Monday, August 26, 2019

Alvah Crocker Died in the Great War

My grandfather, Lowell Townsend Copeland, had several half first-cousins because his grandfather, Samuel Sewall Greeley, married twice and had many more descendants from his first marriage than his second. I have found several DNA matches among these descendants, as well as some interesting stories that I think tell me a little more about my grandfather.

One of grandfather's cousins, Harriet Greeley, was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1885. She was daughter of Frederick Greeley, the oldest son of Samuel Sewall Greeley. (See Surname Saturday ~ Greeley for my Greeley line.)

She married Alvah Crocker, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1907, in what sounded like a lovely wedding in Winnetka, Illinois.

"Country Wedding in Winnetka," Chicago Tribune, 20 October 1907, p. 4, col. 1; image, ( : accessed 25 August 2019).
The couple settled in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, after their marriage, where the Crocker family had been prominent in Fitchburg for many decades. Alvah Jr.'s father was a manufacturer of paper and his great-grandfather (also named Alvah) in addition to being a paper manufacturer, was a U.S. Congressman.

Alvah, Jr. was studying to be an architect and by 1909, was in Paris, France, to study art and architecture, bringing his wife and first child with him. The youngest was born in early 1917, just before her father, Alvah, joined the military.

He died in France, serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Engineer Corps.

"Confirms Death of Alvah Crocker, Jr.," Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Sentinel, 2 July 1918, p. 1, cols. 1-2; image, ( : accessed 25 August 2019).
It's difficult to read; transcription of this obituary follows: 
War Department Notifies Parents That Fitchburg Officer With Army Engineers Died In France; Remarkable War Record of Crocker Family; Fifteen In The Service

  Through the office of Adjt Gen. McCain at Washington, on Monday evening, came to Mr and Mrs Alvah Crocker of this city confirmation of the Sentinel's Associated Press dispatch of that morning announcing the sudden death of their son, Lieut Alvah Crocker, Jr. at Brest, France, on June 25.
  The telegram was the customary brief official form announcement and contained no details.  It read
    Deeply regret to inform you that it is officially reported that Lieut Alvah Crocker Jr engineers, died June 25.
  The Associated Press dispatch was the only announcement of Lieut. Crocker's death which was received in the city Monday until the telegram from the war department in the evening.
  Arrangements were made this forenoon to have flags in the city at half-mast as a tribute to the Fitchburg man who gave his life to his country.
  Lieut Crocker probably died from disease. He was referred to in the Associated Press cablegram as captain which caused the publication of that title.
  There is probably no family in this section of the state which as been more interested in the present war and shown more true patriotic spirit than the Crocker family, as there are 15 members of the family in service, showing that they have been willing to give the services of their young men and women as well as unlimited financial support to the Red Cross and the other war relief and welfare funds.

The article goes on to list the Crocker family members, brothers and cousins, who were serving their country in the Great War. The obituary continues on page 9 with additional information about Alvah, Jr.:
He was engaged in business with the Crocker, Burbank Paper Co. from 1905 until 1909, when he went to France to study art and architecture, having entered L'Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts in 1911. He was about to receive his diploma when war was declared. Last summer he enlisted and received a commission as lieutenant in the United States engineers corps, and for the last year had been engaged in building cantonments, his experience as an architect having been of great assistance in this work. He also devoted much time to work as an interpreter.
Although this obituary reported that he was survived by three children, he had four children. The surviving children were Annie (b. 1908), Alvah, III (b. 1909), Frederick Greeley (b. 1911), and Helen (b. Feb 1917).

My grandfather, Lowell Townsend Copeland, spent some time in the 1910s living in New England (attending school in Boston, as well as in Connecticut and New Hampshire), so he likely knew his cousin Harriet. Family lore said that he was always disappointed that he couldn't serve his country in the wars; he was too young for World War I (born in December 1900), and too old for World War II. I'm sure that seeing several relatives serve made it especially difficult for him.

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