Ralph Earl Wheeler
Ralph Earl Wheeler's Family
Ralph Earl Wheeler, our grandfather, was born in Binghamton, New York on 7 December 1889. His father was Clinton Dewitt Wheeler and his mother was Ella Clark. Ralph was the middle child in a family of 5 children. He had 2 brothers and 2 sisters: Harry, Clinton Jr., Maybell and Susa. Ralph’s father was listed as a carpenter and later as a painter in city directories and state and federal census records. Our father, Donald A. Wheeler, Ralph’s son, told us that Clinton painted the Endicott Johnson Shoe factory buildings. I believe this was as an independent contractor and not as an employee of EJ Shoes.
The family was probably living at 232 Oak street, in the First Ward, when Ralph was born. Ralph’s father, Clinton, was working as a carpenter. Listings in the Binghamton City Directory show that the family moved frequently, but usually not far. This suggests that they rented rather than owned their homes. In 1891, when Ralph was 2 years old, the family was living at 9 Elm Street, in the First Ward. In 1899 they were living on Emma Street. The 1900 Federal census lists the Wheeler family living at 7 Miles Street. In 1902 the family was back on Emma Street, number 18. In 1903 the Wheeler family moved away from the First Ward to Leistershire. Ralph would have been about 13 or 14 years old. Leistershire was the earlier name for Johnson City, NY. Clinton is listed as a boxmaker, living at 21 Endicott Avenue. I don’t know where Ralph went to school. The next year, 1904, Clinton Wheeler and his family are living at 39 Grand Avenue in Leistershire, NY.
On November 12, 1909 Ralph enlisted in the New York National Guard, 6th Battery, Field Artillery stationed at the Washington Street Armory in Binghamton. He was not yet 20 years old. The armory building was new, built only 5 years earlier. This was the beginning of Ralph’s nearly continuous enlistment in this unit for over 40 years.
Ralph married Ruth Caywood on 7 October 1912 in Binghamton, NY. Ralph was 22 years old and Ruth was 18 years old. Ruth grew up at 33 Franklin Street in the First Ward. She and Ralph had probably known of each other growing up since both families lived only blocks from each other. On their marriage register Ralph is listed as working as a painter, Ruth was a printer. Ralph’s address was 101 Main Street, Leistershire.
Ralph and Ruth were living at 4 Elm Street, back in the First Ward, in 1913. This would make some sense because Ruth’s family were living on Franklin Street, only a few blocks away. Ralph was also familiar with the neighborhood, having grown up there. This address is just around the corner from the house on Oak street where the Wheeler’s were living when Ralph was born. The city directory for 1913 lists Ralph as working at Ansco, the film and camera company with a factory in the First Ward. In 1915 Ralph and Ruth have moved to 22 Valley street. The backyard of their house abuts the lot at 33 Franklin street, where Ruth grew up and where her parents were still living. Frederick Wheeler, their first child, is born in 1915.
In June of 1916 Congress authorized the National Defense Act which expanded the Army and reorganized the various state National Guard units. Ralph’s Field Artillery regiment was mobilized and sent to Texas to defend the border with Mexico during the Mexican revolution. Ralph was already enlisted in the New York State National Guard and was required to report for duty. Battery C of the 1st Field Artillery Regiment, where Ralph was assigned, was stationed at the newly built Camp Whitman, near Beekman in Dutchess county New York for assembly and training. In July Ralph’s unit traveled by train to the Texas border. The trip took 8 days. Ralph’s unit returned from duty in Texas in October 1916.
Nine months later, in July, 1917, the National Guard was again drafted into Federal service. The1st Field Artillery regiment, where Ralph was enlisted, became the new 104th Field Artillery Regiment of the 52nd Artillery Brigade. The 52nd Field Artillery Brigade was made up of the 104th, 105th, and 106th Field Artillery Regiments and the 102nd Trench Mortar Battery. Battery C of the 104th Field Artillery, Ralph’s unit, went into training in Plattsburgh, New York between July and October. In October, 1917 - only one year after returning from the Mexican border - Ralph’s unit arrived at Camp Wadsworth near Spartanburg, South Carolina for more training. From here the regiment traveled to Newport News, Virginia in May of 1918. In June the regiment sailed for France. Depending upon which source you read they sailed aboard the U.S.S. Calamares and they disembarked at St. Nazaire, France at the end of June. (Pamela Bakker: The 104th Field Artillery Regiment of the New York National Guard, 1916-1919, McFarland, 2014). William Foote Seward in his Binghamton and Broome County New York, a history, Lewis Historical Publishing, 1924, writes that the unit sailed from Newport News on the S. S. Huron in June 1918 and disembarked at Brest, in France, on July 13, 1918 after 2 weeks at sea.
During July and August Ralph’s unit was in training at Camp de Souge in Bordeaux. It was here that they received their allotment of the famous French 75s. On September 9, 1918 Ralph’s unit moved to the front near Nixéville, southwest of Verdun to support the 33rd Division in participation of the American offensive at St. Mihiel.
On September 25 the 104th Field Artillery moved to Le Claire to participate in the Meuse- Argonne offensive, again supporting the 33rd Infantry Division. On November 11, Armistice Day, Battery C ceased firing at 10:15 AM. Hostilities ceased officially at 11AM. The 104th Field Artillery was located between Crepion, Ormont Ferme and Malbrouck Hill.
The 104th Field Artillery remained in France through January 1919, stationed near Leval and Le Mans.
On March 6, 1919 Ralph sailed with his unit on the U.S.S. America out of Brest, France. He arrived in New York on March 13. The 104th was moved to Camp Upton and on April 1 was demobilized from Federal Service. Ralph returned to Binghamton in April 1919 and remained in the National Guard.
The Pictorial record of the 27th Division
by Alexander Starlight
New York: Harper, 1919
Website for the 27th Division https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/wwi/infantry/27thInfDiv/27thInfDivMain.htm
The Binghamton City Directory for 1918 lists Ralph and Ruth living at 16 Isabelle Place in Johnson City. Ralph is in the United States Army. We have a photograph of Ruth about this time in nurses uniform. It is not clear in what capacity she served.
By the 1920 Federal Census Ralph and Ruth are back in the First Ward at 8 Prospect Street, Binghamton. His occupation is listed as a painter (contractor). He was probably working with his father Clinton. Our father, Donald A, was born in the house at 8 Prospect Street on August 19, 1921. In 1921 Ralph is employed at the New York State Armory on Washington Street in Binghamton. Ralph’s military service record shows that he was enlisted in the 1st Field Artillery (104th FA), Battery C and had been since 1919. He had re-enlisted 4 months after his discharge upon returning from France. His service with the 104th continued uninterrupted through 1945.
In 1927 the family is listed at 19 Franklin Street in the Binghamton City Directory.
By 1930 Ralph and Ruth have 5 children: Frederick (Fritz), Ralph junior, Donald, Dorothy and Richard. The family is living at 33 Franklin Street in the house Ruth’s parents had owned and where she grew up. Ruth’s parents had died in 1928 and she and her brothers and sister inherited the house. Ralph and Ruth were possibly renting it from the estate. The Federal Census for 1930 lists Ralph as employed by the New York State Armory, working as an engineer. Our father had memories of his father taking care of the horses housed in the Armory. He told us that Ralph was responsible for all of the harnesses, saddles and other leather-goods associated with tethering horses. He said that he remembered his father riding horses home to Franklin Street for lunch as a way to exercise them.
Ralph died in October 1969 in Binghamton. He was 79 years old. He is buried in Vestal Hills Memorial Park.
Ralph Earl Wheeler, born 7 December, 1889; died October, 1969.
Married: Ruth Marie Caywood (born May 1894) 7 Oct. 1912,
1. Frederick (Fritz) Wheeler, b about 1915 m. Ruth
2. Ralph Wheeler Jr., b about 1920
3. Donald Arthur Wheeler, b 19 August 1921
m. Joyce Wood
4. Dorothy Wheeler, b about July 1924
m. Bud Brennan
5. Richard Wheeler, b about 1926