WWI Wappinger

This exhibition is created in collaboration with the Wappingers Historical Society and DCHS Vice President for Wappinger and town historian, Joey Cavaccini. As well as family members of Wappinger veterans.

Wappingers WHS Logo

Third Liberty Loan Parade, Poughkeepsie, April 6, 1918

On the 1st anniversary of the declaration of war. Photos by Reuben Van Vlack, DCHS Fred Close Collection.

A Fateful Letter and Tragic Death of a Wappinger Youth, One Century Ago

Written By Rich Goring & Melodye Moore for publication in the Northern/Southern Dutchess News Group which has lent its pages every two weeks for a Dutchess County town to publish its local story in partnership with DCHS.

Photos below: The c. 1900 photo shows John M. Goring, Jr and his wife Mary Cornelia Downing. They had two sets of twins. At left are Harold and Howard. With their parents are the younger fraternal twins, J. Morris Goring, known as Morris, and sister Mary. The home today. Twenty-one year old Morris Goring was not drafted but enlisted in the spring of 1918 with several of his fellow Syracuse University students. His official service record. Goring was first buried in France. His family chose to have him reinterred in Wappinger in the early 1920’s. The 1940 newspaper notice of Morris’ mother’s 83rd birthday. The 1980 obituary of his sister Mary, who shared these items with family members just before her death.

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This was the tragic headline in the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, Tuesday, November 12, 1918, the day after the Armistice was signed. He had been killed in action September 29, one week after he wrote a September 22 foreboding letter to his parents.

Morris, as he was called by his family and friends, was born in Wappingers Falls, along with his twin sister Mary on January 6, 1897.  The son of John M. and Mary Goring, he had two older siblings, another set of twins, Harold and Howard.  He was a graduate of the Poughkeepsie High School class of 1916.  With the United States entry into the Great War, Morris left Syracuse University where he was studying law.  His sister recounted to family members shortly before her death in 1980 that “he would’ve made a terrific lawyer, he loved to argue.”  Morris enlisted as a Private and trained with the 27th Division, 107th Infantry, comprised largely of men from both sides of the Hudson River Valley.  As the American troops were exposed to combat in the mud-filled trenches, along with rats, poor food, gas, artillery barrages and machine-gun fire, they tried to train and prepare for what lay ahead.  In his last letter home, dated September 22, 1918, Morris wrote about the “little job” that lay ahead for him and what the outcome might be.  In this  remarkable and poignant family treasure he tried, as best he could, to prepare himself and his family for his death.

“Now mother don’t you worry.  I don’t like to put much of this stuff in a letter as it seems rather foolish if nothing happens and might cause unnecessary worry though it shouldn’t as if anything happened you would know it before receiving this.  It looks as if we (have) a little stunt to do before I get a chance to write again.  If I should “go west” as we say, you shouldn’t have any regrets mother dear as  there are hundreds of others the same. For the  one who dies it is easy, it is those left that we worry about.  It isn’t such an awful thing, just  a great experience, a change.  We will all see each other again.  That we are sure of, millions, not only Christians, but all human beings.  I have led a fairly good life.  I have had a wonderful  time and great opportunities and a wonderful mother and family.  You must understand mother, I don’t want to worry you, but if anything did happen to me I don’t want you to feel  bad, and you shouldn’t.  If I should get picked off I would die happy.  We are sure it isn’t the end  so why such an awful thing ?  No one can conceive of an end to the personality of a loved one. It is infinite, something that can’t die.  But you need no such argument mother.  You know it is only a change.  And in what better way can a man make that  change than over here fighting for home, country, civilization, his mother, sister and sweetheart – but enough, it is more likely that I will come home safe and that within a year.  If I am wounded don’t worry as not  many of them are bad.  In fact a nice little “blighty” wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome.  Some of the boys are over there now.  We have this little job so I thought it might be best to say something mother though I don’t want to worry you.  If anything should happen too please drop a line to the Bunch at the [fraternity] house and tell them that though I didn’t write due  to lack of time I thought of them enough.”

“Good night mother dear and Goodbye till the next.  Your boy is keeping as clean as when he left home and will be with you soon.  Take good care of yourself.  With love to all, your boy, Morris.”

Seven days later, in the early morning smoke and fog of September 29, 1918, the Americans launched massive barrages and infantry assaults against the German positions near the St. Quentin Canal, a strong series of defenses known as the Hindenburg Line.  In the last 24 hours of the attack the British artillery fired a record 945,052 shells.  Scores of boys died that day, including Morris.  Orange County lost more than 48 soldiers, with dozens more wounded.  But the ultimate success of the attack led to the end of the war just 6 weeks later on November 11th.  Ironically, in Wappingers Falls, news was received of the armistice at about the same time as they learned of Morris’s demise.  It was news the family never overcame.  After initial interment in the American cemetery in France, Morris’s body was returned to Wappingers Falls where it reposes today in the family plot next to his twin sister whom he had called “his other half.”

On September 1, 1919 a large bronze tablet was unveiled and dedicated at Mesier Park Homestead in Wappingers Falls.  Pvt. John Morris Goring is among the fallen heroes named on the plaque.  The J. M. Goring – Wm. Hurtz  Post 427 of the American Legion also honors the memory of a hometown boy who believed that  fighting for one’s “home, country, civilization, his mother, sister and sweetheart”  was worth the sacrifice, and in his case, the ultimate sacrifice.


Rich Goring served as Regional Historic Preservation Supervisor for New York State Historic sites, overseeing interpretation and development for The Senate House, New Windsor Cantonment Site, Washington’s Headquarters, Stony Point Battlefield & Lighthouse and Fort Montgomery. Melodye Moore is a Board Member at the Dutchess County Historical Society, she is the Chair of DCHS Collections, and Chair of the DCHS program, “2018: Year of the Veteran.”

All Who Gave Their Lives

Wapingers Falls and Wappinger Honor Roll
The 1919 Memorial Plaque was updated in 2017 to include James Cruse.

On September 1, 1919, the large bronze tablet was unveiled and dedicated at Mesier Park Homestead. The Rev. Charles Oakley of the Methodist Church made the principal address. On November 9, 2017, the smaller plaque was installed in a ceremony honoring Pvt. Cruse, who was inadvertently left off it in 1919.

The following are short biographies of the men listed on the plaques:

Pvt. Joseph Croak: Joseph was born in June 1876 to James and Margaret Croak. He made his home with his parents on Hillside Avenue in his formative years. He lived on Market Street and worked at the Bleachery for a few years prior to his US Army deployment on May 15, 1918. Engagements: Haute Alsace, Malbrouck Hill, Moleville Farm, Bois d’Ormont, Grand Montagne, Etraye Ridge, Bois Belleau. Private Croak died in France (age 42) on December 26, 1918 of “cardiac dilatation” and is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Pvt. Augustus Mass: Augustus was born in New York City June 17, 1888, son of William and Wilhelmina Mass. The family moved to Wappingers Falls when he was child and lived on Franklindale Avenue. He became a detective and worked at the Middletown Police Department. He enlisted in the Marines in Philadelphia and was deployed in June 1917.  Private Mass died (age 30) on January 17, 1918 aboard a hospital ship off Hampton Roads, Virginia, having succumbed to pneumonia.

Edward E. Wilson: Edward was born in New Jersey around 1891. He lived on Nelson Avenue with his widowed mother Mary and sisters, Helen and Frances. He worked as a farm laborer and was employed as a mill worker prior to his enlistment in the US Army on September 9, 1918. His name is commemorated on the plaque, but no military information except his enlistment date could be found.

Pvt. John Morris Goring [see separate profile]: John was the son of John M. and Mary Goring and was born January 6, 1897 in the Village of Wappingers Falls.  The family lived on Mesier Avenue. John enlisted in the Army on April 17, 1918. Engagements: Dickebush, Front Line trenches Ronsey. Private Goring was killed in action in France (age21) on September 29, 1918. Pvt. Goring is buried at Wappingers Rural Cemetery.

2nd Lt. Donald Pierpont Strahan: Donald was born in Newburg on November 30, 1891. He lived with his mother, Annie and siblings on Prospect Street, Village of Wappingers Falls. Donald enlisted in the US Army Office of Aeronautics April 24, 1918 and trained in Plattsburg, NY. He died in an airplane accident at Aulnat Puy-de-dome, France (age 27) on October 22, 1918. Second Lieutenant Strahan is buried at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France.

Pvt Chester Minard: Chester was born in Highland in 1896 to parents George and Phoebe Berry Minard. He lived with his family in Hughsonville, Town of Wappinger. Before his enlistment in the US Army on August 4, 1917, he worked as a farm laborer in Rhinebeck. Engagements: Dickebush, Lake, Vendhuile, Voux Andigny. He succumbed to influenza and bronchopneumonia (age 22) October 22, 1918 in France. Private Minard is buried at Wappingers Rural Cemetery.

1st Lt. David Everett Wheeler: David was born in Manhattan on November 25, 1872 to parents Edward Pepperrell and Lydia Lorraine Hodges Wheeler. Edward’s link to the Wappingers area is that his prominent lawyer father owned a (mostly) summer home on what is now Wheeler Hill Road. David graduated from Columbia School of Medicine in 1898 and practiced at Erie County Hospital, Buffalo, NY. When WWI broke out, he joined the Red Cross as a volunteer and left for Europe. Dr. Wheeler joined the French Foreign Legion as an enlisted man and served from 1915-1916. After his discharge, he enlisted in the Canadian Army as a Captain. When the United States entered the War, he transferred to the US Army as a lieutenant in the Medical Corps. He asked to be sent to the front line with the boys instead of serving at a base hospital. First Lieutenant Wheeler died under fire attending to those soldiers (age 46) on July 18, 1918 at Missy-sur-Marne, Picardie, France. Burial was at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Citation.

Pvt. James J. Cruse: James was born in 1898 in Durham, North Carolina. Nothing is known about his relationship to Wappingers Falls, except that his military service card indicated his residence prior to his enlistment was Wappingers Falls. He enlisted in the US Army at Fort Slocum on September 28, 1917. He served in the infantry known as the “Harlem Hellcats”. Engagements: Champagne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne. Private Cruse died of wounds received in action on October 14, 1918 (age 20) in France. He was buried at St. Mihiel American Cemetery, Thiaucourt, France.