The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when peace finally came to the Western Front following the four years of hell that was known as The Great War, was originally called Armistice Day but now it is venerated in the U. S. as Veterans Day. Veterans Day is the official holiday for us all to give thanks to every man and woman who has served in the United States Armed Forces. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors all those who died while in service. This year, however, the GRHPS will refer back to the original Armistice Day as we honor the five Glen Rock men who died during World War I with a memorial tree in Veterans Park.
On November 11, 2017, the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society and the Borough of Glen Rock will be dedicating an oak tree in Veterans Park to honor Peter Ebbert, Frederick Jensen, Mortimer Kerr, Jacob Phillips and Frank Squires. As part of the Saving Hallowed Ground project, Glen Rock's memorial tree will have a plaque designating it as part of that national program in this year, 2017, which marks the 100th year of the U. S. entry into World War I. Oak trees specifically have been used as WWI remembrances since 1914, when the first memorial oak was planted in Adelaide, Australia. There are hundreds if not thousands of these trees that were planted over a century ago throughout the world but for many their meaning has been forgotten. Perhaps oaks were chosen because they symbolize strength and resilience. Perhaps oaks became synonymous with The Great War after veterans returned home from Verdun with acorns in their pockets from the battlefield. (Pictured below is a Verdun oak tree in Coventry, England)
The bronze Honor Roll plaque on Glen Rock's Rock serves as the borough's official World War I Memorial. It lists 94 names of Rockers who enlisted and served during the conflict. 40 of these men were on active duty, serving either overseas or stateside in various capacities, while the remainder were still in training when the Armistice was signed.
Peter Ebbert was Glen Rock's first casualty in WWI. He was a third year student at Stephens Institute of Engineering when his regiment was called up for duty in 1917. When his unit was mobilized, he left behind a young wife, Marion, who was pregnant with his daughter, Catherine.
Catherine, who was born after her father's death, would have the honor of unveiling the Honor Roll plaque on the Rock in 1921 (pictured at left). This photograph was taken from the upper floor of the house across the street from the Rock, which was the house where Peter Ebbert grew up.
Captain Ebbert was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on the day he was killed for "extraordinary heroism in action at Ville Savoye, France, August 7, 1918. Capt. Ebbert, acting as battalion supply officer, conducted numerous details of food and ammunition through the heavy enemy artillery barrage. Later in the day he volunteered for observation duty and was posted in a prominent tower, where he was killed by a direct artillery hit."
Frederick Jensen was the third son of Glen Rock's first full-time police officer, Martin Jensen. The family lived on South Highwood Avenue. In a letter sent home after he arrived in France in 1918, Fred wrote, "Everything seems and is old-fashioned. The people are dressed different and the line of chatter they give you can make any one dizzy." Private Jensen went Missing In Action after the Battle of Ormond Wood, near Verdun, France and was later confirmed Killed In Action in September 1918.
Mortimer Kerr was an enlisted wireless operator in the U. S. Navy. He grew up in Brooklyn and lived in Glen Rock for a short period of time, his family renting a house on Broad Street. He served aboard the USS Celebes, a Dutch commercial steam ship pressed into duty as part of the Navy's Overseas Transportation Service. The ship operated between New York City and ports in western France. On September 28, 1918, there was a fire on board the Celebes and Kerr died of burns sustained in that accident.
Jacob Phillips was born and raised in Glen Rock, the family living on Highwood (now South Highwood) Avenue and later on Ferguson Place. Jacob served in the NJ National Guard before enlisting in the U. S. Army in 1918. After training at Camp McClellan in Alabama, Sgt. Phillips was sent overseas as part of the 114th Infantry, 29th Division. In October of 1918, Phillips died in France, officially of pneumonia, most likely a casualty of the virulent influenza pandemic that killed between 20 - 40 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1919. The influenza outbreak was responsible for 50% of U. S. casualties during World War I.
Frank Squires was born in England and immigrated to New York in 1907 at age 18. On the passenger manifest, he had to answer such questions as: Are you a polygamist? and Are you an anarchist? (he answered No to both). He married while in NYC and moved with his young family to Bradford Street in Glen Rock. In 1917, as an English citizen, he enlisted with the Hamilton Mounted Rifles of the Canadian Armed Forces and was sent to France. In October 1918, his wife Hilda received a telegram from the Canadian War Office stating that Private Squires was in the hospital with "gun-shot wound, lower extremities". Shortly after, Hilda received a note from her husband explaining that he had been slightly wounded by shrapnel and expected to return to his battalion soon. Her relief was short-lived, however. In November, Squires passed away not from his wounds but of influenza, contracted after discharge from the hospital. Private Squires, at age 29, was the oldest of Glen Rock's WWI casualties. He was remembered in the local newspaper, The Glen Rocket, as a man "of kindly face and disposition. A man of high principles, he gave up home and volunteered for the war because he considered it his duty to his native land and to humanity."
Join us on Saturday, November 11, 2017 to honor these five men at Veterans Park and to remember and thank all of our veterans for their service and sacrifice.