FARMINGTON — Volunteers from local and state historic preservation groups chose a special way to honor a local World War I veteran.

Col. George McLellan Presson’s contributions were behind the scenes but important to recognize, state archivist Sam Howes said, and he wanted to commemorate the Nov. 11, 1918 armistice and the end of World War 1.

Throughout this centennial year, he has been digitizing related records and educating people about the significance of the “war to end all wars.”

“I found (Presson’s) grave site last year, and I thought it would be a good thing to do for the end of this centennial year,” he said.

Presson’s family stones in the Riverside Cemetery were in need of cleaning, so he contacted Maine Old Cemetery Association member Deb Probert in Farmington. She gathered a group of volunteers to meet with him on a chilly October afternoon. They sprayed and scrubbed dark stains and scraped stubborn lichen until the stones returned to their former dignified appearance.   

Presson, the son of David and Dorris (Hillman) Presson, was born Aug. 1, 1864, and raised in Farmington. He married Geneva Huston, and they had two daughters, Dorris and Cora. In 1890, he was assigned to the 15th Maine Regiment, and although he never saw active combat in his three decades of service, he oversaw military matters in Maine.

In April 1917, the country voted to join Britain and France in their fight against Germany. Presson went to colleges, town meetings and similar public venues to encourage enlistments and support for the troops.

He also took part in international relief efforts. According to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, was rocked on Dec. 6, 1917, by a massive explosion when two ships collided in the harbor. One of them, the SS Mont Blanc, was packed with ammunition, and the enormous blast killed nearly 2,000 people and injured 8,000 more.

Maine and the nation immediately organized significant relief efforts. Delayed by a blizzard, medical units arrived between Dec. 9 and Dec. 12 from the Massachusetts State Guard, Maine National Guard and Red Cross units from Boston and Rhode Island. One train from Maine brought 110 doctors, four nurses, and 10 nonmedical staff.

As adjutant general, Presson attended the St. Louis caucus in 1919 as one of the 10 Maine delegates who supported the organizing of the American Legion on both the national and state level. He served until 1921 and retired with the rank of colonel.

While Col. George McLellan Presson of Farmington did not see active duty in World War 1, he served on the home front to support soldiers overseas. One historic challenge involved relief efforts for Maine’s neighbor to the north. When two ships in Halifax, Nova Scotia, collided in the harbor, 2,000 people were killed and 8,000 more were injured. A train from Maine brought 110 doctors, four nurses, and 10 nonmedical staff for the relief effort. (Courtesy Maine State Museum)

Volunteers from the Maine Old Cemetery Association, Farmington Historical Society, Wilton Historical Society and Sandy River Valley Genealogical and Historical Society met with Maine State Archivist Sam Howes to clean Col. George McLellan Presson’s stone in Farmington. From left are Deb Probert, Sam Howes, Jane Woodman and Maxine Brown. Not pictured is Holly Price. (Holly Price photo)

AUGUSTA — The Maine State Museum will open its doors free of charge Sunday, Nov. 11, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. A special program will begin at 11 a.m., with World War I re-enactors demonstrating military drills and inspections.

Capt. Jonathan Bratten, historian of the Maine National Guard, and Major General Douglas Farnham, Maine’s adjutant general, will provide remarks, followed by a ceremonial wreath-laying. 

The events of the day will celebrate all Maine veterans who, as a result of recent legislation, will have ongoing free admission to the museum. The Maine State Archives has digitized many World War I records and will be available for the Armistice Day program.

For more information on Col. Presson’s part in WWI, visit digitalmaine.com


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