Tribute to a Fallen Gloucester Soldier
Some food for thought for Memorial Day weekend: As the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 approaches later this year, it seems appropriate to turn attention toward a little known federal effort to provide some comfort to the the mothers and widows of fallen soldiers oversees. From 1930-33, the federal government provided almost 6700 mothers and unmarried widows of fallen soldiers to travel, all expenses paid, to visit the burial grounds of their sons and husbands oversees–mostly in France. These trips were two weeks in length and much appreciated by the women who chose to travel. By all account, this unprecedented federal effort was run efficiently and with great care toward the comforts of the women (or Pilgrims as they were known).
Ancestry.com provides access to records indicating that there were 4 women living in Gloucester around 1930 who were eligible Pilgrims: Mrs. Effie Kittredge (son Paul); Mrs. Joseph Kite (son Clement Cresson); Mrs. Josephine Karem (son Thomas) and Mrs. Edith Cunningham (son Philip). These are the records listed by county.
It is worth noting that by 1930, many of the widows and mothers may have moved from the original residence of the soldier. All had certainly aged. The health and mobility of the mothers in particular created issues for the trip planners and surely prevented some from traveling no matter how much they may have wanted to. We do not know for certain if any of these made the pilgrimage.
One of these families appears to have had a long history in Gloucester: the Cunningham family. William T. Cunningham and Edith (Rowe) Cunningham were native to Gloucester and had five children, including Philip. Ancestry.com further provides access to U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 which includes Harvard’s Military Record in the World War:
It seems certain Philip represented Gloucester well in his service. He and his parents are buried at Oak Grove Cemetery. All are worth a moment’s thought some time over this Memorial Day weekend.