More Than 20 Millville Men Honored for Their Sacrifice in WWILast Edited:
The display that holds the "biographical sketch" of each soldier that passed away from WWI. Photo courtesy of Kevin Howard.
MILLVILLE, N.J. — On April 6th, 1917, the United States of America entered World War I, a war that many thought would be the "war to end all wars." A reported 116,708 U.S. soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during the war.
One hundred years later, the Millville Historical Society is honoring more than 20 men from Millville who heard the call from their country and perished while serving in WWI.
The new exhibit Millville and World War I: A Time for Remembrance & Commemoration was created by Linda Jones, vice president of the Historical Society. She says that felt like it was her duty to the men that died during the war to have their stories heard again after all of these years — to never be forgotten as time passes by.
The exhibit was funded in part by the New Jersey Historical Commission, United States Department of State, and the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders through the Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Commission.
Jones started her research with the names on the bronze plaque at the Millville Memorial High School, and the names on the WWI Monument on 4th and Wheaton Avenue in Millville.
"While teaching U.S. History at Millville Memorial High School, I stopped to read the bronze tablets flanking the doors to Memorial's auditorium," says Jones. "I was surprised to learn that the school was 'Dedicated in Memory of the Men from Millville who made the Supreme Sacrifice in the World War.'"
From there Jones compared the names and used a variety of different internet databases for research. One database Jones used was the New Jersey State Archive, a searchable database for World War I deaths. Through her searches, Jones found correspondences, photographs, and descriptive cards of each soldier. These cards include the reasons of death, how long each soldier was in the field, and next of kin.
Photo of Herman Kerrick and his descriptive card. The card indicates that Kerrick was killed in action on October 12th, 1918. Photos courtesy of New Jersey State Archives.
Jones also used genealogybank.com to search for the names through newspaper headlines. Headlines would usually involve the death or injury of a Millville soldier. But sometimes the headline and the article would have incorrect information, which would add more research time to Jones.
Jones found one soldier that the newspapers said had passed away, but through her research, she found out that soldier was alive and well.
"He wasn’t on any of Millville‘s memorials and wasn‘t listed as a casualty in the New Jersey State Archives," says Jones. "Further research revealed a later newspaper article report that he was alive and soon to visit his mother in Millville."
Nine soldiers from Millville died in the line of action, while 15 died from diseases that were caught during the war. Some of the men were buried in France while others were sent back home to be buried.
After her research, Jones started what she calls "biographical sketches" of each soldier. Each sketch includes a photo (if Jones was able to find one), rank, name, date of death, residence, place of burial, occupation before the war, and next of kin.
A "biographical sketch" of First Lieutenant Malvern Jess Nabb. Photo Courtesy of Linda Jones.
The exhibit received artifacts of the war from the Millville Army Air Field Museum, American Legion, and Smith and Jackson Military Antiques. These artifacts include uniforms, helmets, mess kit, and canteen. Jo-Ann and Dale Wettstein, from Steelmen Photographics, provided photos from the era of Millville during the war.
Jones hopes that all of her hours of research and study will get people interested in the history of where they live and how big events can have large effects on small towns in America.
"I hope that visitors to the exhibit Millville and World War I: A Time for Remembrance & Commemoration take away a desire to learn more about their village, town, or city's history," says Jones. "We can envision how large, dramatic events such as the Great War impacted a nation and the world, but also small American towns and the lives of the families and their ancestors who lived there."
The exhibit is open every Wednesday and Sunday, free and open to the public through April and May 2017 from 1- 4 p.m. It is located at the Millville Historical Society's Headquarters, 200 East Main St., Millville, NJ.
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