March 14, 2023

John Dickinson and the USS Constitution

I have written several blog posts about my early Dickinson family in New London, CT.  My 4th great grandparents, Nathaniel Dickinson and Elisabeth Bill Dickinson, had seven children with one having died young.  My line comes down through their son, David Bill Dickinson, however I want to digress at bit and tell you about David Bill Dickinson’s younger brother, John. 

John Dickinson was born about 1792 and was the youngest son of Nathaniel and Elisabeth.  John was about 5 years old when his father died at sea in 1797.  Nathaniel had been a seaman, and the family lived close to the wharf/dock area of New London.  Times were probably very difficult for Elisabeth, a widow with six small children, and as you might expect the boys began working at a very early age.

Like their father, the Dickinson boys found work on the ships of New London.  David Bill Dickinson was documented as working in 1801 in New London in the Seamen’s Protection Certificate Register at 13 years of age.  And his brother, John Dickinson is also found in the Register in 1804 working at only 12 years of age.  

John Dickinson was noted in the Seamen’s Protection Register as having been born in New London, age 12, with light complexion, height at 4’7”, with a scar on the “left elbow joint of the little finger of left hand” and pock marks.  In 1796, Congress passed an act to protect American merchant seamen from impressment. The certificates were used to verify the identity and nationality of American seamen traveling abroad.  Seamen were issued a one page Protection Certificate as proof of their American citizenship.

Our John Dickinson was mentioned in letters written in 1835 by his brother, David Bill Dickinson.  David wrote that his “youngest Brother, John, was also in the Service of his Country during the Late War, and was on board the United States Ship Constitution with Commodores Hull and Bainbridge, in the Battles and Capture of Guerriere and Java – since the War he was in the United States Service at New Orleans, where he lost his life while on Duty…”

David’s mention of the “Late War” referred to the War of 1812.  And of course, I decided to try and find out more about John and his time aboard the USS Constitution.  There is a very good website for the Constitution at where they include a list of the crew, and it includes John Dickinson.

A little bit about the USS Constitution – this ship is a three-masted wooden hulled heavy frigate, and the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy that is still afloat.  It is usually berthed in Boston Harbor at the Naval History and Heritage Command.  The Constitution occasionally sails in the Boston harbor, down the coast to the Charleston Navy Yard for servicing, and for special celebrations.  While docked in Boston, it is also sometimes available for tours.

A couple of the ship’s most famous sea battles came during the War of 1812 when it defeated British war ships and garnered the nickname “Old Ironsides” because the ship’s strong oak hull seemed impenetrable.  According to the USS Constitution Museum, our John Dickinson was a crew member during the time of the most famous of battles in the War of 1812 with the British ships, the HMS Guerriere and the HMS Java at a time when he was about 20 years old.

The record of John Dickinson’s service that is provided by the USS Constitution Museum:

Ship’s Crew:   John Dickinson

Rank:  Able Seaman

Dates of Service:  8/4/1811 – 2/17/1813

Early Life:  Dickinson’s place and date of birth are unknown. 

Early Experience:  Dickinson served as a seaman on board the USS Essex prior to August 1811.

Aboard the USS Constitution:  Dickinson joined Constitution’s crew as an able seaman on August 4, 1811.  He was discharged at Boston, Massachusetts sometime after February 17, 1813.

Battles and Engagements:  During 1811 and early 1812, the ship patrolled the American coast enforcing US trade laws and carried out a diplomatic mission to France and Holland.  Dickinson participated in the battle with HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 and with HMS Java on December 29, 1812.  During the battle with HMS Java, Dickinson helped pass empty cartridge boxes to the magazine by way of the steerage hatch.  He received $42.62 ½ and $42.30 as his share of the prize money for the two victories.

Other:  Ledgers show that Dickinson reported to sick bay aboard the Constitution on May 25, 1812 with a severe pain in the liver.  Dr Amos Evans administered several doses of ipecac and castor oil.  After three days he returned to duty.

An able seaman was an important member of the crew.  Having sailed for years on vessels, he would have worked his way up through the ranks in the navy.  Officers relied on able seamen for the smooth operation of the ship.  The traditional requirements for a seaman in John Dickinson’s time were that he be able to hand (furl or take in a sail), reef (reduce a sail's area), and steer, but these were in fact the minimum requirements for the seaman rating.  In addition, they were expected to be familiar with nearly all aspects of shipboard labor.  He had to be able to cast the sounding lead, be able to sew a sail with a palm and needle, understand all parts of the rigging and the stowage of the hold.  Furthermore, he had to know how to fight, as part of a gun crew or with small arms.  An able seaman made about $12 per month during the War of 1812.

Below is a painting of the battle between the USS Constitution and the HMS Guerriere.  The battle took place south of Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1812 and demonstrated that the Americans could stand up to the world’s greatest sea power.  The Constitution suffered losses:  7 seamen died and 7 were wounded.  And on the Guerriere:  15 men were killed and 78 wounded.  The Americans captured 257 prisoners before the Guerriere sank.

USS Constitution also engaged with the HMS Java late in 1812 with John Dickinson still among the crew.  The battle took place near Portugal, when the Java started the battle even though the Constitution was a superior vessel.  The Constitution suffered losses:  9 seamen died and 47 were wounded.  And on the Java:  22 men were killed including the captain, and 102 were wounded.  The HMS Java typically had a crew of about 275, but she had about 425 aboard at the time of her engagement with the Constitution.

Other than the information shared in David Bill Dickinson’s letter, and the information gathered from the Museum of the Constitution, I haven’t found much else about John Dickinson.  I don’t know if he ever married, but it is doubtful.  And I don’t know when he died, only that David’s reference letter indicates that he died after the War of 1812, aboard a United States naval ship that was in service somewhere near New Orleans.

*  *  *  *  *


Key Individuals:


Nathaniel Dickinson  (1749 – 1797)

Elizabeth Bill Dickinson   (~1760/1766 – 1819)

Nathaniel Dickinson (1780-1781) died in infancy

Elizabeth Dickinson (1782-1862)

Martha Dickinson (1782-1862)

Jerome (Jereme or Jeremiah) Chapman Dickinson (1785-1817)

David Bill Dickinson (1787 – 1846) my 3rd great grandfather

John Dickinson (~1792-aft 1813)

Sally Brooks Dickinson (bef 1797 - ?)

– Jane Scribner McCrary

March 1, 2023

The Bill Family & Elisabeth Bill

John & Dorothy Bill, my 9th great grandparents, were the earliest members of the Bill family in America and were first recorded in Boston in 1638.  However, it is thought that they actually arrived from England with their 3 oldest sons prior to 1635.  Unfortunately, John died in 1638, leaving Dorothy a widow. About that same time a man named Richard Tuttle also arrived in Boston having brought the 2 youngest Bill children with him from England aboard the ship Planter.  It is believed that Richard Tuttle was Dorothy’s brother as he became responsible for the Bill family. 

Our ancestor, Philip Bill, was the third son of John & Dorothy and by 1668 Philip was living in New London and Groton, Connecticut where land deeds show that he owned real estate.  In the summer of 1689, an epidemic claimed the life of Philip and one of his daughters on the same day leaving behind his widow, Hannah Bill, and several children.

Samuel Bill, the second son of Philip Bill was born about 1665 near Boston, and came to Groton (then part of New London) with his parents in 1669.  He married Mercy Haughton, daughter of Richard Haughton.    

Our family then descends through four more generations of the Bill line, all with men named Samuel Bill.  Many accountings of the Bill family at this point only have 3 successive generations of Samuel Bill’s.  But when I found one that showed 4 generations of Samuel Bill – the puzzle pieces finally fell into place for our Bill line which had eluded me for many years. It can be very hard to separate the generations in historical accounts of the time. To explain, I will flip to where I was struggling to make our Bill connection.

Elisabeth Bill married Nathaniel Dickinson in 1778 in New London [for more on Nathaniel Dickinson, see the blog Aboard a Prison Ship in the Revolution posted on 27 June 2020].  Their son, David Bill Dickinson was my 3rd great grandfather and a mariner who enjoyed an illustrious career at sea [for more on David Bill Dickinson, see the blog A Career with the Midas of Baltimore posted on 17 October 2020].  Nathaniel died when David Bill Dickinson was only 10 years old.  David Bill Dickinson wrote several letters that have survived and they reveal small details and information about his family. 

In David Bill Dickinson’s writings, he states that he had an uncle named David Bill that was “the Son of Samuel Bill of New London [and] was I believe a Lieutenant on board of the Frigate Trumbull of 36 guns Commanded by Capt Samuel Nicholson, in his action with the British Ship Watt, in which action the said Bill was killed.”  This tells me that David Bill was a brother of his mother, Elisabeth Bill; and that the father of both David and Elisabeth was Samuel Bill.  It is known that the Trumball/Watt battle took place in June of 1780, thus David Bill died in June of 1780.   I have also found several references to verify that fact.

Another clue provided in David Bill Dickinson’s letters was several references to “My Uncle Jonathan Brooks” (referring to Jonathan Brooks Jr) and even a letter written in 1835 from Jonathan Jr to David Bill Dickinson.  Brooks’ letter also notes that David Bill was an uncle of David Bill Dickinson and “from whom he was named David Bill".  Comparing information in David Bill Dickinson’s writings with early New London marriage and baptism records helped me to piece together the Bill line for his mother, Elisabeth Bill Dickinson. 

I started with the fact that both David Bill and Jonathan Brooks Jr were uncles of our David Bill Dickinson.  Church records show that Jonathan Brooks Sr was married to Mercy Bill of New London in 1766.  And a Brooks Family lineage book tells us that Jonathan married “Mercy Bill, daughter of James Chapman of New London, Dec 3, 1766.”  A search of New London church records also documents that “Mercy Chapman of New London, married Samuel Bill on Nov 8, 1759”. 

The scenario was that Mercy Chapman married 1st Samuel Bill in 1759 and had David and our Elisabeth.  Mercy’s husband, Samuel Bill died young as Mercy Chapman Bill later married Jonathan Brooks Sr in December of 1766.  Mercy had at least 5 more children with Jonathan, including Jonathan Brooks Jr.  Thus, both David Bill (Elisabeth’s brother) and Jonathan Brooks Jr (Elisabeth’s half-brother) were children of Mercy – and uncles of my David Bill Dickinson, the son of Elisabeth Bill Dickinson.

As for the Samuel Bill that was Mercy’s 1st husband, church records show that Samuel Bill Jr & Martha Wheeler had a son named Samuel Bill born on April 12, 1739.   I believe that this Samuel Bill was the 1st husband of Mercy Chapman. They both would have been about 20 years old when they married.  This Samuel Bill would have died young, before he was 27 years old, leaving his widow, Mercy, and children, David and Elisabeth.  Mercy next married Jonathan Brooks Sr in 1766.

I first backed into figuring out the relationship between Elizabeth Bill Dickinson and the Brooks family with the “my uncle” references in David Bill Dickinson’s letters.  More recently, I have found confirmation for my conclusions in the Will and Probate paperwork for the Estate of James Chapman (1709-1784), the father of Mercy Chapman. 

In his Will, James Chapman left his estate to his children which included Mercy.  The estate probate paperwork wasn’t finalized until 1812, and by that time Mercy had died.  According to the final Court of Probate settlement, Mercy’s share of James Chapman’s estate was left to her remaining children:  Nathan Brooks, Jonathan Brooks [Jr] and Elizabeth Dickinson.  For more on the Chapman family, see my most recent blog post, James Chapman of New London.

*  *  *  *  *

Key Individuals:

1 John Bill (? – 1638) m. Dorothy Tuttle (1592 – ?)

   2 Philip Bill (1620 – 1689) m. Hannah Waite (1624 – 1709)

      3 Samuel Bill (1665 – 1729) m. Mercy Haughton (1655 – ~1693)

         4 Samuel Bill (~1690 – 1753) m. Hannah ? (~1692 – 1740)

            5 Samuel Bill Jr (~1715 – 1779) m. Martha Wheeler (1717 – 1785)

               6 Samuel Bill (1739 – bef.1766) m. Mercy Chapman (1738 – 1806) & then

                  Mercy Chapman Bill (1738—1806) m. Jonathan Brooks (1735 – 1807)

                  7 Elisabeth Bill (~1760 – ~1818) m. Nathaniel Dickinson (1749 – 1797)

                     8 David Bill Dickinson (1787 – 1846) m. Mary B Rogers (1790-1875)


1)  Most of the information on the early Bill family comes from the book titled the History of the Bill Family by Ledyard Bill, first published in 1867.

2)  There are at least two other documented references that I found for Elisabeth’s brother, David Bill, and his death aboard the Trumbull in June of 1780.  It was noted that David died instantly when he was hit in the head by langrage which is scrap iron shot into the ships’ sails to shred them in battle.  It is also noted in one historical accounting of the Trumbull’s engagement with the Watt that David Bill was a cousin of Gurdon Bill (1757-1815), a Captain of Marines.

3)  The youngest child of my 4th great grandparents, Nathaniel Dickinson and Elisabeth Bill Dickinson, was born in 1797 and named Sally Brooks Dickinson, indicating yet another tie to the Brooks family.  I suspect that Sally was named after Elisabeth’s younger sister, Sarah/Sally Brooks (1771 – 1787) who was only 15 years old when she was struck by lightning and died.  During a storm in 1787, lightning struck the chimney of the Brooks home and jumped to Sally.  Several other members of the family were in the home at the time, but not hurt.

 – Jane Scribner McCrary

February 18, 2023

James Chapman of New London

In 1860, a New London, Connecticut newspaper, The Repository, published a biographical sketch of James Chapman as part of a series of historical profiles.  James Chapman (1709 – 1784) and his wife, Mary Wyatt Chapman (1712 – 1748) were my 6th great grandparents. 

It’s a bit long and not very exciting, but I thought that you might enjoy reading it, so I am going to share the story with you in its entirety.



Number Fifteen

By F.M.C.

In a secluded part of the old Township of New London, on a farm which has since been called Rockdale, there lived, a hundred years ago, a quiet honest, religious, hard working man, named James Chapman.  The country around him was almost wilderness.  The few half cleared farms of that region, of which his own was one of the most rugged and hard to cultivate, were intermingles with rocky pastures, cedar thickets and swamps of elder and sumac.  His house of one story stood upon a rock, and was well shaded with orchard trees.  Here, from year to year, he planted, mowed and harvested, made cider, milked his cows, turned the cheese in the press for his wife, shelled the corn and carried it to mill, read his Bible morning and evening, and duly as the Sabbath came, went into town with his family, and ascending the hill to the old meeting house, reverently imbibed the dew as it was distilled from the lips of the venerated minister.

Those were the chief transitions of his life.  In a quiet way he loved to go up among the rocky ridges of his farm, and look off upon the water, tracking the white sails along the coast, or watching the hawks as they flew inland with their fishy prey.  The birds that haunted his orchard seemed to know him, and never fled at his presence.  Robins, wrens, and sparrows he fed at his window seat and around his doorsteps.  With every opening spring some of the guests of the former year were sure to return, announcing their arrival by a gentle peck on the window pane, or a plaintive chirp from the rose bush near. 

Mr. Chapman’s wife was Mary Wyatt, a discreet, industrious, home-keeping woman, who knew how to spin and weave, to transform milk into butter and cheese, to make and mend the garments of the family, to dip candles, bake johnny-cakes, boil  suet puddings and make poultry pies.  She knew, moreover, that her Bible was true.  It is probably that she had been taught to write and had once worked a sampler; this was the sum of female education in her day.

They were married Feb. 25th, 1731, and between that date and the close of the year 1748, they had ten children, five sons and five daughters, all of whom, it is supposed, were born and passed their childhood at Rockdale.  The daughters were Hannah, Mercy, Rebecca, Mary and Lydia, who in due time married respectively Pain Kenyon, Jonathan Brooks, Sperry Douglass, Thomas Hempstead, and a Mr. Udell.

With respect to the sons, it may be said that their history gives no countenance or confirmation to the truth of the proverb, “Like father, like son.”  In disposition they were totally unlike their father – They seemed born for action, enterprise and adventure.  Before they had hardened into manhood, they sought the busy scenes of social life, and rushed with eagerness into the great struggle of their times for honor and liberty.  Society and their country, diversities of place and occupation, peace and war, land and sea, were all included in their aspirations and pursuits.  The old farm-house therefore was early deserted of its children.  The mother died, and Mr. Chapman married for his second wife Mrs. Hannah Accourt, daughter of Richard Manwaring, and widow of Dr Carles Accourt, an English physician, who had lived a few years in New London.

With this wife, twenty years of advancing age glided away in peace.  Life at Rockdale retained its ancient simplicity, but the scene was often varied by visits from children and grand children, and other relatives of the family.  At such times the good old farmer, tall, gray headed, with a countenance full of benignity, sat comfortably in the corner of the large fireplace, joining with a quiet smile in the decorous mirth of the young people, and cracking walnuts or popping corn for their entertainment.

He died Sept 25th, 1784, aged 76.  The New London Gazette, after announcing his death, added this record:

“He never went out of the town but once in his life, and then he was summoned to Norwich as an evidence in Court.”

His widow died in August, 1806, very aged.  Her life covered almost the whole of the eighteenth century.  The old man and his first wife were buried in the ancient burial ground; the venerable relict in the second; neither of the three has any memorial head-stone.

Our next number will be devoted to the sons of James Chapman, men of action and enterprise, whose varied fortunes stand in bold relief against the quiet character, simple pursuits and retired life of the father.


Though the newspaper cites the author as F.M.C., this biographical sketch was written by Frances Manwaring Caulkins when she was 70 years old. Frances was born about 10 years after James Chapman’s death, so her information for the story was likely gleaned from talking to family and locals.  Frances, a prolific writer of historical and genealogical manuscripts during her life, was probably related to James Chapman’s second wife, Hannah Manwaring.

*  *  *  *  *


Key Individuals:


James Chapman (1709 – 1784)

Mary Wyatt (1712 – probably 1748); James’ 2nd wife was Hannah Manwaring

            Mercy Chapman (1738 – 1806)

            Samuel Bill (1739 – 1766); 1st husband, married in 1759

Elisabeth Bill (abt 1760 – 1819)

David Bill (abt 1862 – 1780)

            Jonathan Brooks (1735 – 1807); 2nd husband, married in 1766



1)  And just to let you know, our family line does NOT descend from any of James Chapman’s wonderful sons that were such noble men of action, full of enterprise and wondrous adventure.  No, we descend from James & Mary’s second daughter, Mercy Chapman (1738 – 1806).  In 1759, Mercy Chapman first married Samuel Bill (1739 – abt 1765).  Samuel Bill died young, however, leaving Mercy a widow with two young children, David and Elisabeth.  After Samuel died, Mercy married Jonathan Brooks in 1766 and had five more children, four of which lived to adulthood.  Our line comes down through Mercy Chapman & Samuel Bill’s daughter, Elisabeth Bill, who married Nathaniel Dickinson in 1778. 

2)  And for anyone who wants to see the article, here you go!

- Jane Scribner McCrary

February 4, 2023

The Salmon family of Long Island

William Salmon, my 9th great grandfather, was born in Southwold, England in 1610.  On May 21, 1635 by warrant from the Earle of Carlisle he boarded the ship, Matahew of London, and departed London for St Christopher’s Island in the West Indies.  At the time William was 25 years old.  He was listed in “the original lists of Persons of Quality who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations.”

In 1636, William is recorded as a member of a group from Bermuda (referred to as the Summer Isles) that traveled to the Chowan Indian country of North Carolina.  During that expedition, Salmon met Matthew Sinderland, a mariner from Boston.  William Salmon joined Sinderland’s group and they all headed to Long Island.  

Both Matthew Sinderland and William Salmon decided to settle on Long Island. William Salmon acquired a lot in Southold where he built his first home and also a shop where he began operating a blacksmith business.  In 1642, Matthew Sinderland died intestate and childless, and soon thereafter in 1643 William Salmon married Matthew’s widow, Katherine Curtice Sinderland.  William moved to her homestead nearby at Hashamomuck, also on Long Island.

The Sinderland homestead was a valuable tract of land, however Matthew Sinderland did not leave any documentation such as an Indian deed, land grant or any other record of title to the land.   Consequently, William Salmon purchased the land from Chief Paukhamp on February 24, 1645.   In 1649, William sold some of that property to neighbors and retained about 400 acres near his home in the area of Hashamomuck Neck, Long Island.

William and Katherine had 4 children - 3 daughters and 1 son - during their short marriage before Katherine died about 1650.  Our ancestry line is through John Salmon, the son of William Salmon & Katherine Curtice Sinderland Salmon.

Soon after the death of Katherine, and with 4 young children, William Salmon married again.  This time he married Sarah Horton of Southold, and the couple had 2 more children.  William died by 1657 leaving Sarah as a widow with 6 minor children, only 2 of whom were her own.  Shortly thereafter Sarah married again to John Conklin Jr of Southold. 

Following the deaths of both William Salmon and Katherine Curtice Salmon, their children were considered orphans and were sent to live with the Curtice family.  And for several years there were many lawsuits between John Conklin Jr (their stepmother’s new husband) and the Curtice family, primarily about ownership of the desirable Salmon property at Hashamomuck Neck.  It appears that Thomas Curtice of Weathersfield, secured title to the children’s property for them.  However in 1663, the Salmon children’s guardianship was changed to their stepfather, John Conklin Jr.  This document was signed by John Salmon and his sisters, Mary & Sarah Salmon; possibly the third sister died young.

“Whereas our father William Sallman in his life tyme did declare that his brother in law Thomas Curtis of Weathersfield should not have the educacion of any of his children – his long forbearance of looking after us manifested little love to us.  These may signifie to whom it may consern, that we whose names are here under subscribed have made choyce of John Conckline Junr to be our Gardian, haveing experience of his fatherly love to us and hereby declare all other Guardianship by authority of any court to be null.  

Witness the subscripcon of our names, the two and twentyeth day of  february 1663.” 

Signed by John Salmon, Mary (her mark) Salmon & Sara (her mark) Salmon. And witnessed by John Conkelyn Sener, Richard Curtis (his mark), Thomas Osman, and Jacob Conklyne

It is notable that one of William Salmon’s grandsons, also named William Salmon (my 7th great grandfather), kept a private register of the marriages and deaths of residents of the Town of Southold, and also included a few persons that were also associated with the life and business of the area.  At his death, the register was continued by members of the Salmon family.  This register book of vital statistics covers the period of 1696 through 1811 and has been published, thus creating an extensive accounting of the Salmon line and the Southold area as well.  You can find the Salmon Records at this link if you have an interest.

Our Salmon line moves from Southold, Long Island, with Hannah Salmon, a daughter of William Salmon (the grandson).  Hannah Salmon married John Hempstead of New London in Southold in 1731.  John had evidently met Hannah when he spent a stretch of time on Long Island, possibly learning his trade of blacksmithing.  John & Hannah were first cousins, as their mothers were sisters.  John’s mother was Abigail Bayley, and Hannah’s mother was Hannah Bayley.  After their marriage, John & Hannah made their home in New London; though they often returned to visit family in Long Island. 

*  *  *  *  *


Key individuals:


William Salmon  (1610 – 1657)

Catherine Curtice Salmon  (1614 -- ~1650)

John Salmon  (~1646 – 1698)

Sarah Barnes Salmon  (1662 – 1738)

William Salmon  (1684 – 1759)

Hannah Bayley Salmon  (1683 – 1751)

Hannah Salmon Hempstead  (1710 – 1765)

John Hempstead  (1709 – 1779)



The Hempstead family has a long history in the New London area of Connecticut.  You can refer to my March 2021 blogpost titled, New London & Joshua Hempstead’s Diary, for more information on several of John Hempstead’s early ancestors.   

 – Jane Scribner McCrary

January 14, 2023

The Scribner Family in Japan

While stationed at his last assignment with the U.S. Marines in Yuma, Arizona in 1960, my father, Robert Gordon Scribner, received his final remote tour duty assignment which was a 9-month tour to a base in Iwakuni, Japan.

Mom & Dad decided to make it a family adventure, and towards the end of Dad’s tour in Iwakuni, we were all headed to Japan to join him.  At that time there were four of us children, and we all got passports and a 90-day tourist visa for Japan.  We left to join Dad in July of 1961, and we got permission from our local school district to miss the beginning of the next school year for the trip which I suppose was regarded as an alternative educational opportunity – not something easy to get approved in today’s time I would think.

Family was not included on remote military tours of duty, so we waited until near the end of Dad’s tour, and flew over on a commercial airplane.  The plan was for us to live “near” the base, we would have weekend trips, and Dad would use some of his vacation at times for us to explore Japan. 

We rented a small traditional Japanese house not far from the Iwakuni air base that was located between several rice fields.  The house was owned by a Japanese artist that lived next door.  Dad would ride to work on a small motorcycle each day.  The rooms in our Japanese house were divided with sliding doors with traditional rice paper panels, the floors had rush mats, and we always took off our shoes at the door and wore slippers inside the house.  We slept on tatami mats that were rolled up during the day.  And we often found lizards or salamanders in the small bathroom that had a shower. 

In the mornings there was a lady that we called Mamasan that would bring groceries from the local market and help Mom with the cooking, laundry and housekeeping.  We had steamed rice with every meal – and I love rice to this day.  We also discovered some wonderful red Japanese candy with rice paper wrappers that would just melt away when popped in your mouth, wrapper and all. 

There were local children nearby that we played with – mostly baseball – even though they didn’t speak any English and we didn’t speak any Japanese.  I remember that I lost a couple of baby teeth while there, and we must have had a Japanese tooth fairy because I got Japanese coins under my pillow in exchange for my two teeth. 

The house was right next to some railroad tracks, and we thought it was so cool to place coins on the track and then the train would flatten them out when it rolled over them.  Surely our parents never realized that we were doing that!

In his later years, Dad had written down some stories about our time in Japan, and I will share them here: 

“Our house had a bathroom that was two steps down from the bedroom, and it sprung a leak in one of the water pipes.  We told the landlord, so he sent his father over to fix it; only the father hooked up the hot water to the toilet.  I told the landlord that you still got your feet wet when you stepped into the bathroom and the toilet had hot water in it.  So, over came Papasan again to fix it.  He spent most of the day in the bathroom and proudly came out and bowed that he was finished.  He did get cold water again in the toilet, and he fixed the leak by building a wooden platform so we would not get our feet wet.” 

While in Japan, we traveled a lot by train, and I still love the rhythm of riding trains.  However, Dad also purchased a 1949 green Hudson car for $100 and we used it for some of our sightseeing excursions in the next few months.  I remember it well because there was only one inside door handle that we had to “pass around” when we needed to get out of the car, and of course, no seatbelts.  He sold the car, also for $100, when we left.

More of Dad’s narrative tells about our sightseeing adventures:

“After meeting my family in Tokyo and spending a couple of days there, we boarded a train for Nagoya to visit the pearl farms.  The kids got a kick out of seeing the raising, gathering, sorting and selling of the cultured pearl.   We went down on the beach to watch the pearl divers (all women) return from gathering pearls.  We even enjoyed the sea urchins that they roasted on the beach.  From Nagoya, we took the train to Kyoto to visit the city that was never touched by war.  We visited all of the shrines and palaces that the city held, and then on to Iwakuni.  We spent the first couple of nights at a Japanese Inn because our house was not quite ready for us.  Getting used to a Japanese toilet was unique for everyone as it was just a hole in the floor that you had to hit, and it was communal.”   

“We took the family up to Hiroshima to see the Peace Museum and warned them of the reception they might receive from the Japanese there.  It is a tough museum for children to go through, due to some of the exhibits, but they all came through with flying colors.” 

“One time we took a train trip to Beppu to visit the hot springs.   Beppu was on the island of Kyushu so it was a long train ride.  We arrived at the train station and I told Ann to take care of the kids and board the train, as I would get seats for them. The Japanese are very polite people, except when it comes to the trains, and then they push and shove everyone.  The train came into the station and I threw our luggage through a train window and followed it by myself and put luggage on enough seats for our family when about five minutes later along comes Ann and the kids.  I knew that was the only way we would all get seats.  We arrived at our hotel and for the next few days we all dressed in kimonos for the rest of the stay.  The baths at our hotel were not communal so I took the boys and we washed, prior to getting in the big pool, and Jeff could not wait so he dove in and surfaced very red faced because it was so hot.  Needless to say all the Japanese men looked in awe at the young boy, beet red.”

At the end of our 90-day visa for Japan, we headed to Hong Kong.  Dad took a week of leave and joined us there:

“I flew to Hong Kong and met up with the family at the Mandarin Hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong.  We hired an Amah through the hotel to do some babysitting, and we all enjoyed a week in Hong Kong.  The Amah would come in every night to feed and babysit the children while Ann and I went out to dinner and took in the nightlife.  One night while Ann and I were having dinner in the hotel and watching an elegant Chinese Opera, we looked up beyond the scenery and there were our kids with the Amah watching the Opera - but they did not have to pay to get in.  Amah knew everyone and introduced the kids to all the performers.  After a week’s stay I had to leave and fly back to the base at Iwakuni and Ann and the children were due to leave a few hours after me on a plane to Hawaii.  I paid Amah and asked her to make sure Ann and the children got to the airport and safely on the plane.  Amah insisted on escorting the family right on to the plane and the gate personnel could not keep her off.  She told them in Chinese that she had promised her employer she would get them on the plane, and that is what she did.”  

I can remember how exciting it was to know that we were illicitly watching that Chinese theater performance.  We all had a great time in Hong Kong.  Mom even got some lovely clothes made for her while we were there. 

Our next stop was Hawaii where we spent a month in temporary base housing at the military base on Oahu.  The base is located in a non-public area of Waikiki Beach and it was a child’s dream.  The teenage daughter of a family friend would come by each morning and we three older kids would get to spend practically all day in our bathing suits with her playing and swimming at the beach.  There was also a lobby area at base housing where there were some lounge chairs equipped with a coin box and a small black & white television mounted on the arm of the chair.  You could “purchase” 15 minutes of television time with a quarter.  We often checked to see if anyone left without watching all of the television time that they had paid for.

We stayed in Hawaii while Dad wrapped up his tour of duty in Japan, and then he joined us for another couple of weeks in Hawaii before we all headed back to Yuma, Arizona.  By then we were well into the fall and had missed a couple of months of school.  What a wonderful time this trip was for all of us! 

*  *  *  *  *


1)  In 1973 as a young adult, I was fortunate enough to visit Japan, and I remember recognizing places that I had been to as a child, especially in Kyoto – feeding the deer at Nara Park, a large bronze Buddha in the Tojaiji temple, and a small square hole in one of the pillars on the back side of that temple for children to crawl through where it is believed that they will receive enlightenment and good fortune.  It felt like déjà vu many times for me during that trip.  

 2)  One memory that comes to mind with our trip to Japan, is that it was the first time that I ever saw a color television – not in Japan, but in the airport.  When we were scooting through the airport we noticed that there were a few color televisions in one waiting area.  I think that they were in an area of the lobby that was set aside specifically for television watching.  And remember that the color show that was being broadcast at the time was Bonanza.  Also, I still have the pearl that I found in my oyster at the pearl farm.

3)  For the next several years Dad would show some of the home videos that he took while he was in Japan to our grade school classes when we studied Japan in social studies.  His videos showed many of the temples and shrines, the pearl farms, and other scenes of life around Japan.  

4)  I will be sharing more blog posts about of my parents and our early family life later this year.


Key Individuals:

     Robert Gordon Scribner  (1923 – 2006)

     Ann Hart Hughes Scribner  (1921 – 2006)                           

- Jane Scribner McCrary

John Dickinson and the USS Constitution

I have written several blog posts about my early Dickinson family in New London, CT.  My 4 th great grandparents, Nathaniel Dickinson and E...