The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917 and joined the allies in the World War (now called World War I). A few weeks later Percy Ashley would be dead of lobar pneumonia. This was several months before the first incidents of the so-called “Spanish Flu” were reported and his death seems unconnected to that pandemic. He was either the first, or one of the first New Hampshire men to die in service.
The Gold Star record of Massachusetts provides a good synopsis: “Ashley, Percy: died 23 May 1917 at Fort Slocum, N.Y. Enl. 15 April 1917 Signal Corps, unassigned 4th Recruit Co., Fort Slocum. Born 26 Sept 1894 in Alberta, Can., son of Herbert H. & Annie G. (Pollard) Ashley (both born on Prince Edward Island) of Dorchester, N.H.; brother of Harold S., Gertrude E., Herbert A., Charles C., Elizabeth P. Susie F., Alice W., and Mary A. (wife of Alison H. Nevers). Chauffeur. Served in N.H. N.G. 16 May 1913 to Nov 1915. Credited to New Hampshire.”
Percy Ashley was born at Wetaskiwin, Alberta Province, Canada on 26 Sept 1894, son of Herbert Hatfield & Annie G. (Pollard) Ashley. In the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Censuses, Percy is shown living with his family in Dorchester, New Hampshire. One of the newspaper clippings (see later) states he was from Cheever, which was a location in the town of Dorchester. As stated above he served in the New Hampshire National Guard for 2 years before moving to Lowell MA.
His death record, issued at Dorchester NH at the time of his burial shows that he had been ill in the Fort Slocum Hospital for 3 weeks prior to his death at the age of 22 years 7 months and 27 days. He was single. There is a confusing notation on this death certificate that he was in the U.S. Navy, since all other documents show he was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, so I would presume the Navy reference was an error.
The Lowell Sun, Sunday, May 26, 1917. WAS WELL KNOWN HERE
Mr. Percy Ashley of Cheever, N.H. who has relatives in this city is dead of pneumonia contracted in one of the New York military training camps. He was well known in this city and was at one time employed as a chauffeur for Dr. H.W. Jewett.
Percy Ashley was buried in his family’s lot at Pleasant View Cemetery, on 27 May 1917, at West Rumney NH. Percy’s name is inscribed on the Honor Roll in Doric Hall at the New Hampshire State House. The town of Dorchester appears to have a monument built to honor those who died in all wars, with no specific individuals mentioned.
[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].