Author: Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist
In the summer of 1918, the North Carolina Historical Commission determined to compile a Roll of Honor of soldiers from the state for black and white North Carolina service individuals who died during service to their country. They created separate “Roll of Honor” forms to be sent to soldiers’ next of kin, that solicited information such as soldiers’ date and place of birth; parents information; education; and date, place, and circumstances of death. The “Roll of Honor” files included with the forms other documents, such as photographs, correspondence, and news clippings. This effort was largely led by the North Carolina Hall of History director, Fred A. Olds—prior to the establishment of the War Records Collector office for the Historical Commission in June 1919. The Roll of Honor was never completed by the Historical Commission.
The Historical Commission relied on volunteer war records collectors in various counties to locate, gather, and send to the Historical Commission war-related records from the home front and service individuals locally. Such records as American Red Cross chapter histories and local draft board induction lists were received in this manner from North Carolina counties. Some counties created their own “Roll of Honor” or “Service Record” forms for their local service individuals to complete, which were then given to the Historical Commission.
W. Brodie Jones, a volunteer War Records Collector for Warren County, N.C., was one of thirteen volunteer county records collectors who gathered the largest amount of wartime records for the Historical Commission. He utilized a blank service record form created by the Historical Commission, and edited it for use in Warren County under the name of “Your Service Record.” Jones sent the service record forms to Warren and Halifax Counties’ veterans and individuals to complete.
Halifax County soldiers were included who had been serving in the Warren County unit of the North Carolina National Guard—Company H, 3rd Infantry—which was converted into Company H, 120th Infantry, 30th Division, under federal U.S. Army service during WWI. Jones mailed or delivered the materials to the Historical Commission as a donation to the state’s war records collection project by 1920. These forms included such information as home town; military unit(s); service period and awards; injuries; whether killed or not (and if killed, where); profession before and after military service; and family information.
The collection now called “Warren County Compiled Individual Military Service Records” (WWI 92) is composed of the materials collected by W. Brodie Jones. The materials include compiled military service record forms, photographs, newspaper clippings, letters, postcards, and handwritten biographies, documenting the World War I service of 108 Warren and Halifax Counties, N.C., military service individuals. Featured are materials gathered from the military service individuals and their families, including completed service history forms that provides basic information or documentation of the individual’s military service in the war.
The majority of this collection documents men from Warren County. It contains the largest set of North Carolina African Americans' WWI portraits held by the State Archives of North Carolina’s Military Collection. Many of these images were recently identified, and had been unknown as representing black soldiers.
The Warren County Compiled Individual Military Service Records are freely available for research in the Search Room of the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh. All 28 photographs from this collection, including the 8 African American portraits, are available online through the State Archives’ Flickr page here.
This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.
Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.