Before the World War the population of Mason, New Hampshire hovered just above 325 people. After the War the population would drop to below 300, and would not begin to recover until the 1950s. Mason sent its young men into battle including [partial list] James H. Beck, Harry Chute, Victor Duncan, George H. Hill, Wilhelmena Nykanen (nurse), Louis M. Smith, and Gardner Tucker. One of these young people would not return.
James Henry Beck was born 12 March 1896 in Medford MA, son of John & Jennie Harriet (Siggens) Back. His parents had immigrated from Nova Scotia, Canada. In the 1900 U.S. Census he was living in Somerville MA with his family, and by 1910 they had moved to Mason, New Hampshire. James had brothers: Ernest Edward, Joseph Benjamin, John Wesley, Frank Rorey and Charles Archibald.
On 5 June 1917 he completed his WWI Registration form while living in Somerville MA. He was single and working as a Yard Helper for Highland Coal Co. He describes himself as of medium height, stout with black hair and blue eyes. He notes that two fingers on his right hand are partly gone. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 4 October 1917 assigned to the 151st Depot Battalion. On 11 November 1917 he was transferred to Co F, 307th Ammunition Train, 82d Division. He went overseas on 15 June 1918 aboard the ship George Washington, his Service Number being 1920298.
Private James H. Beck was not in Europe long before he died of an accident. Records show that he drowned on 23 August 1918 at Pompey, France. Details are not known, and he was buried in France at St Mihiel American Cemetery.
[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].