Local Lifestyle

They were the first Morgan County men to be called up, Part II

by Terry Golden

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series. An introduction to George Biggs and Wilbur Harden appeared in last week’s issue of The Messenger. Read it here.

The Morgan County Historical and Genealogical Society members research local history and enjoy sharing their findings with others.  There are 325 names on the World War Memorial on Fairfax Street in Berkeley Springs.

These are just a few of the many who served during World War One.

The Morgan Messenger reported, on September 6, 1917:


Gradually the people are coming to realize that this world conflagration is at last “our” war as it is being brought close home to us. On Wednesday morning at 7:30 the first four to be ordered to a training camp left Berkeley Springs for Petersburg, Va., and they were given “God speed” by a number of citizens who were at the depot to see them off. As the train was out of commission, Col. V. E. Johnson took the boys to Hancock Junction in his automobile. Before leaving the new soldiers were each presented with a comfort kit by a committee from the Red Cross, a gift they will much appreciate.

Those who went Wednesday represent five per cent of the total number to be furnished by Morgan County and are as follows:

George C. Biggs

Wilbur E. H. Harden

Clarence V. Youngblood

Harold Alston Rice

(The Morgan Messenger, September 6, 1917)

These were the first of the Morgan County young men who were drafted during World War One to head to training camps, many more would follow in the coming months. It was only a few short months prior that each of these men had a very different life. Being a member of the U.S. Army and possibly going to war may have been the farthest thing from their minds. On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, on May 18, 1917, the draft was signed into law, and on June 5, 1917, they registered for the draft. Now they were heading off, possibly to war. So, who were these young men and what did the future hold for them?

These are small synopses of four individuals from Morgan County, from different backgrounds, but their lives came together that day in September 1917. It is not possible to tell the complete story of each in such a small format. Hopefully, those who read this will have an appreciation for those who served their country in “The War to End All Wars.”

Clarence V. Youngblood

Clarence V. Youngblood was born in Martinsburg, W.Va. on February 21, 1891, to Adam W. and Louise E. (Whorton) Youngblood. In the 1900 census he was the third of seven children living in Orleans, Allegany County, Md. with their parents.

By the 1910 census, he was 19 years old living with his parents in the Town of Bath (Berkeley Springs) Morgan County, working as a laborer at the power plant. When Clarence registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, he was 26 years old, single, and working as a lineman for the Western Union Telegraph out of Somerset, Pa. While he was at Camp Lee in Petersburg, Va. he married Ardalia Rose Youngblood, daughter of James W. and Nancy Ellen (Light) Youngblood of Cacapon. U.S. Veterans Administration records show that Clarence V. Youngblood, rank of Private First Class, was a member of the U.S. Army from September 4, 1917, until his discharge June 6, 1919. He was attached to Battalion B, 313th Field Artillery, 80th Division. Two of his brothers, Adam Fielder Youngblood, and Harvey Evangelist Youngblood, served in the U.S. Army during the war as well. In the 1920 census Clarence and Ardalia were boarders living in the Cacapon District of Morgan County. Their daughter, Lena Ester was born on May 1, 1920, in Great Cacapon.


West Virginian, Gassed, Succumbs to Lung Trouble

Cumberland, July 13 – Clarence V. Youngblood, aged 34, Great Cacapon WV, died yesterday afternoon at the Western Maryland Hospital as a result of an abscess of the lung. He was a lineman of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company.

Youngblood is survived by his widow and a small daughter. He was gassed while serving in France during the World War. The body will be taken to Orleans tomorrow for burial.”

(The Baltimore Sun, Monday, July 14, 1924)

Clarence V. Youngblood was buried in the Mount Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery in Orleans Cross Roads, Morgan County.

Application to the War Department for a headstone for Clarence Youngblood. Document courtesy of the Morgan County Historical and Genealogical Society.

Harold Alston Rice

Harold Alston Rice was born in Berkeley Springs, Morgan County, WV on October 29, 1894, to Frank E. and Bertha F Rice. In 1900 he was the eldest of four children living with their parents in the Timber Ridge District of Morgan County.  The family, with the addition of another child, was living in the Town of Bath for the 1910 census. A graduate of Mount Wesley High School in the Bath District of Morgan County, he entered Shepherd College State Normal School in the spring of 1913. In 1914 he was the senior class president and among other activities had been a member of the 1913 and 1914 baseball teams.  When Harold registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, he was twenty-two years old, single and a medical student.

In the April 25, 1918, edition of The Morgan Messenger “Camp Lee notes from editor” Mr. S. S. Buzzerd, the editor, had met Harold in Camp Lee, VA where Harold had been promoted to Sargeant and completed officer training. Later, in June it was noted that Harold Rice had been commissioned as an officer in the Army and heading to South Carolina for further training.  On December 26, 1918, the news was that Lieutenant H. A. Rice is home from South Carolina training camp having been honorably discharged. Harold’s younger brother, Ray R. Rice, also a member of the U.S. Army during WW1 had been sent to France.   In The Wheeling Intelligencer was a listing of the May 7, 1920, West Virginia University graduating class that included Harold Alston Rice who received his BA degree. On that list was his future wife Beatrice Maud Wilt and on June 30, 1921, Harold and Beatrice M. Wilt, the daughter of Albert and Myra Wilt, were married in Elkins.

Harold Rice as shown in the Shepherd College yearbook, 1914.
photo courtesy of the Morgan County Historical and Genealogical Society

Harold and Beatrice’s daughter, Martha Beatrice Rice, was born on March 20, 1925. The 1930 census had Harold employed as the Superintendent of City Schools for Grafton, WV. Harold, his wife, and daughter then moved to Needham, Mass. where in 1940 he was employed as the Headmaster of the Junior High School. In 1942 his wife Beatrice died and was buried in the Wilt family plot in Davis, Tucker County, W.Va. When Harold registered for the WWII draft on April 27, 1942, he was forty-seven years old, living in Needham, Mass.  Harold married his second wife Eleanor L. Stone from Alfred, Maine, on December 24, 1947. On May 23, 1961, while a patient in the U. S. Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md. he wrote his will, naming his daughter Mrs. Wallace R. Kepler (Martha Beatrice Biggs Kepler), father-in-law, Ralph Stone, cousin, Emma Hodgdon and his wife, Eleanor Stone Biggs as benefactors. On May 25, 1961, at the age of sixth-six Harold Alston Rice passed away at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md. and is buried in Greenway Cemetery, Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

If you need assistance researching your Morgan County family history, check out the Morgan County Historical and Genealogical Society. Volunteers are available in the Morgan Room of the Morgan County Library, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. If not available on those days, contact Fred Widmyer (304-702-4888) or Harold Michael (304-258-4063) to arrange for an appointment at a more convenient time. The Society is not staffed when the library is closed.