New Hampshire WWI Military: Private Willie J. Bacon of Rumney

Photograph of Rumney NH from the Boston,
Concord & Montreal Railroad, circa 1909.
Originally a stereo-graph photograph. New
Hampshire Historical Society, used with

There seemed to be a great deal of confusion over which state should claim Private Willie J. Bacon for his World War I service. Both Rumney Missouri (MO) and Rumney Maine (ME) were suggested places, I suppose because the state abbreviation was confusing. The Halsee WWI book places him in Maine too. In fact neither of those locations are correct. Military records, and his official burial cross show that he is credited to New Hampshire, for he was born in Rumney this state, and enlisted from Concord NH.

Willie J. Bacon was born Joseph Welman Bacon on 14 March 1894 in Rumney NH, fourth child of Joseph Anson & Maggie Etta (Elliott) Bacon. By 1900 his parents had already divorced with Joseph Anson moving to Plymouth. That same year a 6 year old Willie J. was boarding with the Avery family in Ellsworth New Hampshire. In four years his mother would remarry to John S. Willey a relative of those same Averys.

On 5 June 1917 as “Willie Joseph Bacon,” he completed his WWI Registration card, stating he was living at 130 South Street in Concord NH, a laborer for the B&M Railroad there. He was single, aged 23, and described himself as being of medium height and weight with brown eyes and brown hair.

The Boston Sunday Globe of September 23, 1917 announced: “Transfers Announced, These New Hampshire men were transferred today from the 303d Field Artillery to the 103rd Field Artillery at Boxford: Willie J. Bacon [et al].”

The Military Transport Passenger Outgoing List for Willie J. Bacon possibly created the original “where did he come from” problem. It shows Willie departing Hoboken NJ on 9 October 1917 aboard the ship Baltic, with the rank of Driver in Battery B of the 103rd infantry. His next of kin is mother Mrs. John W. Bacon, Rumney, Maine. This is the correct military unit but not the correct relative or location as any of his remaining family was in the Rumney NH area. His mother was by now Mr. John S. Willey, not Bacon.

According to “The Doughboy Center” web site, “One of the earliest arriving and most active of the AEF divisions, the 26th New Englanders would see subsequent heavy action at both St. Mihiel and north of Verdun in the Meuse Argonne Offensive. Nine of the Battery’s men fell in France: Willie J. Bacon, Alfred C. Butts, Ray C. Bertherman, Archibald Coats, Edgar P. Black, William H. Francis, William J. Brailsford, Frederick A. Harmon and Harry Leeman.”

Photograph of St. Mihiel American Cemetery, France. From American Battle Monuments web site, American Battle Monuments Commission.

Willie J. Bacon died on 16 December 1918, just a month after the Armistice, and lies buried in St. Mihiel American Cemetery, in Thiaucourt France, in Plot B, Row 16, Grave 10. The cross above his remains credit him to New Hampshire, and to the 103rd Field Artillery Regiment, 26th Infantry Division.

Willie’s mother is listed on the New Hampshire WWI Mother’s Pilgrimage list as follows: Mrs. Etta M. Willey, Rumney NH, mother of Willie J. Bacon, Pvt Bat B, 103rd F.A., Buried St. Mihiel France, unknown if to participate in pilgrimage.  Willie J. Bacon’s name is inscribed on the Roll of Honor in Doric Hall, New Hampshire State House. It is unknown whether Rumney New Hampshire has a World War I monument that includes his name.

[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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10 Responses to New Hampshire WWI Military: Private Willie J. Bacon of Rumney

  1. Pingback: New Hampshire World War I Military: Heroes of The Great War | Cow Hampshire

  2. Good job getting past the confusion of which state he should be credited to, Janice.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Thank you for the encouragement, Kathy. His name is listed on the New Hampshire Honor Roll in the State House so I really wanted to discover who he was. So many more to seek!

  3. Amy says:

    How in the world did they list him with the wrong mother? That’s terrible. I hope they notified the right woman when he died.

    • Janice Brown says:

      I’ve learned about some terrible mistakes that happened during WWI with this research. One young man (not from New Hampshire) was shipped home and it was discovered he was not their son, they got the bodies mixed up. At least a few were listed as dead and the family notified, only to find that they were hospitalized. We have to remember how horrible that war was, men sometimes blown up and unrecognizable to a variety of others who had to dig up bodies that had been buried for over a year and keep the paperwork straight. Human error. As for Willie Bacon, thankfully there was a paper trail I could follow and use primary evidence to sort out who he really was.

      • Amy says:

        I had a cousin—Simon LB Cohen—whose parents were notified by mistake that he had been killed in World War I. Fortunately he came home safe and sound, but died in his 30s. I will always wonder whether his time in the service contributed to his early death.

        • Janice Brown says:

          Anyone who fought at the front would have experienced a combination of battlefield situations that could contribute to an early death. From exposure to poison gas to trench foot or other diseases resulting from having to stand in cold water up to their thighs in the trenches, to rat and other vermin in close proximity. Those who actually came home safely and with complete health would have been a rarity I think.

  4. Pingback: New Hampshire WWI Military: Heroes of Plymouth and Rumney | Cow Hampshire

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