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Clyde Earl Parsons
1899-1918

"Your son was a good soldier and he died the death of a brave man."

Chaplain Chester A. Underhill

Clyde Parsons was the son of Marvin and Amy May Lipscomb Parsons. Marvin and Amy were married on December 22, 1898, in Tucker County, West Virginia, and they raised a large family in the St. George community. Their children were Clyde Earl, Maurice Vernon, Frederick Leslie, Ethel Irene (married name, Knotts), Edith Virginia (married twice—Winfred Herbert Murphy and Slate Poitevint), Gerald Marvin, John H., Helen Elaine (Mrs. Howard Gilbert Ferguson), Eric Boyce, Mary Pauline (Mrs. Louis Henry Cross) and Ruth Ellender (Mrs. William Henry Cade). Amy Parsons died in 1954 and Marvin Parsons died in 1964. Both are buried in the St. George Cemetery.

Marvin Parsons owned a large farm in the St. George District. On September 12, 1918, he answered the call to register for the World War I draft. He was 39 years of age at that time and was already the father of nine children. In 1942, at the age of 62, he registered for the World War II draft for men born after 1877 and before 1897.

Marvin and Amy’s eldest son, Clyde Earl Parsons, was born on July 10, 1899, at St. George. In the 1900 U.S. Census for Tucker County, Clyde and his parents were enumerated in the household of his maternal grandparents, William and Hannah Lipscomb. By 1910 the family of Marvin Parsons had grown to include six children and was living on a farm in St. George Township. According to Clyde’s sister Mary Cross, he had attended St. George Primary School, Parsons High School, and Shepherd College. But in 1918, like many young men from West Virginia who sought employment in the tire factories in Ohio, Clyde was living in Akron. One source, speaking of the Appalachian migration to the factories of the North, notes:

During both World War I and World War II, the labor problem [caused by the restriction of immigration in the early 1900s] became exacerbated. Many men left their jobs to join the United States military during these wars, whether voluntarily or because they were drafted. Factories had to look elsewhere for workers. The labor shortage was particularly crucial for companies that were producing materials for the war effort.

As a result of the worker shortage, a number of Ohio manufacturers began to recruit workers from Appalachia, especially from Kentucky and West Virginia. Many Appalachian migrants moved to Akron, where they found jobs in the rubber industry. Steel mills also employed many Appalachian workers, as did other industries. Numerous newspaper advertisements targeted unemployed miners and poor farmers in Appalachia, offering them new opportunities if they applied for jobs. The region of Appalachia had faced long-term economic problems, and many residents took advantage of the opportunities offered due to the labor shortage to find a better life. (Ohio History Central, “Appalachian Migrants,” accessed 3 November 2016, http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Appalachian_Migrants.)

Following the sinking of American merchant ships by German submarines, the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917. When the call for volunteers failed to produce the needed one million troops to support the war effort, the Selective Service instituted a draft, with the first registration on June 5, 1917, for all men between the ages of 21 and 31.

Although Clyde Earl Parsons was not yet 21 years of age and, therefore, not subject to the initial World War I draft, he volunteered for service in the United States Marine Corps on April 20, 1918. He was initially stationed at Parris Island, North Carolina, for basic training. By August 1 he was placed in Company D of the 5th Separate Battalion at Quantico, Virginia. The battalion arrived in France on August 27 and was assigned to the 47th Company of the 5th Marines. The 47th participated in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns by the Allied European Forces. Clyde was killed in action on October 4, 1918.

For his service in the Meuse-Argonne, Pvt. Parsons received the Medal of the Great War for Civilization (also known as the World War I Victory Medal). The award would have been posthumous.
Victory Medal

World War I Victory Medal, first awarded retroactively in 1921

An article concerning Clyde’s death was posted in the Parsons Advocate (“Official Notice Soldiers Death”) on February 20, 1919. A letter dated January 1, 1919, from Waldbreitbach, Germany, signed by Chester Underhill, Chaplain, 3rd Battalion, reads:

Dear Parents of a brave son:

Your letter of inquiry for your son reached me several days ago and since then I have conducted a thorough examination of the 47th Company Marines. It is with sincerest regret that I must confirm the telegram that you have had from Washington. Your son, Clyde E. Parsons, was killed in action October 4th, 1918 in the Champagne Sector, France.

No one who was actually with your son at the time of his death has been discovered for the reason that there are now very few officers and men left of those who made up our regiment at that time. We’ve been through many engagements and our casualties have been heavy.

I personally was with the regiment and the 47th Company through the nine days battle of early October. My belief is that your son was killed by Shrapnel while engaged in an heroic attempt to bring ammunition to his comrades who were all but surrounded by the enemy. He had been fighting valiantly in the extreme front line for hours and the call was made for volunteers to go through the terrific barrage that had been let down behind us to cut us off from the reserves in our rear. Your son was one of the number who went into that terrible shell fire. Whether he got through and got the ammunition and was returning when a high explosive shell killed him or whether he was caught before he got to the ammunition dump, I have not been able to ascertain. Your son lies buried just outside the ruins of the town of Somme Py on the left bank of the highway there. I remember the place well as it is located on the map. There is an open field fringed with very tall poplar trees. All around are hills and a dense wood. It is a quiet place now and the many graves there of our brave boys are lovingly cared for by the French people who have returned to their ruined homes in the district. These good French mothers and fathers so many of them, have paid the same great price that you have, say that this is the only way they can tell American mothers of their appreciation of the sacrifice they have made for them.

I wish, my dear friends, I could be of more help and comfort to you. Your son was a good soldier and he died the death of a brave man. The cause in which he gave his life so freely and willingly was worth both living for and dying for and he showed his supreme love for you, for his country, and his God in that he so gloriously lived and bravely died. “Greater love hath no man than that he laid down his life for his friends.”

If in later days I am able to learn more details, I am keeping your address. I will write to you again.

Please accept my deepest sympathy in the loss of your son and also my sincere congratulations that you have had so brave a son who died for his country.

At the conclusion of the war, France resisted removing bodies for reburial, but in 1920 the French agreed to the return of American soldiers to the United States. The remains of 46,000 war dead were returned to the U.S. at a cost of over $30 million.

American Memorial near Sommepy

American Memorial near Sommepy. Photo by Warrick Page, courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

The journey of Private Parsons’ remains likely followed the pattern of those of many World War I soldiers. Initially he would have been buried in a battlefield grave as described by Chaplain Underhill’s letter; later he would have been interred in a U.S. cemetery in Europe. Finally, at the request of his family, his remains were brought home for burial in the United States. Private Clyde Earl Parsons was laid to rest on August 14, 1921, near where his mother and father would be buried in 1954 and 1964, respectively, in the St. George Cemetery in Tucker County, West Virginia.


Article prepared by Leon Armentrout, with editorial assistance from Patricia Richards McClure
November 2016

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Clyde Earl Parsons

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