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Lawrence Township and World War I

 Lawrence Township Home Guard

The home guard was set-up to defend the United States during the war, as almost all members of the National Guard had been called into service in the Army.  Lawrence Township had a division that was active in 1917-1918.  Three areas of town were represented in the guard, areas that match the current volunteer fire department districts. 

To view the original pages of the town minute book establishing the home guard, please see - Home Guard Established.

 

The following is a list of members:

Lawrence Road

Sergeant

 Stephen Ziegler

 

Corporals

 J. Roscoe Howell

 William Sharp

 

Privates

 Chester W. Fell

 Edwin J. Whitehead

 Andrew Heck

 James Balaam

 John Hulse

 Charles H. Smith

 James A. Parker

 Joseph Biddolph

 Albert Clark

 Edward E. Reed

 John F. Hutchins

 Peter Ziegler Jr.

 Raymond Erwin

 John Plant

 John Mould

 Harry L. Sohl

 Oliver Stout

 Spencer H. Cornel

Slackwood

Sergeant

 Andrew Kelley

 

Corporals

 Charles R. Swain

 Richard Hewitt

 

Privates

 Harry Neary

 Charles Carr

 William Rathbone

 Arthur Guyer

 Charles Lewis Burchell

 John Condle

 W. Elmer Phillips

 Frank Carr

 John Mulryne

 Samuel Johnson

 Thomas Stevens

 Austin P. Carter

 Raymond E. Davis

 John Milwood Salt

 Charles Horner

 Henry G. Piggin

 Edward T. Applegate

Lawrenceville

Sergeant

 Clifford J. Duncan

 

Corporals

 Dudley Wilcox

 Frank Pierson

 

Privates

 Edwin W. Pahlow

 Charles Crozer Conard

 A. Crozer Reeves

 William Hendrickson

 Samuel Polk

 Harley Willis Heath

 Harold A. Nomer

 Charles Harlow Raymond

 George Land

 Edward S. Hendrickson

 Richard R. Evans

 Frederick A. Robbins  

 Frederick Kafer

 Jasper Brearley

 Edgar H. Pierson

 William F. Hughes

 George A. Drake

 Myron Dawley

Red Cross House

 

So what happened to the attractive Red Cross recreation building after the federal rehabilitation project at the Lawrenceville Agricultural School for Convalescent Soldiers closed in 1919?

 

A series of articles in the Trenton Evening Times reported that it would be reused as a children’s hospital run by the Trenton Red Cross and Mercer County Health League at Park Island.

 

For some reason that plan fell through and the Lawrenceville School purchased it in 1920 for $4,500. The school moved the frame structure to their campus and renovated it as a dormitory to meet the demand for housing caused by increasing enrollments after World War I.

 

It was named Dawes House in memory of Rufus Dawes (Lawrenceville class of 1909) and son of Charles G. Dawes, who donated money for the remodel. Charles Dawes was behind the Dawes Plan (1924) for German reparations following World War I and served as Vice President of the United States (1925-29).

 

The Dawes House burned down in the winter of 1929.

Headline mentioning the plan to reuse the building as a children's hospital. Trenton Evening Times, April 15, 1920, p. 5

Postcard of Red Cross Hospital, ca. 1918-19, Courtesy Gary Hullfish

Dawes House in flames,  Trenton Evening Times, January 20, 1929, p. 3

From the Archives - Remembering Austin P. Carter

 

The Lawrence Township Historical Collection contains extracts of two letters written by Corporal William L. Thompson recounting Austin P. Carter’s death in 1918. Sadly, we do not have the original letters. Luckily, Roscoe Howell provided typed transcripts probably in the 1960s. One of the letters dated “Somewhere in France, Sept. 24th, 1918” was sent to Helen G. Howell, Roscoe’s younger sister. The other letter, undated, was to Thompson’s mother. His moving prose from the trenches befits the son of an English teacher.

 

William L. Thompson to Helen G. Howell, September 24, 1918

 

We all, all the fellows in our platoon liked Austin and used to do him favors like remembering him if there was anything extra to eat anytime, or bring him chocolate, if we found any in our wanderings away from camp. He was always glad to take along somebody’s canteen and fill it for him at the water cart, where ever it might be. That’s the kind of kid he was, always doing something for somebody. I called him a kid, for somehow he did seem younger than most of us; Perhaps because he didn’t drink, and was such a good boy. He was absolutely good. He read his New Testament often and I’m sure it had its effect upon him. In battle I think he would have been a good man, with nerve enough to use the bayonet, but he never had the chance to shed the blood of an enemy. He was killed by the explosion of the shell that burst a building into flames, outside which he lay asleep, as runner for an officer. I don’t think he suffered. He may never have waked up. I couldn’t see that he was wounded in the face or arms or legs, or anywhere for that matter, so the shock alone may have made his body unfit to live to him, and his spirit left it, and left his face relieved and calm, almost with a smile.

 

William L. Thompson to Grace Thompson [mother], undated

 

It was still dark when “Jerry” threw up such a Barrage that Sergeant Andrews called us back from the guns. We started and I smelled gas. Out went our masks, and in the dark I rounded up my men, and gave the command “follow me”, when a shell burst so close that the shock nearly made me fall. We jumped to our shelter and another shell hit a building a couple hundred yards in rear of us and put it to flames. Cries of “Help” were heard. Oh: that was a terrible thing, but I can’t say much about it. My bunkmate, Austin Carter, was lying outside the building as a runner and was killed. He is the Baker Basin boy. His father works the canal bridge, and lives in the white house by the bridge. He was a nice kid. Everybody kidded him and petted him. Brought him chocolates from afar because he hankered for it, and everybody liked him because he didn’t drink, and he did so want to get back home.

  

Who was William L. Thompson?

 

William L. Thompson’s father Daniel taught at the Lawrenceville School from 1904-1920 and was housemaster of Cleve House. William was about ten when his family moved to town. After graduating from the Lawrenceville School, William attended Amherst College where he joined Delta Kappa Epsilon, one of the country’s oldest fraternities. According to his 1920 passport application, William’s “distinguishing marks” included glasses and the “letters ΔΚΕ branded on upper left” presumably arm.

 

William’s college years coincided with the Great War. Amherst’s president did not stress the doctrine of preparedness like most colleges at the time. But when the U.S. entered the war in April 1917, many students left to join up. Since William claimed a religious exemption on his draft card, he was clearly not as eager as some of his classmates. He graduated from Amherst College in the class of 1918. His senior year overlapped with the great American poet Robert Frost’s first year on the faculty.

 

William Thompson served in France from June 1918 to July 1919 as a corporal in the Headquarters Co. of the 309th Infantry assigned to the 78th Division. He wrote to Helen Howell that Austin Carter died before he got the chance to fight. When Carter was killed on September 17, 1918, few American soldiers had experienced combat yet. That would soon change when over one million American soldiers joined their allies in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on September 26. William’s letter was written just two days before the war’s final onslaught commenced.

 

After the war, William did not stay stateside for long. By spring he was back in France working as a clerk for American Express in Paris. It looks like he crossed the Atlantic for a ‘Mademoiselle’. About one month after he arrived, on June 12, 1920, William married Genevieve Rose Justine Salles in Montpellier, France. Nothing about their love story is known. William was one of thousands of American soldiers to wed their French sweethearts after the Great War.

 

William and Genevieve lived in France for several years and started a family. They moved to a suburb outside Boston, Massachusetts in the mid-1920s where he worked at a bank. By then William’s father was headmaster at the nearby Roxbury Latin School.

 

William L. Thompson’s (1894-1977) younger brothers became renowned professionals and educators. Daniel Varney Thompson (1902-1980) was a noted art historian and engineer, while Randall Thompson (1899-1984) was a choral composer most famous for Alleluia (1940), written after the Nazi invasion of France.

WWI Draft Card of William Ladd Thompson,

dated May 29, 1917. Ancestry.com

Passport application photo of William L. and Genevieve Thompson, c. 1922. The couple was traveling to Britain, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Ancestry.com

Photographs

Left: Nurses gather for a group picture in the Slackwood area of town. 

Courtesy Lawrence Township Historical Collection

A Red Cross nurse.

Courtesy Paul Larson

Left: Charles Crozer Conard.  Right: Conard's draft card.  Conard started in the Home Guard, moved on to the National Guard and was drafted into the Army in 1917.  He was killed in action in France while serving as a litter-bearer on October 23, 1918

Austin P. Carter also started in the Home Guard, with the Slackwood Company before enlisting in the Army in April 1918.  Carter was killed in action in France on September 17, 1918.

Children from the Slackwood area of town joined the war effort by starting a knitting club to make clothing for soldiers serving at home and in Europe.

Courtesy Lawrence Township Historical Collection

Monuments

Public School Number 4, which was located in an area of Route 1 that is now a strip mall (Domino's and Jerry's Artorama), was the home of a monument dedicated by the Board of Chosen Freeholders to the Mercer County residents who died in service during World War I.  When the school closed, the monument was moved to the Municipal Complex, where it is still located in front of the Municipal Building.

Above: A drawing by Ed Nelson appeared in a student publication about the school.

Courtesy Lawrence Township Historical Collection

Below:  The monument in 2018 after the Township of Lawrence renovated it.

Photos by Laura Nawrocik

Below:  The Slackwood School also has a monument to residents of the area who fought in World War I.

Photos by Laura Nawrocik

See our Fall 2018 newsletter for more stories about WWI.