Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Pino Ancestors

I discovered some interesting details about my Otero and Pino ancestors earlier this month as I reviewed pension records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

I already knew that my Otero ancestors from Cubero, my Grandpa Louie’s maternal ancestors, had some wealth; they were educated; and they were politically active. My third-great-grandfather Gregorio Otero fought in the Civil War and served in the territorial Legislature. His son, Melquiades Otero, was a notary public and county assessor. And my Great-Grandmother Eliza Otero was a teacher in the early 1900s.

But while they were related to the prestigious well-known Otero family from Belen and Santa Fe, including a former Governor, it appears that Gregorio Otero’s success and prestige in northwestern Valencia County came more from his marriage into the Pino family.

Gregorio Otero was listed in marriage records as a resident of Las Colonias, Valencia County, when he married Maria de Jesus Pino, a resident of Cubero on June 15, 1853. The marriage record was part of the official federal record when Maria de Jesus Pino applied in 1900 for a pension after the death of her husband, Gregorio Otero. Those are the records I discovered in Washington.

Maria de Jesus Pino was the daughter of Pablo Pino and Maria Trinidad Vallejos. Her paternal grandparents were the Alferez Don Bartolome Pino and Dona Antonia Josefa Torres, of Belen.

While the pension records did not reveal any new family connections, they were nevertheless very revealing about the lives my ancestors lived, and the perceptions held by outsiders who ultimately denied the pension request.

Special Examiner J. H. Himes wrote that Maria de Jesus Pino was a “woman of good repute for truth.” But he also referred to her as a “very ignorant woman.” He called her brother, Narciso Pino, a “business man according to Mexican standards,” and “regarded as truthful.” He characterized a neighbor in Cubero, Rafael Romero, as an “ignorant old man of good intentions.” And Maria de Jesus’ son, my Great-Great Grandfather Melquiades Otero was considered by Himes to be an “intelligent Mexican…of good reputation for truth.”

It’s not clear whether the Special Examiner considered Maria de Jesus Pino to be ignorant because she only spoke Spanish, whereas her son, who was bilingual, was an “intelligent Mexican.”

You have to remember that these comments were recorded a half-century after New Mexico became a territory of the United States. Maria de Jesus Pino was a Mexican citizen as a child because New Mexico was a territory of Mexico. Before that, her parents would have been citizens of northern frontier of New Spain, which was modern-day New Mexico. Maria de Jesus’ husband, Gregorio Otero, fought on the side of the Union in the Civil War, known as the War of the Rebellion. He served in the Army for at least 90 days as a Captain in Company D – 2nd Regiment, New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, and was honorably discharged at Fort Craig, NM.

Gregorio Otero earned a disability pension of $8 a month in1892 for “inability to earn a support by manual labor,” which was the requirement of a controversial Pension law signed into law in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison.

Gregorio requested an increase to $12 a month in 1895. In an affidavit written by his son, Melquiades, Gregorio recalled having dislocated his shoulder in July 1863 when he was thrown from a horse while riding from the top of San Mateo Mountains to his home in Cubero. He said the injury later resulted in Rheumatism. He also ruptured his groin, and all of those permanent disabilities, along with his advanced age, should qualify him for an increase of his pension. He pointed out that the disabilities, to the best of his knowledge, were “not due to vicious habits.” He applied again for a pension increase in February 1900, at the age of 68. He claimed that in addition to his previous disabilities, he now suffered as a result of heart disease, loss of speech and general ill health, resulting from an attack of apoplexy following a stroke while hoeing outside his house.

Gregorio Otero died April 12, 1900, just two months after that final pension request and three months after his stroke. He left behind his wife, Maria de Jesus Pino, and seven grown children.

Maria de Jesus Pino filed her pension request later that year as a dependent of her deceased husband. While the Special Examiner thought highly of Maria de Jesus’ son, Melquiades Otero, he recognized that Melquiades was likely exaggerating his mother’s indebtedness and financial condition in order to help her win a favorable pension decision. In fact, the Special Examiner wrote that no weight could be given to testimony from Melquiades, who he considered to be “biased…almost to the point of committing perjury.”

Instead, the Special Examiner relied primarily on the testimony of Maria de Jesus’ brother, Narciso Pino, and the ledger of the store in Cubero that the siblings inherited their father, Pablo Pino.

My Uncle Ralph Chavez once told me he remembered his father, my Grandpa Louie, talk about a Don Narciso as a prominent figure from his past.

The Special Examiner determined that Maria de Jesus Pino owned 1,500 sheep yielding 3,000 pounds of wool – worth about $330. He suggested, based on depositions from neighbors, that she may have owned as many as 3,000 sheep. She also had 50 lambs killed for home consumption at a value of $32.50; 25 lambs at the end of the season at a value of $26.25; 5 calves valued at about $32.50; and 4 wagon loads of corn, worth about $12. He estimated her gross income at $433.25.

Maria de Jesus Pino placed the sheep on shares with her son and son-in-law, which allowed them to earn money for caring for them, while paying her with wool and other benefits.

The Pino store had about $980 in debt and $2,000 to $3,000 in stock, which the Special Examiner concluded was sufficient to pay the debt. The store was owed about $30,000 in outstanding accounts, which was only expected to return about 1/8th of that amount.

The government eventually denied Maria de Jesus’ pension request, probably based on the Special Examiner’s conclusion that, despite being “very ignorant,” she was regarded in Cubero as a “rich woman; and, by the Mexican standard, she undoubtedly is.” He wrote a note at the end of his report that she lives in her own house and has no expenses.

In fact, Maria de Jesus said in her deposition that she owned a seven-room adobe home in Cubero, worth about $100. He neighbors estimated the value to be about $50. In addition to the sheep, she said she owned 30 cows and no other cattle; a team of horses; and about seven acres of land. Her neighbors and her brother estimated she owned about 10 acres that was worth little money because there was no irrigation.

I need to continue my research, but I am left wondering if the adobe house is the same house where my Grandpa Louie spent his childhood. I know he lived in a home with several rooms that his mother left for his sister, Perla Chavez, who in turn, donated it to the church. I also wonder if the land that Maria de Jesus inherited from her father was left for her own son, Melquaides, and his children, including my Great-Grandmother Eliza Otero. I was told that Eliza left land for my Grandpa, but I don’t know whatever happened with it. My Great-Uncle Lalo Chavez said my Grandpa never wanted to deal with the land, which he didn’t think was worth anything. In any case, it’s interesting to know that it may have been gone from the Pinos to the Oteros and to the Chavez family.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Home At Last

Corporal Clem Robert Boody

Sergeant First Class W.T. Akins

Sergeant John Hershel White

Private First Class Patrick R. Glennon

Corporal Charles Arce

Corporal Dick Eugene Osborne

I’ve waited nearly six years to learn the identities of these American soldiers who fought and died in the Korean War in 1950. Their families waited nearly 60 years for them to return home and be buried with honor and dignity.

In 2007, I traveled to North Korea with a delegation led by then-Gov. Bill Richardson and then-Veterans Secretary Anthony Principi. Our primary goal during that trip was to repatriate the remains of six American soldiers who were recovered by the North Korean military in 2006. The North Koreans had agreed to turn over the remains to Governor Richardson, who has a history of diplomatic negotiations with the rogue nation.

During our meeting with a delegation from the Korean People’s Army, General Ri Chan Bok, North Korea’s Commanding General at the Demilitarized Zone, explained that the remains were excavated in the Unsan region of North Korea. He said identifying information, including Army dog tags, were found with the remains. He read the names of three of the soldiers, along with their military ID numbers. I was astonished, as I wrote the names in my notebook. After chiding American leaders, General Ri said he was turning the remains over to Governor Richardson “out of sincerity and humanitarian spirit.”

We were asked by U.S. military officials not to release the names to the public, while the Defense Department starting the complicated process of attempting to identify the remains.
Gov. Bill Richardson, Veterans Secretary Anthony Principi honor the remains of American Soldiers in North Korea

The first time we saw the remains, they were in black boxes, lined up in a parking lot in front of a North Korean building just a few hundred yards from the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, where U.S., United Nations and South Korean military leaders waited for us to cross.

Corp. Clem Robert Boody in the Independent Bulletin Journal
The first set of remains to be positively identified were those of Corp. Clem Robert Boody, of Independence, Iowa, who was 24 years old when he perished when the Chinese entered the war and overran American and South Korean troops who had pushed the North Koreans to their northern border.
Corp. Clem Boody with rifle - Truman Presidential Library

Boody was among hundreds of American soldiers killed during a brutal battle near the Chinese border. This is what that Defense Department said in a news release about the identification of Boody’s remains. The same thing was said about all six soldiers:

“In November 1950, Boody was assigned to Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division then occupying a defensive position near Unsan, North Korea north of a bend in the Kuryong River known as the Camel's Head. On Nov. 1, parts of two Chinese Communist Divisions struck the 1st Cavalry Division's lines, collapsing the perimeter and forcing a withdrawal. Boody was reported missing on Nov. 2, 1950 and was one of the more than 350 servicemen unaccounted-for from the battle at Unsan.”

Boody was finally laid to rest with full military honors in his hometown of Independence on Dec. 4, 2007. I vividly remember the correspondence between his family members and our office that winter. Governor Richardson was on the campaign trail as a candidate for President. Despite the hectic campaign schedule, he was fixated on securing a Purple Heart that Boody’s family said they were promised over the decades. The Governor’s Constituent Services Director Becky Gear doggedly pursued the medal, and ultimately, Governor Richardson was able to hand-deliver it to the family. Boody’s niece, Stacey Brewer, wrote about the effort on an ancestry bulletin board back in 2007.
Sgt. First Class W. T. Akins

The remains of Sergeant FirstClass W.T. Akins, a medic from Decatur, Georgia, were identified in June 2008. Sergeant First Class Akins was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Medical Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. He was buried with full military honors on June 26, 2008 at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sgt. John Hershel White

Sergeant John Hershel White, a 20-year-old when he was killed in battle, was identified on June 18, 2008 and buried with full military honors of his hometown of Bryant, Alabama, on July 12, 2008. Sgt. White was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Medical Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
Corp. Charles Arce

Corporal Charles Arce, a 19-year-old when he died in battle, was identified in 2011. The native of Brooklyn, NY, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on July 20, 2011. Scientists used circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA from Arce’s remains, which matched his brother and sister, to positively identify him. Interestingly, I ran across a 2001 article from the Daily News – five years before Arce’s remains were discovered in North Korea – about the military’s efforts to track down relatives of Arce and other missing servicemen. The Army had hired The American History Company to use genealogists to help find family members. The article reported that Arce’s parents, Pedro and Dolores, moved to Brooklyn from Puerto Rico in 1920. Charles Arce was born in Brooklyn on Dec. 21, 1930 and enlisted in the Army on Sept. 8, 1948.

Cpl. Patrick R. Glennon, of Rochester, New York, was identified on April 5, 2010, and he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on April 11, 2012. Along with Glennon’s remains, the North Koreans also returned metal identification tags bearing his name and other evidence. Still, it took some time for scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory to positively identify him. They had to rely on dental records and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Glennon’s cousins.

Corporal Dick Eugene Osborne was the last of the six soldiers to be identified. The native of Brookville, Pa., who was just 17 when he died in the Korean War, was identified last year. He was buried with full military honors on June 6, 2012 in Sigel, Pa. Scientists used circumstantial evidence, dental records and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Osborne’s living nephew. Cpl. Osborne was awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal (Korea), Republic of Korea Service Medal and Korean Presidential Unit Citation and Ribbon.

I finally learned the names of the remaining soldiers after attending an interesting briefing in Albuquerque that the Defense Department arranged for families of missing soldiers. I attended as a representative of U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, my current boss, and had no idea that briefing would lead me to the identities of those soldiers we walked across the DMZ nearly six years ago.

While I am happy for the six families who now have some closure with their loved ones finally on U.S. soil, there are still 244 American soldiers who perished in the battle at Unsan who are still unaccounted for. Overall, there are 7,925 Americans believed to have died in the Korean War who have not been accounted for.

I returned to North Korea in 2010 at a tense time when the North was threatening a renewed war with South Korea. During a meeting with North Korean military leaders, who listened to our pleas to lower the rhetoric and resist the temptation to further escalate tensions with the South, Major General Pak Rim-Su produced a photo of what he said were newly discovered American remains from the Korean War. He was trying to make the point that the remains could be lost forever if the U.S. does not return to joint search efforts with the North Koreans. I turned the photo over to the U.S. government when I returned home. Unfortunately, North Korea is still threatening the U.S., and we are no closer to bringing home more American soldiers.