Joseph Hyrum McRae

I, Joseph Hyrum McRae, was born Easter Sunday, 6 April 1890, at St. David, Cochise County, Arizona. My father was Joseph McRae and my mother was Augusta Matilda Erickson. My father was born in Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri on 3 March 1838. He had six brothers and five sisters. His father was Alexander McRae and his mother was Eunice Fitzgerald. His brothers were: Kenneth, Alexander, Daniel, Charles, and David. His sisters were: Catherine, Mary Jane, Martha, Eunice, and Sarah.

My mother was born in Linde-of-Orebro, Sweden, 17 August 1856. She had two sisters and two brothers. Her father was Erik Larson and her mother was Caroline Jansdotter. Her brothers were: Jan Erik Wilhelm and Per August; and her sisters were: Johanna Carolina and Maja Stina.

There are two younger brothers in my immediate family, William August and Daniel Clarence.

When I was between two and three years old, my mother took my brother William and me to Salt Lake City. We lived there about one year and then moved to Thatcher, Graham County, Arizona. We lived there about eight years and then moved to St. David, living there for four years and then moved back to Thatcher where I graduated from the Thatcher Public Schools and from the Commercial and High School departments of the Eastern Arizona Junior College (then the Gila Academy). I graduated from the public school in 1908; from the Commercial Department of the Academy in 1911 and the High School Department in 1912.

For the next several years, I worked at different places; went to Phoenix in 1914; left there in the summer of 1915, going to the Grand Reef Mines to work in the office. These mines are located about four miles west of Klondike in Graham County. I worked there until the latter part of June, 1916, when I went to Safford to work for the Arizona Eastern Railroad Company in the warehouse at Safford. The Arizona Eastern Railroad is now a branch of the Southern Pacific. While working for the Railroad, I worked at Safford, Solomon, San Carlos (the old San Carlos is now in the bottom of Coolidge Lake), Miami and Thatcher. I started as a trucker in the warehouse, then the warehouseman, telegrapher, and finally agent. In May 1945, the station at Thatcher was abolished at which time I quit to operate the Variety Store in Thatcher that my wife and I owned there.

During World War I, I entered the Army on 2 October 1917, at Safford, serving in Company B, 312 Field Signal Battalion 87th Division. I left Safford October 2nd and arrived at Camp Funston, Kansas three days later. I stayed there about one month and was sent to Camp Pike, Arkansas, Leaving there in July 1918 for Camp Dix, New Jersey; then sailing from New York 27 August 1918 for Liverpool, England aboard the Steamship "Mauratania" and landing in Liverpool six days later. We traveled alone and without destroyer escort as this was the fastest steamship afloat at that time. We had aboard 7,500 soldiers with full equipment, 15,000 sacks of mail, besides thousands of pounds of supplies and ammunition of all kinds. It was manned by a crew of 550 men.

About 2:00 p.m. the same day, we left Liverpool for a camp just outside of South Hampton, arriving about midnight and got off the train about two miles from the camp on the darkest, blackest night in history. We marched the two miles without a light of any kind. A light was dangerous as it revealed to the enemy where to drop bombs. It was so dark that we could not see the man immediately in head of us so I marched with one hand on the pack of the man ahead of me. When he stopped, I stopped; when he moved forward, I did; when he turned, I did. It was a tent camp to which we came, and to make matters worse, the tents were round, about 15 feet in diameter with one pole in the center. That was housing for 12 men. We slept with out feet at the center pole. Imagine 24 feet around one small pole of about two inches in diameter. A round tent required about twelve to fifteen ropes, radiating in all directions from the center post, and to make matters worse, the tents were set so close that the ropes from the tents nearest each other, in a great many instances, overlapped each other. This made it easy for a man to stumble over a tent rope in the dark and fall. There were a few so-called walks, or streets, between the tents, but even these were so narrow that they were of very little use. If one did not want to fall over a tent rope in the dark, the best way to move about was to get a stick and use it to feel with, like a blind man uses his cane. Also, every tent had a double set of ropes as every tent had a double top; that is, each tent had another top about one foot above the top of the tent. This was done so that the light from inside the tent would not glow through and reveal our position to enemy planes.

One week in the tents and we sailed across the English Channel for La Harve, France. We loaded on a train from the boat and set out immediaely for a small town in France named Pons, about sixty miles inland from Bordeaux. Our ride on the train was in box cars marked "40 home y 8 Cheveau", 40 men or 8 horses, and this is where the Forty and Eight, fun division of the American Legion, gets its name.

I stayed at Pons for one month and was sent to Tours for one month, and was sent to St. Nazaire, on the coast of France, where I stayed until the War was over and I was ready to be sent home. In St. Nazaire, I was in the telegraph office there. From St. Nazaire I went to Brest, farther north on the French coast, from which point I sailed for the States. We were at Brest about a week and were stationed about three miles out at Camp Ponten Naisen, I guess that is the right way to spell it, anyway it was Napoleon's old headquarter's camp.

That was the debarkation point for all the American forces in France. Most of the time 35,000 to 50,000 men were stationed there and it was quite a sight to see them fed. Food was brought to the kitchens on a small minature train consisting of from 8 to 12 cars. Coffee was made in 20 to 26 gallon GI cans. We stayed there about one week waiting for a boat to come home on. During the week, the Company I was in had to peel potatoes; 250 men all peeling potatoes most of the day. Towards evening some of us were set to peeling onions. We beat the onion to the punch, as we all got our gas masks, and that way the onion could not make us cry.

The actual feeding was done in 30 to 40 minutes; 16 lines went through at a time. No one helped himself, but was given a portion by an attendant as he passed the different pots and pans. When you wanted a certain thing, when you got to it, you would either hold your mess kit out or say to the attendant, "Hit me" or if you wanted more than he gave you the first time, you would say, "Hit me again," you know, something like you would do if you were in a "Black Jack" or "21" game at cards. Tables were all elbow high, so no one sat down to eat; all eating was done standing up thus making more room as well as eating done in less time.

We finally got aboard a boat and sailed for home, landing at New York on 26 September 1919. As soon as I was processed, or deloused as it is called, I was sent to Camp Pike, Arkansas, where I received my discharge on 8 October 1919. I then went home to Thatcher and back to work for the railroad company.

While working at Solomon as agent, I met Miss Beatrice Birdno of Safford. We were married on 3 April 1924, in the old Courthouse at Tombstone, Arizona. At that time Tombstone was the County Seat of Cochise County. To us were born two daughters and one son. Maxine was born on 3 April 1926; Carrol C. on 11 January 1928; and Delores on 2 April 1932. Shortly before I was married, I bid out of Solomon for the Thatcher station, where I remained until the station was abolished.

Most of our married years were spent in Thatcher where I worked for the railroad until the station was abolished in 1945. We also operated a variety store from August 1940 until January 1952 when we sold the store and moved to Bisbee where we remained until April 1955. While in Thatcher, I was Mayor from 1 July 1938 to 30 June 1946.

Joseph Hyrum McRae passed away 28 January 1973 at Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona. He was buried at Safford, Graham County, Arizona on 31 January 1973.