Just about anyone from Chickasaw or Calhoun County whose age is north of 55 or 60 should remember knowing or hearing about Marvin See. I don’t know that I remember seeing him about town as much as I remember hearing stories about him. The tales were sometimes tall, too. Like he was rich, like he owned property in California and Memphis. I have no clue as to why I woke up the other day with Marvin See on my mind. But the odd part is, he wouldn’t leave up there! It seemed imperative that I find out as much as I could about this man and share my findings.
I had a hard row to hoe there for a day or two. I looked in Census record after Census record for periods that I knew should coincide with his life time and I could not find any family who fit the meager information I knew about him. Come to find out I was, as they say, barking up the wrong tree, as in family tree.
Census records readily divulged information about the “Seay” family – which I thought was Marvin’s. Then someone told me that he was buried at Midway Cemetery in Calhoun County. I am here to tell you that among the more than 600 graves in that cemetery, not only is there not a “Seay” buried there, I am living proof that there is no “Marvin” buried there either as through Findagrave.com I looked at each and every grave in the entire cemetery. Finally, though, there was a breakthrough with information passed on to me from James Clark. Marvin was a “See” not a “Seay” and he (and his parents) are buried at Prospect Cemetery in Chickasaw County, not Midway in Calhoun County. So, now my pursuit began in earnest. The first bit of solid information was his dates of birth and death as evidenced on his tombstone. Marvin was born in the Atlanta community of Calhoun County, Mississippi, to James A. and Ora Elizabeth Sugg(s) See on Nov. 23, 1898. He was the second of three sons born to this couple. James Luther being a couple of years older and Prentiss three years or so younger.
Marvin’s father died in 1904 at the young age of 36, and it would be fair to assume that Ora faced some hard times raising her three sons to adulthood. At that time opportunities for young women in the workforce were little to none. In 1910, Ora and sons were listed in the census at the home of her step-father, Jonathan C. or J. C. Davis, still in Calhoun County.
In just a few years world events would profoundly affect young Marvin’s life. Europe had been at war with Germany and its allies for several years while President Wilson had tried to keep the United States out of it. In early 1917, Germany decided to up their submarine warfare to an all-out attack on any ship headed to Great Britain. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Twenty two days later, on April 28, 1917, Marvin See enlisted in the U S Navy. His older brother, James Luther, would follow in less than a month later on May 19. Family lore says that the commander of the ship on which the two brothers were assigned promised Ora that they would remain together.
Sadly, I could find no military records for Marvin – nor his brother – during their times of service in any logical online place such as Fold 3 or on Ancestry. I do know that Marvin was discharged as a Chief Yeoman on Dec. 16, 1919, in New York. A Chief Yeoman is like an E-7 so he certainly didn’t do too shabby for the length of service. A Yeoman does administrative work of varied descriptions, writing reports, helping with evaluations, greeting visitors etc. Now for one of the layers of Marvin See that is going to make you sit up and pay attention. Remember his dates of service – April 28, 1917 to Feb. 16, 1919. Then read the letter below.
U. S. Naval Air Forces, Canada Halifax, N.S.
January 5, 1919
To whom it may concern:
I am writing this letter in appreciation of the splendid and patriotic way in which Marvin Kelsey See, Chief Yeoman, United States Navy, has served his country in the Great War.
Yeoman See has come under my personal observation and I have never seen a greater devotion to duty. See is one of the most reliable Chief Yeoman with whom I have ever come in contact, and his mental development is such that he could hold with efficiency almost any position of responsibility. I cannot speak too highly of his spirit and his ability.
I predict a brilliant future for this young man if he is given the opportunity.
R. E. Byrd
Lieutenant Commander, U. S. N.
And in case you weren’t paying attention in your history class, yes – this is the R. E. Byrd who is the same as the Admiral Richard Byrd of South Pole and North Pole fame – writing a letter of recommendation for our Marvin See. That’s one layer you weren’t expecting. It seems that the US Naval Militia from New York and/or Rhode Island was operating out of the Naval Station at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Their primary concern was the patrolling of east coast waters and spotting any German subs that might be about. Byrd had injured a foot several years earlier and, as I can understand it, was given the role of setting up and running the naval station at Halifax, which, by the way, was later turned over to the Canadian Navy.
Marvin was discharged from the U S Navy on December 16, 1919, in New York. I could not find him listed in the 1920 Census so cannot verify his whereabouts for that year. The next verifiable date for Marvin is May 12, 1921. On this date, he enlisted in the U S Coast Guard from New York. I do not know where he served until his discharge from the Coast Guard on Dec. 21 of the same year.
Not to be deprived of serving in the military, Marvin once again enlisted in the U S Navy on February 6, 1923, from New York. His older brother, James Luther, died on Nov. 18, 1923. Family lore here says Marvin accompanied his brother’s body home and when they reached Washington, D. C., Marvin had an emotional crisis. A family member was dispatched to D. C. to accompany the two back to Mississippi. As I said earlier, I cannot verify any information about the brothers while actually serving in the Navy. Soon after his brother’s death, Marvin was once again discharged from the Navy on March 13, 1924, and again from New York. Peeling back a second layer brings to light Marvin See’s determination to serve his country in the military.
The story of Marvin See will be continued in the Jan. 22 issue of the Chickasaw Journal.