Century-old photo highlights Kentucky Guardsmen in WWI

By John Trowbridge, Kentucky National Guard

Company M, Second Kentucky Infantry, Camp Stanley, Ky., Sept. 4, 1917. The company photo was taken after the unit returned from service on the Mexican border and prior to their mobilization overseas for WWI. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. (Ret.) Robert Sparks)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Following their service as part of the Kentucky Brigade on the Mexican Border, Company M, Second Kentucky Infantry Regiment returned home to Beattyville, Kentucky, in February 1917. With the approaching entrance of the United States in the World War which was raging in Europe, military activities increased in the commonwealth. Kentucky National Guard units across the state were busily recruiting their commands to war strength. Simultaneously, units were being ordered to guard duty at various points in the state to secure vital pieces of infrastructure for fear of sabotage from German agents in the country. In Lee County, the bridges at Maloney and over the Middle Fork near Tallega, together with the Tyler, Mud, and Chenowee tunnels, were guarded by Company M, under command of First Lieutenant Henry B. Jones, while Captain William Cornelius, was on recruiting duty.

Capt. William Cornelius will soon have Company M of the Second Regiment of the Kentucky National Guard to full strength, most of his company have been on duty for some time, guarding bridges and tunnels in this County. [The Citizen (Berea, Ky.), 24 May 1917, p. 9.]

All units of the Kentucky National Guard were placed on Federal duty April 13, 1917. Four days later Kentucky units were ordered to begin mobilization at Camp A. O. Stanley, located in Lexington, Kentucky. During this time Capt. Cornelius worked tirelessly to fill the ranks of his company, until it was ordered to mobilize at Camp Stanley. By the time of mobilization, the company which had originally consisted of men from Rowan County, now comprised men from various counties of Eastern Kentucky.

Company M of Second Regiment under Capt. Wm. Cornelius which has been stationed here for some time recruiting will leave Wednesday for Lexington. They are a splendid set of boys and the town will miss them and we are surely proud of our soldier boys. [The Citizen (Berea, Ky.), 19 July 1917, p. 8.

The company remained at Camp Stanley until September 1917 when it was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where it was reorganized and redesignated as Company M, 149th Infantry Regiment, part of the 38th Infantry Division.

On September 4, 1917, at Camp Stanley, the company photograph above was taken.

The century-old, company photograph was donated to the Kentucky National Guard Aug. 21, 2018 by Lt. Col. (Ret) Robert Sparks, of Clarkston, Michigan. The framed print has been in Sparks’ family for many years and he inherited it when his father, Crosby Sparks, died in 1999. Sparks believed the photo may have originally been owned by the Waller family, of Winchester, Kentucky. At some point in time it was given to his father, and had remained in the family’s care since then.

Removing the image from its frame and looking on the back for any information, it was discovered, written in pencil, “Clayton 3.00.” The July-August 1917 roster of Company M, revealed the name, Morgan Clayton. A search of Clayton’s service record indicates that he was born Aug. 5, 1898, at Salt Lick, Kentucky. Clayton joined Company M, at Morehead, Kentucky, July 21, 1917. He joined the company at Camp Stanley July 30, 1918. At the time of his enlistment, Clayton was living in Morehead, and worked as a chauffeur.

He remained with Company M, until he was transferred Feb. 14, 1918, to Company C, 113th Supply Train, remaining with that unit until his discharge in July, 1919. He served overseas from Oct. 6, 1918, to July 1, 1919. During his service he was promoted to Private First Class, Aug. 1, 1918, and Corporal, Sept. 19, 1918.

While attempting to research his life following his military service, it was discovered that his full name was, James Morgan Clayton.

After the war, Clayton returned home to Morehead, where he would remain the rest of his life. He quietly settled back into civilian life, eventually becoming a prominent member of the community, and for many years was the owner of the Eagle’s Nest restaurant on Main Street. He would marry Lucile Moore of Bath County, Feb. 23, 1928, this union was blessed with a son and two daughters. In 1933, “Chin” Clayton, as he was known locally, sponsored a contest to name the Morehead State University athletic teams, Eagles was chosen and Clayton renamed his restaurant the Eagle’s Nest in honor of the Morehead State Eagles. He died Feb. 24, 1974 and was buried in the Lee Cemetery at Morehead.

Sadly, there was no additional information on the back of the photograph to indicate who exactly is in the photo. Below is the company roster from July to August 1917:

Company M, Third Battalion, Second Regiment, Kentucky Brigade

Beattyville (Lee County), Kentucky

Muster Roll from 1st day of July to the 31st day of August 1917.

Captain: Cornelius, William, Jr. (Beattyville).

First Lieutenant: Ford, T. G.

Second Lieutenant: Treadway, Carl R.

First Sergeant: Wilson, Joseph W.

Supply Sergeant: Sexton, Edward

Sergeants:

Allen, William P. – Combs, Joseph – Durbin, Edward L. – Farley, Wheeler – Fraley, Bedford – Hensley, Joyce – Isaacs, Claude

Corporals:

Bowman, Thomas – Dunagin, Clifton – Durbin, Joseph – Durbin, Robert – Gallagher, Daniel – Hall, Robert – Holbrook, Burton – Hunley, Albert – Sexton, Eugene C. – Tyree, Arthur – Wight, Henry A. – Wolfe, Benjamin F.

Cooks:

Hays, Cosby – Morefield, Edward L. – Stewart, Silas

Mechanic:

Turner, Vilas

Buglers:

Thompson, Allen L. – Tincher, Lex

Privates First Class:

Bailey, Will – Bradley, Steve – Bradley, Williams O. – Brewer, Joseph – Brown, Lee C. – Cole, Dewey – Cole, Park – Coomer, Eliga – Dunaway, Gentry – Evans, Harry – Flanery, William H. – Fraley, Price – Fields, NA – Fields, Walter – Freeman, Robert – Hensley, Walden – Isaacs, Edward – Isaacs, Gentry – Lunsford, Earl – Lunsford, Walker – Martin, Cecil V. – Murray, Vernon – Palmer, Charley – Ross, Benjamin R. – Ross, Oscar – Wilson, Grant – Young, Ambrose – York, David S.

Privates:

Abner, Arthur – Adkins, Cecil – Asburgey, Denver – Barbee, William M. – Barr, Fred. – Berryman, John – Blair, Millard – Boling, Wilson N. – Bowman Robert – Boyd, Ben – Brackett, Ben – Brackett, Joe – Bradley, Everett – Carter, Ollie – Chaney, James – Chilton, Everett – Christian, Charles J. – Clayton, Morgan – Click, Albert – Coffee, Vernon – Crowe, James – Cundiff, William – Dean, Richard – Duncan, Elmer – Fite, Clarence – Floyd, Robert L. – Ford, Cooper – Foster, Cris. – Gilbert, Mick – Glenn, Lee – Goforth, Pearl – Good, Ernest A. – Good, William R. – Grayson, Thomas – Hadden, Rodney – Haddix, Charley – Hail, Ira – Hall, Harlan W. – Hardin, Orbie – Hawkins, Dewey – Helton, Carr – Holder, Walter – Hunter, Headley – Jewell, Shirely – Johnson, Hubert – Johnson, Martin K. – Judge, Martin – Justice, Shafter – Lane, James – Lester, Jeff. – Lethgo, William – Markwell, Corbett – Maxey, Frank – McClallan, LeRoy C. – McClurg, Roy – McIntosh, Robert – McQueen, Nathan – Miller, Cecil – Moore, Buster – Moore, Taylor – Murray, Otto – Myers, Ollie – Nichols, Gilbert – Nickell, George – Noe, Leslie – Northern, William G. – Patrick, James H. – Perry, Charles S. – Perry, Leslie C. – Perry, Thomas – Peters, Dover – Pigsan, Rufus B. – Powell, James H. – Powell, William J. – Powers, Orvill B. – Prather, Perry M. – Prichard, Hubert – Purvis, Frank – Reynolds, John H. – Robertson, Tildon – Serrell, Rupert – Simpson, Marion – Smith, Bert E. – Stamper, Harry – Stamper, William P. – Stevens, Harry L. – Stocker, John L. – Surratt, Carey – Trevor, Charles – Valle, Talmage – Vanarsdall, Edward – Vinson, Oscar J. – Ward, Joseph W. – Wardle, James – Williams, Edgar O.