At the top of the “Buried Elsewhere” list is the name of Vernon Castle.
Castle was born in England in 1887. He and his wife Irene were a dance team, had been the toast of Broadway and East Coast society. They are credited with popularizing ballroom dancing with such dances as the foxtrot, turkey trot, and the Texas tommy. They literally wrote the book on modern dance (photo from Library of Congress).
Irene was also an actress and fashion trendsetter.
When World War I began, Vernon returned to England to become a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. He flew three hundred combat missions.
Then Castle was assigned to Canada to train pilots. Observers on the ground in Canada said they could always tell if a plane in the air was being flown by Castle because of the grace of the maneuvers. One aviation mechanic described Castle’s flying as “absolutely beautiful, like he was dancing in the air.”
Then Castle was promoted to captain and assigned to the United States—Carruthers Field in Benbrook—to train pilots. Carruthers Field (Wing 3 of Fort Worth’s Camp Taliaferro) was located roughly between Winscott Road and Benbrook Highway south of I-20. (That’s Castle’s pet monkey, Jeffrey. Photo from Library of Congress.)
Vernon Castle in a Jenny. (Photo from Library of Congress.)
In November 1917, just as Camp Taliaferro opened, local residents could see Vernon Castle in the air over Benbrook or Mrs. Castle on a screen downtown at Byers Opera House.
Local residents might also see Vernon Castle about town. While here he became popular in Fort Worth society and at the Army’s Camp Bowie. He played polo, he danced at benefits to aid the war effort.
Then, on February 15, 1918, Castle and a cadet went up in a Jenny over Benbrook. Castle’s Jenny crashed as he maneuvered to avoid a collision with a plane flown by an RFC cadet pilot. Castle’s plane was only seventy feet off the ground at the time. The cadet pilot in the other plane and the cadet pilot in Castle’s plane survived. Jeffrey the monkey also survived.
Castle’s death was the fifth flight fatality that week at the three airfields of Camp Taliaferro. (Photo from Library of Congress.)
Vernon Castle’s funeral was held in Manhattan’s Little Church Around the Corner. (Photo from Library of Congress.)
As the Greenwood monument states, Castle is “buried elsewhere”: in the Bronx, New York.
And in Benbrook, at the site of the crash (on a street named for him), stands a monument to the cloud dancer.