New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Canaan

Canaan NH’s first WWI Honor Roll sat on the front lawn of the Baptist Church. Photograph from old postcard of Donna Zani-Dunkerton, town historian & Canaan Historical Society.

Canaan is a small town in mid-western New Hampshire, situated just east of Hanover in Grafton County. Even today its population hovers just under 4,000 people. The town is proud of its veterans and plans have been made to update the town’s war memorial to include more recent military men and women.

Everyone I spoke with from Canaan was helpful in writing this story. I was fortunate to speak first with Harry Armstrong of the American Legion Weld-Webster Post 55 who pointed me in the right direction.  Mike Sampson the town administrator allowed me to use his photographs (credited to him here).

I owe a GREAT debt of gratitude to Donna Zani-Dunkerton, the town historian, for hours of her work to collect then provide me with photographs, news clippings, grave site locations and other details I would not have otherwise known .


Photograph of the Canaan New Hampshire Memorial Monument, courtesy of Mike Samson, used with permission.

The very first honor roll to the Canaan WWI fallen was a wooden sign placed on 7 March 1919 on the Baptist Church grounds. A local publication’s history column,”Scrap of History,” (submitted by Donna Zani-Dunkerton) stated “the memorial tablet is supported by two black upright columns, each surmounted by a gold eagle. The tablet is of white enamel with lettering in black and contains the names of 54 Canaan boys. Of these, three– Israel D. Ford, Jack Welch, and Lynn Webster are marked with the cross denoting wounds, Forrest E. Smith, the triangle for death from disease, and Verne H. Weld, the star that stands for supreme sacrifice in action.  Edward Hill and Henry Johnson had charge of setting up the memorial under the direction of Chairman Smart of the local Board of Selectmen….

The names were eventually engraved on a plaque and affixed to a monument which included the names of residents who participated in earlier wars.

The same article [Scrap of History] adds that on 4 July 1952 an plaque dedicated to the towns World War II servicemen and women had been added to the monument with funds donated by the town and Weld-Webster American Legion Post #55.  This monument sat for over 100 years in a small triangle of ground on Parker Street at the corner of On The Common Street.

WWI plaque on Canaan NH memorial monument with names engraved. Photograph courtesy Mike Samson, used with permission.

Only a few years ago the monument was moved to the corner of the town common, and the small triangle of land that it formerly sat on was removed and paved over. A larger slab of marble was placed beneath the newly moved monument.

Today the monument to town veterans sits  on the Canaan town common at the intersection of  Route 4 (Mascoma Valley Road), Parker Street (Route 118), and On the Common Street. The four sides hold plaques with lists of citizens who served during the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and the Korean War & Vietnam Wars.

The local American Legion is working to update the monument to include the veterans of more recent wars and conflicts including Lebanon/Grenada, Panama and the Gulf War/War on Terrorism.

This blog post focuses solely on Canaan during World War I. The transcription of that plaque with its fifty-four names is directly below. The four names marked with a star indicate they died in war time or from wounds incurred during wartime.


Old postcard photograph, across bridge on river street, Canaan New Hampshire. Property of J.W. Brown, blog editor.

1917 WORLD WAR 1918

NED B. SMITH [first secretary of the Canaan American Legion Post; died in 1976, buried Wells Cemetery]
JACK WELCH [first commander of the Canaan American Legion Post, see story below].

Old Postcard of Crystal Lake and Canaan Street  in Canaan New Hampshire

(Sources of my information and reference)
[A] Book: Soldiers of the Great War, by W.M. Haulsee, F.G. Howe, A.C. Doyle, Soldiers Record Publishing Association, 1920.
[B] United States Adjutant-General Military Records for WWI
[C] Honor Roll at the NH State House, Doric Hall (Hall of Flags)
[D] Honor Roll, Canaan War Memorial
[E] U.S. Army Transport Records
[F] U.S. Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, FamilySearch
[G] Death Certificate providing military or death information
[H] Newspaper notices
[I] Gold Star Mother’s Pilgrimage List
[Story] Biography, Story and Photograph at this blog (Cow Hampshire), unless otherwise noted.
* Photograph is shown or is available
# Numbers refer to a biography following the list with additional information on a particular soldier

Verne Weld who was killed in action during World War I.  Photograph was provided originally by his sister, Grace, at the request of the local American Legion. Credits to Weld-Webster American Legion Post #55. Used here with permission.

Heroes of Canaan NH
(FOUR who died during WWI)


Editor’s Note: The names of four of the following six men appear on the Honor Roll in the Hall of Flags in the New Hampshire States House.  The names that do not appear are Isreal Ford and Jack Welch, because they died upon their return from Europe, and after their discharge from the army.  One name, Ernest W. DeCato does not appear on the Canaan NH monument.

Ernest W. DeCato | Private | Died of Disease (lobar pneumonia following influenza) at Post Hospital, Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland Co., Maine | 14th Coastal Artillery Corps | Fort Williams, Maine | Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Canaan, Grafton Co. NH | [C ] [1]

Bernard W. Eastman | Seaman 2c | Died of Disease (septicemia) 8 May 1919, Brooklyn Navy Hospital, Brooklyn, Kings Co. NY | USS Northern Pacific (ship), U.S. Navy | Wells Cemetery, Canaan NH |[C][D][G][H][2]

– Isreal/Israel Ford | Private | Died 20 April 1920 Canaan NH (acute nephritis) | U.S. Army, Co. F., Supply Company, 103d Infantry | St. Mary’s Cemetery, Canaan NH |[D][E][H][3]

– Forrest E. Smith | Private | Died 22 Sep 1918 of Disease (Pneumonia), Camp Upton, Long Island NY | U.S. Army Training Camp | Wells Cemetery, Canaan NH |[C][D][4]

Jack Welch | Corporal |  Died 5 February 1923 Enfield NH (broncho-pneumonia) | Co K, 103rd Infantry |   Oak Grove Cemetery, Enfield NH | wounded by poison gas while serving in Europe | [D][E][G][H][5]

– Verne H. Weld*| Corporal | Killed in Action 24 Sep 1918, St. Mihiel France | Co. M, 103d Infantry | St. Mihiel American Cemetery, France | Local American Legion Post #55 named in his honor |[A][B][C][D][I][6]


[1] ERNEST W(ILLEM or ILLIAM) DECATO was born  born 12 Jan 1893 in Canaan NH, son of Joseph C. & Mary (Bushway) DeCato. He attended the local schools and in the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Census Records he is found living in Canaan NH with his parents and siblings Exine Lucinda DeCato (who d. 1900 age 18), George Harvey (who married Lucy Marie Senecal), Dallas Telisphore “Dallis” DeCato (who married Exzelia M. Rameos), Adelard “Dellie” DeCato (who married Florence LaPort), Almena H. DeCato who married Lester R. Williams and d. 1982), Varis Decato who married Una

Postcard of Fort Williams, Cape Elizabeth, ME showing troops in formation outside of the administration building and barracks.

Tucker).   On 5 June 1917 Ernest W. DeCato completed his WWI registration from Enfield NH where he was living working as a “Floor man” at Baltic Mills, American Woolen. He stated he was single and the support of his mother.  He was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and black hair.  His death certificate states that he died 6 April 1918 aged 26 at the Base Hospital, Fort William at Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland Co. Maine.  The cause of death was lobar pneumonia resulting from influenza, having been in the Base Hospital only 7 days.  He was buried at Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Canaan, Grafton Co. NH.  Other burial information indicates that he was a Private in the U.S. Army, serving in the 14th Coastal Artillery Corps.

Detroit Publishing Co., Publisher. A Ward in Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital. New York, None. [Between 1890 and 1901] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress

[2] BERNARD WALLACE EASTMAN was born 18 August 1896 in Canaan, Grafton Co. NH, son of Montville “Montie” & Laura A. (Gee) Eastman. He was the grandson of Enoch C. & Mary N. (Howe) Eastman.  His siblings included: Mildred (who married Irving A. Staples), Ernest Ray (who m. Annie M. Bailey), Helen M. who d.y., and Elizabeth D. (who m1) Charles L. Louks; m2d) David Henry Higgins).

During WWI he served in the navy, based on his death record dated 8 May 1919 in Brooklyn, Kings Co., New York.   That document states he was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, aged 22, single.  [His actual death record gives the cause of death as “septicemia, abscess,” (thanks to Jim Murray for researching this).] A newspaper clipping that corroborates this cause of death was supplied to me from Canaan town historian, Donna Zani-Dunkerton reads as follows:

Photograph of the S.S. Northern Pacific where Seaman 2c Bernard W. Eastman was stationed prior to his illness. This ship was an American Passenger Liner, shown in harbor probably when completed in 1914. This ship served as USS Northern Pacific in 1917-1919. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, an official U.S. Navy web site

The Canaan Reporter, Local News. “This letter was received by Mr. and Mrs. Mont Eastman at the time of the death of their son, Bernard. //U.S. Naval Hospital, Brooklyn, N.Y. May 9, 1919. Mr. Montie Eastman, Canaan, N.H. My Dear Mr. Eastman:–It is with deep regret that I must inform you of the passing away of your brave and patriotic son, Bernard Wallace Eastman, Seaman Second Class, U.S.N.R.F. He was a typical American who was loved by all of the officers and men associated with him and everyone else who knew him. He quite often mentioned his family and friends. He was admitted to this hospital from the U.S.S. Northern Pacific on May 3rd 1919, and was immediately put under the treatment of the best specialists and every possible care and attention at our command was tendered him. With the best nursing and special care, however, he failed to respond and although for a time it appeared that he would recover, he gradually grew worse and passed away at 11:01 a.m. on May 8th 1919 as the result of a severe care of Septicemia (blood poisoning). Assuring you of my sympathy to your bereavement, which I feel sure will be softened by the thought that your gallant and loyal son gave his life to his country while serving it in the hour of its greatest need. I am very sincerely yours, G.A. Lung, Captain, M.C.; U.S. Navy, In Command.”

Training Station, U.S. Navy, Newport, Rhode Island where Bernard Eastman was first stationed, 1916. Photograph. Library of Congress Photographs & Records Division.

The newspaper St. Johnsbury Caledonian of 14 May 1919, page 6 states that “Mrs. S.C. Smith and her brother Ren Gee “were called to Canaan NH on Friday by the death of her nephew in the navy hospital in Brooklyn NY. Much sympathy is felt for the family both here and at his home.”  A second newspaper report provided by Donna Zani-Dunkerton historian and the Canaan Historical Society gives more details as directly follows.  The Canaan Reporter newspaper of May 9, 1919 wrote: “Bernard Eastman dies in Service. Friends of Bernard Eastman were saddened Thursday at the news of his death which followed upon reports of his serious illness at the Naval hospital in Brooklyn. Blood poisoning, which affected a scratch on his face, was the cause of his death. His condition Sunday was so serious that his parents were sent for, but they returned to Canaan Thursday morning confident that their son was getting better. The funeral will be held here probably Sunday afternoon.  Bernard Eastman was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Montville Eastman of this village. He was 23 years old last August and was a quiet, industrious young man of good habits and one who possessed the good will of all. He joined the navy in 1918, being assigned to the Newport training station, and has made several visits home since then. A younger brother and an older and younger sister also survive.”

He was given a military funeral and buried in Wells Cemetery, Canaan New Hampshire. The Canaan Reporter of May 16, 1919 reported. “Funeral services for Bernard Eastman, the third of Canaan’s boys to give his life in the service of his country, were held in the Methodist church Sunday afternoon in the presence of a large number of friends and relatives. The Rev. C.W. Taylor officiated, expression recognition of the young man’s merits as one of the community’s boys and as his country’s servant. There were two solos by Principal Harold Drew of the high school. The pall-bearers were Ned B. Smith, Hugh T. Clarke, Edward H. Rice, Charles R. Stevens, Franklin M. Allen and Ernest Jones, all of them formerly of Uncle Sam’s military service. Interment was in Wells Cemetery….(description of floral arrangements found in the original are not shown here).”

The RMS Saxonia that was used to transport American soldiers home from WWI, including Israel E. Ford.  Circa 1900. Detroit Publishing Co. publisher; Library of Congress, Photographs & Prints Division.

[3] ISRAEL EDWARD FORD was born 24 July 1893 in Wentworth, Grafton Co., New Hampshire, son of Isreal Nazaire & Mary Jessie (Grover) Ford.  Siblings: Delphine (who m. Martin Golden), Eva (who m. Ernest Munroe), Abbie (who m. John A. Hill), Rosie (who m. David J. Connors), Stephen, Joseph D., Frank, and Mary F. (who m. Charles E. Decato). In 1900 the family was living in Dorchester NH with his family.  In 1908 the family moved to Manchester NH where Israel Senior died in 1910 leaving a widow and 3 under-aged children.

In June of 1917 along with other young men, Israel Ford completed his WWI registration from the town of Canaan NH, listing his name as “Israel Edward Ford.”  He was then working as a teamster for Frank Morse of Enfield New Hampshire. He was of medium height and stature, with brown eyes and dark brown hair.  The registrar noted that Israel had already enlisted in the 1st New Hampshire Regiment (National Guard) but had not yet received his papers.

Israel served as a private in the United States Army, in Co F, Supply Company, 103rd Infantry. The U.S. Army Transport service shows “Isreal E. Ford” departed from NY to Europe on 25 December 1917 aboard the ship Saxonia.  His mother Mrs. Jessie Ford is shown as his next of kin. The Boston Globe of 9 January 1919, page 2 reported on “Wounded Who Arrived Yesterday” as the soldiers were being brought home from Europe.  Under the heading “admitted to the hospital on arrival, 11 of them are stretcher cases” included: Israel Ford, Supply Company, 103rd Infantry.”  That notice shows that Israel was severely wounded and remained hospitalized for a time upon his return home.  In 1920 Israel E. and his mother were living with his sister Eva Monroe and her sons Sidney B. and Bernard F. in Canaan NH.  Isreal/Israel Ford died on 20 April 1920 in  Canaan NH of acute nephritis.  This disease could have been either trench nephritis, or the by-product of exposure to mustard gas.  Either way, he was a victim of the war.  According to Donna Dunkerton, the Canaan town historian, he is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery located off 118, near South Hill and Clark Road where his family owned a plot.

[4] FORREST ELIJAH SMITH was born 14 September 1889 in Canaan NH, son of Alden Elijah & Rose Ellen (Bullock) Smith. In 1910 he was living in Canaan NH with his parents and siblings: Josie Belle (m. James J. Rourke) Maude Jessie (m1 Julian R. Hanson, m2 Ross M. Freeman), uncle James J., and cousin Rose N.  A sister Grace Belle died at the age of 4 years. In his June 5, 1917 Registration form he stated he worked at his own restaurant in Canaan NH, single, tall, of medium stature with blue eyes and brown hair.

1917 Postcard showing marching soldier-trainees at Camp Upton, Long Island, New York. Property of J.W. Brown, blog editor.

Forrest E. Smith died 22 Sep 1918 of Disease (Pneumonia) at Camp Upton, Long Island NY, a U.S. Army trainee.  A lengthy article of 4 October 1918 in the local newspaper, The Canaan Reporter,” provides details: “Canaan’s First Loss. Canaan suffered its first direct loss from its young manhood as a result of this war last Sunday morning, when Forest E. Smith died in the military hospital at Camp Upton, L.I. Where he had been stationed, after about a month spent in the service of his county. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alden R. Smith, were notified last Thursday that he was ill, and that pneumonia had developed. They left immediately for his bedside and were with him until the end.  Forrest E. Smith, who will be remembered in Canaan’s history as its first soldier to lay down his life for his country in the war, was born here September 1889. His life has been passed in Canaan with the exception of a few years during which he was in the employ of the Waltham Watch Co. at their Massachusetts plant. / He was a graduate of the Canaan High School, class of 1904 and was a member of Summit Lodge A.F.& A.M. For the past few years he had been associated with his father in conducting the lunch and pool room near the station. He was an exceedingly popular and thoroughly likeable young man, pleasing in personality and of a generous, whole-hearted disposition and his friends, who are many, are united in their sense of loss.  The parents and family in their great sacrifice have the deepest sympathy of everyone. / The remains were brought here from Camp Upton, Tuesday afternoon in charge of Sergeant Cashun, a camp-mate, and funeral services were held Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock from the Methodist Episcopal church, Rev. D.M. Cleveland of Swanzey, a former Canaan clergyman officiating, with the Rev. C.W. Taylor, pastor of the church, also present. George H. Gordon conducted the services. Summit Lodge, No 98, A.F.& A.M., attended and performed the funeral rites of the order with Sidney B. Gilman as Acting Worshipful Master. Ira B. Sevens, Chaplain.  Charles E. Hull sang two solos, “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere,” and “Face to Face.”  The pall-bearers were M.W. Estey, Rufus S. Carpenter, Sidney B. Gilman, Reginald Howe, John R. Taplin and Claude J. Decato. / The casket, of half-couch pattern, was of a handsome pearl white, draped with the American colors and with cut flowers. There was a profusion of beautiful floral pieces.  All places of business were closed during the funeral.  Private Smith is survived by two sisters, besides the parents, Mrs. Herman Jewell of Canaan Center, and Mrs. Julian Hanson of Farmington. /  Forrest Smith has a grave in Wells Cemetery in Canaan NH, showing he died in 1918.  A separate database states he died on 22 September 1918.

Camp where Jack Welch probably trained before being sent to Europe. Orr, A. F. photographer. 103rd U.S. Infantry Camp, Camp Bartlett, Westfield, Mass., Sept. 11th, 1917. Library of Congress, Photographs & Prints Division.

[5] JACK WELCH was born 18 February 1887 in Manchester New Hampshire, son of John & Margaret (Roy) Welch.  Jack completed his WWI registration form in Canaan NH on 5 June 1917 and at that time was working as a tool maker for Mascoma Tool Company of West Canaan.  He was of medium height and weight, with black eyes and brown hair.

Jack served during WWI with the rank of Corporal in Co. K, 103rd Infantry.  He was gassed during his service and resulting in chronic asthma. He returned from the Europe on the ship Maui, departing Bordeaux France on 6 December 1918, a month after the Armistice.  At that time he reported his next of kin was a sister, Nellie Fosher of Manchester, New Hampshire.   Jack returned to live in Canaan, where he was a useful citizen, helped to create the Verne H. Weld American Legion Post #55, and acted as its first Commander.  About the year 1919 or 1920 Jack moved to Enfield.  He died in Enfield NH on 5 Feb 1923 from bronco-pneumonia, exacerbated by his chronic asthma, and the long-lasting after effects of the poison gas during the war years.  His honored and final resting place is in Oak Grove Cemetery, Enfield NH.

Photograph of Corporal Verne H. Weld from a 1918 insert to the New York Times newspaper.

[6] VERNE HAMBLETT WELD was born 28 July 1895 in Canaan New Hampshire, son of Fred C. & Nora G. (Hamblett) Weld.  He had siblings Grace, Mildred Irene (who married 20 December 1919 to Philippe Lapierre), and Gerry.

When Verne completed his WWI Registration form on 5 June 1917 for the town of Canaan, he was 25 years old, single, and an unemployed electrician.  He had already served 1 year as a private in the infantry, New Hampshire National Guard.  He was tall, of medium stature with brown eyes and brown hair.

A newspaper notice from the Canaan Reporter notes that Verne enlisted in the New Hampshire National Guard at Newport NH in June 1916. In July he was sent to the Mexican border.  The following Spring he was at Camp Spaulding at Concord New Hampshire, and Camp Bartlett, Westfield MA [see photograph above], leaving for France on September 2, 1917. The newspaper article mentions that Verne wrote home stating he had gone “over the top” seven times and that his last letter was written the day he died, on stationery captured from the Germans.

Photograph of Verne Weld taken in 1916 at Laredo TX during his Mexican War service. Photograph courtesy Canaan (NH) Historical Society. Used with permission.

Verne H. Weld served in Co. M, 103rd Infantry 26th Division U.S. Army, and was promoted to Corporal.  He was killed in action on  24 Sep 1918 from shrapnel, and was buried in Plot D, Row 15, Grave 30 at St. Mihiel American Cemetery in Lorraine France.

The local newspapers of Canaan (kindly provided by the Canaan Historical Society as previously mentioned) fill in the details. “A letter of Comfort. Mrs. Nora G. Weld has received a letter, which is reproduced below, written by the chaplain of the 103rd Infantry, of which her son, Verne, was a member at the time of his death in France.  -October 1, 1918. My Dear Mrs. Weld– No doubt these are sad, dark days for you, as you mourn the loss of your son, our comrade Verne. You have been called upon to lay his rich, young promising life on the altar of country and of God, in this great struggle to rid the world of all future wars and to make it a decent place to live in.  How hard it has all been for you I well know, for I too have a brother, and I know how terribly hard it would be for her, so I’ve taken the liberty of writing you a word as Verne’s chaplain.  Permit me, first of all to extend to you and your family the sincere sympathy of all the officers and men of our regiment. We keenly feel the loss of your son, for he held a very high place in the esteem and affection of all who knew him.  He was killed in action by an enemy shell with four other comrades. He did not suffer at all, his death being instantaneous.  We took his body way back of the lines and there in a quiet place laid him to rest.  A large number of his comrades were present at the burial and surrounded his grave during the service.  Verne was buried with all the honor due an American soldier. In addition to the regular service we gave him the full military service. The flag he gave his life for was spread over him, the army gun salute was fired in his honor, and then at the close the bugler blew taps, the call in the army which signifies that a soldier’s work is ended.  All in all it was a beautiful service.  Verne’s grave is well marked by a cross with his name on it and then around it all is a nice little fence.  I sent the exact location of the grave to the grave’s registration service and by writing to Washington later you can secure it.  As the Chaplain of your departed son, I bid you all look into Him, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” even Jesus the Christ, may He comfort you and grant you all a happy reunion in Heaven. If I can be of further service, write me. Very sincerely, Chaplain A.G. Butzer.”

In 1930 his mother was listed among the Gold Star Mothers who was offered (and accepted) a pilgrimage to visit their son’s graves in Europe. READ her diary of that trip.

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].


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4 Responses to New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Canaan

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