From Ireland to Indiana
My family’s past is fairly simple. We came from Ireland and lived in Indiana until my grandparents moved south. There is nothing overly significant about this, other than the fact that everyone has seemed so keen to stay put in Indiana. There are marked similarities between Indiana farmland and the Ireland countryside. Both places can be considered quaint and somewhat backwards. Though Indiana seems so cut off from the advancements of the rest of the country, everything that hit the country, hit the state; including World War 2. The war hit my family as hard as it did most, with a unique spin, my great-grandfather was too young to fight, but still tried to enter the Navy. My family has managed to stay close to our routes, most remaining Catholic and living in ways that, though they do not realize it, resemble the way of life for some in Ireland.
Pollarine, Joshua, “Children at War: Underage Americans Illegally Fighting the Second World War” (2008). Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers. Paper 191.
My great grandfather tried to fight in World War 2, even though he was too young. It was common for men to attempt to join the Navy when they were young, many had success. The war was hard on everyone, and even those old enough to be fighting had to grow up faster than they would have without the war. Marines became “seasoned veterans” within only a few years of service. Two such marines, Loyd Martin and Carl Reddeck, broke protocol to bring along a picture of their families to the fighting in Guam. Reddeck died at the hands of the Japanese; he was only sixteen. He had joined the marines at the age of fourteen and his friend, Loyd, had joined at fifteen. Dudley Brown, whose job was to lower the ramp of the Landing Craft on D-Day was sixteen. The first day he saw gun fire was the bloodiest day of American history. Though he himself did not fire a gun, he watched as his comrades were shot down and other boats were blown to pieces all around him. The army was so desperate for more men, they would believe anyone, requiring almost no verification of age, “at age fourteen, Alvin Snaper went to his local draft board and told them it was his eighteenth birthday.” By the time Snaper was fifteen, he was second lieutenant. According to the official military records, no one under the age of seventeen was enlisted in the army and fought in World War 2. They all lied about their age and identity to sneak into the army. Almost sixteen million Americans fought in World War 2, and a small, overlooked, portion of those soldiers were underage. If someone was found out to be underage, they were immediately sent home, sometimes their medals were stripped. Joseph Argenzio received a purple heart. When his commanding officer discovered his age, Argenzio was stripped of the medal, only to be returned to his wife after he died.
My grandma is only here because my great grandfather was one of the few underage men who were turned down from the navy. Had he succeeded, he would have been placed on a ship that later sunk, leaving no survivors. There would be no Vivian Schmidt, which means no Pamela Beard and no me. Other families were not so lucky. Many young men were able to fight and die for our country before their time. The country was so desperate for a few good men, that they stopped holding themselves to the standards that are to be expected of such a powerful nation.
Hanley, John F. The Last Boat. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
When World War 2 was raging, everyone felt the need to be involved. Whether it was to cease the horrors of Nazi Germany, or to spread the communistic and superiority ideas of Hitler. No one was without a side. Hanley writes as a scholar swept into the war effort, experiencing the horrors of German bombers out at sea. He watches as a ship gets assaulted by bombers and sunk while the men clung to anything they could before going to their death. He had to stand by as the men killed themselves in order to escape drowning. The Germans did not want to allow the ship to merely sink, so they tried to set the oil spilling out of the ship on fire. They wished to do this in order to, “take some nice photos for the squadron mess.” The Germans did not care for the sanctity of life while at war. It is sickening to think of the horrors dealt to men at sea as they tried to escape. My great grandfather tried to get onto a naval ship, but was stopped, because he was too young. The ship sank. If my great grandpa had been able to sneak aboard the ship, he would have experienced the same horrors described in The Last Boat.
World War 2 in Cartoon: Donald Duck Der Fuehrer’s Face. Disney, n.d.YouTube. YouTube. Web. 18 Oct. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL8FxDhsfhs&app=desktop
My great grandfather tried to fight in World War II. He was only sixteen at the time, so he was not able to join the effort. The United States government used propaganda to convince citizens that helping in the war effort was necessary. The government’s efforts paid off, in that people like my great grandpa wanted to fight, even if they were not allowed to. Disney was even involved in the war effort. In one cartoon, Donald Duck is shown living in Nazi Germany. He is abused and forced to pay tribute and salute Hitler constantly. He is forced to help with the war effort. Nazi soldiers escort him to a factory where he must help make ammunition all day, without ever getting a break. There are constantly guns trained at him and if he makes a mistake or does not salute at the mention of Hitler, he may be killed. The food he eats is cardboard and he has to hide his few items enjoyable food items. He sneaks one coffee grind into his drink and must quickly stow it away when he sees the shadow of a guard. Everyone is forced to appear to love their situation in life and the Nazi regime, while in reality they are terrified and angry. Donald Duck wakes up in America, where he is free and happy.
This episode was used to show how horrible Nazi Germany was, not only for foreign countries, but for its own citizens. It would be difficult to watch this cartoon and not want to help everyone in Germany feel the same relief as Donald Duck did when he realized he was in America. This was shown to everyone, children would wake up on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons, and see how terrible Germany was and how necessary the war was. They would understand why they had not seen their Dad in months and why their Mom had to work so much. They would be grateful for what food they had and not worry about rations, because it was still better than Germany. For some, such as my great grandpa, it convinced them to try and fight.
James, Anthony. Informing the People. London: H.M.S.O., 1996. Print.
Propaganda is used in everyday life. It can be seen driving down the road with billboards saying why their product is best. It is used in every aspect of life to help reach a goal, whether that goal be to sell a product or win an argument. It is used in war especially to convince people to fight and support the war effort. Countries had to work hard to convince their people that entering a war against Nazi Germany was a good idea. Hitler was so charismatic that most people were convinced his actions were justified, and that the horrors of the concentration camps were not really happening. The countries that stood against him went to work to convince their people to fight. It worked. People from all walks of life were willing to fight and help in any way they possibly could. My family was no different, helping in any way they could, including my great grandfather attempting to join he navy despite his being too young.
People were scared and willing to believe anything the government said. The British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin said, “the bombers will always get through.” He was speaking on the fact that Germany had managed to build the world’s largest air force. People took him literally and were constantly fearing an attack that they would have no defense against. This war had to be fought differently. Civilians would now have to play a part, so governments had to keep them informed. Now, people would have to be “forewarned and informed.” The information given to the people was one sided, making the very act of informing the public a form of propaganda. A German citizen would have a very different view of the war than a British or American. There is no arguing that Hitler was a horrible person who was responsible for unthinkable acts. The people of Germany during his popularity would disagree, because they were fed the information they wanted to hear. The information fed to them was false, however, the information provided on the British and American side was not without its flaws. If the information causes people to wish to break the law in order to help in the cause, such as with my great grandfather, then the information is possible exaggerated. If not exaggerated, the propaganda was very one sided, only showing how horrible Hitler and Germany was, not what was happening to the soldiers, because that might convince people that they should not fight. Though the Nazis were most definitely in the wrong, both sides of the war did things that were not totally moral.
Madison,James H. Indiana through Tradition and Change: A History of the Hoosier State and Its People, 1920–1945.Vol. 5. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982. Print.
My family is from what can be argued as one of the more boring states in the United States, Indiana. Indiana is in every way normal; there are individual quirks to the state, as with all states, but it is truly an average state where the hoi polloi can live in peace. Not much happens and everyone knows it. What people do not realize, is that Indiana went through the same changes as the rest of the country. The roaring twenties hit there as hard as anywhere. While most of the state “stuck closely to more traditional ways of the nineteenth century”, the young embraced the changes of postwar America with open arms and tried to drag everyone else with them. The state experienced the same hardships as everyone else as well. The farm depression was experienced in this very agriculturally focused state. People lost a good portion of their income when farming lost the momentum it had gained throughout history. This is due to the new found technology that ushered in the industrial revolution. People tried to cling to their traditions as they became obsolete and useless next to the new industrial Indiana. People from different areas adjusted to the changes at varying paces, with the northern portion of the state leading the charge towards total industrialization. Though for the most art, Indiana avoided extremes, racism was still an issue in this area. Hardly anyone went unaffected by the Klu klux Klan. People clung to their ethnic groups, unwilling to budge, until finally the country began to grow together before world war two, and Indiana grew into a patriotic state as well. Post World War, Indiana saw a great influx of people from other parts of the United States.
Indiana has always been a very agriculture heavy state. My family, none of whom would necessarily consider themselves farmers, own relatively small plots of land that to anyone outside the state would consider a farm. The soil and conditions are perfect for farming, as is the social environment. In the 20’s the country became much more industrialized, and despite some people’s effort, so did Indiana. Most people took on a mix of traditional agricultural practices, or doing things like planting or harvesting without the assistance of machinery, and modern techniques, like using a tractor or other new technology to assist in the farming process. There was a decrease in horse traffic on the roads near cities due to the increase of machinery; roads far from cities and surrounded by sparse farms maintained the higher volume of horse traffic. The two most important new pieces of machinery for farming, “were not intended for exclusive farm use.” The automobile and motor truck may have made the farmers life easier, but they also made transportation easier for people in other industries. There were two main commodities that arose from this marriage of the new and old; corn and hogs. Majority of people involved in agriculture either grew corn or raised hogs. Indiana saw another increase in productivity when the hybrid corn seed was discovered. Again there was some resistance as with the motorized vehicles, but it was undeniable that the new corn was successful and people eventually switched. With the help of this new corn, farm prices were back to pre-depression levels by 1942.
Indiana has resisted change at every turn, but has always given in with better results. It is a quaint farming state that clings to its traditions. The people of Indiana went through all the hardships of the country and still maintained their small town farming feel. The Schmidt family, my relatives, stuck with the state through all its ups and downs, with only a few leaving for more exciting, less agriculturally minded places. As stoic as the state as a whole is, the people mirror this in every way. My family has not changed for many generations, staying in one area, farming the same land, living the same way as they always have.
Martone, Michael. “A Letter from the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Indiana.” The Blue Guide to Indiana. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 13–15. Print.
Michael Martone wrote Blue Guide to Indiana as a fictional version of the Blue Guide series, which helps people make plans for traveling. He took this concept and created a fictional Indiana that so resembles the real one, that newspapers and magazines have used passages from his book as real tourist attractions. The book opens with a letter from the lieutenant governor saying, “Indiana endows those of ‘second’ station with boundless respect and all requisite power.” He goes on to describe other oddities of Indiana’s state government, joking about how undeniably Republican the state is; saying, “…public officials elected as Democrats gather during their ritual conversion to Republican status.” This all leads to a quirky, sardonic view of Indiana. The letter paints Indiana as slightly backwards with a horrible education and university system. He claims tourism makes up the majority of the state’s economy, while also making a jab at the people who live there for relying on relatives from out of state for money. The entire letter is used to show how strange, yet truly insignificant Indiana is. Most of my family lives in Indiana. I can personally attest to the overall boring backwards normalcy of the state. At family reunions, my uncles can be seen throwing tomahawks at stumps or shooting arrows at deer targets. People have to find ways to entertain themselves, because there is not much in the state aside from corn. Indiana is quaint in every sense of the word, not realizing just how backwards and boring it is.
Salstrom, Paul. From Pioneering to Persevering: Family Farming in Indiana to 1880. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue UP, 2007. Print.
My aunt Eydie and Uncle Norman owned a small farm on the outskirts of Indianapolis. They would help their grandchildren raise pigs and corn until they finally sold it a few years ago. They had lived in that house for years, farming and filling it with friends and family. My relatives were trying to buy it in order to keep it in the family, but no one was able to maintain it, so the farm passed on to a new family. Family farming has always been relevant in Indianapolis. The Hoosiers take great pride in having a farm in the family for centuries at a time, passing from generation to generation. The history of these family farms are now well documented, thanks to the “centennial farms” project and the Hoosier Homestead project. It has been incredibly economically viable to start a family farm in Indiana in the past. Farming can be a difficult business to get into, but once a person has the land, it is easy enough to see economic prosperity. This is why people in Indiana have been handing down their farms through the generation. It makes sense that people would try to give their children a better situation in life. My family was trying to do this when they planned on buying my uncles farm, but unfortunately it was not a viable option. My great grandparents used farming to supplement their income from mining, but the farm passed out of the family in the next generation. It has not been necessary for most of my grandparent’s generation, and none of my parent’s generation to farm. These family farms helped to keep native Hoosiers in the state for many generations.
Blackburn, Glen. “Interurban Railroads of Indiana.” N.p., 1924. Web.
My great grandpa spent many years building railroads. He was trying to keep his wife and seven children from going hungry. Many people were finding work on the railroad during my great grandparent’s time. The early 1900’s saw the incorporation of many railway companies. The railways were more useful if they all connected, so companies were combining to allow for a more profitable railroad system. The railways began to grow so large that the power companies began to incorporate as well. Some mergers came under question about their legality, but most were allowed. There were many delays in the building of the railways. There were strikes among workers and a lack of money. Some projects were proposed multiple times before they were enacted. One such plan was only allowed once a branch of the line was added that went straight from one city to another. The most profitable railways went from city to city, but some companies insisted on attempting railways that went around cities.
A line was proposed that would travel from Indianapolis to Shelbyville. My family lived in Indianapolis, which is why my great grandpa was able to get work so easily. The community was behind the plan and the Indianapolis and Cincinnati Traction Company was formed to build the line. It was later incorporated into Townsend, Reed, and Company. Construction began in September of 1901 and was finished September 1902. By 1907, an extension to Greensburg was completed and running cars hourly. There was also a plan to connect Cincinnati with Chicago in 1903. This was able to be completed after the Indianapolis Rushville section of the railways was completed. There was some issues in this ambitious plan, including a reorganization of the company that ultimately failed, causing backers to lose money. The company was bought and due to the steady support of those who would benefit from the railroad allowed the project to continue. Overall the plan to connect Indiana with Chicago was problematic.
Indiana was able to connect to Ohio in multiple places and fairly quickly after the pan was introduced. Multiple companies had the same idea to connect the two states at the same time. Both lines leave Ohio from different cities and arrive in Indiana in separate cities. One went from Richmond to Greenville and one from Daytona to Eaton. Both lines were created with little to no issues. All companies involved stayed with the project and did not run out of money, allowing for the lies to be created at a pace that could not be matched by the lines connecting Indiana with Chicago.
Railroads gained such popularity and everyone wanted in. Power companies began to incorporate with rail line companies to create electric lines to connect the same cities that the rail line was connecting. There was some interest in connecting all the cities near bodies of water. There were already lines connecting some of these cities, but not one continuous one. This project took longer than any of the plans to connect Indiana with Ohio or Chicago. The companies involved ended up having to use a fairy to transport cars across a river before the railroad could continue. After this rush to build more railways, Indiana was more connected than ever before. People from all over the mid-eastern part of the United States were now connected in a way that had never happened before.
Perry, Jay. “The Irish Wars: Laborer Feuds on Indiana’s Canals and Railroads in the 1830’s.” Indiana Magazine of History 109.3 (2013): 224–256. http://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/imh/article/view/19949/26034
In 1835, tensions were high. Irish immigrants were feuding with each other, and were ready to draw blood. This disagreement between different groups of Irish immigrants was mostly overlooked by Indiana historians. One group was the “Corkonians”, or Catholics like my great grandpa, and the other was the “Fardowns”, of Protestants. This led historians, who honestly did not care about the event, to blame the conflict on the differences of denomination, just an additional conflict in centuries of religious based anger. The historians were wrong. The anger stemmed from actual economic issues, which created the rift between the groups, not religion. The two groups were fighting over who would maintain control, and work on the canals and railroads. Both groups could not give up their Irish heritage, which led them to shut out the rest of the world. They saw Indiana’s resemblance to Ireland, so they stayed and tried to make it their own. There were many instances when violence broke out, showing that these economic issues were substantial and needed to be given more attention than they were. Most of the immigrants were illiterate, so there were few records of any events that happened within their community. There were many riots during this time period. 1834 is known as “the Great Riot year”. It is easy to imagine that, since there were so many riots and fights happening at the same time as the Irish war, historians may not have felt the need to focus on this seemingly inconsequential fight. This was a time of change, and groups who the change did not favor, tended to react violently. The fights going on in America among the Irish natives were mirrored by the unrest between different factions within the country. In Ireland, fights were common in any place where two feuding families might meet, “…breaks out into open violence when they meet at fairs and markets. In these encounters they fight with as much fury as if they were waging a real war”. The fights in Indiana were just an extension of this idea of family feuds being dealt with through violence. The reason for the riots was the same reason for families’ emigrating out of Ireland. There was a lack of land, which led to the high tensions between families. These same high tensions came over to America only to find that their lack of education placed them in a position where very few jobs were available. This led to these already angry people to fight for a limited number of jobs, which resembled the situation in Ireland, replacing land with job availability. It is not difficult to realize that violence was bound to break out in this tense situation.
My family worked on the railways of Indiana. These Irish immigrants are my relatives. There were never any stories from this part of my families past, mirroring the lack of interest the historians show. Though my family has never seemed violent, and never hinted at a violent past, a person who has been shoved to the outskirts of civilization may act in ways that are at odds with their temperament.
Smith, Scott. “Why I Farm — Scott Smith — Indiana Farmer — Family Farm.”YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbPKHb1SOfM
This video shows the connection farmers have with the land, it is strong and enduring. The farmer discusses his love of the land and how he would never imagine working in the city. He talks about the land like it is a person very dear to him. He has worked that land his whole life, just like his father before him. He feels a connection to the land, and knows that, though there are hardships, he belongs on a farm. I can understand the feeling of belonging and a hesitation to move to a new area or way of life. Most of my family has stayed in Indiana, not far from where they grew up or where their parents were born. They feel the same attachment to Indiana as the farmer in this video. They love the land and the simple way of life that was passed down to them. After watching this video, it is not difficult to understand why most of my family stayed in Indiana, just as it is not had to see why my grandparents left. It is quaint and familiar, but sometimes quaint is not what is needed, and familiar can mean boring and overused. My grandparents left for the same reason the rest of my family stayed; the way of life in Indiana is slow to change. The people love their friendly farms and small town feel; it attracts them and makes them want to stay, while others feel that it is to slow and need a change. There is a strong pull towards their roots that makes people want to stay put, near family, lifelong friends, and a way of life that is familiar.
McCarthy, Mary. Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1957. Print.
People have always been split over religion. Wars have been fought and people sought out, jailed, and killed because there was a difference in religion. In Ireland, there were feuds that ran through generations because one family was protestant and the other was catholic. The smallest differences in ideals or ways of practice can cause enormous issues and pain. Mary McCarthy experienced this fist hand. McCarthy’s immediate family was Catholic, with her mother converting when she married her father. Due to this conversion, the McCarthy children were instilled with a strong Catholic background. They believed everything Catholic was right. Mary McCarthy had a hard life; both her parents died when she was young and she was shuffled between her relatives. Her aunts and uncles did not feel the same way about religion as her parents did, leading her to a conflicted, and partially incomplete view of religion. She was unable to follow her mother’s path into the Ladies of the Sacred Heart. She was able to see many new ways of worship with her shuffling around, though all claimed to be Catholic.
My family was all Catholic, with my great aunt becoming a nun. Though everyone goes to their own church, we live far apart, we all worshiping in a similar way. My faith has never been shaken because I went to my grandparents’ church or went to visit my great aunts and uncles in Indiana. The church has never been a source of strife in my family.
Smith, Cecil Woodham. The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845–1849. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. Print.
Ireland is the stick in England’s side. They would go from being on the brink of war, to having a treaty that appeared to bring peace, until the truth that one country benefited over the other was discovered and the cycle started over again. One such cycle happened in 1801, when the Act of Union took place, making Ireland and England one. This stood for almost 50 years when the Irish Catholics had finally had enough of the repression of their rights under British rule. Daniel O’Connell ran the efforts to resist the British. He was adopted into the Catholic Church. He was against violence and sought self-government “by legal and constitutional means”. He was able to assemble hundreds of thousands of supporters who would all assemble to try to get the Union repealed. “…The only disturbance which could be discovered…was the accidental overturning of a gingerbread stall.” The government felt these meetings were incredibly disturbing and alarming. O’Connell was arrested for, ”trying to alter the constitution by force.” He was tried by a jury who were for the Union, not one Catholic was present. My family has always been catholic, and were treated poorly. There was always conflict between different denominations of Christianity, and these conflicts were especially apparent in Ireland.
The housing system in Ireland was destitute. A man could be the descendant of kings, to inherit large estates and enough money to last their life, but would end up a beggar on the street, because the great estate had been confiscated from their ancestor. Catholics were hit the hardest due to the Penal laws which basically barred Catholics from being full members of the state. If a Catholic had a Protestant brother, the brother would inherit all the land, leaving the Catholic to beg on the streets. Ireland was sitting right on the edge of catastrophe, and the potato famine was ready to topple it over.
The potato famine was joined by another deadly disease, this one infected the humans themselves instead of the crop they relied on. Typhus hit in the same period as the starvation caused by the potato famine ravaged the country. The country was in pieces. People were panicking and the government was not able to handle the catastrophe. Hospitals were full and there was nothing to do. People, like my ancestors fled. They came to America where they believed their luck would be better.