Dade County Veterans of World War I: Part 1

June 29, 2020

Dade County World War I Inductees. First Row: Len Mason, Asa Reeves, Grady Hawkins, Charlie Gass, Bert Holtzhower, Gene Bates. Second Row: Dent Dean, Ed Tucker, Byron Forester, Lawrence Gass, Boss Cole. Third Row:  Mike Castleberry, Frank Carroll, Charlie Redding, Dolph Fischer, Raymond Castleberry, John Murphy and Troy Holmes.


A little over 100 years ago, Dade County sent many of its own to serve their country in World War I. There is a picture in both Volumes 1 and 2 of the Dade County History books of one group of those young men, a group of 18, who were inducted on July 24, 1918. They are all dressed in suits and ties, with hats on. All of them identified themselves as farmers and they were all headed for Camp Gordon in Chamblee, Georgia. I was initially interested in the picture because my grandfather and a few other people I knew are in it.


 At first, my intention was just to publish this picture along with the names of these servicemen, but then I decided to see what I could find out about them from some research on I learned that most, but not all, of them went to Europe, and that all of them returned home alive. One record I found that was very helpful was the Georgia WWI Service Card, which had a record of their service and discharge. By looking at this, other military records, census records, and more, I was able to learn a little more about these World War I veterans.


Jasper Leonard Mason was born on November 10, 1895, at Sulphur Springs, Ga. He evidently was known to his fellows as Len Mason. Len was in Co. H, 16th Infantry, attained the rank of PFC and was discharged on September 3, 1919, having served a little over a year, some of it overseas. On his return, he married Mary Frances Mason and had at least one child, Vernon. At some time, he moved to Kensington in Walker County, died on September 30, 1934, at the age of only 39, and is buried in the Coulter Cemetery in Walker County.


Asa Fricks Reeves was a name I had heard, even though he died before I was born. Asa was born in Rising Fawn to Charles and Vivian Reeves on January 15, 1895. Asa was a private in Co. B, 163rd Infantry, and was discharged on April 17, 1919, after serving less than a year, with some time overseas. When he returned, he married Ruth Reeves, and worked some as a carpenter. Their children were Charles, Eugene, Tillman and Melba. He died on March 2, 1953, and is buried in the Deer Head Cove Cemetery.


Henry Grady Hawkins was my grandfather. He was born in Deer Head Cove on November 21, 1894, to Calendar and Virginia Hawkins. He was a private in Co. D, 117th Infantry. I don’t remember him telling any stories about his military service, but my daddy told one he had been told by my Papa.


Besides being in a World War in 1918, the world was also suffering a huge flu epidemic. Papa told about staying up all night giving another soldier aspirin to keep his fever down. He thought it might have saved the man’s life. He was discharged as a private on April 10, 1919. Grady Hawkins came home and settled on a farm in Rising Fawn that his father had bought. He married Velma Riddle, and they had five children:  H.G., Brody, Mary, Catherine and Raleigh. Grady died on April 18, 1976, at the age of 82, and is buried in the Beene Cemetery near Valley Head, AL.


Charles Milton Gass hailed from Trenton and was born January 19, 1894. Gass did not see any service overseas but remained at Camp Gordon and was one of the earliest to be discharged, on December 24, 1918. Charlie married Mary Ellen Sargent in 1936, but she died giving birth to twins in 1938. In the 1940 census, Charlie is back living with his elderly parents in Dade County. He died on March 14, 1973, and is buried at Monteagle, Tenn., with Mary Ellen.


Bert W. Holtzhower’s address was Sulphur Springs, Ga., but I believe the Holtzhowers lived at Head River. Bert was born April 17, 1891. He served in Co. B, 163rd Infantry, but did not see service overseas. He made it as far as Camp Merritt, N.J., before being discharged as a PFC on July 31, 1919. Holtzhower returned home and married Willie Holtzhower and they had the following children:  Arvalee, Edgar, Verna, and Wilma. Although Bert made it home from his service time, sadly, his son Edgar did not. Edgar was in the Navy in WW II and died in the line of duty. Bert died on November 12, 1967.


Eugene Clark Bates came from the New England community and was born on July 5, 1893. He was a private in Co. F., 11th Infantry, and served his time at Camp Gordon before being discharged on December 24, 1918. On returning to Dade, Bates married Lola Mae Wise, who gave birth to two children:  Sarah Katherine and Betty. In 1930, Bates was working in a coal mine in Birmingham, but by 1940, he had returned to Dade County. He died on August 14, 1981, and is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga.


Dennis O. Dean, who was born February 9, 1890, lived in Rising Fawn, as did several of these young men. Dean served in Co. K, 163rd Infantry and was a private when he was discharged on March 1, 1919. He returned to Rising Fawn after the war, married Blanche Prince and worked for the railroad. The Deans had one daughter, Flora Belle, who still lives at the family home in Rising Fawn. Dennis Dean died on November 23, 1985, at the age of 95 and is buried in the Long Cemetery, not far from his home.


John Edward Tucker was born in Cooper Heights on February 22, 1896, but lived in Rising Fawn at the time of his induction into the army. He was a private in the 157 Depot Brigade at Camp Gordon. Tucker was discharged on July 16, 1919. He did return to Dade County for a while, but eventually moved to California. He died in Los Angeles on November 7, 1980, and is buried in the Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside City, Calif. I found no information about a family there. He was the only one of these men to move far away from Dade County.


Byron Forester grew up in the Cloverdale community in Rising Fawn, just down the road from my grandfather, Grady Hawkins, and they were both born in 1894. Byron’s son Harold married my father’s sister, Mary Hawkins. Byron’s service record was a bit of a mystery. He was on the draft list and was in the picture of those leaving on July 24, 1918, to go to Camp Gordon, but there is no more information about his military service. I called his nephew, Bob Forester, to see if he could shed any light on this. He said he was never told anything specifically about this, but he remembered that Byron Forester had lost an eye in a childhood accident and wondered if he was turned down for service because of this. That seems very likely to me, too. Byron married Hettie Black, and they had three children, Harold, Irene and Gladys. Byron died on May 16, 1961, and is buried in the Miller Cemetery.

Look for the stories of the rest of this group in next week’s edition.


--Linda Wilson Hawkins

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