Before I started my internship here in January, I thought I might find a thing or two regarding my family, since they have been settled in Canton since the early 20th century. However, I didn’t expect to learn as much as I have about some of my family members.
One day Mark showed me an index of WWI privates from Canton. I was just flipping through the pages and came across a name I recognized, William Edward Edwards, who I know as Uncle Bill. He is my great great great uncle, and while I never met him, I grew up hearing stories about him from my family. He came to America from Wales in 1904 and joined the service on December 27th, 1917.
Edwards served in the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. He fought in the battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which is considered the largest and bloodiest military operation for the AEF. The operation was fought from September 1918, until the Armistice of 11 November 1918, which ended the fighting. Edwards was wounded in action in October 14th, 1918, which could have occurred when American troops were launching frontal assaults to break through the German defenses. He was honorably discharged on May 21st, 1919 and earned a purple heart for his service.
On another day, I was looking through the letters from the Secret Gift collection. It contains the letters that were written in response to a December 18th, 1933 newspaper ad that offered $10 to families struggling with financial hardships. Sam Stone, or “B.Virdot” as the ad identified him, received so many letters that he changed the amount he gave to $5 so he could help more people. Sam Stone’s grandson, Ted Gup, eventually found these letters and wrote a book about his grandfather and the letter writer’s called The Secret Gift. As I was looking at the letters, I noticed the name “John F. Gatchett”. My great great grandfather was named John Franklin Gatschet, but went by Frank J Gatschet. I did some research and found Frank J Gatschet in Canton’s city directory at 3504 Fairmount blvd, which is the same on the letter, so it has to be him.
At the time of this letter, my great great grandfather was divorced from my great great grandmother, so he is discussing needing money to support his 2nd wife and her three children. He was chosen to receive $5 to go towards clothes for the children. While I have seen a lot of family pictures, it was really neat to interact with a tangible item from my great great grandfather. Overall, I have learned a lot during my time here and finding out about my family connections in Canton has been a fun bonus.
Tess Hamilton, Intern, McKinley Presidential Library & Museum