The community of Hawley, Pennsylvania offered a high toll in both the first and second World Wars. The first of the doughboys from Hawley who saw active service to return home from the 1st World War was William C. Adams.

HAWLEY - The community of Hawley, Pennsylvania offered a high toll in both the first and second World Wars. The first of the doughboys from Hawley who saw active service to return home from the 1st World War was William C. Adams.

Injured during the war in France, he returned to a hero’s welcome. He went on to lead a productive life in his hometown.

A lengthy account of his engagements in battle was published in the Wayne County Citizen, January 19, 1919.

It should be noted that Adams’ service was one of 37 men from greater Hawley that served in the war, listed in an Honor Roll in the 1927 book, History of Hawley, Pa. by Michael J. McAndrew. Five died in combat. We also had a Hawley son, Major General James W. McAndrew, who was Chief of Staff to General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Arrived on the train

William C. Adams was born June 10, 1888, to John and Sarah (Meyer) Adams of Hawley.

In 1900, when he was 12, William was living with his Aunt Mary Mayer, who had a saloon/ cafe at 218 Main Avenue, a business that would stay in the Adams’ family for generations.

He entered the Army on May 1, 1918, and was assigned to Company C of the 146th Infantry, 37th Division. Private Adams served overseas, June 11, 1918 through January 1, 1919.

Adams was 30 years old.

Wednesday afternoon, January 8, 1919, he arrived at the Hawley West Depot on the Erie train.

“Private William C. Adams, a Hawley boy, who did his share on the battle front in France, once more set foot on the soil of that borough,” the Citizen reported, “and as he did his name was recorded among the history of the town’s distinguished citizens as one of the very first Hawley soldiers, who offering ‘their everything’ to their country, entered battle with the enemy…”

Word was spread around town that morning that Private Adams was due to arrive on the afternoon train. Almost everyone who get away from work was at the station to greet him. Many of the factories allowed their employees a few hours’ leave of absences to welcome home one of Hawley’s patriots.

The streets were crowded with people at about 3 p.m. Private Adams arrived, accompanied by his brother Jacob, who went to Scranton to greet him.

At Harrisburg the evening before, Private Adams was entertained by the Elk Lodge, if which he was a member. He remained as their guest until 3 in the morning when he left on the Pennsylvania railroad for Scranton.

He had returned to this country on December 21, 1918, at Camp Merritt, NJ. After a few days at Camp Stuart, VA, he was transferred to Pittsburgh for treatment at Carnegie hospital. Adams obtained a short furlough enabling him to come home for a visit, requiring him to return the next Sunday.

His account

Most of his time in France was served in the area of Marles, he was wounded, according to the article. Males is just southeast of Paris. A later reference said he saw action in the Lorraine Sector, a region in the northeast along the German border.

He described his experience to a representative of The Citizen:

“No sooner than we arrived in France, our division was given orders to get ready to leave for the front. The division as a while had seen active service on the Mexican border and they were all seasoned men.

“It was early in August when our company was occupying American trenches near St. Matres. Word was circulated that the Germans were preparing to make a big drive and we were all prepared. After waiting patiently for several days for something to start, the captain making his rounds one evening about 7 o’clock, said he wanted a few men to do a little scouting work, the principal part was to get a nest of German machine gunners, who were shelling our trenches at the time.

“An American Indian, who was with our gang, volunteered to get a bunch of fellows to start out and break up the nest. I heard him talking to the captain and I immediately volunteered my services. He didn’t want me to go because he knew I had very little training but I was resolved to see some real action and after several minutes of arguing, he decided to let me go.

“Armed to the teeth with heavy rifles and hand grenades, seven of us started out about 8 o’clock. Everything was going along nicely, and we crawled to within 10 feet of the nest when one of the fellows stumbled over a barbed wire entanglement, causing a noise.

“All at once, a bright light was staring us in the face and a minute later whizzing and banging of shells were heard all around us. I was just about to speak to one of my comrades when a piece of shrapnel struck my left knee cap which threw me to the ground. I no sooner had fallen when I felt bullets striking me all over. It seemed as if a hundred men all armed with rawhide whips were lacing me with all their might. I lay helpless on the ground, conscious of everything that was going on around me. Soon several batteries opened fire and there was a free for all between the Huns and the Americans.

“For nine long hours I lay helpless on the ground, with shells flying all around me. The bursting of the heavy guns seemed to rack my brain, and I was expecting any minute to be killed. I was longing for a  drink of water, or anything to quench my thirst, for I was burning inside and out,

“The firing continued until daybreak, when all at once, everything seemed to blow over and not a sound was heard. Stretcher bearers were soon on the scene, and I was picked up and taken to the hospital. Believe me, it was some relief when I found myself again between warm army blankets, and I was soon fast asleep. I did not know how badly I was hurt until the nurse told me that they found seven wounds, the largest of which was in my back under my right shoulder, which was nine inches long. My knee cap was badly banged, and in several places about my body were small shrapnel wounds.”

He spent several weeks in the hospital.

Adams was promoted to Private First Class during his time in the service. He received the Purple Heart medal for his injuries.

Later years

It is unclear if he was already married when he left overseas. A census record states that he was 30, when he was married to Cora Lintner. It seems  more likely that they were wed before his birthday in June 1919. They had one son, William J. Adams, who was born, October 17, 1921.

They lived at first at 413 Keystone Street; in 1920 he was worked as a cutter in a local glass factory.

By 1925, however, Adams was working as a chauffeur.

They moved down the street to 410 Main Avenue, sometime by 1931. The 1930 census lists William C. Adams as a truck driver for a wholesale ice cream business.
He retired from Smith & Clark as a truck driver, and he and Cora continued to live at 410 Main. William C. Adams died at the age of 57 from an illness, on April 27, 1945. Cora lived until March 22, 1965.

Their son William J. Adams lived until November 16, 1990.

Margot Clauss said that William C. Adams was her father’s father. Her grandfather died before she was born, but she said she does hand fond memories of her grandmother Cora. Her grandmother lived with them at their home, the stone house at 304 Church Street, until Margo was about 10.

She described her grandmother as, “The sweetest woman, never a bad word to say about anybody. Loving mother and grandmother.” Their aunt, Cora’s sister also lived in town, and they would enjoy family get-togethers. She said it was a nice way to grow up.

(William J. Adams and his wife Gene raised two daughters, Margot and Mary.)
Eugene “Art” Glantz recalled, “Mr. Adams [William C. Adams] had an interesting hobby in that he made birdhouses that, I thought were unique. He made them in the image of existing homes.” Clauss said that her grandfather was a talented woodworker, and made whirly-gigs as well as birdhouses.

DAV William C. Adams Chapter

No doubt, Private First Class William C. Adams participated when his comrades were welcomed home in May. Hawley, Pa. put on a massive parade to welcome them back, on Memorial Day, May 30, 1919. Red, white and blue flags and buntings adorned buildings on Main Avenue, and a huge banner was strung across Main near River Street, announcing, “WELCOME HOME.”

There were 47 soldiers, six sailors and five officers in the procession, led by a highly respected Hawley citizen, D. James Colgate - Civil War veteran and Hawley postmaster. Max V. Plum assisted. The parade went from River and Main, down Main and Church Streets, to the Eddy Briidge where a wreath was dropped in the water. The parade made detours onto Keystone Street, Maple Avenue, Chestnut Avenue and River Street as well. A ceremony was held at the Eddy Cemetery (Walnut Grove) by the G.A. R. Post (Civil War veterans). Afterwards, the parade continued up Hudson and disbanded by the Odd Fellows Hall.

On September 2, 1919, American Legion Post 311 was formed in Hawley, receiving their charter on December 12.

William C. Adams’ name became associated with another veteran’s group in Hawley, the Disabled American Veterans of the World War (DAV), William C. Adams Chapter.

Mrs. Julia H. McGinty, a disabled war nurse, from Hawley, served as commander of the DAV in Hawley at least two terms. She also was chief of the DAV in Pennsylvania.

Main sources:
Wayne County Citizen (Wallenpaupack Historical Society)
Census records, etc. from (Hawley Public Library)