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Sloan Danenhower

Slone Danenhower in 1931
Slone Danenhower in 1931

Sloan Danenhower was born January 26, 1885 in Oswego, NY to John Wilson Danenhower (1849 – 1887) and mother Helen Lafin Sloan 1857 – 1915. The Sloan family is well known in New York in the manufacturing world and other industries.

His father was a Lieutenant in the USN and navigator of the U.S.S. Jeannette during a the Delong Polar expedition of 1879. His father contracted an eye infection while the ship was trapped in the ice. The Jeannette was finally crushed and sank in 1881 but all hands took to the boats and made it to the Siberian coast and back to the US.

His father was later given command of USS Constellation and soon after ran her around leaving Hampton Roads. He was transferred back to the Naval Academy but the grounding disturbed him so that he, on April 20, 1887, brooding over this incident, committed suicide. This left his mother to raise young Sloan and his sister Ruth.

He received his schooling in private schools and it is recorded in the news papers in 1899 that he was the member of an organization called the Twentieth Century Club and he attended a club picnic in August, 1899.

In 1902, two members of the New York delegation to congress. Sherman and Knapp, spoke to president Teddy Roosevelt about getting him appointed to the Naval Academy.

In May 1903 he received an appointment at large from Roosevelt to enter the Naval Academy. But it seems he hit a snag almost at once. Taking his physical on May 22, 1903 it was noted that he had a deficiency in hearing in both ears and was rejected. But he was retested on June 2, 1903 and passed his entry to the Academy.

During his first year there he seems to have had a problem with housekeeping and laundry. Turning off lights was an issue also. The rest of his years seem to be a mixture of, uniform issues, talking and being late to meals or formation. Not unlike other midshipmen as they are taught the discipline of the Navy.

During his Academy years he had a number of nicknames; 'Captain Dan'; 'Dan'; 'Dutch'; 'Pretzel' and 'The Flying Dutchman'. He had a reputation for fashion and the unusual and to others he seemed uncertain of the advantages of the Navy life over being a civilian.

His senior year he was the editor of the academy 'Lucky Bag' book and also the captain of the shooting team.

It seems Midshipmen are given a months leave after their last summer cruise before finishing up the academy. He spent it, with two other classmen in his hometown of Oswego, NY. He graduated in February 1907.

In July of 1907 he spends some time in Auburn NY at the home of Mr and Mrs. Alonso G. Beardsley, jr, we suppose to visit with the daughter, Edith Beardsley to whom he has become engaged.

After graduation he was posted to the battleship USS Kansas just in time for the Great White Fleet cruise around the world. On November 5, 1907, before the cruise started, he married Ethel B Beardsley, 1882 – 1918 , at her family home in Oswego, NY. She was 3 years his senior.

As the fleet sailed around the world some wives of a number of the officers sailed to Europe and met their husbands at Gibraltar and sailed on the steamer SS Konigin Luise of the North German Line with the fleet to New Jersey. Edith Danenhower was among those wives.

In the 1910 US Census he shows up as being attached to the Submarine Tender USS Castine. A second census sheet shows he is the commanding officer of the submarine USS Bonita.

On July 11, 1910, Danenhower, as the commanding officer of the submarine Bonita he was operating off Provencetown, Mass with other submarines of the third division and the tender Castine, brought his submarine up to surface and he happened to have been directly under the Castine. The Bonita raked her whole length across the Castines bottom and holing her in her dynamo room. Castine began taking on water and it was feared the boilers would be put out. Lieut. Ralph A Koch Castine's commanding officer got her under way and ran her up on the beach. It happened that several members of the Castine crew were swimming alongside and quickly reboarded the ship.

The other submarines of the division, Grayling, Narwhal, Snapper, Stingray and Tarpon, were unaware of what happened for several hours. Bonita suffered some denting and a loss of some of her railing. On the 13th the Castine was moved into Provencetown harbor and temporary repairs were made and she proceeded to Charlestown Navy Yard for complete repairs.

In 1910, the Danenhowers' gave birth to a son, John Danenhower.

Late in 1911 Danenhower for unknown reasons submitted application to resign his commission. Orders were issued to that effect on November 28, 1911. He had been on leave for several months prior to the resignation. He and his wife had purchased a farm on Owesco Lake near Auburn, NY, his wife's hometown.

In December 1912 Danenhower bought a schooner, the Water Witch. It isn't clear for what purpose but he was interested in salvage work and this may have been a means to that end.

In 1913 the second child born into the Danenhower family was a little girl, Doris.

The 1915 New York census has him listed as the President of a Painting Company. They are living with 3 women servants, all the women were German born.

His mother Helen Lafin Sloan Danenhower dies and Sloan is the executor of the estate which is quite extensive. Well over I million dollars. He and his sister Ruth are left trust funds in the neighborhood of $300,000 each for their use and their families.

In 1915 he seems to have started a company along with some of his Sloan side of the family called Sloan, Danenhower & Company. The 'company' purchased a steamer built in 1885 named the Ramos and rumored to have had it refitted as a 'submarine mothership'. This happened about the time that Charles M. Schwab seemed to be forwarding submarine parts to Canada for assembly there somewhere along the St. Lawrence river. Some of the men working aboard the Ramos assert she is helping to test Schwab submarines.

The Ramos owners say that the ship is being chartered by the 'Canadian Salvage Company' which has mysterious owners in Montreal.

Our speculations are that the two submarines bought from Seattle Construction and Dry Dock on the eve of WW I by the Premier of British Columbia out of provincial funds without consent of the Canadian Federal Government. These vessels were ordered to the Canadian east coast for use in the Atlantic. They had had a long and arduous trip from Victoria, British Columbia and were probably in need of many spare parts unavailable from anyplace but the US. This is a possible reason for Danenhower's company and the ship. Returning from Canada in 1916 the Ramos reported flooding during a storm and nothing more was heard from her.

In early 1917 he and a Sidney Kent Becker form a company called 'The Standard Oil Engine Company' which was run by Becker during the war. It made mostly salvage equipment for the Navy. They also invented a portable 60 inch searchlight that was eventually adopted for antiaircraft work. The company apparently went out of business after the war and Becker went back to his old company.

In September of 1917 he is recalled to active service and sent to the Machinery Division at the New York Navy Yard. In may of 1918 he is detached from the Navy Yard and given command of the USS Favorite (SP-1385) an 800 ton sea going tug. The Favorite arrived at Brest, France, in August 1918 and was used to search for sunken ships and lost material, as well as to salvage and assist grounded ships. As a result of this command Danenhower is awarded the Navy Cross;

'Awarded for actions during the World War I The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Sloan Danenhower, United States Navy (Reserve Force), for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Wreck Master on board the salvage vessel, U.S.S. FAVORITE, in which capacity Lieutenant Danenhower performed exceptionally valuable and meritorious service especially in the salvage of the S.S. WESTWARD HO, U.S.S. WESTBRIDGE, U.S.S. MOUNT VERNON, U.S.S. CONNER, and U.S.S. MURRAY, during World War I. Action Date: World War I Service: Navy Rank: Lieutenant Division: U.S.S. Favorite'

While he is at sea off France his wife Edith is taken ill with the Spanish Flu and dies on December 8, 1918. She is buried at Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York, Plot: Mount Vernon Lot 6 Grave 7. The children, John and Doris and taken in by family.

On his return from Europe he is aboard the SS Northern Pacific which runs aground on New Years Day 1919 on Block Island and is the focus of a massive rescue effort. The Northern Pacific is returning wounded and sick US servicemen as well as the bodies of the US servicemen who died in WW I.

In July of 1919 he is staying with his former in-laws after he is released from the navy.

On October 8, 1919 he applies for a 6 month passport to go to Haiti and Santa Domingo for salvage work.

The 1920 US Census shows him as a widow and head of household with his two children and two servants.

On February 10, 1921 he marries Margaret W Lewis and they are living at 1 Maryland Ave. Rosebank, Staten Island NY. She is 4 years younger than Sloan and is originally from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

In May 1921 they travel to the Bahamas for week, possibly for a honeymoon aboard the SS Esperanza. They take the same trip the next year and in June Sloan travels to the Bahamas on his own and returns a week later. He is still doing salvage work a he may be traveling for business. In 1922 he sold a piece of property to his former sister-in-law, Agnes Beardsley.

In 1923 he obtains a passport to travel to Spain, Great Britain, France and Germany. He spends most of the year 1923 traveling aboard the SS Fort St. George back and forth to Hamilton, Bermuda, presumably for work in the salvage business though he lists his occupation on his passport as an 'Engineer'. He is also noted as being the 'President of the Bahamas Salvage Company'. With all thre shoals and reefs in Bahamian waters his services must have been in demand.

In April 1926 both Sloan and Margaret are found on a passenger list for the SS Munargo. They are now living at 2 East 45th Street, New York City.

In 1929 he is hired as an Engineer and Salvage expert by the Lake Torpedo Boat company trying to develop means to save men trapped aboard sunk submarines. Lake has resurrected and overhauled his 26 year old submarine Defender and they are trying develop the Defender into a rescue vessel that would operate much like todays DSRV's.

Danenhower is a bit of a volatile personality and had taken up a feud with navy Lieutenant-Commander Palmer H. Dunbar who commanded the surface detail they were operating with since under his command an airline in use was cut by one of his crew while workers were under water. The accusation was that a Navy crew member wanted the trials postponed until warmer weather.

The 1930 census has them still living in New York City. The children are not seen as living in the household.

By 1930 he has begun being involved with Sir Hubert Wilkins the explorer. He has devised a plan to take a submarine under the polar ice to the North Pole and do Arctic science. Wilkins recruited Lincoln Ellsworth of arctic exploration fame. Ellsworth lent his name to the project but didn't participate. The endeavor was partly financed by William Randolph Hearst, attempted to reach the North Pole with a leased U.S. Navy submarine named Nautilus (formerly the USS O-12).

The Nautilus was modified for under ice operations by submarine designer Simon Lake so it could detect openings (or, if necessary, drill them) in the ice pack and surface to recharge her batteries. While the expedition was a failure, the Nautilus did reach a latitude of 82 degrees north - the farthest north a vessel had ever been. In accordance with the lease agreement, the Nautilus was scuttled after the expedition to prevent her reuse as a warship. Danenhower was to be the Captain and Navigator for the trip.

In December 1930 he is seen on a passenger list returning from Plymouth, England.

In February 1931 Danenhower is experimenting with Helium and Oxygen mixtures for diving. He expresses the opinion that the mixture will be successful for extended diving and help with the 'bends' that divers experience from this.

By May of 1931 he seems to have gotten himself into another legal bind and is being sued by the Lily White Laundry Company in New York in the New York Supreme Court. We have not been able to find anything about this suit or the company for its outcome.

Tests on the reconstructed Nautilus were done in fresh waters off of Poughkeepeie, NY. Just before the trials were to begin 5 stowaways were ejected from the submarine. After the fresh water trials the submarine proceeded on to New London for additional work.

Danenhower took his clothing in his great grandfathers chest that had also been used by his father on his arctic exploration.

The Nautilus, (O-12) was an old submarine and despite all the work it turned out she still had lingering problems. On the trip to England she broke down and had to be towed by an English warship to Portsmouth and laid up in dry dock there for repairs. A Number of crew left the submarine at that time. Replacements were recruited and the trip north begun. The seas were rough and Danenhower was slightly injured as the screen at the front of the bridge was washed away.

Finally after reaching the edge of the ice and doing various experiments and research projects it was becoming difficult to control the submarine. It was finally realized that the stern planes were broken and couldn't be repaired. The expedition was abandoned and the Nautilus was scuttled off Norway in 1400 feet of water. She was discovered a number of years ago by accident and appears to be in good condition due to the cold water and large amount of fresh water in the area.

There is much online about this expedition if you want more detail.

From the limited documentation of this time it is mentioned that the Danenhowers' are now living in Paris in 1932 and an accounting of his grandmothers and mothers estate is now being demanded by other members of the family. This came about as the result of a $200,000 claim presented by Margret Danenhower. It was rejected but referred to Surrogate's Court where is was again rejected and dismissed since Sloan and Margaret were out of he country and failed to show for the proceedings. This is only the first a number of legal whoas to befall Danenhower.

He is also still talking about the polar trip he has just made and the design the next submarine must have. He believed that the next trip to make the pole would be in about two years and would probably be successful.

There is a December 1933 to January 1934 sailing list for the ship SS Wisconsin that shows Sloan, Margret and 21 year old daughter Doris sailing from LeHarve, France to the Port of Seattle. Their addresses all indicated all living in Paris.

By September 1934 the family has moved back to the US and are living in Old Lyme, Connecticut aboard an old light ship he has converted into a home with all the latest conveniences including hard wood floors and a fireplace. This was in response to their return and being so shocked at the cost of a place to live compared to living in Paris. They also enjoyed the convenience of being able to travel by just upping anchor and and motoring away.

By 1938 his son John graduates from the naval Academy and marries in 1939.

Sloan has had another legal squabble about the family monies and estate in 1940 and by 1944 it has boiled over into a full blown court action brought by his son John and on the behalf of his sister Doris and members of the Sloan family. By late 1944 he has resigned as executor of the estate and fined $296,000 the some of the estate he had received but there is only $80,000 left and that is to be distributed.

It seems these troubles and others resulted in the divorce from wife Margret. In 1944 he marries former Ziegfeld Follies beauty, Eunice Holmes who is close to half his age. She is to die a mysterious death in 1949. Sloan is not implicated. The couple had not been feeling well and had been sleeping apart in early August 1949. He awoke to find her on the couch in the living room. Danenhower was 64 years old and his late wife was 39.

He seems to have been fairly invisible after this. He was recalled into the navy in WW II but in what capacity isn't readily know at this time. He continued to live on his old lightship in Old Lyme until health forced him into a convalescent hospital for many years in Old Saybrook. He died November 1, 1967 at the convalescent hospital at 82 years of age.

Sloan Danenhower was buried at sea, specifically: He was buried at sea from the atomic submarine, USS Skate SSN 578.

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