One day when I was visiting my mother in her Philadelphia home I actually did something other than lie about and eat her excellent cooking.  I sat my Mom down and went through most of the enormous number of family photos she saved. I labeled the photos of the people my mother could identify.  Even then there were an unfortunate number that couldn’t be identified, but my mother’s memory was amazing and a story came with each photo.  I was smart enough to write them down.

One of her stories was about her cousin Nathan Stein.  I never knew my grandmother or most of the Stein family, so I filed the picture and the story and pursued other genealogical interests.

A recent response to my post, Too Many Steins, made me go back and look at some of my notes.  I found this photo of Nathan Stein and my mother’s story about him.

Mom said that Nathan was her Uncle Joseph’s son and that he played in the Marine Band in Haiti.  She also said that Nathan had a picture of my mother painted by someone in Haiti.  I didn’t place much stock in this story.  As I’ve said before, my Russian Jewish immigrant family was not enthusiastic about military service.  As always, I should have listened to my mother.

My recent contact piqued my curiosity and I started to look for Nathan’s military records.  To my absolute delight Ancestry.com had the Marine muster rolls for 1798-1958.  If you had a relative in the Marines these muster rolls are pure gold.

Nathan enlisted in the Marines on June 3, 1924. I believe he was born in 1905, so he would have been 19 years old.  The muster roll for Battalion D of the Marine Barracks Training Station at Parris Island, South Carolina tells me that Nathan joined the Marines by enlisting at Parris Island.  This 19-year-old young man took himself 800 miles from Philadelphia to South Carolina to enlist. I assume there was a long train trip involved.

By August of 1924 Nathan had finished his training, qualified as a marksman and been transferred to the United States Marine Scoring Detachment in Quantico, Virginia. He remained in Quantico with brief detachments to Camp Perry in Ohio and on board the USS Dobbin until June of 1925.

In June 1925 Nathan was still at Quantico, but listed as “under instruction post band school.”  I wonder what the training involved.  I assume he already played an instrument, so he probably was learning to play it while marching. Although he remained with the band Nathan spent a few days in September of 1925 “under instruction Rifle Range” where he qualified as a sharpshooter. Apparently Nathan was handy with both a musical instrument and a rifle.

On October 19, 1925 Nathan boarded the USS Henderson.  He arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on October 24.  Why Haiti?  The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934.

USS Henderson 1925

If you want to know more about the U.S. involvement there you can read about in Wikipedia.

This is a photo of the marine Band in Haiti in 1915, a bit earlier than Nathan’s time.

Although the muster rolls have lots of detail, one detail that is consistently missing is any mention of what instrument Nathan played.  I assume it was a horn or a drum of some kind, but it would be nice to know.

Nathan was discharged from the Marines on March 8, 1928 in Haiti ” at OWN convenience”. His home address is listed as his parent’s home at 2560 Corlis Street in Philadelphia.  His character was recognized as excellent.  I would have thought that Nathan would have headed for home at the Marine’s expense after his discharge, but apparently he remained in Haiti for another 8 months.  He is listed as a passenger on the SS Cristobal on Nov. 2, 1927, arriving in New York on November 7.

What was Nathan doing for those 8 months in Haiti?  Perhaps he was having a picture of my mother painted.  I would love to see it.

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