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The man himself, John F. Stanton, probably in his
mid-20s, about 1900.  Original photograph in the
possession of Mary (Stanton) Patterson.

Parents and Ancestry

John Frederick Stanton was born on 27 July 1875 at De Pere, Brown County, Wisconsin. His father was Ulick and his mother was Rose McNellis.  He was raised in De Pere surrounded by his Irish-American kinsmen, the Boyles, Carrs, Dohertys, McHughs, and Pattons.  These were all Donegal families and related to his mother's people, the McNellises.

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The Stanton Family, left to right: Ulick Stanton,
John F. Stanton, Rose (McNellis) Stanton,
and Mary "Mayme" Stanton, about 1882.
Original photograph in the possession of
Thomas Noel.

Not much is known about John's father, Ulick Stanton.  Although he carried the nickname "Alex" or "Alexander," Ulick is really derived from Ulliam, the Gaelic for William (Coghlan 1979, 118).  He was born on 17 June 1840 some where in Ireland.  The name Stanton, or Staunton, is often found in County Mayo (MacLysaght [1964] 1980, 278).  However, I have been unable to trace him back to an exact location in Ireland.  According to my Aunt Angeline, she recalled hearing that Ulick had been raised in a Welsh orphanage before eventually immigrating to Scranton, Pennsylvania.  I have not been able to verify or deny any of this story.  His death certificate does indicate that his parents were Mike and Bridget Stanton.  On various records he is referred to as a boiler maker and farmer.  Nothing else is known of his origins, and, unlike his wife, I have found no ties to other Irish-American families, other than his in-laws.  Although, on the 1870 census, he was living with the family of Dennis Donlay in West De Pere, there is no clear indication of a relationship between Ulick and the Donlays.  He appears to have been a loner.

John's mother, Rose McNellies, was the daughter of Dennis McNellis and Catherine Carr.   The McNellises and Carrs had emigrated from Ireland during the 1840's, undoubtedly due to the famine.  There is strong circumstantial and surname evidence to indicate that they came from the area around the villages of Ardara, Glencolumbkille, Glenties, and Killybegs in County Donegal, Ireland.  This is the homeland of most McNellises (MacLysaght [1964] 1980, 235). They settled in Cass Township, near Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.  It was at St. Vincent de Paul's Catholic church, in nearby Minersville, that Dennis McNellis married Catherine Carr on 4 December 1849.  Rose McNellis was born in Pennsylvania around 1855 and moved to De Pere with her parents and siblings around 1870.  There she meet and married Ulick Stanton. 

Ulick Stanton and Rose McNellis were married around 1872.  There is no civil record of their marriage at the Brown County, Wisconsin, Courthouse.  The parish they attended, St. Francis, in De Pere, has a gap in the records for 1872.  They had several children:

bullet.gif (978 bytes) Martin Stanton, born 14 September 1873 at De Pere, and died 5 September 1895 at Wilson, Menominee County, Michigan, no children.  He may have been mentally retarded.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) John Frederick Stanton, born 27 July 1875 at De Pere, and died 6 March 1923 at Ripley, Houghton County, Michigan, married 30 June 1903 at Houghton to Rose Prince, they had several children as indicated below.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Daniel Stanton, born 10 August 1877 at De Pere, and died 25 September 1877 at De Pere.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Dennis Stanton, born July 1878, probably in De Pere, died before 13 June 1894.   He may have been mentally retarded.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Mary "Mayme" Stanton, born 8 December 1881, probably at De Pere, and died 65 January 1970 at Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, married 18 March 1909, probably at Menominee, Menominee County, Michigan, to Frederick W. Phillips, they had several children.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Rose Stanton, born 17 December 1888 at Wilson, Menominee County, Michigan, and died 1 May 1977 at Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota, married 20 May 1916 at Duluth to Charles A. Anderson, they had several children.

John's family life was most likely not a pleasant one as a child. Several of his siblings died young, two of them were probably mentally retarded (being recorded as "idiot[s]" on the 1880 census), and his parents were poor working class people trying to squeeze out a simple living.  Around 1883, the family moved to Wilson, Menominee County, Michigan.  I suspect that Ulick may have been a track layer for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad (CNWRR), or he was otherwise employed by them.  He purchased land at Wilson (NW SW 15 38 25) from CNWRR on 19 October 1887.  This is roughly the same period in which the line was being completed in that region.  His father-in-law, Dennis McNellis, helped him purchase this land.  In turn, Dennis bought the neighboring parcel to the north of Ulick's land.

I often wonder if Dennis McNellis was also possibly employed in some capacity with the CNWRR.  Dennis's end remains a mystery, he died between 1891 and 1898, probably at Wilson.  However, I can find no record of his death or any record that mentions his parents.  Catherine Carr, his wife, and John's grandmother, moved in with her daughter Nellie (McNellis) James and lived in Houghton.  She died there on 14 May 1899.   Her parents are recorded in the parish burial register of St. Ignatius Loyola as being Condy Carr and Rose Curran.  Again, these are Donegal surnames.

Ulick died at Wilson in an accident while chopping down a tree on 22 February 1893.   John would only have been 17 at the time of his father's death.  Rose McNellis remarried John Albert Weddell before 13 June 1894 probably in the Wilson area.  This was a second marriage for both of them and he brought a son named Morton into the family.  John Weddell would also die relatively young, at age 43, on 9 September 1906, when John was 31.  Before he died, Rose and he had a son named Louis Weddell.  Although I have never heard any stories of resentment between John and his step-brothers, they were apparently not very close.  Rose died on 24 October 1913 in Duluth where she had gone to live with her daughter Rose (Stanton) Anderson.

One more interesting tale concerning John's maternal ancestry.  He use to tell his children stories about the Molly Maguires.  My mother passed on vague stories about them to me.  I used these stories as clues to track down the McNellises living near Pottsville, Pennsylvania, with the help of census and Civil War draft records.  Pottsville is where ten Mollies were hung in 1876.  I wonder if the troubles in Pennsylvania with the Mollies is why the McNellises moved so far away to Wisconsin?   

Wife and Children

John's Aunt Nellie, the wife of John R. James, an engineer for the Mineral Range Railroad (MRRR), moved to the Copper County in the 1890s and was living at Calumet around 1900.  I believe that John might have been given his first railroad job with the DSS&A through the auspices of his Aunt Nellie's husband.  John, as a DSS&A employee, with family in Calumet, would have often traveled through Houghton, where he met and courted Rose Prince. 

Rose Prince was the daughter of Joseph Prince and Angeline Allie.  Her father was of mixed Acadian and French Canadian ancestry.  Her mother was of French Canadian ancestry and a descendant of Catherine Baillon.  Both of her parents had been born in Baie-du-Febvre, Yamaska County, Québec, her father on 15 March 1823 and her mother on 18 September 1832.  They had immigrated to Fort Howard, Brown County, Wisconsin, just north of De Pere, with their parents in the late 1830s or early 1840s.  Interesting, their mother's were sisters, thus they were first cousins.  They were married first in a civil ceremony on 16 January 1849 and again on 1 December 1849 in a Catholic ceremony at Green Bay, Brown County, Wisconsin.  They eventually moved to the Houghton area.   Joseph Prince was a timber cruiser and worked for a variety of lumbering companies along the Sturgeon River, south of Chassell, Houghton County, Michigan.  Rose was born on 15 May 1878 at Houghton.  Her mother, Angeline Allie, died 11 November 1891 at Houghton, when Rose was only 13.  Her father lived to the age of 83 and died on 28 October 1906 at Baraga, Baraga County, Michigan.

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Rose Prince, John's wife, probably around age
twelve, about 1890.  Original photograph in the
possession of Mary (Stanton) Patterson.

In the family we have a single surviving love letter from John to Rose.   It is dated 13 April 1903 and written at Michigamme while John was working a DSS&A train towards Duluth.  In this letter John takes pride in stealing kisses from Rose.  Interestingly, Carrie Karpinski, whose mother ran a boarding house in Michigamme where John often staid, thought John was going to propose to her.   According to my mother, Carrie once told her how disappointed she was when John proposed to Rose.  John and Rose were married on 30 June 1903 at Houghton.  They had the following children:

bullet.gif (978 bytes) John "Jack" Joseph Stanton, born 5 June 1904 at Houghton, and died 1 July 1973 at Red Bank, Monmouth County, New Jersey, married twice, (1st) Gladys and (2nd) Mildred. Uncle Jack left home soon after his father's death and staid isolated from his mother and siblings.  He remains a mystery to me.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Angeline Rose Stanton, born 5 May 1906 at Houghton, and died 12 May 1978 at Clawson, Oakland County Michigan, married 15 May 1928 at Houghton to John Noel, they had several children.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Mary Elizabeth Stanton, born 23 May 1910 at Houghton, and died 30 September 2001 at Royal Oak, Oakland County, Michigan, married 3 September 1941 at Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, to John Patterson, they had several children.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Catherine Olivia Stanton, born 13 October 1911 at Houghton, died 9 April 1999 at Royal Oak, Oakland County, Michigan, married 2 April 1932 at Hubbell, Houghton County, Michigan, to Joseph Leo DuLong, they had several children.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) George Edward Stanton, born 15 August 1914, Houghton, and died 3 March 1997 at Santa Ynez Valley Recovery Residence, near Solvang, Santa Barbara County, California, married 19 November 1935 at Hancock, Houghton County, Michigan, to Adele La Salle, they had several children.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Baby Stanton, still born on 15 August 1914 in Houghton.
bullet.gif (978 bytes) Lawrence Alexander Stanton, born 5 February 1917 at Houghton, married 6 June 1947 at Hancock to Eva Koski, they had several children.

 

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Promenade about 1910, top row, left to right, Rose (Prince) Stanton, Mayme (Stanton) Phillips, John F. Stanton [or possibly Charles A. Anderson], and Rose (Stanton) Anderson, bottom row, left to right, Angeline Stanton, Mary Stanton, and John "Jack" Stanton.  Original photograph in the possession of Thomas Noel

 

Spanish American War Veteran

Before John's marriage to Rose, he went on a little adventure called the Spanish American War.

A terrific explosion on the night of 15 February 1898 put the USA battleship Maine on the bottom of Havana harbor in the Spanish colony of Cuba. A combination of circumstances led to war. Among these factors were disagreements with Spain's repressive policies in her colonies, popular American sentiment in support of Cuban independence, Hearst's yellow dog journalism, and the American belief in manifest destiny. America declared war with Spain on 25 April 1898. The Spanish fleet arrived at Santiago de Cuba and the American Navy and Army was hastily dispatched to challenge the Spanish.

While these events were occurring far to the south, John was working as a car cleaner for the DSS&A. When the war broke out, John was living in Houghton. He was single and his only next of kin was his twice widowed mother, Rose (McNellis) Weddel, who still lived on the family farm near Wilson. Perhaps out of a sense of patriotism or maybe a search for adventure, John enlisted in the Michigan National Guard.  He joined on 26 April 1898 and was assigned to Captain George Millar's F Company, 5th Michigan Volunteer Regiment with the rank of private. When war broke out his unit was called up and sent to Camp Eaton at Island Lake, Livingston County, Michigan.  John and his comrades would have taken the DSS&A to St. Ignace and then transferred to other railroads to reach Camp Eaton.

Governor Hazen S. Pingree of Michigan wanted to transfer all the National Guard units over to federal service, but this was not legally permissible. Consequently, each individual guardsman had to volunteer for service in the United State Army. On 21 May 1898, at Camp Eaton, John was mustered into the 34th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The record shows that he was 22 years old, 5 feet-8.5 inches tall, light complexion, blue eyes, and light brown hair. John had traveled roughly 580 miles from Houghton to join the army, but this was not to be the end of his trek.

Although I loose trace of John's individual movements for several months, I can still trace his adventures by following F Company's involvement in the war. Family tradition, passed to me from his children, confirm that he served in Cuba with his comrades in F Company.

The 34th Regiment left Island Lake for Camp Alger in Virginia on 6 June 1898. On 20 June 1898, the 33rd and 34th passed in review before President William McKinley at Camp Alger. Companies F, I, K, and L of the 1st Battalion of the 34th, along with the 33rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment, sailed from Newport News in Virginia on the auxiliary cruiser Yale for Cuba.  Meanwhile, the first American troops were landing a Daiquiri, Cuba, on 22 June 1898.  The ship carrying the 1st Battalion arrived off Cuba on the night of 26 June 1898 after a voyage of only five days. By 27 June 1898, the 1st Battalion was landed at Daiquiri (or possibly Siboney), Cuba. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 34th departed on the Auxiliary Cruiser Harvard from the port of Newport News on 26 June 1898 and arrived at Siboney, Cuba, on 30 June 1898.

In Cuba, the order of battle was such that the 34th, along with the 33rd Michigan and the 9th Massachusetts (as well as possible elements of the 8th Ohio) volunteers were combined together.  They formed a provisional independent reserve brigade under the command of General Henry M. Duffield. Although the 34th served in the Santiago de Cuba campaign, it missed the key battles of Las Guásimas (24 June 1898), San Juan Heights (1 July 1898), and El Caney (1 July 1898). After moving off the beaches on 1 July 1898, they were stationed at El Pozo sugar plantation as a reserve force. During the grueling march to El Pozo, the men discarded much of their equipment to lighten their burden in the tropical heat. By the night of 2 July 1898 they were camping on the San Juan Heights where they remained until 8 July 1898. On several occasions they were subject to sniper attacks and to a vigorous fire fight on the night of 2 July 1898 around 10:30pm in which miraculously no soldier was killed.

The men of the 34th suffered like many of the other American soldiers from a lack of rations and supplies as well as woolen dark blue uniforms completely inappropriate for the tropics. In addition, the men were issued trap lock Springfield rifles that fired black powder smoke cartridges. An antiquated weapon compared to the Spanish Mauser, a German manufactured smokeless rifle. In fact, the regiment may have been held back from offensive actions because of the fear that they would be as badly mauled as the 71st Voluntary Infantry Regiment of New York was due to their black powder Springfields. The smoke these rifles created made attractive targets for the Spanish hidden behind field works and jungle cover.

The Spanish attempted to break through the American Navy blockade on 3 July 1898. All the Spanish ships were destroyed by the American Navy. The campaign settled into trench siege warfare around Santiago de Cuba. The 34th participated in this siege. It was divided into two groups. The first group was sent to El Caney to rebuild roads and assist in caring for Santiago de Cuba refugees. This group was commanded by Lt. Col. John R. Bennett, who had been the commander of the 1st Battalion and I suspect Company F was with him at El Caney. The second group resumed guard at El Pozo and was then moved to the far left of the siege line around Santiago de Cuba to protect the artillery, specifically, the Best and Grimes batteries. These batteries participated in the bombarding of Santiago de Cuba from 11 to 13 July 1898. The Spanish surrendered on 14 July 1898 and the men of the 34th watched the Spanish march out and lay down their arms on 17 July 1898.

Soon after the surrender of Santiago, the 34th was reunited and the men were assigned a campsite four miles from Santiago de Cuba. For the first time during the campaign they were provided tents for shelter. Now the true suffering of the unit began. According to official records, none of the men were killed or wounded in action. Nevertheless, there were casualties. A total of 82 men died in the 34th, one officer and 79 men died from disease, probably the result of malaria and yellow fever, one soldier died in an accident and another one drowned.   Furthermore, Stronarch's (1946) short history of the 34th mentions several men being shot at by snipers and a few being wounded. The wounds must have been minor. His article does comment several times on the advancing soldiers of the 34th seeing wounded men from other units trudging back to the beachhead for care. However, as the official numbers indicate, the real enemy was malaria and yellow fever. At one point, over 85 percent of the 34th was on sick call!

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They had to be tired, hot, and sore.  "We Leave the Trenches," 8 August
1898, by Charles Johnson Post, showing soldiers of the 71st New York
Infantry, U.S.  Volunteers, marching back to Siboney to be shipped back
to the United States.  Many of them were sick with malaria.  Used by
courtesy of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

The war with Spain proved to be very short. A protocol was signed on 12 August 1898 and the fighting ended abruptly. A peace treaty was signed in Paris on 10 December 1898, less then ten months after the sinking of the Maine. The United States made substantial gains including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Philippines. With the peace signed,  the 34th was returned to the United States. They were rushed off Cuba to avoid further casualties due to fever. The sickest were sent off on the first available transport. Most of John's regiment departed aboard the transport Leona on 17 August 1898 and was sent to Montauk Point, Long Island, New York, were they arrived on either 24 or 27 August 1898.  The 34th was bivouacked next to the 24th U. S. Colored Infantry while at Montauk Point.

On 8 September 1898 the men of the 34th started their return trip home on a special train in three sections. Some of the men, too ill to travel, were left in hospitals at Montauk Point, Brooklyn, and New York. I am unsure if John was with his comrades, or still in the care of a hospital, when the 34th arrived in Detroit. The city turned out with a huge celebration.

Details about John's life begin to emerge again on 31 August 1898 when the Paymaster, Major Doyon, settled Private Stanton's account. The state of Michigan had issued John with $21.83 worth of articles. In turn, he had spent $27.86 on clothing and $15.00 on equipment. His pay came to $44.72. Major Doyon paid him the balance of $87.58 in settlement.

Between 5 September and 3 November 1898, John was on furlough awaiting to be mustered out of his company. He was mustered out on 26 November 1898. However, he was not allowed to leave the military immediately.  His two year commitment to serve in the National Guard had not expired.  John was placed in Captain Hendrickson's Company G, also known as the Houghton Light Infantry, of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Michigan National Guard stationed in Houghton.  He staid with this unit until he was "Honorably Discharged" in Houghton on 7 March 1900.  Thus ending his military career.

John did bring home a souvenir from Cuba.  Periodically, he would suffer from yellow fever, which he, like many of his comrades, acquired in Cuba. Imagine working as a brakeman in the middle of the Copper Country Winter shivering from the cold and simultaneously boiling with sweat from the fever. My mother remembers her father laying on the couch in the parlor suffering from the yellow fever. John's military record mentions a lost sick report.  Had this report survived it might have provided even more clues about his service in Cuba.   Interestingly, Captain Millar was praised by his men for insisting that they follow healthy practices in camp and he is credited with having the fittest company in Cuba from the 34th Michigan.  Despite having a health conscious commander, John and many of his comrade were infected with yellow fever.

The Spanish-American War was an important event in John's life. He placed value in his service and continued to associate with his comrades until his death.  My mother recalls that he often wore his slouched hat and a military cape.  He joined the George Millar Camp, no. 28, of the United Spanish War Veterans (USWV) on 30 June 1911.   He served as the Quartermaster of Camp 28 from 15 January 1913 to 19 April 1920.   He was elected commander of Camp 28 on 22 January 1923 and served in this capacity until his sudden death just two months later.

John's military adventure was framed by the DSS&A. He departed on a DSS&A train and would have returned home on the same line. Moreover, many of the companies in the 34th were formed in towns that the DSS&A served.  Company D was from Calumet, Company G from Sault Ste. Marie, and Company L from Marquette (including men from Ishpeming, Champion, and Republic).  I suspect that other men in the 34th Michigan were also employed by the DSS&A either before or after 1898.

I have in my possession a lapel pin, with crossed Springfield rifles, the number 5 above the rifles and the letter E, not F, below the rifles. My Great Aunt Mayme (Stanton) Phillips gave me this pin and told me that it had been her brother John's pin that he wore in Cuba.  I have no explanation for this discrepancy.  However, I often ponder, if the pin is really from John's kinsman Daniel McNellis, the son of John McNellis and Mary Margaret Meehan. Daniel served in Company E, 34th Michigan (formerly Company E, 5th Michigan National Guard) and was in Cuba.  He died in a saloon brawl in Eveleth, St. Louis County, Minnesota. I do not know of the exact relationship between John and Daniel, but there are a number of clues that they were cousins.

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Daniel McNellis, John's kinsman
and a fellow Spanish-American
War veteran.  Original
photograph in my possession.

My cousin, Elaine Baker, the daughter of Rose (Stanton) Anderson, sent me the above photograph.  She did not know who it was, but I suspect he is our cousin Daniel since the regimental insignia indicate Company E, 34th Michigan. I assume that John wore a very similar uniform.

I also have in my possession a Spanish Campaign Medal that the Army issued for service in Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Philippine Islands in 1898, and I have a USWV medal.   Both of these I purchased at gun shows.  I hope to eventually purchase a Cuban Occupational Medal.  However, I am most proud of the medal I have from the state of Michigan that was issued to Spanish-American War veterans. I acquired this medal, originally issued by the Michigan Adjutant General's Office, in 1983 through correspondence with the USWV office in Lansing, Michigan. This office is no longer in existence since the death of the last Michigan Spanish-American War veteran. I was indeed fortunate to receive this beautiful and rare medal in honor of my grandfather's service.

Railroad Career

I was surprised how easy it was to reconstruct some of my grandfather's railroad career in light of the absence of surviving DSS&A employment records.  I can get snapshots about his railroad life from city directories, censuses, official reports, newspaper clippings, and vital records.  This is not as much information as I would like to have, but it does outline his career. 

26 April 1898 Car cleaner, residing in Houghton [Military papers].
13 April 1903 At Michigamme, left Houghton the night before, will be in Duluth this same week, working on a DSS&A train [Letter to Rose Prince, fiancée].
June 1903 Employee of DSS&A, has lived at Marquette for the last three years, will move to Calumet [Marriage Announcement].
30 June 1903 Baggage master, residing in Calumet [Marriage Certificate].
1903-1904 Not in the Houghton city directory, perhaps in Calumet or Marquette.
29 April 1905 Switchman for the DSS&A in Houghton, injured in coupling accident ["Michigan Railroad Returns 1905," Commissoner of Railroads, 1907, p. 222, photocopy in Perron Collection].
1907-1908 DSS&A brakeman, residence 112 5th, East Houghton. [Houghton City Directory].
1910 Switchman [Houghton City Directory].
1912 Switchman [Houghton City Directory].
1916-1917 Switchman [Houghton City Directory].
About 1921 or 1922 Injured in a railroad accident in Houghton [Obituary and Catherine (Stanton) DuLong's memory].
6 March 1923 Railroad brakeman DSS&A, Houghton, MI [Death Certificate]; employee of Mineral Range for 25 years, badly injured just a few years ago [Obituary].
7 March 1923 Switch Conductor, Mineral Range, worked in the Houghton Yard for 18 years, prior to that he was a Car Repairer, held another job prior to that, he was injured at some point before his death, over 25 years of service. Member of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen [Obituary].

 

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This badly faded photograph is the only one I have ever seen of John at work, probably around 1905-1910.  Here he is found in a fancy brakeman's uniform.  Normally, he wore work clothes and slouched hat.  Original photograph in the possession of Thomas Noel.

Character

What was his character like? This is difficult to say.  Over time, people tend to say only nice things about the dead.  I have yet to hear any harsh words spoken about John.  On the contrary, his children have fond memories of him.  One endearing tradition, that reveals in part his playful character, has survived. My children call it the John Stanton game. My grandfather would lay on the couch sleeping, probably before he went off to work the nightshift in the Houghton yard. His children would quietly sneak up on him and gently trace their finger over his face. He would continue to pretend he was a sleep and then all of a sudden snap at their little fingers with his teeth. My children have often played with me in the same fashion. From what I have heard he was a simple, nice guy.  He enjoyed smoking his pipe, playing with his children, playing pinochle with the neighbors, dancing the Irish jig while Rose played the piano, and going to baseball games by himself and coming home horse from hollering out his support for the Houghton team.

His Accidental Death

John died a railroader's death at 1:30am 6 March 1923 in Ripley, Houghton County, Michigan. Accidents were no strangers to trainmen, especially to brakemen.  In fact, brakeman was the most dangerous railroad occupation. John had already had been injured in a coupling accident on 29 April 1905. A few years before his death he was seriously injured in an accident that put him in the Portage View Hospital, in Hancock. He staid at home a few weeks to sufficiently recover his health. My mother recalls this happening when she was about eleven, so this would have been around 1921 or 1922. She vaguely remembers that the accident involved falling from a car after being caught under the roof of the Houghton depot. Rose only took my mother to visit John in the hospital. Not because she was particularly favored, it was just the easiest way to control her, she was too spirited.

My mother recalls that her father was nervous on the night of his death. It was a bleak evening.  He said to Rose something to the effect that someone was going to die tonight. He then, uncharacteristically, bid farewell to Rose and the children twice.

According to his obituaries, John was acting as switch conductor on a train consisting of three log cars and two empty gondolas. The train was on its way to the Houghton Lumber Co. mill in Ripley. The engine, probably a switcher with a sloped-backed tendor, was backing the train with the three log cars on the end. John was riding on top of the foremost log car. When the train came to a railroad crossing the ice and snow was compacted over the ties. Someone had purposely done this so that it would be easier for the sleds to cross the tracks. One of the newspaper articles also mention a dropped bolt on the tracks as a possible cause of the accident. When the log car hit this section of the railroad crossing it left the tracks. The first and second log cars derailed and overturned. John was thrown to the ground. The logs broke loose and rolled over him. Another switchman (perhaps Thomas Doyle), on the same car, narrowly escaped without injury. The cars involved in the wreck were completely totaled and had to be entirely rebuilt. One of the log cars was driven through the wall of the foundry building at the Portage Lake Foundry and Machine Shop causing considerable damage. A pillar supporting an electrical hoist in the foundary was also damaged.

On hearing John's cries, the train was abruptly stopped and the crew rushed to help him. The logs where hastily removed and he was rushed to the nearby house of Thomas Duffey. Two physicians were called, but John lost consciousness within 60 minutes and died before their arrival.

Rose and John were too poor to afford a telephone. Aunt Liz (Elizabeth Prince) Siefert and Uncle George Siefert, of Houghton, did have a telephone. They were notified and they rushed to the house to inform Rose of the accident and that John was injured.  By the time Rose ruched to John's side, he was already dead.

John's obituary in the Daily Mining Gazette testified to his standing among his work mates. He was the oldest employee in the DSS&A yard at Houghton. He had worked in these yards for 18 years. The obituary in the Evening Copper Journal claimed that he was an employee of the MRRR and had been for over 25 years.    Dan Murphy [Daniel J. Murphy of Houghton according to the City Directory], the yardmaster at Houghton and John's boss, told the Daily Mining Gazette reporter:

. . . Mr. Stanton was one of the most careful employees the company had. He was constantly on the lookout for danger points and he never permitted a dangerous situation to continue without calling it to the attention of his superiors and his fellow employees. He possessed the respect and sincere friendship of everyone with whom he came in contact and his death was a real blow to his numerous friends. ("John F. Stanton Meets Death" 1923)

Besides being commander of the local camp of the USWV, his obituaries also mention that he was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Order of the Foresters, the Maccabees, and the Brotherhood of Railway Trainman.

He was taken to Krelwitz Funeral Home in Houghton. The funeral was held on the morning of 8 March 1923 at St. Ignatious Loyola Catholic church in Houghton. He was buried at Forest Hill cemetery. The members of the George Millar Camp, USWV, were in charge of the funeral and paid their respects. The Judson E. Ingram post of the American Legion paid military honors at the graveside. My mother recalls the neighbors bringing an enormous amount of food to the home to help out.  The house was filled with people attending his wake.

John's death impoverished the family. Rose sued the DSS&A, the MRRR, the Portage Lake Foundry and Machinery Company, and the Quincy Mining Company for causing the death of her husband. On 24 November 1924 she settled for $6,500.00. However, this money could not replace John.  What was once a happy household became sad and morose.  Rose received a small military widow's pension.  She also had to take in laundry from Michigan College of Mines students to make ends meet.  The money she got from the law suit was used to electrify the house and to purchase a new furnace.

I have never seen any railroad memorabilia from John.  He did have a railroad pocket watch with a train on the back. Rose gave the piece to Uncle Jack Stanton who eventually pawned it. This broke Rose's heart.  On 23 August 1931, at the age of 53, in her Houghton home, Rose died.  The cause of death was chronic myocarditis.   She died only eight years after husband's tragic death.

As a child I once asked my Great Aunt Mayme, John's sister, if she was Irish.  She made it clear that she was mostly English.   She once told Aunt Angeline that she was English, Scottish, and Welsh.  She did not admit to being Irish.  She grew up in an age when it was not popular to be Irish.  However, almost all the original documents concerning her parents indicate that she was of Irish ancestry.  Her brother John had no difficulty proclaiming his Irish heritage.  According to my Aunt Angeline, several days before his death, John was joking with some of his work mates and boldly claimed that "If you want to come to an Irishman's wake, then come to mine."

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Brakeman was one of the most dangerous railroad
jobs.  This drawing helps us understand why it
could be even more dangerous in a Copper
Country winter.  The Freight-Train Brakeman,
from a drawing by O. V. Schubert, courtesy Culver
Pictures (Wheeler 1973, 188).

References

Note: These references are incomplete, especially for the genealogical data.  I have to go through my notes several more times and double check my sources and citations.   The three question marks (???) indicate that I have to verify part of a citation.

Blow, Michael. 1992. A Ship to Remember: The Maine and the Spanish-American War. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

"The Boys of Ninety-Eight."  1996.  Michigan History 80 (September / October): 16-19..

Censuses:

1870 U. S. Federal Census, West De Pere, Brown County, Wisconsin, p. 15.

1880 U. S. Federal Census, West De Pere, Brown County, Wisconsin, dated 7 June 1880, p. 14, dwelling 126, family 132.

1894 Michigan State Census, Spalding, Menominee County, Michigan, dated 13-14 June 1894, p. B357, dwelling 83, family 83.

1910 Federal Census, Harris, Menominee County, Michigan, dated 27-28 April 1910, p. B2, dwelling 38, family 38.

Coghlan, Ronan.  1979.  Irish Christian Names: An A-Z of First Names.   London, UK: Johnston & Bacon.

Cohen, Stan.  1997.  Images of the Spanish-American War: April-August 1898.  Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc.

Commissioner of Railroads. 1874-1908.  Annual report of the Commissioner of Railroads of the State of Michigan.  Lansing: R. Smith Print. Co., State Printers and Binders.  Available on http://books.google.com.

Dunn, Jim.  1998.  "McNelis Genealogy Home Page."  At http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/j/w/jwd6/mcnelis.htm, 1 February.

Dyal, Donald H., Brian B. Carpenter, and Mark Thomas, eds. 1996. Historical Dictionary of the Spanish American War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Feuer, A. B.  1996.  "Our only option was to attack" [about the Michigan Naval Brigade in the Spanish-American War].  Michigan History 80 (September / October): 8-13.

Giessel, Jess M., and Patrick McSherry, eds.  1998.  "Spanish-American War Centennial Website."  At http://www.spanamwar.com, 1 February.

"Grandson Looks into Grandpa's '23 Rail Death" [Dennis Stanton of California], Daily Mining Gazette, Houghton, 13 July 1974, p. ???.

Houghton County Probate Court, file no. 5765, "In the Matter of the Estate of John F. Stanton." Rose Stanton vs. DSS&A, MRRR, Portage Lake Foundry and Machinery Company, and the Quincy Mining Company, settled 24 November 1924.

Houghton Light Infantry and Calumet Light Guard. 1900. A Souvenir, Illustrated, Historical, Company G, Third Regiment, Company E, Third Regiment, Michigan National Guard. Houghton: Gazette Co.

Konstam, Angus.  1998.  San Juan Hill 1898: America's Emergence as a World Power.  Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing Ltd., Campaign series, no. 57.

Krashner, Mary.  1996.  "'Nice Fellows and Good Brave Men': The Spanish-American War Experience of Clyde F. Karshner." Michigan History 80 (September / October): 14-15.

"John F. Stanton Meets Death in Train Wreck," Daily Mining Gazette, Houghton, Wednesday 7 March 1923, p. 8.

Letters:

Mary Ann Defnett, genealogical researcher, to John P. DuLong, 23 August 1988, referring to the 1881-1882 City Directory Green Bay and De Pere

Sr. Brideen Long, Archivist, Diocese of Green Bay, to John P. DuLong, 14 September 1988.

Ruth Syler, Director and Department Adjutant-Q.M., Department of Michigan, United Spanish War Veterans, Lansing, MI, letter to John P. DuLong, 15 November 1983.

Livingston, Rebecca.  1998.  "Genealogical Notes: Sailors, Soldiers, & Marines of the Spanish-American War, the Legacy of the USS Maine."  Prologue [Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration] (Spring): 62-72.

The whole issue of Prologue is dedicated to the Spanish-American War.   This particular article is the best introduction I have seen to researching Spanish-American War records at the National Archives.  This article is now available online at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/spring_1998_spanish_american_war_1.html.

To acquire the forms you need to request military and pension records from the National Archives, please point your browser to http://www.archives.gov/research_room/obtain_copies/military_and_genealogy_order_forms.html 

MacLysaght, Edward.  [1964] 1980.  The Surnames of Ireland.   5th ed.  Dublin: Irish Academic Press.

Mehney, Paul. 2002. "The War with Spain." Michigan History Magazine (May/June): 28-40.

Michigan Department, Adjutant General's Office, photocopy of John F. Stanton's honorable discharge from Company G, 3rd Michigan National Guard Regiment, dated 23 April 1898, original once owned by the late Angeline (Stanton) Noel.

Michigan National Guard. 1940. Historical and Pictorial Review: National Guard of the State of Michigan. Baton Rouge, LA: Army and Navy Publishing Co., Inc.

Military Service Record for Daniel McNellis, National Archives, number 41414629, 5 May 1900.

National Archives and Record Administration. Spanish War Military and Pension Records for John F. Stanton, S. 34 Mich., 5 May 1900, no. 41515919; pension certificate no. WC 936807; 17 March 1923 widow pension declaration; 9 October 1931 children pension declaration [includes copies of State of Michigan death certificates for John F. Stanton and Rose (Prince) Stanton].

Nofi, Albert A. 1996. The Spanish-American War 1898. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, Inc.

Official Souvenir, Michigan Volunteers of '98: A Complete Photographic Record of Michigan's Part in the Spanish-American War of 1898. 1898. Detroit: G. F. Sterling & Co.

O'Toole, G. J. A. 1984. The Spanish War: An American Epic--1898. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Sargent, Herbert H. 1907. The Campaign of Santiago de Cuba. 3 vols. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co.

"Stanton Funeral Today: Military Honors are Paid to Veteran of Cuban Campaign." The Calumet News, Thursday 8 March 1923, p. 3.

State of Michigan, Department of Military Affairs, photocopies of records concerning John F. Stanton enclosed in a letter from Calvin A. Stevens, Personnel Officer, Lansing, MI, to John P. DuLong, 15 February 1980.

State of Michigan, Management and Budget Division, United Spanish War Veterans, 51 mss. boxes, 2 vols. (24 feet), accession no. 84-88, lot no. 62, at the State of Michigan Archives, received 15 June 1984, prepared 28 May 1985, Camp no. 28 records in box no. 15.

Stronarch, Capt. John. 1946. "The 34th Michigan Volunteer Infantry." Michigan History 30 (April-June 1946): 288-304.

Trask, David F. 1981. The War with Spain in 1898. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.

U.S. Army Center of Military History.  1998.  "The U.S. Army in the War with Spain."  At http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/documents/spanam/wws.htm, 30 October.

U.S. Army Center for Military History, Historical Resources Branch.  1998.   "Spanish-American War: Volunteer Forces."  At http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/documents/spanam/ws-stat.htm, 1 February.

Vital Records:

Daniel McNellis, Minnesota Death Record, photocopy, filed 8 May 1900.

Rose McNellis, Menominee County, Michigan, Probate Records, recorded 24 October 1913.

Ulick Stanton, Menominee County, Michigan, Death Records, recorded 1 June 1894.

Ulick Stanton, Brown County, Wisconsin, Death Records, dated 22 February 1893, vol. 8, p. 112.

"Wedding Bells Ring for Four" [Stanton and Prince wedding announcement], newspaper clipping, probably from the Daily Mining Gazette, Houghton, about 30 June 1903.

"Well Known Trainman Killed Last Night." The Evening Copper Journal, Hancock, day ??? 6 March 1923, p. ???.

Wheeler, Keith. 1973. The Old West: The Railroaders. New York: Time-Life Books.

"While Acting as Peace-Maker" [Obituary for Daniel McNellis], Iron Mountain Press, Thursday 17 May 1900, p. 133.

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Please contact me if you have any additional information, or corrections, regarding the Stantons or the McNellises.  I would love to hear from you.  You can either email me or contact me at home, 959 Oxford Road, Berkley, MI 48072-2011, (248) 541-2894.  If you are related to the McNellis clan, then please visit Jim Dunn's wonderful McNelis Genealogy Home Page to learn more about this family.  Jim is an American temporarily living in Australia who keeps track of McNellis genealogical data.

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This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1996 by John P. DuLong, Berkley, MI. Created 15 May 1996.  Last modified 8 November 2009.