Brookline War Memorial
Jayson P. Ferns

Corporal Jayson Patrick Ferns
United States Marine Corps (1918-1919)

United States Marine Corps (1775-present)

My great-grandfather Jayson Patrick Ferns, father of my mother's mother, served as a Corporal in Company A, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, known as the "Cannon Cockers," during the Great War.

Jayson was born on June 13, 1889, to Patrick and Alice Ferns of Greensburg, both immigrants from England. On July 13, 1918, at age twenty-nine, Jayson enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pittsburgh. After basic training at Parris Island, he was sent to Quantico VA for artillery training.

Jayson Patrick Ferns

Before the war, Jayson worked with his father, Patrick, as a machinist at Westinghouse Air Brake. He met and married my great-grandmother, Mae Spachtolz Smith, and at the time of his departure the couple were expecting their first child.

On September 18, 1918, the 1st Battalion sailed for France, arriving at Brest on October 13. The artillerymen arrived too late to see combat, as the Germans were on the run and the armistice signed less than a month later, on November 11, 1918.

1st Battalion 11th Marines

Instead, the 11th Marines were stationed outside the town of Tours guarding supply lines and equipment in support of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Had the Germans not capitulated, the artillerymen would have been ready for the planned Allied Spring Offensive. While stationed at Tours, Jayson missed the birth of his daughter Elva Ruth Ferns on January 25, 1919.

Promoted to Corporal on April 1, 1919, Jayson and the 1st Battalion left France on July 29 for the return trip stateside, arriving at the Norfolk Navy Yard on August 6. The battalion was deactivated and the Marines discharged on August 11, 1919.

Jayson, Mae and Elva Ferns - 1920
Jayson, Mae and Elva Ferns - 1920

After being released from service, Jayson returned to his wife and baby daughter, and also to his former job at Westinghouse Air Brake. He left Westinghouse around 1930 to become an electrical inspector for the City of Pittsburgh Department of Safety. At the time the Ferns family lived on Excelsior Street in Allentown.

City of Pittsburgh Electrical Inspector

On February 5, 1934, Jayson submitted his World War I Veteran's Service and Compensation File. Two years later, in March 1936, only a few months before the long-awaited veteran war bonuses were due to arrive, Inspector Ferns was one of those men in the boats rowing through the streets of Pittsburgh during the Great Saint Patrick's Day Flood of 1936.

He was taken around downtown checking the flooded city building's electrical systems. After retiring from his city job, Jayson and Mae moved to Pine Street in Castle Shannon.

Jayson Patrick Ferns

Marine Corporal Jayson P. Ferns was not part of the 1932 Bonus Army, but he did receive over $500 worth of bonds on June 15, 1936. He promptly cashed in his bonds and purchased, among other things, an ornate dining room set, including a sleeved, extendable table with six chairs, china closet and buffet table.

After he passed away on October 1, 1955, his wife Mae brought the furniture along with her to Brookline when she moved in with my grandmother. Today that home, and the dining room set, is mine.

Jayson Patrick Ferns

This beautiful set has been in the family now for over eighty years and currently resides in my dining room. Along with his veteran's gravesite marker, the dining room set is a constant reminder of the sacrifice made by my great-grandfather and all of the other veterans who went "Over There" to help free the oppressed and restore liberty.

Elva McGibbeny and cousins - 1926    Jayson Ferns and granddaugter Pat McGibbeny - 1948.
My grandmother, Elva Ferns, with her cousins in 1926 (left);
Jayson Ferns and my mom, Patricia McGibbeny, in 1948.

* Written by Clint Burton - January 13, 2020, with love to Mom, Grandma Elva, Grandma Mae and Grampap Pat *

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Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

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