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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Grumpy and the Pistol

The first time I saw this picture I was about 11 years old when my cousin Ed and I were at our grandparents house in Wichita (Planeview) KS.  We were both fascinated that this was our grandfather, Grumpy (Granville Wilkins) as a young man and he was holding a gun pointed at someone.  We could see faint handwriting on the image "daddy" which was no doubt written by one of his four daughters which could have been Ed's mother, June or my mother, Jane.

Grumpy was 71 in the summer of 1959.  Ed and I were his fourth and fifth grandchildren so he had plenty of grandfathering experience by that time and had probably configured several stories to be told to his grandkids.  My memory of Grumpy is a man of few words who only spoke when he was spoken to.  Ed and I began to ask about his childhood and the picture raised all sorts of questions.  Where were you?  Is that a real gun?  Who are you pointing at?  His response, Texas, yes and silence.
Our grandmother, Bomba (Ora Roddy Wilkins) died the summer of 1960.  Grumpy lived another 11 years.  Somehow the picture came my way sometime after his death in 1971.

Since his death as my interest in Wilkins genealogy grew I have shared the picture with other family members asking those same questions Ed and I asked in 1959.  No one had any more information about the image other than confirming that it was indeed Grumpy holding the gun.  It remained a mystery why the original is torn, what is missing?

In 2011 after my genealogical research led me to distant cousin, Joe Wilkins the picture took on new meaning.  Joe is the grandson of Ellis Wilkins, Grumpy's older brother.  Joe is in possession of all of Aunt Addie Wilkins Schroeder's family photo collection which he shared with me.  Addie was the younger sister to Ellis, Jim, and Granville (Grumpy).  To my surprise her collection had an intact original of the pistol photo.  Unfortunately, Joe had no more information about the image than I had.

So....the complete image shows a bit more detail.  The photo was done in a studio.  A backdrop and reflector can be seen.  The mystery remains as to who the person on the right may be.  Could it be his brother Jim?  Jim's life is somewhat of a mystery which I will explore in a future post.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

In Memory of Silver Star WWII Hero Lucian France Wilkins 1917-1943

The following is a facsimile of a letter from Lt. Ralph Berryhill to Lloyd Wilkins, Lucian's older brother.  Lt. Berryhill was a close friend of Lucian Wilkins, both from Hugo, OK serving in the 45th Infantry Division in the invasion of Italy. 

Transcribed as written.

Feb. 14, 1944

Dear Lloyd,
I recived your letter yesterday; I will be more than glad to answer your questions- In the first place I do know how you feal about Luke-& it is perty hard to belive- But it all true.

Luke and I got Our bars at the same time & was trainsferd to Co. “C” at the same time.  he had he 3 paltoon & I had the 2pl. we was together all the time & was the only person I new in the Co. you might have read semptin in the paper about mt. Molino or hill 960= there where he was killed.  We was making a attack one mt Molino – I was not with him at the time.  He was hit- He was leading the Co. with his platoon when we hit the Germans his pl. was shot up perty bad & he was trying to keep them together & get one top of the hill- he got on top and drove the Germans off, then he was coming bak to the Co. C.P. to get some orders on what to do he got back to the C.P. and was talking to Lt. Buckhner, ( who is wrighting you a letter to) when the Germans started shelling the C.P.  he was hit in the side. &  was trying to get another boy under cover when a nother shell landed and a pease hit him in the head & he was killed all at one.  So he was hit twice – but the first one would not have killed him if the second one had not have hit him.

No Lloyd he was not afraid to die if there was anyone who was not afraid to go it was Luke he was not scared of anything- He had plenty of guts- he told me several times if he had to get it that was the way he wanted it . you ask me if he was a good soldier he was the best Lloyd.
He is sepose to get a sliver star for his work that he was doing when he was hit-
He was buried in the Div. Graveyard- he was gotten out the same day he was hit=
He figgered he would get back home. But the law of averge will ketch up with you, we keep on going
We haven’t had any rest since we got here , there are 10 to 15 old men left in our Co.
His packet back and the rest of his stuff has been mailed home.
Lloyd if there is anything else your would like to now. I will be glad to wright you.
You & your family has my sympathy, Let me hear from you agin.
Love Ralph

An extract from the history of the 45th Infantry Division by Col. George Fisher


The assault Companies were B and C of our First Battalion and K and L of our third Battalion.  These four companies were on the line of departure prior to 6:30 A.M. [30 Dec 1943].  At that time, six battalions of our artillery opened up in the Volturno Valley far below, and for fifteen minutes hurled shell after shell on Mount Molino, Hill 960, Mount Rotando ajd Hill 1000.  In the meantime the companies moved forward towards their objectives.  As the barrage lifted, the rapid fire of the German machine guns and the cough of their mortars began.  At 8:55 A.M. Company B, Commanded by Captain Orrin O. McDaniels, Tulsa, Oklahoma, reached the first knoll of Mount Molino and came under heavy fire from heavy mahine gun and mortar fire.  Bulletts ricocheted and whined among the rocks. mortar shells burst like bolts of lightening among the company.  Many bullets and fragments struck after objects than rocks.  It was estimated that two full companies of Germans held positions in the Mount Molino-Hill 960 sector assigned to our First Battalion.  These enemy were heavily reinforced.  Tanks of Company A, 751st Tank Battalion, which had the mission of firing on Mount Molino from the road running west from Casale to Acquafondata, returned for more ammunition.  Then all artillery was lifted from Mount Molino with the idea in mind that the situation would be well in hand.  Ther Germans, however, continued to bring up reinforcements.

Company C battled its way over the rocks under heavy fire up Hill 960.  The Germans had no less than twenty machine guns well dug in on Mount Molino, and these together with others in the vicinity, poured a never ending hail of fire upon the assault companies.  Out in front of the advancing forces of Company C was Second Lieutenant Lucian F. Wilkins, a platoon leader, Hugo, Oklahoma.  Wilkins was [illegible] many boys from Hugo, Oklahoma who had come over seas as [illegible] that great soldier Lt. Colonel Howard [illegible] ?rys had seen the makings of a splendid officer.  On up the slopes went Wilkins of this embattled morning with his platoon following him.  At the head of his assault squad, Wilkins quickly destroyed two German machine gun nests.  When Wilkins and his men had gained the forward slope of the hill, they were pinned down heavy machine gun cross fire coming from a peak south of Hill 960 and from Mount Molino.  Wilkins’ platoon sergeant and runner were seriously wounded as were many others of the intrepid attackers, altogether twelve men were down.  To add to the misery, a raging blizzard swirled down through the mountains.  Wilkins ordered what was left of his platoon to return the German fire, and , with his communications line out, started crawling toward the Company command post to report the situation to 1st Lieutenant Richard P. Blanks, Company Commander, Henderson, North Carolina, and to request supporting artillery and mortar fire on the machine guns which were pouring murderous fire on his platoon.  With bullets splattering and whining around his body, he made it to the command post.  For a moment it looked like a helpless situation there at the command post, since communications personnel were having great difficulty in getting wire lines through from Battalion headquarters and the area between the Company and Battalion Headquarters was practically all fire swept.  From his position on Hill 960, Staff Sergeant Robert Bruce Paris, Park Hill Oklahoma, one of the Chilocco Indian boys, seeing the havoc that was being wrought with communications by German fire, voluntarily worked his way down the hill and, under heavy mortar fire, went to meet a one wireman who was trying to lay the line and who had been pinned down.  Parris took the wire, worked his way to the company command post and the communications were in.  Throughout the day the brave Indian lad worked restoring communications as they would be disrupted by German fire.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

MIA 2nd Lt. Lucian France Wilkins by Alex Poston

Frogville, Oklahoma, a town named after the alleged "giant duck-eating frogs" that make their home in the surrounding lakes and creeks, is a little speck of a town, barely visible even on a map, near the Oklahoma-Texas border. Chances are—if you could even find it— it would look much as it had nearly 100 years ago, when my distant cousin Lucian France Wilkins was born there, on November 29th, 1917.
Lucian was born at the tail end of what would later be known as the Green Corn Rebellion— a socialist-backed uprising of southeastern Oklahoman tenant farmers and sharecroppers in protest of military conscription and entry into the war in Europe. The rebellion itself lasted less than three days, but involved close to three hundred poorly-armed farmers and their planned march on Washington, D.C. According to the The New Day (1922) by Bertha Hale White:
"All of those who had participated in the uprising were soon under arrest,
and the net swept in others who had belonged to the organization, but had had no part in the rebellion. In all, nearly 300 men were involved, and when the case came to trial at Ardmore the following October 175 men received sentences ranging from 30 days in jail to 10 years at Leavenworth prison."

Perhaps it was the rebellious nature of southeastern Oklahoma at the time, or maybe just plain boredom due to life in a small town, but my grandmother June (Lucian's cousin) would likely say it was his being born with Wilkins blood that made Lucian and his older brother Lloyd into the town Hell- raisers that they were.
Lucian's mother, Minnie Wood, was half Choctaw and died when Lucian was only six years old. Her death had a devastating effect on Lucian's father, George "Ellis" Wilkins. The boys' aunt and uncle,
Celia Adeline "Addie" Wilkins and Frank Schroeder, took the boys in and raised them from then on, as
Ellis had reportedly become too distraught and turned to alcohol to help ease the pain of her passing. This was, Addie thought, not the right environment in which to raise two young children, and
though Ellis provided for the boys financially and wasn't technically "estranged," the boys, particularly Lucian, came to think of her as their mother. So much so that Lucian would later name her the beneficiary of his U.S. Army life insurance policy in the event of his death.
Lucian was the picture of the All-American youth in the 1930s. He attended high school in the neighboring town of Hugo, Oklahoma where he was by all accounts, one of the popular crowd (something quite rare in my family). Also a star athlete, he lettered in both track and field and football. Also during high school, Lucian joined the Oklahoma National Guard.
The Depression didn't ignore Oklahoma. In 1933, an out-of-work Ellis Wilkins moved with Lucian three hundred miles to Clinton, Oklahoma where Ellis' brother (my great grandfather Granville "Grumpy" Wilkins) lived. Lucian enrolled in Clinton High, where my great aunt Jo remembers how popular she became with the girls at school because her cousin was the handsome new boy in school.
It was also in Clinton that 16-year-old Lucian set in motion a family legend and town secret that still hasn't been brought to the surface.
The yearly football game between Clinton High and it's nearby rival, Elk City High School was coming up and Lucian was on the team. One day, he casually mentioned to his coach how his big brother Lloyd was the star running back of the far-away Hugo team. Clinton's coach evidently really wanted to win the Elk City game, so he conspired with Lucian to get Lloyd on to the Clinton team for the game, since no one in the Clinton/Elk City area would know who he was. According to most accounts, Lloyd never set foot in a Clinton High class room, but instead just showed up the day of the game, enrolled, and took the field that night.
Lloyd ended up only playing the second half, and only after Clinton was down. He promptly scored two touchdowns, won the game for Clinton, and was back in Hugo for school on Monday.
After graduating high school in 1938, Lucian was honorably discharged from the national guard in September of 1939. Less than a month later he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was shipped off to Fort Deven, Massachusetts, where in April of 1942 he was appointed temporary Staff Sergeant.
Almost a year later, as platoon leader of "C" company of the 45th Infantry Division "Thunderbirds", (whose insignia before the 1930s was a yellow swastika) Lucian took part in the Allied invasion on Sicily on June 10, 1943. He fought and survived the Battle of Biscari, where he received a battlefield promotion to Second Lieutenant— presumably due to the dead of his commanding officer.
For actions of bravery in this battle, he would be awarded the Silver Star, though he'd only receive it after his death. After Biscari, Lucian and the rest of the Thunderbirds of the 45th clawed their way north toward Rome.
On September 9, the 45th took part in the Allied amphibious invasion of Salerno, known as Operation Avalanche. Three months later, on December 30th, after taking several more towns, inching up toward Cassino, Lucian was reported as missing in action. Details aren't exactly clear on how this happened, but it wasn't until a friend of Lucian's, Lieutenant Ralph Berryhill, wrote his parents telling of his friend Lucian's death, that anyone in Hugo knew. Aunt Addie didn't even receive a notice of death, just a note from the War Department a few weeks after reading the letter from Lt. Berryhill, telling her he was missing in action. "I have nothing to write you—" the letter read, "Lucian is dead."
I have no doubt that similar stories of young American heroes could have been told in small (and large) towns all over the country just by changing the names of people and towns, but what's important is that this is Lucian's story, and a story of my family, and it helped me to learn a little more about who I am and where I come from.


Sources
Grove, John. Correspondences with historian, April 10th - 25th, 2012
Bibliography White, Bertha Hale. The Green Corn Rebellion in Oklahoma. Corvallis, Oregon: 1000 Flowers Publishing 2006
Telegram: U.S. Secretary of War to Addie Schroeder, February 1, 1944, Grove Family Collection
Lucian F. Wilkins Obituary. Hugo Daily News. Year Unknown (likely 1944)
Letterman's Award Certificates: Football and Track and Field:, Hugo High School, Hugo Oklahoma 1938. 

[Alex Poston's grandmother and Lucian and Lloyd Wilkins were first cousins)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

DNA Testing

In 2012 I submitted a saliva sample for DNA testing to determine where my ancestors had lived.  I used the service offered to Ancestry.com members and here are the results.  I was at first surprised at the Scandinavian dominance until I read more about the Vikings exploration of Europe.  It now makes sense knowing that the Scandinavians were in Ireland and the UK and established civilizations there.    The disappointment was the absence of Native American. I hold out hope that my uncertain 5% may have some Native American or African American connection.

Genetic Ethnicity Summary
Your genetic ethnicity reveals where your ancestors lived hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of years ago.


  • Scandinavian
     42%
  • British Isles
     21%
  • Southern European
     18%
  • Finnish/Volga-Ural
     14%
  • Uncertain
     5%

About Scandinavian Ethnicity

Modern Day Location
Norway, Sweden, Denmark

Looks like you may have some Viking blood in you. Your genetic ethnicity ties you to Scandinavia, which includes the modern-day nations of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. While the Vikings were feared by the coastal towns of medieval Europe as seaborne raiders and violent pillagers, they were also well-travelled merchants and ambitious explorers. They raided the Mediterranean coast of Africa, settled areas as far south as the Black Sea, and traded with the Byzantine Empire. And it was a Norse sailor, Leif Ericson, who is credited with being the first European to travel to North America—500 years before Columbus.

And it wasn't just the Vikings who had an irrepressible urge for adventure. In the days of the mighty Roman Empire, the Goths, originally from Sweden, wandered south and settled in what is now eastern Germany. In the year 410, they invaded and sacked Rome, setting the stage for the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Migrations into this region
As the glaciers retreated from Northern Europe, roaming groups of hunter-gatherers from Southern Europe followed reindeer herds inland and marine resources along the Scandinavian coast. Neolithic farmers eventually settled the region beginning about 6,000 years ago. However, the tradition of hunting and reindeer-herding remains among the Sami people of northern Scandinavia. The Sami formerly occupied much of northern Scandinavia and Russia, and likely had connections with the Volga-Ural region (where there are other languages similar to Finnish and Sami).

Migrations from this region
The rise of the Viking culture spread Scandinavian ancestry far throughout Europe. Their earliest coastal voyages took them to Scotland, northeastern England and established the settlement of Dublin, Ireland. As their power continued to grow, the Vikings spread farther afield, down the Volga River in Russia, to the coast of France and Spain. But perhaps their most famous accomplishments were the oceanic voyages across the Atlantic, establishing villages in Iceland and Greenland and exploring the northern coast of Canada. Few, if any of the early Scandinavian settlers, are thought to have survived in the Americas. However, Iceland remains a flourishing post of Scandinavian language and culture.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Albert Allen Wilkins & Mary Chase Wilkins

Obediah and Celia's second son was my great grandfather, Albert Allen Andrew Jackson "Bud" Wilkins born in 1852 in Mississippi.  In 1875 he married Mary Chase also born in Mississippi in 1852 the daughter of John Chase and Mary Trotter.  Albert died in 1906 in Grant, OK.  Mary died in 1928 in Hugo, OK where she had been living with her daughter Adeline Wilkins Schroeder.  My aunts Mary Edd and Jo Ella had dim memories of their paternal grandmother, Mary Chase.

This image and many more I will soon post were in the collection of Addie Wilkins Schroeder.  In late 2011 through Ancestry.com I was contacted by Kathleen Wilkins of Dallas TX.  Kathleen is a family researcher who is married to a another descendant of Obediah and Celia.  She provided me with the name and phone number of Joe Wilkins now living in New Orleans. After several phone calls and lengthy conversations with Joe we established our genealogical relationship.
Albert Allen "Bud" Wilkins
Mary Chase Wilkins

Since beginning this hobby I had been challenged with finding my Wilkins roots.  My mother and her three sisters were able to give me names and locations from their memories and a few pictures mainly from their childhood but very little about their grandparents.

They knew their father, Granville Cylvesta Wilkins had two brothers (Ellis and Jim) and one sister Addie.  They knew they lived in Hugo, OK in the 1940's.  They also knew that Ellis married an "indian woman" and they had two sons, their only first cousins, Lloyd and Lucian.  They knew that Lucian had been killed in World War II.  My aunt Mary Ed Wilkins Ryan, before her death in 1975 had sent me all the family photos she had.  I put my Wilkins research on the back burner and pursued the Grove line.

After speaking with Joe Wilkins we both realized that we had reconnected the descendants of Albert Allen and Mary Chase Wilkins.  He immediately knew of my grandfather, Granville.

Mary Chase Wilkins and her daughter Adeline Wilkins Schroeder
Joe grew up in Hugo, OK.  His paternal grandmother, Minnie Wood (Ellis' wife) was indeed part Choctaw and she had died at the age of 25 leaving their two sons (Lloyd and Lucian) in the care of their aunt Addie and uncle Frank.  Joe and his brother, Robert grew up viewing Addie and her husband Frank as "grandparents" since Addie and Frank were stand-in parents to their father Lloyd.
Lloyd Wilkins, Auntie Addie, Lucian Wilkins



Joe was the "gold mine" of Wilkins family lore, pictures, and data about my missing Wilkins ancestors. He too had an interest in family history and had documented all the details immediately filling in my Wilkins research.

I will soon post pictures and stories that Joe has shared with me.  Especially interesting are the story of Lucian Wilkins World War II bravery and the continuing mystery of Granville and Ellis' brother, Jim.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Obediah Wilkins & Celia Strickland Wilkins

My great great grandparents on my mother's side were Obediah and Celia Strickland Wilkins.  Obediah was born in Georgia in 1810.  His wife Celia Strickland was also born in Georgia in 1823.  My great grandfather, Albert Allen Wilkins was one of their eight children.  Before their deaths in Honey Grove Texas in the early part of the 20th century they lived in Mississippi.  There is some evidence that Obediah may have served in the Confederate Army.  I am researching this further.  This is the earliest Wilkins image I have found. It was in the Addie Schroeder Collection in possession of Addie's great nephew, Joe Wilkins.