Labor Monuments

Transcending” labor legacy landmark                   Photo from Brian Callahan’s flikr post.

It seems fitting that Transcending — a labor legacy landmark on Detroit’s riverfront — sits on the spot of one of my ancestor’s former work sites.
And the UAW-Ford National Programs Center building sits on another. Both are monuments to labor.

It’s a fortuitous coincidence that these monuments occupy the sites of my grandmother’s initial foray into the labor market of a growing industrial city.  In my mind, the aptly named Transcending commemorates her, and generally speaking our family’s, move from the farm to the city, the transition from the agrarian to the industrial age.

Sarah Livingstone posing in one of the millinery’s hats in 1901

Sarah Campbell Livingstone [later McCrie] came to Detroit with her mother and siblings in 1897, the year after her father died on the family farm near Alviston, Ontario. She was 21 years old.

Sarah went to business school for six months and began working as a stenographer for the H. T. Bush Produce Company on Woodbridge Street in downtown Detroit. The company was on the first floor of a two-story building whose upstairs occupant was the American Eagle Tobacco Company. She earned $6.00 a week.

Four years later she doubled her earnings when she went to work as a stenographer for Mitchell, Harris & Company, a wholesale millinery two blocks away on Jefferson Avenue near Griswold Street. She worked there for about 10 years.

Advertising flyer for Mitchell, Harris & Co. dating to 1901

That area of Detroit was long ago re-purposed and is now the location of Hart Plaza, filled with monuments, fountains, footpaths, and memorials on the riverfront.

Using the 1897 Detroit street directory and Sanborn fire insurance map, as well as an 1885 map of the area, one can pinpoint the locations of her former work sites with the help of Google Earth:

• H. T. Bush Produce Company was located where the present day UAW-Ford National Programs Center (formerly the Veterans Memorial) building sits.

• Mitchell, Harris & Company was located where the Transitioning labor legacy landmark now stands.

An 1885 Detroit map overlaid on present day Hart Plaza and Renaissance Center.
Sarah Livingstone worked in the buildings outlined in red.

The next time I visit Detroit I’d like to make a trip to Hart Plaza and stand where she stood over a hundred years ago. Closing my eyes, I’ll think of her among an army of produce, fish, dry goods, tobacco, lumber, clothing, machinery, and millinery workers bustling among the offices, warehouses and shops of bygone Detroit. A farm girl turned urban woman, laboring to make a living for herself and family, and soon, in 1912, to marry James W. McCrie and make a family of her own.

Transitioning is a monument designed for reflection on the importance of labor. When I next visit, it will also be a place to reflect on the transience of time and on the importance of family.


If the Big Bang theory is correct, the universe began 14 billion years ago.

If fundamentalists are correct, the universe was created seven thousand years ago.

If I’m correct, the universe always existed.

The question of origins arose as I was reading Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. I think the title is a euphemism for “people who want the Reader’s Digest version of astrophysics because they’re too lazy or dumb to plow through a scientific tome.” That pretty much describes me.

The book is small, about paperback sized, and has only 218 pages. But still, I was lost by the end of the first paragraph, the one introducing the Big Bang theory:

“In the beginning, nearly fourteen billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.”

Huh? All the matter and energy of the universe crammed into the volume of a pin point? (It almost makes me want to ask how many angels could dance on the head of it.) But if such a micro dot really existed, where did all this matter and energy come from (there was no universe, after all, to forge it from), how was it constructed (given its inherent instability), why did it suddenly materialize, and just how the heck did everything fit inside it?

However, if scientists have posed a theory that raises as many questions as it answers, their religious brethren seem to be in the same boat (or ark, as it may be). For if gods created the universe, where did they come from? Did they always exist, as logic would suggest, indicating there really is no ultimate origin? Where do they live, outside of the universe, given they couldn’t very well have existed inside a universe they hadn’t yet created?

From a less cosmic and more human perspective, why did gods create mankind on a tiny speck in a universe billions of light years across? If mankind is the pinnacle of creation, why create such an enormous universe to obscure and endanger our presence? (Remember we’re probably talking about gods existing outside this universe, and if they’re looking in on us, they’d have to have uncommon visual skills to see us at such incredible distance and behind all the monstrous galaxies and dark matter that surround us.) And why put us on an orb destined for inevitable extinction from flying cosmic debris?

To my mind, the faithful and the scientists are looking at the universe through opposite ends of a telescope, the former seeing our world blown up to a significance well beyond its size, and the latter seeing the universe shrunk infinitesimally small in order to explain its origin. Me, I’m wondering if maybe we should set the telescope aside for a minute.

The intractability of the origin question leads me to wonder if maybe we’re anthropomorphizing the issue. People are born, we all have origins, so maybe we’re trying to see the universe in the same way. But what if the universe always existed? What if the universe’s expansion, as detected by scientific instruments, is simply part of a recurring cycle of repeated expansion and contraction over endless cycles of billions of years?

To me that makes as much sense as time and space having a beginning. If you can believe that gods existed forever (as it seems they must), you can just as easily believe that the universe existed forever. The recurring formation and destruction of stars and other objects through collisions of cosmic matter under the influences of nuclear, electro-magnetic, gravitational, and dark energy forces in the universe might argue against true beginnings and ends, just the perpetual metamorphosis of matter and energy.

Tyson’s book is a nice synopsis of current astrophysical science, I recommend a reading of it. It explains, among other things, the reasoning behind the Big Bang theory in layman’s terms. It’s perhaps my shortcoming that I couldn’t logically grasp the universe in a microdot. But if nothing else, it also served the purpose of getting me to thinking about my own concept of origin: namely, what if there were none?

P.S.: Tyson is also a fountain pen fan. An interview with him on his collection is on YouTube.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines proximity as “nearness in space, time, or relationship.” That’s a great definition for an important tool of genealogy.

Proximity is useful in figuring out family history in the absence of direct evidence such as lineage notes or official records. Relationships are typically established between people who are proximate in space and time. Generations ago one’s social environment would have been largely limited to a day’s travel on horseback or foot. So if a genealogist is trying to deduce or confirm relationships, i.e. build family trees, it’s helpful to establish that the people lived in the same area at the time in question.

Censuses dating as far back as the 1840s were useful in placing people in an area at a given time. City or area directories were also helpful, especially for years between censuses. And land records were good in identifying locations of farm families.

These kinds of documents helped discover relationships among our ancestors:

They showed the rocky relationship between Leonard and Pearl Schutze in the early 1900s in the L.A. area. The couple lived separately as much as they lived together over the years. (Pearl eventually had an affair outside their marriage and committed suicide when it fell apart.)

They helped build Jane Hannah’s branch of the family tree, showing that a pair of Hannah brothers, undoubtedly her siblings, purchased a farm next door to her future husband’s family. Following the paper trail of one of those brothers showed when the family immigrated to America and from which city in Ireland.

Proximity can also be determined by vital records, such as birth, death, and marriage registrations which document place.

When I was searching for the birth family of John Campbell in Scotland there was a plethora of possibilities for a man with such a common name. His gravestone determined his birth year (time). His marriage (relationship) to Isabella McLean led to the probability that his birth family lived near Isabella’s (space). Sure enough, there was a Campbell family living on the Gallochoilly farmstead adjacent to Isabella’s that gave birth to a John Campbell in the matching year. Though proximity wasn’t definitive proof, it — combined with examining all other John Campbells of the shire in that timeframe — was solid evidence that this family was by far the most likely candidate for the family tree.

The North Knapdale parish register shows the parents, farmstead, and birth date for John Campbell

Just as documents provided evidence of time and space, maps were useful in verifying spacial proximity. In the John Campbell example, it was only through old ordnance maps of Scotland that we could establish the locations of farmsteads and their proximity to each other. The same goes for 19th century township or county atlases in the United States and Canada which showed farms by family name. They documented the clustering of families in the same vicinity and showed how many marriages were spawned by the collocation of the bride and groom’s families in the area.

The concept of proximity was a terrific tool, but it admittedly may apply less to modern times than it did in the past. Generations ago families lived and worked on farms and there were limited opportunities (i.e. small local populations) to establish relationships. In the modern era people live in densely populated urban communities and work away from home so there are far more social opportunities. Add to that the increased mobility of modern transportation, mega churches drawing wide-ranging congregations, e-learning replacing fixed location schools, and the prevalence of electronic interactions, such as dating sites, and spacial proximity expands exponentially, making it potentially less useful.

In my own case, I met my wife on a blind date arranged by mutual friends. We didn’t live close by, we didn’t attend the same schools, we didn’t work in the same location, and our birth families lived a couple of hundred miles apart. A future genealogist would have a hard time trying to reconstruct our family trees using proximity as a tool. But of course in the modern era, there’s no lack of official documentation, so proximity isn’t as vital. As an aside, though, the proximity concept still applied, as it was through mutual friends (relationship) that we met, and at the time she lived with her grandmother (relationship), which placed us in adjoining counties of geographical (space) proximity.

There’s an iconic moment in the movie The Graduate when a family friend, Mr. McGuire, gives career advice to the newly minted college graduate Benjamin:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

I guess you could say that I’ve found one word that has helped me a lot in family research. Are you listening? Yes? Proximity.

Farewell to Microfilm

A recent announcement by FamilySearch heralded a new era in research technology:

“FamilySearch … plans to discontinue its 80-year-old microfilm distribution service. The transition is the result of significant progress made in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. … Online access to digital images of the world’s historic records allows FamilySearch to service more people around the globe, faster and more efficiently.”

I read the announcement with some trepidation. I’d researched our Scottish ancestors for a number of years using microfilm at the local Family History Center (FHC) and I wasn’t sure how the transition to digital imagery would impact that research.

It turns out the new technology is a quantum leap forward.

Microfilm wasn’t cheap to use, costing $7.50 per roll to borrow. And since our ancestors came from a number of parishes, there were several rolls involved. Once delivered to the local FHC, the rolls had to be threaded into microfilm viewers in a darkened room and the reels turned by hand to look at the pages sequentially. Copying down the information, or printing or photographing it, was time consuming. The copies were of poor quality.  And the loans were for about a month, putting time constraints on the research.

With digital technology all those problems went away. There is no fee. You’re not confined to looking at only one parish at a time. It’s faster and easier to skip through the images. And the quality of downloaded images is superb compared to their analog predecessors.

Neil Livingston-Janet McNair Marriage from the Craignish Parish Register

Yes, you can still only find the parish records at a Family History Center. But all in all, it’s goodbye (and good riddance) to microfilm technology, and a welcome hello to digitization. In the near future I’ll post the family’s parish records to the DAEDALUS feature on our web site.

Ghosts of the Past

Old soldiers never die … they just come back to haunt you.

That was the case with Barney Anthony, my great-great grandfather. When my wife and I took a road trip to Michigan this year I wanted to stop at the Michigan Soldiers’ Home in Grand Rapids where this Civil War soldier was one of the inaugural patients when it opened in 1886. As mentioned in a previous blog, Barney joined the Union Army when he was 52 — likely just to collect the signing bonus — and only spent 3-1/2 months in training before being released for “old age,” thereby avoiding deployment.

In his senior years he applied for admission to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home with a laundry list of disabilities he attributed to his military “service,” and in my humble opinion stiffed the state for room and board and medical care. Admittedly, that kind of attitude may be a little judgmental on my part.

The original Soldiers’ Home building, erected in 1886. (From a framed picture on a wall of the current structure.)

The visit to the Home was both sobering and uplifting. My friend Lenny and I walked the halls and visited some of the common areas where former servicemen — many missing limbs — gathered in wheelchairs to socialize. Some were on the covered patio smoking cigarettes or just taking in the early evening air. The servicemen were stoic; the staff was kind and caring. The long-term effects of war were quietly suffered within the walls of the Home and it was a jolting reminder of what we owe people who risked and sacrificed so much.

Well, apparently Barney thought I needed a little attitude adjustment concerning his own service. He wasn’t about to let me leave without a little sacrifice of my own. I’m sure it was his guiding spirit that steered some yokel into backing his pickup truck into the front of my automobile. I could almost hear Barney’s rheumy laugh as the grill on my car caved in and began to look like what I imagined was his gap-toothed grin. Touche, Barney. I’m not likely to forget this little visit into your past. Apparently you still have a few tricks left up the sleeve of that uniform.

But the ghostly lure of Barney and his wife Jane also got us up to the Traverse City area, and that was a good experience. We ate at fish restaurants on the bay, spent a day tasting wines on the Mission peninsula, climbed into an old lighthouse tower, and shopped for Michigan cherry products. It was beautiful. And the people were great: the owner of the cherry store kept her shop open for our late arrival, and a researcher at the public library gave me tips on finding the family in the library’s on-line archives of the Traverse City newspapers.

The newspaper archives yielded an obituary on Jane (nee Hannah) Anthony which answered some long-standing questions. Some of the details in the biography were inaccurate, but it gave a good overview of her life. And, yes, it turned out the obit was hiding on the internet like a ghost hiding in the attic.

We visited the location near Grawn, Michigan, where Barney and Jane lived with their son in their waning years and we stopped by their graves. It was touching that next to them their infant granddaughter was laid to rest. Grandparents would like that sort of thing.

And finally, the ghost of families past was resurrected at a reunion in my sister Sarah’s back yard.

Generations ago the Schutze and Schrotzberger families were closely linked by marriage, blood, and friendship. Over time those relationships faded. A couple of years back, however, one member of the Schrotzberger clan got in touch with me through our mutual interest in family history, and she came to see the family while we were back in Michigan. If there is a heaven, I’m quite sure there would have been smiles on the faces of our great-great grandparents who were the common ancestors of the Schutze and Schrotzberger attendees of the reunion. I know there were plenty of smiles among the current-day clans.

The Schrotzberger attendee, JoAnn, is seated in the front row at left.


A Mother’s Touch: the Edison Collier Pen

Some pens are easy to name — a Montegrappa pen with ‘1912’ embossed on it screams my father’s name ‘Leonard’ as he was born that year. An oversized Pelikan pen can easily be tagged as the ‘Big Mac’ to honor a McCrie great-grandfather.

The pen I’m naming after my mother, though, doesn’t visually bring her to mind. The Edison Collier in my collection is brown, whereas my mother was fair skinned with blue eyes. It is a large pen, and my mom was short. It has a blunt stub nib, not at all reflective of my mother’s well-rounded, easy-flowing friendliness.

But in the hand the pen’s resin is silky soft and the pen’s shape is exceptionally comfortable, and that tactile feel is what reminds me of my mom, a presence so warm and natural that it whispers her name. And so my Edison Collier pen has been named ‘Jean.’

Jean McCrie (later Schutze) ca. 1940

Admittedly I wanted a better hook to tie her to the pen. And there is one, though it’s a bit of a stretch. The Collier is made in Milan, Ohio, the birthplace of Thomas Edison. The Edison Pen Company was named after the town’s legendary inventor, who was born on February 11, 1847. My mom’s birthday was also February 11th. Not exactly a slam dunk match, but a strong enough link to validate the connection between Jean and this pen.

The pen feels so good in the hand I use it every day, often to fill in a crossword puzzle or make the day’s to-do list over breakfast. But like my mom, the baby of her family, it can be temperamental. First, a stub nib is not quite as easy to write with as a rounded point nib, though it is by no means difficult. Offsetting the stub nib’s impishness, though, is the sass and personality it gives to one’s handwriting, which assets my mom had in abundance and would have appreciated.

However, an annoying trait was the pen’s ink flow problems, which caused difficulties in starting after uncapping and in running dry while writing. I tried wetter inks to no avail. I initially had a medium point nib and I replaced it with a stub, again to no avail. I flushed it several times with water and a cleansing solution and it still ran dry. Finally, I pulled out the converter and inked the barrel with an eyedropper, and that did the trick. It writes marvelously now, and with the barrel’s large capacity, it shouldn’t have to be re-inked any time soon. Admittedly, the ink flows so well now it tends to leak a bit into the cap, giving me ink-stained fingers when writing with the pen.

As a nod to my mother, I typically use blue ink in the pen to mirror the color of her eyes. I’m currently using Pelikan’s Edelstein Topaz which is a nicely saturated light blue.

The Collier boasts a classic design in a light-weight, reasonably priced (around $150) steel nib pen. The brown swirl in the resin is eye-catching, and the light bulb etched on the nib is a nice nod to its place of origin. More impressive than looks, though, is how its resin feels so smooth, how its considerable girth rests nicely in the crook of the hand, and how its perfectly shaped grip section combine to make this instrument a pleasure to hold. The best pens are the ones you pick up often, and this pen will tempt you to do just that.

Finding Michigan: “If You Seek …”

If you’re searching for information on ancestors who lived in Michigan, as did mine, there are a few free web sites that should prove helpful.

Seeking Michigan: Death certificates or registrations from 1897 through 1952 are searchable by name, location, and/or date. Digital images of death certificates are available in many cases. State censuses from 1827-1874 and from 1884-1894 are also available.

Michigan County Histories and Atlases, a project of the University of Michigan Library: Useful for finding family farms from the last quarter of the 1800s into the early 1900s via the county township maps annotated with landowner names.

Michigan Online Historical Newspapers, a Google resource: Some newspaper archives are available for searching and reading. The selection is limited, but was a rich resource for the Owosso area, where many of my wife’s family members lived.

Obtaining Street Name Changes: A reference guide for finding current house numbers and street names for addresses which changed over the years. Though the resource is for various locations around the nation, there are links to Michigan-specific towns such as Grand Rapids and Detroit. The latter was particularly useful for finding current locations of addresses prior to 1921, when Detroit changed it’s house numbering system. The web’s best free resource for finding information on ancestors in Michigan, or anywhere else.

It’s Greek to Me: ICARUS and DAEDALUS

Two new features on our family history website — ICARUS and DAEDALUS, the Image Catalog And Retrieval User System and the Document And Evidential Data Archive and Look Up System — allow searching and retrieval of pictures and documents related to our ancestors. Typing a name in a search box retrieves a list of related images sorted in chronological order. Clicking on one of the image names retrieves the selected image along with notes on its source.

Some of the pics and docs are not available elsewhere on the internet.

Screenshot of the ICARUS Photo Search page

You’re invited to try ICARUS and DAEDALUS on our family history site. We still have a ways to go to fully populate the databases but will be working on them over the coming months. If you have any suggestions or observations please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Programming Notes: Making the Switch from Ipswitch

I’ve used the free version of Ipswitch WS_FTP LE for several years to transfer files from my home computer to my web site. It easily and quickly uploaded html pages, images, and videos, providing a side-by-side view of the files at home and on the web server and making the transfer between them simple.

But the company has “retired” the free version and requires users to purchase their professional version for $49.95. That’s a reasonable investment for businesses. For personal use, less so. So I looked around for a free FTP file transfer program and decided on FileZilla. I downloaded, installed, and began using it today.

The verdict: I like it. It has all the features I used in FTP LE, including
• Side by side file views by directory
• Status window to show the current and past transfers
• Easy navigation among directories on home computer and web server
• Bookmarks to instantly jump to frequently used directories

The program gets a 4-½ star editor review on CNET and a four star average user rating. So far I would rate it a five.

Caveat: Some reviewers complain of malware being installed along with the program. I downloaded my version from the FileZilla site and had no malware problem. However, I don’t recommend downloading from a third-party site, which could bundle malware along with the program.

The Life and Death of Thomas Hutchings

The eldest sons of four generations — from my dad to my grandchild — have Thomas as a middle name.

I suspect my grandmother Bessie (nee Estall) Schutze gave my dad his middle name in honor of her brother Thomas. Since there were no other Thomases on either side of the family, that appears to be a safe bet. Somehow the name stuck, and we continue to use it as a middle name in the family.

It seems like a good idea to know a bit about the man whose name survived despite never having had children of his own.

Thomas was the third illegitimate child of Sarah Hutchings, a ‘fur sewer’ living in Bethnal Green in London’s notoriously poor, overcrowded, and crime-ridden East End. An Estall family historian believes Thomas’s mother Sarah — in light of her frequent visits to the workhouse to deliver children without a father — was a prostitute. If so, she wasn’t alone: up to one in eight women of the East End turned to the trade to make a living or supplement their meager wages.

Thomas Hutchings’s birth certificate (click on image to enlarge)

Thomas was born in the Bethnal Green Workhouse in July of 1889. He had a brother (or more likely a half-brother) Alfred, who was five years older; and a sister (or half-sister) Harriett who was three years older.

A couple of years after Thomas’s birth his mother married a laborer, William Estall, who was working the shipping docks. And a month after that his mother delivered Thomas’s half-sister Bessie, my grandmother.

[As an aside, with Sarah Hutchings’s possible occupation as a prostitute and Bessie being born only a month after Sarah’s marriage to William Estall, one may wonder whether Bessie was really his daughter. However William was living with Sarah at least ten months prior to Bessie’s birth, and Bessie needed an operation for the same condition that killed her father (an aortic aneurysm), so her claim on the Estall name appears solid.]

Museum House, one of the tenements the Estall family lived in (from Google Street View)

The Estall family lived in multi-story brick tenements around Bethnal Green. At first they lived behind a lunatic asylum on Cornwell Road. Their next home, where Bessie was born, was across the street from the other side of the asylum on Green Street. (The building, Museum House, still stands at the present-day corner of Roman Road and Burnham Street.) Within a couple of years they were living at a place on Russia Lane a police inspector described as among those where ‘there are no worse places to be found.’

Thomas lost his older brother Alfred in early 1894 to diphtheria (though Bessie, then 3 years old, thought he’d been killed on the street by a horse). Thomas, at four years of age, became the eldest son in the family. The streets were the playgrounds of the families in the East End. Thomas and his friend William Morris got lost on the streets when Thomas was just shy of five years old, and a police constable delivered the two boys to the Mile End Workhouse . The children were later returned to their parents.

Thomas and his younger sister Bessie were enrolled in the Globe Road primary school when he was six. He likely was protective of his four-year-old sister, as older siblings tend to be. Bessie would have looked to her half-brother as both a playmate and role model.

More children followed in the Estall family: Lily came after Bessie, then Rosie, then James, and Robert. Seven children and two parents would have strained the tiny living space available in tenement quarters.

Things went from bad to worse. Their mother Sarah took ill after delivering Robert, and she died of acute meningitis on Christmas Eve of 1899 at the age of 39. The family was now motherless. Thomas’s step-father William, who had a history of physical ailments, reported to the Bethnal Green Workhouse infirmary with his family, and the children — less Bessie who was also kept in the infirmary; Robert, who died in his first year; and James, who was adopted out — were sent to the Leytonstone Workhouse School a few miles away. Thomas was ten years old.

The Bethnal Green Workhouse

Thomas, as the oldest of the siblings at the Leytonstone School, likely would have felt responsible for watching over his sisters Lily and Rosie and keeping the family together, such as it was.

After a year and a half at the school Thomas’s step-father William was released from the workhouse infirmary and the family was reunited. With no mother to watch the children, however, William was incapable of making a living while raising the family alone.

William’s solution seems questionable. He had ten siblings, at least one of which was living in Bethnal Green. But rather than turning to them — the children’s aunts and uncles — William decided to drop off the children with a former “wife’s” family in Lewisham in southeast London.

The term ‘wife’ is used loosely. William had moved in with a married woman, Sarah French, a decade before marrying Sarah Hutchings. He had two children by her but moved on when her husband returned.

Perhaps William wanted all of his children to be together under one roof. But nobody in Lewisham was buying it, and when William abandoned them there, they were promptly dropped off at the Lewisham Workhouse.

Thomas was motherless, abandoned, and the head of the remaining Estall family. He was twelve years old.

His sisters were admitted to the Workhouse school, and Thomas was sent off for boarding and instruction on the London Asylum Board’s training ship Exmouth moored in the Thames. He spent 2-1/2 years learning seaman’s duties, then was hired as a deck boy on the coal cargo ship S.S. Turkistan at age 14.

Exmouth Training Ship

After a couple of years at sea he seems to have become a photographer for a short stint before joining the British army in southwest England in 1907 at age 18. His enlistment papers showed him to be 5’8,” 125 pounds, blue-eyed, and brown-haired.

He was assigned to a rifle company and spent his first two years training and on duty in England. In October of 1909 he was assigned to the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Alexandria, Egypt.

While there, he was admitted three times to the Army hospital in Cairo. An accident on duty resulted in contusion of his right foot that exacerbated an old injury and left him hospitalized for three months and caused him pain thereafter. In August of 1910 he spent two weeks in the hospital for dysphoria — a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction, which can accompany depression, anxiety, or agitation.

His physical and mental pain seem to have overwhelmed him, and in September, at age 21, while sitting on his barracks bed, he propped a rifle between his legs and committed suicide. He was buried in the English cemetery in Cairo the next day.

At the inquest into his death his acting corporal said “he was very quiet, very careful about money mattters. He did not drink at all. I had not noticed anything unusual about him lately. [Did his corporal not know about his recent hospitalization for dysphoria?] He used to complain about his foot especially after marching. He said he was expecting to purchase his discharge and go to Canada. He was on good terms with the others but was quiet and did not mix much with others.”

The Citadel, Cairo, where the death inquest was held.

So ended the hard and short life of Thomas Hutchings. Though a Hutchings, he went by the Estall surname of his step-father. He apparently had dreams of emigrating to Canada, probably to be with his sisters Bessie and Lily who’d emigrated there in 1906 under the aegis of an orphanage.

My grandmother once mentioned to me that she had a brother who’d died while serving with the British Army and there was a great deal of pride in her voice when she said it. When she had her first son in April, 1912, she gave him the middle name of Thomas, and I’m quite sure it was to honor the recently deceased lad who had accompanied her to primary school, shared the family’s shabby lodgings, and was the closest thing she had to a father figure after her dad abandoned the family.

I consider it an honor to have his name too.