Local News

July 24, 2011

World War I buckle reunited with family

After four-month search, item returned to owner’s 80-year-old niece.

WALTON — After hanging on a nail in a shed for more than 20 years, a brass buckle with references to a World War I battle took a journey from the outskirts of Logansport to the home of a woman in Walton.

Eighty-year-old Phyllis Malott received a phone call this month from Cass County Genealogical Society member Deb Rush, who had a strange request. Rush wanted to meet with her about her late uncle, Harry D. Wilson.

“She probably thought I was crazy,” Rush said.

“I thought really it was just a joke,” Malott said.

Rush’s research had led to a new resting place for the buckle with the name “HD Wilson” inscribed on it.

The story

Don Henry lives on South River Road three miles outside of Logansport. On the property sits an old shed. This spring, Henry began remodeling the structure. He knew the buckle had hung on the nail inside the shed the entire 22 years he had owned the property.

“I just didn’t have any reason to take it off the nail and throw it away,” he said.

Henry hadn’t given the buckle much thought until he removed it and the nail so he could insulate the walls. Out of curiosity, he began cleaning the object that he thought was maybe a piece from an old dog collar. His impression changed when the year 1918 appeared.

“You start rubbing more corners, you come up with more information, then it got more interesting,” Henry said.

“We were pretty excited,” said his wife, Barb.

Hidden under years of grime were the words, “HD Wilson, St. Mihiel, Supply Co. 135FA AEF, 1918.”

Don and Barb researched “St. Mihiel” and discovered that it referred to an important battle in France during World War I.

According to the, Gen. John Pershing caught the Germans out of position and took more than 13,000 prisoners and captured 466 guns while winning the town. The battle lasted 36 hours. An estimated 12,000 soldiers died, including 5,000 Germans and 7,000 Americans.

The couple had Wilsons as neighbors so they approached them to find out if they knew an “HD Wilson.”

“I’ve got all kinds of neighbors up and down the road with the last name of Wilson, but their family tree just didn’t come up with anybody,” Don said.

“Every Wilson we ran into,” said Barb.

Don hangs out at Bullshippers Cafe. He showed the guys there the buckle and expressed his frustration about not being able to identify its owner. They suggested he contact Elizabeth McQuinn, an advocate for local veterans known for her efforts to return nameplates from the World War II Roll of Honor.

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