Uncle Charlie and Constitution Day 1919

Maybe I’m not a ‘good American’ but I had never heard of Constitution Day till doing some genealogical research on my husband’s great-uncle CHARLES KINGSLEY CALHOUN. I came across an article, dated Sunday, Sept 7, 1919, in the New York Times listing C. K. Calhoun, Associate General Secretary of the Y.M.C.A., as requesting all of the 2100 branch secretaries in the U.S. to assist in making Constitution Day (Sept 17th) a success.

 

CALHOUN CHARLES K 1919 NY Times Constitution Day
7 Sept 1919, The New York Times

In this particular year, the drive was to provide “an antidote for the poisonous doctrines of present-day radicals” (i.e. Communists). That quote was from a second article, written in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY).

CALHOUN CHARLES K 1919 Brooklyn Eagle Constitution Day
8 Sept 1919: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Interesting. My husband’s grandfather, ALEXANDER CALHOUN, had become (around this time) a Socialist and his brother, Charlie, was waging an American-wide campaign against Socialism’s big brother, Communism. (For the differences between the two, look here: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Communism_vs_Socialism) THAT was very interesting, indeed. It goes a long way in explaining the two brothers living separate, and not very close, lives.

Uncle Charlie had a lifelong career at the YMCA. At age 19, (in the 1891 Canadian Census) he was living at his parents’ home in Ottawa and his occupation was YMCA Secretary. I had no idea what that meant. Was he a clerk? No, apparently not. The job of a YMCA Secretary was the running of an actual YMCA. Now…he may have been an Assistant Secretary, given his age. The YMCA, at that time, was not an athletic club, as my local Y was…before it shut down altogether…but a place for Christian fellowship and an early social service organization that helped all sorts of people get a foothold in their communities and provided all kinds of services to help them do so.

By 1901, Charlie had moved to Montreal and was (according to the 1901 Canadian Census) again working as a Secretary, YMCA. He was earning a whopping $1200 a year, while his father, ROBERT CHARLES CALHOUN, working as a Manager and age 51, was earning $1000/yr. His sister, GRACE CALHOUN, a teacher, was earning only $325/yr. He was obviously a man of some consequence already. That same year, he married the boss’s daughter, EFFIE MARGARET BUDGE.

In 1908, Charlie was named Canadian Field Secretary of the International YMCA, another step up…he was responsible for all of Canada. He was a good fundraiser and traveled Canada, helping Associations with their building campaigns. His earnings, according to the 1911 Canadian Census was a whopping $3000/year, three times what his father was earning (still listed as $1000/yr).

In 1917, Charlie had been moved up to the really big leagues, New York City.   World War One was on and Charlie was the New York City Secretary of the YMCA War Work Council. Charlie must have been a top-notch fundraiser. Here is a description of the work that was done by the YMCA through the War Work Council:

  • Throughout World War I, the YMCA provided morale and welfare services for the military. By war’s end, the YMCA, through the United War Work Council, had operated 1,500 canteens in the United States and France; set up 4,000 YMCA huts for recreation and religious services; and raised more than $235 million—equivalent to $4.3 billion today—for relief work.

After the War ended, Charlie was the Associate General Secretary of the YMCA New York City, and I found him organizing Constitution Day. Charlie had come from humble beginnings in Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada…son of Irish immigrants and the eldest of a big family. Without a college degree but with a great intellect and a great work ethic, he worked his way up to a really powerful and socially important job with the then-powerful YMCA. Bravo, Uncle Charlie!

 

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Little Lies and Manipulations…

In 19th Century Canada, there were rules for reporting events such as births, marriages, and deaths.  The father of a child was required to register that child’s birth within 30 days.  If the father was unable to, the mother was then required.  Well, that didn’t always happen…as anyone who is doing Canadian genealogy can tell you.

In the case of great-aunt KATHLEEN CALHOUN, her parents registered some of her siblings births, but not all.  And they didn’t register hers at the time.  For whatever reason, Kathleen must have needed a record of her birth and her mother, ELIZA ANN PARKE, filled out the necessary form.  Here it is:

CALHOUN KATHLEEN 1886 Birth
Birth document for Kathleen Calhoun

Well, maybe Eliza wasn’t quite telling the whole truth when she signed this document.  She listed the date of her marriage as 8 February 1871.  That wasn’t quite right.  She was, in fact, married on 8 February 1872.  Was this just a mistake?  Probably not.  Eliza was heavily pregnant with Kathleen’s brother, Charlie, at the time of her marriage.  He was, in fact, born a mere 3 weeks later.

Here’s the record of their marriage in Dublin.

Parke_Colhoun_Wedding_1872
Calhoun Parke marriage document

Poor Eliza was probably still worried what her children would think of her if she told the whole truth about the marriage and the move to Canada.  I find this sad, but very much of the time.  I just found it fascinating that Eliza was willing to lie in a government document, though what would they have done to her…really?

Thank God for Genealogical Hoarders

My mother-in-law, JEAN MARY FETTES CALHOUN, was a woman who loved her family, held on to old photos and letters, and kept contact (by letter) with all sorts of relatives.  The relatives she kept contact with were both hers and her husband’s.  She was not one to throw away old photos, but she actually kept a notation on them of who they were.  This is very lucky for me, as I try to collect, sort, and keep the stories of all these assorted folks.

Jean’s aunt, HELEN JANE ISAAC (1872-1955), married twice…once to the gentleman in the photo below, RICHARD JOSHUA DIXON (1876-1904) and secondly to DONALD MCFADYEN RAY (1864-1936).  Helen married her first husband, who seems to have gone by his middle name, on 4 June 1902 and he died only two years later on 21 Aug 1904 of Appendicitis.  How tragic!  Apparently, he had been studying for the ministry when he became ill.  She must have truly loved him because she kept this photo till the end of her life and she was buried next to him, not her second husband.  Helen’s second husband, Donald, was buried beside his first wife, WALTRENA WEIR.

Josh Dixon’s gravestone has a very touching memorial inscribed on it:

A loving husband, Kind and True, Was called to higher services than here.  In Love he lived, In Peace he died, His life was asked but denied.

When Helen married Josh, she was 29 and he was 25!  They had no children.  By the time she married her second husband, Don, Helen was 49 and Don was 64.  He had 3 children from his first marriage, they had none in common.  They were married for 15 years.

 

DIXON RICHARD JOSHUA_0001
Richard Joshua Dixon
DIXON RICHARD JOSHUA ISAAC HELEN JANE tombstone
The tombstone of Helen Jane Isaac and her first husband, Richard Joshua Dixon.
RAY DONALD MCFADYEN gravestone
The gravestone of Donald Ray and his first wife, Waltrena Weir.

Getting back to the luck of being related to a Genealogical Hoarder…there are many treasures that Jean left for me.  There are all sorts of breadcrumbs that she left for me to follow and to add to the family history.  I feel incredibly lucky.