On 27 April 2014 Ellen Claytor contacted me by private message on my Facebook page to find out where James C. CROUSE 1920-1944 is buried. It was a very short message and I had no idea why she wanted to know this.
She found James in my GEDCOM file which is online at RootsWeb WorldConnect Project and linked to my Facebook page. A few messages were passed back and forth before I found out why she wanted to know.
Her son had recently bought a house and in the garage, he found a flat marble marker:
James C. Crouse Sr.
P.F.C. 424th Inf. – 106th Div.
World War II
Jan. 2, 1920 – Dec. 18, 1944
I already had the following information and went on to find several newspaper articles about his burial to answer her question.
A Short Biography of James C. CROUSE
James Carlton CROUSE Sr. was born 2 January 1920 in Lochgelly, Fayette County, West Virginia, to Samuel Joseph CROUSE and Cora Lee BABER. He was my 5th cousin once removed (5C1R) through two sets of 5xgreat-grandparents:
1. William JOHNSON and Amy NELSON and
2. James SIMS and his first wife Phebe [–?–].
James had been an only child for seven years when his sister Margaret Ann was born in 1927. He attended Fayetteville High School and was a Methodist.
On 26 July 1941 in Fayetteville, Fayette County, West Virginia, James C. CROUSE, age 21, married Eugenia Lee WISE, age 18, daughter of William and Lucy Lee WISE. [line 24]
James and Eugenia became the parents of a son, James Carlton CROUSE Jr., on 17 August 1942.
On 2 December 1943 James enlisted in the U.S. Army “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”
He began his service at Camp Blanding in Florida and then went to Europe where he served in England, France, Belgium, and Germany. He died serving his country.
His death was recorded in the Register of Death for Fayette County. [line 40] On the West Virginia Veterans Database of West Virginia Memory Project, maintained by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, we find his record with more details. His cause of death is listed as DOW (died of wounds) in Belgium while his death record in the register has killed in action (KIA) in Germany. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
A little over four years later the body of Private First Class James C. CROUSE of Fayetteville was re-interred in Huse Memorial Park in Fayetteville on Sunday, April 24, 1949.
Publication: Beckley Post Herald (West Virginia)
Published: Thursday, April 21, 1949, Page 2
Headline: VETERAN TO BE BURIED SUNDAY
FAYETTEVILLE, April 20 – Pfc. James C. Crouse of Fayetteville, who was killed in action in Germany, December 18, 1944, will be buried in the Huse Memorial Park here on Sunday, April 24.
There will be a brief ceremony at the home Sunday afternoon at two o’clock with Rev. R. T. Mallory of Mt. Hope in charge. Graveside services will be in charge of the American Legion, LaFayette Post, 149, Fayetteville. The body will be removed from the Dodd Mortuary here to the home of his parents, Saturday at 5:00 p.m. where it will remain until time for the services.
He was aged 24 years, 11 months and 11 days, and is survived by one son, James Culton (sic, Carlton) Crouse, Jr., his wife; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Crouse of Fayetteville; one sister, Mrs. Margaret James of Oak Hill.
Publication: Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)
Published: Saturday, April 23, 1949, Page 2
Headline: Rites for Pfc. Crouse Slated in Fayetteville
Service for Pfc. James C. Crouse of Fayetteville, who was killed Dec. 18, 1944, in Germany, will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Crouse of Fayetteville.
Rev. R. T. Mallory of Mt. Hope will officiate and burial will be in Huse Memorial Park at Fayetteville with LaFayette Post No. 149. American Legion, in charge of graveside rites.
Pfc. Crouse, 24, was born at Lochgelly, Fayette county.
Surviving besides his parents is a sister, Mrs. Margaret James of Oak Hill.
The body is at Dodd mortuary in Fayetteville and will be taken to the house of his parents at 5 p.m. today.
James C. Crouse’s location at the time of his death
The 424th Combat Infantry Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division landed in France on 5 December 1944. They crossed into Belgium on 10 December 1944 and were stationed at Winterspelt (Germany). On 16 December 1944, the German Army unleashed its Ardennes Counteroffensive (The Battle of the Bulge). After Action Reports show that the 424th was in Belgium on 18 December 1944. KIA or DOW, whichever is correct, one could place him in Belgium and the other in Germany. His military records may shed light on this question.
And this is where the mystery comes into the story
Ellen wanted to know why the marker was in her son’s garage and what they could do to get it back where it should be.
I posted the “problem” to the Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy group on Facebook. They are a wonderful group of genealogist and always ready to help.
Anita McClung was able to confirm both James C. Crouse Sr. and Jr. are buried at Huse Memorial Cemetery. Her source is the Fayette County Cemetery Records, Vol. VI, published by the Fayette & Raleigh Counties Genealogy Societies in October 2006. She was one of the persons who participated in reading the cemeteries.
Sandra Humphries Raedel was able to furnish a missing piece of the puzzle. On Find A Grave she found James’ listing with the application for the marker. “It ‘does’ appear that a flat memorial marker was ordered for James C. Crouse Sr., but…it was to be shipped to High Lawn Memorial Park.”
I hadn’t thought to check Find A Grave as I’d already located the newspaper articles. If I’d looked there first I might not have gone on to search for the burial notices which would have caused further problems. The contributor Jeff Hall had entered the name of the cemetery seen on the application. I notified Jeff of the discrepancy and he corrected the cemetery name.
The story of James C. Crouse’s marker continues:
After the body was returned to West Virginia and buried in Huse Memorial Cemetery, his father S. J. Crouse applied for a flat marble marker with a Christian emblem for the unmarked grave.
James was buried on the 24th of April and his father made the application three days later on the 27th of April. Several different handwritings are seen on the card. The name of the cemetery was penciled in. On the card, we see Highlawn Memorial Park in Oak Hill as the place of burial. As seen in the cemetery book and the newspaper articles this is incorrect.
On May 10th C. S. Wilson, superintendent or caretaker of the cemetery, certified that the marker would be permitted on the grave. The information was verified in Green Mountain, VT, on May 17th.
The question is, was C. S. Wilson from the Huse or High Lawn cemetery?
Shock, surprise, and goosebumps
I quickly found James’ granddaughter Marian Crouse Walraven on Facebook and sent her a message. I don’t like to do this as the message will go to the person’s Other folder if you are not “friends.” I hardly ever have success getting in touch with people this way. I sent a friend request, just in case, and was surprised to get a quick response. In a private message, I explained what was going on. She was shocked to hear about this marker and confirmed that both her grandfather and father are buried in Huse Memorial Park in Fayetteville.
By the time replies came in from Anita and Sandra from the Facebook group, I was chatting with Marian, and sending messages to Ellen — three conversations at one time.
Marian was shocked that I was getting in touch with her about her grandfather’s marker and that it had been found in someone’s garage. It was news to her as she has seen his marker on his grave but does not have a photo to compare with.
She was excited to learn not only are we related through her father and grandfather but also through her mother’s paternal line. We are 6C1R on JOHNSON and SIMS lines mentioned earlier (both her father and mother descend from these lines) and we share John KINCAID Sr. and Elizabeth Hannah GILLESPIE at the same level.
Then it dawned on me that Ellen had contacted me exactly 65 years to the day that Samuel Joseph CROUSE had filled out the marker application for his son’s grave. I shared this <goosebumps> with both Ellen and Marian. Ellen wrote, “I believe that things like this happen for a reason. My son says to use the photo. He wants to do whatever he can to find the proper place for the marker.”
The mystery hasn’t been solved. Was the marker delivered to the wrong cemetery? Was the family contacted? Did they request a new marker when the one they applied for did not show up at the cemetery of burial? Was the home that the marker was found in previously owned by a member of the Crouse family?
Photo of the marker courtesy of J. Claytor
One last <goosebumps> note:
My part in this story began on the 65th anniversary of the application for the marker. James’ story spans two continents, my part in the story also spans two continents. What are the chances that a mother in Ohio would contact a genealogist in Luxembourg — one of the countries that the Battle of the Bulge took place in?
There will be a follow-up on this mystery. I have a couple of people checking things out. Mostly, I can’t wait to hear from my new cousin Marian about how this story ends.
Update (21 February 2018):
See link at the bottom of The Mystery of James C. Crouse Sr.’s Grave Marker – Part 2
© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.