During and after World War I (1914-1918), 14 local Quaker men volunteered to do medical, reconstruction and agricultural relief work, mostly in France. Twelve volunteered for service through the American Friends Service Committee, and two through the YMCA. After returning the largest group became educators. Twelve of the 14 were graduates of Wilmington College.
On Sept. 21 these men will be honored on the Wilmington College campus with a program and a plaque inscribed with their names and the purpose of their work. Sept. 21 has been selected as it is the International Day of Peace. The ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. on the south side of Watson Library followed by refreshments served in the Quaker Heritage Center.
Since the U.S. entered the war three years after its beginning in 1914, the local Quaker men came to the conflict rather late and some stayed many months after its conclusion. Their work focused on assisting civilians affected by the war, mostly the elderly, women and children.
Maynard McKay, a native of Wilmington, took some 400 photos of their work and they are preserved in the Wilmington College archives. Items from the volunteers, including a uniform worn by them will be on display in the Quaker Heritage Center.
Other Wilmington men who served as volunteers include Francis Farquhar, Thomas Kelly and Luther Warren. Kelly Center on the Wilmington College campus is named after Kelly, who became a well-known author on spiritual matters. Luther Warren went to France with the first contingent of volunteers and stayed longer than any of the others. Since he lived to be 106, many of us remember his presence as a committed peacemaker and environmentalist – the bicycle trail from Mulberry Street to Nelson Road is named in his honor.
Four of the other volunteers came from Lees Creek and one served as the president of Guilford College in North Carolina for nearly two decades. Thomas Scott, who worked with the YMCA, as did Thomas Kelly, died from tuberculosis during his service in France and is buried there. Another man joined an American Red Cross unit after leaving the Quaker group and continued his volunteer work among Gypsies in Romania.
The program on Sept. 21 will be short and all are invited to attend. Come and join us for this celebration of local men who did their part to relieve the suffering of war.