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James Richard Waggener, Sr
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Birth: Jul. 31, 1891
Jefferson County
Missouri, USA
Death: Sep. 1, 1977
San Leandro
Alameda County
California, USA

Here are my notes for Dick, from his entry in my family tree file- Rick Waggener:

James Richard "Dick" Waggener Sr. was born in Rush Tower, Jefferson County, Missouri, on July 31, 1891, to his parents Jesse David Waggener and Anna Eliza Kenner. I am fairly certain that he was born there on what had been the farm of his grandparents, Reuben Garnett and Mary Waggener. I believe that after the death of Reuben in 1884, the house and property were purchased by Dick's uncle, Stokely Thomas Waggener. I believe that Dick's parents moved there and began renting the farm, shortly before the birth of Dick's oldest sibling, George Vest Waggener in 1885. I believe that they lived and farmed that property until about 1896, meaning that Dick spent the first five years of his life there on that farm.

Sometime in 1896, Dick moved with his family to Puxico, Stoddard County, in southeastern Missouri. There they reportedly also lived on a farm, although Dick's father Jesse mostly bought and sold cattle and other livestock. They were there for about two years, leaving when Dick's father Jesse enlisted in the army at the beginning of the Spanish American War. While Jesse was away in the army, Dick and his mother and siblings lived with his mother's parents, William Bryant and Mary Malinda Kenner, in their home and on their farm on what was known as Kenner's Hill, just north of the town of Festus, Jefferson County, Missouri. Apparently shortly after Jesse returned from the army in about 1899, the family moved to Bonne Terre in nearby St. Francois County. I believe that they lived there about a year or two, and while there, Dick's father Jesse worked there for a lead mine. I believe in about 1901 or so, the family then moved to Elwood, in Madison County, Indiana. This was about 300 miles north east from Jefferson County, Missouri, and I believe they were there for about five years while Dick's father worked there in local factories. I know that during this time period Dick and some of his siblings spent their summers back on the farm with their grandparents the Kenners. I also know that in 1904, Dick and most of his siblings had the opportunity to return to Festus, Missouri, and they visited the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, with their father's older brother, Uncle Jim Waggener.

In about 1906 or 1907, Dick returned with his family to the Festus area of Jefferson County, Missouri. They reportedly lived for a while with his grandparents the Kenners on Kenner's Hill, but within a year or two, moved to a home built by his parents on an adjacent acre of land, given to them by the Kenners. Dick's parents lived there for about the next ten years until they moved to Detroit. When Dick turned 18 years old in 1909, he got a job in the Pittsburg Plate Glass factory in Crystal City. His older brother George Vest was working there as a machinist and his father had also worked there earlier. He initially worked as a crane operator, hauling the sand that they used to make the glass, into the factory. Sometime later he started working in the Electrical Shop as an Electrician Helper. He maintained the lights and electrical equipment there, and this was the beginning of what became his lifelong career as an electrician. He worked at the glass factory for about two years until 1911.

For about the next four years he worked a series of different jobs, for the most part away from Festus. He reportedly traveled around finding the jobs, worked the jobs for a while, then returned to Festus, trying to provide help and support for his parents. One of these jobs was stringing wires on the high electrical wires, running from the hydo-electric power plant at the Keokuk Dam in Iowa on the Mississippi River, to St. Louis. He also worked for a while at the power plant at the Keokuk Dam, as well as a tramp lineman stringing lines, also at a steel plant in St. Louis, and at another steel plant in Gary, Indiana, and even hauling borax out of Death Valley, California with a team of mules. Much of this time he traveled on railroads, riding in boxcars and sometimes under the boxcars. In 1915, he realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find work around Missouri, and he had heard that there was a lot of work in Detroit, Michigan, which was in the middle of a major industrial boom. He decided to go there, and apparently rode on a freight train with a friend to Toledo, Ohio, and then on to Detroit, where he arrived on April 27, 1915.

Things were booming in Detroit, and he worked initially as an electrician in a series of factories, including the Chrysler Motor Company and the Packard Motors Company. He also moved rather soon into a boarding house, where he met his future wife, Mary Adelaide Henderson, who reportedly was the cook and also ran the boarding house. I believe the next year, two of his sisters, Minnie "Min" and Dorothy "Dot," moved to Detroit to join him and find jobs. The three of them lived together for a while in an apartment. By the next year or so, all of his other siblings and his parents had also moved to Detroit. In his draft registration card dated June 5, 1917, he is listed living at 26 W. Alexandrine in downtown Detroit, and working for the Michigan Stamping Company. Dick and Adelaide married in Ecorse, in Wayne Co., Michigan, just before he left to go overseas during World War I on February 23, 1918. Their first child Ruth was born on April 8, 1918.

The United States had declared War on Germany on April 6, 1917, and the draft law was passed in June. Dick was drafted that summer and reported for duty at Camp Custer, outside of Battle Creek, Michigan, on September 21, 1917. He served in the 339th Infantry of the U.S. Army's 85th Division. He initially was appointed a bugler in Company A. In January of 1918, due to his experience as an electrician, Dick was transferred to the Signal Platoon of the Headquarters company. He remained in this group for the rest of his army experience. The 339th Infantry completed their training and departed Camp Custer on July 14, 1918. On July 21, 1918 they boarded a ship and sailed for England. On August 14, 1918, while the rest of the division were preparing to enter the fighting in France, Dick and about 5,000 troops from the 339th Infantry, 310th Engineers, 337th Field Hospital, and the 337th Ambulance Company, learned that they were going to Russia instead of France. They were issued Russian weapons and equipment and on August 25, 1918, they sailed for Archangel, Russia, a sea port on the White Sea about 600 miles north of Moscow.

This group became known as the "Polar Bear Expedition." They were reportedly sent there to prevent a German advance and to help reopen the Eastern Front, but they essentially ended up fighting the Bolshevik revolutionaries. Dick served mostly as an installer, operator, and maintainer of telephone and other communications systems. He saw a lot of action and had many of what he described as "close calls." The weather at times during that winter reached 40 to 50 degrees below zero.

Dick fought on what he described as the "Railroad Front" of the expedition, operating around the Archangel-Vologda Railroad. Their goal was to advance to the town of Plesetskaya, but they never made it. After an initial advance, they remained in a deadly and freezing stalemate for the winter of 1918-19. The expedition ended up fighting for months after the Armistice ended the fighting in France on November 11, 1918. They withdrew when the navigation opened up the next year, and he sailed out of Archangel on June 14, 1919. He was discharged from the Army on July 19, 1919 and returned to Detroit. Dick was decorated for his service, although he never really talked much about his war experience. Although he was happy to have lived through it, in the end this must have been a profoundly disappointing experience for him. The brief and glory filled expedition in France, was a cake walk compared to the miserable and icy nightmare he ended up in.

Dick recorded much of his wartime experiences in a diary, which was passed around the family for many years, although I do not personally have a copy. I do have a copy of a book he wrote about the experience, titled "Lend me a Soldier," and from which I obtained much of this information about the war. He was apparently only marginally involved in the Polar Bear Association after the war, formed from veterans of the expedition, and which stayed together in the Detroit area until the 1980's. There is a Polar Bear Memorial at the White Chapel Cemetery in Troy, Michigan, where many of the soldiers are buried.

After the war in 1919, Dick returned to Adelaide and the now one-year-old baby Ruth in Detroit. In the 1920 census, Dick and Adelaide were living in an apartment at 120 Lothrop Ave, Detroit, and his parents and siblings were living around the block. In about 1922-23, Dick and Mary moved to Royal Oak, Michigan, about 10 miles north of Detroit in Oakland County. They initially rented a house on Houstonia Street, and on the 1930 census are listed in Royal Oak, Michigan, at 314 W. Houstonia. By 1933 they moved to the house at 247 E. 12 Mile Road. They lived in the 12 Mile Road house until the death of Adelaide in 1959.

Before leaving for the war Dick had been mostly working as an electrician in factories, and he had been a member of an electrical maintenance union. When he returned from the war in 1919, that union had merged with an electrical construction union, to become Local 58 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union. I believe that for the most part, Dick worked as an electrician doing construction work, for the rest of his career. He retired in 1956 at the age of 65, and in about 1976, was recognized by Local 58 for 60 years of membership. During the 1920's he worked for at least six years for the electrical contractor, John H. Busby. One of the jobs he worked on with this company was the Book Tower skyscraper building on Washington Blvd. He reported that he worked on that building from the beginning of the digging of the foundation to the completion of the 38 story building. With the Great Depression of the 1930's however, building and construction work was significantly down, and Dick worked only part time and his growing family struggled.

A total of nine children were born to Dick and Adelaide: Ruth (1918), Jim (1920), Betty (1923), Bill (1925), Jerry (1928), Tommy (1931), Midge (1932), Jack (1934), and Bob (1935). One son, Tommy, suffered a severe head injury as a result of an accident as a very young boy, and eventually died in 1945. All the other children survived their parents.

Dick was a lover of horses, and he owned a couple into the late 1960's. He also liked and owned tractors. During World War II, he reportedly would plow up "Victory Gardens" for neighbors. Dick was also a lover of baseball, and loved to watch the Detroit Tigers play. I went with him to watch the Tigers play the 4th game of the 1968 World Series. Dick married again briefly around 1970, to a woman named Alicia. They apparently lived for at least a few years in Gaffney, South Carolina, and apparently were not married for very long. Dick died in San Leandro, Alameda County, California, on September 1, 1977. He was living with his son Robert in Alameda, California, and reportedly went out to bring in the mail, and fell and hit his head. He was hospitalized for a couple of weeks and never recovered. He is buried in the St. Patrick's Parish Cemetery, next to Adelaide in Carlton, Monroe County, Michigan.

Rick Waggener


In the early 1970's Dick started writing a book about his recollections of life in the early decades of the 20th Century. He never finished the book, but I have gone through all he had written and pulled out the recollections he had about his early life. I will share some of the excerpts of this book, starting with his account of living in Puxico, Stafford Co., Missouri, where his family moved in 1896 when he was about five years old:

"...We had moved to a place in southeastern Missouri called Puxico, Missouri. We had a small house and a big barn and lot. My dad bought and sold cattle and other livestock, which we kept in the barn. We used to get wood from a nearby sawmill, which they would give away for nothing, and we would haul it and sell it for 50 cents a load, which was a lot of money at the time. I also remember it as being a lot of fun. I had been born and raised on a farm and we had all kinds of animals, and we learned all about them. My dad was a pretty good stockman and he told us all about stock..."


From the 1900 Federal Census of St. Francois County, Missouri, Perry Township, (not a city), taken June 4, 1900, District #95, page 4A;, St. Francois #95, image 7 of 56. Dick is listed in the household of is parents:

Household #67, family #70, no address listed;

----- Richard J; son, male, born- July 1892, age- 8, single, born- Missouri, parents born- Missouri, 8 months in school


Continuing with excerpts of the book written by Dick in the 1970's about his early life, he talks about living in Elwood, Madison Co., Indiana and visiting the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair with his uncle Jim Waggener:

"… There was the trip to the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. At that time I was just 13 years old and that trip to St. Louis had to be the big event of my life up to then. We lived at the time in Elwood, Indiana, having moved there after my dad had returned from the war (the Spanish-American War) in 1900. One of my uncles, Tom Kenner, my mother’s brother, worked at the American Tin Plate Company, which had a plant in Elwood at the time. He got my dad a job there, so we moved there. The work turned out to be only ‘crummy’ labor, paying the great sum of $1.50 per day of 10 hours. It was a struggle to live on that small amount, but I sold papers and my mother even took in washing, so us kids could eat. I don’t know how we did it, but we did and also my parents sent us to school. Two of the girls graduated there, and I went to the tenth grade. By the way, Wendell Willkie went to the Elwood High School with me and he was my same age and in my class. He of course ran for President of the U.S. in 1940
…my dad had a bachelor brother living in Festus, Missouri, a small town just 30 miles from St. Louis. He told my mother if she would send some of the kids there, he would take us to the fair in St. Louis... Anyhow, we took the Interurban cars and got to Festus, and all five of us got to the World’s Fair.
... This was a really big fair and I remember a lot of it to this day. They had things there that would even be new today. ... The biggest Ferris Wheel in the world, also with the highest closed cabs as big as street cars. I had never seen anything like it of course, not even as big of a town as St. Louis. There were a lot of pay shows, but the big general picture was free. We were really thrilled and I can still see Uncle Jim’s face as he enjoyed watching us kids... "


Continuing with excerpts of the book, here he talks about his grandparents, the Kenners, and living with and near them on Kenner's Hill north of Festus:

"My grandparents, my mother’s parents, lived just a little ways from us, on Kenner’s Hill. They called my grandfather Uncle Bill Kenner. My uncles also lived there (Thomas and George Kenner) and we worked that farm for a while. I helped him a lot.
My grandparents had cows, and always a good garden in the summer. They would can enough stuff to eat all winter, so it didn’t cost too much to live. We milked the cows for our milk, which in those days wasn’t pasteurized. We had all kinds of poultry, chickens, ducks and geese. We had hogs which we would kill to make our own sausage. Also, we had a smoke house, and we would go out and get hickory and we smoked our own hams and bacon. We had a spring cellar where we cooled the milk. We cut the wood for the heating stove, as that was the only kind of heat we had. We had a pasture for the cattle, and when I was younger, it was my job to go down and get the cows, then milk them. That was the old fashioned farm house. Everyone was happy and hardly ever sick, and we had good neighbors, where everyone helped one another. At haying time, everyone helped one another.
We had saddle horses to ride, two buggy horses, and then they had one regular team that did all the work. That was the plowing and everything, as this was a real farm. My two uncles did all the work, and my grandfather just went hunting, fishing and doctoring horses. I got to go with him a lot of the time, and as I look back, it was a lot of fun.
... My grandfather was what I would call a really religious man. He was the head of the Christian Church in Festus. We built that church while I was there, and put new pews in it. It was a small church and it was still down there, the last time I was there. We went to Sunday School there every Sunday. My grandfather was the head of that church and he got all the preachers and all. If there wasn’t a preacher there, he would conduct his own services, and he was pretty good at it too. He had a voice deep down, which was easy to understand, and he did the praying and the singing. My grandmother was just as religious as my grandfather was. They were what I would call real Christians..."


From the 1910 Federal Census of the City of Festus, Joachim Township, Jefferson County, Missouri, district 33, sheet 26a, page 136, taken May 12, 1910, household 552; from James is listed in the household of his parents:

------ James R.; son, male, age- 18, single, born- Missouri, parents born- Missouri, occupation- factory, r/w's


Continuing again with excerpts from the book about his life, here he talks about beginning to work and learning to be an electrician, and moving to Detroit, Michigan:

"...When I was eighteen years old in 1909, I was old enough to work in a factory and had to get a job. We had moved back to Festus, Missouri in the meantime (from Elwood, Indiana), about 1906 or 1907, and my dad was working at the Pittsburg Plate Glass Company... My older brother (George Vest) was working there at the glass factory also. He became an expert machinist, and stayed with that trade all his life. Jobs were scarce at the time, and young men either worked on the farm, joined the army, or something like that. There was no industrial work except for that one place, the “Crystale,” the Pittsburg Plate Glass Company in Crystal City.
... I began as a crane operator. It was a good job, but it didn’t pay but 14 cents an hour... I ran what they called a Sand Telpher, which brought sand into the plant. The sand was the main ingredient in the making of glass, and they had mountains of white sand, which was why the plant was there. They would heat the sand and some other ingredients until it melted in a clay pot at 2500 degrees, and then they poured it onto a table and rolled it into the glass plates and grind it smooth. My job was to bring the sand in with an overhead crane, run on a single track with a direct current motor, and the controller inside. I had to go up to run it, and would pick the sand up from the pile outside with a bucket, and bring it in and dump it in the bins.
Later the Chief Electrician, Albert Coxy, asked me if I wanted to come into the Electrical Shop and work as an Electrician Helper. I agreed and this was the beginning of my becoming an electrician. Besides the arc lights in the plant and all the cranes and other equipment, the Pittsburg Plate Glass Co. provided electricity for Crystal City... I liked the electrical work and became good at it, and I decided right then that I wanted to be an electrician. Later I had two helpers helping me. However, it was awfully hot in the casting hall. We had to get up on top of the crane where they pulled the hot pots out, to fix things, and I didn’t like it. I asked to be transferred, but Mr. Coxy wanted to keep me in the casting hall. Everyone had told me I should join a union, but they didn’t have a union there, and I ended up quitting that job over that dispute. This was 1911 and I had been there two years...
... It was 1912 and they had built a dam up the Mississippi River at Keokuk, Iowa, to harness the river and furnish electricity to big towns. They were going to build a high wire line with towers from the Keokuk Dam to St. Louis, Missouri. I got a job working on those towers and running the wires. It was a dangerous job, but I liked it and I was a good climber...
... It was 1915 and it was becoming clear that there just wasn’t much work anywhere near Festus, and it was hard to always be scratching around to just find a little work. I had heard about Detroit, Michigan. Everyone said that it was a good place to go and that there was lots of work there. I became interested because I had decided at this point to become an electrician and it sounded like a good place to do this. I had heard that there were a lot of factories there, and Henry Ford had just announced that he was paying five dollars a day to his workers. This was a tremendous amount at the time, but Ford knew that he could get it back, because the more a working man makes, the more he spends. The rest of the plants had to match that wage.
So I went to Detroit, with a guy by the name of Dave Dees. He was a friend and he had some relatives in Toledo, Ohio, 60 miles south of Detroit, so we stopped there first and looked around for work. When I couldn’t find work there, I went on to Detroit, and I arrived there on the day the Belle Isle Bridge burned, April 27th, 1915. It was quite a big deal at the time and many folks remember that day...
... So I bought some tools and found a boarding house and went to work. That was pretty much the story of how I got to Detroit. It turns that Adelaide, who I would marry in a few years, was a cook at and ran the boarding house, and that was how we met.
I worked for a little while at the Chrysler Motor Car Company, and then at other places. I could always find another job, everything was booming at the auto plants and there were jobs all over the place..."


From World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-18 [database online] Provo, UT:, 2002. National Archives and Records Administration. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. M1509, 4,277 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.:

Name: James Richard Waggener
Age: 25
Address: 26 W. Alexandrine, Detroit, Mich.
Date of birth: July 31, 1891
Citizenship: natural born
Where born: St. Louis, Mo., USA
Occupation: Electrician
Where employed: Michigan Stamping Co.
Where employed: Detroit
Any dependants: no
Marital status: single
Race: caucasian
Height: tall
Built: slender
Color of eyes: brown
Color of hair: red
Date of registration: June 5, 1917


From Michigan Marriages 1868-1925, posted on-line by the LDS:

Groom name: James R. Waggener
Groom race or color: white
Groom age: 26 years
Groom birth year: 1892
Groom birth place: Miss.
Occupation: soldier
Bride name: Mary A. Henderson
Bride race or color: white
Bride age: 24 years
Bride birth year: 1894
Bride birth place: Mich.
Marriage type:
Marriage date: 23 Feb 1918
Marriage place: Ecorse, Wayne, Michigan
Father of groom name: Jesse
Mother of groom name: Annie
Father of bride name: Archie
Mother of bride name: Elizabeth
Witnesses: Edy C. Labadie, River Rouge; Elmer Fabndirch, Ford City
Film number: 2342728
Frame number:
Digital GS number: 4209972
Image number: 323
Reference number: v 6 p 117 rn 159386
Collection: Michigan Marriages 1868-1925

(Later, they apparently told everyone that they had been married in Detroit on June 2, 1917, but this record seems to show that they did not actually marry until over seven months later.- RW)


Here are a few excerpts from Dick's book about his WW I experience, titled "Lend me a soldier." I think they give a taste of his wartime experience in Russia.:

From Page 53, and written about one of his first battles, on September 28, 1918:

"...The barrage opened at daylight, which was about 6:00 AM at this time of the year, so our troubles started early, and I almost became a casualty quite early. They were firing salvos at five minute intervals. The vibration from the first round dislodged the block under the wheels of one of the cars on my end of the line. When the car moved it opened the telephone line. I ran over to make the splice, not noticing that I was directly under the mouth of the gun which projected over the end of the car. It was due to fire in about a minute and when it did fire, the concussion knocked me flat and ruined my hearing for an hour or more. Shaughnessy happened to be looking my way at the time and ran over when he saw me fall. He convinced me that I wasn't really killed, so we made the splices and communication was re-established. My left ear was never the same after that incident...."

From page 55, writing about later that same day:

"...Since the railroad embankment was high here, and the "Bolos" were supposed to be on the right of it, we started across on the left side. Shaughnessy and I were leading, with Hinman bringing up the rear. We were somewhere near the middle of the swamp when the Bolsheviks opened a terrific burst of machine gun fire from the left, where they weren't supposed to be.
I'll never forget those next few moments as long as I live. There was an old railroad tie partly submerged in the water near me, and I immediately flopped on it. When I saw the tops of the weeds being clipped off right near me, I rolled off and tried to get behind that tie. This burst lasted a good long ten minutes, then I crawled ahead to where Shaughnessy was also parked in the water. After discussing the situation a minute he decided to go the rest of the way alone, leaving me to make the splice there. I didn't like the idea, but he was like that, always insisting on taking the big hazard. This was not because he was a Corporal. He was just built that way. We shook hands, and I got busy with the splice. In about fifteen minutes I felt very much relieved to see him come in sight over a little rise in the ground. I was afraid I was going to lose a good friend that time...."

From page 57, and apparently the next day. He later mentions that he was decorated for this day and I have noted the citation of the Silver Star award below:

"...Our infantry was busy fortifying a small bridge near the edge of the clearing, and our Headquarters were preparing to move back on short notice. Our "little job" consisted of getting two lines working from where the infantry was "digging in," back to Headquarters. These were to be strung on the permanent pole along the railroad.
"Mr. Bolshevik" was also thinking about that line. In fact he was even watching the poles nearest him. I no sooner reached the top of the second pole than the bullets began to whistle by my ears again, and I was lucky that it was at long range, and a machine gunner instead of an expert rifleman. The Lieutenant who had accompanied us this trip then ordered the wires laid on the ground. This method was safer even if it did require more maintenance. After that we called it a day, and with the exception of two troubles during the night my team mate and I got some much needed rest...."

From page 78, from December 30, 1918:

"...There was about three feet of snow on the ground, and it was at least 35 degrees below zero, the Russian winter having really set in by this time. We walked in single file in the beaten path between the rails. Our armored train was returning the fire from a siding a short distance down the track, and this train seemed to be the enemy target for the time being. The shells were exploding in and near our path as we were approaching the train. For some reason or other I happened to be the first one in line and the proposition ahead did not look good, to say the least...."


Posted on-line by Military Times (

James R. Waggener

Silver Star Citation

Awarded for actions during the Russian Civil War

By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved July 9, 1918 (Bul. No. 43, W.D., 1918), Private James R. Waggener (ASN: 2022102), United States Army, is cited by the Commanding General, American Expeditionary Forces, for gallantry in action and a silver star may be placed upon the ribbon of the Victory Medals awarded him. Private Waggener distinguished himself by gallantry in action while serving with Headquarters Company, 339th Infantry Regiment, 85th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in action near Oberziskaya, Russia, 29 September 1918, while establishing telephonic communication under enemy fire.
General Orders: GHQ, American Expeditionary Forces, Citation Orders No. 9 (August 1, 1920)

Action Date: September 29, 1918

Service: Army

Rank: Private

Company: Headquarters Company

Regiment: 339th Infantry Regiment

Division: 85th Division, American Expeditionary Forces


From the 1920 Federal Census of Detroit City, District 14 (part of), 4th Ward (part of), district 148, sheet 5A, taken January 7, 1920, household is unclear, it appears to be an apartment on 120 Lothrop Ave., and all the different households there are listed as household 86; from, image 9 of 20:

Waggener, James R.; head of household, rents home, male, age- 28, married, r/w's, born- Missouri, parents born- Missouri, occupation- Electrical/ Contractor
------ Mary A.; wife, female, age- 26, married, born- Michigan, father born- Nova Scotia/ Canada, mother born- Michigan
------ Ruth; daughter, female, age- 1 8/12, born- Michigan, father born- Missouri, mother born- Michigan

(James Richard is listed around the block from the household of his parents and siblings, at 208 Bethune St. West.-RW)


From the Polk's City Directory for Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, 1920-21, page 2241:

Waggener, James R.; electrician, house 444 (160) Medbury Ave.

(I assume that this is an apartment. Also listed in the directory are Dorothy, George, Harry, Jesse, and Lucetta Waggener, all living at 201 Farrand in Highland Park.-RW)


From the Polk's City Directory for Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, 1921-22, page 1973:

Waggener, Richard J., electrician, house 1822 Green Ave.

(Also listed in the directory are Minnie, George, Harry, Jesse, and Lucetta, again all living at 201 Farrand Park in Highland Park.-RW)


From the Polk's CIty Directory for Royal Oak, Berkley, Clawson, Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, 1924, page 365 (Royal Oak):

Waggener, James R. (Adelaid), electrician, resides 423 Maryland Ave.

(I also found a listing for Adelaide's brother Frank Henderson at this same address.-RW)


From the Polk's City Directory for Royal Oak, 1926, page 1007 (Royal Oak Township):

Waggener, James R. (Adelaide) electrician, resides ss Houstania Avenue 7, west of Main R F D 5 Royal Oak

(I am assuming that this is the same house on Houstonia that they are listed below living in during the 1930 Census, but don't know for sure.- RW)


From the History of Wayne County and the City of Detroit, Michigan; by Clarence M. and M. Agnes Burton, edited by H.T.O. Blue and Gordon K. Miller; published 1930; page 545:

James R. Waggener, private, Headquarters Company, Three Hundred and Thirty-ninth Infantry, Eighty-fifth Division, A. E. F., Russia; British Military Medal; 26 W. Alexandrine Avenue, Detroit.

(This makes reference to a medal Dick was awarded during the war. I believe this location was actually some place he lived in before the war. RW)


From the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. Listed on a roster of the "Polar Bear Expedition," apparently made at a reunion of the group in 1927:

Waggener (Waggoner), James R.
rank: Private
regiment: 339
branch: Infantry
company: Headquarters
hometown: 1927: 249 Maryland, Royal Oak, MI
medals: Military Medal
source: Moore History; Polar Bear sourcelist


Here is another excerpt from the mentioned book that he wrote about his early life, talking about working after the war and into the 1920's:

"... After the war I came back home two years later in 1919, and in the meantime I had gotten married too. When I returned I went down to the Union Hall, to see if they had any work, and by that time they had merged the maintenance union into Local 58. They did have a job for me. I and all those other members of the maintenance union were now in Local 58, and we did construction work. I worked for John H. Busby for six years and had some very interesting jobs. I was good enough to struggle by until I learned the business the hard way.
At that time we worked 48 hours a week, and then 44 hours a week. Later they eliminated the Saturday work. They had a strike while I was gone and wages went up to $1.00 per hour, so I was getting $44 per week. Then the wage went up to $1.25 an hour, and for 44 hours it was $55 per week. You could do pretty well on that. We lived in this apartment and later we got a house. The work lasted clear up until the Depression in 1929. We got a little work after that, until about 1931, and then not much at all.
There was one particularly interesting job that I worked during the 1920’s, the Book Tower skyscraper. The Busby Company was the electrical contractor and I worked that job all the way through from start to finish. That included starting at the bottom with the laying of the foundation, all the way to the end, up to the top of its 40 stories. The Book Tower was really the first skyscraper built in Detroit, and at the time it was the tallest building...."


From the 1930 Federal Census of Royal Oak City, Royal Oak Township, Oakland County, Michigan, taken April 9, 1930, district 63-107, sheet 4B, household #399, address- 319 Houstonia Avenue; from, image #18 of 29:

Waggener, James R.; head of household, owned home, home value- $6,000, owned radio set, home not a farm, male, age- 38, married, 26 years old at 1st marriage, r/w's, born- Missouri, parents born- Missouri, occupation- Electrical Worker/ General Const., wage earner/ currently employed, military veteran/ World War
------ Mary A.; wife/ head of household, female, age- 36, married, 24 years old at 1st marriage, r/w's, born- Michigan, father born- Nova Scotia/ Canada, mother born- Michigan
------ Ruth R.; daughter, female, age- 12, in school, r/w's, born- Michigan, father born- Missouri, mother born- Michigan
------ James R. Jr.; son, male, age- 9, in school, born- Michigan, father born- Missouri, mother born- Michigan
------ Elizabeth A.; daughter, female, age- 7, in school, born- Michigan, father born- Missouri, mother born- Michigan
------ William H.; son, male, age- 4, born- Michigan, father born- Missouri, mother born- Michigan
------ Gerald R.; son, male, age- 1, born- Michigan, father born- Missouri, mother born- Michigan

(Dick and Mary were living about 2 miles north of the household of his sister Minnie and her husband Weldon Dillman, who were on Maryland St. in Royal Oak, and about 2 1/2 miles north of the household of his brother George Vest, in Pleasant Ridge on Fairwood Blvd. I also found their daughter Ruth in the census, listed as living with Dick's parents, Jesse and Annie Waggener, in Lake Worth, Florida. -RW)


From Polk's Directory of Royal Oak and Ferndale, Oakland County, Michigan, 1930; page 356:

Waggener, James R (Adelaide), electrician, household 319 Houstonia Ave.


From Polk's Directory of Royal Oak and Ferndale, Oakland County, Michigan, 1933, page 372:

Waggener, James R. (Mary A.) electrician, household 247 E. 12 Mile Road


From Polk's Directory of Royal Oak and Ferndale, Oakland County, Michigan, 1938; page 838 (Royal Oak):

Waggener, James R (Mary A) electrician, household 247 E. 12 Mile Road


From the 1940 Federal Census of Royal Oak City, Oakland County, Michigan, district 63-145, sheet 26a, taken April 29, 1940, address- 247 E. 12 Mile Rd.:

Waggner, James R.; owns home, value $5,000, home is not a farm, head of household, male, age- 48, married, highest grade of school- 4th year high school, born- Missouri, residence in 1935- same house, Oakland Co., Michigan, worked last week of March/ 32 hours, occupation- electrician/ electrical industry, worked in private work, worked 20 weeks in 1939/ wages and salary $1600
----- Mary; wife, female, age- 47, highest grade of school- 1st year high school, born- Michigan, residence in 1935- same house, not employed/ engaged in housework
----- James; son, male, age- 19, single, not is school, highest grade of school- 4th year high school, born- Michigan, residence in 1935- same house, not currently employed, seeking work, occupation- new worker, worked 0 weeks in 1939/ earned $12
------ William; son, male, age- 14, in school, highest grade completed- 1st year high school, born- Michigan, residence in 1935- same house, not employed, not looking for work
------ Gerald; son, male, age- 11, in school, highest grade completed- 5th, born- Michigan, residence in 1935- same house
------ Thomas; son, male, age- 9, not in school/ 0 grades completed, born- Michigan, residence in 1935- same house
------ Margaret; daughter, female, age- 7, in school, highest grade completed- 1st, born- Michigan, residence in 1935- same house
------ John; son, male, age- 6, not in school/ 0 grades completed, born- Michigan, residence in 1935- same house
------ Robert; son, male, age- 4, born- Michigan

Son William happened to be one of the persons randomly selected to answer some supplemental questions:

Waggner, William; father born- Missouri, mother born- Michigan, veteran or child of veteran- yes, father alive, served in World War, no social security, no occupation

(Mary's brother Frank Henderson and his family are listed next door at 249 E. 12 Mile Rd.-RW)


From U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010:

Registration Card Serial No. U1765
Name: James Richard Waggener
Residence: 247 E. 12 Mi. Rd., Royal Oak, Mich.
Telephone: 1953
Age: 50
Place of birth: Jefferson Co., Missouri
Date of birth: July 31, 1891
Person who will know your address: George Waggener, 51 Fairwood, Pl. Ridge, Mi.
Employer: John Miller Electric Co.
Address: 711 Fisher Bldg. Detroit, Mich.


From Polk's Directory of Royal Oak and Ferndale, Oakland County, Michigan, 1948; page 848:

247 E. Twelve Mile Road- Waggener, James R.; property owner


From the Polk's City Directory of Royal Oak and Ferndale for 1950; page 833:

Waggener, Jas. R (Adelaide) electrician; house 247 E. 12 Mi. Rd.


From the Polk's City Directory of Royal Oak, Michigan, 1953:

Waggener, Jas R. (Adelaide M), house 247 E. 12 Mile Rd.


From the Polk's City Directory of Royal Oak for 1955, page 277:

Waggener, Jas R (Adelaide) electrician; Local 58 (Detroit); house 247 E. 12 Mile Road.

(Four of their chidren are listed living there also: Jerry, John (Jack), Margaret, and Robert. James Jr. is listed next door at 227 E. 12 Mile Rd.- RW)


From a newspaper story sent to me by Lee Ann Waggener Olmstead, apparently from a South Carolina newspaper, apparently from about 1976:

Retiree glad his life is past
J.R. Waggener discussed the "old days."
By Joe Bizzaro, Times Staff Writer

All in all, J.R. Waggener is happy to have worked all the time he did. The pay may not have been the best, but at least there were enough jobs to go around.

"You were lucky to make $1 and hour," the 85-year-old, former electrician says on looking back to his first working days. "The pay is about $10 and hour now, but the union hall has no work. There is absolutely a recession."

Waggener recently received recognition from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington for his 60 year membership. Retired for 17 years, Waggener divides his time between West Palm Beach and Royal Oak, Mich., living with his children.

In the boom times there was so much work you sometimes couldn't get enough men." says Waggener who joined the union in 1916. "Today half the union is loafing. They don't know what in the world they are going to do. There's no construction, and when construction goes so do the jobs."

Waggener's interest in the fate of electrical work has not waned despite his lengthy hiatus from the labor market. Mainly because he has five sons who are also electricians.

"They're scattered all over the country." says Waggener. "They go wherever there's work." One son couldn't find electrical work so he's "putting up awnings," Waggener adds.

Waggener's own working days were spent in Detroit, where he worked mainly for the auto industry in General Motors, Ford and Chrysler plants. It was the electrician who made certain the machinery ran smoothly.

"Sometime you got into a factory job and it would last a long time," says Waggener. "That industrial work is very complicated."

When such work wasn't available, however, he and other electricians would take jobs wiring homes. "We never did like our house work, but if there was nothing else, you did that," he says.

These days concern about work had been replaced largely by concern about health. "If you feel good you can always have fun," says Waggener. "That's the main thing. Right now I feel good."

Making ends meet is another concern, but that's handled at least adequately by Social Security and a pair of pensions from the union and the military. "I get about $400 a month," says Waggener. "It's enough to spend. I always did know how to spend it."


The following is a transcription of the eulogy for James at his funeral service, written and given by his youngest son Robert Lawrence Waggener:

"I look upon this occasion as one of joy and not of sorrow. First of all, these occasions are one of the few times in our lives you notice people saying nice things to each other and about each other. Everyone wants to be nice! We seem to leave out negative side somewhere else. Too bad we cannot be this way more often in our lives. I've seen relatives talk to each other this week that would not have even considered it a month ago. That's a time for celebration! It's also appropriate considering the man we are honoring here this morning.

I've given a great deal of thought to my standing up here before you. Whether it would be appropriate for myself to be doing this, and if so, what to say. How do you capture the essence of this man with just a few words? What portions of a man's life do you emphasize in a 86 year history? Should I talk about his politics, his union beliefs, his heroes, his ancestors, his patriotism, his childhood of what? James R. lived a period that saw the most profound changes in the history of modern man. He was what might be called a second generation frontiersman. His father's generation explored the last frontier in this country and left it to his generation to develop what they explored. And, develop it, they did! All these topics are worth exploring but I have decided to take a more personal approach and these are a few of my observations.

My father was a very different type of a person. He cannot be explained easily by a stranger. I don't think any preacher could stand up her and do right by him at this moment. He was the most subtle man I think I have ever known. I really did not understand him until later in life when I got a better perspective by being away from him. As a child, he was that old man upstairs in his favorite chair, reading books, magazines, newspapers or what have you. Or he was that great philosopher in the kitchen, with his foot on the radiator, chin in hand, greeting an endless procession of people coming through the back door. They would discuss what to me was the most complex problems imaginable, with what sounded like the greatest authority. And, of course, most discussions with ranked in importance by their noise level. It seemed that anything worth saying became more so if it was said louder.

I made few attempts at one point in my life to involve myself in these rituals, but I never stood a chance, I never had the volume. He would come over and tousle my hair and say, "Hey, young'un, don't you know kids are to be seen and not heard?" He would chuckle at his profound sense of humor, and I knew then that my turn had not yet come.

As a young child, he was an enigma wrapped in a mystery. All around me through my school, through my middle class culture, an image of the ideal father was being created in my head; and this man did not fit the ideal. Remember the old saying "Cleanliness is next to Godliness?" Well, if on believes that and walked into my father's bedroom, papers all over the place, him in dirty work clothes, in salvation army conditions chair, one would suppose he was the devil incarnated-- but he had not horns. I really loved that man, but I was sure confused. It wasn't until later in life that I realized that my confusion was because of a distorted "ideal father" than of what my father really was. Let me try to explain this an little further.

Success has always been defined as a goal that one should pursue. The problem has always been to define success. Typically by most middle- class standards, my father was not "successful."

We, as a family are not faced with problems of dividing up a large estate. We do no have to assign Cadillacs, Mercedes and yachts to particular members of our family. We have not called in a battery of tax lawyers to figure out ways to circumvent the inheritance tax laws. The T.V. networks did not break into their regular programs to announce that James R. Waggener died early the morning of September 1st. There will be no lowering of flags to half- mast. None of this will happen, and you might say, well it would be nice to have had this happen. But this would not be James R. Waggener. He was not middle- class, he was working class. He didn't apologize about his station in life, quite the contrary, he was most proud of it-- and so was I!

The essence of my father cannot be exemplified by symbols of material success or notoriety. His virtues were larger and more profound. We, as a family, have no inherited a preponderance of material goods but an abundance of virtue and character. I can think of very few so called "successful men" that could match my father as a human being.

We as a people have been having trouble in the last twenty years trying to deal with life in these modern times. There have sprung up movements across the nation and the world where followers are searching for leaders to show them the way. We were fortunate as a family to have such a leader of our very own. He knew what it was all about.

List the virtues that people are seeking, trying to find the strength to maintain their lives; James R. had them all! Integrity -- the man was incorruptible. They say that every man has his price -- those that say that did not meet my father. Honesty -- it was taken for granted -- you didn't tell lies. There was no hedging or rationalizing -- it was against God's will to lie, so you didn't do it. Humility/ Ego -- Freud would of been just another country doctor studying my father. It never occurred to him to consider himself so all important. I never heard him brag. He had a tremendous pride in himself yet did not let it interfere with his personal relationships.

But what I think I admire most about this man is what I consider his strongest virtue. That is his strength of character and his sense of humor. There is not time today to list the problems and agonies that this man suffered through during his lifetime. It just boggles the mind to think of them. Personal tragedies were commonplace and yet the man never buckled. He would always bounce back strongly. Many people did him in, but revenge, character assassination, vindictiveness never entered his mind. His sense of what was right and what was Christian maintained him throughout. He used his sense of humor as a defense against the agonizing reality of life. He had a twinkle in his eye and an infectious smile on his face. And if you went to comfort him during one of his crisis, you would come away amazed and comforted yourself by his attitude and tenacity.

Both my parents were very religious persons. But they were truly opposite in their approaches. My mother's religion was active, demonstrative; my father's passive. She became involved, she was a doer, a joiner. She expressed her feelings through other people. The more charities she could help, the better she felt. Dad was different. His was a personal approach.

I believe there is a life after death and a form of heaven for those souls who do good on earth. I believe my mother made it through the intercession of her many good works and friends. I also believe my father has joined her. He made a deal with "The Man" a long time ago and got his reservations in early!"


I found the following obituaries for Dick in the Daily Tribune Newspaper. The first was dated Friday, September 2, 1977:

James R. Waggener Sr.

James R. Waggener Sr., age 86 of San Mateo, Calif., formerly of Royal Oak, died Thursday at the Fairmont Hospital, San Leandro, Calif. He was born July 31, 1891, in Rush Tower, Mo.

Funeral arrangements are pending at the William Sullivan and Son Funeral Home, 705 West Eleven Mile, Royal Oak.


The second one dated the next day, Saturday, September 3, 1977:

James R. Waggener Sr.

James R. Waggener Sr., age 86, of San Mateo, Calif., formerly of Royal Oak, died Thursday in Fairmont, Calif. He was born on July 31, 1891, in Rush Tower, Mo. He was married to Mary, who is deceased.

Surviving are his children, Mrs. Melvin (Ruth) Wagner of West Palm Beach, Fla., James R. Jr. of Royal Oak, Mrs. Elizabeth Elphich of Baton Rouge, La., William of San Mateo, Calif., Gerald R. of Salt Lake City, Utah, Mrs. Howard (Margaret) Hoban of Metamora, John D. of West Palm Beach, Fla., Robert L. of San Mateo, Calif.; his brother Harry of Lake Worth, Fla.; two sisters, Mrs. Minna Dillman and Mrs. Dorothy Waldsmith of Lake Worth, Fla.; 34 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Mr. Waggener was a member of Local 58, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Detroit, and served on the Polar Bear Expedition during World War I.

Funeral arrangements are pending at the William Sullivan and Son Funeral Home, 705 West Eleven Mile, Royal Oak.


Dick's death certificate:

Certificate of Death
State of California
Department of Health
Cert no. 6018- 5709
Name: James R. Waggener Sr.
Date of death: September 1, 1977
Hour: 1:45 A.M.
Sex: male
Color: white
Birthplace: Missouri
Age: 86
Name and birthplace of father: Jesse Waggener, Mo.
Maiden name and birthplace of mother: no record, Mo.
Citizen of what county: U.S.A.
Social Security No.: 362-03-1258
Marital status: widower
Last Occupation: Construction elect.
No. years in this occupation: 40
Last employer: Union Hiring Hall
Kind of industry: Electrical
Place of death: Fairmont Hospital, 15400 Foothill Blve., San Leandro, Alameda County, California
Length of time in county of death: 6 mos.
Length of time in California: 6 mos.
Usual residence: 547 Buena Vista #211a, Alameda, Alameda County, California
Name and address of informant: William Waggener, 18467 Joseph, Castro Valley, Calif.
Burial: 9/5/77; St. Patrick's Cemetery, Carlton, Michigan
Cause of death: pneumonitis and pulmonary eboli; due to: diverticulitis with perforation and intestinal obstruction
Other significant conditions: Blunt injury of head
Operation performed: yes
Injury type: accident
Place of injury: apartment
Date of injury: 8/13/77
Hour: 1:35 P
Place of injury: 547 Buena Vist Ave.; #211, Alameda, Calif.
Injury description: Fell at home, then hospitalized and complications developed.


Dick is buried next to his wife and several children, in the newest cemetery of the St. Patrick's Parish Church in Exeter Township, Monroe County, Michigan. His headstone reads:

James R Waggener Sr
World War I
July 31, 1891 Sept 1, 1977
(A Polar Bear Image)

Family links: 
  Jesse David Waggener (1850 - 1935)
  Anna Eliza Kenner Waggener (1861 - 1938)
  Mary Adelaide Henderson Waggener (1892 - 1959)*
  Ruth Royce Waggener Wagner (1918 - 1989)*
  James Richard Waggener (1920 - 1992)*
  Elizabeth Ann Waggener Elphick (1923 - 1992)*
  William Horace Waggener (1925 - 2011)*
  Gerald Reuben Waggener (1928 - 2013)*
  Thomas Edward Waggener (1931 - 1945)*
  Margaret Alice Waggener Hoban (1932 - 1995)*
  George Vest Waggener (1885 - 1963)*
  Mary Lucetta Waggener (1889 - 1968)*
  James Richard Waggener (1891 - 1977)
  Minna Moore Waggener Dillman (1894 - 1984)*
  Dorothy Alice Waggener Waldsmith (1896 - 1985)*
  Harry David Waggener (1900 - 1990)*
*Calculated relationship
Dick is buried next to his wife and several children, in the newest cemetery of the St. Patrick's Parish Church in Exeter Township, Monroe County, Michigan. They are all under the big tree near the middle of the cemetery. His headstone reads:

James R Waggener Sr
World War I
July 31, 1891 Sept 1, 1977
(A Polar Bear Image)
Saint Patricks Cemetery
Monroe County
Michigan, USA
Created by: Rick Waggener
Record added: Jun 20, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 38570530
James Richard Waggener, Sr
Added by: Rick Waggener
James Richard Waggener, Sr
Added by: Rick Waggener
James Richard Waggener, Sr
Added by: Rick Waggener
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I wish I had a "rose bowl" to float this in for you. Just one of the many, many wonderful memories. Thank you for being the best grandfather a person could have. They broke the mold after you and I truly believe that.
- Lee Ann Waggener Olmstead
 Added: Jul. 8, 2013

- Karen
 Added: Jul. 25, 2009

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