Davis - Bailey

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:07

Family was color on a white canvas MILFORD - Milton Bailey was black and the last of four generations of his family living in Milford. Serving in the U.S. Army, First Sergeant Bailey fell missing during the Korean War. His body was never identified and he was declared dead in January of 1955, one of two Pike County soldiers to die in the conflict. Fifty years ago this month, Milford VFW and American Legion units sponsored a memorial service for Bailey. Their flags flanked an American flag at the altar of the Methodist Church. A newspaper account described the altar as “draped in white ... with a spray of white carnations.” That account, along with other family memoribilia is part of a new exhibit formally opening Feb. 10 at “The Columns,” the museum of the Pike County Historical Society. Honored in death 50 years ago by borough neighbors, the same Milton Bailey fled from a Milford “posse” some 10 years earlier. Museum Director Lori Strelecki retold the story that came from the Santos family. In those days, the Llama Ranch on Foster Hill Road was part of the Santos family farms and Milton worked there. There had been a theft in town and Milton went to the Santos’ explaining that he had to “pack his bags and leave,” because he was the “only young black boy around and they would be after him.” He was right. Not long after Milton left for Stroudsburg, a “posse” of “scruffy looking guys,” came looking the black boy. The Santos’ told them he’d left, “headed for Port Jervis,” the opposite direction. The thief was eventually found and arrested and Bailey found it safe to return to the town where his mother Beatrice and grandmother Phebe still lived. While racism was prevalent in America, the Baileys had friends and a solid reputation with their Milford neighbors. Ed Almquist, founder of the Sparkomatic Corporation, which is today Altec-Lansing, wrote of them. “I remember both his mother Beatrice and grandmother Phebe as hardworking women who were held in high regard by everyone in Milford....It is very fitting that the Historical Society ...honor Milton and his family in its upcoming exhibit.” War took the last Bailey and war brought his grandfather Abraham Davis to Milford. A Civil War veteran, Davis purchased the family home on West High Street with his pension money and moved there with his wife Sarah. Their daughter Phebe Bailey returned home from New Jersey to care for here mother in her declining years. Her garden seemed to provide flowers for all in Milford. Her daughter and Milton’s mother, Beatrice was at home behind a wheel. Known as “Buckshot,” she drove a delivery truck, a cab and taught older people to drive. Beatrice outlived her son and her mother. When she passed away, with no family remaining, dozens of photos, letters, documents and Milfton’s service medals in the attic came to the historical society, Strelecki said. “It’s rare to have so much information about any old family in town and even more so because they were a black family,” she said. Strelecki is hoping that publicity about the exhibit might reveal some remaining family members. Recent DNA technology has identified previously unidentified Korean War dead. “If we can find a family member, they may be able to identify Milton from that person’s DNA,” she said. The reception for the opening begins at 6 p.m. on Friday and will feature several speakers including Karen James, manager of the Underground Railroad Initiative for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, Sarah Ducksworth, PhD in African American Studies, and Sherman Wooden, project director of “The Place I Call Home” Center for Anti-Slavery Studies and member of the Governors Commission on African American Affairs. For more information call 570-296-8126.