Claude Reese

Claude Reese

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History of Davis-West House IV

I recently found Slade's diary for 1944 and will now present portions of those writings. He was assigned to the ship John A. Sutton as second mate on March 28, 1944 in Savannah, Ga.. Departed April 9 with convoy to New York.

April 12, 1944
Left New York Still in Convoy
Very foggy and raining at times from noon to 4 PM. I was blowing whistle continuously and could hear others all around. Saw only one other ship.

April 29, 1944
North Sea Anchor off Hull (Grimsby)
Nice Day. North Sea very clear Coming in at 8 anchorage as I went off watch. Picked up again and went to Grimsby by time I came on at midnight.

May 30, 1944
In route Thames Warm
Warmest day yet planes going over all day going and coming from continent. Bombers and fighters. Heavy gun fire on English coast. So many ships that you could not count them. Arrived at Telburg docks by 9:30 PM. I have the night watch.

June 1, 1944
Tilbury Dock To Anchor Windy Rain and Cloudy
Loading ship with trucks in holds on deck. Ready to sail by 2 PM but waited for one ahead to get out. It was 5 PM by the time we got through the lock. Anchored right up and outside the dock.
My anchor watch from 10 PM to 3 AM.

June 2, 1944
Anchorage Thames off Gravesend Windy
Planes by the hundreds went over. American bombers by 11AM and 3 PM, British planes 7 and 8 PM some of the largest formations I have ever seen. LST's coming out fully loaded. Have quite a few troops aboard (about 40). Had fire drill at 4 PM.

June 3, 1944
Off Gravesend Cloudy and Windy
My watch at noon to 3 PM. Rumor that troops soon come aboard. Great number of bombers and fighters all day and night.

June 5, 1944
To Southend in Thames Windy and Cool
Boombers go over. At 5 PM we weighed anchor + and went to Bouchard, mouth of the Thames where we anchored at 7 PM. I went on watch 7:30 to midnight and our watches were set. Moonlight and partly cloudy.

June 6, 1944
Mouth of Thames - D-Day Windy, Cold and Cloudy
Wake up little after 9 AM and heard on radio that invasion of France had started 7 AM. Not many details available. Convoy formed on outside of gates. Convoy conference held. More news later. Fighters constantly passing over many P38's.

June 7, 1944
Sail for France Cold
Watch till 4 AM when I got up (sailed 6 AM) we were off Davy and had smoke screen to left (toward France) . Heard sirens & planes over Dover & had our alarm sounded Guns on French coast opened on us and I saw shells exploding on cliffs, Often fell ahead of us close to the ship ahead and some back, but we all got thru. Later passed landing craft on way back. Heard heavy gunfire. We ran onto a buoy and every one rushed out.
Note: I have always been told Slade was in the invasion on D + 1 and this verifies that. Claude.

June 8, 1944
Arrive off France Partly Cloud Warmer
On watch at midnight convoy would run into returning craft and stop. Flares would go up all around and we would hear gunfire. Once saw the flashes of small gunfire + also saw the tracers going out over the water. I got some sleep from 4-10 and we have just anchored when I got up. All kinds of ships everywhere. Life rafts floating by + sunk landing craft near by. Heavy guns occasionally fire near coast which you could see a few miles off. Sinking landing barge tied up along side + discharged guns and trucks etc. as three men blown to pieces were thrown over board 11:45 ship on fire red hot, never saw anything like it

June 9, 1944
Off France Attacked by bombers
Right after midnight air raid sirens could be heard ashore. All kinds of gunfire opened up along with the search lights. German planes came over ship Terrific explosions + awful barrage. We stayed at this anchorage till about 3:30 PM when we had orders to move to sector S (mouth of river at Caen). Had air attack and three bombs missed us by 100 yards. Gave them plenty in return (5:30 PM) We all started working cargo, but were held up by bombing attacks. Three more just missed and rain of incendiaries. Saw one plane shot down and two barrage balloons. During night more attacks and bombs ashore. Fire started. Sea battle behind us. Cloudy + little rain

June 10, 1944
Off France
English + American planes have superiority to day. ...... next door + smaller craft firing away at the coast All unloading cargo + by 8:30 are underway up coast to safer quarters. Had air alert at 6 hours and shot at English planes but none hit. Lancasters dropped parachutes on coast. Leaving at 5 AM tomorrow in northbound convoy. Distant air attack during nite.

June 11, 1944
Cloudy Cool
Pull up anchor and go to convoy but are not to sail till 9:30 No special trouble. Alarm at 8:30 + 5 or 6 depth charges go off very close. No more sleep for me. Very foggy and hazy on morning watch. Almost got .... Planes pass over steadily.

June 12, 1944
Arrived London 5:30 PM Rain at nite
Were in Thames at 9:30 AM. Came up to Victoria docks and finished docking at 6 PM. I took nite watch + had to supervise repairs Very tired + got no chance to sleep – Are to sail tomorrow afternoon Wrote letter home – had two air raid warnings 3:30 AM and 4:00. Second raid there were guns and I heard the bombs drop a mile away. Saw the flash when the plane was hit that was brought down - got no sleep.

June 13, 1944
London Sail
Rained all the town I was in town but stopped at 1:00 PM I found mail coming aboard and got 5 letters. Stood by around 8:00 PM cleared locks by midnite in time to take regular watch. We anchored by 3 AM. I got to bed at 4:00 + slept for first time in days.

June 14, 1944
Anchorage Thames + Sail Cold
Got up late. On watch but nothing to do special. Got underway 10:00 PM. Do not have as many trucks. On time but 3 of our 6 Beaufort guns are on deck ready to use. Have 600 soldiers aboard 200 more than last trip. Before I came off morning watch had passed Dover and were off Folkerstone.

June 15, 1944
At Sea + Arr. France Clear
Up 10 AM. When I went on at noon depth chargers were being dropped 5 or 6 ....... Isle of Wight entrance to South Hampton. Arrived at Anchorage off French Coast at 8 PM. Could hear gunfire and see smoke over the ridge. We anchored 20 miles up from our former place but could see the same church steeple. Arr off Port en Bessin + St. Honorine. Very quiet till about dark when the planes start over. Saw a Foche Wulf 200 in the lights and quite a few fire works off and on till 4 AM. Search light more numerous than the first trip.

June 16, 1944
France 2nd Trip
Start unloading before noon, but only a few barge loads completed. Several ships aground but got off – buy supply of chocolate from soldiers. Lay down 8 PM + when I got up 11:45 just dark and German planes (FW200) came over. Saw one ... ... ... and gunfire. Stop unloading. Very quiet nite, very dark

June 17, 1944
France Cold, Windy
Roughest day yet. Unloading, completed about 6 AM. Were touching bottom 4 PM and moved. Heard few guns during day. At 11:30 air raids started and flares dropped right over us. Had good smoke screen awhile. Very clear night. Raids not over till around 2 AM. One bomb dropped near and had a plane pass real near.

June 18, 1944
France Sail
Up till 7:30 though turned in twice. Anchored + sailed around 9 AM. Very nice clear but windy and cool day. I read some. From 6 PM till 11:30 6 or more rocket bomb planes came over – 2 are shot down. (First I have seen)

June 19, 1944
London 8:00 PM Gale
Rocket planes pass over till I turn in at 4 PM. Very windy and a gale blowing. When I went on watch at noon were entering gates at Mouth of Thames. Up to docks at 3:30 PM but had to wait for tugs and did not finish tying till 8 PM

June 25, 1944
Thames Sail Pleasant
Saw hundreds of bombers returning. Had conference + sail 8 PM. Little afterward we shot at duddlebugs. (Buzz Bombs)

June 26, 1944
Ar. France 3rd Trip rain
Arrived off coast of France, beach head about 11 PM. After coming in the last few miles very slow. Rained most of my morning watch and several flying bombs passed over. Had Major Bates staying on my settee. Saw ship aflame at Fokerstorm + in sight several houses. Another ship seen is coming in on the bow up. This is the quietest nite I have seen since D-Day due mostly to weather. Saw distant flashes of gunfire toward Caen.

June 27, 1944
France off Courvelles 2 mi
Had the Major with me again this morning. I got up around 10 AM as the cruiser next to us let go its 8 in. guns. Were in sight of where we were formerly + could see smoke coming up from Auistreham. Shells exploding close by from the German shore batteries.

June 28, 1944
France Pleasant + Clear
Finished unloading 6 PM + changed anchorage. During day a liberty ship was towed in with bow down sinking. Cruiser next door let go. During day a mine went off sinking a minesweeper.

June 29, 1944
France Sail In convoy Pleasant
Was up till 9 AM + got one hr sleep before going on watch again. Air attack from midnight till 4 AM. On beach heavy gunfire flashes lit up sky over Caaen. Rodney let go at planes we could hear going over but too far up. Was up till 7:30 coming out of Anchorage. Passed Charles Elliott who had been sunk by a mine bow was up. 6:30 PM 3rd behind us torpedoed and later a flying bomb was shot down by one ahead. Depth charges went off mostly before I went on watch.

June 30, 1944
London Ar. 6 PM Hard rain
Hard rain during watch. Flying bombs passing over + planes after them. Saw 3 shot down, 1 exploding in air. It barely missed our bow. It was flying very low and exploded on the water beyond. Pilot aboard 3 AM in poring rain. Just got thru gate when I went on at noon + by 1:30 even at Telburg Dock. Anchored out several hours and docked by 6.

July 1, 1944
London (Tillbury)
I was on duty all day as mate not back. Very busy. Flying bombs still going over. London had their longest alert today than ever before. Troops aboard 5:30 and loaded complete. About 2 to 3 AM stopped Captains room and found him with several of the officers having a big party with scotch and gin. I joined them.

July 2, 1944
London Sail
Got up 7:15 (not feeling very well). Got ready for sailing at 8 AM. Thru the locks at 10 and lay down awhile. Finished at 12:30. Sailed for convoy at 7 PM. Doodlebugs pass over and get shot at. Saw flashes on French Coast + heard explosives both sides.

July 3, 1944
Ar France 4th Trip Rain + Warmer
Up 10 AM rain and fog on first part of my watch. Lots of wreckage in water + at 2:20 saw dead body floating past face down with life preserver on. Anchored about 10:30 at "Gold" area where we were 2nd to unload. After midnight heard planes and saw fire in distance and had a few shells over head. Saw flashes from ships and ashore.

July 4, 1944
France Pleasant Clear
American ships have priority unloading today. Were finished by 9:30 PM and shifted out to another anchorage. Quiet day. Saw shell burst not so far off. Moon lit night and there were a couple if air raids not lasting long and not much visible activity over the hills. We are anchored off Port en Bessin about the same place as on 2nd trip. Exchanged cigarettes for chocolate and bought German souvenir, cigarette lighter.

July 5, 1944
France Sail 9 AM Clear + Pleasant
Got to bed 7 AM and I was on bridge going out to convoy anchorage. See a Liberty ship on bottom with mast top out. Calm Day. At midnight was clear and took on pilot. Bombs started coming over, I saw a few shot down one a few hundred yards from ship. Saw traces on the French coast across from Dover which was plainly seen in moonlight. Also heard bomb bursts and flashes on French coast.

History of Davis-West House III

We have previously introduced Slade, the last member of the West Family to occupy the house. Today we will get better acquainted with him. We begin with a picture of him made in 1972 when the historic marker was unveiled. He was 68 at the time.

We go back to his early life by showing a picture of him and his caregiver when he was 5 ½ months old. It is obvious the West family was part of the upper level of society in those days. These were people who had the nice homes, could trace their ancestry back to the colonial days and had house maids, gardeners etc.

We now show a picture of Slade and Marion at St. Elmo.

I recently found a diary for 1929 that Slade kept. He had his 25th birthday this year. While at home he did lots of work on the house. He and his mother would often visit in their neighbors homes for tea, dinner or to play bridge. He went to see lots of movies and he rated them in his diary. They often visited with the Holdens. He occasionally had a date with Sally Carter. He mentions buying an Oxford grey suit and pair of shoes at Schriebers and going out to visit the McKinnons. He tells of their buying a Ford Sports Coupe and of he and his mother getting driving lessons.

Early in the diary (January) he mentions Mr. Bannerman comes to play bridge with them and Mr. Whiteall. Mr. Whiteall seems to be a store keeper who is often at the home. He helped Slade with repairs etc. As the years go by he seems to be more involved in the West family affairs.

I do not have the records regarding his education, but am confident he attended the local schools. I do know he went to the University of North Carolina. In the diary, he attended school in Columbus, Ga., from March 14, 1929 to October 10, 1929. He came back to Marianna and on the 15th. Mr. Whiteall and Mrs. West took him to Mobile in the Whippet (auto). They left on the 18th. On the 22nd he was made a part of the crew of the steamer S.S. GATOMPSKA. His first assignment was mess boy. As a result of this and what follows I believe his schooling in Columbus had to do with maritime affairs.

I think I should mention here he always referred to his mother as "Mama". I want to include here the entire entry for Feb. 26, 1929 – "Got up at 5:00 AM, left at 6:15 for Columbus (Mama and me). Went by Victory Bridge saw a terrible wreck. Had breakfast at hotel in Bainbridge and went by Donaldsonville(sp), Blakely ,Cuthvert, Cusseta where we had to detour 11 miles. We travelled 203 miles arriving at 3:00 PM. The Doziers came out late." This was an 8 hour trip. Now we make Columbus in a little over 2 hours.

While in school in Columbus, he was often out to St. Elmo. He mentions his Aunt Marion quite often. I presume this is his mother's sister for whom his brother Marion was named. He made lots of short trips. I want to mention one that occurred on Aug 5. He rode to Atlanta with Kirk Smith in his Pierce Arrow. This was a very high class car. I saw one when I was about seven years old. It was a big convertible with a rumble seat and chrome luggage rack on the back. It belonged to the richest lady in our town.

Now back to the diary. It begins on Jan. 1, 1929 in the Caribbean Sea at night. He reports seeing lights on the shore of Cuba. He stays in Havana until the fifth when he boards the "Gov. Cobb" for Key West. The weather was very rough. Water came so high most of the second class passengers got wet and everyone was sea sick but him. From there he took the S.S. Cuba to Tampa where he stayed, visiting with Marion. He left there by train on the 8th, taking a parlor car to Jacksonville. He left there in a day coach at 9:40 PM and got to Marianna at 5:00 AM on the 9th. He walked to the house. He slept until about 9:30 and walked down to the store to see Mr. Whiteall. This is his first mention of Mr. Whiteall.

Now back to Oct. 22. The ship Slade was assigned to was a freighter. After much ado they sailed to Pensacola where they loaded the ship. He had sent a telegram to his mother saying in would be in Pensacola for a short time. She and Mr. Whiteall went for a visit. The ship sailed for Hamburg, Germany on Sunday, the 10th of November. He was assigned to the saloon mess. He describes the whole trip telling about passing Key West, up the east coast and between Cape Hatteras and New York they headed east. On the 16th he says the waves were so high they got on the deck. On Friday, the 22nd there was high wind and hail. He says the waves were higher than the ship, about 150' high. Water came in the galley and the hall to the saloon. When off duty he slept and read and loaned equipment to two boys to make pictures of the storm. Their orders were changed and they went to Bremerhaven instead of Bremen. We will return to Slade next week.

History of Davis-West House II

When I came here in 1953 with Graham Aviation it was very hard to find a place to live so I decided to build a house. I heard a Mr. West had lots for sale. I went to the West home to see him and met Marion West. He told me I needed to see his brother, Slade. He also told me his mother was very ill and this was not a good time to talk business. She died a short time later. Today we will get acquainted with her.

She grew up in the great mansion known as St. Elmo in Columbus , Georgia . Information at the Davis-West House indicates it is very large with columns 40' feet high. For comparison the columns at Great Oaks are 24' feet high. When she and Dr. West married (1902) the influence of the very conservative Victorian Age had passed and the Gay Nineties were concluding and they were heading for the Roaring Twenties.

There was a popular artist named Charles Dana Gibson who had a great influence on the styles of the day. He was born in 1867 and died in 1944. He did mostly pen and ink drawings of beautiful women. They were known as the Gibson Girls. He was illustrator for most of the prominent magazines of the day. Following are two of his drawings.

We next show Mrs. West with Marian and Slade. Notice how much she fits the style in dress and hairdo. There is a considerable amount of Gibson's work in the Davis-West House. I judge the boys to be about 6 and 8 so that dates this picture to be about 1910. The picture was made in Columbus .

We now turn to her bedroom, it is the first room on the right as we go in the front door. It is called the St. Elmo Room because she brought the furnishings from her ancestral home. All the furnishings are of mahogany with fancy veneers and probably date from the late 1800's.

History of Davis-West House I

Our publisher thinks the series I did on antebellum Greenwood was well received. He has asked me to do one on the Davis-West House. We will start with two pictures of one of the earliest occupants, Dr. Theophilus West.

The house is located at Putnam and Madison Sts in Marianna. It was built in the 1840's by John Davis for his daughter Rebecca. We will discuss the structure later.

Dr. West's parents, Charles Burdick West and Zipporah Topping came to Jackson County from Virginia in 1827, just five years after the county was established. At that time the county extended from the Suwannee River to the Choctawhatchee. The Wests family established their plantation north of Tallahassee. Theophilus was born there September 5, 1836. He was educated in the common schools of that day and became a teacher at age 20. He graduated from Oglethorpe Medical College in Savannah, GA. in 1859 and soon moved to Marianna where he started his medical practice. In 1861 he married Rebecca Davis Spears, a widow for whom the house was built.

Davis-West2Since the war began that year he became the surgeon for Company E, Eighth Florida Infantry, Confederate States Army which was assigned to the army of Northern Virginia. This was Robert E. Lee's army and he served with it until the surrender at Appomattox. The Chipola Historical Trust has his parole which was issued April 10, 1865. It is shown here.

After returning to his farm he resumed his medical practice and was very active in community affairs. He was noted for his attention to patients regardless of their heritage even though they had not the ability to pay him. The war had impoverished almost everyone.

About 1872 he moved into town and established his first drug store. In 1877 he was appointed to the county school board by Governor Drew. He served as chairman continuously for about 15 years. In 1906 he was elected by large majority to the state senate. He was elected Speaker pro tem in 1907. He was chairman of the Committee of Health. He was a member of the Methodist Church and served as superintendent of Sunday school for more than 30 years. He was a noted student of the Bible and was considered an authority on its teachings.

He was noted as an entertaining and enlightening public speaker. He occasionally submitted writings to the local paper and they were read with great interest.

Much of this information was gotten from the Florida State archives. In conclusion, I am including the last paragraph from which it was taken.

"His first wife died in January, 1901. She bore to him one son Theodore D. West, now a prominent business man of Philadelphia, Pa. His second wife was Annie Slade of Columbus, Ga., daughter of Captain J.J. and Lela Slade, to whom he was married in June, 1902. They have two little sons living, Charles Slade, age four years, and Marion H., age two years."

Slade died in 1996 at the age of 92, so, he was born in 1904 which means this article was written in 1908.

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