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