Harrison Parker made the opening remarks. Murray County Commissioner Brittany Pittman made a few brief remarks as well.
The Gold Star Mother monument honors those mothers who have had sons killed in combat. Herman McDaniel dedicated the monument and gave background for the piece.
“We no longer have a living Gold Star Mother in Murray County,” McDaniel said. “Most of the information we have we make available on murraycountymuseum.com.”
McDaniel is looking for pictures of the mothers.
The program started in WWI.
“Every time that someone entered the service their parents were sent blue stars to hang in the window to show we’ve got a son serving, we’ve got two sons serving,” McDaniel said. “They had a star for each son that was serving. Well somebody finally said what happens when they die? They no longer serve. Well somebody...said let’s continue the stars, let’s give them a gold star each time one of the men is killed while he served. So the gold stars came into existence they were made to fit exactly over the blue star. So the people who had them posted suddenly would have a change in their window of the status of their sons. They became Gold Star mothers. The names on the monument then are only those mothers who lost sons in the war years. And since it started in WWI, that’s the first names on the list. And there’s a seperate section up there, the program continued in WWII...the blue stars have long ago disappeared, it’s just now gold stars are issued when somebody dies.
“A lady named Nancy Louise Charles, her maiden name was Ivie,” McDaniel said. “Her husband’s name was Jessie. This lady was the only Murray County woman to get two Gold Stars...on August 19, 1918, son William was killed in combat, on October 18, 1918, son Robert was killed in combat.
“Another one from WWI from Georgia archives...Laura Thompson Fortner, her son James Fortner was killed...while carrying his wounded comrades off the battlefield.
“Martha Cordalia Blake, this is one of the saddest one in a way because it had nothing to do with combat. The son was Walter. Walter was about to ship overseas, he of course was going to Europe...Walter came home unexpectedly to Murray County. There was a flu epidemic and there a measles epidemic both going on at the same time. His dad luckily met the man bfore he had gotten into the houseand he clearly had the measles, and his dad took him aside and he said I’m terribly sorry but I cannot let you come in and possibly infect the whole family because measles were considered fatal back then in a large number of cases. So the son could not stay at home...that had to be sad.
“Well, one of the uncles said oh come on, dad’s being unreasonable, come over to my house and stay, he did. Wasn’t a good outcome. Walter stayed at the house and on Jan. 26, 1918, both Walter and a nephew aged four both died the same day from the measles. And they’re buried at Center Valley Methodist Church cemetery.
“There was a total of 14 men in WWI and considering they were in there just slightly more than 18 months, that’s a huge number for a county.”
McDaniel said the Gold Star Mothers program continued through WWII.
“We lost a large number there,” McDaniel said. “We lost 35in WWII. Paul Ross told me remembering quite specifically the Gold Star that he used to see in Catherine Hammontree’s window. It was marking the death of her son James.
“We’ve got one woman up there who is the only Negro mother of a Murray County soldier, this one we had a hard time tracking down from the standpoint of the name of the dead soldier is on the lawn monument at the courthouse, nobody knew who he was...lo and behold it was a black man who had entered from Whitfield County who had the same initials as this man and his date of death happened to conincide...so it turned out...he had enlisted in Whitfield in Whitfield County because of the segregated army and there wasn’t any way in Murray County to enlist. His name was Ben Moore...He was buried overseas. His parents were sons and daughters of slaves.”