54th Artillery CAC

54th Artillery, C.A.C.

IN WORLD WAR I


The Coast Artillery Corps of the Maine National Guard were mobilized for Federal Service on July 25, 1917, and all companies, band, field officers, and non-commissioned staff officers reported for Active Duty on July 27, 1917. Fourteen staff officers reported for duty at the Headquarters of the Portland Coast Defenses and were assigned to duty within the Portland Coast Defenses. Several of the companies were re-designated at that time. This designation was changed again on August 23, 1917.

On December 1, 1917, Orders were issued for the formation of the 54th Artillery Regiment to be formed from the seventeen C.A.C. Maine National Guard companies. On Christmas Day, December 25, 1917 thirteen Companies then stationed at Ft. McKinley and Ft. Williams in the Coast Defenses of Portland Maine were reorganized. The regiment was composed of Regular Army Coast Artillery men from the Coast Defenses of Portland, Maine as well as men from the Maine Coast Artillery National Guard.

This new Artillery Regiment would consist of a Headquarters Company, a supply company, and three battalions of two batteries each, with 4 guns in each battery.

The Maine Regular Army Coast Artillery formed the following units of the 54th Artillery, CAC:

  • Headquarters Company was formed from the 1st Company, Coast Defenses of Portland.
  • The 20th Company at Lewiston, Maine, CD Portland, formed the Supply Company.
  • The 2nd Company CD Portland, formed Battery A.
  • The 18th (5th Co. Portland) and 19th (7th Co. Biddeford) Companies, CD Portland, formed Battery B.
  • The 12th and 16th Companies CD Portland, formed Battery C.
  • The 9th (2nd Co. Portland) and 22nd (4th Co. Bath) Companies CD Portland, formed Battery D.
  • The 24th (3rd Co. Auburn) and 29th (3rd Co. Kennebunk) Companies CD Portland, formed Battery E.
  • The 6th (9th Co. Lewiston) and 25th (11th Co. Portland) Companies CD Portland, Formed Battery F.

The remaining men needed to fill out the regiment to full war-time strength came from National Army draftees and Maine Coast Artillery National Guardsmen.

The four companies (1st, 6th, 10th and 12th) that were not formed into the 54th Artillery, C.A.C. served in the Coast Defenses of Portland throughout the war. And at wars end were demobilized in January of 1919 at Harbor Defenses of Portland. Very few of the original members of the four companies remained in them by late 1918. Two large transfers of enlisted men from these four companies were made during the war. The first was made on August 23, 1917, to the 26th Division Artillery and Engineers. One hundred-sixty-nine men were taken from these four companies in the transfer. On May 31, 1918, the other large transfer of men was sent to the 72nd Artillery, C.A.C. coming from 147-men of the 1st Company and large numbers of men from the 6th, 10th and 12th Companies. However, the transfers were made as individuals and no units being reformed or discontinued.

These new Batteries of the new 54th Artillery trained and were issued new steel helmets, something that the American Army would use for the first-time during combat. They would also be issued another first-time item, that being round aluminum “Dog Tags.” These new tags were made from a round piece of aluminum and were hand stamped one letter at a time with the soldier’s name and service number, which was another first-time for the Army. Being these tags were made one at a time no two tags were exactly alike. The stringers were army green cloth similar to a shoe string. They were issued rifles, packs and all small items a soldier would need but one thing was missing. Artillery pieces, America had no heavy artillery that was mobile to take to France.

By March 7, 1918 the 54th Artillery Regiment was ready to go to war and had orders to move to France as soon as ship transportation could be arranged from Hoboken, New Jersey. Once ships arrived for the 54th to sail to Europe they moved to the docks at Hoboken. On March 16, 1918, the HQ Co., Supply Co., Medical Detachment and the 1st Battalion consisting of Battery A and B boarded the SS Baltic in Hoboken, New Jersey. Nineteen officers and 566 enlisted men of the 54th Artillery were sailing leaving the 2nd and 3rd Battalions to wait for another ship. The Baltic sailed direct to LeHarve, France where they reached the safety of the crowded harbor on April 6.

On March 22 the 2nd Battalion (Battery C and D) and the 3rd Battalion (Battery E and F) of the 54th Artillery boarded the SS Canada in Hoboken with 50 officers and 1,146 enlisted men. They sailed to Glasgow, Scotland and reached there on April 2, 1918. Then they went to Winchester, England on April 3 to await their next move.

Between March 31 and April 8, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 54th were transported across the English Channel to Le Havre, France to meet with the rest of the Regiment. These crossing were undertaken in smaller channel boats, the men were crowded in like cattle in England, usually at night and made a swift crossing of the Channel over to Le Havre. The harbor in Le Havre was a very crowded place men and material was moving everywhere all at once. Assembled on the docks the men somehow made their way out of the harbor and up to a train station that would take them to the American Artillery base known as Operations and Training Center No. 6. This was based in two French towns, Mailly-le-Camp and Haussimont. It was here in these two towns that the American Army had set up its Railway Artillery base of operations.

The 54th Artillery shortly after arriving at O&T No. 6 was changed from being a combat artillery regiment into a training artillery regiment for the American Railway and Tractor-drawn Artillery Regiments. Army Headquarters made this change on May 2, 1918 so that there would be a fully trained regiment of artillery men ready to pull from when a Coast Artillery unit on the line in combat needed a replacement man. This way when that replacement got to the new unit he would be fully trained and ready to do his job and not wait to get up to speed while under fire from the enemy. Thus, in theory the artillery unit on the line would not suffer in efficiency when replacements were needed. And the name of the 54th Artillery was changed slightly to reflect this change to the 54th Artillery Replacement Battalion.

It was on September 21st that the 54th Artillery was again changed. The three Battalions of the 54th were split up and sent to new stations with specific duties. The 1st Battalion consisting of Battery A and B, were posted at Angers (Marne-et-Loire) and were to function as a training Battalion for replacement men. The 2nd Battalion consisting of Battery C and D, was stationed at Doulevant-le-Chateau (Hauts Marne) and functioned as a replacement Battalion for the Tractor-drawn Artillery Regiments. And the 3rd Battalion consisting of Battery E and F, remained at Haussimont and Angers, France and functioned as the Training Battalion for the Railway Artillery Regiments.

After the war ended then the three battalions of the 54th were re-assembled and made their way to the west coast of France at the port city of Brest. There they waited for ship transportation back home to the States.

Part of the 54th Artillery sailed February 23, 1919 on the SS Vedic arriving in Boston on March 7, 1919. The remaining part of the Regiment sailed for Boston on February 25th, 1919 aboard the Battleship USS Nebraska and went to Camp Devens, Mass., March 6, 1919. The regiment was demobilized March 13, 1919 at Camp Devens, Massachusetts.

In July of 1922, the 54th Regiment was reorganized and designated as the First Coast Defense Command, C.A.C., Maine National Guard, consisting of a Headquarters Company, Headquarters Detachment, Band, Medical Detachment and 1st Fort Command.

On September 17, 1923, the First Coast Defense Command was re-designated as the 240th Artillery, C.A.C., and individual batteries are shown below. The designation was again changed to 240th Coast Artillery, Harbor Defense, on April 16, 1924.

Units of the 240th Artillery, CAC:
1st Fort Command:
301st Company, Portland, org. 1803 - later Btry A
306th Company, Sanford, org. 1903 - later Btry B
307th Company, Brunswick, org. 1884 - later Btry C
311th Company, Portland, org. 1807 - later Btry D
2nd Fort Command:
303d Company, Camden, org. 1920 - later Btry E
304th Company, Thomaston, org. 1921 - later Btry F
305th Company, Rockland, org. 1921 - later Btry G
302d Company, Vinalhaven, org. 1921 - later Btry H

Battery B, 54th Artillery CAC during WWI

Battery B was commanded by Captain Harry Ewald Heeren and the other officers were First Lt. Chester H. Pierce, Second Lt. Frederick William Hoorn, Second Lt. Charles N. Liley, and Second Lt. Floyd G. Brightbill.

While officially Battery B, 54th Regiment, Artillery, is composed of the 18th and 19th Companies, C.A.C., Portland, it also has absorbed practically all the enlisted personnel of the 17th Co., so in reality the battery consists of what was formerly First Co., Fifth Co. and Seventh Co., Maine Coast Artillery National Guard, first two of Portland and the last from Biddeford. The 18th and 19th companies were merged completely in the formation of Battery B and all that remains of the original 17th Co. is a skeleton organization which retains the original designation and forms a basis upon which to organize a new 17th Company.

The 18th Co., formerly fifth Co., Maine Coast Artillery National Guard, of Portland, was organized about nine years ago to replace the old Montgomery Guard, which has its origin in 1872. The company was organized through the efforts of the late Captain Robert C. Foster and under the sponsorship of the late Judge William L. Putnam, whose death occurred in Portland about two weeks ago. It came in the Federal service in July under the command of Captain E. H. Besse and Lieutenants C. H. Pierce and C. H. Liley, all of whom have been assigned to the 54th Artillery.

It was in 1873 that the Seventh Co., Maine Coast Artillery National Guard, later 19th Co., Portland, and now a part of Battery B, was organized in Beddeford. Originally, the organization was known as the Biddeford Light Infantry, and was later changed to Co. G, First Maine Infantry. In 1910, when the First Maine Infantry became Coast Artillery, the Biddeford company was given the seventh numeral, which it retained until after entering the Federal service in July of 1918. The Officers in command until the company became a part of Battery B were Captain C. E. Holt, First Lt. Joseph Lonsdale, and Second Lt. A. F. Cowan.

While First Co., Maine Coast Artillery National Guard, now the 17th Co., Portland, remains intact as an organization, practically all its enlisted personnel have been merged in the formation of Battery B, and a brief sketch of its history might not be amiss. The company is one of the two oldest military organizations in New England, its history dating back to the Revolution. As a Company, it was organized in 1803 by an act of the Massachusetts legislature, and from that date until January 1, 1910, it remained a Light Infantry organization. The company had an excellent record during the War of 1812, the Civil War 1861-1865, and the Spanish-American War during 1898.

It came into service in July 1918 under the command of First Lt. W. M. Mosley and Second Lt. L.H. Lawton, both of home were after word promoted and the vacancy filled by the appointment as second lieutenant of First Sergeant H. A. McMillan. That portion of the company which retains the designation of 17th Company, is now in command of Captain E. A. Reed.

At midnight, December 31st 1917, 18th and 19th Companies, Portland, ceased to exist as organizations and with the major portion of the 17th Company were united to form Battery B, which is now in command of Captain Harry E. Heeren, whose Lieutenants are First Lt. C. H. Pierce, and Second Lieutenants F. W. Hoorn, C. H. Liley and Floyd G. Brightbill.


Regimental Muster

As I find names and information about men who were in the 54th Artillery I will list them here. If you have information on someone who was in this regiment please email me and I will add their story.


Private Anthony Felix Balboni, 3rd Section, Battery D

Born in Renazzo, Ferrara, Italy, July 30, 1887. Immigrated in 1898 settling with his family in Springfield, MA. Son of Carlo (Charles) Balboni and Enrica Zoboli of Renazzo, Ferrara, Italy. After attending public schools, Mr. Balboni was the pioneer American of Italian descent in Springfield to enter the field of commercial art and sign painting. Proprietor of the Balboni Sign Co., Springfield, from 1910 until retirement in 1964. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I and saw service in France. Married to Julia (Lula) A. Ferriter of Springfield, MA in 1922 until her early death in 1933. Father of five children. Married a second time to Desolina Bussolari Borrelli of Springfield, MA, also from Ferrara, Italy, on 10 May 1941. Died 2 Oct 1968 in Springfield.

Taken from “Leading Americans of Italian Descent in Massachusetts”, J. W. Carlevale, Memorial Press, 1946, pg. 38;

No unauthorized absence, or no absence under G.O. 45/14 or G.O. 31/12. Entitled to travel pay to Springfield, Mass. Wentworth Institute, US Army, July 1, 1917 to August 28, 1918; FF, Warren Mass, August 28, 1918 to Aug 29, 1918. S.A.R.D. August 29, 1918 to October 22, 1918; H.A. Tr Bn. October 22, 1918 to December 21, 1918; Btry “D”, 54th Art. CAC., December 21, 1918 to March 13, 1919.

Signed,
H. T. Canfield, 1st Lieut. CAC,
Commanding Batt. D, 54th Art. CAC.

This is to Certify That Anthony Felix Balboni (2795899) Private, Btry “D”, 54th Artillery CAC, The United States Army, as a Testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service, is hereby Honorably Discharged from the military service of the United States by reason of Demobilization order from War Dept. dated Nov 15, 1918, and par. 19 S/O 29, Hq. USAC Camp Devens Mass dated Nov 22, 1918. Given under my hand at Camp Devens, Mass, this 13th day of March, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen.

Signed,
John T Rowe (Lowe?),
Major CAC, Commanding.


3rd Section, 54th Artillery, Angers, France, January, 1919

Pvt. Balboni dated to 1918
Pvt. Balboni dated to 1920
Pvt. Balboni shown in France during 1918
with gas mask bag rifle and bayonet.

Pvt. 1st cl, Rupert Richardson, Medical Detachment

Private First Class Rupert F. Richardson was in the Medical Detachment of the 54th Artillery, C.A.C. during WWI. Rupert’s story begins with a small bracelet bought at a Paris, France flea market in 1981 by Judy Grafe. She had been in France with her ex-husband and visited the Verdun battlefields and the Normandy beaches and at a flea market in Paris Judy purchased the small bracelet inscribed; “ Pvt. 1cl Cl. Rupert Richardson Med. Det. 54th Art. CAC. Angers, France.” Rupert Richardson must have left this behind in France when he returned to the United States on March 6, 1919. Rupert’s engraved bracelet lay quietly for 90-years, but now this bracelet can now tell the story of Rupert Richardson.

His story begins in the town of Denmark, Maine in July of 1898. Fred and Gertrude Richardson had been married sometime in 1897 and now had started a family when Gertrude gave birth to Rupert in July of 1898. His father Fred was supporting his new family by working as a blacksmith in Denmark. Fred was born in 1874 in Maine and Gertrude was born in 1880 also in Maine. Both sets of parents of Fred and Gertrude were Maine natives also so the Richardson family was 100 percent Maine through and through.

But within 10-years time Fred and Gertrude were not living together. On the 1910 Federal Census form it listed Gertrude as still being married, although Fred was not listed. It is not known what had happened. All that is known is that Gertrude and Rupert were living in the house of 61-year old Albert Gray who was a widowed Machinist in a wool mill. The home was located in Bridgton, Maine. Gertrude was working in the home as a private family servant and she had 11-year old Rupert living with her.

Rupert grew into a young man and at the age of 19 he joined the Maine National Guard, enlisting in the town of Norway, Maine. He enlisted on April 6, 1917 and reported for Federal Service on April 13, 1917. He was assigned as a Private in the Medical Department of the Maine National Guard. The 54th Artillery Regiment was being formed from various units from Maine National Guard Coast Artillery and as such Pvt. Richardson was then assigned to duty in the Medical Detachment of the 54th Artillery.

He would remain in this unit through out the entire duration of the war. On December 3, 1917 he was advanced to the grade of Private First Class. On March 22 of 1918 the entire 54th Artillery consisting of 50 officers and 1,146 enlisted men, were sailing on the Troopship Canada bound for France. PFC Richardson served with the Medical Detachment and returned to the States with his unit aboard the USS Nebraska on March 6, 1919. He was honorably discharged on March 13, 1919 at Camp Devens in Massachusetts.

Rupert returned to his mother who was still living in Bridgton, Maine after he was discharged from the army. On Christmas Eve of 1919 Rupert took a wife and married Nettie M. Durgin of Sweden, Maine. Sweden was a town located north of Denmark, Rupert’s birthplace.

It is not known what type of work Rupert was able to find to support his new wife and it is possible that work was hard to find. What is known is that in May of 1930 Rupert again was in the army serving in a Medical unit at Ft. George G. Meade near Baltimore, Maryland. Rupert was listed as being married on the census form so it is likely that Nettie was living either near the army base or she was back home in Maine. In searching for her name in the 1930 census form she can’t be found so her story ends there. But the story of Rupert Richardson does not end there. There is a name in the Social Security Death Index of Rupert Richardson with a birth date of 27 July 1898. This is the only recorded exact birth date for Rupert and so it is assumed that this death index record is the Rupert Richardson of this narrative. The date and place of death is July of 1968 in Atlanta, Georgia and the Social Security number was issued in the state of Georgia sometime around 1953. So from this information it is fare to say that at least Rupert had moved to the Atlanta, Georgia area and lived the rest of his life in that area. It is assumed he is buried in the Atlanta area. There, Rupert’s story paused for another 13 years until his bracelet was purchased in Paris, France. There are just a few words on this bracelet left to tell Rupert’s story but then again they say a picture is worth a thousand words.


This is a photo of the engraved bracelet that Judy Grafe bought in Paris in 1981.
Pvt. 1st Cl. Rupert Richardson
Med Det
54th Art CAC
Angers, France

Captain Frederick Wells Gilchrist

Frederick Wells Gilchrist was born 17 March 1893 in Michigan and lived in Ohio at the time he entered the Army. He was appointed a Provisional 2nd Lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps, 9 November 1917. Was advanced to Provisional 1st Lieutenant 18 March 1918 and made Captain on 22 May 1918. His first station was a training company at Ft. Monroe. Then was assigned to the 21st Co., Coast Defenses of Boston at Ft. Standish and Ft. Strong from 28 March 1918-1 June 1918 when he was again reassigned to the 71st Artillery, C.A.C. He sailed to England with the 71st Artillery on one of the two British ships, the HMS Margha and the HMS Anselm. He was with the 71st and assigned to Battery B until 7 September 1918 when he was transferred to the 54th Artillery, C.A.C. He was with the 54th Artillery until 31 December 1918 when he was again transferred to the Headquarters Detachment Army Service Corps until he was unassigned as a casual officer on 6 May 1919 and returned to the States on 12 June 1919. Captain Gilchrist was Honorable Discharged on 12 September 1919.

Master Gunner, William Howard Heagney

William Howard Heagney was the son of Mrs. Elizabeth Heagney of Curtis Nebraska. William H. Heagney entered the Army at Omaha, Nebraska 1 December 1917. First stationed at Ft. Scott, California and then was transferred to the 54th Artillery, CAC. He was Discharged 11 March 1919.

Pvt. Washington Irving Baily, HQ CO

Washington Irving Baily was born 22 July 1890 and died on 22 March 1958. He was buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery San Bruno, San Mateo County, California in Plot T 4655 on 25 March 1958.

Charles W. Spencer, Service No. 581410

Charles W. Spencer was 18 years old and was born in Lewiston, Maine and entered the Maine National Guard at Ft. Preble, Maine where he was in the 3rd Company, C.A.C. On 27 March 1917 he made Corporal and was advanced to Sgt. 1 July 1917. He was briefly with HQ Company of the 101st Engineers from 23 August until 30 August 1917 then went back to his former unit the 3rd Co. CAC ME NG. He was reduced back to Private 1 March 1918 and again to Corporal on the same day. On 25 May 1918 he was transferred to Supply Co. 54th Artillery and sailed on the Baltic 16 March 1919 for France. At some point in France he was transferred as a replacement to 7th Battery, Howitzer Regiment which later was renamed Battery E, 51st Artillery. While with this regiment he participated in the Meuse-Argonne and the Defensive Sector. On 23 October 1918 was wounded in action probably in the Verdun sector as that was where the 3rd Battalion of the 51st Artillery was at that time. He returned to the States on 20 March 1919 and was Honorably discharged on 3 April 1919.

Charles W. Spencer, Service No. 582519

Charles Spencer enlisted into the Maine National Guard on 1 June 1917 at the age of 26. At that time he lived in Kennebunk, Maine and this was also his place of birth. He reported for Federal Service 25 July 1917 to the 13th Company, C.A.C. ME NG at Ft. Baldwin, Maine. On Christmas Day 1917 he was transferred to Battery E, 54th Artillery until he was again transferred to Battery D, 51st Artillery while in France on 17 May 1918. While with Battery E he participated in the St. Mihiel Offensive, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and the Defensive Sector. He served overseas from 22 March 1918 to 14 January 1919. He was honorably discharged on 22 January 1919.

Franklin Hiram Spencer, Service No. 582325

Franklin Hiram Spencer was born in Westbrook, Maine and was still living in Westbrook when he enlisted into the Maine National Guard at the age of 20 on 25 May 1917. He made Corporal on 6 June 1917 and advanced to Sgt. 8 July 1918. Upon entering the Maine NG he reported to the 12th Co. C.A.C. Me NG, 28th Co. Portland at Ft. Lyons, MA and then on 20 December 1917 moved to the 27th Co. Portland at Ft. Mckinley, Maine where they became Battery E, 54th Artillery, C.A.C. Sgt. Spencer sailed for France with Battery E on 22 March 1918 aboard the transport Canada. Sgt. Spencer participated in the Meuse-Argonne operations and the Defensive Sector. He returned to the States on 6 March 1919, sailing with the part of the regiment that went aboard the Battleship USS Nebraska and went to Camp Devens, Mass. Sgt. Spencer was discharged on March 13, 1919.

Pvt. Fred C. Everett

Fred C. Everett enlisted into the Maine National Guard at Ft. Williams, Maine on 3 October 1917 as a Private and his service number was 583224. He was 22 years old and lived in Portland, Maine at the time. He was born in Waltham, MA. On 23 May 1918 Pvt. Everett was listed as Cook and on 30 October 1918 was again listed at the rank of Private. Everett was listed as being with Supply Company, 54th Artillery as shown by his dog tags below. He served overseas from 16 March 1918 until his return on 3 February 1919. Being he was with the Supply Co. he sailed on the Baltic 16 March 1919 and not with Battery D on the Canada. He was transferred to Battery D, 54th Artillery at an unknown time and on 5 November 1918 he was transferred to Battery A, 51st Artillery. He probably was transferred as a replacement as the 54th served as the Replacement Artillery Regiment. Shortly after the Armistice the 51st Artillery turned all its heavy equipment over to the Ordnance Department and returned after various delays en route caused by congestion of traffic, to the United States, leaving Brest, France on January 26, 1919. All emergency men were demobilized during February and the remainder, mostly Regular Army, are still serving their Regiment. Pvt. Everett was Honorably discharged on 15 February 1919.


Dog Tags of Pvt. Fred C. Everett, 583224, Supply CO., 54th Artillery, C.A.C.
This photo was shared with me by Joe and Dana Smyth

Sgt. Max Owen Cragan, 54th Artillery

Max Owen Cragan was a member of the 54th Artillery during WWI. Mr. Cragan's service history and the photo on the left was given to me by Genevieve Leavitt to which Max Cragan was her Great-Uncle. Max was from Colorado and was a Sergeant in the 54th Artillery, this according to the book "Roster of Men and Women Who Served in The World War From Colorado 1917-1918". He entered the Army during WWI from Cortez in Montezuma County, Colorado. According to Genevieve Max began his military career in 1913 serving at Ft. Flagler, Washington serving in the1st Company that was formed from the 26th Company from 1913-1916. The photo shows Max in a uniform that shows the 26th Company unit markings on the hat so that would make this a period photo from Ft. Flagler. Max was also stationed at Galveston Texas at Ft. Crockett in the 3rd Company and later in the 11th Company at Ft. Crockett. From there the trail leads to the 54th Artillery in which he served from June 22, 1918-March 10, 1919. After the war Sgt. Cragan returned to Ft. Crockett and served in the 20th Company. Genevieve reports that Max died in 1928 of lung complications.


Sgt. Max Owen Cragan

Cpl. Nelson Shepp of Battery F


Above is Cpl. Nelson J. Shepp's grave stone in Arlington National Cemetery. His granddaughter Susan Dull took this photo during a visit to his grave. The photo on the left shows Shepp as a Private with one overseas stripe on his lower sleeve.

Nelson Shepp originally was on duty with the 20th Company, Coast Defenses of The Columbia at Ft. Canby, Washington. On October 8, 1918 he was transferred to Ft. Stevens, Oregon in the Coast Defenses of The Columbia and was among the October OARD (Overseas Automatic Replacement Draft) that sailed to France most likely sometime during October to France as a casual unit. Also at the same time may have been promoted to Corporal. Upon arrival in France Cpl. Shepp was assigned to Battery F, 54th Artillery. He returned on the USS Nebraska to Boston and on March 10,1919 went to Camp Devens and was demobilized on March 13, 1919.

This information on Cpl. Nelson Shepp was provided by his granddaughter Susan Dull

PFC Carey J. Blythe of Battery F

Carey J. Blythe was born on November 4, 1897 in Hendersonville, North Carolina to Sewell Joshua and Sarah (Huntley) Blythe. Carey’s father Sewell was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains on November 11, 1862 to James J. and Therecia J. Blythe. Sewell was the eldest of 5 children. It is likely that Carey Blythe’s grandfather, James J. Blythe was a veteran of the Civil War but this is not confirmed.

By the summer of 1900 Carey J. Blythe was living in Cedar Creek Township of Henderson County, NC with his mother Sarah, sisters Jennie, Edith and Beatrice. On the 1900 Federal Census Sewell, the father was not listed on the census form. Sarah was listed as being married and had been married for 11-years so Sewell must have been living away at the time. The Blythe family lived on a farm and the occupation listed for Sarah was that of a farmer.

The family was living on 2nd Avenue in Hendersonville, NC in the spring of 1910. Sewell, Sarah M. and all four children were together again in the home. Sewell was working as a carpenter to support the family. When Carey Blythe was 19-years old he joined the army and before he turned 20 he would sail to France with the 54th Artillery, C.A.C., but before Carey went to France his father Sewell passed away on October 20, 1917.

While with the 54th Artillery his rank was Private First Class and was a member of Battery F of the 3rd Battalion. PFC Carey Blythe would have celebrated his 21st birthday while in France and with 7 seven days the war would end. PFC Blythe would have returned to the States with the 54th Artillery and after his discharge from the Army he returned back to North Carolina, his home state.

The gravestone of Carey J. Blythe as it is today in the Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville, NC. This was photographed by Ssg. Curtiss Poteat, U.S.A., Ret. It reads:
Carey J. Blythe
North Carolina
PVT.
54th Regt. Coast Arty
July 29, 1932

By January of 1920 Carey Blythe was living in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his mother Sarah. This was the same home they lived in back in 1910 located at 616 Second Avenue. According to the 1920 Federal Census Sarah who was now 49-years old, and Carey now 21-years old were the only ones living in the home. Sarah owned the home, which was free and clear as there was not a mortgage on it. Sarah would pass away on August 2, 1945. Carey was working as a house painter in January of 1920.

At some point after 1920 Carey met and married a woman named Lillie E. At the time of Carey’s death he and Lillie were living in Hendersonville, NC and he was now working as an auto mechanic. On October 9, 1931 Carey Blythe became ill with Pulmonary Tuberculosis and was treated at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Oteen, NC.

At the age of 34-years at 10:45 in the evening of July 29, 1932 Carey J. Blythe passed away from his Pulmonary Tuberculosis, which was far advanced. His body was released to the Brownell, Dunn Funeral home in Asheville, NC where he was buried on July 30 in the Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville, NC.

Photo of Pvt. Blythe's stone provided by Ssg. Curtiss Proteat, U.S.A., Ret.

William Frank Bradburn, Battery A

William Frank Bradburn was in fact born on September 24, 1888. His mother’s name was Callie (Halfacre) Bradburn and was born in Newberry South Carolina about 1851. On William’s Death Certificate from North Carolina it does not state his fathers name but does list that he was born in Newton, North Carolina.

Upon further research I find that there was in fact a Callie Bradburn married to a Pinkney Bradburn listed on the 1880 Federal Census from Reeder Township in Newton County, North Carolina. Pinkney was also born about 1851. On this census form he is listed as working as a laborer and Callie was keeping house. They at the time had no children. Additional research into Pinkney Bradburn shows that he appears on the 1850 Federal Census for Catawba, North Carolina. He is listed as the youngest child of T. W. Bradburn aged 29 and Sarah M. Bradburn also aged 29. T. M. the father was a farmer and he and Sarah had two children, a daughter named Martha Jane age 4 and Pinkney who was listed as age 2-years. So he may have been born as early as 1848.

William Frank Bradburn joined the army during WWI and served overseas with the 54th Artillery, Coast Artillery Corps. At some point after returning from France he married and her name was Mary Lynnette. On March 2, 1930 William became ill with Lobar Pneumonia in his right lung and at 8:30 in the morning on March 4, 1930 he passed away at St. Peters Hospital in Charlotte, NC while under the care of Dr. T. W. Tregor. His body was released to the Douglas and Sing funeral home of Charlotte and was buried on March 5 in Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville, NC. This is the same cemetery that PFC Carey J. Blythe of Battery F is burried.

Pvt. 1cl Calixte Edward Poirier, HQ Co, Service No. 583261

Calixte Edward Poirier was born in the late fall of 1893 in Biddeford, Maine. He is likely the son of French Canadians who had come to Maine to make a home and a family. On April 4, 1917, two days before the United States declared war with Germany, Calixte Edward Poirier enlisted into the Maine National Guard in his hometown of Biddeford. He listed his name as Edward C. Poirier on the military documents, likely due to the fact it just made things easier in the army, Edward being a more common name than Calixte.

Pvt. Poirier was first assigned to the 7th Company, Coast Defenses Portland, Maine Coast Artillery National Guard then stationed at Ft. Preble, Maine. Poirier was with the 7th Company until transferred to the 9th Company then stationed at Ft. Levett, Maine and remained there until August 13, 1917. At that time he was transferred to the Headquarters Company of the 54th Artillery, CA.C.

Pvt. Poirier sailed March 16, 1918 with parts of the 54th Artillery on board the HMS Baltic where they arrived in Le Havre, France on April 6, 1918. Pvt. Poirier remained with HQ Co. 54th Artillery until he was again transferred on July 20, 1918 to the Headquarters Company of the 32nd Artillery Brigade. He served 9 days with the 32nd Artillery Brigade and on July 29 he was transferred to the Headquarters Company of the 65th Artillery Regiment, C.A.C.

With the HQ Company 65th Artillery Poirier saw action at the front in the St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne actions and in the Defensive Sectors. Poirier was advanced to Private First Class while with the 65th Artillery on October 4, 1918. Nineteen days later on October 23, 1918 PFC Poirier was again transferred back to the HQ Co. of the 32nd Artillery Brigade where he would remain until after the armistice was signed. He returned to the States with the 32nd Artillery Brigade on December 31, 1918. The 32nd was demobilized at Camp Hill, Virginia, PFC Poirier being separated from the 32nd Artillery on January 7, 1919. He was placed into the 4th Company of the 151st Depot Brigade at Camp Devens in Massachusetts until his final Honorable Discharge from the Army on January 15, 1919.

Corporal John Comer Hawkins, Service No. 724127, Battery E

John C. Hawkins (Texas) enlisted on May 3rd 1917 and received a honorable discharge March 24th 1919. Serial No. 724127. Served as a Corporal in the 54th Artillery, C.A.C., Battery "E"

PFC Thomas W. McGrath

Grave marker of Thomas W. McGrath
September 14, 1896-July 12, 1955
Massachusetts
PFC Battery E, 54th Artillery, C.A.C. WWI

Photo on the right is Private McGrath in uniform during the winter of 1917.

Captain Floyd G. Brightbill, Battery B


2nd Lt. Floyd G. Brightbill

Floyd G. Brightbill was born on June 10, 1891 in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. At the time he entered into the army he lived at 675 Parkwood Drive, Cleveland, Ohio. He probably entered Officers' Candidate School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana on May 14, 1917. Upon graduation from officers' candidate School he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Coast Artillery Corps and was assigned to Fort Monroe, Va. until August 15th 1917.

2nd Lt. Brightbill was assigned to the 54th Artillery, C.A.C. where he was a Battery officer in Battery B. March 7th 1918 he was advanced to 1st Lieutenant. On March 16th 1918 he sailed on the Baltic with 19 officers and 566 enlisted men of Supply Co., Batteries A and B, 54th Artillery, and arrived in LeHarve, France on April 6th 1918.

At an unknown date (possibly during April, 1918 as a large number of officers, most of who were 1st and 2nd Lieutenants, were transferred into the 56th Artillery) 1st Lt. Brightbill was transferred to the 56th Artillery, C.A.C. and participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive with the 56th Artillery. He was advanced to the rank of Captain on November 11th 1918. Captain Brightbill did not return with the 56th Artillery to the United States. Captain Brightbill on January 23, 1919 was ordered to return to Ft. Monroe, Virginia, and on February 2,boarded the SS La France at Brest, France. She reached New York City on February 9 and unloaded her passengers. Captain Brightbill was honorably discharged on February 13th 1919.

After his discharge from the army Floyd Brightbill lived in Cleveland, Ohio on West 114th Street, where he was an electrician with a Bolt and Nut Manfacturing Company. At the time of the 1920 Federal Census he was not married. Sometime in 1923 he married and her name was Florence, who was 23 years old in 1923. Florence and Floyd according to the 1930 Federal Census had two children, Ruth E. age 7 and Barbara J. age 3 years. In 1930 the family was living in a rented house at 1433 Maile Avenue in Lakewood, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. At the time Floyd was an electrician in a auto factory. Floyd survived his wife who died at an unknown date and on November 5, 1958 Floyd G. Brightbill died in Lakewood, Ohio at the age of 67.

Pvt. Russell G. Waters, Service No. 581630, Battery B

Relatively speaking America’s part during WWI was short in duration of time, but in terms of the outcome was one of the factors that helped secure the Victory against the German Empire. America was a latecomer in this war and during the last 6-months of the war America was just then getting her troop levels up to full strength. Should the war have continued into the Spring Offensive of 1919 as many of the top military minds of that time believed, that many of the newly arrived American soldiers would have been in the thick of this new offensive. One such soldier was Private Russell G. Waters Service No. 581630 and this is his story.

Russell George Waters was the third child born on August 12 of 1892 to Charlotte “Lotte” M. and George A. Waters of Wiscasset, Maine. To support his family of six children George A. Waters worked as a bridge architect likely for the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway or the Wiscasset and Quebec Railroad. Russell George Waters was the third child and the only son born to “Lotte” and George, his sisters were Inez, Madeline, Muriel and Cecile.

As the new year of 1917 began, Russell Waters was in his 25th year and was working as a clerk at the Clarence Irving Dickinson, Sr., Grocery Story in Wiscasset. In June of 1917 the United States Government began its first call-up for the draft during the war. And it was on June 5th in Wiscasset, Maine that Russell registered. He listed that he was single, working for the Dickinson Grocery store, and was a short medium built man with blue eyes and brown hair.

Also, that summer Russell had met and became in love with Albertine Marie Gamache of Waterville, Maine which was about 45-miles north of Wiscasset. Albertine was two-years younger than Russell and was working as a clerk in Waterville during the summer of 1917. As 1917 was drawing to a close Russell enlisted into the Maine National Guard at Ft. Williams located along the southern Maine coast in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. On Friday December 14, 1917 Russell Waters reported for duty at Ft. Williams as a Private, and was place into the 18th Company Maine Coast Artillery National Guard. This was a unit based out of Portland, Maine.

By that Monday, December 17, 1917, Russell had asked Albertine to marry him, she said yes and on Sunday December 30, 1917 he and Albertine were married by Frank B. W. Welch a Justice of the Peace in Portland, Maine.

There were many changes in the life of Russell Waters during December of 1917, from his enlistment into the National Guard, his engagement and marriage, and also the federalization of the Maine National Guard. Pvt. Waters company had now been called into Federal Service for the war and the 18th Company, Portland was renamed Battery B of the 54th Artillery Regiment, CAC then forming for duty overseas.


Pvt. Russell G. Waters, photo was taken before he sailed for France, aboard the Baltic.

Back at Ft. Williams they were busy removing the 10-inch and 6-inch guns from the fort so that they could be sent to France and have new mobile mounts put under them to be used during the war. Of the four guns at Battery Garesché in Ft. Williams only one of the 6-inch guns was actually sent to France. None of the American Coast Artillery Corps regiments in France equipped with this type 6-inch gun completed training in time to see action on the front before the war ended.

On March 16, 1918 part of the 54th Artillery CAC was ready to sail to France. The Headquarters Company, Medical Detachment, Supply Company and Batteries A and B of which Pvt. Waters was a member of were aboard the SS Baltic and steamed out of New York Harbor for France.

There were five officers and 240 enlisted men in Battery B that went aboard the Baltic. The Battery was under the command of Captain Harry Ewald Heeren. The other Battery officers were 1st Lt. Chester H. Pierce, 1st Lt. Floyd G. Brightbill, 2nd Lt. Frederick William Hogan, 2nd Lt. Charles N. Liley. On the sailing manifest of the SS Baltic, Pvt. Waters listed as the person to contact in case of an emergency, his wife Albertine, of No. 5 ½ Temple Street in Waterville, Maine. Every man aboard the Baltic knew that the “person to contact in case of an emergency” really meant who to contact if the ship was sunk. As each man went aboard they were handed a card to fill out which was addressed to someone back home on one side and the back side was printed “The ship I sailed upon has arrived safely” and the soldier was only permitted to write his name and unit. These cards would then be collected and stored ashore and mailed once they had arrived, “over there.”

In France the 54th Artillery underwent a change as did all of the American Coast Artillery units. The 54th Artillery would be changed to become a training regiment, and not be used on the front in combat. The Army did this so that as artillery units on the line needed replacement men they would be pulled from the 54th Artillery and that man would be fully trained ready to go the moment he arrived in his new unit thereby always ensuring fully trained men were ready all the time.

It was on August 5, 1918 that Pvt. Waters was pulled from the 54th Artillery for new duty. A relative new kind of weapon during the First World War had become part of the fighting, and that was the airplane. At first, they were used as visual observers but quickly grew into something the enemy used against ground troops once machine guns were mounted to the planes. As such the armies had to develop new defenses against this new weapon. The answer to this was the formation of Anti-Aircraft Artillery units. The American Army created Anti-Aircraft Artillery Sectors consisting of separate Anti-aircraft Batteries usually using the French 75mm gun fixed in a new high elevation mount as the weapon against the airplane threat. As such the 4th Anti-Aircraft Battery, CAC was formed and Private Russell G. Waters was then assigned to this new unit.

These new AA Batteries began their training and getting familiar with the new weapons, but do to the lateness in the war were not actually used in combat when the war had ended on November 11, 1918.

Family stories are told of how years after the war back home, Russell used to tell stories of his experiences in France. Elizabeth Bjornen, Russell’s granddaughter, recalls some of those stories.

“I remember my grandfather’s stories about WWI. He was on the French 75’s so he had great memories and stories about the war. There was a story of how he got lost in the forest in France and spent the night with a peasant couple deep in the forest who mended his uniform and gave him rabbit stew. He could speak and write French so he made extra money writing love letters to the local girls for his fellow soldiers. And there was one story of the night they all put their gas masks on thinking it was a gas attack, but it was actually a bomb that had blown up the latrine. And once he almost lost a finger when his wedding ring got caught in the recoil of the 75mm gun.”

After the war these AA Batteries were not required and were some of the first units to be returned back home. It was on December 31, 1918 that the American Armored Cruiser USS Seattle had anchored in Brest, France. She loaded troops aboard and among them were the 4th AA Battery, and Pvt. Russell Waters. About 13-days later on January 12, 1919, Pvt. Waters was once again back on United States soil.

The 4th AA Battery was then sent to Ft. Totten in New York and were demobilized from Active Service. Pvt. Waters was Honorably Discharged from service on January 25, 1919.

Now back in civilian life Russell headed home to his wife and in January of 1920 they were living in Waterville, Maine. There in Waterville they lived on Barnet Ave. where Russell was working for the American Railway Express Company as a clerk.

By the spring of 1930 the Waters family which now consisted of two daughters lived an No. 7 Park Place in Waterville. The house was at the end of Park Place and is a two-story wood framed duplex apartment house. The Waters family had one side and the Charles Davis family had the other side. The house has on the second story a round peaked roof of a Queen Anne Style home and still stands in Waterville today. The two daughters were Madeline A. born about November of 1923 and Joan A. born about December of 1925. During 1940 Russell and Albertine’s eldest daughter Madeline was going to school to become a nurse.

Russell owned and ran a local dairy creamery known as the Home Dairy Company in Waterville from the mid 1920’s throughout World War II. The dairy was located on the southwest corner of Temple and Front Streets in Waterville. Today the buildings have been torn down and it is a city parking lot.

After the Second World War and Russell retired from and sold the dairy, he and Albertine moved to Oakland, Maine, which is just a short distance west of Waterville, where they became antique dealers. The Waters home on Belgrade Ave. in Oakland was filled with antiques, which they were always buying and selling. They were both self-taught in the antique business, reading books and then buying antiques. They were well known antique dealers in the 50's and 60's.

Albertine and Russell Waters would live in the Oakland, Maine area until his death on July 14 of 1970. Russell was then buried in the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta, Maine. Albertine would pass away on July 10, 1983 and she was buried next to Russell.
Gravestone of Pvt. Russell G. Waters Gravestone of Albertine the wife of Pvt. Russell G. Waters

Private Edwin C. Williams, Service No. 581060, Battery B

Many of the young men who served during the First World War would also go on to serve during the Second World War, 24-years after the first war ended. One such man was Edwin Chester Williams, and he would serve in France in the Army at the rank of Private and end up serving again on the European continent 24-years later at the rank of Major.

The story of Edwin Chester Williams begins on December 30, 1898, which is his birthday. On that next to last day in December of 1898 Edwin was born in Natick, Massachusetts to Lizzie J. Maynard (1867-1949) and Walter W. (William) Williams, who was born about 1856-1860 in Oxford, England and passed away in 1942 in Massachusetts.

On October 25, 1869 aboard the Cunard liner SS Palmyra sailing from Liverpool, England, Walter and his younger brother Frederick and their mother Sarah Williams arrived in Boston, Massachusetts. Sarah Williams was then 32-years old, Walter was 9-years old and Fredrick was then 7-years old. William Watson was the Master of the Palmyra which was a 1,389-ton steamship that ran the Liverpool-Boston run.

Sarah Williams may have been coming to America to join her husband George Williams. It is known from the 1880 Federal Census that George and Sarah Williams were together living in Natick, Massachusetts along with their sons William (Walter) and Frederick. William (Walter) was listed as a house painter and his father George was listed as a painter and window glazer. It appears that Sarah and the two boys travelled to America together and George may have come before but this is unknown when he may have come to America. Family stories are told that in England the family name was Stone and for some reason when the family arrived in America that used the last name of Williams. But it is fair to say that George and Sarah (Stone) Williams are the beginnings of the Williams family of Natick, Massachusetts.

The Sarah Williams family settled in Natick, Massachusetts, where Frederick became a photographer and Walter began a house painting company in Natick known as Williams and Brown Painters, Llewellyn Brown was his partner. Walter began his naturalization process to gain his citizenship and by at least 1898 he had become a United States citizen. Walter first married Eleanor Taylor in 1881 and gave birth to a son named Percy in September of 1883. Eleanor died in Natick on March 18, 1886. He then remarried to Lizzie Jane Maynard on May 12, 1892. Walter and Lizzie first had a daughter Lucille Williams who died October 24, 1897 at 3-days old and is buried in the family plot at Dell Park Cemetery. And then on December 30, 1898 Lizzie gave birth to Edwin Chester Williams, the subject of this history.

Edwin would grow up in Natick and attend the Natick High School. Edwin’s older step-brother Percy, studied agriculture at the Massachusetts Agricultural College in Amherst and would go on to become a Professor at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute and became the Alabama state horticulturist.

In the summer of Edwin’s seventeenth year, America was at war and as such Edwin while a student at Northeastern University enlisted into the Coast Artillery Corps of the Army on June 12, 1918 at Fort Banks, Boston. Edwin was assigned to the 9th Company, Boston, which at the time was stationed at Fort Strong. At that time there were eight Coast Artillery fortifications that protected the Boston Harbor area from seaward attacks. The eight forts were; Fort Banks, Heath, Winthrop, Strong, Andrews, Revere, Warren and Ft. Standish.

As America increased the men she was sending to France during the war, each month men of the Coast Artillery Corps were automatically selected for service in France as replacements for Coast Artillery Regiments in France. Private Edwin Chester Williams, Service No. 581060 along with his friend at the time, Pvt. Raymond H. Thurlow Service No. 581039, were among the 216 enlisted men selected from the eight forts in the Boston Coast Defenses for the September draft to be sent to France as replacements. On September 23, 1918 at Hoboken, New Jersey the 216 enlisted men of the Ft. Andrews September Automatic Draft Company No. 7 boarded the USS Mongolia which would be their transportation to France.

Once in France the 216 men of the Ft. Andrews Automatic Draft went to the 54th Artillery Regiment, CAC. This was a training and replacement regiment. The 54th Artillery was set up with fully trained men and anytime a Coast Artillery Regiment on the line in combat needed a replacement man that man would come from the 54th Artillery, fully trained and ready to step into his job without any loss of efficiency to the regiment on the line in combat.

Both Privates Williams and Thurlow were assigned to Battery B of the 54th Artillery and they remained together in Battery B through the end of the war, never having been selected to go to an artillery regiment on the front line. During the time Pvt. Williams was with Battery B they were with the 1st Battalion consisting of Battery A and B and were stationed at Angers (Marne-et-Loire), France. The 2nd Battalion consisting of Battery C and D, was stationed at Doulevant-le-Chateau (Hauts Marne) and the 3rd Battalion consisting of Battery E and F, remained at Haussimont and Angers, France

After the war ended then the three battalions of the 54th were re-assembled and they made their way to the west coast of France at the port city of Brest. But they had to wait their turn for shipping space to become available for the return trip. Part of the 54th Artillery, which consisted of Battery B, sailed on February 23, 1919 on the SS Vedic where they arrived in Boston on March 7, 1919. The remaining part of the 54th Artillery sailed for Boston on February 25th, 1919 aboard the Battleship USS Nebraska and went to Camp Devens, Mass., March 6, 1919. The regiment was demobilized March 13, 1919 at Camp Devens, Massachusetts.

After his Honorable Discharge from the Army on April 13, 1919, Edwin C. Williams said goodbye to his army buddy Raymond Thurlow and headed for home in Natick. Now back at his parents’ home in the two-story house on the northeast corner of Harvard Street and David Drive at 15 Harvard Street in Natick, Edwin began his life after the war.

Edwin continued at the Civil Engineering school at Northeastern University in Boston and was in the class of 1922. Edwin was active in school life and in his senior year was the president of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, Northeastern Section.

On August 30, 1922 Edwin Chester Williams married Wilhelmina Iona ‘Billy’ Johnsen in the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. This was the first marriage in the new church building located at 39 East Central Street in Natick. Wilhelmina was born on September 13, 1899 in Salt Kettle, Paget Parish, Bermuda of Bermudian and Danish parents, Mary Louisa Trounsell ‘Meme’ Harriott (1868-1960) and Ludwig A. Johnsen (1866-1950), and they had emigrated to the United States about 1916 when Wilhelmina was about 17-years old. The Johnsen family moved to 13 Harvard Street in Natick, which was right next door to Walter and Lizzie Williams and this was how Edwin and Wilhelmina met each other.

We don’t know when Edwin and Wilhelmina had travelled to Bermuda but it is a known fact that Edwin and Wilhelmina had left Bermuda on the SS Araguaya on January 9, 1923 bound for New York City. The Araguaya was a Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Ship then on the New York to Bermuda route carrying vacationing passengers out to Bermuda. On the passenger manifest for this voyage Wilhelmina is listed as being related to Edwin “By Marriage” and they have the same address of Natick, Massachusetts listed. So, it is likely that Edwin and Wilhelmina had traveled there to see family that may have still been in Bermuda.

Back in Natick Edwin and Wilhelmina made their home at 13 Hammond Road, and in 1925 they began their family by the birth of their first child, a son they named Edwin Chester, Jr. When young Edwin was two years old the Williams family again travelled back to Bermuda. This is known from the passenger manifest of the SS Fort St. George, a Furness Bermuda Line passenger ship then on the Bermuda to New York route. On March 29, 1927 the Fort St. George left Hamilton, Bermuda bound for New York City where she reached the latter on March 31, 1927. The manifest lists Edwin, Wilhelmina and 2-year old Edwin, Jr. as passengers. Wilhelmina is listed as “Husband of U. S. Citizen” so, she may not have been naturalized by then.

Edwin and Wilhelmina had added to the family on October 30, 1928 with the birth of another son named David M. Williams. Still in the home on Hammond Road, Edwin was then working as a civil engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Public Works. Edwin became a Freemason with the Meridian Lodge in Natick on June 26, 1937 and again in 1939 the family was added to again with the birth of Walter Ian ‘Wally’ Williams on October 27. In the home at 13 Hammond Road in Natick the Williams family would live for many years.

It was at that home in the garage that father and son put their engineering skills to the test as young Edwin, Jr. was into soapbox derby racing. The 1939 Massachusetts State Soap Box Derby champion was eleven-year old Edwin Chester Williams, Jr., from Natick.

It would be from the front door of this house that Edwin would once again put on a uniform in the defense of his country, but this time it would be the uniform of an officer. Edwin enlisted in July of 1942 when he was commissioned as a Captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It was said that Edwin felt like he needed to do his part and could not sit this out. His original orders were to work on construction projects state side but within two-weeks the orders were changed and he was sent to the Eastern European theatre and served in North Africa and Italy where he served for 26-months. On June 9, 1945, for the second time in his life, Major Edwin Williams was Honorably Discharged from Active Duty at camp Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts

Edwin’s eldest son, Edwin, Jr. enlisted in the Coast Guard when he was 17-years old and he served in Salem, Massachusetts during WWII as a flight mechanic on PBM flying boats conducting anti-submarine missions in the Atlantic. Edwin’s second son, David M. Williams also served in the period directly after the end of WWII. There was haste after the surrender of Japan in 1945 to bring all of the servicemen home and discharge them, this put a real strain on the military so, in 1946 the government offered an 18-month enlistment with full WWII benefits. David M. Williams took this offer and enlisted and served in Korea after the end of WWII and before the Korean War. And the third son Walter, served in the United States Marine Corps starting in 1957.

After the end of the Second World War, Edwin, Sr. returned once again to Natick where Edwin and Wilhelmina would live the rest of their lives in Natick and Cape Cod. Edwin was a very active member of the Natick American Legion, even acting as the commander for a one-year period. With a great sense of honor Edwin painstakingly mapped the graves of veterans in the local town cemeteries for the placing of flags on the graves during Memorial Day. Edwin Williams had a great sense of service which he passed on to his three sons, Edwin, Jr., David, and Walter who all served their Country in the military. The family is filled with honored service to our Country as Edwin’s grandfather on his mother’s side, William C. Maynard served in the Civil War in the Union Army with the Connecticut 11th Infantry.

Edwin would pass away on December 21, 1973 in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts and was buried in the Dell Park Cemetery in Natick. Wilhelmina would live on until her death on July 22, 1990 and she was buried next to Edwin.

Private Edwin Chester Williams, 1918 during WWI Major Edwin Chester Williams during WWII
Dog tags from WWII on the upper left and from WWI on the lower right. The WWI dog tags were hand stamped into aluminum disks each letter at a time, making now two dog tags exactly the same. They also had a cloth stringer. The WWII dog tags were machine stamped into a thin steel blank, which were issued with the metal “BB” stringer so often seen. The medals and collar pins of Edwin C. Williams.
This photo is identified as being Battery B, 54th Artillery, CAC on a barge in France. Pvt. Williams is identified with the red arrow above his head.
This is a French photo card taken at the Maximin Photo Studio in Angouleme, France. On the left is identified as Pvt. Raymond Thurlow and on the right is Pvt. Edwin C. Williams. It is dated November 18, 1918 and at the bottom under the date it says “Pals from Northeastern.” It is assumed from this statement that Thurlow and Williams may have gone to college together at Northeastern in Boston before the war, but this is not confirmed. Thurlow was from Newburyport, Massachussetts and could have attended Northeastern and this might explain why they were Army buddies together. Edwin C. Williams in 1938 leading a Memorial Day Parade as the Natick American Legion Post Commander.

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This page was last updated on January 2, 2019

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