'Mac' Young standing with a Chinese officer of the Trail Guard, Chap Ser, Outer Mongolia
As recounted in "This Business Of Exploring" by Roy Chapman Andrews. 1935.
[After being robbed in Seattle] "Mac was hungry, his head ached like the devil, his spirits were far, far below zero. He passed a Marine Corps recruiting station "Join the Marines and see the world." "Well," thought Mac, "I can always go back to the army." "What's your experience?" asked the recruiting officer. "Four years of the war. Big guns. Six-inch howitzers." "Sure, we want you." "What post is farthest from the U. S. A.?" asked Mac. "Peking, China, the Legation Guard." "All right. I'll join if you send me there. But you've got to promise. China for me." So as an enlisted man for three years Mac joined the U. S. Marine Corps. But he didn't get to China at once. A station on the Pacific coast, training men to handle artillery, was where he landed first. As usual, he was too valuable; they didn't want to let him go. But Mac held them to their promise and one brilliant day in autumn he arrived in Peking. Colonel (later Gen- eral) Hal Dunlap was in command. Hal was one of my most intimate friends. We shared a temple together, which rejoiced in the name of "The Temple of the High Spirited Insects." Colonel Dunlap soon discovered that Mac was an expert motor mechanic, promoted him to Corporal and put him in charge of all the Legation Guard automobiles and trucks. I saw Mac often at the Insects temple. I needed a man to take charge of our cars on the second expedition to the Gobi Desert. Colonel Dun- lap suggested Mac as I hoped he would. We got him assigned on detached duty to the Expedition and thus began our friendship."
One would think that Mac kept his family informed of his comings and goings. From what I have read, his parents were good people, and well liked by their community. Yet, it appears that Mac did not tell his parents where he was, as is evident by this article from the Jefferson County Journal, Weds. January 2, 1924.
Having worked with the media myself, I know that they are sometimes prone to muddying a story by getting the facts wrong, or by conflating facts; thus the reference to working for the government and the American Museum. Or, was Mac given to telling tall tales on a regular basis?
What prompted Mac to suddenly get in contact with his parents? A search of my collection reveals that in the January 1924 issue of Asia Magazine, in the article by Roy Chapman Andrews "Where The Dinosaur Hid Its Eggs" is a large group portrait of the expedition crew. J. McKenzie Young is dead center, and is clearly named in the caption.
I have no idea if Young's parents read Asia Magazine. It was a well written, wholesome publication that had a large circulation in the 1920's. If Mac's parents would not have seen it, likely one of his Father's congregation would have. In addition, having returned from Mongolia, Roy Chapman Andrews would be giving public lectures to raise funds, lectures that included lantern slides and film.
Certainly, if Mac intended some level of anonymity by going to China, it was not going to last long.
In an article published after his death, September 4, 1931, in the Humboldt Standard, Eureka California, Mac's Father, a Presbyterian Minister remember, provides some information to the reporter:
"Mr. Young was born in Toronto and served in the Canadian Army during the World War. Afterward he joined the Northwest Mounted Police. Later he was sent to Texas by an Oil company and there he joined the United States Secret Service and was sent to China."
Is this possibly the 'government' referred to in the earlier article? A fellow enthusiast, Don Arp Jr., contacted me some years back and we exchanged letters and e-mails regarding Mac Young's mysterious Suicide/Death. Don did some investigating into the 'Secret Service' story and found that each state once had a Secret Service, but New York and Texas had no records of Mac Young. Nor did the Secret Service who we all associate with dark sunglasses, ear pieces, and protecting the American Presidents.
An interesting sidelight to my search of Newspapers involved the incident when Mac froze his hands driving in Mongolia and had to have the ends of some fingers amputated due to severe frostbite.
"As a result of this incident Young became the first explorer ever to receive an award from the Labour Department under the compensation Act in this state [New York]"
A likely event, but again, not something I have been able to substantiate.
An endorsement for the Exide Battery. Fulton Patriot, October 30, 1929
1930 was the last year that key expedition members would be together on an expedition into the Gobi. While Andrews tried to negotiate new terms with Chinese authorities, the museum staff members were sent back to New York, while contract staff such as John McKenzie Young were let go.
Andrews was not about to turn his back on Mac Young, and wrote to several potential employers on Mac's behalf, recommending him as an excellent worker and all round reliable under the most trying of conditions.
I have in my collection an original letter that Mac wrote to Andrews on November 25th, 1929, prior to the last expedition of 1930. The return address is in Chelsea, London, England, an exclusive neighborhood even today. In thanking Andrews for a copy of his recent book Ends of the Earth [published September 1929] Mac writes that his own book was due for publication in January.
I have found no record of anything authored and published by Young. I expect that Andrews would have mentioned it in one of the biographies he wrote about Mac Young.
At the time, Mac was living?, involved with? a woman named Violet. No last name given, and although he refers to they did this, and they visited so and so, he mentions her by name only once. I have encountered no other mention of Violet in over thirty years of collecting and research.