John Findley - the mechanic




John Findley was the Corps mechanic. He had worked for the Imperial Bicycle works in Chicago and was invaluable. When somebody had a breakdown he would fix it. Sometimes he stayed up all night making repairs. Accounts describe Findley switching bicycles with the rider of the bicycle needing repair. The Corps would ride on and Findley would catch up. Findley rode both summers.

"One member of the corps was a good cyclist mechanic, whose technical knowledge proved of great value to us on many occassions."
- Lt. James A. Moss, Military Cycling in the Rocky Mountains

"Pvt. John Findley in Company F, was already an expert bicycle mechanic. Findley had worked four years in the repair shop of the Imperial Bicycle works of Chicago and could instruct other soldiers in repair techniques."
- Sorenson, Iron Riders [from letter Moss wrote to Adjutant April 13, 1896]

"One of the corps was a former employee of the Syracuse (N.Y.) Bicycle Company and at the end of each day’s journey he managed to repair wheels so that the progress of the journey was not impeded."
- St. Louis Globe-Democrat [St. Louis, MO], July 27, 1897



“The cyclist mechanic, Pvt. Findley, who is a fine rider, rode a wheel ten or fifteen pounds heavier than any other in the command, and had only one breakage the whole trip, which was repaired in four or five minutes. Several of the heaviest wheels (which were ridden by careful riders) stood the trip with only two or three minor accidents.”
– Moss report

When a bicycle would break down, Findley would switch bicycles with the man whose bike had broken. He would stay behind with the necessary tools to fix the bicycle and then catch up to the Corps.
-The Bicycle Corps: America's Black Army on Wheels, PBS documentary

"The cycling mechanic [Pvt. John Findley] was evidently bent on making a night of it, and of his own free will and accord staid up until reveille, tiring a buckled wheel.”
- Lt. Moss, Los Angeles Times The Army A-Wheel, Nov. 7, 1897

"At 6:30 o’clock the last of the corps wheeled into Louisiana. They were Private Findley, Bridges and Scott. The former is the crack rider and boss repairer of the corps. His home is in St. Joseph, Mo., and he laid over there two days but easily caught up. At Hannibal, he found Bridges and Scott awaiting him with broken wheels. He fixed them up, then led them a merry chase into Louisiana to catch up. The thirty-six miles were covered inside of two and one-half hours."
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch [St. Louis, MO] July 23, 1897

1895 Register of Enlistments
April 10, 1895, Findley enlisted at Fort Omaha, Nebraska for three years service. He was born in Carlton, Missouri around October 1873 (his age is listed as 21 years, six months). His occupation is recorded as "mechanic". It describes him as having brown eyes, black hair and a mulatto complexion. He was 5' 10 3/4. He was attached to Company F of the 25th Infantry. He was discharged April 9, 1898 at Ft. Missoula. His character was rated "Good".

Post Return of Jefferson Barracks...for the month of July 1897
John Findley Private 25th Inf. F July 28, 97. Detachment from 25th Inf. from Ft. Missoula Mont.

1898 Register of Enlistments
Findley reenlisted April 10, 1898 at Fort Missoula and was discharged on July 17, 1899 at Fort Bayard, New Mexico. His birthplace is listed as Carlton, MO., and his age is listed as 24 years and sixth months. His occupation is "soldier" and he is described as being 5' 11/12" with brown eyes, black hair and "b.mullato" complexion. His character was rated "Excellent. He was still with Company F of the 25th Infantry.

US Returns from Military Posts - 1899 Fort Bayard, NM
May returns - G.O. 82 April 26 '"Directs that certain Troops be put in readiness for the Philippines" G.O. 95 May 18 "Directs change of stations of certain Troops."
June returns - Twenty fifth Infantry "F" shows 106 total men, 88 "Transferred"
"Company 'F' 25th Infantry left post at 6 a.m., June 24, 1899, en route to San Francisco, California per G.O. 107, C.S., A.G.O. and G.O. 12, C.S. Hdqrs Dep't Colorado"

1899 Presidio of San Francisco, Miscellaneous Returns
Return of Company F Reg't of 25th Infantry For the month of June 1899
hosp: Discharged, 2. John Findley Rank: Pvt. Date: June 17 '99 Ft. Bayard N.M.
Dept. dated June 26' 99

1903 Register of Enlistments
Findley enlisted on May 15, at Los Angeles, California. His occupation is listed as "fireman". [A "fireman" tended a boiler or furnace]. He was discharged on March 23, 1905 at Fort Niobarra, Nebraska for disability. His character was rated "Very Good". He had moved to Company D.

1905 Post Returns Fort Niobrara
Theophilius Steward, from Fort Missoula days, is the post chaplain as well as "Post Librarian, and in charge of post school"
The March Post return shows a total of 532 men in the 25th Infantry. Sixty-three are in Co. K and 65 in Co. D.

[At this point, the possibilities become interesting....]

1900 Census
John Findly, born August 1865 was a 34-year old white male. This census was taken in Carrollton, Missouri. I don't think this was
Findley. This Findley is too old if birthdates on all the records are correct.

1910 Census
John "Findly" and wife Della, married five years are living in Cooper, Webster County, Iowa. Findly, 37-years old, is black and his wife is 30 and wife. Findly and his parents are all from Missouri. His occupation is listed as laborer at a stucco mill. Boarding with the Findly's are John and Jean Lewis, a mixed race couple. John is 29 and black while Jean is 31 and white. Could this be a record for Findley? Keep reading, it gets more interesting...

[Cooper township is a part of Fort Dodge....]

1915 Iowa Census Webster County Fort Dodge
John Findley is 40 years old living in Fort Dodge, Iowa. His occupation is "fireman" and he was six months unemployed. His birthplace is "Mexico" and the record indicates he was NOT naturalized. It further states he has been in the United States and Iowa three years. However, there are check marks and possibly numbers in blanks that indicate military service. In the Spanish [American] war blank there is a 1; the in infantry blank a six; the cavalry blank a five and in the navy (!) blank a five. "Not any" is listed in the "Church Affiliation" blank. His color is "W".

Surely, the Findley of the 1910 Federal Census and 1915 Iowa Census are one and the same, however, the 1915 record raises several questions. How could he have served in the military and not be a naturalized citizen? Why in the 1910 Census is Findley listed as "black" and he and his parents listed as being from Missouri?

His wife is listed as "Mrs. Estella Findley". Her birthplace is listed as Ohio

World War I Draft Registration Card
This card was signed September 12, 1918. John Findley of 102 Ave. G Fort Dodge Webster Iowa born September 25, 1874 whose race is listed as "Mexican". He is a "Fireman" with the Ft. Dodge Gas and Electric Company working at the gas plant. His wife is Agnes E. Findley. He is described as "tall" and having a slender build with light brown eyes and black hair. On the card the "Naturalized" box is checked for U.S. citizen. I think this is the same Findley as above but is this our Findley?














1920 Census - Fort Dodge, Webster County Iowa

John Findley and wife Agnes are listed at 114 Avenue H in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Findley is a 46 year old "Mex" who immigrated in 1880 and was naturalized in 1887. They have a five year old son named John E. John Findley's birthplace is listed as Mexico, along with his parents. Findley's occupation is listed as "Engineer" and industry is "Stationary". A "stationary engineer" is an operator of pumps, boilers, etc. Agnes' birthplace is listed as West Virginia. Olive Bingaman, mother-in-law, and Maria and Orlando, siblings of Agnes, are living at the house.

[What kind of name is John Findley for a man born in Mexico? Could it be that this IS Findley and the "Mexican" race was a cover so that he could be married in peace to a white woman? The fact that the Fort Dodge man was an "engineer" and "fireman" fits the theory that this could be our Findley. On the WWI registration card, he is described as tall and slender which fits our Findley's build. If the 1910 Census Findley is the same Findley as the 1920--which seems highly likely-- how to explain the change of race and birthplace? In the records the wife's name changes: 1910-Della; 1915- Estella; 1918- Agnes; 1920-Agnes. Are they different women?]

Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934
Name of soldier: Findley, John
Service: D. 25 U.S. Inf.; F 25 U.S. Inf.
Date of File: 1922 Dec. 2
Class: Invalid
Application No.: 1476,492
Certificate No.: 1,231,028
State From Which Filed: Iowa
Remarks: C2413498

1923 Fort Dodge City Directory, R.L. Polk and Company
John and Estella Findley 7 N 14th

[no John or Estella Findley in 1924 directory--only Charles B. and Charles E.]
[nothing in Webster County Index for Findley- spoke w/ Rita at Ft. Dodge Library 4/22/2011]

[
I contacted a gentleman via Ancestory.com was is related to Charles Whitesell. The information he gave me April 22, 2011 unraveled a lot of the above mystery and adds to the amazing story of Findley]

23 June 1923
Estella Agnes Findley married Charles Whitesell

Cook County Death Certificate
Stella Findley, of 3226 West 38th, Chicago Illino
is died February 8, 1926 from cancer of the uterus. Her birth is listed as October 3, 1881 and her husband is listed as John Findley. Her occupation is listed as "Housework".

Click on this link to see an amazing map of Chicago. It shows ethnic neighborhoods as well as gang "turfs" for the years between 1923 and 1926

District Court of Webster County- C.A. Whitesell v. Agnes A Whitesell April 6, 1926

Charles Whitesell is filing for a divorce. In the record it states:
"Par. 4. That the Plaintiff and the Defendant were m
arried at Albert Lea, Minnesota on the 23rd day of June 1922 and lived together as husband and wife until the 15th day of September 1924 at Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Par. 5 That during all the time that the Plaintiff and Defendant lived together as husband and wife, Plaintiff conducted himself as a dutiful and loving husband.
Par. 6 No children were born of said marriage.
Par. 7. That on the 15th day of September 1924, the defendant left Plaintiff's house and returned to the former husband and lived in cohabited with him as his wife for a period of several days. That the Plaintiff is informed and believes that the Defendant is now living with said former husband.
Par. 8. that the latter part of the year of 1922 to the time and separation between the Plaintiff and the Defendant, the Defendant kept in
her posssession a thirty eight caliber revolver and on many occassions threatened to take the life of the Plaintiff. That during the year of 1924 the Defendant transmitted disease to the Plaintiff knowingly and with intention to injure Plaintiff; that the aforesaid treatment was such cruel and inhuman treatment t__s endanger the Plaintiff's life and is in fact, breaking down his health and endangering his life.
Par. 9 That the defendant is now a non resident of the State of Iowa. That her last known residence was Chicago Illinois and that servic
e of notice cannot be had upon her within the State of Iowa at this time.
Wherefore, Plaintiff _ra_s that he may be granted an absolute divorce from the Defendant and for the costs of this action."

[Addendum to this file] - DISMISSAL. Comes now the plaintiff and dismisses the above and foregoing action because of the death of the defendant which occured about the time of the commencement of this action. Dated at Fort Dodge, Iowa this 11th day of May 1926"

1930 Census - Lewistown borough, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania
John E. Findly, step-son, with mother named Estella A. (aged 36 - born 1894 in ) Maryland. John E. is a single, white 16-year-old, born in Pennsylvania. Probably not the same John E.
[This can not not be THE Estella A. Findley--she died February 8, 1926

Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930
On 4 March 1931 John Findley married Sophie Bruba


Chicago, Cook County, Illinois Death Certificate
John Findley of 2858 West Pershing Road, Chicago, Illinois died June 4, 1945. His social security number was 326-12-8606. He was a married "WHITE" male married to "SOPHIE" aged 36. He is a veteran of the Spanish-American War and born in Carrolton, Missouri. He was a laborer for the City of Chicago and about 71 years old. He died of benign prostatic hypertrophy.



Arlington Cemetery, Elmhurst, Illinois Record of Interments
10988 Name: Findley, John Last Residence: Cook County Hospital Age: 71 Sex: M Social State: W Date of Death: 6/4/45 Date of Interment: 6/7/45 Place of Interment: Sec. 11 Lot. 345 Location: #2 Grave Fee: 6 x 6 Undertaker: J.T. Kelly Nearest Relative: Sophie Findley, wife
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1893 Official Catalogue World's Columbian Exposition
* Imperial Bicycle Works - "Ames and Frost, Co., Chicago. Bicycles Makers of "Imperial" bicycles, strictly high grade and guaranteed, and jobbers in bicycles and sundries. General officies 302-4 Wabash Ave. Works, Blackhawk St. and Cherry Av., Chicago

neat Imperial bicycle poster







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