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Our WWI Soldier Dead Come Home


Our WWI Soldier Dead Came Home To Adams County

Burying Adams County Soldiers Who Gave Their Lives in the “War to End Wars”


“Last Sunday, October 23, at 2:30 o’clock in the afternoon, on the court house lawn, was held the military funeral of John Matthew Shafman.  The remains reached here from overseas last week Thursday, and lay in state in the rotunda of the courthouse, guarded by a detail of veterans from the Adams County Post of the American Legion until the hour of the funeral.”[1]

The quote above was reprinted many times in many places with only the names and dates changed for the thousands of soldiers who were killed in World War One,   buried in Europe and, at the request of their families, disinterred, brought back to the United States by the Army and buried in their native land.  In addition to John Shafman of Richfield Township, the remains of Elmer Feldman of Quincy, McKinley Cole of Quincy as well as Charles Besaw of the Coloma area are buried at Mount Repose Cemetery in Friendship.

Their journey from temporary interment in Europe to their Adams County home ground was part of a two-year long Army program that saw the return home of nearly 50,000 of their dead American soldier comrades.

Ships started arriving at Pier 4 in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1920.  While awaiting notification of the families, the flag draped coffins were held at Pier 4 and guarded at all hours by an Army sentinel. At any given time during the process Pier 4 held some 1,800 to 2,000 coffins. When arrangements with the families were made, the coffins were taken to an Army Corps distribution point.   Twenty-two bodies at a time were transported in a special flag-draped baggage car on a passenger train with a military guard.  An officer accompanied each detachment of the dead to the Corps distribution point.  An enlisted man then accompanied individual bodies to their final resting place, even attending the funeral if the families requested it.[2]

Here follows the stories of four of Adams County’s sons killed in the “Great War” whose families and neighbors brought them home for their final rest.


Private Charles A. Beshaw

Company H., 354th Infantry, 89th Division


Pvt Charles Besaw’s body arrived back in Adams County Friday, September 30, 1921.  The casket lay in state in the courthouse guarded by American Legionnaires of the Adams Post 250 until the funeral held on Sunday afternoon on the front steps of the courthouse.

Charlie Beshaw was described as a boy of sunny disposition, a faithful and loving son, and a fine up-right young man.  His life gave promise of great future usefulness.  Charlie enlisted in the Army on April 25, 1918.  He was assigned to Co H, 354th Inf, 89th Div and departed for Europe with the Division in June 1918.   He was killed in the Argonne offensive in France on November 3, 1918, six months and eight days after enlisting.  He was 22 years old.

Besaw’s funeral was said to be one of the largest ever held in the County.  Some two hundred cars were in the procession that accompanied the remains to the cemetery.  The Adams Legionnaires marched from the Masonic Temple to the courthouse to take up directing the funeral.  Chairs were placed on the landing for relatives, speakers, pallbearers and choir.  The audience assembled on the lawn.

For the Funeral Program, Post Commander Francis Towne gave an introductory address.  Reverend Thomas Barker made a prayer and delivered the funeral sermon.  Then Miss Lillian Hendrickson and Mrs. W. G. Bingham performed a violin and piano duet.  Finally, Besaw’s uncle, Mr. Clark read a biographical sketch of the deceased’s life.

At the funeral’s conclusion, six soldier pallbearers carried the casket to the hearse.  The Legion Post led the procession to Mount Repose Cemetery where Pvt Charles Beshaw was interred with full military honors.[3]


Private McKinley W. Cole

Company A., 355th Infantry, 89th Division


Pvt McKinley Cole of Quincy enlisted in the Army on March 29, 1918.  He was wounded in action and died on August 12, 1918 at age twenty-two four months and fifteen days after enlisting.

As with the other deceased soldiers, before Coles’s body was brought home to America, his remains were interred in France.  An Army chaplain informed Coles’s parents of his burial by a letter which was then printed in the Friendship Reporter:


August 28, 1918

Mr. Herman H Cole

Adams, Wisconsin


My Dear Sir:

On the 14 of August it became my duty as Chaplain to see that your son, McKinley W. Cole, was removed from the Field Hospital 355, and given his last service rendered by man.   I secured the best suit and casket available, and with several others of his comrades that had fallen in the line of duty, as did he; they wee placed in the U.S. Cemetery at Menil-al-Thur, France.  The gas thrown over by the Germans a few days before was the cause of his death.  Though it is hard to part with our loved ones, yet I am sure that you rejoice that he was found at the front in his place, and doing well his part.  The reason of my delay in writing you is; that the government is supposed to have plenty of time to get the news before the Chaplain writes.

Yours in sympathy,

Alonzo F. Goger  [4]


McKinley Cole’s body was brought back to Adams County in the spring of 1922, given a funeral at the Adams County Courthouse and interred in Mount Repose Cemetery.


Private Elmer Augusta Feldman

Company F, 355th Infantry, 89th Division


Pvt Elmer Feldman of Quincy and McKinley Cole enlisted in the Army together on the same day.  Both were killed in the same military engagement.  Feldman died four days after Cole on August 16, 1918.  He was three months short of his twenty-third birthday. He had been a soldier for four months and nineteen days.

Elmer Augusta Feldman’s mother Bertha had had a premonition of what was to happen.  Referring to him by his nickname derived from the German pronunciation of his middle name, she said, “My Goosy is never coming back.” Another of Bertha Feldman’s sons, Edward Feldman did return from the war having risen to the rank of Corporal.  Edward returned to Quincy, bought the family farm from his father, married, raised a family and died in 1968 at age 74.  The farm remained in the family.  Edward’s son Harold resided at and farmed the land until shortly before his death in 2012.

Elmer Feldman’s body was brought back to Adams County in 1922, given a funeral on the courthouse steps and buried with full military honors in Mount Repose Cemetery.


Private John Matthew Shafman

Company H, 354th Infantry, 89th Division


Pvt John M. Shafman’s funeral was described in the Friendship Reporter very much the same as was Charles Beshaw’s, and probably was very much the same for Coles and Feldman.

Shafman’s body arrived in Adams County from overseas on Thursday, October 20, 1921.  His coffin was guarded around the clock by veterans from the Adams County Post 250 of the American Legion in the courthouse “rotunda” until the time of the funeral on Sunday afternoon, October 23.

In the funeral program, Legionnaires marched from the Masonic Temple to the courthouse where six members acted as pallbearers.  Commander Towne gave the opening service then Reverend Thomas Barker led a prayer.  A piano and violin duet followed, ‘after which J.W. Purvis gave some suitable remarks bearing upon the patriotism of those who went into the great conflict, and words of solace and comfort to the relatives of the departed’.  Reverend Barker read the obituary and gave a funeral sermon.  Finally, the Adams Orchestra played the National Anthem and the assembly processed to Mount Repose Cemetery where Shafman’s remains were interred with full military honors.[5]

Pvt John M. Shafman of Richfield was described as a quiet and industrious boy.  He lived at home with his parents until called to serve in the war at age 31 on April 26, 1918.  He went from Adams County to Camp Grant and two weeks later to Camp Funston, Kansas where he was assigned to Co H, 354 Inf, 89 Div.  On June 27 his unit was ordered overseas.  Pvt Shafman was in many battles and was killed in the Argonne offensive in France on November 7, 1918, four days before the signing of the armistice.



This article previously appeared  in the Adams County Historical So

[1] Friendship Reporter, Thursday October 27, 1921

[2] Paxton Hibben, “The Soldier Dead Come Home” The New York Times, October 3, 1920.

[3] Most of the information about the soldiers and their funerals is from the unstilted research notes belonging to Gordon Klaus.(2007)

[4] Friendship Reporter, September 26, 1918

[5] Friendship Reporter, Thursday October 27, 1921,