Madison County Historian Writes Book to Honor Veterans of World Wars
WAMPSVILLE — Madison County historian Matthew Urtz explores the casualties of both World Wars in his first book, documenting those who answered the call to service and left behind friends, family and loved ones.
“Honoring World War Casualties of Madison County, New York” is scheduled for release on Monday, August 8.
“I started working on this project in 2016,” Urtz said. “I wanted to do something for the upcoming centennial of World War I, and I wanted to write at least one paragraph for every soldier in Madison County who died while on duty. And that’s anyone who’s born, lived, buried, worked or worshiped in Madison County, so we looked for someone who had a story to tell with a personal connection to Madison County.
The World War I content was drafted fairly quickly, and at the suggestion of an editor he met at a conference, Urtz widened the scope to World War II.
“It was interesting because not only were there a lot more soldiers involved in World War II, but institutions like Colgate University became a specialized training school,” Urtz said. “And you had a lot more documentation.”
During World War I, Lloyd Evans of Hamilton had his letters home published in the local newspaper. “But many people had nothing written about them, and it was harder to find longer stories about them,” the historian lamented. “But in World War II for the most part there was a lot more writing because you had all these local newspapers, and they put out a page or two each publication that are just notes on what the soldiers are doing . Stuff like ‘Mr. Smith has arrived in Africa’ or ‘The Jones family has just received a letter from their son Paul, and so he does.’ This allowed us to get a lot of first-hand information about the accounts and post people’s words as they happen.
The entire book contains as much information about these soldiers as possible, but Urtz warns that this is not a feel-good story.
“The one thing to remember about this book is that it’s sad,” Urtz said. “Everyone dies. There is no happy ending. And there are some that are more poignant.
In the book, Urtz recounts the life of a soldier who returned home and met his wife and daughter. The man had survived the horrors of World War II and was about to be released. The family drove cross-country, only to get a flat tire. The following car accident killed the soldier and his wife, but his child survived.
In another situation, a young pilot was allowed to return home and chose to fly his plane home for his parents’ 32nd birthday – only to lose control of his plane and crash into the Adirondack Mountains. . “And there’s a side story to that about how it took a full year to find his plane and his body.”
“But,” added the historian. “There are many stories of heroism and stories about what those wars were like. In the case of Lloyd Evans, he wrote a long article which was published describing what it was like to live in the trenches of World War I. So you get these first-hand accounts from a local about his experiences – how muddy it was, how he had to send a letter back, and hide when the shelling started.
And that’s not everyone. Urtz said his book contains about a third of the total number of victims and is already 160 pages long. Urtz plans to talk about the writing of her book at future meetings at Madison County Libraries, with people who haven’t entered the book for one reason or another. When asked if he was considering doing a follow-up, Urtz said he was considering it, but also had a few other plans.
“I wanted to do this book because in the case of World War I, it’s almost 100 years later,” Urtz said. “In the case of the Second World War, it is 80 years less. And I don’t want those stories to get lost as we move away. And hopefully that will keep them alive a little longer.
A story details the story of Robert Lasher, who was listed as dying in West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“His obituary came out in the paper, and we had a chance to do an interview with him in 2013, and he talked about it,” Urtz said. “And I will never forget his voice as he described being on the West Virginia and jumping into the water. He was rescued and immediately put on a boat and out to sea, in pursuit of the Japanese fleet. haven’t received mail for three months, and the first letter he receives is that his mother sends him her obituary.
One thing the historian wants to clarify is that these books are not published for profit.
“My long-term goal is to donate proceeds from any book I sell,” Urtz said. “Clear Path for Veterans and the Madison County War Veterans Memorial will receive proceeds from this book shared between them.”
When asked what the future holds for the projects, Urtz said he’s looking ahead to the Madison County scandals. The historian made discussions around Madison County at local libraries, detailing the many scandals that plagued Madison County.
“And every time I’ve given these lectures, someone comes up to me and says, ‘You know, have you heard of this scandal?’ and suddenly I have another scandal,” he laughed. “There’s one part that can be horrible, but part of it can be fun.”
Urtz will hold several conferences where he will discuss the book, its content and the writing process.
The lectures will take place at the following times and locations:
- August 9 at 6:30 p.m. — Canastota Public Library
- August 10 at 7 p.m. — City of Nelson Hall (Erieville-Nelson Heritage Society)
- August 15 at 6:30 p.m. — Oneida Public Library
- August 30 at 7 p.m. — Limestone Ridge Historical Society
- September 12 at 6 p.m. — Hamilton Public Library
- September 29 at 6 p.m. — DeRuyter Free Library
- October 6 at 7 p.m. – Oneida Community Mansion House
- October 12 at TBD – Cazenovia Public Library
- October 17 at 6:30 p.m. — Madison American Legion (City of Madison Historical Society)
- November 1 at TBD – Chenango County Historical Society Author’s Day, detail
- November 18 at 6 p.m. — Morrisville Public Library
“Honoring World War Casualties of Madison County” can be found at multiple retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target, and more.