Allan Gridley Upson was born July 17, 1887. Allan was the son of Frank and Hattie Holcomb Upson, the grandson of Civil War Captain Andrew S. Upson (1825-1864), and brother to Leila Upson Barnes, wife of Bradley H. Barnes who she married in 1911. Allan attended local schools, the University of Maryland, and for a time worked at his father’s grocery store in downtown Southington. In 1911 local newspapers reported that Allan left the employment of his uncle at the grocery and began working as a traveling salesman for the New York-based gas engine company Fairbanks & Co.; not too long thereafter Allan left the industry altogether. Allan served in the United States Army from 1912-1929 training in Washington D.C. and Ft. Leavenworth, Texas. He was later stationed in Manila during the Philippine-American Conflict and in France during the first World War.
On February 17, 1912, a 25-year-old Allan wrote to his brother-in-law Bradley Barnes from a municipal lodging house in Washington D.C. asking for a loan so he could afford a train ticket back home. In his first letter to Bradley on February 17th Allan writes:
“I hate like the deuce to ask you for anything but I have traveled from Philly than to Charleston West Virginia looking for work and cannot find anything to do so would like to get home. I am absolutely down and out have not had a thing in the line of money for over two months and I am sick of riding freight trains from town to town. Especially up toward the north they are watching them pretty close and arresting everybody they possibly can get a hold of…”
While it is unclear what happened in the time spanning Allan’s letter to Bradley and his enlistment, records indicate that on August 9, 1912, Allan G. Upson enlisted with the U.S. Army in Washington D.C. Allan served as Private First Class of the Hospital Corps in the Philippines from 1912-15 and was assigned as an assistant dental surgeon. The photographs found in The Barnes Museum archives depict what Allan experienced during his time in the Philippines and are notable in recording a period in American history highly criticized by its contemporaries. Mark Twain wrote in the New York Herald on October 15, 1900:
“I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. . .It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
1898 American Milk Glass Eagle Hen on Nest Spanish American War Commemorative. The Three Eggs recognize Peurto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. Banner across the front reads: “The American Hen”. The Barnes Museum.
America’s first overseas war was the Philippine-American War, an armed conflict between the First Philippine Republic and the United States that lasted from 1899 to 1902 and was the result of the culmination of the Spanish American War. The United States' interest in the Spanish American War was to assist Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines in gaining their freedom from Spanish colonial rule. The Spanish American War ended with the Treaty of Paris in December 1898. In the treaty, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for approximately twenty million dollars. Infuriated by the lack of independence promised to them the Philippines declared themselves independent in January 1899 and rejected recognizing the Treaty of Paris.
This tension resulted in the first battle in a string of battles spanning two decades. The 1899 Battle of Manila began on February 4, 1899, and on June 2 the Philippine Republic officially declared war against the United States. Shortly thereafter the President of the Philippine Republic was captured, the United States declared victory on July 2, 1902. Theodore Roosevelt who had fought in Cuba during the Spanish American War assumed the presidency in 1901 and believed that the Philippines was not capable of self-governance. Roosevelt also believed that the Philippine Islands were an advantageous navy fueling station and an important outpost for the American military in Southeast Asia.
Though the U.S. declared victory, the battles were far from being over. Groups of Philippine fighters continued to battle the U.S. forces occupying the Philippines. By the time Allan Upson arrived in the Philippines in 1912 troops there had been fighting for nearly a decade in what is described today as the Moro Rebellion. The Moro people lived in the southern Philippines and had been amongst the first to resist U.S. troops during the initial takeover of the Philippines in 1899. The conflict came to an end when the last military governor of the Philippines John J. Pershing declared disarmament of the Moro Province on June 15, 1913. Two years later to the date, Allan Upson traveled on the transport shop Thomas from Manila back home to the United States, docking in San Francisco. Below are photographs taken by Allan during his time serving in the Philippines.
Less than two years later at the age of 29, Allan filled out his draft enlistment card for the impending World Ward. He noted on his draft card three years of service he gave the U.S. Hospital Corps in the Philippines. At the time he was living at the Upson family homestead located at 101 North Main Street in Southington. His occupation listed as Bookkeeper at the Atwater Manufacturing Company, the same company his brother-in-law Bradley Barnes oversaw as Vice President. On June 22, 1917, Allan married Rosalyn Taylor (1888-1970) of Southington. Shortly thereafter in September 1917, Allan departed Southington for training at Camp Devens in the rural section of Worcester and Middlesex counties in Massachusetts. Allan G. Upson served with the 76th Infantry Division, 152nd Infantry Brigade in the 303rd Machine Gun Battalion.
In June of 1917, the first American troops arrived in France through several major port cities in the country. The port of Brest became a crucial entry port for American forces with more than 700,000 men entering there to head to the front lines. Nearly one year after entering training at Camp Devens, on June 28, 1918, Allan departed from New York, NY on the ship Justicia for Brest, France. Much of his time there was spent relieving those on the front lines. Depictions from his time in France can be seen in photographs and manuscripts documenting his training and combat there. Approximately a year after his arrival, Allan departed France on June 29, 1919, and on July 5, 1919, he arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey. Below are photos taken during his time serving in France and detail what military life was like in France during WWI.
Though Allan’s military career had spanned several continents and extreme periods in U.S. military history, he remained active in the Army Reserves until 1929 when he was honorably discharged. Following his return, he continued working with the Atwater Manufacturing Company as an accountant. He and his wife Rosaline owned a home on Oakland Road in Southington and later spent their retirement at their summer residence in Miami, Florida.
Allan passed in 1952 just months before his sister Leila Upson Barnes. Allan was 65 and passed away at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Newington, Connecticut. He was an active member of the Southington community and was involved with the Congregational Church, the American Legion, Friendship Lodge No. 33, A.F. & A.M, and Eureka Lodge No. 75 IOOF. To learn more about the life and legacy of the Upson family schedule your visit with The Barnes Museum today!