Friday, October 5, 2007

Marshall Kerns (1895-1918)


Son of Thomas and Katherine Kerns; born April 22, 1895, Columbia Township, Whitley County, Ind. Educated in Wabash College. Chemist, Detroit, Mich. Enlisted in U.S. Regular Army June 2, 1917, Indianapolis, Ind. Sent to Jefferson Barracks, Mo.; assigned to Troop K, 1st Cavalry. Transferred to Ft. Russell, Wyo.; then to Douglas, Ariz. Died of pneumonia February 12, 1918, Ft. Douglas, Ariz. Buried in Columbia City, Ind.

Gold Star Honor Roll: A Record of Indiana Men and Women Who Died in The Service of the United States and The Allied Nations in The World War 1914-1918 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission, 1921) Page 719. Contributed by Meredith Thompson.

Columbia City Post ~ Saturday, February 16, 1918

The remains of Corporal Marshall Kerns, of Troop K, First U. S. Cavalry, who died at Ft. Douglas, Arizona, Tuesday, will be brought here for interment, and the last sad rites to the memory of Whitley county’s first young man to give his life for his country in the war with Germany will be administered here. The message which brought such untold sorrow to his heartbroken parents and friends here asked for instructions as to the disposition of the remains and the S. J. Peabody Lumber Company, where the father is employed, wired back the request that they be forwarded here at once.

The life of Corporal Kerns will linger long in the memory of his friends in this county. He was of a temperament and disposition to win friends readily and during his school days here and while at Wabash College he took a prominent part in athletics and was a young man of unusual strength and vigor. He graduated with the class of 1913 [sic]. During his school days here he played on the basket ball team and on the base ball team, and he was always one of the stand-bys of the team.

He entered Wabash College in the fall of 1912 and soon became prominent among his fellows through his work in school and in athletics. He played both base ball and basket ball on the varsity team there a part of the time. In the middle of his senior year he was offered a fine position with a Detroit drug company, traveling for them, and he decided to accept it. He worked for them from that time until May, 1917, when he enlisted at Indianapolis in the regular army, in the cavalry. He was sent to Ft. Russell, Wyoming, where his regiment remained until just before Christmas, when they were transferred south.

At the time his regiment was transferred, he had a slight sore throat, but did not say anything about it for fear he might be kept at the hospital and not be permitted to go south with the rest of the men. The trip required five days, and by the time he got to Ft. Douglas he was very sick. He was sent to the base hospital suffering from tonsilar abscesses. His throat had to be lanced and he was very seriously ill. He showed some improvement, but from the time he took sick he was only up once for a short time to write a letter to his mother. He lost weight rapidly, his heart became weakened and on top of it all he contracted pneumonia. Even then his great vitality carried him through the fever, but the strength to sustain his life was not there.

Being one of the first boys from this city to enlist after the declaration of war, his friends naturally followed his career in the army. His promotions were gratifying to his friends and he liked army life and seemed to be enjoying himself when he became sick. The news of his gradual decline was conveyed to this friends and relatives from time to time and all joined in the hope that the worst would not come. But all efforts to prolong his life were of no avail, and although he was in one of the oldest and best hospitals in the army camps, the disease had such a hold on him after the five days spent on the train that medical skill could not overcome it.

Regret was everywhere expressed when the announcement of his death came. He is the first man from Whitley county to go, and though he died not upon the battlefield, his sacrifice and example are none the less impressive. He lived a short life and would have been but twenty-three years of age next April 23rd, yet his memory will be hallowed in this county as the first to give his life in the war against Germany.

Besides the mother and father, there is a surviving brother, Ray Kerns, of Mishawaka. In this hour of their great loss the sympathy of everyone goes out to them.

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