Monday, November 13, 2017

Lowell in World War One - Draft Registration Cards

I had the honor to present a talk at the Pollard Memorial Library Sunday on the 99th anniversary of the Armistice on behalf of the Lowell Historical Society. We had a great turnout of about 52 people. I thank everyone that attended.

During the question and answer period there was a lot of discussion about the draft that was instituted. The Selective Service Act was passed on May 18, 1917. The first registration was for men between the ages of 21 and 31. The second  included those who became 21 after June 5, 1917 and a third registration for men age 18 to 45. Walter Hickey helped clarify this. Thanks Water!

During this time in the United States, African Americans were segregated in the armed forces. During the draft their race was noted and the bottom corner of the draft card was torn off to identify them as African American. Thanks for noting that Brian Liston!

Another of the participants at the talk suggested that perhaps one of the Lew descendants registered for the draft. Thank you for suggesting that Thomas Malone!

I found Gerard Nelson Lew's draft registration while he was living in Carney's Point, New Jersey working as a munition worker.  Note the torn off corner. During WW1 he was a war worker for the YMCA. His is a first registration draft card.
Gerard Nelson Lew Draft Card
Gerard N. Lew YMCA Service Card 1917-1919

During the war he worked for the YMCA ending up in Washington DC. He later moved to Chicago and was a postal worker.  He was one of the co-founders of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. He died in 1965.

I also found his brother Harry (Bucky) Lew's draft registration card. The third registration period did not have the cut off on the bottom to denote African American. I don't believe he served in the Great War.
Harry Lew Draft Registration Card
Draft registration cards are extremely useful in genealogy research. You can find them on for no cost.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Remembering Sgt Fred Brierley - B.E.F.

On November 18, 1881 Fred Brierley was born in Lowell, MA to Josiah and Sophia (Spencer) Brierley. He was the only one of their children that was born here. The family lived at 43 North Street in the Back Central neighborhood. Sometime between 1883 and 1884 the family moved back to England. Life in America was short.

1884 Lowell Directory

Fred grew up in Oldham near Manchester England. He married but I haven't been able to find if he had children or not. He enlisted it the 6th Bn. Royal Scots Fusilers at Manchester England. He was killed in action on September 26, 1915 in France but his body was not recovered. He was 33 years old.

He is listed on the memorial panels at the Loos Memorial in Calais, France. He is also listed in the Gold Star record of Massachusetts.

We remember this Lowell born soldier as the first from Lowell to die in the Great War. You are not forgotten.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Remembering Corp. Oliver Moulton Chadwick - Shot Down August 14, 1917

Oliver Moulton Chadwick was born in Lowell on September 23, 1888 to Austin Kilham Chadwick and Julia May (Moulton) Chadwick. His father was the President of the Lowell 5 Savings Bank. Oliver went to Lowell schools and then, as was family tradition, he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1907. He graduated from Harvard College 1911, where he was a star athlete and Harvard Law School in 1914. He was employed by Stone & Webster in Boston. He lived at the corner of Nesmith and Oak Streets in Belvidere with his parents.
Phillips Exeter Academy - Class of 1907 Yearbook
He was eager to join the war in France. He tried to join the Canadian Army but was unable to as a U.S. citizen. He signed himself up at his own expense at Curtiss Flying School in Newport News, VA and traveled to France where he enlisted January 17, 1917 in the Lafayette Flying Corps, French Army N.73 Groupe de Combat 12.

World War One was the first war that used aircraft for combat. The planes were open cockpit with no armor. A combat pilot had an average life expectancy of 40 to 60 hours airtime before being killed. Oliver was deemed to be one of the most skilled in his unit.

He was shot down by a German fighter pilot in Belgium near the front line on August 14, 1917 while on patrol. He was twenty nine years old. He was survived by his parents and his sister, Frances who married his Harvard roommate, James B. Long. He was also a cousin of Congressman John Jacobs Rogers.
Source: Library of Congress
The Germans recovered his body between the French and German lines near his plane (SPAD), probably searched it for intelligence and he was buried there near Bixschoote, Belgium. His grave was marked by his friend and fellow flyer Charles J. Biddle.  Charles Biddle would survive the war and dedicate his book, "The Way of the Eagle",  to his friend Oliver. He lay in that grave alone until 1928 when he was moved to the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery that his family contributed money to have the monument built and were present at the dedication.
ABMC photo
 Sarcophagi for Oliver Moulton Chadwick at Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery in France

Listing on the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial in Marnes-la-Coquette, France

He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with silver star June 7, 1919, also awarded war medal by Aero Club of America in recognition of valor and distinguished service January 1918, Camp Chadwick, a Boy Scout camp in Dunstable was named for him and a centotaph in the Exeter Cemetery in Exeter, NH. Camp Wah-Tut-Ca in Northwood, NH also has remembrances of him. His papers are held with the Exeter, NH Historical Society.

Please remember this brave airman who gave it all. Lowell thanks you.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Honor Roll in Tewksbury in WW1

There is a memorial in Tewksbury center for the lives lost in WW1, WWII and the Korean War. It lists three names from Tewksbury in the Great War. It was dedicated June 1, 1948. The following details the lives of these three men.
Wikimedia common image

1st Lieutenant Dexter Edward Bailey

Dexter was born in West Andover on March 29, 1890 to Edward Webster Bailey and Martha A. (Miller) Bailey.  His father was one of the first rural mail carriers for the Lowell Post Office. His grandfather was a civil war veteran from the 13th Vermont Infantry. His great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War.
Massachusetts Agricultural College Yearbook 1906
His family lived at 1563 Andover Street in Tewksbury. He graduated from Lowell High School in 1906 and was awarded the Carney Medal. He went on to graduate from the Massachusetts Agriculture School (UMASS Amherst) in 1910 and was a member of the ROTC. He was a dairy chemist at Iowa State College and joined the service from Iowa. He was assigned to the Sanitary Corps on March 4, 1918 and stationed at Camp Greenleaf and Camp Bowie in Forth Worth, Texas.

He died December 2, 1918 at Fort Bowie in Texas from pneumonia at the age of 28. He left his wife, Grace Althea (Revelle) of South Dakota, his parents, his sister Clara Ellen Bailey and brother William Irving Bailey who owned the North Tewksbury Garage on Andover Street. His death certificates indicates his burial in Lowell.

A square at Andover and North Streets in Tewksbury is named in his honor.

Private Everett Earl Fulton
Everett was born June 13, 1899  in Littleton, MA son of James and Jennie (Lunergan) Fulton. He enlisted May 1, 1918 in R.A. Cavalry, unassigned. He died October 14, 1918 of influenza at Fort Bliss in Texas. Before the war Everett was employed in chemical works.

In the 1920 census the family was renting on Main Street in Tewksbury. He was survived by his large family, parents and brothers Harold, James, Robert, Walter, Claire (Guyette), Lottie (Gilchrist), Treva (Hartley) and Estelle (McLaughlin). The family stayed in the greater Lowell area. He is buried in the Tewksbury Center Cemetery.

A square at Main Street and Salem Road in Tewksbury is named in his honor.

Private Dennis Francis O'Connell

Dennis was born in Philadelphia, PA October 29, 1895. He grew up in Birchville, PA and registered for draft while he was living in Somerville, MA. He started his employment with Tewksbury State Hospital on November 17, 1917 and left to join the war effort on April 25, 1918. He was one of 75 employees of the 320 employees at the Tewksbury State Hospital to join the war effort. He worked at the men's hospital on night duty and lived there too.

Soldiers of the Great War, Volume 3
He was in the AEF 76th division. He died in France on April 28, 1919 of disease. I've seen him listed as a cook and as a member of the medical corps. He is buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Middletown, PA.
Although he was not a resident of Tewksbury very long he is remembered. A square at East and Chandler Streets in Tewksbury is named in his honor.

Corporal Gerald Rex Thomas Silk 

Although not on the monument in Tewksbury Center, Gerald Silk has a square named for him in Tewksbury. He was born July 25, 1893 in Tewksbury and he grew up at 1411 Andover Street in Tewksbury before moving to Lowell with his family. He was killed in action July 18, 1918 in Belleau Woods in France serving with the Yankee Division. His brother, Bruno Silk also serving died during the war and died of disease September 21, 1918. Bruno is buried in the Edson Cemetery in Lowell and Gerald is buried in the Aisne Marne Cemetery in France.

A square at Andover and Fiske Streets in Tewksbury is named in his honor. He also has a square in Lowell in his honor at Bridge & Hampshire Streets.

Thank you Tewksbury for your sacrifice during the Great War and we remember them.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Remembering Joseph Hebert - U.S. Navy Lost at Sea

Fireman Joseph Hebert serving on the U.S.S. Preston was lost overboard on June 15, 1917. The official U.S. Navy report (U.S. Navy Casualties Book - Drownings 1885-1939) is below:

"June 15, 1917

U.S.S. Preston

At about 8:40 a.m. while engaged in striking down coal on the decks to the bunkers of this vessel, the following men were washed overboard and drowned:
HEBERT, Joseph                                Fireman 2 class
WILLIAMS, Lewis Arthur                    Fireman 3 class

2 enlisted men"

Joseph Hebert was married to Blanche (St. Amand) living at 72 East Meadow Road in Lowell. They had a daughter Doris born in 1916 and a son Joseph born in 1918 after the sailor's death. In July of 1933, Mrs. Blanche Hebert made the journey overseas as part of the Gold Star Mother's Pilgrimage. She sailed out of New York on the USS President Harding. Mrs. Joseph Hebert died on May 18, 1977 leaving her two children, Joseph Hebert & Doris Martin and five grandchildren.

Please remember Joseph Hebert, his family and the sacrifice they all made.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Remembering Pvt. George W. Gravelle - Massachusetts Old 9th - Co. M

The Massachusetts National Guard Old 9th Regiment Company M was sent to Newburyport to guard the bridges on May 1st, 1917. They guarded Newburyport's bridges until July 1st when they were sent to Camp McGinnis in Framingham for training.

On July 1st, Pvt George W. Gravelle fell off a train in Newburyport and was killed. He was nineteen years old. He never made it to Framingham never mind France. Instead his body was returned to Lowell for his funeral.

He was born in Lowell on September 8, 1898 the youngest child of Charles and Lucy (Chabot) Gravelle. He was survived by five brothers, Joseph, Alfred, John, Arthur and William and three sisters, Rose Parks, Mabelle Whalley and Dorothy Welch. His mother died in 1914 and his father died in 1918. We worked as an apprentice iron moulder.

A military funeral took place at St. Jean Baptiste with Company M forming the honor guard. Burial was in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Chelmsford.

Please remember Pvt George Gravelle and his family's sacrifice.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Lost Civil War Trophy

After the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment's march through Baltimore on April 19, 1861, Col. Edward F. Jones took the remaining troops via railroad to Annapolis on their way to Washington, D.C. It was near Relay House on May 11, 1861 that they captured the Winans Steam Gun which was on it's way to the Confederates at Harper's Ferry. They were also able to ensure that it did actually work according to General Benjamin Butler.

Winans Steam Gun, Captured by Colonel Jones on way to Harper's Ferry

Photographed by Weaver for Harper's Weekly, May 25, 1861

Winans Steam Gun was a crude forerunner of a machine gun. It operated not by gunpowder but by steam. It was capable of shooting 100-500 iron balls per minute and shooting balls from 1 ounce to a 24 pound shot. It was made in Massachusetts and sent to Baltimore two years prior to the Civil War. Ross Winan, a Confederate sympathizer and a locomotive builder owned the steam gun. It was one of a kind. An interesting side note is that George Washington Whistler, the father of James McNeil Whistler, worked with him at the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and went to Russia with Winans' sons.

When the 90 days of service was completed for the Massachusetts Sixth they were allowed to take the gun back with them to Lowell as a war trophy. It was displayed at various military reunions at the fairgrounds on Gorham Street and was kept at the Merrimack Manufacturing Company's storehouse. It was owned by the Middlesex Mechanics Association. The Civil War veteran's loved it.

Around the time of the 50th anniversary of the march through Baltimore, the Lowell Sun published an article looking for information as to what happened to it. Several older citizens came forth with the information that it was demolished at R.H. Barker's plant on Middle Street by the Assistant Engineer of the Fire Department, Edward Meloy. They estimate this was sometime in the late 1880s to 1890s.

In 2007, Discovery Channel's Mythbusters tested if they could prove the gun  could kill. While not an exact replica it's pretty interesting to watch.

It was never used in the war as it was found to be impractical.  I wish they had saved it.