The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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The Watch - In Memory Of Armistice Day, November 11, 1918

By Beulah S. Fox © 1985

Issue: November, 1985

Wiley & Clara Stowers, Rocky Gap, Virginia. Both now deceased. Photo courtesy of Beulah S. Fox, who states, "In this photo, Mother has learned that Daddy has to go to war. She looks sad."Wiley & Clara Stowers, Rocky Gap, Virginia. Both now deceased. Photo courtesy of Beulah S. Fox, who states, "In this photo, Mother has learned that Daddy has to go to war. She looks sad."I remember hearing my father tell this story when I was a little girl. Background for story is taken from the letters he wrote my mother while in service in World War I.

Few people expected to see American troops go to Europe. Wiley and his wife, Clara, had gone to housekeeping in a little house at Round Bottom - so named because of the round bottom in which it was located.

On Nov. 16, 1917, Wiley entered the army and was sent to Camp Lee, Virginia. From there he went to Camp Greene, North Carolina, where he found Clara a place to stay and she boarded in the home of an older couple outside the camp.

All this time Wiley was fortunate in having a friend, Meek, who was also from Tazewell County, just across the mountain from where he grew up. Meek always carried with him a gold watch that his father had given him. They were placed in Co. L., 38th Infantry. Wiley wrote to Clara telling her that the flu had killed more than the war had and in the latter part of 1917 he wrote, "I think by Christmas there will be peace and doubt if I'll have to go across."

On Dec. 28, 1917 he wrote, "I think the war will be over by Spring." Jan 1918 found him at Camp Murritt, New Jersey. Clara went back to her parents' home at Rocky Gap.

April 1918 found Wiley in France. The American troops had landed at Brest. He wrote to Clara telling her he was a doughboy now and to keep the home fires burning. "Time," he said, "is six hours different from your time. Meek and I will make it ok." While at home, Clara was humming Over There which was being played on the phonograph.

It went, "Over there, over there, send the word, send the word, to prepare, That the Yanks are coming, Come, come coming everywhere..." The 38th Infantry was sent to Chateau Thierry to relieve the tired Frenchmen. All through the summer months of 1918, Wiley and Meek fought in trenches with shell holes all around.

One morning Meek looked up at Wiley and said, "I have the feeling that I won't be coming back today. I want you to keep this watch."

Wiley replied, "You'll see. Hang in there. Before long we'll both be back in Tazewell County. I'll be planting spuds on my side of Rich Mountain and you'll be planting spuds on the other side."

Clara had no idea when Wiley would be discharged, but she had a dream. She had dreamed that she saw Wiley in his uniform coming down the road. The creek was up with water overflowing its banks. But she ran across the foot log to meet him.

Meanwhile Wiley had been wounded in France and was on his way back to the states on the USS Huron. The newsletter published on the ship said, "Thanks soldiers. We hope you will always meet with kindness and hospitality wherever you go. It is the opinion of everyman on the Huron that a man who has been to the front and has done his bit, done all he can for his country, deserves everything we can give him and we hope that others you will meet will have the same opinion."

September 20th (Wiley's birthday) found him in Ward 26 in an army hospital in Rahway, New Jersey. He had been wounded in the leg and the hand. Two fingers were missing from his left hand. A silver plate was placed in his left leg. He still had Meek's watch with him, as Meek did not come back that day.

Wiley was homesick. He wrote, "On my birthday some nurses tried to grease my nose but I was like the squirrel the Irishman shot at. If you have a sharp pair of scissors I wish you would send them to me so I can cut some of this red tape. When I do get to come home I'll come to Bluefield and walk across the mountain. But don't meet me with any horses. I have been acquainted with a soldiers pack and can do 20 miles in 3.25 hours.

Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918 while Wiley was still in the hospital. He hoped he'd be home by Christmas. He wrote Clara and told her to be sure to kill one of their turkeys for Christmas because her parents, Sally and Will, had been so good to both of them. Wiley's presents remained unopened and he spent his Christmas in the hospital. People living around the hospital invited the veterans to their homes for Christmas dinner. Wiley enjoyed the dinner but missed being with Clara. Finally the red tape was cut and on Jan. 14, 1919 Wiley was discharged. He still carried Meek's watch.

It was pouring the rain. Clara looked up the road and experienced the most beautiful surprise she had ever had. Wiley, wearing his uniform, was coming down the road. She ran across the foot log and up the road to meet him.

Soon after that on the other side of the mountain, a horse and its rider were galloping up the main road. Neighbors stuck out their heads and said, "That's Meek Devors. Nobody else rides a horse like that." Meek had been missing in action, but now he had come home.

Weeks later Wiley heard the good news and said, "Clara I'll hitch up the buggy and we'll go to see Meek. I want to return his watch." Nell was hitched to the buggy and away they went.

As the two men met, Wiley said, "It'll soon be potato planting time." Meek agreed.