Edward Westley Jacobs

The following profile was researched and compiled by Candice L. Buchanan and Glenn J. R. T. Toothman III, for www.RainDayBoys.com.

Birth: 5 June 1896 Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania

Parents: Peter Francis Jacobs and Martha Ellen Renner

Residence at time of enlistment: Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania

Physical description: Tall, slender, gray eyes, light brown hair

Death: Influenza epidemic, 9 November 1918 France

Age at death: 22 years old

Last resting place: Fairall Cemetery, Whiteley Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania

Military rank: Serial No. 4242921. Private. Company H, 57th Pioneer Infantry Regiment.

Additional information:

The younger of two sons, Edward came from a small, tight family, and worked near home as a gasoline distiller for a pump station in Waynesburg. In a tribute written by his big brother, John Sherman Jacobs, an interesting coincidence is pointed out, "[Edward] registered for military duty on his 21st birthday, the first register June 5, 1917." Nationwide, the 5th of June 1917, was the all young men, aged 21 to 31, across the United States lined up to register for the first draft of the World War. For Edward's family, the marking of his birthday in this way, made it a date they would not forget.

Edward ultimately enlisted in the US military on 8 August 1918 and after brief training stateside at Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina, and Camp Merritt, New Jersey, he sailed for Europe with his Company, aboard the Leviathan, on 29 September 1918.

Back home, worried families endured updates that were minimal and incomplete regarding their loved-ones at war. The local newspapers published soldiers' letters to help other families gather information more specific to their boys, as opposed to just the general news following the battle campaigns. Edward's family became caught up in one of the most agonizing scenarios of misinformation and hoping against hope. The Armistice on 11 November 1918, had brought peace to the frontlines. There seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel for mothers and fathers anxious to welcome soldier-sons home. This was the Jacobs family, when on 23 November, the dreaded telegram from the War Department arrived. It relayed the death of their son by pneumonia [the common and fatal complication of the influeza epidemic] on 7 October 1918. This news threw the family into grief and confusion and false hope. They knew something was wrong with the news because they had received a postcard dated 11 October from Edward announcing his safe arrival after departing his ship. This was followed by two letters dated 18 October and 25 October. Under these circumstances, and knowing that there had been other false reports, they continued to hope that Edward was actually alive and well. Inquiries were sent to the national headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington DC, in an effort to locate Edward and provide an account of his present condition. In mid-January 1919, responses from the Red Cross, and accounts from others who were present during Edward's last illness, finally arrived in Waynesburg to clarify the circumstances, correct the date, and abolish any hope of Edward's safe return. The letters conceded the incorrect date of death in the first notice, but confirmed that Edward had died of pneumonia on 9 November 1918 at Base Hospital No. 52 located in Ruiracourt, near the Voages Mountains. Assurances of the best possible care and honorable military burial were provided. Condolences from all-too-experienced authors, offered words such as these from the Red Cross office in Washington DC:

"In such a sorrow as that which has come to you in the loss of your brother, I know it is useless to try to offer comfort....I hope you will not feel that because your brother died of pneumonia in a hospital instead of through a wound received in action, the costly sacrifice of his life was therefore "laid upon a cold altar." He gave his life for his country just as truly as if he had been killed at the front, and he will always be remembered among those whose shining souls shall hereafter light up all to a clearer and greater view of the duties of life."

Within days of receiving this information, Edward's brother, John, answered Pennsylvania's call for an account of all soldiers and sailors who had served in the Great War. On 24 January 1919, John completed the form published in newspapers across the state and added a handwritten letter that repeated the accounts sent to him. Most poignantly, he closed his memories of his brother with that impressionable and impactful 21st birthday when his little brother registered for the service of his country. 


  • "Edward W. Jacobs Writes Home" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 19 December 1918.
  • Fairall Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery (Whiteley Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania), Edward W. Jacobs tombstone; read and photographed by Candice Buchanan and Glenn Toothman, 2018.
  • "Letters Concerning Death of Edward W. Jacobs" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 6 February 1919.
  • "Private Edward W. Jacobs Now Reported to Have Died Nov. 9" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 23 January 1919.
  • "Report of Death of Private Edward W. Jacobs" article, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 28 November 1918.
  • "United States, Army Transport Service Passenger Lists 1910-1939," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61174 : accessed 26 September 2018), Edward W. Jacobs entry, line 43, page 187 (stamped), Leviathan, box 477; citing Lists of Outgoing Passengers, 1917-1938. Textual records. 255 Boxes. NAI: 6234477. Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985. Record Group Number 92. National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
  • "United States, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6482 : accessed 26 September 2018), Edward Westley Jacobs draft card, serial no. 683, Local Draft Board, West Franklin, Greene County, Pennsylvania; citing National Archives microfilm publication M1509, FHL roll 1892939.
  • "WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files, 1917-1919, 1934-1948," digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60884 : accessed 26 September 2018), Peter Francis Jacobs, father of Edward W. Jacobs - application no. 271339; citing World War I Veterans Service and Compensation File, 1934–1948 (RG 19, Series 19.91), Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.