With Memorial Day still in our hearts and our local Legion celebrating their 100th year, our focus for this tour is on US soldiers of the early 20 th century who fought for the first time overseas. We have several Spanish American War Veterans and nearly 50 WWI Veterans laid to rest in the Lexington Cemetery. On the first road look left in SECTION 2 for a military pair - father Orselle Arnold Bray served in Troop B 1st Ill Vol Cav in the Spanish American War, came home, married Grace Wood and 20 years later his only son Wayne Wood Bray served in Co B 1 st Engineers in the Army of Occupation in Germany during WWI – “like father, like son”- and grandfather Bray had been in Civil War, too!
A few feet further north look to the right in SECTION 1 for Michael Guy Hefner, son of Marston and Anna Guy Hefner who bravely served in Aviation during the war. He came home to marry Fern Stamm, have a successful 40 year career as an electrical engineer, raise daughter Anna and son Truman, who followed his father’s example, serving in the Air Force and becoming an electrical engineer, too! Looking to the left into SECTION 2 find WWI airman, Voyle Ashabran of Squadron D Flying Department trained at Kelly Field, Texas. He survived the war, married Gwen Barrett (sis of Miles Ward), raised son John, became Lexington’s mail carrier in 1923, the first to deliver mail to homes, and became Commander of Lexington’s Legion in 1928. The couple later lived in California for many years, where Gwen sewed clothes for stars, and, at the end, they desired to be buried “at home” in Lexington.
At the top of SECTION 3 notice a small marker on the NE corner and the large white marker labeled “Erected by Franklin Union of Chicago” for William Nelson Bray who served AND DIED in Co A 5th Missouri Vol Inf in the Spanish American War. He was a cousin to O A Bray in section 2 and a worker of the Franklin Union for Printing Press Operators in his civilian life in Chicago before the war. Continue west then turn S on the roadway between SECTION 4 and 5 and proceed to the middle of the section looking east in SECTION 4 to find the marker for Richard Hutchinson McLean who lost his life in the first battle in Manila, the Philippines, during the Spanish American War. He lost his young wife, Pauline Mahan, and with no children, he was a rather old soldier at age 54 when he died in battle. He was returned to Lexington to be buried beside his wife Pauline.
Just across the road to the west in SECTION 5 find the flat greenish government-issued marker for PFC Guy Lionel Harness of the 63 rd Artillery CAC of WWI. He and his wife Nellie had no children, and he was a long-time employee of the new AT&T Telephone Company in Wisconsin after the war. In the next lot south in SECTION 5 is the gov. marker for PFC Felix Matthews Beasley of the 46 th Balloon Co. AIR SVC of WWI. After the war he and his wife Nancy lived in Detroit and he served many years in police work, and, again, they all asked to be “brought home” to Lexington.
SECTIONS 6, 7 and 8 have Clarence Francis, Ervin Printz, Elmer Roy, Bill Scurlock, Thomas Vincent and Noah Wormley; Oliver Elder, LD Kahle, Ed Kemp, Elmo Payne, Charles Robbins, and Charles Whiteman; LW Weakley, JH Lawrence, and Hadley Harper more Lexington WWI veterans to honor.
For the first time veterans are in “new” SECTION 9. Continue N in front of sec 8 and turn on first road east. Dr. John Herbert Franklin’s marker is almost directly in line with Kemp Mausoleum near the roadway. An early volunteer in WWI, he rose to the rank of Major. At the crossroad turn S to find a prestigious soldier who lies near the SE corner of section 9 – Phillip J. Keller, the namesake of the road in front of the cemetery - “the PJ Keller Highway.” After the war he came here to engineer Route 66 and eventually was the long-time Superintendent of McLean County Highways. His wife Catherine endowed the Lexington Community Center and was also sister to a now-famous WWI soldier – Elmo Franklin Hill, the namesake of Lexington’s American Legion unit. Elmo and Catherine started life in Pleasant Hill, but their mother Daisy Hill died soon after Catherine’s birth. Neighbors RT and Minnie Claggett, a childless couple, adopted little Catherine and eventually fostered young Elmo when his father Elmer Hill died. Elmo graduated from Lexington High School and soon was off to war in France with the Balloon Signal Corp. He was the first Lexington boy to die in WWI service.
Viewing Elmo’s marker will require a trip to Pleasant Hill Cemetery where Elmo rests with his
parents, but we wanted to mention him in our tour to honor the 100 years of Lexington’s Elmo F. Hill Unit 291 of the American Legion. Join us next time for another salute to Lexington veterans.
The graphic is a photo of Elmo Franklin Hill in his uniform.
Open to the Public ALERT
THE FORT is again open to the public after being closed for over a year due to the virus shutdown rules.
Open Wednesday - Friday - Saturday
9am to 2pm
Call or email for appointment if needed.
During the winter months our volunteers try their best to open THE FORT regularly, but if the conditions warrant precautions, please call ahead to be sure we are open. If schools are closed, THE FORT is probably closed, too!