No Higher Service: Franklin County Maine’s Fallen Soldiers of World War I

Published: 9 January 2024

By Glenn Miller
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site

Teague Arch

In Farmington, Maine, stands the John M. Teague Memorial Arch.

A veteran of the Civil War, John, along with his wife, chose to commemorate WWI soldiers from Franklin County, to honor their service. Though of humble means, the Teagues gifted their entire estate for the Arch’s construction. It was erected in 1924, two years after John’s death.

On Memorial Day, 2024, the Arch will have stood for 100 years, and will be rededicated with an expansive ceremony that echoes its inauguration. This book is one marker of that monument’s endurance and of the men it honors. Thirty-three of those men died while protecting our freedoms in the War to End All Wars.

They Answered the Call

When tyranny threatened, our nation summoned its will and its young men. Sons and brothers from Maine, the closest state to the bloodshed in France, were among the first called. From Franklin County, Maine, thirty-three who answered paid the highest price. Their lives helped buy freedom.

This pocket-sized book commemorates those soldiers, to ensure that their sacrifices will not be forgotten. But it’s more than only their stories. It is our stories: of service and sacrifice, of love and honor, of courage and of war’s high, hard cost.

The World They Made

Telling these soldiers’ stories also teaches us about the upheaval wrought by the Great War, and the re-engineering of the entire US economy necessary to accommodate it.

Woven through the stories of these men are the events and disruptions that give context to their service and add enduring meaning to their sacrifices:

  • Rapid construction of training camps suddenly more populated than most of the towns its soldiers were drawn from.
  • Unflagging patriotism and valor of enlistees and draftees alike.
  • Preparation of domestic shoreline defense by the Coastal Artillery Corps.
  • Training on the new rolling behemoths that would come to dominate future warfare, led by a reluctant Captain Dwight Eisenhower.
  • Production of the deadliest chemical weapons known to man in the largest facility on earth — and still a secret.
  • The heartbreak and honor of repatriating servicemen’s bodies to final tributes back on home soil, and the visits of Gold Star mothers to the graves of sons whose eternal rest remained on the battlefields where they fell.

And as much as anything, their stories show how the ravages of a worldwide pandemic ended nearly as many lives as did combat.

May Their Memories Be Eternal

None of these fallen soldiers had children, yet all left families in grief. But as the last century has passed, their legacies risked being lost to time. The author is a historian and genealogist whose efforts are now directed to reaching out to lateral descendants of all of these fallen soldiers.

Most of their individual stories were not known, even by their family. This book is the foundation for reversing that. When we say “never forget,” we either remember these kinds of stories or we mean nothing at all.

At one recent live presentation, the 85-year-old nephew of a featured serviceman learned how his own grandmother — on a Gold Star pilgrimage, laid a wreath at his uncle’s cross in France. And how even today, a small museum in France has adopted the care of that cross and told him that his uncle “is not forgotten, his name, the names of his brother in arms and their deeds still rings in France today.” Moments like this connect the past to the present in ways words cannot describe.

Let us remember those who served but never came home. May their memories be eternal.

Glenn Miller is a retired entrepreneur, professional writer and editor as well as a historian and genealogist. He moved to Maine from Colorado two years ago with his wife Rachel McClellan. The two of them have embraced Maine and the Town of Farmington as their home. Discovering and telling the stories of Franklin County’s WWI fallen soldiers has become an important and ongoing project for him.

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