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

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