Wayne G Austin of the Fifth Marines

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Wayne Austin was born on July 17, 1897 in Burrton, Ks, to parents, Stephen P. and Mary Austin.  He was one of 12 children.  Throughout his childhood, the family moved around due to his mother’s health, living in Ohio, Kansas and Colorado. By 1909, the Austin family established a home on the east side of Burrton, Ks.

While at Burrton High, Wayne Austin was an excellent athlete.  In the 1914 Burrton Field Day, he took first in the hurdles and the broad jump, second in the 50 and  100 yard dash. Following high school, Wayne lived with his brother, G.C. Austin, in Mullinville, Ks.

The Burrton Graphic on July 26, 1917, reported that  “Wayne Austin departed for St. Louis, Sunday night and has joined the U.S. Marines.” He trained at Port Royal barracks, South Carolina.  Assigned to Co L 5th Marines, he went over seas on February 6, 1918..

Burrton Graphic, 26 July 1917 – clip.

First to be Missing

Austin was reported as missing in action on July 4, 1918.  For the next several months, there seemed to be confusion about Austin’s status.  Was he captured? Was he killed in action? It took months for his family to learn the answer.

Newton Kansan, 4 July 1918

Throughout the summer and fall of 1918, the Austin family held on “the profound hope that he was captured by the enemy, but he has not as yet been located.” A letter from the American Red Cross noted that they understood the“deep anxiety and worry during these days that you must wait for news of your son . . . we are exercising every effort to get the facts.”

Burrton Graphic, 24 October 1918.

“No Eye Witnesses”

On October 24, 1918, the Burrton Graphic published a letter that Mrs. Mary Austin had received in answer to her queries about her son, Wayne.  Her letter was sent July 5, 1918. She received a response in a letter dated September 27, 1918.

R.O. Williams, 1st Sergeant for Capt Quigley wrote the following:

“he was in action with this company on June 6th. The circumstances, as far as I know are as follows: Two platoons were making an advance in Belleau Woods and found the opposition very stiff, . . . the Lieutenant in command . . . found it necessary to send a message to the Company Commander. . . Your son was one of seven runners who bravely attempted to carry back this message . . . It is not known for certain just what happened to Private Austin as there were no eye witnesses.”

Even after the Armistice there seemed to be no answers regarding the fate of Wayne G. Austin.

Gave Life at Chateau Theirry”

Finally in late January  1919, Austin’s mother received a telegram from George Barnett, Major General Commandant, with the news that “Private Wayne Austin, Marine Corps buried July 2nd and cause of death to be determined.”

Burrton Graphic, 6 February 1919.

In May 1919, a memorial service was held for Austin.

Burrton Graphic, 15 May 1919.

“Killed Outright”

Over a year later, another piece of the puzzle. In an August 6, 1920 article, the Evening Kansan Republican reprinted part of a letter received “some weeks ago” by Austin’s mother, Mrs. Mary Lynn. Written by Austin’s commanding officer, Capt George Brantingham,  who was also injured,  “shot through the wrist . . .[he] laid in No Man’s Land from 5:15 till 1 o’clock in the morning.” Prior to being injured, he had gone to look for his missing runners when they did not return.

“I went myself and found all my runners killed in and around the same spot, there was a kind of a path worn through the wheat and a machine gun sniper got them all.  I do not know where Wayne was shot but was killed outright.”

The commander went on to say that he was wounded three times and my health is pretty bad.  The gas I got on the Argonne drive knocked me out all together.  It has eaten about four holes through my left lung and  . . . bothered me ever since.”


Wayne G. Austin was the first young man from Harvey County to be killed in action. He died carrying a message during the Battle of Chatteau Thierry and Belleau Woods on June 6, 1918. He was buried in the American cemetery on the Aisneriver, Torcy, France.  In 1921, his body was returned to Kansas in the fall of 1921.

Newton Kansan, 16 September 1921

In 1921, Post No. 2 American Legion was named for him.

Newton Kansan, 14 July 1921.


  • Burrton Graphic, 26 July 1917, 24 October 1918, 6 February 1919,  15 May 1919, 22 September 1921.
  • Evening Kansan Republican 19 May 1919, 20 August 1920, 14 July 1921, 16 September 1921.
  • Newton Democrat 5 July 1914.
  • Newton Kansan, 4 July 1918.
  • Mullinville News 4 July 1918, 12 August 1920.

What is Behind the Name? Finnell & Whitesell VFW Post #971

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

In Flanders Fields” poem by Lt Col John McCrae.

Today, with all of the ways to communicate across the globe, it is hard to remember a time when news of a loved one overseas came weeks later and was often incomplete.

Sad News in Soldier Letters

The news first came in letters.

“Sunday was ‘soldier mail’day and there were many smiling faces that were soon overshadowed as the word was noised about that three of the Newton boys, Roy Barker, Arthur Whitesell and Loren Finnell had fallen.” -Waive Kline to Glenn Wacker, October 18, 1918.

Evening Kansan Republican, October 1918. Clipping in letter to Glenn Wacker dated 18 October 1918

Roy Barker was not among the fatalities.

In a letter dated October 1918, Walter Deschner, who was involved in the big battle of Meuse-Argonne, wrote:

 “I am back from the front safe and sound. . . . Leo Burgener was injured, but not seriously, but  Arthur Whitesell and Loren Finnell were both killed within 15 yards of me.” 

Page from Walter Deschner’s Soldier’s Memory Book, 1918, noting the deaths of Whitesell & Finnell. HCHM Archives.

He also remembered the two men in his Soldier’s Memory Book after his return to Harvey County.

Eventually, official word came to Harvey County.

“A Gloom Spread Over the Entire Community.”

“When the truth of the sad news was forced upon the neighborhood that Lauren Finnell had made the supreme sacrifice, a gloom spread of the entire community.”

“In Flanders Field”

The Battle of Meuse-Argonne, which began 26 September 1918claimed two Harvey County men who were members of Newton’s Company K, 139th Infantry.

On  September 27, 1918, the second day of the battle of the Argonne Forest, Lauren J. Finnell was seriously wounded by a high explosive shell.  His friend,  Arthur P. Whitesell , on duty with the intelligence department, remained to assist him to the dressing station.  A second high explosive shell came ending the lives of both Newton men.

Lauren J. Finnell graduated from Newton High School in 1916 and described as a “general favorite among both old and young.”.  He also completed one year at Bethel College, North Newton, and was employed with the Santa Fe Railroad. He enlisted in Co. K, 3rd Kansas National Guards on May 21, 1917.

Loren J. Finnell, 1918.

Arthur P. Whitesell, was born in 1898 in Iowa.  His family came to Newton in 1909 and he graduated from Newton High School in 1916.  He worked in the civil engineering department of the Santa Fe Railroad until he was mustered into the army on August 5, 1917.

Arthur P. Whitesell, 1918.

“He sleeps where the poppies bloom near Charpentry, France”

Both men were given a military burial near Charpentry, France by the army chaplain. A number of years later, their bodies were shipped back to Kansas arriving on September 18, 1921. The newspaper editor noted that “both boys were returned to Kansas soil almost three years after being killed in France.” The two friends in life share a final resting site in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Kansas.

Photo by Jullian Wall, Greenwood Cemetery Newton, Harvey County, Kansas, USA
PLOT Add. 2, Bk. 7, Lt 16.

In 1922, VFW Post #971 was named  Whitesell & Finnell Post VFW for the two men that died “in Flanders fields.”

Evening Kansan Republican, 22 August 1922.


  • “My Soldier” Scrapbook Walter H. Deschner Collection, HCHM Archives 98.1.9.
  • Kline, Waive to Glenn Wacker, October 1918.  Waive and Glenn Wacker Collection, HCHM Archives.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 20 July 1918, 12 October 1918, 8 November 1918, 10 December 1918, 24 August 1921, 12 September 1921, 16 September 1921, 22 August 1922.

“With Deepest Sympathy:” Lt. Loy A. Hege

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

During the Great War, chemical weapons were used on both sides. The French were the first to use gas grenades of xylyl bromide against the Germans in August 1914. In October 1914, Germans used a gas that caused violent sneezing fits, but it was not fatal. Chlorine, a poisonous gas, was introduced to the war in April 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres by the Germans.  Mustard gas was developed by the Germans and in use by September 1917.  This gas was a nearly colorless, odorless gas that caused internal and external blisters.  Soldiers in the trenches were always on the look out  for an attack and the army provided them with gas masks for protection.

The wearer of the mask breathed entirely through his mouth, his nose pinched shut by a clamp attached to the mask.  The wearer had to hold their breath 6 seconds while the mask was adjusted.  With only four breathes a soldier could inhale enough poison gas to kill.

The bag containing the gas mask and respirator was a constant companion of the soldier and there are several in the collection at HCHM.  In a letter home dated October 4, 1918, Lt Harold M. Glover wrote: “It is my opinion that the gas is the most horrible part of the whole business.”



Loy A. Hege, a Harvey County native, died as a result of inhaling gas during battle  in France in August 1918. Hege was born near Halstead, Ks.October 2, 1893 to Mr. & Mrs. G.A. Hege.   As a young man, he  moved to Emporia and graduated from Emporia High School in 1912. He continued his education at Emporia College and received his B.S. Degree from the Kansas State Normal in 1916. He then taught at Abilene High School, Abilene, Ks.  He met  Jane J. Lewis and they were married at her home on 506 Market in Emporia.  Hege completed officer’s training in August 1917 and was a  2nd Lt, Co. A, 355 Infantry.

A Letter Returned

His family in Harvey County kept in contact with him during the war. Sadly, one letter was returned to his Aunt Kate, after his death in France.

Envelope of letter returned to family of Loy A. Hege.


Letter from Kate, Halstead, Ks to Lt. Loy A. Hege, 25 August 1918, copy of original.

“With Deepest Sympathy”

Lt. John Richards  had the difficult task of writing to Hege’s relatives in Kansas.

“It is with deepest sympathy that I write you of the death of Loy Hege, a noble and ever-inspiring officer, a true friend and a pal to all.”

Richards goes on to describe what happened to cause Hege’s death.

“The position occupied by our Company was opened on with shrapnel and gas shells the night of August 7th and he was severely gassed.  He was taken to the hospital about 6:30 am where nurses and doctors did all in their power for him, but to no avail.  He died on the afternoon of August 15th.  He realized the day before his death that he was to go and his last thoughts were of home and home folks.”

Lt Hege was buried in the military cemetery north of Toul, France, grave number 191.

Twenty-six days later his wife gave birth to his daughter.

His body was returned to Emporia, Ks on July 22, 1921. A funeral was held at the home of his widow at 5th and Market in Emporia on July 25, 1921. He was buried at Maplewood Cemetery, Emporia, Ks.


  • Letter from Kate, Halstead, Ks to Lt. Loy A. Hege, 25 August 1918, copy of original. Original in possession of Hege Family.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 10 September 1918.
  • Hodge, Robert, Find A Grave, Lieut Loy A. Hege,#42193268