Dakota Datebook

Gold Star Mothers of WWI

Monday, May 27, 2013


To attain the rank of gold, whether it is a gold medal in the Olympics or a gold star in school, means that you have accomplished the highest level of achievement. But for a Gold Star Mother of the First World War, it was a mark of extreme sacrifice – her son had lost his life on the battlefields of Europe. Most Gold Star Mothers would never really feel the closure that comes with grieving over the remains of their sons, for they were often buried thousands of miles away in poppy-covered cemeteries somewhere in France or Belgium.


Memorial Day was always a very special day for Mrs. Eva Trowbridge. She had lost her son Glen to combat on July 19, 1918. This week, in 1930, would mark the beginning of a very special journey. Five days after the Memorial Day celebration in Williston, she boarded the train to start the long pilgrimage to her son’s grave in a cemetery near Chateau Thierry, France. Along the way, one by one, she was joined by other Gold Star Mothers as the train made its way to Chicago. In Chicago, they boarded a special train to Washington, DC, and from there they traveled to New York where, on June 4, they boarded a ship to Europe. They were well cared for on their ten-day journey to Cherbourg, France.


Upon arriving in France, the ladies were taken to Paris and organized into groups based upon the cemetery to which they would be taken. At 9:30 on the morning of the 17th, Mrs. Trowbridge, along with twenty-two other Gold Star Mothers in her group, were taken to the cemetery at Chateau Thierry accompanied by a military officer, a doctor and a nurse. There were twelve hundred white marble crosses forming symmetric rows. Placed among these markers were twenty-three chairs, and each mother was given a large wreath of flowers to place on the grave of her son.


For the next four days they were allowed to visit the cemetery and the battlefields where their sons had died. Some battlefields still contained the remains of trenches, machine guns and barbed wire. They even visited Quentin Roosevelt’s grave at Rheims before they began their return trip. Mrs. Trowbridge arrived home on July 7 and stated that it was a glorious trip, from start to finish.


On this Memorial Day, let us not forget the families of those who died, especially the Gold Star Mothers, whose hopes and dreams for their loved ones will never be fulfilled.


Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis




Williams County Farmer July 31, 1930


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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