Spotlight: Betty McGaha

Betty McGaha

Maintaining the inside of the rifle pit requires constant work throughout the year. Leaves fall in the spring and fall, compacting into wet and heavy loads. Trees and branches fall as a result of hurricanes or strong winds that are typical along the coast. Heavy rain brings both water and dirt. The Stabilization tab at the top of the website includes a journal that shows the work that’s been required through the years.

Three years ago in 2018, local Boy Scouts volunteered their time to clear the pit.

Nearly two years ago, in December 2019, Betty McGaha stepped up and offered her time to shovel the heavy debris. Betty spent five days of hard work inside the rifle pit. The west end of the pit was completely cleared, as shown here. She also worked at the entrance, which had accumulated a lot of heavy debris.

Betty has two brigadier generals in her family – her husband (retired) and her daughter. She strongly supports the preservation of this unique World War I structure.

We thank Betty McGaha for her labor and continuous support of the Fort Caswell Rifle Range! The financial support that Betty and her husband Doyle have provided through the years is also very much appreciated.

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Okey Tucker offers his services for the rifle range restoration

Okey measures the window before installing a plexiglass window.
The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range is pleased to announce that Okey Tucker, a local consulting environmental engineer, has offered his professional services, pro bono, to rehabilitate the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range.

Mr. Tucker was born and raised in West Virginia until 2019, when he moved full time to Oak Island. Okey and Andrea, his wife of 38 years, had vacationed on Oak Island over the years with their children Sarah and Okey III. They even celebrated their marriage on Oak Island.

Okey graduated with a BS in chemical engineering in 1983 from the WV Institute of Technology in Montgomery, WV. He was employed as an environmental engineer for the State of West Virginia. He currently serves as a consulting senior engineer working from home.

He was an assistant Boy Scout master when his son was growing up and now he and Andrea volunteer for the Caswell Beach Turtle Watch program. He also has a long history of experience in all aspects of home building and improvements.

The initial projects for the rifle range include the installation of a plexiglass window, step improvements for safely entering the rifle range, lowering of the shoring inside for ease of navigation, and a gate system designed for the safety of visitors and animals.

Okey’s plan for the future is to consult with The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range and the State Historic Preservation Office concerning a roof system for the rifle pit’s Storage Room, located on the east end of the pit.

No Trespassing signs are positioned in various places around the rifle range property to protect and alert folks, especially children, that they are not to go into the property.

There is much more work to be completed. We welcome Okey Tucker and we thank him for helping to save the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range!

Read the announcement about Okey in the Brunswick Beacon.

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Introducing our book at the NC Maritime Museum exhibit, September 18-19, 2021

Mary Snead and neighbor Melody visiting the museum and the Great War display.
The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range introduced our book, Brunswick County in the Great War, with an exhibit at the World War I and Life-Saving Service Living History Weekend in the NC Maritime Museum.

President Norma Eckard, one of the three authors, presented the book at the exhibit. The 584 page book contains 7 significant parts; each was shown in 7 separate notebooks to make it easier for the public to review.

Tri-folds showed the story of the last 10 years and how the mission of saving the rifle range grew to include the writing of Brunswick County in the Great War.

“The book is a valuable resource for all history buffs”, said Eckard. “College and high school students can also benefit by using the book to enhance their World and US History courses by reading the profiles of local men who left their farms to support France in the war.

“Professors and high school history teachers may provide a number of activities, using the book to embellish their students’ studies and emphasize the patriotism within their communities of 102 years ago. The Cape Fear Region is rich in military history as well as a population who responds to resources like this book. I can envision students interviewing descendants of many of the veterans.”

Brunswick County in the Great War includes more than some of the stories of local men and one woman who served. The 14 nurses from Fort Caswell who served during WWI are also presented in the book. In addition, there is a WWI Wall of Honor that includes brief biographies of men from outside of Brunswick County who served, submitted by the many supporters of the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range.

Spreadsheets (see the webpage on this website) are included in the book with all of the men and one woman who served from Brunswick County and nearby counties, listing their residence, date of birth, death, unit, age, rank, cemetery, and when they were discharged. The 718 men and one woman who served were honored by donations to support the purchase of a monument placed beside the rifle range in 2018, the Centennial year of the entrance of the United States in the Great War.

The State Port Pilot included a photo display in the September 23, 2021, edition, seen here.

Norma enjoyed learning more about WWI from the presenters near her exhibit. The photos at right and below include USMC officer Peter Meyer displaying the guns used during the Great War. The machine gun shown was too heavy to carry into battle. The bottom rifle is a “Springfield” that was used the most by the infantry in WWI. Peter had many military experiences to share with the public.

Also pictured, Daniel Jutson served in the Signal Corps for 28 years and retired as a captain. Daniel had many artifacts to share with the public. It was quite an extraordinary display.

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Exhibit planned at the NC Maritime Museum in Southport on September 18-19

The NC Maritime Museum in Southport will present

World War I and Life-Saving Service Living History Weekend
on September 18 (10am – 4pm) and
September 19 (noon – 4pm), 2021
,
inside and on the grounds of the
NC Maritime Museum at 204 East Moore St, Southport.

The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range (FFCRR) has been invited to create an exhibit to share our recently published book, Brunswick County in the Great War.

The FFCRR exhibit will include several pictorial displays to present the contents of the book.

One will show the history of stabilizing the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range. You can read more on the Stabilization page of this website.

Work is proceeding on additional restoration work, which will be shared on this website soon!

 

Several photos from the World War I Wall of Honor will be displayed.

 

A photo of the Brunswick County World War I Monument at the rifle range will be shown, along with brief histories of the Brunswick County men who gave their lives in World War I.

An additional display will show photos from several WWI Profiles included in the book. The WWI Profiles can also be selected and read using this webpage.

The WWI Profile display will include a World War I photo that Trudy Young shared, which shows Company G of the 56th Engineers upon their completion of service in WWI.

Trudy’s uncle Wagoner John Daniel Eriksen may be found in the photo of 232 men whose names have been identified from the US Army Transport List on return from France. According to an archivist at the NC Archives, these panorama photos are unique to WWI. This is your opportunity to see this rare photo.

We hope to see you there!

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Memorial Day 2021

We will not forget.

The 23 Brunswick County men who gave their lives in World War I

Killed in Action: Died of Disease:
PFC Walter S Brock PVT William F Brooks
PVT Harvey T Chadwick PFC John W Carlisle
PVT Jimmie Griffin PVT Carl J Danford
PFC Erastus Iredell Nelson Cook David L Dosher
PVT Harry Langdon Pigott Seaman James C Edwards
CPL Herbert B Ward SGT Robert G Farmer
PVT Manning Hall
Died of Wounds: PVT Claudie Hall McCall
PVT William Cross Hewett PVT Elijah Milliken
PVT Benjamin B Smith PVT Kendrick W Outlaw
PVT Cecil Smith Pierce
PVT Samuel C Swain
PVT Guy Ellis Watson
PVT David Williams
PVT Fred Wilson

 

Soldiers on our WWI Wall of Honor who gave their lives

Killed in Action: Died of Accident:
CPL Russell Kellogg Bourne PVT James Hemphill
SGT Richard J. Dennis
PFC Louis “Lolly” B. Doerr Died of Wounds:
Mech Dona J. Dugal PVT Edward Clarkson Bonnell
PFC Wilmer H. Eicke
PVT Ben W. O. Hildebrandt Died of Disease:
PFC Robert Anthony Strzempek PFC Vito Copola
PVT Carl F. Greene

 

The Brunswick County World War I Monument

“Dedicated to the men and women from Brunswick County, NC
who served their country during World War I
with Honor, Courage, and Commitment”

Center photo courtesy of Christine Urick

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Pausing the WWI Snapshots

The Friends of Fort Caswell is hitting the pause button on WWI Snapshots for now.

For several years, the primary focus has been WWI Profiles, WWI Snapshots, and writing the book, Brunswick County in the Great War, which is still available for purchase.

The primary focus will now return to the restoration of the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range. Progress will be posted here on the website.

Read more about the past stabilization effort by clicking the Stabilization tab at the top of the website.

Fort Caswell WWI Nurse Faye White
Meanwhile, please view this wonderful presentation by Liz Fuller from the Southport Historical Society. Liz included some of the information about the Fort Caswell WWI nurses in her presentation:

Southport Nurses of WWI and the Spanish Flu. (click to view)

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WWI Snapshot: Junius Jackson Adams Jr 1899-1941

NC WWI Service Card

According to his NC WWI Service Card, Junius Jackson Adams Jr was born in Southport, Brunswick County, NC. He enlisted in the National Guard in Charleston, SC, on July 24, 1917. His residence is listed as Whiteville, Columbus County, NC.

His father, Reverend Junius Jackson Adams Sr was born and raised in Wake County, NC. He married Margaret Ella Galloway in Southport, Brunswick County, NC, which explains why Junius reported that he was born there. His birth record can only confirm that he was born in Brunswick County. The family lived in Sampson County in 1900, then returned to the area, living in Whiteville in 1910.

His service card indicates he became a wagoner on May 8, 1918, serving in the 105th Ammunition Train in the 30th “Old Hickory” Division. The roster listed on the WWI Army/Marine Division Rosters for Brunswick County shows that Wagoner Adams was the only Brunswick County man serving in the 105th Ammunition Train. See Jackson Berry Potter’s WWI Profile to understand the demanding role of a wagoner.

The 1920 US Census shows he returned home to Whiteville. He was described as a solider in the US Army, yet there’s no indication on his military headstone application shown below to prove that he was in the Army from his discharge from WWI to his re-enlistment at the end of 1920. However, additional records can be used to prove this service.

His VA Index shown below does show this service. He actually has two VA Index records.

Together, they show his service dates are July 25, 1917 – April 3, 1919; September 23, 1919 – September 7, 1922.

The 1930 US Census shows that Junius had returned home, which was Southport at this time, and was working on a dredge boat.

The 1940 US Census in Southport indicates that he was unable to work.

According to his death certificate, Junius continued to live in Southport until 17 days before his death when he was moved to a VA Facility in Roanoke, VA. When WWI veterans pass away at such a young age, exposure to poisonous gas in the battlefields comes to mind as possibly having contributed to an early death. Could the chronic nephritis listed on his death certificate possibly be from trench nephritis? The 30th Division was often exposed to poisonous gas as the WWI Profile of Thedford Lewis shows. No confirmation can be made.

Junius Jackson Adams Jr passed away on June 14, 1941, in a VA Facility in Roanoke, VA, at age 42. He had never married. His headstone includes his military service, but because of his date of death (1941), his headstone does not include the WWI inscription. Before that time, only one world war had occurred. Inscriptions including WWI or WWII were added to military headstones after WWII ended.

He was laid to rest in Northwood Cemetery in Southport, Brunswick County, NC.
Source of photo: Findagrave


To view this or an earlier profile or snapshot at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

If you would like to help us honor Junius Jackson Adams Jr or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement:
Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran:
How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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WWI Snapshot: Phillip Thompson McKeithan 1893-1969

Phillip McKeithan served in World War I and World War II.

NC WWI Service Card

According to his NC WWI Service Card, Phillip Thompson McKeithan was born in Southport, Brunswick County, NC. He enlisted in the Regular Army at Fort Caswell on May 16, 1917. He served in the Medical Department at Fort Caswell throughout the war until August 8, 1919. At that point he was transferred to the Dental Department at Charleston, SC, until his discharge on October 4, 1919, as a private first class.

In 1920, he was living at home in Southport, working as an attendant at a US hospital. It is unclear whether he was continuing to serve in the US Army, although it seems likely that he was. His VA Index Card is unhelpful because it only shows he enlisted again in 1945. But that is incorrect, as explained in the following paragraph. His application for military headstone is not yet available in Ancestry to verify.

The 1930 and 1940 US Census show Phillip continued to serve in the US Army in New York: Fort Totten in 1930, and the post hospital on Governor’s Island in 1940. His activities after this date are unknown. From his flat military marker, he served during WWII and attained the rank of Technical Sergeant. His death certificate indicates he was a retired nurse.

Phillip Thompson McKeithan passed away on April 11, 1969, in Wilmington, NC, at age 75. He had never married.

He was laid to rest in Old Smithville Cemetery in Southport, Brunswick County, NC.
Source of photo: Findagrave


To view this or an earlier profile or snapshot at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

If you would like to help us honor Phillip Thompson McKeithan or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement:
Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran:
How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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WWI Snapshot: Allen Miles Simmons 1890-1963

Allen Miles Simmons was born in Mill Branch, Brunswick County, NC, according to his NC WWI Service Card (below).

This photo is shown in Findagrave, undated.

Exact dates of his service are difficult to determine. Three documents shown below were used to piece together possible enlistment and discharge dates. It’s unusual to have such disparate dates, although it is seen more often for those who were serving in the Regular Army or National Guard when the US entered WWI. Allen was serving in the Regular Army. That is the assumed explanation for the discrepancy.

His NC WWI Service Card shows he enlisted on February 23, 1916, at Columbus Banks, Ohio. His discharge is listed as November 21, 1918, and shows he re-enlisted.

His Application for Military Headstone shows his enlistment date as November 22, 1919, with discharge date as November 21, 1920. The back of the application continues that his re-enlistment was November 24, 1920, with a final discharge date of July 18, 1921. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Finally, his VA Index Card shows he enlisted on April 6, 1917, and was discharged on November 21, 1920.

Combining all reports of his service, the assumption is he served from his initial enlistment on February 23, 1916, through his honorable discharge on November 24, 1920.

Corporal Simmons served in the Coastal Artillery Corps (CAC) in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, which explains why his military flat marker indicates Rhode Island.

By 1930, he was married and farming in Bolton, Columbus County, NC. The 1940 US Census shows he and his wife continued to raise a family in Bolton. He was employed by the government for road work.

Allen’s gravesite has a headstone pictured in Findagrave, which reads, “Here lies the greatest deer hunter.”

Several local newspapers included articles mentioning his hunting skills. One from 1941 is printed below.

“Allen Simmons, who lives on the ‘Possum Island plantation about nine miles south of Bolton, has seen much evidence of wild deer where they have been roaming over his potato patch, not far from his home. They seemed to like to frolic there. And, since he was an experienced hunter, and especially fond of deer steak, he let them romp at will until the law came off [deer hunting season began].

“One morning last week he went out to this potato patch, hoping, and feeling very confident, that he would find at least one nice buck in there. But no, it wasn’t a deer this time. Instead, there was a black bear in there. Whether the bear was grabbing spuds, or not, we have not been able to learn. But, if he was, they were his last.”

Source: Joseph Hufman. “Farm Reporter Picks up Interesting News Items.” The Wilmington Morning Star [Wilmington, NC], 1941 Oct. 20, p. 8.

Allen Miles Simmons took his life on June 1, 1963, at age 73.

He was laid to rest in Griffin Cemetery in Ash.


To view this or an earlier profile or snapshot at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

If you would like to help us honor Allen Miles Simmons or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement:
Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran:
How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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WWI Snapshot: John Duren Reynolds 1894-1952

NC WWI Service Card

John Duren Reynolds was born in Southport, Brunswick County, NC, according to his NC WWI Service Card.

John’s brother David Reynolds also served in WWI. He enlisted in the US Navy on April 23, 1918, as a machinist’s mate second class. He was honorably discharged on February 18, 1919. He was laid to rest in Salisbury National Cemetery in NC after his death on September 8, 1957.
Source of photo: Findagrave

John was ordered to report for duty on July 6, 1918, then sent to Camp Greenleaf in Georgia. He reported for duty along with three Brunswick County men, as shown in Calvin Peel Willetts’ WWI Snapshot. Three, including John, were trained for the Medical Department.

Source: Library of Congress
Camp Greenleaf, GA

In only 18 months of operation, Camp Greenleaf trained 6,640 officers and 31,138 enlisted men.
Source: WWI Centennial Commission

John Duren Reynolds served overseas, first in Evacuation Hospital No. 25 in Vichy, France, as shown on his Army Transport Passenger List – outgoing, shown at right.  Notice that his NC WWI Service Card above incorrectly shows “Base Hospital 25.” The correct name, Evacuation Hospital No. 25, was confirmed with the 1928 US Army Medical Department volume (first source at bottom).

The source volume also included some interesting details about Vichy and the evacuation hospital.

“Vichy had many advantages as a hospital center. The location, although apparently somewhat distant from the battle lines, was well chosen owing to favorable railroad connections. Patients were received in some instances within 24 to 36 hours after receipt of injuries, and frequently they arrived with their original dressings, although a very large proportion of the patients had passed through evacuation or base hospitals.

“Vichy, being a famous watering resort, established for many years, was a well-developed small city. The streets were well paved and well lighted, thus greatly facilitating the handling of patients arriving on trains at night. There also was an excellent water supply; gas and electric current were obtainable in abundance.”

On February 11, 1919, Private Reynolds was transferred to Base Hospital No. 214 in Savenay, France (see second source at bottom). The hospital treated patients with mental and neurological conditions.

“Base Hospital No. 214 came into existence November 6, 1918, at Savenay, Department Loire Inferieure, in the base section No. 1, when the neuro-psychiatric service of Base Hospital No. 8 was organized into an independent unit, and designated Base Hospital No. 214. This hospital functioned as a special hospital for mental and neurological patients and occupied a plant consisting of 10 wooden, knock-down type of barracks. In January, 1919, when the admission rate increased, the unit was assigned to a type A, 1,000-
bed hospital, the construction of which was not completed; and as special construction was necessary, this was done chiefly by the patients.

“The personnel of the institution changed a great deal, as it furnished officers and enlisted men to supervise transportation of convoys of patients to the United States, and exercised supervision until patients were delivered to their destination there. The convoys consisted as a rule of from 50 to 200 cases, occasionally more. From November 1, 1918, to February 28, 1919, this hospital admitted 6,093 cases; the greatest number treated at one time was 700, including 40 officers.

“Base Hospital No. 214 ceased to function June 21, 1919.”

As mentioned in the excerpt above, Private Reynolds did actually serve as an attendant for casualties at the base hospital who were returning to the United States. This can be seen in the Army Transport Passenger List – incoming, shown at left.

Click on the passenger lists to enlarge. It may be necessary to download the images and zoom onto areas to view the details.

Pvt Reynolds debarked USS Leviathan on June 12 or 14, 1919, presumably accompanying his patients to Camp Merritt, NJ. He was honorably discharged on June 27, 1919.

The 1920 US Census shows that John returned home to Southport. He later married and raised several children in Brunswick County, where he lived throughout his life.

John Duren Reynolds suffered a heart attack while home on June 2, 1952, and was laid to rest in Georgetown Holden Cemetery in Supply.
Source of photo: Findagrave

Sources:
Base and evacuation hospitals formed at Camp Greenleaf:
US Govt Printing Office (1928) The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, Volume VII, Training. Washington D.C.: US Govt Printing Office. p. 31, 56.

Base hospital information:
US Govt Printing Office (1928) The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, Volume II, Administration American Expeditionary Forces. Washington D.C.: US Govt Printing Office. p. 618, 744.


To view this or an earlier profile or snapshot at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

If you would like to help us honor John Duren Reynolds or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement:
Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran:
How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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