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WWI 100-year anniversary fast approaching

By Staff | Feb 3, 2016

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Hughesville Rotary members (left to right) Bill Sherwood, Peggy Wood, and Mike Bieber with presenter, Carol Shetler. The foreground of the photo has research books, photos of local WWI soldiers Grover Secules, Clarence McMichael and George M. Hess. The quilt blocks include fabric with poppies representing Flanders Field with spaces to pen soldiers' names which will be collected until December 2016.

HUGHESVILLE – The 100th anniversary of WWI is fast approaching, and local historian and writer, Carol Shetler, along with a working committee are seeking names of soldiers from the East Lycoming area who served during this time.

Last Tuesday evening Shetler gave a presentation of her research at the Hughesville Rotary that meets weekly at the Country Fork restaurant in Hughesville.

She began by referring to “Flanders Field” and the poem’s author, Charles McRae when he wrote the final paragraph “Take up our quarrel with the foe, To you from failing hands we throw, The torch, be yours to hold it high, If ye break faith with us who die, We Shall not sleep, though poppies grow, In Flanders Field.”

The 100th anniversary will begin in April 2017. “As a researcher and writer, I have been gathering information since the summer of 2014, and am encouraging others to do the same,” Shetler said to the Rotary members.

Her research has included more than 200 names mostly from the eastern part of Lycoming County. She and the committee are seeking living descendants of known soldiers. “For only from them, can we learn how survivors wove themselves into the tapestry of their communities,” Shetler said.

Canadian born WWI soldier Clarence McMichael, father of the late Mildred Bogart from Clarkstown.

Her 36 years of experience have aided her in finding references and making connections. “I have walked burial grounds, referenced cemetery books, obituaries in newspaper archives, censuses and military records.”

She added, “Still, these do not allow us to know the ‘rest of the story’ making it imperative that living family members be contacted. There remains among us, children and grandchildren who hold treasures such as photos and letters.”

Through conversations, two individuals have been located with stacks of letters written by their family soldier. One individual recovered such letters on a pile of items destined for the land fill. This may be the only way of tracking the day to day happenings while they served according to Shetler.

According to Lloyds History of Lycoming County, “At war’s end, a thousand men returned to Lycoming County. This number does not reflect those returning prior to that time, nor fatalities incurred.”

One of the soldiers she mentioned was Elmer Franklin Gardner, a local fatality. “The soldier’s body was not returned though a marker was placed in Salem Cemetery at Unityville. Gardner was a gunner with the 314th Infantry Division. His nephew is Dale Gardner.”

Also serving with the 314th was Raymond Hill who did survive. The obituary of the Wolf Township resident states, “Hill, a member of Glenn Sharrow American Legion Post, was instrumental in its founding and served as the post’s first Commander.”

Post war stories are both interesting and varied. Nancy Bogart Winder of Clarkstown, overseer of the kitchen at Hughesville Fire Hall shared about her grandfather Clarence McMichael. He was born in Canada where he had no siblings. Upon discharge from the army in Texas, Clarence purchased a motorcycle to return home. “En route home, he decided to stop in Muncy to visit acquaintances. Here he met and married a local girl and spent his life here,” explained Shetler.

Grover Secules, born at Glen Mawr, is the father of Louis Secules and Shirley Shaner. The veteran returned home to his occupation in agriculture and lastly owned and operated a farm in Clinton Township. A grandson, Thomas Secules, is cantor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Hughesville.

Shetler shared some more of her findings. A navy veteran, George M. Hess, was shared by his daughter-in-law, Ann Hess.

Rob Mueller, a retired faculty member with the East Lycoming School District, told of his maternal grandfather, a Chicago native. Prior to the war, Andrew Venema sang with well known groups in the Windy City. When joining the Army, he became part of a quartet traveling and singing throughout Europe in an effort to lift morale. For a time, Mueller’s grandfather resided in Williamsport. “Even though the veteran is buried in Lansing, Michigan, he leaves Mueller of South Williamsport and a granddaughter in Warrensville.”

In 1927, WWI veteran James Brewer, joined his brothers in a business in Muncy. There they operated the Brewer Brothers Garage, selling and servicing Buick and Chevrolet automobiles. Previously several members of this family were blacksmiths. The location of the former business is currently the site of a drive-thru of Muncy Bank and Trust at South Main and New Streets.

Shetler said that stories of other local soldiers are waiting to be told. Another was C. Lee Harding of Lairdsville, and also the fatality of Leland Green.

“In some instances, non relatives have adopted a soldier from the list,” she said. Art Karge of Picture Rocks adopted Samuel ‘Jacob’ Foust, a veteran who was employed at the H & E Ladder factory in Picture Rocks. Erma Bower of Hughesville adopted Harley Shipman, a tailor by trade, a resident of Hughesville before moving to Williamport.

Criteria for submitting names are: Need not be born or buried in this area. Current residents having WWI soldiers are encouraged to participate. “If you are a part of this community, your history is now our history. Your input will gladly be included,” urged Shetler.

The effort to gather this information is county wide. Several historical societies belong to HOLC, the Historical Organizations of Lycoming County, a 12 member group meeting round robin style quarterly.

“As for myself and co-researchers, we continue gathering information to meet the centennial deadline,” concluded Shetler.

To submit any information regarding a WWI veteran, contact Carol Shetler at P.O. Box 81 Muncy, 17756 or leave informational material at the Luminary office, 1025 Rt. 405 Highway, Hughesville.

Shetler plans on giving updates on her progress and research throughout the year with the possibility of publishing a book for the future. She just completed a project with the Civil War and wants to proceed to WWI history.