Jane Waugh Oliver Smailes Platt

Jane Platt was born in Newbiggen, Northumberland England on September 27, 1979 to Edward and Mary Ann Hogg Oliver at least 8 children. Her father is listed as a miner on her marriage license. We know very little of her childhood years except that she, like others of her community, was poor.

She married Joe Smailes, a local miner, on November 24, 1900 in the village of Alnwick, Northumberland, England (Information from a tattered original copy of her marriage license). She lost her mother on August 28, 1902 just prior to the birth of her first child, William Lester who was born on October 4, 1902. Her husband Joe left for the United States shortly after his sonís birth.

Jane immigrated on the ship Arabic thru Ellis Island on November 25th, 1903 (information from a copy of the manifest of the Arabic). She brought her son and all that she owned in this world with her in a wooden box approximately 6 feet long, 18 inches wide and 18 inches high. This box is still in the possession of our family. We are unclear about her first years in the United States but believe that she lived in Southwestern PA, where we have located other Smailes families.

Eventually she and Joe moved to the coal mining region of southeastern Ohio. Over the course of the next 10 years, she and Joe had 5 more children, Alice in 1905, Eleanor in 1907, Mary in 1909, John in 1911, and Janet in 1925. As the children were born in different towns, we assume that the family moved with job opportunities. They eventually settled on the Salinville Road near Circle Green and were living there when on October 1913 tragedy struck. Their 2 year old John died suddenly. His death certificate lists Convulsions and fever unknown as the cause. Family stories say that the children had been gathering mushrooms in the woods that day and Jane thought that he may have eaten a poisoned mushroom. Eleanor who would have been 6 at the time shared this story with us. Fortunately by this time several of her siblings had joined their sister in Ohio and were able to provide support to Jane and her husband Joe.
Tragedy struck again a scant 18 months later when Joe was struck by a train and killed on May 28, 1915 (this information was taken from his death certificate). However, Janeís second husband and my grandfather James Platt told a different tale. He states that Joe stopped off at one of the local bars on the way home on payday and had a couple of beers with his fellow miners. He was later found on the railroad tracks dead. James and other men who worked with Joe always believe d that he had been robbed, murdered and thrown on the tracks to cover up the crime as Joe had no money at all on him when he was found. This story was told to me by my father John Platt who was Jamesí son.

Jane was now in very difficult circumstances and attempted to support her family by taking in laundry, cleaning and caring for other peopleís children. Her daughter Eleanor who was 8 years old at the time of her fatherís death, would stop on the way home from school and wash dishes for various families. She made a dime at each house which was brought home and placed in the jar that Jane used for a bank.

Eventually she began to care for James Plattís children as he had been widowed in August of 1913 and was struggling to raise his children alone. She and James married in 1919 and they had their only child (my father) John Edward Platt on July 11, 1920.

Janet Vanstrom
Grade school in Bergholz.
Janet's father, John Platt attended this school. He was born in 1920 so
would have attended from 1926-1932.

Ancestor surnames include: (from the Bergholz area) Platts, Smailes and
Olivers. All came from the same general area of Scotland & England. The
Scots came from Lanakshire just east of Glascow and the Olivers and Smailes
came from just south of the Scottish/English border in Alnwick,
Northumberland. >

From Janet Vanstrom
The following information was sent by Janet:

This photo is of Mrs. Lodges First Grade class. The girl circled is† Aunt Janet Smailes. She is my father, John Platt's maternal half-sister. I believe that it is from Circle Green School as my father told me that all of his mother's children went to Circle Green.

Janet Smailes was born in July 15, 1916 so this would be about 1921.
Alternative school would be Bergholz.

Janet vanstrom

This is a picture of the school at Circle Green in the 1920's. It was† made into a post card. I do not know who is in the photo. I do know that my father's maternal siblings all went to school there.

John Platt
Civilian Conservation Corps

John Platt was born July 8, 1920 to James and Jane Platt outside Bergholz, Ohio. He was the youngest of 10 children. His parents were first generation immigrants, Jane from England and James from Scotland. James was a coalminer. The family worked hard to make ends meet and then the Depression came.

At the end of John’s Junior Year of High School, he worked briefly with his father in a small mine. However, there wasn’t really enough work to keep him employed, so he joined the CCC. He enrolled in July 31, 1937at Delaware, Ohio. He was discharged on September 17, 1937 to return to school. He was to be the only one of 10 children to complete high school. As he had always been an honor student, it was terribly important to his parents that he graduate from high school and have opportunities besides the mines. During his brief stint in the CCC, he served at Company 571Camp D-6 at Delaware, Ohio.

Following his graduation from Bergholz High School in June of 1938, he again was unable to find work and on October 11, 1938 he and three other young men from Bergholz went to Steubenville and signed up. All four men were shipped to Company 531 Camp F132, Pritchard, Idaho. The camp was located about 40 miles back in the mountains from Wallace, Idaho on the North Fork of the Coeur de Alene River in a part of Idaho called the Panhandle. He served there from October 1938 to May of 1939 in the camp at Big Creek located at the intersection of Big Creek and the North Forks of the Coeur d’Alene.

Dad’s description of his continued experience, “Then several of us were picked to set up a “spike camp”, a branch camp near the Montana border in the edge of the Bitterroot Mtns. We were to build a county park for Shoshone County Idaho. This included building log shelter houses, with cedar shake roofs and stone fire places; and ski trails and a lift up in Mullan Pass where U.S. Highway # 10 ( now I-90) from Idaho into Montana. We had fun but did a lot of hard work and learned a lot of things about life and living. We fought several forest fires that summer of 1939. My first experience at night on the fire line was scary but we got used to it quickly. No choice.”

While in Idaho at Camp F132, John attended several classes that included: Diesel I and II, Physics, Map Reading, American History, Photography, Forestry, and Bookkeeping. In addition to the classroom experiences, he attended hands on training in Park (shelter construction), Telephone Construction, Road Construction, and Land Clearing. The classes that the CCC provided to the men helped them to develop life-long occupational skills.

He remained in Idaho until December of 1939 when he was transferred to Fort Harrison, Indiana and then on to Fairlawn, Ohio where attended Landscaping Classes. H e remained at Fairlawn Camp MA-1 until his discharge from the CCC on March 25, 1940. Upon his return home, work was still scarce and he enlisted in the Navy in May of 1940 serving much of WWII aboard the USS Denebola, a destroyer. Following WWII John returned to the Bergholz area struggling to find dependable work much of the time when he was recalled for the Korean War in 1950. He transferred from the Navy to the Air Force where he remained until his retirement in 1965.

His story is the story of so many young men to this era. Young, unemployed, enrollment in the CCC, then into the military to serve their country during WWII and then home to find work, raise families and remind us what is great about this country.

Click here to read more and view lots of photos!

Platt/Oliver Family History GEDCOM
Submitted by chapter member; Janet Wahlberg, September 2014

Prepared by
Janet Wahlberg
3572 Mary Ellen Dr.
Bemus Point, NY 14712