100 Years Ago: New Hampshire’s WWI Trench Art

Trench art man made from a bullet. WWI. Purchased from the estate of a retired Coral Gables police officer, and former patrol agent. Now in the possession of this blog’s editor.

Most people have seen a war souvenir. They take many forms from a postcard mailed from ‘the front,’ to a pillow with a sentimental message for a sweetheart. Today they are sought as collectibles.

Trench Art is a specific subgroup of these war souvenirs. John M. Ford, a photographer with a strong interest in the military, has some eye-candy photographs of trench art on his web site, along with detailed definitions of what professional collectors consider it to be. I paint the trench art category with a broader brush.

WWI soldiers sometimes had free time and little entertainment, so they took to creating and carving.  Some soldiers engraved their names or designs on their mess kits.  Others created letter openers, rifle shell desk lamps, altar pieces, candle sticks, match box covers, cups, ash trays, umbrella stands, vases, water bottles, book ends, cigarette lighters, “piggy” banks, pitchers and jugs, spittoons, toys, and vehicle models (to name just a few). Continue reading

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New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Merrimack

Mattie (Kilborn) Webster was a Merrimack teacher who helped educate many of the young men who fought in WWI and documented what she knew about local history.

I would not have known certain intimate details of Merrimack, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire’s contributions to the WWI effort, except that my paternal grandmother, Mattie (Kilborn) Webster wrote about them. She was a school teacher in Merrimack, having graduated from the local McGaw Normal Institute (a teacher’s preparatory school). She was also the town’s first historian, compiling the town’s history on specific topics for Merrimack’s Bicentennial Celebration.

The history information immediately following about WWI is from Merrimack’s Bicentennial Pageant held on June 30, 1946,  presented on that day by speaker, Horace Patterson. I have my grandmother’s handwritten notebook that holds the original text and notes, thanks to my cousin Janice (Watkins) Trebesch who saved them for me.

As for the rest of what you will read here–it is the result of laborious but important research.  I went to a variety of sources, including the engraving on the Merrimack Soldiers and Sailors monument, and two newspaper notices that mentioned the Merrimack WWI veterans by name.  From there I sought documents from their life and death that provided me with details. Their military travel records and military stone requests were important tools.  These comprehensive details have not been published anywhere before now, as this is my unique research and compilation.  It is my gift to the people and veterans of Merrimack, and a continuation of my grandmother’s work.  It is also personal–two of my great-uncle’s names are carved into the monument.

Continue reading

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100 Years Ago: New Hampshire Gold Star Mothers

WWI era souvenir postcard with a tribute to mothers, and displaying the most commonly used style of service flag.

My Star
by Caroline Ticknor
From Granite State Monthly vol 50-51, 1918-1919, p. 470

I have a star of gold on my breast,
A star of strife, a star of rest;
It marks a sword-thrust through my heart,
It tells of glory and of pain
Of bitter loss and wondrous gain,
Of youth that played the hero’s part.


O, star of gold upon my breast,
Tell of those stars that he loved best;
He bore the stripes, he suffered all
To keep our banner free from stain;
He hath not given all in vain
In answering his Nation’s call.

O, star of hope upon my breast,
Strength the faith I have professed;
He died that nations might be free;
Help me to live for truth and right,
And with my woman’s soul to fight
Nerved by his immortality.
Continue reading

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New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Candia

Older postcard showing the Soldier’s Monument in Candia, New Hampshire’s Village Square.

The Candia New Hampshire World War I monument is actually one “side” of the Soldier’s Monument located in Village Square on High Street in that town. We know from the engraving that 34 men from Candia served, and that Lieut. Wm. Hervey Thomas was killed in Action.


This monument was originally placed to honor those who died during the American Civil War, the funds to build it furnished in 1892 by Frederick Smyth. The town funded $200 for its granite base.

I was contacted by email on 12 May 2017 by Diane Philbrick of the Heritage Commission that “a plaque on a mill stone (by the Fitts Museum) lists all of the names and the one fatality.  Clara Thomas, the wife of the deceased, had this monument made in his honor.”  I would love to have a photograph of the stone! Continue reading

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New Hampshire WWI Military: Captain Nathaniel Robert Mason of North Conway

Captain Nathaniel R. Mason in his WWI uniform. Photograph courtesy of his granddaughter, Ellen McGrath. Used here with her written permission.

I recently saw a wonderful comment left on this blog by the granddaughter of a New Hampshire WWI veteran. He had a fascinating life and she was rightfully proud of him.

For whatever reason, his name was omitted from the Conway NH area veteran plaques and monuments. Perhaps it was because he moved to Boston where he practiced medicine, though he was a native and often spend his summers in the Conway area.

Ellen McGrath has kindly allowed me to use her grandfather’s photographs in this story. This is a link to the site where there are more. Hopefully I will surprise both her and you with what I have discovered about this interesting and talented man. Continue reading

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