January 2014

George Cramer Teel Revisited

A year ago or so I wrote about George C. Teel who was a career Navy man. Since then I have sifted through many pages of his personnel record from the Archives in St. Louis. He served on many ships, frequently transferred from one to another. All of his deportment ratings were good; he was never at the top of any classes he took, but he always passed with more than adequate grades, frequently his average would be 3.5 out of 4.0. He was always recommended for further classes which allowed him to achieve a higher class rating.

He joined the US Navy in 1905 as an Apprentice Seaman at age 17 with his mother’s signature on a consent form. George’s mother, Eliza Teel, died in Ruthven, Iowa, two years after George joined the Navy and before he had finished his apprenticeship.

He reenlisted in 1908, Seaman 3rd class, to serve another 4 years. During that time he attended Petty Officer School and was recommended for Electrician 3rd class. This evidently was a field he was comfortable in; he excelled in wiring and repair of same, but did not do well with messaging in wireless telegraphy. During this tour, his rating went from Electrician 3rd class, to Ε 2nd class in 1911, to E 1st class shortly before his discharge in Nov. 1912.

At the end of this enlistment, at age 25, he took some time off from the Navy. After 7 years of regimentation, for the first time he had a little money in his pocket and he could explore the world on his own. His travel money upon discharge was from San Diego to Bremerton, WA. He had listed as next of kin Millie Crosby, his aunt, but Millie lived in Sacramento at that time, so I do not know who he went to see in Bremerton.

During the next five years he evidently was living some of that time in Montana. When he reenlisted again in 1917, he gave his home address as Sage, Montana, his next of kin: Millie Crosby, Alger, WA. In case of emergency, notify Aletha Barringer, Inverness, Montana. Aletha Barringer came from Ruthven, Iowa, likely someone George grew up with. At one time a Barringer family lived next door to Eliza and George Teel in Ruthven.

Millie Crosby died in January 1920. In August 1920, George filled out a beneficiary slip for his insurance: “In the event of my leaving no widow or child or of their decease before payment is made, I then designate as my beneficiary the following dependent relative, my cousin Miss Agnes Wilma McCord, 813 So. Junett St., Tacoma, WA. 2nd dependent relative: Mr. Edgar Will Crosby, Seattle, WA.” (Italics were on the form)

Obviously he was still single at age 33. In another form, he stipulates that he sends Wilma occasional contributions. Agnes Wilma McCord did not marry until 1926; she lived home with her parents but they were elderly and not well. Wilma’s grandmother, Elizabeth Cramer Sears Quimby was a sister to George’s mother, Eliza Cramer Teel.

He reenlisted again in August 1923, giving a home address of Rudyard, Montana. When this enlistment was due to expire, he extended the enlistment for another 2 years, to 1929, for which he received $200 and a leave with travel allowance to Butte, MT. I’m not sure that he went to Butte; travel money was probably allotted from where he enlisted.

Hattie Menge Teel

When I found a Hattie Teel who died in California in 1966, the California Death index gave her maiden name as Menge. It was not hard to trace her with that surname. But I found a treasure trove of vital statistics in a most unexpected place.

Hattie Menge applied for a passport in Chicago, her father was Onesimus Menge, b. London, England, deceased, he had resided 1879-1919 in US, naturalized citizen. She had resided outside the US (France) from Nov 1918 to August 1919, her permanent residence, Chicago, IL, and occupation stenographer. Last passport obtained in Cedar Rapids, IA in Sept 1918; intention to leave the US within 5 years for the purpose of missionary work to China, Hong Kong, Japan (Hong Kong had been crossed out) intend to leave from San Francisco on the Korea Maru on April 1, 1922. Oath of allegiance to US signed 16 Mar 1922.

Miss Hattie Menge applied at consulate in Shanghai, China, for registration as an American citizen. She was born 15 May 1888 in Agency, Iowa. She left US in April 1922, arrived Shanghai April 1922 for purpose, missionary for Methodist Episcopal Mission (Am.) She was residing Shanghai, c/o Assoc. Mission Treasurers, #20 Museum Rd., legal residence: Chicago, Ill. (This info is as good as a birth certificate!!!)

“I desire to remain a citizen of the US and will return there on furloughs. I do not pay American income tax. My annual income is less than $1000. I bear passport #188 Chicago series, issued by Dept. of State March 18, 1922 for the purpose of travel, missionary work Japan, China. I have never been married.” Signed Hattie Menge, 8 April 1924. Description: age 35, ht. 5′ 6″, eyes gray, hair br, medium complexion.

She arrived back from Shanghai on the Empress of Australia, sailing from Hong Kong Oct. 2, 1925, arriving Vancouver, B.C. Oct. 1925, then Seattle; she was the only passenger. Address in US: Friend, Mr. F.L. Connelly, 5235 Cornelia Ave., Chicago, IL.

So how did George and Hattie meet?

George C. Teel was probably not someone who would be overly confident. I am basing that on his description, though I could be wrong. He was 5 ft. 4 inches tall, was bowlegged and had deformed front teeth. This data comes from the identification marks written at time of his physical exam. The bowleggedness, often caused by rickets, a familiar sign of poor nutrition as a child, might have passed unmarked by the public, as there is a rumor that many old time sailors were bowlegged from keeping their footing on the ship’s deck at sea. But in 1925, I’m not sure how it would have been accepted. The deformed front teeth certainly would not have improved his smile. His vision, however, was perfect.

On Feb 16, 1926 George was transferred to the US Naval Hospital in Canacao, Philippines, from the USS Penguin where he had been assigned since his last reenlistment. He was transferred via the USS Pillsbury and it took 5 days to get him to Canacao from wherever the Penguin had been when the ship’s doctor determined he needed hospitalization. He was at Canacao two months when, not being able to determine the problem, they transferred him on April 19th to the Naval Hospital on Mare Island, San Diego. It took a month before he arrived there (I have visions of this poor man transferring from ship to ship on one of those high wires strung between ships. But that is probably melodramatic and he was transferred by boat – several times.) Once at Mare Island, they quickly diagnosed a duodenal ulcer. He was treated and returned to duty on July 10, 1926.

On September 7, 1927 George Teel was transferred once again to US Naval hospital in San Diego, for treatment. He was returned to duty on Nov 10, 1927. However, he was given leave from Nov. 14 – 30, 1927, classified as “annual” leave.

Here’s my theory. Hattie was a stenographer. It would not have been hard for her to get a job in San Diego with the Navy. She may have even worked at the Naval hospital. Certainly George would not be the first sailor that found his wife at a military hospital. Anyway, while I cannot find a marriage date for them, the birth of their son, George Douglas Teel on July 13, 1928 works out pretty well to make a guess they married in November 1927.

George had already extended his enlistment and when that was up in August 1929, he immediately reenlisted; he was close to his 20 years. He received his permanent appointment as Chief Electrician Mate in March 1930, and transferred to the Naval Reserves in June 1932 with 20 years, 8 months and 20 days of active service.

In Nov. 1930 and again in June 1932, Hattie with their son, traveled from California to Honolulu where George was stationed at the submarine base. They may have all come back to California together when his transfer to the Reserves came through in June 1932.

The 1940 census shows George living in Los Angeles, with Hattie and their 11 year old son. These two parents who married late in life must have felt fortunate that they could have a child. Hattie was 40 when their son was born. George was working as a sub station manager for City Light and Power Co. Their son was in school. But there was not to be a “happy ever after”.

For some reason not yet known, their son, George Douglas Teel, died in January 1945, only 16 years old. I have sent for his death certificate but it will be several months before it comes.

On July 1, 1939, having completed 30 years of service to the Navy, George was transferred from the Naval Reserves to the Retired list, Chief Electrician Mate, to receive the appropriate pay and benefits for his rating.

Then there is this: “The Secretary of Navy is authorized in times of war or when a National emergency exists to call any enlisted man on the retired list into active service for such duty as he may be able to perform”.

George Teel was recalled to active duty Feb. 19, 1942 and was sent to the Naval Training Station in Newport, R.I. for duty as instructor in the Service Schools there. Later that year he was transferred back to San Pedro, CA and he served until his release from active duty on August 1, 1945. On a beneficiary slip made out April 1, 1945, he lists his wife Hattie Teel, and full name of child: George Douglas Teel.

Hattie died in 1966 and George Cramer Teel moved to Florida to live with Mr. and Mrs. Harry Stalker, Mrs. Stalker allegedly George’s sister. I still do not know how she fits in. But I have a clearer picture of George Teel now. The Navy afforded him a way out of a precarious existence as a youth and he made a life for himself. His mother would be proud of him.

Lineage: George Cramer Teel-5, Eliza Cramer Teel-4, Mary Ann Douglass Cramer-3, John Douglass -2, Alexander Douglass -1

(When showing lineage, the highlighted name shows which of the nine Douglass siblings that this family descends from.)

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