Our three sons and I are following in the Mayhew tradition of serving in the military, standing for freedom and championing for the underdog from the pulpit and on the battlefield. A few years ago, as I began to trace Mayhew history and their philosophy, I realized that mine is a carbon copy of all that I read of my ancestors, and it reaffirms my mind-set.

We can actually verify that a Mayhew took part in the Hastings War in 1066, when the Normans, left over from the Roman Empire, eventually sacked England. It was a brutal, unforgiving war, fought with arrows, spears, axes, rods with the chains, and balls with spikes. They gave quarter to nobody. As planned by the aggressors, there were three engagements that happened simultaneously, and whichever side was retreating or weakening, even those who fled, were hunted down and killed. They intended to leave no survivors, I have a tattoo of the family crest, which bears the motto, translated: "Safety in God alone." I guess it was very appropriate for anyone who lived through the Hastings war.

Understandably, we have more specific information from the time of the founding of America, when England from where they came, became New England where they settled. We have a framed drawing which depicts the Mayhew family tree beginning in 1442 and extends to 1855. The tree begins with Thomas Mayhew, Sr., who was born in England in 1593 and died in 1682. He was a merchant by trade, who came to America, arriving in Massachusetts in 1632. In 1641, he purchased and was later appointed as the Governor and Patentee of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Elizabeth Isles. Martha's Vineyard was discovered by explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, who landed on a cape, which he named Cape Cod, because of the abundance of codfish he found there. In sailing south, he landed on a small island which he named Martha's Vineyard in honor of his mother, whose name was Martha.

In 1641, Thomas Sr, sent his son, then 20 years old, with a few families to settle on his new purchase. Thomas Jr. was born in England in 1621, became an Oxford graduate, a scholar of Latin and Greek, familiar with the Hebrew language. Thomas Jr. was a preacher — a missionary to the Native Americans, the Indians. For those who had an interest in Christianity, wanted to learn more and convert, Martha's Vineyard became a retreat. Those who weren't interested, left. Thomas Jr. also established the first school there.

For three generations, this was life at Martha's Vineyard. After the Revolutionary War, the land became a prime piece of real estate and other folks wanted it. By its very nature, missionary work was low- or no-budget. It is impossible to compete with big dollars that want something. There were six or seven wealthy men who bought the whole package. Thomas didn't have much to say about it.

In 1657, in his mid-30s, Thomas planned a short trip to England to report on his work, and his ship was lost at sea. Out of their respect and high regard for the work he had done among them, the chiefs each placed a stone where Thomas had stood, and it became a monument on which the D,A.R. (Daughters of the American Republic) placed a bronze tablet telling of his life and work. Every anniversary of the ship being lost, the Indians would throw a rock at the point where the ship had departed. That tradition held for 250 years.

The work begun by Thomas Jr. was continued through his son Rev. John Mayhew, whose son Experience and grandson Zachariah were great missionaries to the Indians of Martha's Vineyard.

Considering the Mayhew's zeal for liberty, it is not surprising that they would become involved in the slavery issue. In 1854, Allen Mayhew, his wife and two boys moved from Ohio to Nebraska. They farmed the area and had two more sons, Barbara's brother, John Henri Kagi, spent a significant amount of time with his sister and her family throughout 1856. That summer, he met John Brown, the radical abolitionist who led the famous raid at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, thought to be one of the factors leading to the outbreak of the Civil War. He also utilized his sister's farm as a stop on the underground railroad. There is a cabin/church in Nebraska City, Nebraska, near the river. Allen built a tunnel through which blacks could travel, apparently having Huck Finn type rafts to cross the river.

Iowa was a free state so the Missouri-Iowa border was heavily patrolled. It appears the Nebraska side was not as patrolled, so they crossed over there. Exactly how many slaves passed through the Mayhew's homestead is unknown, but Edward Mayhew, son of Allen and Barbara wrote of an instance in 1859, when Kagi brought 14 blacks to the cabin and Barbara fed them. It is interesting that Allen Mayhew was never arrested, never mugged or mobbed. This was unusual at a time when there was such an intense feeling of those who were pro-slavery. Not only would a person who was assisting blacks be at the mercy of authorities, even neighbors or former friends, it they knew someone was helping blacks escape into a free state, would intimidate them, beat them — even to outright hanging. Some white guy, who assisted in the underground railroad was imprisoned, but they never touched Allen or his family. Records indicate that in 1862, Allen left his family and headed west to find gold. He died in Utah.

Of the Experience Mayhew side was Jonathan Mayhew (1720 to 1766), a pastor of the Old West Church in Boston when the Stamp Act was enacted. This was a device requiring the use of stamps and stamped paper for all official documents, commercial writings and various articles, by which the American colonies would be required to pay revenue to England. Jonathan was a whig, the party protective of the liberties of the governed. He reflected the colonists' feeling toward that act in a powerful sermon stating: "The king is as much bound by his oath not to infringe the legal rights of people as the people are bound to yield in subjection to him. From whence it follows that as soon as the prince sets himself above the law, he loses the king in the tyrant. He does, to all intents and purposes, un-king himself." He announced that when a king steps beyond his own laws and turns into a tyrant, the people are duty bound to remove him. "We are to submit to authority, but God in no way intended for tyrants to exist." In defense of preaching politics instead of Christ, he quoted from 2 Timothy 3:16: "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." He was instrumental in getting within the founding documents the right to revolt.

President John Adams regarded this sermon as the opening salvo of the American Revolution, in which the Mayhews participated, declaring themselves for the cause of liberty. In the War of 1812, Vineyard men were in command of privateers and all the leading ships of the Navy. In the Civil War, the Village furnished 240 soldiers and sailors. Sheldon Mayhew was in the Ohio infantry. In the Spanish-American War, four boys enlisted and in the 1St World War more than filled its quota at every call.

All of this preceded the Revolutionary War and I have a roster of Mayhews who participated. Following, there were Indian uprisings, and because the Vineyard's Indian population was known, the military was uneasy about them. The Mayhews who were there, many of whom had served previously in the Revolutionary War, were experienced in warfare, and adamantly told those folks, "These are peaceful Indians. You come over here and we'll kill you." There was no rebellion, no uprising, no anything, and when the attempt was made to get the Mayhews to fight in the Indian wars and they said, "Absolutely not. If you treat them right, there will be no rebellion or uprising." This is consistent with our siding with the underdog — in this case the Indians, and ending up fighting for other underdogs — the blacks during slavery. Granted that the Mayhew's involvement is not a glamorous, glorious, profitable venture. The rewards are different and I regard than as better than the rewards for the opposite.

My side came up the Thomas branch, which stops with Deacon Nathan Mayhew, who moved off the vineyards to Bangor, Massachusetts. (At that time the northeast territory was Massachusetts, not Maine.) Sheldon Mayhew ended up in Ohio, a Sergeant in the Ohio Infantry, and when the Civil War was over, he and some family members moved to Afton, Iowa. When I eventually came to this part of the country, I began an attempt to find out more about them.

I checked out the Afton area by getting a plat map and looking up the track. I approached a few houses, knocked on doors and asked if they knew the Mayhews, who used to farm in this area a long time ago. No one did so I gave up, but as I was driving back to Afton and so on to Osceola, I saw an old man out in front of his house. I stopped and introduced myself. When I asked if he knew the Mayhews, he said, "Why, sure." And he started naming them off. He recalled that when he was just a little kid, in harvest season one of the Mayhews would host a big neighborhood get-together. They would kill one of the hogs or cows and have a barbecue, and when they got through with that part of it, the other Mayhew would have a big barn dance. He was enjoying his trip down memory lane.

One of Sheldon's boys was Grant, my grandfather, who married Hazel Potts, whose family was from around here. Come to find out, Hazel was jealous of the close knit family, and they moved to Chicago to get away. He became a trolley car operator, and told me that on the side he delivered milk in the big old metal canisters. He had a truck and a milk run — some of it was his. He deposited his milk check one day and the next day the bank closed. The Depression was on. In his last days, he contracted pneumonia. In those pre-antibiotics times, pneumonia was serious and he died.

My dad was born in Afton and may have been about 10 years old, when he and his sister were moved to Chicago. He grew up, enlisted in the Navy, just before WWII. He served in the South Pacific. He came back and met my mom. She had grown up on the family farm in Wisconsin. Their experiences were those of a typical farm family going through the Depression. They bought all the kids shoes once a year. When they got through the winter, if they wanted cooler shoes in the summer, they made their own sandals. Dad didn't feel the Depression like many did. His mom was a nurse, and nurses were always employed. Dad rode a bicycle delivering packages for Western Union throughout Chicago. There are some interesting tales from those times and they mean so much more when the person telling them has been through it, rather than just reading about it in a book,

I joined the Army in 1978. There are lots of things that we hear about and take for granted, but my interest in history and roots leads me to curiosity about beginnings. When did we first have an Army? The manned, equipped, full-time Army on this land was the British Army, the Red Coats. They were full-time soldiers, trained, uniformed, paid, fed, quartered. Came the Revolution, and those forces were born out of the militia, which was nothing more than neighbors getting together with their flintlocks. So the Army goes back to post-revolutionary war times, as does the Navy. At that time, attack by a foreign country, primarily England, was a very real possibility, so a Navy could intervene and prevent their arrival on our soil.

Once the Revolutionary War was over and the British were defeated, George Washington stood up an Army, very small but full-time, paid, drilled, and trained. They relied primarily on each state maintaining a militia and the National Guard grew out of the militia. But as we got into more and more wars, there was justification to grow the size of the military. The Reserve corps came into being in 1904, and was actually started by the Medical Corps because they couldn't get enough doctors. They had doctors on standby, and they were the "Reserves." It grew from a small beginning to their being drilled once a month, with a two-week summer camp.

I joined during the cold war, so there wasn't anything going on. I was stationed in Alaska where I was in the Scout Platoon for the battalion. It was an interesting, exciting job. Our potential enemy was Russia separated from Alaska by the Bering Strait, only 50 miles wide. It could easily be crossed on foot over the ice. We did a lot of training in northern Alaska a lot of training, skiing, and snowshoeing.

Winters were real winters back then and we did our physical training (PT) where we were up early in the morning, did our exercises and ran outdoors. If it was colder than -20°, we would have to come inside to do them but until -20°, we were outside doing PT. The coldest I ever remember it being was Windy Ridge Bombing Range. This was an old WWII range the bombers used to drop their ordnance, practicing hitting the target. We were out there and it was -82° below. That was the temperature, not wind chill.

It was an unusually cold snap that came through and we were out in the field — our last day out there. We were being helicoptered out that day. The Lieutenant called in the wrong coordinates to our group of helicopters, so they came for us miles and miles off course. They were so far away we couldn't hear or see them. They flew around, saw nobody so they went back to base. We called in again and the response was, "We were just out there and didn't see you." So we told them where we were and they came out again to that same wrong place, flew back but radioed on the way saying, "We don't see anybody." The platoon sergeant said to the lieutenant, "Let me check your coordinates." He discovered they were wrong. By the time they got that corrected and were there to pick us up, we were literally walking in circles just to keep our blood going. If we sat down we would have frozen to death.

There were guys from our unit and others units that had to be hospitalized. Some had to have fingers, toes, or feet amputated. Gangrene set in and worked down to their feet so they had to be amputated. There were quite a few. I went to visit a friend in the base Hospital a few days later. It certainly wasn't funny but they had a ward of finger amputees, one for toe and feet amputees. My friend had some toes taken off. His bed was farther down the room so I saw the whole row of beds without footboards. The visual stuck in my brain. It was as though they were told to hold their feet in an upright position and somebody walked down with a chain saw and whopped off toes. I will never forget that sight!

I was 18 when I joined the Army, right out of high school. I was sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington in the 9th Infantry Division at the time of Grenada, and we were the Rapid Souest RDF Deployment Force so they stood us to. We were on the tarmac at McCord Air Force Base, ready to load the aircraft on orders. They stood us down saying they had so many people in Grenada just then — the Seals, the Rangers, the Green Berets, that we would end up shooting ourselves, "So you just stand down."

I was alerted again in '91, during the first Gulf War with Kuwait, when Sadam was burning and blowing up oil fields, and we intervened. They were getting all the infantry standing by because they didn't know how long it was going to last. I was standing by with bags packed, and I don't know if the ground war even lasted a week. So I was stood down again.

Presently, I am in an Army job in which I am called a non-deployable asset. There are three non-deployable assets: recruiters, because they feed the force; drill sergeants are non-deployable because they train the force. I am a career counselor, and we aren't deployable because we maintain the force. Since 2002, I am in the full-time active duty Reserves, which is almost the same as being active duty Army.

How I came to be in Osceola, Iowa, having been born in Illinois is interesting and a little spooky. I met and married Coleen whose family was from Seattle, when I was with the 9th Infantry at Ft. Lewis. Our oldest child was born in Seattle, the other four in Texas, where I was in school at West Texas A & M for my Bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in bio­chemistry. With that background I applied for the Osteopathic University in Des Moines. There was another fellow in Des Moines who was also interviewing to attend the school. He had come by train and mentioned he needed a ride back to Osceola to catch Amtrak. Here I was on a shoe­string budget, with just enough gas money to get back to Texas, but with nowhere to stay that night. So I said, "If you can put me up for the night, I'll be glad to drive you to Osceola tomorrow." We agreed. The interviews went well, I dropped him off at Amtrak, looked around and decided this was the perfect place. Des Moines was way too expensive and I knew I wasn't going to raise a family in a big town. I had grown up in a small town — Elgin, Illinois, north of Chicago. In a small town, parents didn't have to worry about the kids. When kids are growing up, kids being kids — I was one, and when I got in trouble, the local police would take me home to my dad, and he would take care of the situation. When the boys were growing up, they still did that here, too. and was accepted. So we came here.

It was so ironic that we ended up in a town a stone's throw away from Afton, which I didn't know about at the time. I knew nothing of the family history. It wasn't until I got here that I started researching. This is also the area where my grandmother Potts came from, so I am home. In such a round-about way — never planned, knew nothing about, but here I am.

Coleen and I have two girls, three boys. The girls were never interested in the military but that was not the case with the boys. That was never pushed. I told the kids, "It is your life. You pick what you want to do. You are in this house and this home and it is my job to train you for 18 years, not 20, not 24, not 26. You graduate from high school, you are l8, you are out." I was and am a firm believer in the eagle thing. You kick them out of the nest. If you keep them around, you do them a disservice. They don't grow up. The kids understood that it wasn't that I didn't love them or want them around, but the sooner they were out there, the sooner they are on their feet, the better off they would be and that is what happened. The picture was taken at the youngest one's, Matthew (Matt's) graduation from the Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego.

I had helped the family members get tickets for Matt's graduation and paid for the rooms. I told the other two, "I am going to be in my uniform, how about you coming in yours?" They agreed. Matt is now stationed at Camp Fuji, Japan, training base.
The picture is according to their ages. Michael (Mike) is the oldest — he is in the Navy, has actually served his time on an aircraft carrier. He's been to Iraq and is now out of the Navy, employed as a lineman with Par Electric, in Des Moines.

Mitchell joined and is still in the Air Force stationed at Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. He is in avionics, i.e., he works on instrument panels repairs, trouble shoots etc.

In this picture, Michelle is the older of the two girls, Micheala is the younger. The sole grandbaby at this point is Arianna. She just turned three.

This covers from 1066, the Hastings war, through 2008. In 58 years, with one gap, which I must go to England to fill in, we will be a thousand year family.

This July I will have completed 30 years total service time with no plans for stopping until they kick me out. What the Mitchell and Matt will do, I don't know. It is their choice.






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Last Revised June 12, 2015