As a young mother I always prayed that the sons I was raising would never have to go to war, see war, experience war and always live in peace. My thoughts go to other mothers who are having the same thoughts in Belgium because “one of my ancestors made the sacrifice” and thus live in freedom today. In my mother’s line is my 2nd great aunt Lucinda Blair Miller (1832-1913), daughter of Wendell V Miller and Elizabeth Blair. Her mother Elizabeth would tell her stories of the Winter There Was No Summer in 1816 and why they moved from Vermont to Oxford, Wisconsin. Her grandfather James Blair carried George Washington’s personal papers during the Revolutionary War and her great uncle Robert Rogers fought in the Indian Wars and founded Roger’s Rangers. Lucinda’s twin brothers Josiah (my great grandfather) and Joseph and older brother Alexander marched off to fight in the Civil War for the northern cause. Great aunt Lucinda married George Murray Bell and lived in Augusta, Eau Claire, Wisconsin where Florence Elizabeth, Harry Miller, Margaret Kate and Clara Alice were born.
Margaret Kate Bell was born just as the Civil War was ending the next year. From here we find this family moved to Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota where they ran a store and this story continues with Margaret Kate Bell who married John B. Ross there. The children came John B. Ross 1892-1909, Wendell A. Ross 1894-1918, Zella Alice Ross 1896-1991, Kenneth 1898, and Alta Doretta Ross 1903. When Margaret Kate died in 1911, John raised the children. My second cousin Wendell was 17 years old when his mother died. He worked on the family farm near the small town of Agassiz in southern Minnesota. The farm was near the Agassiz lake where fine clay silt from the glaciers made it very fertile farming in the valleys of the Red and Souris rivers. His build was medium, his height medium, hair dark and eyes grey, taken from his enlistment form. Wendell married Bertha Olson and Wendell Archie Ross was born April 18, 1918 at Appleton, Minnesota; just as Wendell was called to duty in February 1918. He answered the call to serve and joined the 119th Infantry Regiment, which landed in Calais, France to join the fight in May of 1918. Did he get to hold and see this son before he left?
By July, his regiment was sent to the front lines east of Poperinge, Belgium. Here it was reported one of the hottest on the front lines. The artillery activity made for great retaliation from the enemy. Due to this very heavy shelling the casualties were great.
One of those casualties was Private Ross, killed instantly when a shell landed on him, near Elzenwalle on August 4, 1918. He was buried in the British Nine Elms Cemetery, Poperinge, West Flanders, Belgium.
On November 11th, at 11 AM I’ll have a moment of silence, not only to remember Wendell Ross, but all those to whom we pay respects, to honor all who fought and died for our freedoms and remember the stories of those who came before us.
The family back home in Minnesota were torn regarding the permanent disposition of his remains. Finally, in 1921, the decision was taken on behalf of Private Ross’ son, Wendell Jr., who was four at the time. The letter stated that his remains would stay buried with his comrades in Europe.
Belgium and democratic Europe have been at peace now for 76 years. The US Embassy in Belgium recognized Wendell Ross’s service in a speech May 27, 2018. I’m helping keep his memory alive and ensure that the men and women who fought and died for our freedom will never be forgotten. RIP Private Ross.
PS little Wendell Archie Ross would follow his father into war during WWII as a sergeant in the US Army serving from Feb 10, 1941-Sep 26, 1945. He lived to age 82 and is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He had a grammar school education and was a carpenter. After the war he married and named his daughter Wendy.