By the time the armistice was signed, more than 18 million people were killed through warfare and disease. Of those, nearly 50 were WVU students, former students or instructors. Of the four million U.S. soldiers mobilized, about 2,700 had ties to the University. During the war, the Morgantown campus opened a Student Army Training Corps camp, and some of the men who died from influenza and pneumonia at the end of the war were still training on campus.
On March 6, 1919, the University gathered its students and remembered the people they lost. Since then, the soldiers who made it back home have all died, but we are still tied to them. West Virginia Gov. John J. Cornwell sent a telegram to the University in time for the memorial that said as much. “No service that we can hold and no words that we can utter can fittingly memorialize their supreme sacrifices,” he wrote. “The best tribute to their memory will be in the preservation and perpetuation of the ideals for which they struggled to which work we should all unhesitatingly and unqualifiedly consecrate ourselves in the days that are to come.”
In the 100 years since, their memory and work have been saved in the WVU Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Center and the West Virginia State Archives. We thought it was time to share with you the lives of our friends and fellow students from long ago.
In the winter of 1917, the WVU Extension Service sent Christmas boxes of food to soldiers from WVU. Several soldiers sent thank-you letters that found their way into the archive.
“I was very much surprised and delighted to receive a Christmas box from the Extension Department a day or two ago. I was aware of the fact that I had some good friends at the University, but hardly expected so nice a remembrance. You have no idea how much a man in the army appreciates such a gift. While army life is in general very agreeable and interesting to me, at the same time there is an element of monotony which makes a variety very acceptable, especially when it is something to eat. …
This is one of the few Christmas seasons that I have spent away from home, and it goes a little against the grain, but I certainly do not regret my present position. I have only one regret, and that is the fact that I cannot be back at WVU for my last year, and even that does not prevent my desire to stick it out.”
- Corporal Maurice E. Phillips, Camp Wheeler, Ga., Dec. 23, 1917
“We are rapidly and surely getting ready down here to lick the Kaiser and his mad followers. At the same time … you are all working for West Virginia Agriculture. All together we are bound to win. Again I thank you all. Don’t you girls in West Virginia all get married. Someday this war will end and then there will be some soldiers coming back, so don’t forget.”
- A.G. Springer, Camp Gordon, Ga., Dec. 27, 1917
Stephen Paul Hoskins
“Paul’s orderly visited us in Warren and he told us of Paul’s taking his company into battle with two days’ rations and they were gone six days. He said when they returned, they were in rags and covered with mud and so tired they walked like drunken men. Only 46 out of the whole company returned. That was in Argonne, I think.
And he said they had just returned from battle to a place where the Captain had ordered the cooks to get a hot meal and cook until the boys were full. (They had not had a hot meal for days.)
The meal was almost ready when an order came to go double quick to the support of some company that the Germans were getting the best of. He said, ‘We go but oh it smell so good, we hate to. But we so mad we drive them Germans back quick.’ Oh if Paul could only have told us about it!”
- Mrs. Etta M. Hoskins, discussing her son, Stephen Paul Hoskins, May 24, 1920
Lewis G. Burrell, born in Harriman, Tenn., graduated in civil engineering from the University in 1914. He worked for a bridge company and in road construction before enlisting as an aviator. He died in a training crash in Waco, Texas, in July 1917 after marrying Miss Emily Reddington just six months before.
Daniel Ferguson II (center)
Daniel L. Ferguson II, born in Salem, Va., was the first African-American student at the Ohio State University to earn an official letter in athletics and was elected as class orator in 1916 before graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He became a teacher at what is now West Virginia State University before enlisting in the U.S. Army. At Camp Lee in Virginia, he fought against prejudice and discrimination and succeeded in allowing black soldiers to be transferred to other camps. He commanded the 84th Company, 7th Group, M.T.D., until he was discharged. After his wartime career, he became a professor and dean at West Virginia State and served as a special extension agent for that university and WVU.
Boaz Baxter Cox, of Morgantown, W.Va., graduated from the University in 1913. He became a doctor working in Morgantown before enlisting in 1918. He served at a base hospital in Dijon, France, where he died in May 1919.
Former student Jesse P. Pullen, of Danville, Va., was notified that he was awarded a Purple Heart 26 years after he was injured. “It’s a bit late for medals,” he was quoted saying in the Daily Athenaeum. In October 1918, he was shot in the head by a German sniper while aiding his dying commander who had just been hit by a shell. After Pullen was discharged, he studied agriculture at WVU and became the head of the Vocational Agriculture Department of Whitmell Farm Life School in Pittsylvania County, Va.
Roy E. Parrish, of Wallace, W.Va., graduated from the University’s law school in 1910. He was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates before being elected to the State Senate in 1914. After joining the Army, he was sent to France in the Sixth Field Artillery, First Division. He was reported missing during the Chateau-Thierry Drive in July 1918 and his body was later discovered in a shelled field.
Chaplain John C. Ely Jr., born in Xenia, Ohio, was manager of the WVU football team for one year before graduating in 1910. He became a pastor serving in Pennsylvania before working at the YMCA and enlisting in the Navy as a chaplain. In February 1919, he died on the steam ship Melville, a destroyer.
THE FINAL MOMENTS
Librarian L.D. Arnett sent letters to the students’ and alumni’s parents and friends, who wrote back on notecards, company letterhead and typewritten sheets, sending photographs and funeral programs, telling the story as best they knew of how their loved ones lived and died.
“When my time was up and I started to leave he reached for my belt and pulled me to the bed. I leaned over him and he looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Good-bye, Dash.’ My first thought was of his mother, and I had to leave, as I broke down completely after that.”
- James B. Dashiell, friend of Lt. Darwin Feather Berry, written to Berry’s parents, Dec. 1, 1918
“We feel Karl’s death so very keenly every day and hour, but we are glad that when he fell, it was in defense of his God, Country and Humanity. … Karl was wounded and gassed before his death, was in the hospital three weeks from the same, he recovered and was again sent to the front where he fought until he was killed.”
- Mr. and Mrs. A.S. Livengood, regarding their son, Karl, May 21, 1921
“He was just at Morgantown two weeks. He come home sick [and] died with pneumonia.”
- Mrs. P.J. Garvey, discussing her son Edward R. Garvey, a student in civil engineering, April 12, 1920
This list is compiled from the 1919 memorial service program and other lists in the WVU Libraries collection. We have endeavored to be as complete as possible from alumni to vocational students, including all names that we found.
Maximilian J. Ackerman
Lane Schofield Anderson
Ralph R. Ball
Eugene B. Bell
Darwin Feather Berry
Raymond Robert Biddle
James L. Brown
Lewis G. Burrell
Frederick A. Caudy
Barton Dayton Core
Boaz Baxter Cox
Henry Winter Davis
Thedford Owen Davis
Fred Albert Duncan
John Calvin Ely Jr.
James Clark McGrew Forquer
Joseph Robert Fuccy
Edward Roome Garvey
Andrew J. Graves
James Lawrence Henderson
Stephen Paul Hoskins
Charles D. Howell
William Henry Jack Jr.
Bert L. Lamont
Lyle Franklin Mahan
Earl Dilworth Mason
Kenneth M. Meadows
Roy Earl Parrish
James Myers Porterfield
Lawrence Cullen Riggs
William Aschman Riheldaffer
Paul Ray Sbarske
Earl W. Shank
Andrew Jonathan Sheppard
John Franklin Stalnaker
Edmond David Stewart
Merrill Hale Thorn
Frank H. Turvey
Joseph I. Van Gilder
Forest Gray Williams
William Hart Wilson