I’ll have to step a bit out of my professional/objective voice for this post because I’m asking for your help and I have a deep personal interest in this topic.
You probably know by now that the Ecorse Presbyterian Church was torn down a few years ago. When I was growing up in Ecorse I remember looking at this memorial plaque that was posted in the old brick Presbyterian Church and wondering about the soldiers whose names are on the plaque. I am especially interested in World War II because my dad and my two uncles fought in the Coast Guard and the Army and my grandmother had a set of World War II in picture books in the book case in her living room that I sat and read by the hour.
When the 1970s era Ecorse Presbyterian Church was built, the plaque was installed in the shelter of the side door. When I lived in Ecorse in 2004-2006 – I was writing my dissertation about Ecorse – I passed the plaque on Sundays on the way into church and the names still intrigued me. Finally, I am trying to find out more about the soldiers listed on the plaque, but it’s a long, time consuming haul.
I’m publishing what information I have alongside their names. If you are related to them or know someone that is, of if you have any information about them at all, would you please email me? My email is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am planning to do as comprehensive of an article about them as I can with what information I receive. These soldiers are an important part of Ecorse history and I think it would be a travesty if their names and their memories faded into obscurity.
Robert Whitefield, Jr.
Robert Whitefield Jr. was a private first class in the Marine Corps.
According to the World War II Casualty records on Ancestry.com, Robert was killed in action and his mother Louise was listed as his next of kin.
The 1930 Census shows a Louise Whitefield, born about 1904. In 1930, 26 year old Louise was still living in Donora, Pennsylvania with her 30 year old husband, Robert, and their two children, Robert Jr., 7, and John, 3 ½. Robert Sr. lists his occupation as a steelworker.
I still have to prove this – this is just speculation at this point – but I am thinking that since he was a steel worker, he may have been part of the migration of steelworkers who came to work at Great Lakes Steel Company in Ecorse in the years before World War II. The Downriver Pennsylvania Club was founded by expatriate Pennsylvanians who came to Michigan to work in the mills.
Harry Morse, Jr.
Harry Morse, Jr. was a private in the Army. The Rosters of Michigan’s World War II Dead record on Ancestry.com says that he was killed on November 8, 1944 in the Mediterranean.
His American Battle Monuments Record: Private U.S. Army
Lambert A. Pfeiffer, Jr.
Lambert Pfeiffer, Jr. was a corporal in the United States Air Force. He was killed on June 16, 1944. He is buried in Ft. McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell, Nebraska.
The 1930 Census shows that Lambert A. Pfeiffer, Sr. was bon about 1899 in Kentucky and in 1930 he lived in Allen Park, Michigan with his wife Meta H. Pfeiffer and his children Lambert A. Pfeiffer, Jr. 6, and Robert D. Pfeiffer, 3.
Joseph Hargreaves was an Ensign in the United States Navy from Ecorse, according to the Michigan Casualties, World War II, record on Ancestry.com. He was killed on August 29, 1944. N,9-4-44 U.S. according to that record.
Sometime serendipity happens! I thought Hargreaves sounded and spelled English, but I had no way of knowing for sure. Then when I was doing preliminary research about Joseph Hargreaves I found this posting on a World War II website.
The posting was from England Phil and it said that he “was trying to trace any details of an American Airman killed in 1944 in what looks to have been a training accident.”
He said that Joseph Hargreaves was 20 years old and was the son of James Henry and Josephine Hargreaves who had emigrated to Michigan from Widnes in 1920.
England Phil said that at the time of his death Joseph Hargreave’s address was given as “31 East Josephine Street, Michigan, U.S.A. although I suspect that address is incorrect.”
The details that I do have is that his aircraft was involved in a mid air collision. I have a photo of him in a Naval uniform which is why I suspect that he was a Naval flyer.
Other members of the World War II site discovered that James Henry Hargreaves arrived in New York on June 9, 1920, aboard the S.S. Baltic which depart from Liverpool. The immigration record stated that his wife was still living at 7 Travers St. Widnes, Lancs at the time he arrived and that he was going to Ford City, (Wyandotte later annexed Ford City) Michigan. He listed his occupation as Motor Attendant. His wife and two daughters joined him in Michigan in August 1920. Joseph Hargreaves was born in 1924.
Since I was not a registered member of the site, I couldn’t communicate directly with England Phil, but I I hastily sent an email to the webmaster asking England Phil to email me. I hope I hear from him so we can compare puzzle pieces about Joseph Hargreaves whose name is on the World War II plaque.
Fergus McMurdo or officially William S. McMurdo, was a Pfc in the Army who was killed on February 12, 1945 in France.
The 1930 Census shows that George McMurdo who was born about 1880 in Scotland now lived in Ecorse, Michigan, with his wife Elizabeth McMurdo and their children. Their children were James 24, Anna, 22, Charles, 20, Fergus, 18, George, 16, Peter, 12 and Robert, 8.
In July 1949, Reverend Leonard Duckett, pastor of the Ecorse Presbyterian Church, officiated at the reburial in Michigan Memorial Cemetery of Pfc. William McMurdo, the son of Mr. and Mrs. George McMurdo of Ecore. “Fergus,” as his friends and family called him, was killed in action on November 15, 1944 at Graylotte, France, after just fourteen months of service.
He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. According to the citation issued by the War Department, McMurdo voluntarily made three trips through barbed wire entanglements to get grenades for his comrades who were trapped in advance trenches outside fortifications in the face of enemy fire. Later that day he was killed by enemy fire as he attempted to set up a machine gun.
I am hoping that you will send me enough information to do a very complete memorial article about these brave Ecorse soldiers.