The WWI soldiers in these biographies were credited to a town in Merrimack County, New Hampshire. WWI deaths were attributed to a specific town based on a variety of criteria that was not always consistent from town to town. Their attributed location could have been their birth place, or where they married, or where they registered for the World War I Draft. Other reasons were they indicated the town as their last known address, or noted some next of kin or friend living there during wartime.
I’ve made every attempt to identify these heroes of World War I, and have placed some of them in this County Heroes list in order to recognize them. If you find them here, then their name appears on the New Hampshire WWI Honor Roll, in Doric Hall, State House, Concord NH (unless otherwise noted). Let us not forget!
Heroes of MERRIMACK COUNTY
(Died in Service)
James E. Fitzwilson Jr.
Credited to New London, Merrimack Co. NH
James Edward Fitzwilson Jr. was born 19 August 1895 in Richmond VA, son of James Edward & Lula Seabrook (Butler) Fitzwilson. In the 1900 U.S. Census James was living with his family and extended family in Brooklyn, Kings Co. NY. He had siblings Willard, Charles, and Grace. The New Hampshire Argus & Spectator newspaper of January 26, 1917 mentions: “Georges Mills. James Fitzwilson has returned after working in Waterbury Conn.” At age 21, James Fitzwilson completed his WWI Registration form while residing in New London NH where he was a laborer for James A. Tracey New London NH. He was single, tall, with a medium build, blue eyes and light hair. U.S. Military Transport Passenger lists show that as J.E. Fitzwilson he sailed on the SS Pocohontas from Hoboken NJ, a member of Company M, 23rd Infantry.He was promoted to Corporal while in service. Newspapers of 9 June 1918 report him as “wounded severely” then on 18 July 1918 that he had “died from wounds.” Corporal James Edward Fitzwilson was buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, France. His name is engraved on the NH WWI Honor Roll in the New Hampshire State House, Concord.
Harold Frederick Gove
Credited to Newbury, Merrimack Co. NH
Harold F. Gove was born 14 Sep 1898 in Newbury NH, son of Archie O. & Harriet M. (Holt) Gove. He had sisters, Elsie Maud Gove (who married Alfred D. Ayer) and Dorothy Collins Gove (b 1895). The USN Casualties section of the U.S. Navy History website shows: “GOVE, HAROLD FREDERICK, Fireman, 3rd class, (father, Archie O Gove, Mount Sunapee, N H; enlisted Boston, Mass, May 18, 1918), USS Pensacola, ex-German Nicaria, freighter (later AK-7), respiratory disease, October 10, 1918.” Find-A-Grave shows him listed on his parent’s tombstone in Chandler Cemetery, Newbury, Merrimack NH. I could not locate a specific burial certificate, so I could not determine whether the Chandler Cemetery mention is a cenotaph or whether he is buried there. Many sailors who died of influenza during WWI were buried at sea.
George Sidney Houston
Credited to Boscawen, NH
George S. Houston was born 28 May 1893 in Penacook NH, son of John Orr & Bertha May (Gale) Houston. In the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Census he is found living in Boscawen NH with his parents and siblings, Robert M. (m. Hazel M. Stinson), Mary Geneva (m. Roy B. Lavigne), Margaret L. (m. Leroy Prull), Bayard Gale (m. Gwendolyn Felch), Dorothy E. (m. Carlton Muzzy Davis), Theodore John (m. Helen Blanche Kimball), and Frances E. (m. Burt W. Smith Jr.). He completed his WWI Registration form in Boscawen NH. He was employed as the Lookout Watchman for Mt. Pawtuckaway by the State of New Hampshire. His physical description was single, tall, of medium stature with blue eyes and light hair The US Army Transport Service Passenger List shows –George S. Houston, departing Brooklyn NY for Europe on 20 May 1918 on ship Morvada. He was a Private in Co B, 309th Infantry, 78th Division. He died on 26 Feb 1919 in France of pneumonia. George S. Houston’s remains were transported from Cherbourg France to Hoboken NJ in May of 1921 aboard the ship Wheaton. He was PFC in Co. B, 309th Infantry, Service Number 1748958. He was buried on 19 June 1921 in Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord NH.
Lieut. Lee H. Knapp
Credited to Danbury, Merrimack Co., NH
Lee Henry Knapp was born 9 November 1892 in St. Johnsbury, VT, son of Dr. Lee V. & Emma A (Ward) Knapp. He was an Allopath physician and surgeon. The Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929 gives a listing of his studies and practice. “Education: New Hampton Institute and Proctor Academy. Medical School: University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore: University of Maryland School of Medicine and Coll of Phys and Surgeons, 1916, (G), MD-04 Baltimore Medical College, Baltimore, 1913. He obtained his New Hampshire medical license in 1916. Practiced: Danbury, NH, 1916, Hanover, NH, Dec 18, 1916, Grafton, NH, Sep 8, 1917; France 1917-1918. [Note that in some notices his death year is listed as 1917, this is incorrect, he died in 1918]. During WWI he was a Lieutenant in the M.O.R.C. Unit, 6th Regiment C.A.C. He departed the United States at New York City on 14 August 1917 aboard the ship Andania bound for Europe. He died in Etaples, France on May 22, 1918 of acute nephritis, due to gas poisoning and exposure in the trenches in the 27th year of his age. He was attached to General Hospital No. 24, A.E.F. and continued on duty several days when he was unfit for service. [Editor’s note: this service compiled from a variety of sources, mostly Boston Globe newspaper notices and the Baltimore Medical College alumni articles]. When the war ended, his body was returned to the United States from France to Hoboken NJ, arriving on 15 Dec 1920 at Hoboken NJ. He was buried with honors in Riverdale Cemetery, Danbury NH on 28 Dec 1920.
Charles Henry Payson Jr., son of Charles H. & Bessie Ann “Betsy” (Downing) Payson, was born 22 May 1896 at Northfield, Merrimack NH. He grew up in Northfield, attending the local schools. His siblings included Alfred, Annie B., Mary E., George D., Irving G., and Ralph R. The U.S. Army’s Military Transport List shows that Charles H. Payson departed New York City on 25 December 1917 bound for Europe on the ship Saxonia. He was a Private in Co. E, 103rd Infantry. The Boston Post of August 12, 1918 posted a photograph of him with the caption: “Private Charles H. Payson, a member of E Company of the 103d Infantry, reported killed in action. His home was in Tilton, N.H.” Military records show that Pvt. Charles Henry Payson Jr. died on 17 Jul 1918, and is buried at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, Belleau, France. His name is engraved on the Roll of Honor in the New Hampshire State House. According to Bill Pecor (see comments for this post) There is also a foot-stone for Charles at Park Cemetery in Tilton that reads “1896-1918. ” [Editor’s Note: this biography was added to this post on 9 June 2018 following additional research. My thanks to Bill Pecor for the date correction.
Ralph Henry Perkins
Credited to Danbury, Merrimack Co. NH
Ralph Henry Perkins, son of Henry Dearborn & Eleanor C. “Nellie” (Stuart) Perkins was born 10 October 1893 in Westminster MA. When he was young his parents moved to Franklin, Merrimack Co., New Hampshire where he attended school. In June of 1917 he completed his WWI Registration form: Ralph Henry Perkins, aged 23, living Danbury NH. Occupation: carpenter for E.J. Kimball of Wilmot NH. He describes himself as single, of medium height and build, with black eyes and dark brown hair. I do not know the regiment that he was assigned to, but it was apparently the U.S. Army and he was assigned to Wilbur Wright Field in Ohio, for that is where he died on 14 Oct 1918, of influenza. The following notice appeared in the newspaper: Akron Times, 14 Oct 1918. EPIDEMIC PASSES CREST AT DAYTON DAYTON, Oct 14.–The sick call at the Wilbur Wright field was light today, indicating the influenza epidemic had passed its crest. Two deaths occurred last night, Ralph Perkins, Danbury NH and John Middleton, Joplin Mo. With the three deaths Saturday night the total at the field reached 35 today. One death has occurred at the McCook experimental field, Private Robert Ashmore of Flint, Mich. In the city of Dayton eight deaths from the malady were reported yesterday, but health officials feel the worst has passed. Ralph Henry Perkins is buried in Riverdale Cemetery, Danbury, Merrimack Co. NH.
[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].