The town of Wilton NH had about 1500 citizens when World War I began. The town send its best and brightest youth to service including (not a complete list) Andrew W. Bean, Michael H. Barry, Joseph O. Berube, Roy H. Bent, John W. Brennan, William J. Brunelle, John F. Burke, Harold A. Butler, Edgar H. Butterfield, William M. Connors, Lawrence R. Duval, Louis A. Fairfield, George S. Forbush, Frank Lapointe, Marcel H. Nichols, Wilfrid S. Pellerin, Frank H. Quigley, Clarence A. Russell, Joseph M. Stanton, Fred Eugene Tuttle, John H. Tighe, Edward Varley, and James A. Wing. At least one of these men did not return from the war.
Roy H. Bent was born 7 January 1895 in Wilton, Hillsborough Co. NH, son of William Henry & Sophia (Chute) Bent. In 1900 he was living in Wilton with his father and siblings Gordon, Elsie A., Lucy N. and Edith M. At the age of 22 he completed his WWI Registration form in Wilton NH where he was residing, working as a Teamster for Victor Tuttle of the same town. He was single, tall, stout with blue eyes and dark brown hair.
His Headstone Application for Military Veteran shows he enlisted in the U.S. Army on 9 Feb 1918, and was assigned to the 452nd Squadron, Spruce Production Division, Air Service, S.C. He was assigned to Clatsop County Oregon where some of the U.S. Army Signal Corp were sent, charged with cutting Sitka spruce for airplanes and Douglas-fir for ships. They also had the assignment to protect sawmills from sabotage, and to fight forest fires.
The Spruce Camps of Oregon were not immune to the influenza pandemic that raged across the United States and also decimated American Troops abroad. I have not been able to learn the specifics of Roy Bent’s death. It is always possible he was involved in an accident, but death from influenza was more likely. Private Roy Bent died on 8 March 1918 either at Seaside (by one document) or at Fort Stevens, Clatsop Co., Oregon (by a second document). His body was transported home and he is buried in his family’s cemetery plot at Vale End Cemetery, Wilton NH. The Bent (later Bent-Burke) American Legion, was named in his honor.
He is noted on his parent’s tombstone, and also has a simple military stone that reads:
PVT SIG CORPS
MARCH 8, 1918
The Nashua Telegraph of March 19, 1918, page 9 announced: “WILTON. Plans for Military Funeral for Roy Bent. Was in Service at Vancouver Barracks. Wilton, March 19. Wilton is making arrangements for a military funeral for Roy Bent, the first town’s boy to meet death while in service. He was with the lumberman’s unit at Vancouver. No date is set for the funeral, for the authorities do not as yet know the date of the arrival of the body. The funeral will be held from the Unitarian church and the entire town will take part in this last tribute to their fellow townsman.”
[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].