Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Frank Whitman Raney (1888-1969)

Frank Whitman Raney, c. 1910
My grandfather, Frank Whitman Raney, was born on a farm near Princeton, Gibson County, Indiana, on 26 August 1888. In the 1900 census (all 1890 Federal censuses were destroyed in a fire), his father James Raney and wife Nancy, with son Whitman (age 12) is listed as owning his farm. A brother had died, so now Whitman was an only child. His sister Laura Esther would be born in 1902.

During his retirement years from the Northern Pacific RR Frank enjoyed puttering about in his vegetable garden and growing roses, but he never had liked farm work.  There might have been a shotgun wedding while a teenager. Uncle Paul and Pat said they found evidence of it on a trip back to Princeton, but what I located on Ancestry.com was a marriage in Pike County, Indiana, dated 9 Aug 1902, between W. Frank Rainey (b. 1876) and Estella B. Armstrong (b. 1878). They had three daughters and are in the 1920 census. Whether Frank ran off because his dad (he always called James Raney "Dad") was a tough taskmaster or because he regretted being married, he left Indiana in 1906 and ended up in Fredonia, Kansas, near the Oklahoma border, working at its glass factory. Mr. Lentes, the glass factory owner or manager brought him to the boarding house run by the Smith family  - Eugene, Louise, Gus, Mary and Laura. [They rented their original farm, but would rent another in 1909 and give up the boarding house.] Frank recalled first seeing Mary crossing the street in a red dress.  She claimed in later letters to him that she'd fallen in love with him during the short time he lived with them. Apparently, so did her  younger sister, Laura. Whitman's stay in Fredonia was short; he left on 26 November 1906 to join the United States Army, his 3-year enlistment papers claiming birth in Oil City, Pennsylvania (to avoid being found by his wife?).  After basic training at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, he was sent to the 21st Infantry at Fort Logan, Colorado, just south of  Denver (and later at Fort Douglas, Utah.)
This photograph was taken toward the end of August 1908 at temporary Camp Emmet Crawford between Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming, in an area called the Vedauwoo.  His infantry unit was on joint maneuvers with a cavalry unit from Fort F.E. Warren in Cheyenne. He must have marked the photo with an X before sending it to Mary in Kansas. They wrote  each other often. According to a contemporary issue of the Laramie Boomerang newspaper, the Fort Logan soldiers had come north from Fort Logan by train to Ft. Collins, Colorado, and from there had marched the 59 miles to Laramie and then east about 20 miles into this rugged area. [When the U. of Wyoming Cowboys football team plays the Colorado State Rams, each ROTC unit runs from its perspective university to a nearly midway point at the state line to exchange the "Bronze Boot trophy." Funny how distances decrease with the years.]  The army could have brought the soldiers all the way by train (Union Pacific), but that was too easy.

Vedauwoo - a great recreation area
He wrote to her from camp on 22 August, 1908, "My Dearest Beloved . . .Sweetheart we are in camp now and have some very hard work before us. We had to walk two hundred and forty miles before we got in camp. We had some very tuff (sic) days of it where we went to cross the Rocky Mountains. [W]e went through rain, hail and snow and it was oh very cold but is much better now, Dearest. We have to the fifteenth of September to complete this and I hope we will be through before then. Say Darling it wont (sic) be very long until I will get to come home to you and then how happy I will be. When I return it will be something grand. I wish that time was here dont [sic] you darling. . ."  Like most soldiers, he was prone to exaggeration to impress his girl.  He wrote this letter at camp with a purple pencil (or it's turned purple over the last 108 years). Often at Ft. Logan he wrote with a fountain pen. With only an 8th grade education, he still had a Spencerian hand. Note the flourishes on this blue envelope. [My mother Jean tore off all the stamps on their letters during a school stamp drive in the 1930s]

Grandpa was quite a storyteller.  He wrote of hair-raising adventures to Mary, recounting how his unit hunted bank robbers across the Wyoming prairie. When I read that letter some years back while living in Laramie, I went to the library and found the newspaper article about the bank robbery in Laramie and the search for the robbers. It was a long article and I suspect Grandpa read it while out on maneuvers.  His unit may have been told to be on the lookout, but it became his personal adventure.
Whitman wrote of going off on rides with his friend who had an auto and sent Mary this photo. I assume Whitman took the wheel for the photograph.
Another tale he wrote Mary was  of his imminent embarkation to the Philippines and that he wouldn't be in touch for a while. About this time he must have gone AWOL from Fort Logan to enjoy the good life of Denver.  Some time later he wrote that he'd returned from the Philippines.  He always said he'd been in the Insurrection of the Philippines, but that took place before he left Indiana. The Moro War was ongoing on Mindanao, with a battle in 1906, and I suspect he heard stories from fellow soldiers who'd been there or read accounts in the newspaper, for he once told me a gruesome tale about an attack in which his best friend was macheted by Moros. He took  his dislike too far one Thanksgiving in the 1950s by refusing to sit at his son Denny's and wife Junice's table because they'd invited the Filipino students living on the 3rd floor of their house. He finally did sit, but sulked throughout the meal (I received this story third-hand years ago).

After three years in the service he returned to Fredonia, converted from Baptist to Catholic, and married Mary Smith in June of 1910. On their wedding night, Mary's younger sister Laura sat outside their bedroom door and wept all night. Some wedding night! Years later, up at Laura and her brother Gus's farm outside Addy, Washington, Mary Agnes (still a girl) came to the open doorway to get a drink to find her father embracing and kissing Aunt Laura, who had never married. I'm certain Frank was just being kind.

Don't get me wrong. I was very fond of my Grandfather, and Grandma loved him dearly.  In my next blog, I'll get on with Frank and Mary's story.

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