Updated: Dec 20, 2022
By Halee Turner and Dean Jowers
Staff and volunteers of the Redmond Historical Society are always working to improve our collections and displays. During some recent sorting and filing, we found a bronze plaque, accompanied by a short note. The note indicated that the plaque had been donated, in 2007, by Frances McEvers. She was a relative of Edward Charles McEvers, who was named on the plaque. However, the note also indicated that RHS volunteers were unable to determine anything about the history, source, or significance of the plaque at the time.
We decided to investigate. Googling a phrase on the plaque quickly brought us to Wikipedia. We learned that the plaque is a “Memorial Plaque” (Medallion) and is sometimes called “Dead Man’s Penny,” since it resembles the much smaller coin.
Mystery of the Memorial Plaque
Many of these plaques were issued, following World War I, to the next of kin of any British Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of the war. That made us wonder: how had the piece ended up in Redmond? How did Edward Charles McEvers—an American born in California—come to receive British plaque? That story follows.
Looking for a place to appropriately file the plaque, we went to our “People” section of our archives and were surprised to find a photo postcard of Edward during his military service. With it we found a photo postcard of Claude Hanks and a notation that they had both gone to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) that was being organized to go to France to fight in WWI for the British Commonwealth.
Further investigation showed that Edward and Claude both lived in Kirkland, were about the same age, were both Methodists, both musicians, and lived on the same street a few doors away from each other. Our conclusion was that they had probably gone to school together and were at least acquainted with each other, if not friends.
Why the Canadian Army?
We learned what may have connected these two gentlemen before their service, but what motivated them to join the Canadian Army? We found that Edward’s parents were from Canada. Charles Edward McEvers (1852–1901) and Frances Hortena Allingham (1852–1896) were married in 1882 in Trenton, Hastings, Ontario, Canada. They had three boys, all born in California: Hugh Allingham, John Lander, and Edward Charles. Charles McEvers was listed as a Gentleman in the section labeled “Rank or Profession”, on his Marriage Register, though we know he later worked as a Methodist Minister. We wondered if perhaps Edward joined out of loyalty to his parents' heritage, but we found no Canadian connection for Claude. Maybe they both joined for adventure or to see more of the world.
Next, we looked for the Canadian Military Records for Edward and Claude. We found them in the Library and Archives Canada. By coincidence, their files had been updated on August 30, 2022—just a few days before we began our search. We found that Edward entered the Canadian Army on February 5, 1916, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
His papers say that he is married, with no children. He gives Mrs. Stella McEvers, of Redmond, Washington, as wife and next of kin. Claude entered the Canadian Army a few weeks earlier on January 17, 1916. He gives Mrs. Edith Hanks, of Kirkland, as his wife and next of kin and states that he has one child.
They are both assigned to the 67th Battalion. The Regimental Brass Band and Pipes is a part of that battalion. We learned from Edward’s military will that he had played the trombone, as it stipulated that if he were to die in the war, all of his money and belongings–including the trombone–were to go to his brother, Hugh A. McEvers, of Redmond.
A Falsified ‘Attestation Form’
We were curious why he opted not to leave these belongings to his wife Stella. We noticed his payroll record included an extra $3 a month for being married, and that he was sending $20 a month back to Stella in Redmond.
However, in July of 1916 there is a note on his pay sheet that the account is closed and no more checks are to be issued. The note reads, “Issue no more cheques. Mrs. Stella McEvers is wife of soldier's brother. See letter from Postmaster Redmond Washington.”
At the time, this would have been Herman S. Reed, but we do not know what was in that letter from the Postmaster, since it’s not included in these records. It would appear that Edward falsified his initial Attestation Form to get an extra $3* each month. A new account was opened and moving forward, Stella was sent only $17 a month.
*This would have been a roughly 17 percent increase in his overall pay, and we estimate it to be equivalent to about $80 today.
Another Local Connection
A story we found, at Kirkland Heritage Society, mentions a third man from Kirkland that went to Canada to join the army. That man is Delma Ernest Lee. He joined on October. 26, 1915. He was in the same battalion as Edward and Claude. He was much older and had prior military service in the United States. We noticed a coincidence on the pay records for Claude and Delma. The original addresses for their wives were in Kirkland. At some point in time, both wives moved to Canada, and the pay sheet address for each was changed to the same address in Victoria. After their husbands shipped out, the addresses were changed back to Kirkland. Could Edward and Claude—or their wives—have been friends? If so, it’s possible Delma and Edward were acquainted as well. Since Edward was the last to sign up, perhaps that’s where he got the idea of being married on his enrollment papers to get the extra $3 per month.
The military records of all three men show that they shipped out of Halifax, Nova Scotia on the RMS Olympic on April 1, 1916. The Olympic was a sister ship of the RMS Titanic that the British had commandeered as a troop transport. They landed in Liverpool on April 11, 1916, and from there they shipped out to France on August 13, 1916, landing in Havre on August 14, 1916.
Fate of Edward McEvers Revealed
Edward’s military records show him in a series of noncombatant positions. His obituary says that he was a musician and a stretcher bearer. A story from the Kirkland Heritage Society implies that as an American citizen, whose country was not yet at war, Edward was not used in a combat capacity. Once the United States entered the war, he asked to be transferred to the US Army, but it was either denied or had not yet occurred when he was killed in action.
While his record simply states, “Killed in Action, July 23, 1918”, we found additional
information on a separate record within the Canadian “Circumstances of Death Registers”. It reads, “Whilst on sentry duty in the vicinity of Oppy, on the night of July 22nd/23rd 1918, the Company on his left raided the enemy’s outposts, and the enemy retaliated with artillery fire. At about 12.40 A.M., he was taking cover from the barrage when killed by a shell which exploded in front of him.”
A letter from Edward was published posthumously, indicating he had also supported the Social Hygiene Movement during his lifetime. We found two letters that he sent to The American Social Hygiene Association discussing the threat of venereal disease to the soldiers in the Canadian Army in France. The first letter was unsigned as he did not want to get into trouble with his officers, but the second one was found in his belongings and sent by the lieutenant in charge of his platoon.
The ‘500th Soldier to Die’
Records note that Edward is buried in Anzin St. Aubin British Cemetery which is 1½ miles northwest of Arras, France. There are 361 World War I British Empire soldiers buried there, plus 4 from World War II. At the time of his death, Edward was serving in the 102nd Battalion. Their history shows that he was the 500th soldier to die, from the war, in that battalion.
‘Dead Man’s Penny’ Laid to Rest
After Edward’s death, his belongings and presumably the memorial plaque in our Collections would have been sent to his brother Hugh. In the 1920 US Census, we find Hugh and Stella (Hutcheson) McEvers still living in the Avondale area of Redmond. Presumably they lived on Stella’s family land, which later became Farrel-McWhirter Park. Hugh and Stella must have passed the plaque down to their daughter Frances, who ultimately donated this acknowledgement of her uncle’s sacrifice to the Redmond Historical Society.
While this story is not necessarily typical of the wide variety of items and archives at the Redmond Historical Society, it does illustrate the important work our Collections team does to research and organize our archives—and how new information can be found over time, revealing untold stories.
In this case, our “simple” discovery of a bronze plaque with a note led to a larger story of a WWI veteran from Redmond, and brought to light his service record and unique history. Thanks, in part, to the large quantity of resources for researchers and genealogists that has been made available digitally—including census records, military documents, and more. If one of history's puzzles has you stumped, keep looking! You never know what you might find.
Edward Charles McEvers Full Military Records: