By Steve Fuller
Special to The Ellsworth American
ELLSWORTH — Mention t
he word “doughboy” today, and it evokes the taste of a calorie-laden treat at the Blue Hill Fair instead of a trenchcoat-wearing, helmeted soldier. Hear the word “Kaiser,” and it brings to mind a kind of sandwich roll rather than the leader of the German Empire.
A century ago, however, news of American doughboys fighting in France against the forces of German Kaiser Wilhelm II filled the pages of The Ellsworth American each week. From wounded warriors to draft drawings and travel premonitions to suicide pacts, war-related news was almost always present.
Although the United States was only an official combatant in the war for about a year and a half, from April 6, 1917, until the war’s end on Nov. 11, 1918, Hancock County residents had been reading about the fighting since it started in 1914.
War broke out in late July of that year, and on Aug. 4 the German steamer Kronprinzessin Cecilie tied up in Bar Harbor. The ship had been a day away from reaching England on an eastbound trans-Atlantic run when the war broke out, and it sped back to the United States in search of a neutral port to avoid being captured.
Hancock County “felt a genuine touch of war excitement” with the arrival of the ship. The paper said the war, a “long-predicted catastrophe,” would be a “Titanic struggle” — one in which the United States, though then neutral, would “undoubtedly figure large in the ultimate peace negotiations.”
Less than a year later, the British steamship Lusitania was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine off of the Irish coast in May of 1915. Aside from the universal reaction of horror at that news — “One great tragedy is in the minds of all,” The American reported in the wake of the sinking — Ellsworth readers learned they had narrowly avoided losing one of their own.
The former Pamelia Whiting, adopted daughter of Ellsworth merchant Samuel Kidder (namesake of today’s S.K. Whiting Park), was married to Newton, Mass., resident Edward Beecher Bowen. A prominent shoe manufacturer, Bowen made frequent trans-Atlantic trips for his business endeavors.
One of those endeavors called Bowen to London in May of 1915, but he later recalled deciding at the last moment not to sail on Lusitania because of a premonition.
“A feeling grew upon me,” he said, “that something was going to happen to the Lusitania. I talked it over with Mrs. Bowen and we decided to cancel our passage.”
By 1917 and 1918, there were more names in the paper each week with more direct ties to the war. In late September of 1918, South Brooksville resident Oliver P. Gray held the number (322) drawn first in that draft round. A year earlier it was another Brooksville resident whose number was picked first: Harry E. Sawyer.
At the beginning of the month, American readers learned of the death of Lt. Harold L. Savage. Though he was a resident of South Brewer and was serving in the aviation division of the Canadian forces, Savage had a sister in Ellsworth and was well known in the community as a result of “frequent extended visits.” He died in a plane accident in England.
Others survived their time overseas, but not unscathed. F.G. Garland of Lakewood wrote home to say he had “done two turns in the line and over the top twice,” referring to climbing out of the relatively sheltered trench and across a deadly no-man’s land toward the enemy lines.
“I got a machine-gun bullet in my leg just below the knee, and it took the hide off some, but not enough to bother with,” Garland wrote. “I think I will get a wound stripe, though, for the doctor took my name and company. I hope none comes any nearer than that.”
Each week brought new news of soldiers home on leave from France or headed to the front. Maj. Martyn H. Shute of Ellsworth, who had served several years with the regular Army in Texas, was transferred to France to command a battalion.
Bryant E. Moore — namesake of the school-turned-community center on State Street in his native Ellsworth — graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1917 as a lieutenant. A year later, The American reported Moore’s friends and family were “pleased to learn that he has received a captain’s commission.”
Moore went on to earn the rank of major general, command divisions in the European theater of World War II and serve as commandant of West Point before serving in Korea, where he died in 1951.
Bartlett Cottle, in September of 1918, wrote home to let his parents know how he was faring overseas: “It does not seem possible that I am in France, but I guess I am by the talk I hear. I only wish I could speak it.”
Cottle’s letter suggests he was not stationed in the trenches where the fighting was, as he said he had “plenty to eat, lots of sleep and not working hard.”
Not all parents received good news. Sadie Snowman of Blue Hill learned months earlier, in July of 1918, that her 20-year-old son, Willis E. Snowman, had gone missing a month earlier while working in the military ambulance service in France.
On Sept. 22, 1918, memorial services for Fred B. Ashley of Seal Cove were held at the Baptist church in that town. A member of Company K of the 103rd Infantry, Ashley was killed in action in France on July 18. The Seal Cove church was “beautifully and appropriately decorated with the national colors, banks of autumn leaves and a profusion of flowers,” The American reported.
Tragedy took other forms in wartime, too. In late July of 1918, two bodies were picked up near the breakwater in Bar Harbor. They were found to be man and wife, and the case was deemed a double suicide pact. Selected for military service, the man was said to have deserted from Camp Devens in Massachusetts at his wife’s request because she feared him being “sent at once into the activities of the western front” in France.
Rather than face that prospect, the woman apparently decided it would be best for both of them to end their lives together. She was said to have “begged and pleaded with her husband until he had consented to her final plans.” The two bodies were found tied together with a clothesline, and the couple were said to have jumped off of a local steamship.
News of the war continued long after the guns fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November in 1918. In 1937, the Portland Press Herald shared a photo and story of two men from Stonington — Carl Morey and Ralph K. Barter — who each lost his left arm due to combat wounds on the same day: Oct. 15, 1918.
“The two men did not see each other until the following April, when each was sent to a Boston hospital,” the Portland paper reported. “Comparing notes there, the men discovered they were wounded within an hour of each other.”
Both men agreed that they “just had to be ‘buddies’ after all that,” and had gone on to lead successful lives in business (Barter also served as a state representative). They expressed a hope they would “never again have to go through the things which made [them] so similar.”
Less than five years later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was again pulled into a cataclysmic conflict that would see American GIs fighting and dying in the fields of France and many other corners of the globe.
Hancock County’s World War I dead
Four dozen gave their lives in military service
ELLSWORTH — More than 4.7 million Americans served in the military around the globe during World War I, and of those, more than 110,000 died in service. Another 204,000 were wounded.
Disease, primarily the flu pandemic of 1918, claimed more service members (63,114) than did combat (53,402).
Locally, four dozen Hancock County residents lost their lives while serving their country during the Great War. This list, complied from a record at the Maine State Library, does not include those who fought in the service of other countries (notably Ellsworth’s Frank E. Whitmore, killed April 18, 1917, while in the service of the French Foreign Legion).
Four of the Hancock County residents killed served with the 103rd Infantry Regiment, part of the famed Yankee Division made up of units from around New England.
In the fall of 1918, American readers got an account from summer resident Capt. Carrol J. Swan, who served in that division and had high praise for his fellow soldiers. He described it as “an energetic, eager and resourceful fighting machine, full of grit and determination, and fully up to the best traditions of New England.”
When available or known, the cause of death is listed in parentheses:
Frederick J. Barstow, Naval Reserve, Oct. 15, 1918 (disease)
Helen F. Donovan, Army Nurse Corps, Sept. 30, 1918
Harold E. Dow, seaman in Navy, Nov. 29, 1918
George Kirk, captain of Co. A, 4th Machine Gun Battalion, Nov. 20, 1918
Roland M. Leland, Co. B, 60th Infantry, Oct. 14, 1918 (killed in action)
Leon H. Rodick, electrician third class, Naval Reserve, Oct. 3, 1918
George R. Sawyer, Army training battalion, Oct. 30, 1918 (disease)
Robert L. Candage, Co. C, 9th Battalion, Engineers, April 15, 1918 (disease)
Horace K. Duffy, Co. G, 58th Infantry, Sept. 23, 1918 (disease)
John G. Ladd, Army training battalion, Oct. 2, 1918 (disease)
Harvey W. Bowden, Naval Reserve, Dec. 11, 1918
Herbert L. Carley, chief yeoman in Navy, April 12, 1917
Lawrence Doiron, Battery C, 120th Field Artillery, Oct. 2, 1918 (disease)
Melvin W. Hoxie, apprentice nurse 2nd class in Navy, Jan. 15, 1919
Clarence L. Jones, seaman in Navy, Oct. 30, 1917
Frank R. Snow, Co. M, 103rd Infantry, Nov. 10, 1918 (killed in action)
Oscar C. Olsen, water tender in Naval Reserve, Oct. 9, 1918
James H. Fountain, Co. I, 327th Infantry, Oct. 8, 1918 (killed in action)
Bertie M. Stanley, quartermaster 2nd class in Coast Patrol, Dec. 18, 1918
Roy E. Joyce, acting chief quartermaster in Naval Reserve, Sept. 14, 1918
David E. Abbott, Co. A, 103rd Infantry, April 24, 1919 (disease)
William C. Dodge, Flight C, 307th Aero Squad, Nov. 1, 1918 (disease)
Albert J. Dorgan, Medical Department, Oct. 2, 1918 (disease)
Andrew H. Duffee, electrician 1st class in Navy, Dec. 29, 1918 (disease)
Harold E. Moore, seaman 2nd class in Naval Reserve, Dec. 12, 1918
Pearley W. Harriman, Army training battalion, Oct. 21, 1918 (disease)
Harry W. Hammond, Co. B, 104th Infantry, Dec. 3, 1918
Louis D. Kelliher, apprentice seaman in Navy, May 20, 1917
Ralph H. Dunham, Co. A, 23rd Infantry, Oct. 10, 1918 (wounds)
Alton F. Frost, Battery E, 303rd Field Artillery, March 4, 1918 (disease)
Roy W. Carter, Co. M, 327th Infantry, Oct. 10, 1918 (killed in action)
Cecil H. Hodsdon, 4th Army Corps Headquarters, Feb. 21, 1919 (disease)
Victor R. Smith, Co. H, 76th Infantry, Sept. 24, 1918
Lester J. Lurvey, Co. D, 5th machine gun battalion, Oct. 3, 1918 (killed in action)
Ralph W. Reynolds, Battery B, 303rd Field Artillery, Nov. 6, 1918 (disease)
Lee E. Dorr, Army training battalion, Sept. 29, 1918 (disease)
Chandler Hutchins, Co. K, 74th Infantry, Oct. 2, 1918 (disease)
Elisha W. Wescott, Co. A, 103rd Infantry, July 20, 1918 (killed in action)
Claude J. Dunbar, Army training battalion, Sept. 26, 1918 (disease)
Donald F. Eldridge, machinist’s mate in Naval Reserve, Jan. 21, 1919
William P. Hutchins, Co. A, 39th Infantry, March 19, 1919 (disease)
Fred B. Ashley, Co. K, 103rd Infantry, July 18, 1918 (killed in action)
Clarence S. Torrey, Army training battalion, Oct. 3, 1918 (disease)
Alvin A. Hanna Jr., Naval Reserve, Dec. 13, 1918
Rodney Stinson, Co. F, 104th Infantry, April 13, 1918 (wounds)
Calvin A. Sturdee, Army, Sept. 27, 1918 (disease)
Herbert S. Reed, Battery C, 57th Coastal Artillery, Oct. 11, 1918 (disease)
James V. Sargent, seaman in Naval Reserve, Dec. 9, 1918