Samuel L. Derby Killed in action - battle of Argonne Forest, France 1918. The Battle of Argonne was deemed the largest battle in the United States history. The battle lasted 47 days and involved 1.2 million American soldiers and over 26 thousand died. Born on September 7, 1891. He was one of seven children of Silas and Celia (Burch) Derby. Samuel L. Derby grew up on Institute Street, Frewsburg, New York. Called Sammy, he was active in the normal activity of the time, camping, fishing and canoeing on the Conewango Creek. During Winter months he and friends would ice skate on the Conewango flats or coast on the nearby snow-covered hills. The coming year of 1917, America entered the World War and for the boys, the carefree days were at an end. All through that summer, fall and following winter the boys of Frewsburg were leaving for army camps. Sammy had graduated from Frewsburg Schools and worked at a local furniture factory until he joined the Army. By April 1st, 1918 he had packed up his belongings in boxes his mother had told him not to do that, “You'll be back” she said. Samuel Derby, Harry Bowles, and Charles Austin walked the Frewsburg Railroad station; only two would return. The school children knew the men were leaving. The school was closed while the children marched down Institute Street waving American flags and saying goodbye. The train left for Fort Dix, New Jersey. On April 1st, 1918 “Sammy” left Frewsburg for Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he entered the service with the 309th Infantry, 78th Infantry Division. Samuel L Derby was the rank of Army Corporal in Company E, 309th Infantry, 78th Infantry Division when he made the supreme sacrifice in the Meuse Argonne offensive - Battle of the Argonne Forest. Samuel had been wounded in the field of battle and transported to an Army Field Hospital, probably in Jurvin, where he died. The Battle was a major offensive near St. Jurvin and Grandpre France just 24 days before the Armistice of November 11th. There was great rejoicing after news of the Armistice had reached Frewsburg. The Derby family felt that Samuel was safe and they would soon be returning home. Nearly a week after the Armistice signing and over a month from the day Samuel has killed a telegram arrived at the Frewsburg switchboard. Samuel L. Derby had been killed in action. Izora Burch delivered the telegram to Samuel's older brother Charles Derby. Samuel's parents were out of town and Charles traveled nearly a day by streetcar to give them the terrible news. It took over two years for Samuel Derby's body to be returned home. Two soldiers traveled with the casket and stood guard at all time. The flag-draped casket was unloaded at the train station to a horse-drawn hearse. Stores of Frewsburg were closed, and flags at half-mast as the funeral procession walked to the Maple Grove Cemetery. There were full military honors Returning from the Army camps in America and Overseas following World War I, American Veterans, desiring to perpetuate their comradeship, organized Posts of the American Legion in their home communities. In most cases, these Posts were named in honor of the first boy from the community to fall in battle. The village of Frewsburg, New York was no exception to this rule. The Town of Carroll World War 1 veterans meets meet in a rented room at the I.O.O.F (Independent Order of Odd Fellows), on November 7, 1919. They organized a Post known as Samuel Derby Post No. 556 and named in honor of Samuel Derby, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Silas Derby. Silas and Celia Derby were presented honorary membership and actively supported Post 556 functions. Celia Derby remained active in the Post 556 well into the 1940s and to this day descendants of Celia and Silas Derby are members of the Samuel Derby Post 556, Frewsburg American Legion. I want to thank Myers Memorial Library, Town Carroll Historical Society, past Post 556 Historians and the notes from Steven Cass at his speech to the Post's Birthday Dinner. Stephen Nelson



Telegram sent to Mrs. C. Derby


Letter sent to Mrs Derby from Major General McRae


Samuel Derby Grave site in France


Samuel Derby Grave in France


Sammy just before induction


Samuel Derby Grave at Maple Grove Cem. Frewsburg, NY


Street in Grandpre France Oct 1918


St. Jurvin Hospital area Oct 1918


Sam and friend Harry Bolr. Harry Bolr later was a bearer along with Post 556: Dr. F.J. McCulla, Harry Johnson, Rolland Cass, Glenn Darwin, and Walter Black. New York State Archives. New York (State). Education Dept. Division of Archives and History. World War I veterans' service data and photographs, 1917-1938. Series A0412-78, Box 3, Folder 19.


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