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AHC exhibit documents Aiken County role in World War I

Posted: June 14, 2017 - 2:25am  |  Updated: June 14, 2017 - 2:26am
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Artist Janice Livingstone painted a replica of this iconic World War I recruiting poster.
Artist Janice Livingstone painted a replica of this iconic World War I recruiting poster.

A hundred years ago, as World War I dragged on in Europe, 1,500 young men and women from Aiken County answered the call of then-President Woodrow Wilson, a former Augustan, to "make the world safe for democracy."

Sixty-five of them gave their lives.

Until now, there was no comprehensive list to document the county's contribution to ending "The War to End All Wars."

For George Forbes Jr., doing the research and compiling the list as part of the North Augusta Arts and Heritage Center's World War I exhibit was a labor of love.

"I did it to remind people of the sacrifices of the people of Aiken County," said Forbes, a volunteer at the AHC. "It needs to be remembered."

The exhibit, which opened Friday, includes other local connections to war, like the Medal of Honor won by Yates Villepigue's grandfather, John C. Villepigue.

There's a section on the Otranto, a ship that sank off the Irish coast after a collision with another ship in its convoy. It took the lives of nine Augustans, as recounted by front-page stories in The Augusta Chronicle.

Forbes' wife's grandfather, Stancill Hutto, was on the Otranto, but survived by making a precarious leap onto a rescue ship. His parents got a military telegram saying he had not been killed, but had to wait to find out he hadn't been seriously injured either.

There's also information on Augusta's Barnes Field. One of the Wright brothers attended its dedication.

WWI re-enactor Dane Coffman attended Friday's opening as Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing.

He got bit by the history bug when he acquired his grandfather's uniform and began collecting memorabilia from the war.

His grandfather, a barber by trade, was in the same unit as the legendary Alvin York.

Years later, when people would ask him to talk about York, he would say, "I used to cut his hair."

 

Reach James Folker at (706) 823-3338 or james.folker@augustachronicle.com.

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