Looking back: Colgate Darden is home

Published 9:25 am Friday, May 12, 2017

by Clyde Parker

May 18, 1917

Colgate Darden, son of Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Darden of “Marle Hill” Farm, is at home after practically a year’s service in the American Ambulance Corps at the French Front of the European War. Young Mr. Darden arrived in Norfolk Sunday morning and was met by his parents who, in honor of their son’s safe return, entertained a number of friends with a lunch at the Granby Street Monticello Hotel.

Colgate has had a wonderful experience as one of the rewards for his courage and patriotism in serving the allied cause on the firing line of the world’s greatest battlefield. Placed at all times within the immediate danger zone in his task of bringing wounded French soldiers from the battle front to field hospitals, he saw some of the hardest service at Verdun and in the Argonne Forest. Working at all times under artillery fire for 24 hours on a stretch, he, and hundreds of other drivers, continuously drove their motor ambulances, along military roads, in the dark, without a single light for fear of betraying their positions to the enemy.

Illness while in France kept Colgate in a hospital at Nice on the French Riviera for several weeks and prevented his re-enlistment for another three months. He intends to enter the service in the American Army as his work in France has thoroughly convinced him of the necessity of ridding the world of the menace of Prussian militarism.

“The French are in no danger of famine but have suffered sorely in the enormous losses of their fighting men. The whole French nation anxiously awaits the day when American arms and the American Flag will come to their rescue with a million, or more, Americans enlisted in the great fight for world democracy,” he said.

Franklin’s Company ‘I’ continues service on the home front

Good reports continue to come in from Company “I,” Franklin’s National Guard Unit that last month was deployed to Newport News to guard the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway’s grain storage facilities. Sixty-five patriotic young men, all volunteers, are serving their country in this way. They are from the town and the county.

The grain storage facilities in Newport News have been declared a strategic resource, necessary to the overall war effort.

Company Commander Captain Roy R. Knight has been in town this week. He, Sergeant Lloyd Boone, and Private Owen Forbes have been in the County all the week on a recruiting trip.

In commenting on troop requirements, Captain Knight said, “The Company is in need of 35 to 40 additional men.  Our County young men should join the local company at once to avoid drafting, which is certainly much less honorable than going as a volunteer. The act of volunteering gives a recruit the privilege of being associated with comrades from his own Town and County.”

“The draft bill will probably take not less than 150 men from Southampton, in addition to those who are already in various branches of the service. We speak on behalf of our County when we express the earnest wish that Southampton will furnish its full quota in volunteers instead of conscripts,” he said as he left to go on another County tour.

Captain Vaughan Camp, son of Robert Judson and Cora Vaughan Camp, former commanding officer of Company “I,” and Barclay Pretlow, son of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Pretlow Sr., two of Franklin’s most prominent and useful young citizens, are now at Officers’ Training School at Fort Myer, Virginia. And, a number of other young men of the town and county expect to leave within a few days to enlist in Company “I.”

“Every public spirited and patriotic young man, who is within the age limits, from 21 to 30 years, should recognize his duty under the Flag, his obligation to his country, and his opportunity to render service to democratic America,” Captain Camp said as he was leaving town.

As announced in April, Brigadier General C.C. Vaughan, of this town, Commandant of the Virginia National Guard, has authorized all home unit commanders throughout the Commonwealth to bring their companies to full operational strength.

Memorial Day to be observed

Franklin will honor the memory of its dead on Thursday, May 24, at 4 o’clock p.m., with appropriate exercises in Poplar Spring Cemetery. Mayor Joe Bynum Gay has charge of the exercises and will preside.

The following committees will assist in the arrangements: Program Committee, Mrs. J.R. Knight and Miss Sadie Beaman; Decorations Committee, Mrs. C.C. Vaughan Jr., Mrs. W.T. Pace, Mrs. Robert Darden, and Mrs. George R. Hayes; Music Committee, J. Edgar Weede.

Orators of the day will be Dr. C.H. Rowland and The Honorable R. E. L. Watkins, two popular citizens and speakers of Franklin, who are always heard with pleasure by our people.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net