Historical society seeks info on WWI veterans

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As centennial of “The Great War” approaches, information needed on locals who served

Staff Report

INDEPENDENCE — In cooperation with an initiative by the Virginia World War I Centennial Commission, the Grayson County Historical Society is seeking information about the men and women of Grayson who served their country in World War I.

The Centennial Commission was established by the Virginia Legislature in 2015 to develop programs and activities to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Virginia’s participation in “The Great War.”

David Sandefur of the Grayson County Historical Society said “100,000 men and women from Virginia served in the conflict; and more than 4,000 gave their lives in combat, accidents or disease. Grayson County sent 617 men to the effort, with 38 losing their lives.”

But, as so often happens, the only information there is to pass on are names and dates.

“Lacking are the stories behind the names, the stories that perhaps were passed down in the old tradition of sitting around and telling stories,” Sandefur said. “Often, these small snippets that a veteran passes on allow historians to gain a more personal connection and bring the history of the man and his time to life.”

World War I, known as “The Great War” and the “war to end all wars” was a pivotal event in not only the history of the United States, but also the world. The war marked the first real steps of the U.S. becoming a world power, and was instrumental in setting up the momentous events of the 20th century that would eventually overshadow the horror of 1917-1918.

And now, on the centennial of that war, all the veterans that served have passed and the memories of that great event are fading.

“In the archives of the Historical Society currently are a only a mention of some of the counties’ veterans of the time,” Sandefur said.

One of note is an article from The Declaration, written by Evelyn Hall, that spoke of Hurley Hall of Independence, who was awarded The Military Medal by the British government for his valor and a letter of commendation from General Pershing. Accompanying this article was another from the Galax Gazette, reprinted from 1918 and appearing in 1963.

“Taken together, a family researcher, a historian, or a student working on a school project can gain a far greater grasp of history and build a more detailed picture of the past that brings it to life and greater understanding of what has gone on in the past,” Sandefur said.

The Centennial Commission’s efforts provide a catalyst for historical societies, museums, local governments and education systems to gather the histories and the stories of those that gave so much to their country.

The Grayson County Historical Society is seeking information, photos and stories of those from Grayson County and will be producing historical articles, archiving the information for future generations.

Sandefur said the historical society looks forward to working with the Independence Veterans of Foreign Wars, local officials and the Grayson County school system in developing events and presentations commemorating history from this period, as well as expanding our collection of material for future researchers.

Contact the Grayson County Historical Society at (276) 773-3320 or graysoncountyhistoricalsociety@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 529, Independence, VA 24348. For more information, visit www.graysonvahistsoc.com or stop by the office at 107 East Main St. in Independence.