Friday, May 22, 2015


If you enjoy genealogy and genealogical research you probably are also interested in history.  An interesting, and fairly easy, project you can do that combines both of these is to trace the lineage of your house.  Just like every person, every house has a lineage and a history - from the architect and builder through all of the owners up to the present time. With all of the records on the internet today, tracing the history of your house should not be too difficult - even for a beginner. And like tracing your family tree, you never know what you may find. Most places today require that a potential buyer be told if something notorious took place in a house that is up for sale, but that rule did not exist years ago.  

I have traced the history of the house I grew up in (which will always be "Home" to me) as well as the bungalow I owned for many years.  I was not able to uncover anyone famous or infamous who lived in either place, but there were some interesting stories nonetheless.  This week I am going to tell you the story of a man who owned my boyhood home from 1924 until his death in 1930:  Joseph I. Markey. 

Joseph Ignatius (some sources spell it "Ignacious") Markey was born April 15, 1868 in Chillicothe, Missouri to Peter Markey (1825-1889) and Margaret (1838-1925).  Peter Markey was born in Dublin, Ireland and when he came to the US, settled in Chillicothe, Missouri.  Peter was a civil engineer by trade.  Some sources say that Margaret was born in Ireland, others say Michigan, still others Mississippi.  Eventually she ended up in Chillicothe, Missouri  with Peter. 

Peter and Margaret Markey were blessed with four children:  Mary T. (1857-1932), Francis (1859-????), James A. (1861-1943) and Joseph Ignatius (1868-1930).  

At some point in his youth, Joseph Markey left his home and family in Chillicothe, Missouri and moved to Red Oak, Iowa - about 150 miles as the crow flies.  Young Joseph had always been interested in writing, so after completing his schooling, he started submitting stories as a roving reported for the Red Oak newspaper - called the Red Oak Express. The newspaper was not really interested in the concept of a roving reporter, but circumstances far from Iowa would soon change that. 

On February 15, 1898 the battleship USS Maine sank in the harbor of Havana, Cuba.  The United States, outraged, immediately demanded that Spain surrender control of Cuba.  After diplomatic efforts failed, Spain declared war on the US on April 23, 1898.  Joseph Markey, caught up in the patriotic fervor, enlisted in the US Army on May 9, 1898, and was mustered on May 30, 1898.  Now the Red Oak Express was more than interested in Markey's services as a roving reporter - he would be their war correspondent, writing periodic letters to the editor of the paper.

Markey joined what became Company M of the 51st Iowa Infantry.  In preparation for being shipped to the Philippines, Company M was shipped to San Francisco, California. 

By early May 1898, trains began arriving in Oakland with young men from Pennsylvania and Colorado, Oregon and Kansas---all coming to form a 20,000-man expeditionary force headed by General Wesley Merritt. Welcoming parties of the Red Cross Society met the units at the San Francisco Ferry Building with food and flowers. The mostly-volunteer infantries, feted and cheered along the way, would then march up Market Street to their campsites.

Early arrivals were put up at the Presidio, but it soon became apparent that there was not enough fresh water there for the number of troops which increased exponentially as the days passed.  

A second camp was established on land provided by the Crocker Estate Company. They offered the government use of the defunct Bay District Race Track land, situated between the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. The site had enough space for 10,000 troops, with nearby city water mains available. The Army gratefully accepted, and starting on May 18, 1898 rows of white tents lined the sandy lots between today's Geary Boulevard, Fulton Street, Arguello Street and Sixth Avenue. An eventful summer for the Richmond district was about to begin.

Initially called "Camp Richmond" or "Bay District Camp" the growing encampment received the official name "Camp Merritt". Despite this honor, the eponymous commanding officer was rarely seen in the area. General Merritt roomed downtown at the Palace Hotel, and when he left his suite it was usually for soirees, parties, and balls in the city or down the peninsula at the estates of the wealthy.      

As the number of soldiers in the Richmond approached 7,000, a camp extension had to be created on James Clark Jordan's adjacent land, today's Jordan Park neighborhood. On May 28, 1898 the division hospital moved to this section, and eventually troops from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa would camp on these blocks between today's Geary Boulevard, California street, Palm and Commonwealth avenues.  This is where Joseph Markey ended up with the 51st Iowa Infantry when they arrived in San Francisco at the beginning of June, 1898.

The division hospital sadly received a lot of use. Poor sanitation and crowded conditions created a lot of illness and not a few deaths among the men in Camp Merritt. Over 150 soldiers crowded the field hospital on July 11, 1898 a number with pneumonia. 

With the sand, fog, and sickness, soldiers remembered Camp Merritt as "an unhealthy, ill-drained, wind-swept locality".  It was here that Joseph I. Markey filed his first letter home to the Red Oak Express. Markey vowed that for all the hospitality of the locals and the delights of nearby Golden Gate Park, "We have hopes that at some time the truth will come out as to who is responsible for Camp Merritt's existence and that the guilty will not go unpunished." 

Ten men died over the summer, from measles, typhoid and other diseases. Poor sanitation and close living was the chief reason for the sickness, but the Army didn't hesitate to blame the Richmond district location "to which hucksters and immoral and depraved persons within the city had access."

Luckily Joseph Markey and the 51st Iowa shipped out to the Philippines on November 2, 1898 before the conditions at Camp Merritt had a chance to harm them.  They embarked on the transport ship "Pennsylvania."  

The regiment arrived at Manila on December 7.  Much to their surprise, the war with Spain officially ended three days later with the signing of the Treaty of Paris before Markey or his fellow soldiers even had a chance to set foot on Philippine soil. The regiment stayed aboard the Pennsylvania, being shipped to Iloilo, where it arrived on December 28th. The regiment continued to stay aboard the transport until January 31, when it arrived back at Cavite, near Manila. Finally, after being aboard ship since November 2, the men were permitted to go ashore and go into quarters on February 3, 1899.  The regiment was attached to the Second Brigade, Fourth Division of the Eighth Army Corps. It turned out they were not too late to see action after all.  The day after the men set foot on Philippine soil, the Philippine American War broke out.

Unknown to most Americans, the Spanish-American War actually consisted of two different wars.  The first was the war between Spain and the US.  When that war ended, the United States as victors gave Cuba her independence but decided to keep the Philippines as a US possession.  The Filipino people felt they were trading one absentee owner for another and so they declared war on the US at the beginning of February, 1899.  It was this second war that Markey and the 51st Iowa were involved in.

Markey's letters from the front were eagerly awaited each week by readers of the Red Oak Express and accounts were clipped from the paper and mailed all over the country as anxious families waited for word of their loved ones half a world away.

Joseph Markey's writing proved so popular that he decided to publish them in a book form.  In 1900 the Thomas D. Murphy Company of Red Oak Iowa published From Iowa to the Philippines - A History of Company M, Fifty-First Iowa Infantry Volunteers by Joseph I. Markey.   I was lucky enough a few years ago to be able to purchase an autographed copy:

Markey was a natural born writer and his account transports the reader to the heat, dust and sweat of tropical warfare.  If you are interested in reading Markey's book, it is available for free online:

The war ended for Joseph Markey on May 26, 1899 when he was badly wounded by being shot in the right leg at San Fernando.  In August, Markey, along with other wounded members of the 51st Iowa, was shipped back to San Francisco aboard the hospital ship "Relief."  Joseph Markey was officially discharged from the US Army on August 18, 1899.  

Upon his return to Iowa while he was still convalescing from his war wounds, he was able to edit his letters and put them into book form - but that only lasted for awhile and he was still a young man - 32 in 1900.

Markey decided to move to the big city - Chicago - and got a job with The Chicago Horse Review magazine in 1901.  Within a very short time it became apparent that Joseph Markey had an eye for the horses.  Markey was one of the first to sing the praises of a standardbred trotting horse named Lou Dillon.  Markey predicted that she would become the first trotter to trot a mile in 2:00 minutes, and, in fact, she did just that at Memphis in 1903.  He was also the first to predict stardom for trotters Uhlan and Peter Manning.    

During this period, Markey often wrote under his pen name of "Marque." 

It wasn't all trotters for Joseph Markey - that is to say he found a little "filly" that turned his head.  Markey and Miss Bertha K. Sefton (1875-????) were married in Chicago on October 21, 1909.  Markey was 41; his bride was 34.

The 1910 US Census finds the newlyweds living at 5629 S. Indiana Avenue in Chicago:

5629 S. Indiana Avenue, Chicago
Markey listed his occupation as "Journalist for a Horse Paper"; Bertha was a stenographer.  They also had a live-in servant, 51 year old Childs E. Childs.

Joseph Markey's star as an expert on trotters kept rising through the 1910s.  In 1912 he brokered the sale of the trotting champion Harvester to Mr. C. K. G. Billings of New York City for "in excess of $50,000.00." Quite a coup for the boy from Chillicothe, Missouri.

Markey continued to be a valued contributor to the Chicago Horse Review throughout the teens and 1920s. 

By the time of the 1920 US Census, the Markeys had moved to the north side of Chicago - to 7742 N. Paulina:

7742 N. Paulina, Chicago

Joseph was a "Journalist for a Publishing Company."  Bertha was not employed, but they no longer had a live-in servant.

Joseph Markey's greatest contribution to horse racing happened in 1924. In April 1924, nomination ads for a stake with a value estimated at $50,000 appeared in The Horse Review.  Markey wrote several editorials in support of the race and John C. Bauer, the publisher, was credited with suggesting the name Hambletonian, after the great sire.

Markey's idea was made a reality by promoter Harry O. Reno of Chicago, Illinois, who assembled a managing committee of ten prominent breeders and officials. That managing committee became The Hambletonian Society. Reno, along with his brother-in-law W. M. Wright, owner of Calumet Farm, and Markey served on the original executive committee.

Three tracks (Atlanta, Ga., Kalamazoo, Mich., and Syracuse, N.Y.) submitted bids for the inaugural running of the Hambletonian Stake in August 1926. The race was awarded to the New York State Fair at Syracuse, which offered to add $8,000 to the purse. From the first edition it was the richest race in the trotting sport, a status it maintains to this day. In no small way the amount of the purse is responsible for its position as the sport's greatest prize. Because of the enthusiastic reception by breeders and owners, the 1926 purse swelled to $73,451 -- which was reported to be more than the sum total of next five richest stakes offered for 3-year-old trotters that same year. 

The race became a perennial favorite and is run to this day at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  For his contribution to the sport, Joseph I. Markey was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1978.

In about 1924 Joseph and Bertha Markey bought my boyhood home, at 1027 Harvard Terrace in Evanston, Illinois.  In 1921 various Chicago area home builders decided to construct a neighborhood of upscale bungalows on land that used to comprise the estate of Major Edward Harris Mulford in South Evanston.  The Markeys, living at that time at the far north end of Chicago, would certainly have seen the bungalows being built, and purchased 1027 Harvard in 1924, where they lived until Joseph Markey's death in 1930.

1027 Harvard Terrace, Evanston

The census taker for the 1930 US Census came to 1027 Harvard Terrace on April 21, 1930.  The Markeys reported that Joseph was 62 years old; Bertha was 55.  They said that 1027 Harvard was worth $16,000.00, and that they had a radio.  Bertha reported that her native language was German. Joe reported his occupation as "Writer for a Paper Publisher."       

Joseph I. Markey died at the Hines VA Hospital on June 2, 1930, after being ill for several years.  He was 62 years old.  Here is his Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of June 4, 1930:

Having been wounded in the service of his country, Markey was qualified to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and he was, on June 5, 1930 in Section W ENL, Site 21676:

So now you know the story of one of the owners of my boyhood home. As I said, no one famous or infamous, but a person with an interesting story nonetheless.

There are more sordid tales connected with my boyhood home – the mysterious and sudden death of the architect/builder, and the husband who plotted with unscrupulous doctors to have his wife declared insane so he could get rid of her – but those are stories for future articles in this blog.

So take some time and look into the history of your house – you may be very surprised.

The only known photo of Joseph I. Markey - from Hoof Beats Magazine, September, 1940:

Joseph I. Markey

Joseph I. Markey – Soldier, author, harness racing hall of famer – may he rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, reading the headline, I thought this would be about Dave Feldman. Good story anyway.