In the spring of 1918, my great-grandparents James and Annie Sproul hosted a family reunion at their home on Maxcy’s Mill Road in Windsor. All eight of their children attended, as did all the children’s spouses and all the Sproul grandchildren.

No record has been found to explain the reason for the gathering, but it was important enough to prompt this group of country tradespeople to don their finest clothes and have their picture taken. The overwhelming likelihood is that they had come to say goodbye to the Sprouls’ sixth child, Harold, who was about to join the Army and go off to war.

They would never see him again.

Nov. 11 this year was the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. Looking back at it from the vantage point of observers living in a time when almost nobody alive has any memory of that traumatic period, it might be easy for us to imagine that when peace came, the belligerent nations would have put the conflict behind them, learned from their mistakes and moved on. They didn’t, of course; two decades later, they resumed whacking away at each other in World War II.

On a personal level, the war also didn’t really end on Nov. 11, 1918. The Sproul family probably celebrated the news that the war was over, but soon afterward they learned that Harold, 24, was dead in France, having succumbed to pneumonia on Nov. 26 — 100 years ago Monday.

For his mother, it was the start of four decades of grief. Before her own death in 1956, she would lose three more of her children (including my grandfather, John, in 1938 to a brain tumor), her husband and other family members. In spite of those experiences, or perhaps because of them, she became the subject of a newspaper’s attention years later, during World War II, by knitting copious quantities of scarves and mittens to send to people in Britain who were deprived of such luxuries.

Young Harold died at an age when he had not been able to accomplish much, but even the young are capable of leaving some kind of mark on the world, and sometimes it just takes a bit of poking around to discover what it is. What I found recently in Harold’s case is that although he was just an ordinary country lad, he has the unusual distinction of having been buried twice and being cited on at least two war monuments. Also, his name was passed down to at least three of his collateral descendants.

Harold James Sproul was born Aug. 30, 1894, in Windsor. When he was 3, his father, James, bought the house and mill operations on Maxcy’s Mill Road, which included a sawmill and a grist mill.

“The mill continued in operation under Mr. Sproul’s supervision for a lengthy period of time,” Linwood H. Lowden and C. Arlene Barton Gilbert wrote in their 1993 history of Windsor, whose deliberately mangled title, “good land & fine Contrey but Poor roads,” is derived from an early settler’s handwritten observation about the town.

Harold and his brothers — John, Del, Leroy, Fred, Pete and Beuford — slept together in a large second-floor bedroom in the Maxcy’s Mill Road house, according to genealogist Faye Sproul, who compiled extensive notes about the family.

“Fred reported that they had wonderful pillow fights until their father came to the foot of the stairs — he only spoke ONCE for the room to become quiet,” she wrote.

When he grew up, Harold moved to Augusta, where his brother John, my grandfather, already lived with my grandmother, Susan. A postcard stamped by the city tax collector on July 21, 1916, shows that Harold resided at 129 Sewall St.

At the family gathering in 1918, probably in May, Harold got a chance to see his first namesake. His sister, Flossie Sproul Turner, the only girl among eight siblings, had given birth to Harold Sproul Turner on April 13 that year. (Reversing the gender distribution in her own family, Flossie eventually had eight children, like her mother, but they consisted of one boy and seven girls.)

The United States had been entrenched in World War I for a year at that point, and the military draft had been in effect since May 1917, so it probably was inevitable that Harold, a single man in his early 20s, would become involved in the war.

His family’s military legacy heritage was an unusual one. His maternal grandfather, George Watson, was a Windsor native, but his business took him to Georgia. He was there when the Civil War broke out, so he joined the Confederate army, serving in Clinch’s Regiment, 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry. He survived the war, married three times and died in Georgia at the age of 41.

Harold was inducted May 31, 1918, in Augusta, according to the state adjutant general’s report on Maine residents serving in the war, published in 1929. A week later, he began to undergo basic training at Camp Jackson, in Columbia, South Carolina — just a few hundred miles from the place where his mother had been born in Georgia. The camp itself had been in service barely longer than Harold himself had.

It opened in 1917, the year the United States entered World War I, according to the post’s website. Now known as Fort Jackson, the post comprises more than 52,000 acres, an area about 1.5 times larger than the city of Augusta. Today the Army conducts about half of its basic combat training there.

In a well-worn anecdote about Mark Twain, a group of Twain’s friends in New York wrote a letter to the perpetually traveling author and addressed simply it to “Mark Twain, God knows where.” Twain supposedly received the letter and send a two-word reply: “He did.” The address on a letter that Harold Sproul sent home from Camp Jackson, dated June 24, 1918, was similarly sparse. He wrote: “J.W. Sproul, Windsorville, Maine.” It lacked a full first name, a road name and a ZIP code (a system introduced 45 years later), but it arrived at its destination anyway.

Even though Harold’s father’s name was on the envelope, the letter inside was written to his mother.

“I got a letter from Flossie and she told me you were getting a lot of strawberries, I would like to be there to help pick them, but I will be there to help eat them, so get an extra lot,” he said.

He chatted about the food at camp, about a measles quarantine that he suspected was just a way of preventing the soldiers from going to town, and about letters he had received from other relatives.

“If you want to,” he added, “I would like to have some of the K.Js. (Kennebec Journal) sent to me, as the papers down here don’t have any news in them, that is any war news or draft news.”

He closed by trying to put his mother at ease.

“Well you can depend on me to look out for myself in this game, so don’t worry.”

By July 23, he was in France, assigned to Battery B, 120th Field Artillery. He worked as a baker, according to Faye Sproul. The Maine adjutant general’s report lists the battlefield engagements in which he took part as Aisne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne and Oise-Aisne.

Flossie wrote six pages of chatter to him on Nov. 24 from Coopers Mills, regaling him with tales of the rabbit hunting efforts of their brother Beuford and Flossie’s husband, Chauncey; of threshing beans; of baby Harold being on the verge of crawling; and of my grandparents John and Susie’s new baby, Doris. She did not mention that Doris was born with a severe deformity, one that undoubtedly contributed to her death that December.

“Annie and Lillian are awfully cute,” Flossie said, referring to my other aunts, who were toddlers at the time. “They are waiting for you to come home to cut their hair. You cut Lillian’s last. She is a little witch.”

Harold never saw the letter. He died two days after it was written, and the post office eventually returned it to Flossie. News of his death did not reach home quickly, so Flossie wrote Harold another letter on Dec. 8, remarking on the strangeness of still having a few flies buzzing about in her house while snow covered the ground. She reported that she had bought fabric to make their mother a dress, and she gushed about baby Harold sitting on the floor and playing with her shoes.

“Christmas is almost here and don’t I wish you could be here for it would make it so much better,” she wrote, unaware that she was about to have a large hole torn in her heart.

The adjutant general’s report gives no details about Harold’s death, other than to say that he fell prey to disease. Faye Sproul’s notes say he died of pneumonia, but a flu pandemic of historic proportions was sweeping the globe at that time, killing more people than the war did, so it’s possible that the pneumonia was a side effect of that, or that the flu killed him and was misreported as pneumonia.

Faye Sproul wrote that Harold was buried in an American cemetery in “Revigny, Meuse,” although that name does not appear in the list of American military cemeteries in France that is on the U.S. Embassy’s website. In any case, his remains were disinterred later and shipped back to the United States. Then he was buried in Windsor’s Rest Haven Cemetery, in a plot where his parents also were buried years afterward.

Long after the war, the city of Augusta erected a World War I monument at the southwest corner of State Street and Western Avenue, beside the old Augusta House hotel. When Memorial Circle was built in the late 1940s, the monument was moved to what is now Memorial Park, immediately north of the traffic circle. Harold was an Augusta resident when he went to war, so his name appears on the monument.

Meanwhile, in Windsor, town officials erected a monument to its residents who served in either World War I or World War II. In the World War I list, Harold’s name is the only one that has a star to the left of it, indicating that he died while still in the Army and in the war theater. This small monument stands on the west side of Ridge Road, also called Route 32, at the Reed Road intersection.

The Harold who was a baby when his uncle went to war grew up and had children of his own. One of them, Steve Turner, lives in Charlton, Massachusetts. He said his late father was well aware of the man for whom he was named.

“I think my father was just proud that he had the name,” he said, adding that the two of them toured the Windsor Museum at the Windsor Fairgrounds more than once to see Harold Sproul’s Army uniform, gas mask and portrait on display.

Steve Turner added that his own middle name is Harold, and one of his sons also has Harold as a middle name.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that Harold Sproul has much of a legacy beyond that. This story might be the most comprehensive thing ever written about him.

His father’s grist mill and sawmill disappeared long ago, victims of flooding and decay; and while the childhood home that the Sprouls occupied for more than a half-century still stands on Maxcy’s Mill Road, it shows no evidence that they ever lived there. They were ordinary people who lived ordinary lives, and gradually were forgotten by most of the ordinary people who followed in their wake.

Even so, ordinary people such as Harold deserve to be remembered, and the centennial of his death seems like an appropriate day on which to celebrate him.

Joseph Owen, of Augusta, is the copy desk chief for the Kennebec Journal.

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