Monday, May 23, 2016

The last of the World War One Veteran's in Greater Lowell

I've been researching World War One and Greater Lowell for quite a few years now. In 2011 Frank Buckles passed away and he was noted as being the last U.S. veteran of World War One. With the 100th anniversary coming up, I'm trying to determine who were the last surviving veterans of WW1 from Greater Lowell.

In 1993 the U.S. Veteran's Administration funded by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation awarded 75th anniversary medals to surviving veterans of World War One. It was estimated that only 1 percent of the veterans of this war were still alive. Nine thousand medals were awarded in total.

Photo credit:

Robert R. McCormick was the editor and the publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Col. McCormick was the Commander of 1st Battalion of the 5th Field Artillery of First Division in the U.S. Army during World War One. Colonel McCormick died in 1955 and his will funded the Tribune Foundation.

Photo credit:

Veteran's or their families had to prove their military service during World War One to the Veteran's Administration. The awards were presented to the following Greater Lowell veterans:

Demetrios "Jimmy" Banacos
Alphonse Brule
Merle Hamilton
Joseph Leo Rivet

If anyone knows of any other Greater Lowell veteran that was awarded this medal please let me know. Over the course of the week I will be giving information on each veteran about their life and their service.

We thank them and remember them.

History of American Legion Post 87

Most people in Lowell are familiar with the American Legion Post 87 at 684 Westford Street near Tyler Park. Let's talk a little history.

The American Legion was formed in 1919 right after World War One. American Legion Post 87 was formed on July 25, 1919 in the Community Hall located at the current site of the Club Diner on Dutton Street. It's first officers were: Walter Scannel, Commander; John O'Rourke, Sr. Vice Commander; Joseph T. Sullivan, Jr. Vice Commander; Eli B. Hart, Quartermaster; James F. McCready, Adjutant; Winifred C. MacBrayre, Historian; John Graves, Officer of the Guard; John King, Sentinel; James Brown, Insurance Officer. At first I thought the Historian was a female but it's a male.

In 1922, Post 87 had their quarters in the newly completed Lowell Memorial Auditorium. They became the largest Post in Massachusetts. Dues were three dollars a year. In June 1950 they purchased the Harry A. Thompson Estate, located at 684 Westford Street near Tyler Park in the Highlands section of Lowell. Harry Thompson was the treasurer of the Moxie Corporation for 40 years and the son of Augustus Thompson the inventor of MOXIE. Arthur Thompson sold all of his stock in 1943 thereby severing the Thompson family connection and the Lowell connection with MOXIE.
Massachusetts Cultural Heritage Inventory - Carriage House at 684 Westford Street

The post renovated the house and carriage house for their purposes until the house was destroyed by fire in 1963. At that time the post raised money and built the current facility that stands today. Not only does the American Legion support veterans it also supports the community in many ways. Please remember all the current and deceased members of American Legion Post 87 this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Google street view image captured 5/22/2016

I wonder if the bar serves Moxie?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The First Soldier From Lowell Killed in Action in France - Pvt. James W. McClellan

The first soldier from Lowell killed during World War One was Pvt. James William McClellan who was mortally wounded on April 6, 1916 and died the next day. He was 22 years old.

He was the son of Andrew and Sarah (McCann) McClellan of 32 Rock Street, Lowell, MA. He was born in Lowell on April 12, 1894. In the 1910 Federal Census, at age 16 his occupation was listed as trimmer in a shoe shop. He had attended St. Patrick's Boys' Academy.

He left for Toronto and enlisted in the 36th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on April 16, 1915. He first set sail for England. In the early part of February 1916 he was sent to France to fight. He received a fatal gunshot wound to the head on April 6, 1916 and died on April 7, 1916. His name is listed on the Doughboy memorial in the Acre.
 Courtsey of

He is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery in Nord Pas-de-Calais, France. He was survived by his parents, brothers George and Joseph and sisters Sarah and Mrs. Mary Gibbons.

Please remember James McClellan who left home to never return again. We will not forget.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Remembering Pearl Harbor - Pain & Joy

Seventy four years ago today, Lowell was preparing for Christmas and anxious about what was to come. Many Lowell men had signed up for service and over 200 were on the island of Oahu.

John Baples Lanouette from Centralville was the son of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Lanouette. He had seven brothers and 3 sisters. He was serving in the U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor.

On December 16th his father received the following telegram:
"Henry Lanouette, 263 West Sixth Street -
The navy department deeply regrets of inform you that your son, John Baples Lanouette, seaman first class U.S. Navy, was lost in action in the performance of his duty and  in the service of his country. This department extends to you its sincerest sympathy in your great loss. To prevent possible aid to enemies do not divulge the name of his ship or station. If remains are recovered they will be interred temporarily in the locality where death occurred and you will be notified.
Rear Admiral C.W. Nimitz, chief of the bureau of navigation"

Second telegram received Christmas morning.
"Henry Lanouette, 263 West Sixth street -
The navy department is pleased to advise you that a report has been received that your son, John Baptes Lanouette, seaman first class, U.S. navy, previously reported as lost in action, is now accounted for and in all probability he will communicate with you at his very first opportunity. The department regrets any unnecessary anxiety caused by its previous message.
Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, chief of the bureau of navigation"
What amazing news for the family! He stayed in the Navy until he retired in 1961. He married in 1944 and had 2 sons and 3 daughters. He passed away at the age of 81 in Southern Maine in 2002. He is interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Thank you for your service.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nelson Joseph Loucraft - Pvt 33rd Massachusetts Regiment Company D

Nelson Loucraft, Sr. is one of those ancestors that drives you crazy. You find tidbits of his life here and there. He was born in New York in the summer of 1841 to Joseph Lucraft and Zoe Charron.

I married a Loucraft and everyone asks how do you spell that? LOUCRAFT - "oh just like it sounds". But in research documents it is spelled so many different ways. Loncraft, Loncroff, Lewcraft, Leucraft, Loucraff...... So, imagine my surprise when I found that Nelson Loucraft Sr. had served over three years as a private in the Union Army with the iconic 33rd Massachusetts Regiment Company D.
Source:  Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War, Volume 3.
As part of the 33rd regiment he would have been in the presence of Abraham Lincoln in his review of the troops. He would have been at Chancellorsville, Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, Atlanta and Sherman's March to the Sea. Amazing civil war scenes.

Here is the monument to the 33rd Massachusetts Regiment at Gettysburg.

Monument at Gettysburg National Park

From the tablet on the front of the monument:

The Thirty Third Massachusetts Infantry
Detached from the Second Brigade, Second Division, Eleventh Corps on July 2nd, 1863. After supporting the batteries in action on  Cemetery Hill, while in position in a line extending westward from near this spot, withstood and assisted in repulsing a charge of the enemy’s infantry in its front. Loss in the battle eight killed, thirty six wounded.

When Nelson returned from the Civil War he married a fellow soldier's sister from Billerica, Nancy Haulton (Houlton) on November 10, 1865. They show up in the 1870 census in Lowell with two children, the 1880 census in Lewiston Maine & Topsham Maine with six children. Shortly after that they return to the Lowell area but Nelson and Nancy appear to lead separate lives. Nancy dies in 1899 at the age of 53 and is buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Lowell without Nelson.

Sadly, Nelson gets arrested several times for drunkenness and spends some time at the jail on Thorndike street. This jail with later become a Catholic high school - Keith Academy. Future generations of Loucrafts will spend a lot of time here.

Did the horrors of the Civil War break Nelson? When did he die? Where is he buried?

Nelson and Nancy had six children who were by all accounts successful and productive members of their communities.
  • Mary married Joseph McDermott and settled in Billerica with 7 children
  • Nelson married an Irish woman and had a farm in Chelmsford and had 5 babies all dying as infants and then his wife died so he moved to Cuba and became a sugar farmer there, remarried and had 7 healthy children
  • Frank married late in life and had a store on Gorham Street in Chelmsford
  • Charles married and died young but had 2 children in Chelmsford
  • Etta married Leslie Fralick and had 2 children in Billerica
  • George married and lived in Billerica and served in the U.S. Navy in the Spanish American War
 My next step is to try to find some pension records for Nelson. Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Corp. George Ralph Quessy

George R. Quessy was born on Christmas Eve 1896 in West Chelmsford the youngest child of John J. and Effie B. (Clement) Quessy. He grew up on Main Street and attended Chelmsford schools. He became a farmer.

 Photo credit: Boston Public Library

He enlisted in the U.S. Army April 16, 1917 and reported for duty July 25th, was mustered in August 7th and sailed overseas on September 22, 1917. He was a member of New England's famed Yankee Division as was his older brother Randall H. Quessy.

He was wounded in the Argonne forest on October 30, 1918 and died on November 1, 1918. He left his brother, a sister Hilda and his parents. He is buried in the family lot in West Chelmsford Cemetery. The distinctive Yankee Division symbol is on his gravestone.

In 1922 the West Chelmsford  School was renamed the Quessy School in his honor. It was demolished in 1980. A monument in his honor stands at the small circle at the intersection of Main and School Streets. His name is also on the monument at Vinal Square in North Chelmsford center.

We thank George Quessy and his family for his sacrifice. And we remember.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lieut. James Scondras - We Remember

Lieut. James Scondras was born in Lowell to Greek immigrants Peter (Spiros or Speros) and Katina (Ivos) Scondras. They raised their family at 287 Dutton Street across the street from Lowell National Park's parking lot. His dad owned the De Lux Cafe on Merrimack street. Jimmy or "The Chief" was one of nine children and one of the best athletes the city has ever seen.

He graduated from Lowell High School in 1937, one year at St. John's Prep in Danvers and graduated from Holy Cross in 1943. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corp Reserves. He was killed in action on Iwo Jima on February 1945 at the age of 25. He was awarded the Silver Star for his previous action in Guam when he wiped out a Japanese machine gun nest with an expert toss of a grenade.

His brother David was killed in action in France in November of 1944. In March of 1949 the bodies of James, David and their first cousin Costos Ivos who was shot down over Germany were returned to Lowell for burial in the Westlawn Cemetery.

James P. Scondras in in the Lowell High School Athletic Hall of Fame,The Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame, and the Rogers School Gymnasium is named in his honor.

Please remember the sacrifice that the Scondras & Ivos families gave for our freedom.

This concludes my series on Greater Lowell Iwo Jima heroes who died over seventy years ago. It was my honor to remember them.