Family Stories

Clifford Henry Parish, Seaman, Naval Reserve Force, Dies Aged 18 – Chippewa County, Michigan

Spectacle Lake, a small stretch of Chippewa County land, Lake Superior and Canadian land with windmills in the distance.

Yesterday Ritchey and I had another adventure in this lovely new county in which we now live.  We visited Mission Hill.  We drove the steepest road seen in Chippewa County, or any of Michigan, for that matter.  Reaching the top there was a scenic view area – amazing!  Directly below us were Monocle and Spectacle Lakes – shaped just like their names.  A hike along the top of the ridge gave us great views immediately down, through the trees and brush, and across the two lakes to Lake Superior – where we saw a freighter!  Canada was in the distance.

Across from the viewing spot was historic Mission Hill Cemetery.  Couldn’t have planned it any better!  This beautiful cemetery was filled with tall trees with brown leaves covering the ground.

Clifford Henry Parish, Michigan, Seaman, 2 CL, U.S. N.R.F., September 20, 1918.  Mission Hill Cemetery, Chippewa County, Michigan.

The first grave that caught my attention was that of Clifford Henry Parish a seaman of the Naval Reserve Force.  An American flag flies at his grave and a World War I marker reads ‘Faithful Unto Death, World War 1917-1918.’  Seaman Parish died September 20, 1918, shortly before the end of the war.  This was also the time period that Spanish Influenza was wracking our nation.  Could I find the cause of Clifford’s death?

Clifford Henry Parish was the second child of Elijah David Parish and Mary Grace Osmer.  Elijah, 25, and Grace, 24, were married May 19, 1899.  Elijah’s parents were Dan Parish and Catherine Teeple.  Grace’s parents were Henry L. Osmer and Mary J. Matthews.  Grace was previously married to a Mr. Thompson.  Elijah and Grace were married by Frederick Bagnall, a clergyman.  Witnesses to the marriage that took place in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, were H. C. Osmer and Mrs. Lizzie Bates.

Clifford Parish is first found in the 1900 census – as a four-month-old living with parents Elijah, 26, and Grace, 24, and older brother Osmand, 1.  Elijah Parish was a fisherman.  In 1910 Osmand has died, Clifford is 10 and four other children were born to Elijah and Grace and included in the household – Percy, 8; Melbourne, 6; Harry, 3; and Nannie, 1 5/12.  This particular census, the thirteenth of the United States, was for the Indian Population of the area.  Elijah and his children were members of the Chippewa tribe.  Grace was a white woman.  The census was so detailed it gave the percentage of Indian and percentage of white.  Elijah was 3/8 Indian and 5/8 white.  His children were 3/16 Indian and 13/16 white.  I can’t say why they were so detailed in their calculations.

Grace Parish, 1875-1915.  Elijah Parish, 1874-1931. 

Grace Parish died in 1915 before son Clifford entered the Navy.  There was nothing found with an exact date or cause of death.  Her gravestone is the only source for her death.  Elijah Parish died December 26, 1931.

Clifford Parish is listed in the U.S. Navy Casualties Books, 1776-1941.  He was a seaman, second class, United States Naval Reserve Force.  He enrolled at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 21, 1918, and died at the Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, Illinois, September 20, 1918, just three months later.  Cause of death was influenza.  Remember this was the time Spanish Influenza caused many deaths in the military, as well as throughout the world.  An article I found online had a picture of motor corps personnel wearing masks as they held stretchers next to ambulances.  In Michigan it said more than 15,000 people died of influenza, the equivalent of 50,000 based on the current population.  Covid-19, according to information today (November 9, 2020), has claimed 7,640 lives in Michigan.  It’s hard to compare when we talk of deaths, but considering the population of today, 1918 seems to have been a worse year than 2020.

Although Clifford Parish died in 1918, his application for headstone was sent in until 1937 – almost twenty years later.  His younger brother, Harry Parish, had the stone sent to him at his Brimley post office address.  I’m so glad he made this last tribute to Clifford.

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