April 5, 2009

Pvt. John Findley




John Findley was the Corps mechanic. He had worked for the Imperial Bicycle works in Chicago and was invaluable. When somebody had a breakdown he would fix it. Sometimes he staid up all night making repairs. Accounts describe Findley switching bicycles with the rider of the bicycle needing repair. The Corps would ride on and Findley would catch up. Findley rode both summers.

"One member of the corps was a good cyclist mechanic, whose technical knowledge proved of great value to us on many occassions."
- Lt. James A. Moss, Military Cycling in the Rocky Mountains

"Pvt. John Findley in Company F, was already an expert bicycle mechanic. Findley had worked four years in the repair shop of the Imperial Bicycle works of Chicago and could instruct other soldiers in repair techniques."- Sorenson, Iron Riders [from letter Moss wrote to Adjutant April 13, 1896]

“The cyclist mechanic, Pvt. Findley, who is a fine rider, rode a wheel ten or fifteen pounds heavier than any other in the command, and had only one breakage the whole trip, which was repaired in four or five minutes. Several of the heaviest wheels (which were ridden by careful riders) stood the trip with only two or three minor accidents.”
– Moss report

When a bicycle would break down, Findley would switch bicycles with the man whose bike had broken. He would stay behind with the necessary tools to fix the bicycle and then catch up to the Corps.
-The Bicycle Corps: America's Black Army on Wheels, PBS documentary

"The cycling mechanic [Pvt. John Findley] was evidently bent on making a night of it, and of his own free will and accord staid up until reveille, tiring a buckled wheel.”
- Lt. Moss, Los Angeles Times The Army A-Wheel, Nov. 7, 1897

[It seems to me that pedaling a bicycle with all the weight attached to the handlebars, as Findley's bicycle was, would have been very difficult.]

1895 Register of Enlistments
March 10, 1895, Findley enlisted at Fort Omaha, Nebraska for three years service. He was born in Carlton, Missouri around October 1873 (his age is listed as 21 years, six months). His occupation is recorded as "mechanic". It describes him as having brown eyes, black hair and a mulatto complexion. He was 5' 10 3/4. He was discharged April 9, 1898 at Ft. Missoula. His character was rated "Good".

1898 Register of Enlistments
Findley reenlisted April 10, 1898 at Fort Missoula and was discharged on July 17, 1899 at Fort Bayard, New Mexico. His birthplace is listed as Carlton, MO., and his age is listed as 24 years and sixth months. His occupation is "soldier" and he is described as being 5' 11/12" with brown eyes, black hair and "b.mullato" complexion. His character was rated "Excellent"

1903 Register of Enlistments
Findley enlisted on May 15, at Los Angeles, California. His occupation is listed as "fireman". [A "fireman" tended a boiler or furnace]. He was discharged on March 23, 1905 at Fort Niobarra, Nebraska for disability. His character was rated "Very Good".

[At this point, the possibilities become interesting....]

1900 Census
John Findly, born August 1865 was a 34-year old white male. This census was taken in Carrollton, Missouri. I don't think this was Findley. This Findley is too old if birthdates on all the records are correct.

1910 Census
John "Findly" and wife Della, married five years are living in Cooper, Webster County, Iowa. Findly, 37-years old, is black and his wife is 30 and wife. Findly and his parents are all from Missouri. His occupation is listed as laborer at a stucco mill. Boarding with the Findly's are John and Jean Lewis, a mixed race couple. John is 29 and black while Jean is 31 and white. Could this be a record for Findley? Keep reading, it gets more interesting...

[Cooper township is a part of Fort Dodge....]

1915 Iowa Census Webster County Fort Dodge
John Findley is 40 years old living in Fort Dodge, Iowa. His occupation is "fireman" and he was six months unemployed. His birthplace is "Mexico" and the record indicates he was NOT naturalized. It further states he has been in the United States and Iowa three years. However, there are check marks and possibly numbers in blanks that indicate military service. In the Spanish [American] war blank there is a 1; the in infantry blank a six; the cavalry blank a five and in the navy (!) blank a five. "Not any" is listed in the "Church Affiliation" blank. His color is "W".

Surely, the Findley of the 1910 Federal Census and 1915 Iowa Census are one and the same, however, the 1915 record raises several questions. How could he have served in the military and not be a naturalized citizen? Why in the 1910 Census is Findley listed as "black" and he and his parents listed as being from Missouri?

His wife is listed as "Mrs. Estella Findley". Her birthplace is listed as Ohio

World War I Draft Registration Card
This card was signed September 12, 1918. John Findley of 102 Ave. G Fort Dodge Webster Iowa born September 25, 1874 whose race is listed as "Mexican". He is a "Fireman" with the Ft. Dodge Gas and Electric Company working at the gas plant. His wife is Agnes E. Findley. He is described as "tall" and having a slender build with light brown eyes and black hair. On the card the "Naturalized" box is checked for U.S. citizen. I think this is the same Findley as above but is this our Findley?














1920 Census - Fort Dodge, Webster County Iowa

John Findley and wife Agnes are listed at 114 Avenue H in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Findley is a 46 year old "Mex" who immigrated in 1880 and was naturalized in 1887. They have a five year old son named John E. John Findley's birthplace is listed as Mexico, along with his parents. Findley's occupation is listed as "Engineer" and industry is "Stationary". A "stationary engineer" is an operator of pumps, boilers, etc. Agnes' birthplace is listed as West Virginia. Olive Bingaman, mother-in-law, and Maria and Orlando, siblings of Agnes, are living at the house.

[What kind of name is John Findley for a man born in Mexico? Could it be that this IS Findley and the "Mexican" race was a cover so that he could be married in peace to a white woman? The fact that the Fort Dodge man was an "engineer" and "fireman" fits the theory that this could be our Findley. On the WWI registration card, he is described as tall and slender which fits our Findley's build. If the 1910 Census Findley is the same Findley as the 1920--which seems highly likely-- how to explain the change of race and birthplace? In the records the wife's name changes: 1910-Della; 1915- Estella; 1918- Agnes; 1920-Agnes. Are they different women?]


1930 Census - Lewistown borough, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania
John E. Findly, step-son, with mother named Estella A. (aged 36 - born 1894 in ) Maryland. John E. is a single, white 16-year-old, born in Pennsylvania. Probably not the same John E.

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