AUGUSTA — The May 7, 1919, photo shows a large group of World War I veterans as they were being feted by a grateful city. The 170 men are framed on and around the front stairs of the now-demolished YMCA building on Winthrop Street. At that point, the building was only 5 years old.

Some of the men are old, some young, some in Army or Navy uniforms, some in shirts and ties, some in overcoats.

For years, that photo sat in the house of the late Leo Fletcher, of Augusta, who wasn’t even among those pictured. While he fought in World War I, he was still overseas at the time.

But his brother Fremont Charles Fletcher, also of Augusta, was there in uniform, kneeling in the front row, the third from the left in the group on the left side of the stairs.

When Leo Fletcher died, his son, David B. Fletcher, now 72, inherited the photograph taken by Herman Royal Mansur, a commercial photographer with a business on Hillcrest Street.

That photo, bearing the legend “Augusta’s Welcome to her Soldiers and Sailors May 7, 1919,” sat in Fletcher’s Augusta home until Fletcher concluded “there’s no point in this collecting dust.”

He took it to the Maine State Library and donated it in hopes of getting it preserved and shared.

“I thought it could be salvaged in some respects,” he said. “It had been torn when the glass broke.”

Library workers scanned it in, made him some copies and then posted a digital copy on the library’s website at http://digitalmaine.com/augusta_images/1/

“I know some of the people in the photo and some of the connections, and I want to try to contact these people and give them a copy if they’re interested,” Fletcher said.

Adam Fisher, director of collections, digital initiatives and promotion for the library, said copies of the photo were shared with Lithgow Public Library and the Kennebec Valley YMCA.

“We also have a comments feature that will allow users to provide details they might have about the names of folks in the photo,” Fisher said, adding, “We always welcome the public to stop by and digitize and share images from Maine’s past.”

Fisher said those who might be able to identify the people in the photo of the World War I veterans can do so using the comments feature or by emailing him at [email protected]

So far, none of the others in the photo have been identified. However, David Fletcher hopes to remedy that.

He thinks he might know descendants of some other men pictured and already contacted William “Bill” Dunn of Winthrop, a fellow member of the Cony High School Class of 1961, because his father, Leo F. Dunn, might be in the photo. Later, Leo F. Dunn became the Democratic senator representing Augusta in 1957-60 and 1965-66.

Fletcher gave the younger Dunn a framed copy of the photo Wednesday.

“He was tickled to death,” Fletcher said.

The “Daily Kennebec Journal,” as it was known then, ran a story on the front page on May 7, 1919, under the headline “Capital City Today Welcomes Home Her Boys Who Went to War.” The same edition has a special section devoted to the fete as well, with the full schedule of “Honor Day,” including movies at the downtown Colonial Theater, dinner and a concert at the Y, a parade and a grand ball in the evening. The dancing, to begin at 8 in City Hall, offered “music by Douglass’ Orchestra and all the pretty girls in the city in attendance.” The next day, the paper pronounced the celebration a rousing success.

The specter of war lingered, however, with the front pages of both newspapers carrying news stories about the terms being offered to Germany.

The May 7, 1919, edition also carried a list of Augusta men serving in the Army and Navy.

Fletcher also noted that names of Augusta military personnel who died in World War I are listed on a monument in Memorial Park, the small, green space off Memorial Circle at the base of Western Avenue.

As for Fremont C. Fletcher, he died at age 32, five years after the photo was taken. His nephew said it was from injuries and illness related to the mustard gas his uncle was exposed to in France.

Fremont Fletcher was a pharmacist, a member of the Medical Department serving with the Coast Artillery, American Expeditionary Forces. His gravestone stands in St. Mary’s Cemetery between Winthrop and Green streets in Augusta.

Other records indicate he attended the University of Maine and that he owned and operated Fletcher’s Drugs on Water Street in Augusta.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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