February 14, 2020 - Members of VFW Post 8904 and Auxiliary gathered at the Shelby County Veterans Memorial located at the Historic Shelby County Courthouse on the Center square in honor of the USS Maine and its crew.
Larry Hume, Post Quartermaster, spoke to all present and shared with them the history of the USS Maine and the tragedy which was the inception of the Spanish-American War.
"122 years ago tomorrow, February 15, 1898 the USS Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. In that explosion, 266 American crewmen and Marines were lost. Spain was blamed for the explosion and the Spanish-American War began as a result. Less than four months later on August 12, 1898 the United States had won a decisive victory, and this was the first war the United States had ever fought beyond her shores. 3,000 American military were lost, but mostly from Yellow fever and fighting in the jungles of the Philippines. You all remember Teddy Roosevelt of the Roughrider fame. When the war was over, he told his troops as they mustered out, 'Enjoy the next 15 days, because after that you will be forgotten,' and they were, just as they are today. And because of the United States Government's refusal of proper military care, these veterans banded together in organizations that would eventually become the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. Today we are here to remember the lives lost so long ago in the explosion of the Maine and the Spanish-American War that ensued, we thank them for their service, just as we thank the veterans of all wars."
Gene Hutto, Post Commander, placed the Memorial wreath on the Shelby County Veterans Memorial.
Hume stated Shelby County, Texas has participated in all wars and he has found through research veterans connected to the Spanish-American War. According to Hume, Elijah Webb who was born in Center in 1866, was killed in the Philippines. He voluntarily enlisted at the beginning of the Spanish-American War. Webb was first in Cuba and then was sent to Manila, Philippines with Company H of the 44th U.S. Volunteer Infantry.
"While the Spanish-American War ended in August 1898, the first Philippine Republic objected to the terms under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain and fighting continued there until July 2, 1902," said Hume. "During this fighting, Elijah Webb was killed on June 16, 1900, and his body was returned to Shelby County for burial in August 1901."
Hume referenced a Houston Chronicle article from August 8, 1901, "On the large box which held the metallic coffin was his name, the number of his company and the cause of his death," said Hume. "Which was stated on the box as knife wound to the head. It went on to say that Leige had many friend here and good crowd witnessed the casket in which rested his remains."
Webb was buried in what was known as the city cemetery, but is now known as the Methodist cemetery located behind the First United Methodist Church on Porter Street.
Others from Shelby County who served and survived the Spanish-American War included Edwin Booth who is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Timpson; Brunson Cline who is buried in Carroll Cemetery; Charles Hudson who is buried in the Corinth Cemetery near Timpson; Charlie Matlock who is buried in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery; and James Mosby Jr. who is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Center.
"Today we can honor these local veterans and all those who are forefathers of our great organization by continuing to fight for veterans rights just as they did," said Hume.
In their honor, Taps was then sounded as presented by Gene Hutto, Post Commander. As is always the case, veterans and auxilary members saluted during the playing of Taps and the constant noisy traffic traveling the square continued. In respect of the ceremony and honor being given, a man could be seen on the other side of the square removing his hat and giving reverence.