1917: Uncle Albert and the Charboneau Doughboys

Sepia Saturday 538Ninth in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

At the outbreak of World War I, my father’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau and his brothers were required to register for the draft.

And this they did, carefully penning their information on cards that have survived into the digital age.

Albert, the oldest brother, was age 33 when he registered in 1918 — giving his date of birth as 15 Feb. 1885, his address as 42 State Street, Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y. and his wife’s name as Annie E. Charboneau.

He wrote that he was employed as Woodworking Foreman at Julius Breckwoldt lumber works. The registrar described Albert as tall and stout with black hair and blue eyes.

WWI Doughboy statue in Woodside, N.Y. (2020). Selected in 1928 as the best war memorial of its kind by the American Federation of Arts, this statue depicts a returning WWI soldier with bandaged head, holding his helmet with his gun to one side. Photo: Molly Charboneau

My grandfather Ray’s draft registration

Two of Albert’s brothers registered before him. My paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau registered on 5 June 1917. Born 3 April 1888 in Forestport, N.Y., he was age 29 and described as tall and slender with blue eyes and black hair.

Ray lived on Dolge Ave. in Dolgeville, N.Y. and worked as a warehouse clerk at the Daniel Green Felt Shoe Co. — which had taken over the original Dolge factory complex. Ray also had an exemption from the draft: He was married with three children — my dad’s older brothers Owen, Franny and Hube

Uncle Tom signed up with Ray

Next in line on 5 June 1917 — registered the same day as Ray — was Orville “Tom” Charboneau. Born on 23 April 1892, Tom was 25 and described as tall with medium build, blue eyes, brown hair and slight baldness.

Tom lived at 10 Church St. in Little Falls, N.Y., where he worked as an automobile repairman for C.A. Ross on West Main St. He was single with no dependents.

Uncle Dewey registered in 1918

George Dewey Charboneau, the youngest brother, registered on 12 Sept. 1918 — the same year as Albert. Born 12 June 1898, he was age 20 and described as tall and slender with blue eyes and brown hair.

Uncle Dewey worked as a shoemaker at the Daniel Green Felt Shoe Company — where my grandfather Ray also worked — and lived with his parents Will and Eva (Bull) Charboneau on Cline Street in Dolgeville, N.Y. Unmarried, he listed his father Will as his next of kin.

Wartime service

Of the four, Tom and Dewey were called up — toward the end of the war — and their service was entered onto a roster compiled by the Herkimer County Home Defense Committee of soldiers who were drafted or volunteered their services in WWI.  However, Uncle Albert and my grandfather Ray appear to have performed service of their own in Herkimer County.

More on this in the next post. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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9 thoughts on “1917: Uncle Albert and the Charboneau Doughboys”

  1. I love the physical descriptions on draft registration cards. I learned about a family member who had a tattoo and another who was missing a finger.

  2. I know what a moving experience it can be to find such records on an ancestor. I traced an army service record for my great uncle which described him as 5’feet 3” tall, 8st 3lb in weight and wearing glasses. This was so illuminating when I realized this slight figure was serving as a stretcher bearer in the field in WW1, carrying dead and injured soldiers. Sadly he was killed on the Somme a week after his 22nd birthday. .

  3. I’ve found draft cards immensely useful in solving my photo mysteries. The information on addresses, employment, family and description are more personal, especially with a sjgnature, than census or even marriage records. Only a passport application can surpass it in value because it often includes a photo.

    Recently I’ve started to assemble a collection of WW1 postcards from a German POW camp that include a number of photos of the French, Russian, and Serbian cemeteries. What caught my interest is a memorial statue of a fallen Serb soldier. I’ve discovered a set of photos of the sculptor, a French soldier with his name! Most exciting is that I learned he survived the war and went on to resume his work as an artist, completing several war memorials in France. It’s a rare find that will be a big challenge in research, but it seems important to preserve this unusual history.

  4. Excellent commentary on the records of these men’s draft cards. I have seen both my grandfather’s cards for WW I, and that’s how I know what my young grandfather looked like, who died before I was born. Three of my father’s brothers served in WW II, though he didn’t. And the oldest had 2 children and a wife at home. I’m sure their lives would have been different if he hadn’t become sick following his service and died young also.

  5. It appears Tom & Dewey were called up rather than the others because they were unmarried. It seems unfair in a way, but on the other hand surviving a war is not guaranteed and no one wants to see a wife and children left behind to struggle alone if it can be helped. Still, it doesn’t seem quite fair.

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