World War 1 Memorial

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This Memorial and plaque are located at 7490 S. Ontario Street in Sodus Point between the Methodist Church and Bay Street.

 

The plaque reads:

This memorial is dedicated to those Sodus Point veterans who fought in World War 1

                                                 Charles Fairbanks

                                                 Ernest Grosz

                                                 Otto R Grosz

                                                 John W. LaGasse

                                                           John McMillan

                                                 Delancy Smith

                                                 Abram T. Tack

John McMillan made the ultimate sacrifice and died in 1918 in a French hospital from pneumonia; almost certainly part of the influenza epidemic.

This memorial was originally dedicated on May 24, 1929 Memorial Day by the Sodus Point John McMillan American Legion Post 910 with tablets for John McMillan and Delancy Smith. It included a machine gun that was given to the Sodus Point Post as a captured war trophy. On August 17, 1961 the barrel portion of the machine gun was stolen. In December 2016, David Ross and his Williamson Boces class constructed a replica of the machine gun from blueprints.

In April 2017, on the 100th anniversary of our country’s entrance into World War I,  we rededicate this memorial in honor of those brave men so that sacrifice will not be forgotten.

 

Here is the story of how the machine gun at the Memorial was recreated:

 

The Return of the Machine Gun

By Bruce Farrington

 

Fifty five years ago, a piece of Sodus Point’s history was stolen. On April 29th 2017, thanks to the help of a number of volunteers, we are bringing back this lost history to its rightful home in time for the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War 1.

 

First a brief history: On October 11, 1918 a Memorial service was held for John McMillan (a Sodus Point native) who died in France during World War 1. John almost certainly died from the influenza epidemic that started in Europe and would soon sweep around the globe including the United States. On March 13, 1925 the Sodus Point John McMillan American Legion Post 910 was organized. On January 22, 1926 the Sodus Post received “war trophies” (trench mortar on wheels, a machine gun, three rifles, six bayonets, six canteens, three steel helmets and three sabers).  These were kept on display by the Sodus Point Post. On May 24, 1929 (Memorial Day) a dedication was held and a World War 1 Memorial was created in front of the Sodus Point Methodist Church on Bay Street. Along with tablets for John McMillan and Delancy Smith (both Sodus Point natives who fought in WW 1), the centerpiece of the Memorial was the German machine gun given to the Sodus Point Post as a war trophy.

 

Between 1926 and 1961, two generations of Sodus Point boys played soldier behind that machine gun. This all changed on August 17, 1961 when the barrel portion of the machine gun was stolen, leaving only the empty machine gun carriage (see picture).

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In the intervening years, the Sodus Point John McMillan American Legion Post closed down and the World War 1 Memorial was largely ignored or forgotten. The one exception to this was Frank Wackerle (thinking the Memorial needed something) donated an anchor that was placed at the Memorial. In February, 2016, one of those boys who played soldier behind that machine gun decided that it was time that something needed to be done. Tom Kirkpatrick approached me, in my capacity as Sodus Point Historian, to see what could be done about this.

 

After interviewing a number of the now elderly “boys” who played soldier behind the machine gun, we had a good lead as to where it may be. The story was that a group of young hooligans had stolen it as a prank and dumped it in Sodus Bay only a few hundred yards from the Memorial. An area the size of a football field was established near the Katlynn Marine as the most likely resting spot and because of other older relics that had been recovered from the bay, it was felt the machine gun might still be in good condition. Armed with this information, I approached the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department and asked if their group of scuba divers who practice dives in Sodus Bay would attempt to locate our wayward machine gun. The Sheriff department was not only willing to help us but excited to have an opportunity to have a practical exercise to train on using some of their underwater equipment and techniques.

 

On June 22, 2016, the stage was set for the search to begin.  That morning, the Sheriff department assured me that “if it’s out there, we will find it!” The Sheriff Department had come loaded for bear. They had a boat with side scanning sonar and multiple divers to check out any possible “hits” the sonar might spot. (See picture)

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As the search was underway, we received bad news from a person who once worked at Katlynn Marine. The area we were searching had been dredged over 20 years earlier to make a deeper path for the Marina’s boat slips. Despite a valiant effort by the Sheriff Department, the search came up empty. Was the story wrong about the machine gun being dumped here or was it snatched up during the dredging operation? We will never know.

 

A week later, while relaying this story to a stranger on the top deck at Captain’s Jack’s, he told me that he was confident that the Williamson’s High School class was quite capable of making a replica of the machine gun. This chance conversation would prove to be a pivotal moment. Armed with engineering schematics of the machine gun, I found online, I approached David Ross who teaches the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering classin Williamson. After reviewing the schematics, David responded that his class would be happy to take on this project and recreate a replica of our missing machine gun. We were back in the game!

 

In January, 2017, David Ross’s class finished the machine gun. See picture below.

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The students are Jarrett Arnold from Gananda, Abigail Clark and Molly Zwick from North Rose Wolcott, Scott O’Connor, John DeRoo, Seth Faeth, Lance Pentycofe and Nathan Hubright from Newark, Noshua Cramer from Red Creek, Daniel Kunz and Josh DiMora from Wayne and Nathan LeClair from Marion Teachers Dave Ross and Kelly Paladino.

 

On April 29th, 2017 at 1 PM at the Methodist Church in Sodus Point, we rededicated the World War 1 memorial once more complete with its machine gun (this time welded in!). The Neighborhood Association of Sodus Point sponsored a new plaque that tells the story of our World War 1 veterans and the machine gun and the Sodus Point Methodist Church  hosted refreshments after the rededication. Most importantly the rededicated memorial is a testament to the fact that after 100 years, we will never forget those brave Sodus Point boys that marched off to war to protect our freedom and in the case of John McMillan made the ultimate sacrifice.