Above: the only existing picture of George Washington Myers; the Myers funeral procession goes through Alma in 1921; Myers’ headstone in Alma’s Riverside Cemetery
George Washington Myers was born in Edmore, Michigan on March 28, 1883, to Charles and Martha (Jennie) Myers. George was the eldest of six children. In 1900, his family lived in Arcada Township where his father rented a farm and served as an overseer. George attended the Alma schools, graduated from Alma High School and then he first worked for the Swift and Company. Later Myers worked for the Republic Motor Truck Company for nine years as a head shipper until he resigned this position to enlist in the Army. Myers had gained a good reputation, respect from his fellow workers and he was known for his excellent character.
Myers served in the Quartermaster’s Office while at Camp Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan, but prior to this, he had also served in the National Guard. During his training at Camp Custer Myers became a Corporal in K Company of the 125th Infantry. In late January 1918, he made what was probably his last trip home to Gratiot County when he visited his family while on leave. After being sent overseas in late July 1918, Myers was a part of the great Allied Drive that was made against the Germans in France. Tragedy came when he was killed early in that operation, but it was never exactly clear when he died. One newspaper report said late July, another August 1, and another August 5. His request that he made to his mother before he went to France was that he wanted to be brought home if anything ever happened to him.
After the news of his death reached the Myers family late that summer, a short service was held at his parents’ home with the immediate family present. In reflecting about its loss, Alma thought stated that it thought very highly of this fallen soldier. The Alma Record stated, “Mr. Myers won for himself the friendship and deep respect of all with whom he became acquainted. His excellent character and manly bearing marked him as one of the finest examples of Alma youth…” A Gold Star was placed in his honor on the Republic Truck Company’s Service Flag.
It would take almost three years before George Washington Myers returned home to Gratiot County. His burial file tells a little about this process. First, his date of death was officially listed as August 2, 1918, when a Claude F. Acree signed a statement that Myers was “Killed in action in advance from Ourcq River towards the Vesle. (He was) Buried on the South side of a hill from Cierges, about Aug. 5, 1918.” The report also noted that one of Myers’ identity discs (identity badges) had been placed on a cross at his grave. Jennie Myers wrote to the government in early 1921 pleading that her son be sent home (“Send his body to Alma”), even though she and her husband lived in East Onondaga, Michigan. On July 4, 1921, the family received a telegram stating that their son’s body had arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey. When George’s body was shipped to Michigan he came with twenty-three other men (four other members of the 125th Infantry were also part of the group).
The Alma American Legion Post Number 132 helped to plan for an impressive funeral for George Washington Myers. On a warm, Sunday afternoon over 1,000 people turned out to honor him. The service was held at the First Methodist Episcopal Church because it had one of the largest auditoriums in the city. Those who could not fit into the church waited for the caisson, pulled by four black horses, as it made its way along the route to Alma’s Riverside Cemetery.
George Washington Myers was 35 years old when he died serving his country and Gratiot County on the battlefields of France. The Alma American Legion Post was named in his memory.
Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed