The first three memorial trees on the UW–Platteville campus have been replaced after an absence of nearly 50 years.
Three red maple trees have been planted near the Center for the Arts to replace trees planted in 1919 in memory of three Platteville Normal School students who died at the end of World War I. The Daughters of the American Revolution held a dedication ceremony in a Daughters of the American Revolution ceremony Saturday morning.
Two of the memorials are for students who died in battles in France in 1918. The third is for a student who was in the Platteville Normal Student Army Training Corps — the predecessor to today’s Reserve Officer Training Corps — but died during the 1918 influenza outbreak.
The trees are in memory of Marine Cpl. Homer I. Grossman, who was killed in action in the battle of Chateau–Thierry, France, June 11, 1918; Army Sgt. Homer N. Parkinson, who died in battle near Verdun, France, Oct. 17, 1918; and Private Loren J. Peacock, who died at the old Cunningham Hospital in Platteville Dec. 5, 1918.
The original elm trees were planted just west of what now is Ullrich Hall in 1919, less than a year after the three students died. The trees died and were removed in the 1960s, the victims of Dutch elm disease. The new trees are just to the northwest of the original site of the memorial trees.
The new trees are a project of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Fort Crawford chapter, which “became aware of the absence of the trees and plaques,” said DAR member Barbara Lewis of Platteville, a relative of Parkinson. “I think World War I is kind of lost in the shadows.”
UW–Platteville donated the trees and accompanying rocks.
Two of the three original memorial plaques are in the UW–Platteville Southwest Wisconsin Room. Each of the new trees has an accompanying memorial plaque donated by the DAR.
The memorial trees are three of 23 memorial trees on the UW–Platteville campus. Grossman, Parkinson and Peacock are the only three veterans to be honored with memorial trees on the UWP campus.
Grossman, who was born in Mauston, was a student at the Platteville Normal School’s Training School. He was a student at the Normal School before he left school before the end of his freshman year.
“Those who knew Homer as a pupil in the Training School, a student in the Normal, and a member of the social group in the community will never forget the happy, fun-loving, high-spirited generous, manly boy,” wrote the 1919 Pioneer Yearbook.
Grossman had the most extensive military service of the three. He started in the Army Field Hospital Corps when U.S. forces became involved in the Mexican Revolution in 1913. Grossman was given an honorable discharge, then reenlisted when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917. Because his enlistment was delayed, Grossman sought a discharge and then enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Grossman was a corporal of the Marines’ Sixth Regiment when, on June 11, 1918 during the Battle of Chateau Thierry, he volunteered to bring in the wounded. He went to get a boy who was lying in a wheat field when Grossman was shot to death by a sniper.
The French government awarded Grossman the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor. He is buried in the Aisne–Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in Belleau, France.
Parkinson, who was born in the Town of Willow Springs, enlisted in the National Guard in July 1917, just before his company was incorporated into the U.S. Army. Parkinson was on the front at Alsace, France, twice, was wounded in the battle of Chateau–Thierry in July 1918, and returned to active service two months later.
“It is hard for ‘Parkie’s’ friends and classmates to realize that he lives but in memory, that never again will his cheery word and helping hand smooth out the rough places for his associates,” wrote the 1918 Pioneer Yearbook. “He was prominent in all school activities — athletics, debate, Exponent, and class organizations, each and all engaged his attention.
“Everyone liked ‘Parkie.’ Those who were associated with him will never forget this fine manly fellow. His star of gold represents character, true worth, and courage as well as the supreme sacrifice.”
The Pioneer Yearbook quoted from a letter written to Parkinson’s mother, Nancy, by Army Capt. A.F. LaRouche, commander of Parkinson’s infantry company: “I remember one day after we had made a very hard advance we reached our objective ‘All In.’ Hardly anyone had food, and those who did had immediately eaten it. ‘Parkie’ had some hard bread and he was frying it in bacon grease over one of those canned heat affairs. As I passed him he offered me half of his. I hadn’t eaten for forty-eight hours and he knew it. I refused, but he insisted and shared his handful of crackers with me; and oh! How good they tasted.”
Parkinson is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Mineral Point.
Peacock, a native of Prairie du Chien, was a student at the Normal School and a member of the Student Army Training Corps when he was taken to the Cunningham Hospital (in what now is the Block, Scott & Heenan law offices and apartments) with influenza on Thanksgiving Day 1918. Peacock contracted pneumonia from the flu — which killed more Americans than World War I did — and died Dec. 5, 1918.
“The young soldier fought death valiantly,” wrote The Platteville Journal Dec. 11, 1918. “The thought that he was a soldier was constantly in his mind, and when the end came he was, as far as he was concerned, in the Barracks with his pals, living the life of a true soldier. The boys that were associated with him will never forget his consideration for others, his acts of kindness.
“The boys of S.A.T.C. are saddened by the death of their soldier friend. They wish he might have lived to fulfill the promise of his young manhood, but they know that this little soldier with his high ideals of living has influenced the life of every man with whom he ever came in contact.”
The Journal reported that after Peacock’s death the SATC students marched from the barracks at the Wisconsin Mining School to the hospital, lining up in two columns on Chestnut Street. The unit accompanied Peacock’s casket from the hospital to the coach to Prairie du Chien.
Peacock is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Prairie du Chien.