Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Immaculate Conception Parish in World War I

I had a Howard Carter experience yesterday. My pastor, the parish secretary, and I went up to the rectory attic in search of a spare bookcase for my new apartment. We found one, but that's far from all we found. There's such a treasure trove up there that I unilaterally proclaimed myself parish archivist. No one seemed to think it a bad idea, so the appointment passed by acclamation. Suffice it to say that there's going to be a lot of work ahead, sorting, cleaning, identifying, cataloguing, and bringing order out of chaos. This is one parish that never made a habit of tossing anything into the rubbish tip. ( Deo Gratias! )

Among the few items we brough downstairs were a few copies of a booklet published in 1922, called "During the War". It's a brief account of the parish's contribution to World War I. One hundred seventy seven parishioners served in the armed forces and seven in the Nursing Corps. Two, James Flanigan and Thomas F. Mullen, lost their lives.

The booklet includes several interesting pictures, mostly chaplains, which I've scanned. The one above is Bishop Stritch.

This gentleman was Fr. George Barry O'Toole, a son of the parish. He later served as the first president of the Catholic University of Peking. I posted more about him, HERE.
Fr. Arthur Sawkins looks awfully young in this picture. Another son of the parish, he went on to serve as pastor of Immaculate Conception for more than forty years.
This one has me curious. Fr. M.J. Smith was assistant pastor in the early 1920's. He went on to serve as pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Toledo, and St. Michael, in Findlay. Oddly, he was a chaplain in the Australian army, until suffering the effects of poison gas at the Battle of the Somme. ( Nasty business, that. One of my uncles died from the effects of a gas attack in the Argonne. ) Fr. Smith left the Australian forces with the rank of major. He died in 1949.
Finally, we have Lt. Col. John W. Leonard, a layman who was raised in the parish. He graduated from West Point in 1915 and, during the course of the war, was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Legion of Honor. He was second in command of the regiment that represented the United States in the Allied Victory Celebration. Col. Leonard served as a major general in World War II and was present at the crossing of the Rhine at Remagen. I have pictures of him attending Mass at Immaculate Conception, with his mother, in the late 1940's. I'll post them some other time.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Archivist!
Glad you got there in time.
Sure sounds like fun!

Pat said...

Do you have any information about Fr Joseph Williams @1920? I have a BIBle with his name on it.

Kevin Hammer said...

I found Fr. Joseph Williams' obituary in the 1968 directory. Born in 1893, native of Maumee. Ordained 1918. Assistant at Lima St. Rose, then pastor at Wakeman until 1926, then pastor at Frenchtown, 1935 became pastor at Edgerton. Resigned in 1954 due to health. Died in 1968 at St. Alphonsus in Peru where his brother, Fr. Leo Williams, was pastor. (I will post a photo later.)

Tony McLeod said...

Thank you from Canberra Australia for your post on Fr MJ Smith. He ministered to my Great Uncle PJ O'Farrell in the Australian Army in World War 1 and wrote to the family after my Great Uncle was killed in 1918 (http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/155700738). Fr Smith's service record with the Australian Army (served 1917-1920) is at http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=1786409
It appears he stayed in the Toledo Diocese from arriving in 1920 until his death in 1949. Do you know if an obituary was published following his death?

Kevin Hammer said...

Thank you for sharing these details, Tony! I was able to find an obituary for Fr. MJ Smith, and I will post it in a new posting. It doesn't say where he was buried; I'll try to find out.

Tony McLeod said...

Many thanks Kevin for the 1949 obituary of Fr MJ Smith you have found. It is a fascinating story.