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.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Stranger Comes to Town - A German Spy?

Before the United States entered the Great War, the United States Cartridge Company founded by General Benjamin Butler, was very active in selling small arms ammunition to England and France. Before the war there were 350 employees and at the end of the war there were 15,000 names on the payroll.

Due to the dangerous nature of producing the ammunition and the sensitive security the U.S. Cartridge Company had it's own police force consisting of 32 police guards. The Chief of Police for the company was Martin Conway of Billerica. They had to investigate all employees and all neighbors to ensure the safety of the plants. And they had to guard the weekly payroll.

In January of 1916 a man presented himself as Mr. Haines to Mrs. Arthur W. Austin of 218 Wilder Street. He rented a room on Thursday and paid a week in advance. He appeared to be around 40 years old and appeared slightly nervous.

He left during the day and would take his meals in his room. When Mrs. Austin's daughter went into his room to leave some linens, she saw a loaded revolver and lots of bullets. She also saw some maps and charts. Mr. & Mrs. Austin decided to watch his movements. They were not the only ones watching Mr. Haines. A Secret Service detective came to the rooming house and ordered Mr. Haines to leave the city. The Austins found a drawing of the U.S. Cartridge plant on the floor of his room. He was never heard from again.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Remembering Pvt. Joseph Franklin Harding - Co. K, 6th Infantry

When the United States entered the Great War the National Guard were deployed to guard bridges in New England. Pvt. Joseph F. Harding, an 18 year old soldier from Lowell, was assigned to the Mascoma River Bridge in Enfield, NH. This was a B&M freight train bridge.

Joseph F. Harding was born in Lowell on August 4, 1899 to Harry F. and Winifred B. (Keith) Harding. He enlisted in Co. K 6th Infantry, Massachusetts National Guard and report for duty March 30, 1917 and was mustered April 6, 1917.

On the day of April 21, 1917 Pvt. Joseph H. Harding was guarding the bridge. He was near some loud rapids of the river, sitting in a chair with his feet on the rails. He never heard the freight train coming. A neighbor, Ezra Lawrence of Enfield ran to him to try to save him. Ezra lived nearby with his wife and five children. They were both struck and killed.

Pvt. Harding was survived by his father, Harry Harding of 68 Branch Street, his brother Harry and his grandmother Mrs. Mary Harding all of Lowell. His mother had passed away in September of 1902.

Erza Lawrence was awarded the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission Medal in 1917. He left his widow and five children. He was a teamster and only 31 years old.

Rest in peace Pvt. Harding and Mr. Lawrence. You are remembered.

This is my first in my series of causalities of the Great War with Lowell connections.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 6, 1917 - United States Declares War on Germany

One hundred years ago today on April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany. At the time the United States had a very small military. The National Guard was ready first. Lowell had the old Massachusetts 9th which had returned from the Mexican border in 1916. They became 26th Infantry (Yankee) Division, Company M of the 101st Infantry of the U.S. Army. They assembled at the armory on Westford Street.

Sumner H. Needham, met with the City Council to get men to sign up. He was the grandson and namesake of his grandfather who was one of the first to die in the Civil War on the march through Baltimore on April 19, 1861.

The armory was busy as  other companies were forming as the excitement to go to war was growing.
It would take some time to get trained and shipped overseas but we were in it now. Europe had been at war for three years but with the USA joining the allies things would be changing at last.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Hello Girls - Switchboard Soldiers

During the first world war, General "Black Jack" Pershing did not like the telephones lines in France. After being in use for three years by the French before the United States entered the war he needed a better communication system. The United States Army advertised in the U.S. newspapers for bilingual telephone operators. They had to speak fluent French and English and have operator experience. Over 7,000 women applied and 223 ended up being accepted, trained and sent overseas. They were members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit.

The 3rd Unit's Chief Operator was Nellie F. Snow of Lowell. She was the Chief Operator of the Lowell Telephone Exchange at 115 Appleton Street (now the sober Lowell House). She conducted training in the Lowell for the other women of her unit. The other local woman who went to France in various contingents were Yvonne Gauthier, Leontine LaMoureaux (later Mrs. James O'Connor), Eugenie Racicot and Olive Shaw.
Boston Globe - April 7, 1918

They were sworn in and  had to buy their own uniforms. They went to New York City and boarded a transport ship filled with male soldiers and sailed to France. They arrived in Paris in May of 1918. They were critical to the war effort by providing translation services and some actually went to the front.
Boston Globe - July 5, 1919

After the war many of the woman stayed in France to provide their services to the peace time activities. They were considered the first active duty women to serve in the U.S. Army. Sadly, the U.S. Army did not award the the Victory Medal or any service related bonuses. They said that they were civilian contractors. They fought this until finally in 1979 when the 18 surviving woman were awarded the Victory Medal and veteran's pension benefits as approved by Congress.

  • Yvonne Gauthier died March 19, 1965 and is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Chelmsford. She never married.
  • Leontine LaMoureax married James R. O'Connor and had a son Richard. She died in February of 1984 and is buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery.
  • Eugenie Racicot died July 14, 1979  is buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery. She never married.
  • Olive Shaw of Boston was the personal secretary in Washington, DC to Edith Nourse Rogers. She retired to Littleton, MA. She was awarded the Victory Medal in 1979. She never married.
  • Nellie F. Snow, Chief Operator died in January 1963. I don't know where she is buried but her parents are buried in Edson Cemetery. She never married.
 Thank you for your service to our country. These talented and brave women did so much more than "number please?" 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Early Lowell and the Civil War

I was looking something up in Charles Cowley's "Illustrated History of Lowell" and I read something that interested me.

Who was Robert E.K. Whiting and how did end up a Major-General in the Confederate Army in the Civil War?
Robert Edward Kerr Whiting

Robert's grandfather and great grandfather served in the American Revolution. Timothy Whiting Sr. and Timothy Whiting Jr. from Billerica. After winning America's independence, Timothy Jr. moved to Lancaster, Massachusetts and settled there. He had thirteen children with two wives. Levi Whiting was born to Timothy and his first wife Abigail Kidder on January 27, 1790.

Levi Whiting was a career Army man in the 1st Artillery and he fought in the War of 1812. He served in the U.S. Army for forty years until his death in 1852. He married Mary Ann Cushing of Maine in 1823 in Biloxi, Mississippi.  They had seven children all born around the United States during Levi's assignments.

St. Anne's Church in Lowell was built in 1825. Levi Whiting and his wife had all their sons baptized at St. Anne's while they were residing in New York:
  • William Henry Chase Whiting - baptism July 13, 1828 - born in Biloxi, Mississippi
  • John McMahon Whiting - baptism July 13, 1828 - born in Houlton, Maine
  • Jasper Strong Whiting - baptism July 13, 1828 - born in Louisiana
  • Frederick Underhill Whiting - baptism August 28, 1831 - born in New York
  • Robert Edward Kerr Whiting - baptism October 28, 1832 - born on Governor's Island, NY
I  tried to determine why would this family come to newly created Lowell for their son's baptisms? They came three different times.

Lowell connections:
  1. Robert's grandfather, Timothy Whiting Jr. of Lancaster was a Mason and on December 10, 1809 he went to Whiting's Hall in Chelmsford (now Lowell) at the site of the Franco American School and installed the Pentucket Lodge of Mason's. He did this as the District Deputy Grand Master. 
  2. Jessee Phelps of Lancaster was the first overseer of Merrimack Manufacturing Company. Jessee was also a Mason and the Deacon at St. Anne's Church. Timothy Whiting's second wife's maiden name was Lydia Phelps.
John and Frederick do not live to see the Civil War.  His two surviving brothers were William Henry Chase Whiting and Jasper Strong Whiting. They would not survive the American Civil War.

William was a West Point graduate class of 1845 who was number one in his class. Supposedly he had the highest class rank that stood until General Douglas MacArthur graduated.  He served in the United States Army Engineers and surveyed many areas of the country. Jasper Strong Whiting graduated from Bowdoin College and was also a Civil Engineer doing surveying work for the U.S. Army.  It looks like Robert was employed as a surveyor as a private citizen. During the time of the civil war he was the superintendent of Green-wood Cemetery in the Bronx. I can find no record of Robert E.K. Whiting serving in either the United States or Confederate army.

Jasper Strong Whiting enlisted in the Confederate Army with the rank of Major. He died of Scarlet Fever on Christmas Day in 1862 in Richmond, Virginia. He left a wife and infant son.

William Henry Chase Whiting resigned from the U.S. Army in February 1862 and offered his services to the Governor of Georgia. He ended up a Major General defending Fort Fisher at the end the war. He participated in the first battle of Fort Fisher that repelled Benjamin Butler's army. During the second battle of Fort Fisher he was shot two times and was taken a prison of war to Fort Columbus on Governor's Island in New York. He died March 10, 1865 on Governor's Island of dystentry. His funeral was held in New York City and he was buried at Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. His mother, brother and two sisters attended his funeral. His wife had him reburied in 1900 in North Carolina. He left no children.

Robert E.K. Whiting died at Lake George, New York in 1871 and is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx that he designed and managed. He left a wife, an infant son & daughter. Here is his grave:
courtesy of
The Confederate General that was baptised in Lowell is Robert's brother William Henry Chase Whiting. Because Robert's brothers married Southern ladies and spent such a large portion of their lives in the South their allegiance to the South is not that surprising. There are a few more Lowell connections that I will share in a future post about Major General William Henry Chase Whiting. Stay tuned!