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Sanford Family Genealogy

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These notes are being written at the request of my nephew James D. Sanford of Kenmore, NY, who is compiling information on the ancestors of his nephew Jonathan B. Sanford, so that Jonathan will have more knowledge of his heritage. What I will write here only deals with the Sanford branch of Jonathan's family tree; and there will be much more to be provided by others such as Jim Sanford, on his mother's Ramage family, and Jonathan's mother Sherrie Bush Sanford, on the Bush family.

Let me digress to say that family genealogy is of interest to a great many people, as they seek to know more about themselves. Personally, I have found it to be very rewarding; and I can take pride in claiming that, to the best of my knowledge, our ancestors were an honorable and hard-working lot - some achieving public acclaim, and all respected in their communities.

To help Jonathan get oriented, I have attached a diagram of the part of his family I will be discussing. My name is Richard W. Sanford, and it can be seen that I am one of Jonathan's great uncles. I believe that, at age 89, I am the only living member of my generation.

Although family records show much earlier history, I have started with the fifth generation before Jonathan. If for no other reason, I think I have some knowledge of these ancestors, and their descendants, which is not readily available from other sources.

Early 19th Century

The first on my list is Ira Sanford (1800-1857). He was born in Sharon, Conn., and died in St. Paul, Min. He and several brothers and a sister migrated from Vermont to some place in Ohio (I have reason to believe it was in an area called The Western Reserve, near Cleveland, but I am not sure of this). It was in Ohio that he married his first wife, whose name was Laura. She did not live long, and after her death he moved on to Illinois, probably near the town of Petersburg, which is close to Springfield. It was there that he met and married his second wife, Emeline Mattoon (1812-1888). (Interestingly, the first child born by Emeline was given the name Laura, the name of Ira's first wife.)

Emeline was a granddaughter of Maj. Gen. Ebenezer Mattoon, Jr., a man of many notable accomplishments who had been a life-long resident of Amherst, Mass., and who family records say was given a pair of flintlock pistols by Gen. Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. The story of these pistols is a tale in itself, which I will relate separately. I think it is worth mentioning that hand-painted copies of a miniature of Gen. Mattoon, made by my cousin Frances Sanford Stadleman, were given to each of my brothers and me. My copy has been hanging on the wall throughout my whole adult life. It would be interesting to know where the others are now.

Emeline's father, Maj. Ebenezer Mattoon, III, had been born and raised in Amherst, where Emeline was born, but he and members of his family migrated to the southern Illinois town of Bunker Hill, where he bought and worked a nearby farm during his "retirement" years. Although Bunker Hill was a small and independent town, it was close to the larger town of Alton, Ill., and not far from the bustling city of St. Louis across the Mississippi River.

But rather than settling in Bunker Hill, Ira and Emeline chose to live in Petersburg, Ill. for about 13 years and then moved on to St. Paul, Minn., where they lived for the rest of Ira's life. After Ira died, Emeline and her children moved to Bunker Hill, where her parents still lived, and where she later died. Unfortunately I don't know what kind of work Ira did, nor do I have any pictures of Ira or Emeline.

Solomon Noble Sanford

Next, we have Solomon Noble Sanford (1846-1901). He was born in Petersburg, Ill. and named for his grandfather and an uncle, who also had this name. (What a bold choice!) He was 11 years old when his father Ira died, so he moved to Bunker Hill with his mother Emeline at that time. Although he was my grandfather, I never knew him because he died when my father was only 18 years of age (and thus, before I was born). I do have pictures of him, copies of which are attached. I believe one is a photograph of a small tintype taken in 1859 (13 years of age). The other was taken about 1870.

Solomon Noble Sanford 13

Solomon Noble Sanford Age 13

    Solomon Noble Sanford 24

Solomon Noble Sanford Age 24

I believe the best way to find out about my grandfather is to read his obituary, a copy of which is enclosed. I am not sure who wrote this, but whoever it was, he was well acquainted with my grandfather, and described him in glowing terms. In spite of chronic health problems, he provided well for his family, leaving them with a substantial house in Bunker Hill and income for my grandmother to live on for the rest of her very long life. I visited my grandmother's home at least twice - once when about 6 years of age, and then again after graduation from high school in 1935. It was a two-story wooden house which originally had no plumbing nor electricity. My father wired it in the early 1900's, and plumbing was installed at about the same time. Quoting from a letter which my father wrote to me in 1959, he said: "My father was never well, as long as I knew him. In those days they just called it stomach trouble. He could not digest his food properly and I did not see how he could keep on his feet. At the time he died, the Calif. M.D. called it acute indigestion. I do not think it was cancer, because he could not have lived as long as he did if it had been that." I have wondered whether he suffered from ulcerative colitis (or the related Crohn's disease), which has plagued my son Stephen? Such ailments were not understood at all in those days. You will note in the obituary that his doctor advised that travel would be "the only remedy for his health". I believe that was not an uncommon prescription when doctors really didn't know how to cure a patient. (It more probably was a remedy for the doctor's health.)

My grandfather married Isa Frances Sheppard (1852-1949) in 1873 in the house I mentioned above. Both of her parents' surnames were Sheppard. We have the names of her father's and mother's families going back to the 17th century. I don't know much else about them except that my parents assured us that they were not related in any way. Grandmother Sanford certainly became the family matriarch, raising her five children and living in the same house 'til age 97. She seemed to be highly respected by my mother (her daughter-in-law), who always referred to her with warmth and affection. From time-to-time she sent me small presents, for which I was required to send thank-you notes. In all the time I knew her, she always wore a long black widow's dress.

Isa and Mary Sanford There is only one picture of her here. She is shown in her typical dress with one of my father's sisters. I believe it to be my aunt Mary, but I am not sure. Judging by Aunt Mary's dress style, I think the date might have been sometime around WW1. The ladies of the family might be a better judge of this. The scene is at the back of her house next to a porch under which was a well that served as the source of water for the family. It was brought up by a cast iron hand pump that still operated when I was a boy. Above the porch is a window of the room my father shared with his brother Will while they were growing up. My dad said it was unheated except for some warmth that came up from the kitchen below, and got mighty cold in the winter.

I should mention that there are many other pictures of Grandmother Sanford (and other members of the family) in my parents' family albums which were passed on to my brother Walter and his wife Eunice after my father's death. They now are in possession of their daughter Leigh. I also would like to mention that my father's brother Ira E. Sanford (my uncle Ed) had built a house next door to my grandparents, on the left as viewed from the street. He and his wife Bertha lived there all their lives, where they raised two children, Edgar Noble and Frances. It was this Frances who painted the miniatures of Gen. Mattoon.

Children of Solomon Noble Sanford

Now we come to my father, Herbert Brooks Sanford, Sr. (1882-1972). He was the youngest of five siblings, all of whom were born in Bunker Hill, and all of whose names and dates are listed on my chart. I have enclosed a copy of what I think is a beautiful picture of them, taken in 1896. On the upper left is my uncle Will, at age 17. On the upper right is my father at age 14. Aunt Anna is on the lower left at age 19. Uncle Ed is at the center at age 22, and Aunt Mary on the right at age 20. I never saw my uncle Will, nor did I see aunt Anna, who died in 1922 when I was but 5 years old (I don't think I ever asked the cause of her death); but I saw uncle Ed and aunt Mary when visiting Bunker Hill as a boy.

    Sanford Siblings 1896

Herbert Sanford and Siblings in 1896
Anna, Will, Ed (Ira), Herbert Age 14, Mary

Uncle Ed worked as a teller in the Bunker Hill Bank for many years. The bank was closed up, as were all others in the US, during the so-called "bank holiday" of 1933 (in the depths of the great depression) when, among other things, the US went off the gold standard. When it was reorganized and reopened, uncle Ed was made its president. Uncle Will moved to Great Falls, Montana and raised a family there. He was a partner in a business called the Scott-Sanford Candy Co. I remember this because he sometimes would send us a box of chocolates at Christmas.

Neither Anna nor Mary ever married, but Mary lived her whole life in the Bunker Hill house, providing support and care for her mother throughout her lifetime. Aunt Mary had a talent for music and, among other things, served as choir director and organist for their Bunker Hill church. One other comment about the house is that unfortunately its top storey was blown off during a tornado in 1948, following which it was rebuilt as a bungalow.

Herbert Brooks Sanford, Sr.

Herbert Sanford 1908 I believe my father's middle name came from a great uncle John Brooks Mattoon, a brother of his grandmother Emeline Mattoon Sanford. At a height of about 5 ft. 10 in., in his youth, he was relatively tall for the times. In fact, sometimes when people were describing my mother's husband they would refer to him as "that tall young man". He was born and raised in Bunker Hill, where he attended the public schools and helped out with family chores and his father's business. In those days there always were animals of one kind or other to care for, and chickens, and a horse and wagon or two, and gardens. When he was growing up, an outhouse about 50 feet away from the back door served as the family toilet. At the time of my visits, there still was a coal- burning stove in the kitchen; and one of the ladies' family chores was to keep it banked so it could be started easily when needed.

After graduation from Bunker Hill HS, my dad was sent to Illinois College at Jacksonville, Ill., where he spent two years preparing to attend college. He then went on to Madison, Wisc. where for four years he was a student at the University of Wisconsin, graduating as an Electrical Engineer in 1907. He was an excellent student, being elected to both Sigma Xi, the honorary scientific society, and Tau Beta Pi, the honorary engineering society.

While at the University, he stayed in the home of his future father-in-law and mother-in-law, Charles E. White and Dr. Mary B. White. I never did know what negotiations took place between the Sanford and White families to arrange this. Was there some kind of ad placed in an appropriate publication for a live-in student who would do necessary household chores in exchange for room and board? I only know that while at the White's home my dad did care for the furnace, shovel snow off the walks, and generally make himself useful. I also believe that one reason such help was particularly needed was that Charles A. White was a lawyer whose business activities took him away from home over fairly long stretches of time. Of course it was through this arrangement that my father met my mother, Dorothy Elaine White, who was one of the White daughters. My parents were married in the White's home in 1908, in a double wedding ceremony with my mother's sister Charlotte E. White and her long-time fiance Dana I. Grover.

Upon graduation from the U. of W. in 1907, my father worked as an Instructor in Electrical Engineering at the University; and this continued until 1912. Shortly after their marriage, he and my mother arranged to move into a small house in a new development within commuting distance of the University by trolley. I was told that when the agreed-upon moving time arrived, the house was not yet finished, so they lived in a tent on the site for the duration, during some bitterly cold Wisconsin winter weather.

By the year 1912, there was a great deal of interest in the Orient. My aunt Charlotte and uncle Dana had become missionaries in Japan, and Grandmother White had visited them there. So when an opportunity came along for my dad to go to Shanghai as a professor of electrical engineering, he decided to take it. Of course, from the time of their marriage, my parents' decisions as to occupations, residences, etc. were made jointly. So, before going farther, I will provide some background on my mother's family.

The White Family

Charles A White

Charles A White at age 22 from a tiny daguerreotype
Charles Abiathar White
A picture of Charles A. White at age 22.
Enhanced from a daguerreotype photo
in a locket (possibly owned by his father
since it also contains pictures of his mother
plus his brother John and sister Mary).
I begin with my mother's grandfather, Dr. Charles Abiathar White (1826-1910). This Dr. White, born in North Dighton, Mass., undoubtedly was the most distinguished of my mother's forebears. He was a researcher, professor and prolific writer on subjects including Geology, Paleontology, Zoology, Botany and Human Physiology (medicine), and an avid family historian. For many years he made his home in the town of Burlington, in the Territory of Iowa. But he moved from place-to-place over his long career, as circumstances necessitated, and visited almost all of this country's developing states and territories.

Charles A White
Charles A White - 1874
at Bowdoin College

There is a great deal of information about him and his ancestors in a typed document titled "Biographical and Genealogical Notes", copies of which are in possession of several members of the family, including your Uncle Jim. These notes were written by him, and copied from the longhand original booklet on the family typewriter by my brother Robert S. (for Sheppard) Sanford while he was housebound in his late teens trying to recover from rheumatic fever. It is well worth reading, for information on family history and for views and expressions from people of his time. I think it is worth noting that I found the original booklet among things inherited from my mother. A full transcript of these notes can be viewed here.

Another summary of his lifetime accomplishments is contained in what undoubtedly is his obituary, copies of which were left by my parents for each of their sons. Excerpts from this are as follows:

Dr. Charles Abiathar White
Dr. White - 1906

He was a graduate in medicine from Rush Medical College, now the Medical Department of the University of Chicago. He received the degree of M.A. from Iowa College and that of LLD from the Iowa State University. He was a member of many scientific societies in both this country and Europe. Chief among the former is the National Academy of Sciences. — Among the latter is the Geological Society of London. — He was, for several years, Professor of Natural history in the Ohio State University and in Bowdoin College, Maine. He was for four years State Geologist of Iowa, and was for many years connected with the US Government geological surveys as geologist and paleontologist. In that connection he began professional work on the fossil collections of the US National Museum in 1874, and has ever since held honorary official connection with its scientific corps —. He was formally appointed Scientific Associate by the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the late Professor Langley. — (As an aside, this was the Langley who competed unsuccessfully with the Wright Brothers to become the inventor of the first successful airplane.) — Dr. White was a voluminous and lucid writer, and was a contributor to the public press for more than 60 years. — The greater part of these publications relate to geology and paleontology, and he was for several years the oldest geologist in North America. His later writings were almost all in connection with botanical subjects, to which he was ardently devoted. —

Click for larger view.

Abiathar Peak - an impressive 10928' mountain in northeast Yellowstone National Park - is named after Dr. White.

Abiathar Peak is quite prominent along the main Yellowstone park road as you drive towards the northeast entrance from about 10 miles southwest. Picture by Stephen G. Sanford, Sept. 2005.

Go to National Geographic page with another picture.

See topographical simulation of Abiathar Peak showing location. (By Stephen G Sanford)

I have correspondence from him to my mother dated in the early 1900s. She had obtained a picture of him and asked him to list his many degrees thereon. A copy of the resulting picture is included above. There also are copies of two pictures of his wife Charlotte Richmond Pilkington (1829-1902). I should explain that the relatively poor quality of these, and other, pictures of my mother's ancestors is the result of a decision I made some years ago to turn the originals over to my cousin Sanford C. Grover of Sonora, CA (a son of mother's sister Charlotte) because he was greatly interested in matters of family heritage and was trying to gather as many items as possible to pass on to his many children and grandchildren. This was a possible mistake, and I will ask him to return the photo of great-grandfather White since this was annotated specifically for my mother.

Charlotte P White

Charlotte P White
Wife of Charles A White

Charlotte P White

Charlotte P White

It is of particular interest to me that Dr. White was Curator of Paleontology in the U.S. National Museum (predecessor of the Smithsonian Institution) and later was Scientific Associate to the Smithsonian, in Washington, DC. These were the years when the dinosaur fossils were being brought in and assembled for all to see. They are still in the Smithsonian.

Among other things written in a 1908 letter to my mother, he said "The former treasurer of the Smithsonian, who is now serving a sentence for his stealings, left available funds so short that the article on Phenogamous Parasites, which I originally wrote for you, could not be printed for a long time." So you can see that there were dishonest people around, even in those days. A last comment about great-grandfather White is that his Genealogical Notes indicate that his wife Charlotte R. Pilkington (1829-1902) (for whom I assume that my aunt Charlotte was named) was born in either Taunton or Dighton, Mass., after her parents had emigrated from England with earlier siblings. Her pictures make her seem rather demure and attractive

Charles E White & Mary Bridges White

Next in the White line is my grandfather Charles Everett White (1852-1925). I have included copies of pictures taken of him about the time of his marriage and in his later years. He was born in Burlington, Iowa and was graduated from the University of Iowa with both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees. For reasons not known to me, he moved to Beatrice Nebraska and set up practice as an attorney. My mother said that he was doing well in the then-new area, and later was made head of the Beatrice Savings Bank, and had other interests. It was here that he met and married my grandmother Mary Bewick Bridges (1852-1923).

Charles E White

Charles E White

Charles E White

Charles E White

Mary Bridges White

Mary Bridges White

My grandmother's maiden name was Mary Margaret Bewick, and she was born and raised on the Bewick farm near Madison, Wisc. She had been married at a young age to a man named Alanson Bridges, and they lived in the Madison area. That marriage brought forth two children, Eva and Sally, who were my mother's half sisters. But Alanson died after only a few years, leaving my grandmother with two small girls.

I believe her move to Beatrice was orchestrated by her older sister, Clara Bewick Colby (later a prominent women's' suffragist) who had graduated from the University of Wisconsin and moved there with her new husband, Leonard Colby. Clara believed that Mary was an excellent candidate for higher education, and offered to care for her children while she was obtaining it. So, still in her early 20's, she went to the Hanneman Medical School in Chicago, where she received a degree in homeopathic Medicine. She came back to Beatrice, practiced medicine successfully, and had become County Physician when she married my grandfather. Then along came her third and fourth daughters Charlotte and Dorothy. She did not practice when they were small. About this time, a huge depression, which my mother said was the like of nothing I had ever seen (including the great depression) swept over the country and, among other things, wiped out 80 percent of the banks in the West. Somehow, my grandmother found the means to return to Chicago for another course in medicine. This time the Hanneman Hospital had been closed to women, so she went to the University of Chicago Medical School and received a degree in Allopathic Medicine.

As time went on, my grandfather found a position in Madison, Wisc. (possibly through Bewick family connections?) and my grandparents moved there - grandfather continuing his legal work and grandmother returning to her medical practice. This had been the area of my grandmother's ancestral home, and they remained there for several years. It was an ideal place for raising three daughters, all of whom were sent to the Univ. of Wisconsin. (By that time Eva was married.) After all the girls had graduated and gone their separate ways, they moved to California - probably upon recommendations from the older daughters who had already moved there. Unfortunately, I do not have much information as to where they lived during their California years

Mary Bridges White

Mary Bridges White

I have included two pictures of my grandmother. One probably was taken at about the time of her marriage to my grandfather. The other probably was taken during her second trip to Chicago for medical school. I can't figure out the little ornament in her hair. Maybe someone else can identify it. Although the pictures show her as a rather stern person, I have been assured many times and in many ways that she was a very loving parent and grandparent. I should mention that she was called "Ownie" by her family. I don't know how that name originated. I only saw her once, as a child of about 4, when she was suffering from the intestinal cancer that lead to her death. For that matter, I only remember seeing my grandfather once, while my family was moving to California in 1923. He was hit by an automobile, and killed, on the streets of Los Angeles in 1925.

Dorothy White Sanford

Now we come back to my mother, Dorothy White Sanford (1885-1964). She was born in Beatrice, Neb, as was her older full-sister Charlotte. My understanding is that Beatrice is on a great open treeless prairie, with one hill following another for miles and miles. I must have gotten this impression from a picture or pictures in my parents' family album mentioned previously. My mother and her family lived in this environment until the late 1890s. Apparently, there was freedom to ride horseback and enjoy the open spaces. I have included copies of a picture of mother with her father and another of her alone, at about age 6. These are followed by a portrait at about age 15. Then, there is a 1908 wedding portrait, followed by a portrait of her with my brother Brooks and me in 1918 and, lastly, a picture of my mother and dad at our family gathering in 1957. Many other pictures are available in various albums, but these seem especially interesting.

Dorothy White Sanford and father

Dorothy White Sanford and father Charles E White

Dorothy as little girl

Dorothy as little girl

Dorothy age 15

Dorothy age 15

Dorothy White Sanford

Dorothy White Sanford wedding picture 1908

Dorothy Brooks Dick 1918

Dorothy, Brooks, Richard 1918

Dorothy and Herbert

Dorothy and Herbert 1962

My mother suffered from a disease they called quinsy all her early life. Apparently, it was a form of tonsillitis which gave her bad sore throats and required bed rest. These attacks didn't seem to be a problem during the years I knew her. She was a person of many talents. When she was growing up, she learned to play the piano. She could play almost any melody by ear, and could improvise all kinds of accompaniments. She sang, and always had a piano in her several homes. With money left by her father she got an excellent Emerson baby-grand when I was about 8 years old. (now owned by my niece Leigh Sanford Harriman). She not only learned her lessons well, but could teach. And when family finances got tight, she taught school.

There were at least two teaching stints. The first was in 1924, when we lived in Ontario, Calif. My parents had moved there at the time of grandmother White's final illness to be near to her and sisters who had migrated to California earlier. My father had set up an electrical contracting business in Ontario. Apparently things were going all right until he made the "mistake" of wiring a new Catholic church which was being built at the end of the block where we lived. For this he was "punished" with a boycott called by the Ku Klux Klan. This virulent organization, in addition to being anti-black, was vehemently anti-Catholic and probably anti-Jew. They were a very powerful force in those days. Apparently few people dared to violate the boycott, and so my dad was put out of business. Around this time, my mother found an opportunity to fill in for an absent teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in the little town of Camp Baldy, up on the snow- capped Mt. Baldy above Ontario. While she was doing this she still cared for her children in a cottage there - too far to commute to Ontario.

Another time was during the great depression, in Swarthmore, Penna. when my parents were trying to recover from my dad's being out of work due to circumstances I will describe later. One of the high school teachers became ill, and a substitute had to be found to carry her classes through a period of several months until the end of the school year. Mother stepped in. She taught German and History. This was while I was in the 10th grade, and I was one of her students.

My mother was a very loving person; but she reacted swiftly if she thought one of us had gotten out of line. Sometimes her probings were uncomfortable and hard to escape. She fed us all on a very tight budget (we were in the depression during most of our school years). I might say that we watched my dad pretty carefully as he cut the Sunday leg-of-lamb (our one meat meal for the week), or served from a tuna casserole. We all wanted to make sure that no one else got a bigger helping. The sometime family order to "clean your plate" was unknown to us; but there was some persuasion involved with foods we didn't particularly like. As I remember, my twin brothers didn't like carrots and cauliflower. I didn't like boiled rhubarb, and I don't think any of us liked spinach. This reminds me that when we talked at the dinner table, my twin brothers usually were referred to as "the babies", up until they got to be, say, 6 or 7 years of age. Once in later life my mother was asking what I thought about some matter related to meals and I told her I was always hungry. After all her years of trying to provide, that was disappointing, to say the least. I don't want to forget to mention that she could sew, also. She had a Singer electric sewing machine which served her well for many years.

My parents got all of us through the local schools, and then all of us through one college or another. My older brother Brooks, Jonathan's grandfather, followed his parents to the Univ. of Wisconsin, from which he graduated as a Chemical Engineer. I went to Drexel Institute in Phila. and graduated as an Electrical Engineer. My brother Robert followed in his forebears' footsteps and graduated from Temple Univ. as an MD. Walter, the youngest, graduated from the Univ. of Florida with a BS in Agriculture. Most of the stories of family efforts to get through school just seem too long to include, but I can provide more details to any who want them.

I would like to digress again, and say that all of the family's education arrangements involved joint effort by both of our parents. It is particularly important to mention that my father took advantage of his many connections with business people to get us jobs when we needed them. We had to help pay for our educations, and none of us went directly from HS to college.

I also would like to say that my mother encouraged all of us to take advantage of whatever opportunities came along. Sometimes we disappointed her. For example, she wanted me to become an accomplished violinist. I just didn't have enough talent. Yet, throughout her lifetime we enjoyed playing various selections together.

During one of my HS reunions a few years ago, a classmate was telling me that he remembered my mother from the time she had taught our class in HS. He said that "she was the last of the Victorian ladies". That seemed to be an interesting observation. My mother never lost her zest for life up to the end. Unfortunately, she seemed to have inherited a susceptibility to intestinal cancer from her mother; and it finally took her life in 1964. While she was suffering, she kept her faith in God and got support from the sure knowledge that "death is a part of life".

Herbert Brooks Sanford, Sr.

Herbert Sanford 1908 Returning to my father's history, I will start with his wedding portrait taken, of course, in 1908. After his marriage, his life became centered on his wife and family, and the need to provide for them. He really didn't have any hobbies. Once when asked about it, he answered that my mother was his hobby. She got a kick out of that. He changed employment and place of residence fairly often over the years - for a combination of reasons, all with the active support of my mother. Two world wars and the great depression had a major impact on decisions as their life unfolded. I have a draft copy of an experience resume he wrote on the mid-1960s for a Chiao-Tung (Shanghai) alumni reunion album. It is too cumbersome to be included here, but I would be glad to make copies for any who may wish to see it.

China Years

After getting started at the U. of W. as an instructor in Electrical Engineering, my parents decided to move to China, as mentioned earlier. Here my dad became a Professor in EE and Physics at the Chiao-Tung School of the Nan Yang University in Shanghai. This was a great adventure for both of my parents, the memory of which lasted vividly for the rest of their lives. I have a copy of a paper he wrote for his Bunker Hill HS Alumni Asso. in which he describes some of his experiences. This, also, makes great reading but is too long to include in its entirety. One of the interesting things it describes is a trip he took about 150 miles south of Shanghai to inspect a zinc mine. He traveled by rail, boat and sedan chair, all providing exciting moments. He said the chair coolies carried him a distance of 35 miles in 13 hours, and seemed as fresh at the end of the trip as at the beginning.

Of course, they had servants of various kinds while in China, with enough income to support them. Among the servants was an "amah" whose job was to care for my brother Brooks, after he came along in 1914. My parents said that Brooks was bi-lingual from birth, speaking to his amah and other servants in Chinese, while speaking to my parents in English. Of course there were cooks and housekeepers, and one of the servants was called the "honey-dipper". His (or her?) job was to come around each day and empty the bedroom chamber pots. It seems that there were few, if any, indoor facilities in these otherwise comfortable homes.

Their living style was quite different from ours today. They had a busy social life with other faculty members and friends; but they made their own entertainment - no radios, no TV, etc. One party activity was improvised shadow shows, put on by hanging up a sheet, shining a light through it, and making shadow figures with hands, etc. which showed up on the sheet. We tried that sometimes, as boys. Of course there was a lot of music too. In those days almost everybody sang and many played musical instruments. I would like to mention that, with so many servants, time was available for my mother to learn the difficult Chinese language to a certain extent. My dad didn't have as much free time, however, and learned only a few words.

Herbert Sanford (right) at MITMy father's letter to his HS Alumni Association also describes the many different nationalities and governments that existed in Shanghai. Dealing with any civic matter must have been very complicated. Some areas were owned outright by foreign governments and no Chinese were allowed in them.

World War I and Beyond

Herbert Sanford MITAs World War I grew in scope and intensity, my dad thought he should get back to the US and offer his services to the Military, even though by this time he was in his mid-30s. So in 1917 he resigned from the Nan Yang Univ. and they boarded ship for the West Coast. With some stops on the way, the trip took several weeks. It must have been uncomfortable for my mother because by that time she was pregnant with me; and I was born soon after their arrival. My dad joined the Naval Air Service; and after basic training at MIT became an Ensign stationed near the town of Rockaway on Long Island. Here he became associated with naval officers who influenced almost all of his later life. One of the two pictures here of him in uniform show him with a classmate at MIT. The other is a formal portrait after graduation. During the first part of this tour of duty, my mother stayed, with her two children, on a ranch in Nappa Valley, Calif., where they hoped to settle after the war was over. It never happened.

Herbert Sanford civilianA subsequent picture shows my dad as a civilian, and must have been taken sometime after he left the Navy - perhaps while employed at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pa. It was on the back of a post card which showed postage to be 1 cent for post cards and 2 cents for letters.

Now there is a long gap in my picture records. Again, more pictures are in the family album that was passed to my brother Walter and his wife Eunice. Dad worked at the Naval Aircraft Factory as an Aeronautical Engineer until 1923, and my twin brothers, Robert and Walter were born during this time. Then he and mother decided to try living in California again. As I said previously, that was the time during which my mother's mother, Ownie, was in her last illness. Also, it was the time of the Ku Klux Klan episode. After all that, he decided to return to the Naval Aircraft factory and we moved to Swarthmore, Pa. to live. My parents liked this town so much that they spent most of the rest of their lives there.

I should point out that, while waiting for the school year to end in California, and my dad to find a home for us in the Philadelphia area, my mother moved with her sons from Ontario, Calif. to a house in Los Altos, Calif. next to her sister Sallie. Here, she took care of us alone for several months. At the Naval Aircraft Factory in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, my father became Technical Assistant to the Factory Manager, a Cmdr. Westervelt who sponsored him in various positions during later years. Among other things, dad was instrumental in setting up manufacturing processes for the first rigid airship constructed in the US. It was the Shenandoah, which later crashed in a storm in western Penna.

Then, in 1928 Dad followed (now retired Capt.) Westervelt, and aviation notables such as Glenn Curtis, into land development in a rural area near Miami, Fla. This was a great boom time for the area - but it wasn't to last much longer. In the approaching depression, dad found jobs in the aircraft industry again. He became Factory Manager for a company in Baltimore, Md, and then another in Langhorne, Pa., neither of which survived. So he moved back to Swarthmore, where we all returned to school, and in 1933 he was finally able to return to the Naval Aircraft Factory. Again, mother had cared for us by herself until our school terms ended, once in Florida, and once again in Baltimore. These were very hard times for my parents; but I can't say that we boys suffered. In fact, we enjoyed our lives. We just didn't know anything different.

In 1941, my dad became an executive in a New York firm engaged in design and construction of docking facilities for naval ships, including the sectionalized floating dry docks which were towed through the Panama Canal to Pacific repair bases. He continued this association until his retirement in 1962. Again, I don't have many pictures of these years; but I have included one of my mother and him with me and our new son Scott in 1944, when they visited us in Dayton, Ohio - and another in our Baltimore living room in 1957. Then I have included portraits of both my parents, probably taken a little later; and, lastly I have included a picture of my dad and all four of his sons which was taken in 1962 (below) at our family reunion at my brother Robert's house in Mansfield, Pa. My brother Brooks is on the left, then Walter, then Dad, then Robert, and then me. I feel sure that some of your uncles and your aunt Janet will remember this occasion.

3 Sanford Generations - Dayton 1944

Richard, Scott, Herbert, Dorothy Sanford 1944

Herbert B Sanford, Sr

Herbert B Sanford, Sr

Dorothy White Sanford

Dorothy White Sanford

Dorothy and Herbert 1957

Dorothy and Herbert B Sanford 1957

H B Sanford & sons

My father and his sons
Brooks, Walter, Herbert B, Sr,
Robert, Richard (me)


Four Brothers

Walter, Robert, Richard, Brooks Sanford
Swarthmore 1937

I would like to conclude this long story with some remarks about your grandfather Herbert Brooks Sanford, Jr. (1914-1989). He was my "big brother", in every sense. He was an inspiration and a shelter. And although I couldn't have put it into words at the time, he was, in fact, my idol. He was almost exactly three years older than I, and was always available when I needed him. We sometimes had talks at night when we might have been sleeping - often about one or another of my fears, not his. Once we timed how long we could hold our breaths, with a flashlight and pocket watch. Actually, I also was a little envious of him, since he was taller than I. (All of my brothers became six feet tall, while I was only about 5'- 8".) One 1937 picture of Brooks was provided by your Uncle Jim. It shows him and his brothers standing in front of our house in Swarthmore. Walter is on the left, then Robert, Dick and Brooks.

I think he always was under pressure from our parents. Being the eldest, they were specially anxious for him to be a model son. The fact is, he did pretty well at it. He was an excellent student all his life, paying attention to the details that made his work and hobbies successful. As the eldest, he had to lead the way in new schools and community activities as we moved from one place to another. When in the 9th grade in Florida he entered a kite-building contest and won for his classification. A year or so later he made a series of balsa model airplanes with painstaking precision. He used glued-up balsa ribs and spars and used a template for cutting the ribs - all very new to me at the time. Later on, he made a couple of beautiful model boats about 2-1/2 feet long. He gave the sailboat to me, and my mother made sails out of an old sheet. He had found out how to cast lead keels using lead dropped by linemen when repairing telephone circuits in the neighborhood. He always was a craftsman. Music didn't take too well with him, though. My parents' efforts to get him to play an instrument didn't work out.

When he was in school, he didn't do very much with sports. Just a few attempts, like the rest of us. He did have to overcome some physical adversities, but nothing chronic. He broke a leg when he was about seven years old. Later, after he had been at sea for a couple of years and decided to take a 2-year training course on the Schoolship Annapolis berthed at the Phila Navy Yard, he came down with appendicitis and had his appendix removed only a week or so before he was scheduled to report for duty. He got himself up and did report in on time. I forgot to mention that he was artistic, in addition to his other gifts. During his last year of H.S. he painted a very fine outdoor scene which may still be at Jim's Kenmore house. Also, he was a great draftsman. You should see the mechanical drawings he made when a student at the U. of W.

He graduated from Swarthmore HS in 1932, during the depths of the great depression. Things were really tough for everyone. Even my dad was between jobs about that time. So there was no money for higher education. Through church contacts, dad was able to get him a job as a seaman on Sun Oil tankers sailing out of their Marcus Hook refinery, on the Delaware River not far from Swarthmore. As a seaman, he learned how to handle lines and how to scrape and paint a ship while under way at sea, as well as how to play poker and tie twine into beautiful belts, etc.

He did this for several months until an opportunity arose to enroll on the Schoolship Annapolis mentioned previously. He wanted to improve his earning power, and there still was no hope of going to college. The schoolship offered a 2-year program leading to a Third Mate's license in the merchant marine. It was a large ship propelled by a combination of sail and power (engines and propellers), so the students could get training in each of these arts. The students lived aboard for the 2 years, and had two summer cruises to parts of Europe and the Caribbean. They learned not only the basics of seamanship but also piloting and navigation. Their navigation text was one which had been used for decades, written by a man named Bowditch who had been able to find his way with considerable accuracy all over the globe. He had to learn to use a sextant for navigation sightings on the sun and stars. Later on, after graduation from the schoolship, he wanted to buy a sextant for further practice at home. I believe they cost about $200, which was a small fortune; so my parents wouldn't let him get it (or get it for him?).

Upon graduation, he had received his third-mate's license, but there were no mate's berths available; so he took a job as a steward with the Grace Line, on combination freight-and-passenger ships sailing to the Caribbean and South America out of Philadelphia. On this job, about all he could come away with was food and lodging. The cost of uniforms just about ate up all his pay. So he decided to go back to Sun Oil as a Quartermaster on their tankers. This lasted for several months as the ship sailed back and forth to Texas and ports in South America. The quartermaster's job was not particularly challenging most of the time because all he had to do was to steer a course set by the ships navigator. In effect, he was the ships autopilot before elecromechanical autopilots had been developed.

Finally, the family fortunes improved enough so that he could start out at the U. of W., which he did in 1935, I believe. My parents had arranged for him to live at the home of old Madison friends whose daughter had lived with us for one school year during her high school days. Your grandfather did excellently at the University, becoming a member of the Tau Beta Pi honorary engineering society. In later life he told us that he helped pay expenses by playing poker with some of his schoolmates.

Brooks and Family 1962

Brooks and Family 1962

After graduation in 1939, he went to work for a year or so at a rock wool (insulation) manufacturing company as their sole engineer. Then, before the start of WW2 he became employed by the DuPont Company, with whom he spent the rest of his career. As you probably know, he was married to your grandmother Mary Ramage Sanford in June of 1941, and they shared the rest of her life together. During WW2, DuPont assigned him to tasks at more than one site involved in construction of the first A-Bomb. One was the Hanford Plant in Washington State, where the employees lived nearby. After reading reports about the level of radioactive contamination at that site, I have wondered whether this had something to do with the onset of your grandmother's cancer which lead to her death.

Soon after the end of WW2, he went to work at the DuPont Cellophane Plant near Buffalo, where he spent the rest of his working career. He and your grandmother settled down in a newly constructed house in Kenmore, and went about the business of raising six children. I have included a picture of him and most of his family in 1962.

I won't try to relate more details of your grandfather's life because I am not as well informed as are your uncles and your aunt Janet. I am sure they can provide much more information on the family's activities during his later years. Your grandparents were active church members throughout their lifetimes, and I believe that the eulogy delivered at your grandfather's funeral in 1989 provides a very fitting tribute to him and to his life with us. So I am ending these notes with a copy of it.

See text of eulogy for Brooks Sanford


As I have written these notes, I have become more and more conscious of my limitations in being able to do justice to the history of this accomplished and close-knit family. I would be very glad to incorporate any additions that family members would like to include, and I would be grateful for any corrections of inaccuracies.

To Jim, Jonathan and others who may read this, I say thank you for your patience, and may God bless you and keep you.

Richard W. Sanford
November 2003

Revisions made December 2004, December 2005, and January 2007.

Web page set-up by Stephen G. Sanford bwredbird^ At ^verizon Dot ^net