Skip to main content

WWI soldiers to be honored via special presentation at Manchaug Mills

By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

If we don’t remember the past, we are destined to repeat it, says Christine Watkins of Sutton, whose love for history and research has led the former CPA and current Historical Society secretary to advocate for the honor and remembrance of our nation’s soldiers. “The Centennial Anniversary of World War I, Local Soldiers who fought in the Great War” will take place on November 6 on 9 Main Street in the Blaxton Hall of Manchaug Mills (part of Vaillancourt Folk Art) at 7 pm. The presentation is designed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

Armistice Day, November 11 of 1918, was a day that ended WWI, and a day in history noted by the numeral one: it came into force on 11/11 at 11 a.m. This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the prominent mark in history. The war was brutal, leading soldiers to sacrifice their lives in trenches, bloodshed, and with bouts of “shell shock” causing body tremors and psychological damage, the effects of which are now known as PTSD. It was a war intended to end all wars.

Without the stories of our grandparents, who embody the closest ties to these soldiers, we remain blind to their sacrifices, and oblivious to all that they stood for. Such sentiment became the impetus for Christine’s upcoming presentation, along with an uncanny coincidence. In August 2017, historian Chuck Arning reached out to Christine to collaborate on a project. He wanted to know how many Sutton soldiers were employed at B. B. & R. Knight Company, located in Manchaug, and which was the largest textile manufacturing company in the world under a single ownership. Christine combed through ancestry documented in two volumes of hardcover books, which are housed in the white granite memorial cabinets of the Sutton Town Hall. Amid her careful research, an unprecedented irony emerged.

Christine Watkins at the General Rufus Putnam Museum

She noted that her own great-grandfather—on Armistice Day—was one of the soldiers who had come out of the trenches to greet other soldiers from other countries in Argonne Forest, following notification that the war was over. 

The revelation humbled Christine, who felt compelled to honor his name, Anthony Willette, along with those who made the ultimate sacrifice. She would not allow the “forgotten war” to be forgotten.

Her presentation will involve the men that deployed from town and a brief summary about the US involvement in WWI, along with a piece about the 1918 Flu Epidemic, which claimed the lives of town citizens from October to December 1919. 

“Armistice Day is a global commemoration. We are a country of immigrants. Through education and understanding each other we become more tolerant,” she said, in preparation for a presentation not to be missed.

Historical artifacts of the war, additionally, are housed on 4 Uxbridge Road, Sutton in the General Rufus Putnam Museum, which is a National Register of Historic Places.

Christine and her team are desperately looking for pictures of our WWI soldiers. Please reach out to her at www.suttonhistoricalsocietyinc.org  or [email protected] if you have any to share.

November 6th  - 7 pm
Manchaug Mills – 9 Main Street
Blaxton Hall
(part of Vaillancourt Folk Art)

Snacks will be served!