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Otha Howe McGee
1895-1917

"War can so easily be gilt with romance and heroism and solemn national duty and patriotism and the like by persons whose superficial literary and oratorical talent covers an abyss of Godforsaken folly."

George Bernard Shaw

Otha Howe McGee was born on October 10, 1895, at Huttonsville in Randolph County, West Virginia. He was named for an uncle, Otha Simmons. However, he was known throughout his life as “Howe.” His parents, Oscar Ballard McGee and Minta A. Simmons, were married on December 20, 1894, at Beverly in Randolph County. Their family included a daughter, Addie Mae, also known as “May” (Mrs. Andrew Jackson Harris).

Howe’s mother, Minta A. Simmons McGee, died on February 20, 1900, and is buried in the Simmons Cemetery near Valley Head, Randolph County. The 1900 Federal Census for the Huttonsville District shows Ballard McGee and his son Otha in the household of David McGee, Ballard’s older brother. Addie Mae was enumerated in the household of John and Ruhama Belle Curry Kenney. In 1910 Otha Howe and Addie Mae were living with their cousin, Flora McGee White, who was married to Warwick White.

Howe’s father, Oscar Ballard McGee, was remarried in Randolph County on February 17, 1904, to Florence Isabell Newhouse, daughter of George and Minerva Newhouse. Oscar and Florence had the following children: Augustus (“Gus”) William, Theresa Ester (Mrs. Marcus Gear, Mrs. Eugene Foster Holt), George, Grace Margaret (Mrs. Dainor Leo Forinash), Clinton Dale, Nelson Wilson, Hobert Bosworth, Samuel Edward, Oscar Basil, and Walter Ernest.

Following the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines, the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. Howe McGee answered the call for volunteers to support the war effort on May 31, 1917, when he enlisted in the National Guard prior to the implementation of the Selective Service Act, which would have required him to register for the draft on June 5.

Howe was stationed at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. The camp was named in honor of Isaac Shelby, Indian fighter, Revolutionary War hero, and the first Governor of Kentucky. Camp Shelby was established in 1917, and the 38th Division, known as the “Cyclone Division,” was the first unit to train there. This division was organized on August 25, 1917, and was made up of National Guard units from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana. The 38th Division included Company B of the 137th Machine Gun Battalion, the unit to which Howe McGee was assigned as a cook.

On December 29, 1917, Otha Howe McGee’s short military career ended when he succumbed to an infection. Some records refer to his death being due to “blood poisoning,” which was a common complication of the influenza pandemic. However, Howe’s death occurred before the influenza/pneumonia outbreak of 1918.

Otha Howe McGee was buried in the Old Brick Church Cemetery at Huttonsville, West Virginia. In 1946, Howe’s stepmother, Florence Isabell McGee, obtained a government-issued military marker for his grave.
Grave Marker

Grave marker for Otha Howe McGee. Courtesy Susan Pescosolido Richardson

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout
May 2016

Honor...

Otha Howe McGee

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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