By Ryan Reed
The Great War of Nations Memorial dominating the Rolla Cemetery skyline was created to honor the twenty-one Phelps Countians who died during World War I. Dedicated on May 9th, 1923, the memorial of contrasting red and black granite was sponsored by the Noah Coleman Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The men who gave the ultimate sacrifice during “the war to end all wars” are well documented. However, very little is known about the memorial’s designer, Nancy Faulkner.
Nancy Rowe Faulkner was born in DeSoto, Missouri on December 13, 1866 to Dr. Samuel and Mary Hutchings Rowe. In 1875, Dr. Rowe moved his young family to Rolla from DeSoto and opened a drug store on Pine Street. After obtaining his MD from Washington University, Dr. Rowe became the chair of the Medical Advisory Board and Assistant Medical Examiner for Phelps County. While Nancy’s father was achieving great prominence in Rolla, she was educated at the public schools and excelled in the arts. After completing her studies, Nancy married Millard Fillmore Faulkner, who was employed as a manager in her father’s store.
|Great War of Nations Memorial|
After their marriage, Nancy and Millard Faulkner continued to live in the residence above Rowe’s Drug Store on Pine Street until the completion of a large two story rock house. The former Faulkner Home on North State Street is currently occupied by the Triangle Fraternity. Millard became involved with local politics and eventually became the Mayor of Rolla. During his political career, Millard took over the operations of Dr. Rowe’s Drug Store and hired several of his nephews to work as clerks and druggists. Among his newly employed family members was Virgil Faulkner, son of his older brother Charles. Virgil continued to work at the drug store until America’s involvement with World War I.
Virgil Faulkner enlisted as a soldier and left Rolla on April 28, 1918. His destination was Camp Funston at Fort Riley near Manhattan, Kansas. Upon arrival at Camp Funston, Virgil became a Private in Company E, 354th Infantry of the 89th Division. Among 50,000 other recruits from the Midwest, Virgil began basic training under the command of Major General Leonard Wood. Four weeks later, the 89th Division boarded trains and headed east to New York City. From New York, the division sailed to England and subsequently France. Virgil’s baptism by fire occurred on the night of August 6th, 1918 at Toul, France when the 354th Infantry was shelled by canisters of mustard gas. The following month, Virgil faced the 10th German Infantry in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. The 89th Division attacked from Flirey, moving through the Bois de Mort Mare towards Thiaucourt. The battle concluded after three days and over 7,000 Allied troops were dead.
Following the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the 89th Division joined the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Virgil arrived with the 354th Infantry on the night of October 19th. He was ordered to go into the line along the Sommerance-Romagne Road. This was to the north of the German position which had been taken by the 32nd Divison the week before. The Division was tasked with straightening the front line in the Bois de Bantheville before the planned attack on the 1st of November. The forest had reportedly been cleared by the departing 32nd Division, but the Germans had re infiltrated and the 354th Infantry set about clearing the forest of enemy soldiers again. During the push to remove the Germans from the Bois de Bantheville, Virgil Faulkner was killed in action at the age of 22. He was the first Phelps Countian who gave the ultimate sacrifice during World War I. He was buried in France and was reinterred in the Rolla Cemetery after the war.
|Nancy Rowe Faulkner|
At the conclusion of the war, the Noah Coleman Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution sponsored a memorial to be constructed to honor the fallen soldiers of Phelps County. Among the members of the chapter was Virgil Faulkner’s aunt, Nancy Rowe Faulkner. Recognized for her artist talents, Nancy was commissioned to design a memorial. As the memorial was being completed and the city anticipated it’s unveiling, Nancy husband, Millard Faulkner, passed away. Dealing with the loss of her husband, Nancy attended the dedication where Governor Arthur M. Hyde unveiled the new monument known as The Great War of Nations Memorial.
The memorial originally sat adjacent to the Rolla Post Office on Pine Street, currently the Public Library. In 1956, the monument was relocated to its present location in the Rolla Cemetery. Among the list of the soldiers of Phelps County who perished during World War I were:
Virgil A. Faulkner
Frances A. Garmack
William H. Crolley
Robert L. Price
James A. Hyatt
Emil H. Hoffman
Hugh W. Finley
Issac A. Bridgeman