Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County During the World War – Part 30: Samuel Benjamin Derby, “I was the Last to Die in Service to Gratiot County”


Above: Samuel B. Derby’s name on the Gratiot County All Wars Memorial in Ithaca; Derby’s registration document.

       Samuel Benjamin Derby was born November 6, 1894, in Hailesboro, New York to John and Patience Derby.  The Derbys moved to Newark Township, and Samuel made a living as a cheesemaker and farmer before the war.

       On June 15, 1917, Derby registered for the draft and officially entered the Army on March 1, 1918. After arriving at Camp Greenleaf, Georgia he became a Private in the Medical Department Post Hospital.  Another record shows that Derby became a Corporal on April 9, 1918, in the Air Service Flying School, but he did not go overseas. On April 19, 1919, he was discharged.

          From there, Derby’s story is somewhat mysterious. In one case, Derby is mentioned as one of thirteen men who perished in a Niagara Falls Power Company accident in North Tonawanda, New York on November 6, 1920. There is evidence that suggests that a man by his name was living in New York in 1941. A marker bearing his name also appears in New York stating that he died in 1962. Which story is accurate?

         So, several questions exist. How and when did Samuel Benjamin Derby die? Since he appeared to die in another state after the war ended, how did his name appear among Gratiot County’s World War I dead?

         Regardless, Samuel Benjamin Derby became the last World War veteran to listed as having served Gratiot County.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed

Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the World War – Part 29: Walter Young of North Star, “I Survived the Battlefield, but I Died at Home from My Wounds”


Above: Walter H. Young’s draft registration card; Young’s name as it appears on the Gratiot County All Wars Memorial in Ithaca, Michigan.

      Walter H. Young was born on January 27, 1895, in Ithaca, Michigan to Peter and Cynthia Young. Walter had one brother, James, who died in 1905. His parents made a living as farmers and Walter worked on the family farm when he entered the service. Young spent time on the Texas – Mexico border at Camp Jones, and he served as a private in Battalion B, 10th Field Artillery.

        The 10th Field Artillery fought in 1918 in battles such as Champagne-Marne,  St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne. At the Meuse-Argonne, the 10th Field Artillery attained the title “The Rock’s Support” because it helped the 3rd Division, famously known as “The Rock of the Marne.”  Somewhere Walter Young was severely wounded, and he ended up being in several hospitals before he came home.  Walter continued to suffer from his wounds for over a year. In April 1919, Walter’s mother died which put more pressure on Walter and his aging father to maintain the family farm. Tragedy struck in mid-September 1920 and Walter Young had to be sent to Dr. Hall’s Hospital in Pompeii.

       After struggling for several days, Young succumbed to the hemorrhaging of gastric ulcers. The doctor concluded that the wounds Young suffered in Europe somehow caused this death.

       Funeral services took place at the North Star Methodist Church, and Walter Young was buried in the North Star Cemetery.

      Walter Henry Young was a World War veteran who came home severely wounded, and who paid the ultimate price for his service to our country.

        Walter Young was only twenty-five years old when he died.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed

Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the World War – Part 28: E.M. Ewen, “I Served Gratiot County, and I am Something of a Mystery”


Above: E.M. Ewen’s name as it appears on the Gratiot All Wars Memorial in Ithaca, Michigan.

        E.M. Ewen was born August 25, 1890, in Derryfield,  Wexford County, Michigan. To E.E. and Addie Ewen and they resided at 223 Prospect Street in Alma during the war. It is possible that the family moved here because his father purchased the dry cleaning plant in Alma in 1916. However, the man who did this was known as E.W. McEwen in newspapers, which presents a question. Was the last name Ewen or McEwen?

        Even more perplexing is finding much else about the life of E. M. Ewen.  He did marry a Helen Williard in 1911 in Alma, and the couple did have a son named Gordon. Ewen was also a bookkeeper before the war. After entering the military,  he joined a camp in Alabama in 1918, which is where he died in April 1919. It is not known where he was buried.

       Beyond this information, nothing else is known about E.M. Ewen – a young man who served Gratiot County and who died during the World War.

At his death, E.M. Ewen was 27 years old.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed

We Remember 1918: Ithaca’s Agnes Yutzey, YMCA Worker During World War I

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Above: Agnes Yutzey’s YMCA portrait; Yutzey’s application for a  passport; staff picture from Ithaca Schools, taken prior to volunteering to work with the YMCA.

Author’s note: The following article first appeared in the December 6, 2018 issue of the Gratiot County Herald.

         During World War I, over 13,000 volunteers went to France and England to serve in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).   It was a favorite place for American soldiers, offering them a place to eat, relax, read and write home.

        Agnes Yutzey, who lived near Middleton, was one of the many volunteers who left her job and went to Europe. During her youth, Yutzey’s parents moved so that she and her two sisters could attend school in Ithaca. A graduate of Central Michigan Normal School, she returned to Ithaca as a teacher before volunteering to head to Europe for the YMCA.

        In 1918, crossing the Atlantic could take a ship as much as three weeks during the war. While on board a vessel, Agnes attempted to pass her time by going for walks, sunning in deck chairs and by trying to keep her food down. Regarding her stomach, she wrote in a letter that some days “the fish won this contest” and she struggled because she did not possess good “sea legs.” However, Yutzey enjoyed serving coffee and tea to soldiers who were onboard.

       Agnes Yutzey’s dream was to make it to France. However, the YMCA sent her to Liverpool, England. She served there for 2 ½ months in the Liverpool Canteen where she worked at 46 Lord Street. Her work involved running a cash desk (checkout) for men who bought food cafeteria style, along with operating a reading room, talking to homesick soldiers and chaperoning those who wanted to see an English play. Yutzey discovered that the average soldier that came to her canteen expected one thing: cream and sugar in their coffee.

       In letters home, she asked Ithaca readers to send her current magazines so that soldiers had new reading material. Occasionally there was an English citizen who walked into the canteen and said that they wanted to meet a real American. Although she initially stayed in a hotel, a local citizen invited Yutzey to live with her in Liverpool. During this time the Influenza Epidemic raged through England, although Yutzey never became sick.  Surprisingly, she did have the good fortune of meeting another Ithaca girl at the Liverpool canteen.

          After a while, Agnes Yutzey eventually made it to the European continent where she worked at YMCA Canteen Number 27 in Coblenz and Number 14 in Trier, Germany.  Yutzey’s service ended in August 1919, and she came home aboard the SS Mobile from Brest, France.

         She returned to live briefly with her parents in New Haven Township before moving to Cedar Falls, Iowa to work at a teachers college. Yutzey next went to George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. It was there in 1921 that she married James Atkinson, Jr., and moved to Clearwater, Florida where she taught until 1940.

               Agnes Yutzey, a YMCA volunteer, passed away in March 1950.

Eldon Helman, from New Haven Township, and Lyndsi Wolfe, Fulton High School Senior, assisted with research for this article.

Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the World War – Part 27: Eber Grace, “I Entered the Service After a Personal Tragedy and I Died Tragically”

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Above: Cemetery marker for Eber Grace in Alma’s Riverside Cemetery; Registration Card for Eber Grace.

       Eber John Grace was born July 24, 1892, in Allen County, Indiana to Simon and Marilda Grace. Eber was the youngest of four children to a farm family. Sometime before 1910 the Grace family moved to Bethany Township to farm. Helping on the farm was Eber’s job, and that was what he was doing when he married Sylva Ann Grandy on December 29, 1912, in St. Louis.

         Five years later, on May 24, 1917, Sylva gave birth to their first child. It was also a tragic time as Sylva died from complications due to childbirth. Eber now had a child to raise, and he was a widower. One month later, he was called to register to the draft. Another year passed, and the Army called Eber to military service, and he found himself at Camp Custer on August 28, 1918. Assigned to the 11th Company, 3rd B.M., 160th D.B., Eber Grace was transferred to the Motor Cycle Company by the time he arrived in France.

         A second tragedy befell Eber Grace when on March 11, 1919, in Libourne, Gironde, France when he died due to a motorcycle accident. The only information about Eber Grace’s death could be summed up in the World War I book, Soldiers of the Great War. His name was merely listed under the category “Died of Accident.”

       Sometime after his death, Grace was brought home from France, and he was laid to rest in Alma’s Riverside Cemetery.

       When he died, Eber J. Grace was twenty-seven years old, and he left behind a two-year-old daughter.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed

Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the World War, Part 26: William Lee Shippey of St. Louis, “I was One of the Few Who had Children”

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Above: William Shippey’s Registration Card; Shippey’s marker in Oak Grove Cemetery.

        William Lee Shippey was born December 13, 1896, in St. Louis, Michigan to Fred and Kittie (Bell) Shippey. He was the older of two sons; however, the 1910 census listed a daughter in the family. Other references state that there was also another son.

       William worked as a lineman and that he was a theatrical employee for the Frances Kelly Stock Company. He also worked for the State of Michigan. Shippey entered the service in 1916 and went to Camp Grayling. However, on his registration card in 1917, it said that he had been rejected for service. It is unclear why or for what reasons this happened, yet Shippey answered the call for the draft and ended up at Camp Custer on March 29, 1918.

       During his training, he became a Sergeant M.S.T. 414, M.T.C. 442.  Shippey then trained at Camp Johnston, Florida where he received a promotion to Corporal before moving to the 85th Division, 310th Engineers. After the Armistice took place, he transferred to the 7th Army Corps.

     While with the Army of Occupation in Germany, William Shippey contracted pneumonia during the influenza epidemic and died on February 6, 1919. Unfortunately, his body would not be sent home until early September 1920. When it happened, a notice in the Gratiot County Herald stated that his funeral services would be held at the St. Louis Methodist Church and that burial took place in Oak Grove Cemetery.

       William Shippey’s death was different from most of the other veterans from Gratiot County. In his case, he left behind two sons, in addition to his wife, parents, brothers and a sister. William’s son, Norman, became a doctor and his other son, known as “Bill,” became a well-known educator and coach in Lansing, Michigan. Today, the Dean Shippey Capital Diamond Classic, a well known high school baseball tournament, is named in Bill’s honor.

          When William Lee Shippey died in 1919, he was only twenty-three years old.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed

Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the World War – Part 25: Ralph Sawvel from Breckenridge, “I was an Alma College Student Who Chose to Go Off to War”


Above: The resting place in Breckenridge’s Ridgelawn Cemetery for Ralph W. Sawvel.


         Ralph Warren Sawvel was born August 15, 1897, in Breckenridge, Michigan to Robert and Almeda Sawvel. In 1910, Robert and Almeda resided in Bethany Township on a farm along with their five children. Ralph was the middle child and second son in the family. Ralph’s mother died in 1911 and his father soon remarried.

          A graduate of Breckenridge Schools, Ralph went on and attended Alma College from 1916-17.  Because of his personality, fellow students nicknamed him “Smiles.” On  July 24, 1917, Sawvel entered Fort Wayne in Detroit, and he was a Private in Company H of the 125th Medical Department, 32nd Infantry Division. From there, he was sent to Camp McArthur, Texas on October 15, 1917, where he served until January 1918 when the Army sent him to Camp New Jersey. Sawvel sailed for France in early February 1918.

           In the Fall of 1918 word reached Breckenridge that Ralph Sawvel had been severely wounded during fighting that summer. One report stated that he had been injured in late July, another in late August. Another story said that another Breckenridge boy, Ward Doyle, had helped to pick Ralph up and to see that someone cared for his wounds. Although newspapers never explained how severely he was injured, Sawvel was hospitalized. It also said that because of the severity of his injuries, Sawvel was expected to be sent home in October. Tragically, it turned out that he died in a hospital in 1919 in Brest before being transported back to the United States. Newspaper reports read that he died “from wounds received in battle. (Sawvel) carried these wounds for some time and was on his way home at the time of his death.”

          It would not be until late July 1920 that Ralph Sawvel would finally return to Breckenridge. He became the first of all of Gratiot County’s war dead to be brought home. After he arrived in Breckenridge, a short service took place in the home of his grandparents. The Breckenridge American Legion conducted the funeral and Sawvel was laid to rest in Breckenridge’s Ridgelawn Cemetery.

              At the time of this death, Ralph W. Sawvel was twenty-one years old.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed

Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the World War- Part 24: Clyde Hull, “I Never Met my Daughter and I was Among the First to Come Home”

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Above: Clyde Hull’s marker in North Star Cemetery; news article from August 12, 1920 issue of the Gratiot County Herald; Hull’s registration card.

         Clyde Franklin Hull was born June 25, 1895, in North Star to Frank and Fannie Hull. By 1900 the Hull family had moved to Bengal Township in Clinton County and family included siblings Jessie, Orpha, and a brother Dillis. Clyde’s father was a farm laborer, and the family probably lived in Saginaw County at one time.

       On March 14, 1918, Clyde married Marie Nass in Ithaca, and they moved to Saginaw, where Clyde worked as a glass worker. Part of Clyde’s tie to Gratiot County was that Marie was from Washington Township.

       Clyde registered for the draft in Saginaw Township, and he was drafted on June 28, 1918, into the Army. The Hulls had been married for just over three months.  Clyde ended up in Camp Custer where he was a Private in Battery D of the 330th Field Artillery, and he sailed for France in July.

      Clyde was like a few other Gratiot County men who went to France and then contracted pneumonia and died, probably in the wake of the Influenza Epidemic. Sadly, his death came on November 27, 1918, just over two weeks after the Armistice was officially signed. Even more tragic, Marie Hull found out about her husband’s death a few days after the birth of their daughter, Lois.

         Records do not tell us much else about Clyde Hull except that he was unique among the others who died in France: he was the first to be sent home. In late August 1920, his body, accompanied by Private Baird of Company C of the 13th Infantry, came to Ithaca. The funeral took place at the Ithaca Presbyterian Church, and six Ashley men who served overseas in France served as pallbearers. He was laid to rest in the North Star Cemetery.

          Clyde Hull was twenty-three years old when he died in France.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed

Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the World War – Part 23: Dwight Von Thurn of Alma, “He was Conscientious and Caring and He Gave His Life Helping Others”

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Above: Von Thurn Family plot in Alma’s Riverside Cemetery; Dwight Von Thurn’s headstone; his registration card for the 1917 draft.

         William Dwight Von Thurn was born April 30, 1894, in Helena, Ohio to Jacob and Lydia Von Thurn. They had a total of seven children with Dwight being one of the youngest. The family experienced tragedy when the oldest daughter, Bessie, died in California in 1909. By 1910, the Von Thurn family moved to Pine River Township in Gratiot County where they farmed.

        At some point, Dwight decided to attend Alma College which he was doing when he answered the call for the draft on June 5, 1917. His family suffered another loss when Jacob, Dwight’s father, died in February 1918. A month later, on March 5, Dwight left for the service and was assigned to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Von Thurn entered the Transportation Corps in Motor Ambulance Company Number Two, but the Army transferred him to the Medical Corps where he became a corporal.

      When the flu epidemic reached Fort Oglethorpe, Dwight was among the first to volunteer to care for the influenza patients because there was a shortage of nurses. In the process of nursing other sick soldiers, he contracted the virus and became very ill. A call went out to his mother and sister in Alma that he was gravely ill and they rushed to see him. Sadly, Dwight died shortly before his family reached him.

          About to be promoted to sergeant, Von Thurn’s superior officer wrote about him that “He was one of the most conscientious, more than willing men I have ever had under me and his influence for good over the men about him was very great. He was an artist by nature and his horror of bloodshed so great that to take life, even of an animal, would hurt him for days and yet he conquered it all and gave his life willingly for his country.”

          Von Thurn’s body, along with his mother and sister, arrived back in Alma, along with a brother, Captain Lester Von Thurn, who also had been stationed at Fort Oglethorpe. A private funeral took place in Alma’s Riverside Cemetery. Six other men from the Alma Company of reserves attended the ceremony. The Alma Presbyterian Church, which Dwight attended, added another Gold Star to the service flag that it displayed.

          When Dwight Von Thurn died, he was only twenty-six years old.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed



Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the World War – Part 22: Clarence Ludwick of Breckenridge, “I was a Newlywed, I Made it to Europe and Pneumonia Took Me”



Above: Clarence Ludwick’s picture upon entering Camp Custer; his grave in Ridgelawn Cemetery in Breckenridge.

        Clarence Ludwick’s story of service for Gratiot County in World War I was memorable as he was among the first of Gratiot County’s men to die of repercussions of the Influenza Epidemic while serving overseas. Up until his death, most of the young men from Gratiot who died from the flu did so at Camp Custer or some other camp inside the United States.

       Ludwick was born in 1896 to Carson and Nora Ludwig in Breckenridge, Michigan. Clarence was the youngest of seven children, and his father was a farmer in Breckenridge. While Clarence answered the call to register for the draft on June 5, 1917, he was not called to serve until May 29, 1918. It is possible that his status as the youngest son of a farmer, who probably did not have other children at home to help with the farm,  kept Clarence from going off to the Army any earlier.

         On February 9, 1918, Clarence married his wife, Nona, in Breckenridge. He was married for barely four months when called to the service. A note in the Alma Record that “rumors here are to the effect that several of the men drafted from this county last month have been made members of the 85th Division to fill vacancies and that they will be going overseas within a few days. One of these men is Clarence Ludwick.”  Clarence entered Camp Custer and became part of Company C of the 85th Division. On July 23 he left from Brooklyn, New York aboard the SS Vestris. His papers showed that he became part of the 340th Infantry.

         Soon after arriving in France, Clarence wrote a letter home to his wife. Dated August 28, 1918, he told his wife that he was fine and having a good time. He also said that he had been transferred to the Pioneer Platoon. The way houses and barns were attached seemed strange, and some of the buildings looked like they had built in ancient times. Also, the streets were crooked and narrow, and a nearby castle covered a city block. There were no buggies, only two-wheeled carts in operation.  Strangely,  French women went out to work along with men. Here in France, he drilled two hours less each day than he did while in Camp Custer, Ludwick lamented that he had been separated from other Breckenridge boys that came with him to France and this made him feel lonely.  It also appeared, even in early August 1918, that the war with Germany could not last much longer, or so Ludwick believed. The letter was probably the last contact that he had with his wife and family in Breckenridge.

         Tragedy came on October 17 when he succumbed to pneumonia at Base Hospital #56 in the Marne. While Ludwick’s death was listed as pneumonia, many American men in France at this time contracted Influenza, then frequently stabilized or recovered. After this,  they experienced a secondary infection and died from attacks of pneumonia. This may have happened to Clarence Ludwick.

          Because Clarence had recently married and listed his wife as the one to be notified if he died, Nona Ludwick was the one who corresponded with the War Department. After the war ended, in January and then again in March 1919, Nona Ludwick asked for a picture of her husband’s grave. She also wanted to know if his body could be sent back home because she had heard that the Army was burning the bodies. If so, she wanted Clarence to remain there.

        It would over two years later, however, that Clarence Ludwick did come home to his wife. On February 14, 1921 (Valentine’s Day) the War Department informed Nona that her husband’s body was being sent to Breckenridge. Within four days of notification, Clarence Ludwick returned home and was laid to rest in Breckenridge’s Ridgelawn Cemetery.

        Clarence Ludwick was 22 years, 11 months and  7 days old when he died in France.

Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed