Sunday, May 24, 2015

Remembering Sammie L. Watson, Jr.

In May 2014, I wrote a memorial honoring my cousin Sammie Lee Watson, Jr.  (aka-Sonny) – “In Honor of Our Vietnam War Hero”.

Since writing the memorial and sharing it with the rest of the family that include Sonny’s siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins, I wanted to share more about who he was as a person. 

In keeping Sonny’s memory alive, I reached out to his remaining siblings and one of his friends to share stories and memories about him.

Left to right: Sammie, Ricky, Terry, Horace & Vivian

Sister Vivian remembers“Growing up, Sonny was a good brother, he was the oldest, and always cared about his siblings.  As children, we lived near “Sportsman Park” (the original Busch Stadium) located on Grand and Hebert.  The location is currently the Herbert Hoover Boys Club.  My brothers and me would block the space in front of our house and charge people for parking.  Sonny would collect the money and instruct us on what to do when charging a fee for parking”. 

Vivian remembers in grade school wanting to tag along with her big brother.  He would always make her go home.  In high school, Sonny played football and ran track.  

Sammie Lee Watson, Jr - Beaumont High School

“Life at home, when our parents had to go out they would leave Sonny in charge.  My parents preferred other children come to our house to play rather than having us hanging out at someone else’s home.  They purchased a pinball machine, pool table and a rocket shuffle (bowling pin game) and allowed neighbor children to come over to play”.

Why did Sonny decide to go into the military?  Someone in the family had passed away and Uncle Dennis Watson was there in his military uniform.  Sonny became fascinated with wanting to go into the military and made the decision to enlist.  Mom did not want to see him go into the military, concerned, as any mother would be, given the active war going on at the time.  Dad did not want to see him go either but respected his decision.  When Sonny left to go in service, our youngest sibling, Mickey was three years old”. 

Youngest sibling - Jean V. Watson "Mickey"
They wrote letters to Sonny and he in turn wrote home.  On his brother Horace, “Butch” birthday, he sent him a birthday card. 

“Sonny came home for two weeks before being deployed.  During that short stay, he painted our house.  We recorded a family movie during his time home.  He also wanted to be baptized by our pastor, Elder Robert Sanders at Bostick Temple Church of God in Christ”.

Sammie L Watson, Jr in May 1968 - Camp Pendleton in San Diego, CA

“At my place of employment, fallen war veterans memorial is in a glass case.  I was pleasantly surprised to see my brother’s picture and the newspaper article “A War Hero” on display.  

Brother Terry“Sonny being my oldest brother, I looked up to him.  I remember being a freshman in high school when he was a senior.  People knew me because of my brothers.  Sonny was playful but would get serious.  He was a role model for me.  He use to pay us for doing his chores”.

Brother Horace“I remember my brother being protective of us.  He was playful and fun”.

Sister Jean "Mickey" - "The brother I only heard about because I was too young to remember you.  Our parents & siblings shared with me you are the reason I have the nickname "Mickey".  It came about when you went to Disney Land while stationed in California for basic training.  It was shared that when you came home you brought me Mickey Mouse ears and it started from there.  Although I do not have the childhood memories, I feel I know you from the stories shared with me".

Friend Vincent“I was a friend of the family dating back to when we all lived in Carr Square Village.  I remember playing with Sonny and riding bikes together.  He was genuinely a nice guy and gentlemen.  I remember Sonny getting a job and next thing I knew, he enlisted in the military.  When Sonny came home from basic training, he shared he had given his life to Christ”. 
The website, “”, on the memorial of Sammie Lee Watson, Jr., the last known activity on that fateful Thanksgiving day - A Note from The Virtual Wall The 1/26 Marines' Command Chronology for Nov 1968 contains the following entry:

"27 Nov 68: A3-3 received 6 rounds of 60mm incoming [mortar fire]. A reaction force was sent out and ran into an enemy automatic weapons position. One Marine was KIA in the initial contact. Another force was sent to assist and another Marine was KIA. Reaction force could not get in position to assault [without sustaining additional casualties] and were pulled back because of darkness and terrain. Position attacked in the morning with NGF [Naval gun fire], Arty, Air, and overrun. Results: 3 USMC KIA, miscellaneous gear and demolitions captured." The three Marines killed in the action were Cpl Jackie M. Medlin, Sanford, FL, Alpha 1/26 Cpl Daniel C. Tedrow, Mullan, ID, Alpha 1/26 Pfc Sammie L. Watson, St Louis, MO, Charlie 1/26. 

Family members of other fallen Marines left these messages on Sonny’s memorial at " 
“Marine, I never knew you. You died on the same day and place that my brother did. You were there, fighting for your country and the American way of life. I mourn your passing. You were gone in a flash, in the prime of your youth, never to return to St. Louis, Missouri. You never got a chance to lead a productive life, marry, raise a family, or be there for your aging parents. You are our hero. You have served our nation well and we thank you for your honor and sacrifice!  Rest in peace, Marine. You're not forgotten! From the sister of a fellow fallen Marine, Judy Tedrow Metzker”. 

“You served in Vietnam with my husband and you were also in Bootcamp with him. Bless you brave Marine, you did not die alone. Mrs. Bobby Harris”.

On this Memorial Day, we honor the life and legacy of Sammie Lee Watson, Jr. – Gone but not forgotten.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Beginning of Southern Mission

In my last blog piece, “Tracing your Religious Affiliations” I talked about the churches attended by my maternal family when they migrated to St. Louis.  The time period for that piece covered the early 1940s through 1956 when my mother joined another church – Christ Southern Mission Baptist Church.

Recently, I came across the history of Christ Southern Mission Church printed in a 1945 church directory and wanted to share their story.

Southern Mission Baptist Church --  2966 Market Street

Southern Mission M.B.C. was organized in 1898.

Rev. Ben Cage, a settled minister nearing his sixtieth birthday, was their first pastor.  Their permanent home was with Sister Mary Moon who lived at 12th and Washington Street.  Brother Mose Jackson united with the church during the year 1910.

As the years passed, many changes were made in the church.  During the year of 1917, Rev. Terry became their Tenth pastor.  The property on Montrose and Market was purchased in 1918.

In 1919, Rev. Terry retired as pastor of Southern Mission and Rev. Ed Jackson of Mississippi was called to pastor Southern Mission.  The church moved to a storefront on Cardinal and Market Street during the construction of their new building (see picture above).  The basement was completed in 1923.  About that time, the church was divided.  Some members followed their pastors and many remained with the church.  Bro. Mose Jackson and Mother Moon were some who remained with the church.  There was a great indebtedness on the church that caused the members much worry.

During the year of 1924, a young man came to St. Louis in the person of Rev. Herman Gore.  Through the influence of Rev. Owen, Pastor of Gallilee Baptist Church, Rev. Gore conducted a ten-day revival for Southern Mission.  Many joined the church.

Rev. Herman Gore, Sr.

Rev. Gore was called to pastor Southern Mission, March 15, 1924.  Under his leadership the church began to grow.  The finances also increased.  

The usher group expanded from one group to four.

Group One Usher Board

Group Two Usher Board

Senior Usher Board
Rev. Gore was called to pastor Southern Mission for life in 1931.  During the twenty years under Rev. H. Gore, the church became debt free.

In Spring 1945, a beautiful home (farm) was purchased by the church for the seniors.

Southern Mission Baptist Church Choir
Southern Mission Baptist Church later became known as Christ Southern Mission Baptist Church.  Several members in the gospel community came out of Christ Southern Mission Church.  One member in particular, Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith, later joined the Lively Stone Church of God, who starred in the movie “Say Amen Somebody”.  

Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith
Many of my paternal family placed their membership with this assembly beginning in 1956 to present day.    

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tracing your Religious Affiliations

23rd & Delmar Church of God In Christ
Recently, I came across a picture of my maternal grandfather, George Watson with a group of people in a church setting.  As I looked at the picture I began to wonder what church was it taken in and the timeframe.  At that moment I realized in tracing my roots, I had not given much thought to looking at the clues in my family’s church affiliations.  My mother shared with me years ago her family attended 23rd and Delmar COGIC after they migrated to St. Louis and later to another assembly, Holy Ghost Tabernacle COGIC.  The photo had me intrigued, so I began to look into which church the photo was taken in and when.  I also wanted to know when they attended 23rd and Delmar and when the family moved to the next assembly, if it was possible to find out why?

Grandfather George - Back row on left & Daniel Gaines - Back row center

As I continued to look through the treasure trove I came across a calendar from 2008.  It was a calendar commemorating the church’s 100th year in existence. 

Elder & 1st Lady Bostick
I began looking through the calendar at other photos taken during the church’s history.

Men in Sanctuary

Outside the Church

Baptizing at the Riverfront - Mississippi River
Bingo!!  The background of this photo identified the church from above that included my grandfather.  Based on the dates of when the family migrated to St. Louis and other information shared, placed the timeframe somewhere in the early-1940s.

Inside Sanctuary at 23rd & Delmar COGIC

By the late 1940s the family, reason unknown, moved to another assembly, Holy Ghost Tabernacle COGIC.  Once again, my grandfather is shown in the photograph.

Holy Ghost Tabernacle COGIC
I went to visit a relative and showed both photos to her.  She identified another relative, my maternal grandmother’s brother Daniel captioned in the first photo and recognized her own picture in the one above - Holy Ghost Tabernacle!  In 1956 mother moved a final time to another assembly, Christ Southern MB Church.

When tracing your roots it is vital to leave no stone unturned.  Those small tidbits of information may lead you to key dates and important events where your ancestors were a part.