One hundred years ago today, on Sept. 15, 1918, Francisco Lemos died in France, giving his life for his country. He was only 30 years old.
Private Francisco Lemos was on scout duty with Company G, of the 168th Infantry, 42nd Division, in the Saint-Mihiel Sector, about 1,500 yards northeast of the Louisville Farm, when a German high explosive shell killed him instantly. The same shell injured another soldier from Kerrville, his friend Emmitt Rodriguez, who survived the explosion.
Lemos, who was born in San Diego, Texas, on Dec. 7, 1887, volunteered for service in Kerr County, where he worked for the Schreiner Cattle and Sheep Company in Mountain Home.
His registration card describes him as short, with a medium build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He was single and had no dependents. He’d never served in the military before volunteering.
It is possible he did not know how to write his name, since his registration card is signed with “his mark,” an “X.”
He registered for military service on June 5, 1917.
I learned, from reading an old column by Father Henry Kemper, the priest of Kerrville’s Notre Dame Church at that time, that Francisco Lemos had a nickname: “Pancho.”
Lemos and other Texas Hill Country men left Kerrville on Sept. 5, 1917, as part of Company D of the First Texas Infantry. They marched to the train depot, where Capt. Charles J. Seeber called the roll. A soft rain fell on the assembled troops and their families as each man answered “here” and then boarded the train.
I have a photograph of Company D marching to the train station, turning from Main Street onto what is now called Sidney Baker Street.
Company D traveled from Kerrville to Camp Bowie, near Fort Worth, for training. I have a photograph of the company in my collection, along with a commemorative poster listing the troops and their officers.
There are 106 names are on that roster. Three of those names are also listed on the Kerr County War Memorial, a solemn structure on today’s courthouse lawn; those three are among the 19 other Kerr County men who died in World War I.
The three men of Company D listed on the Kerr County War Memorial are Francisco Lemos, Sidney Baker and Leonard Denton — and those three are in the group pictured marching to the Kerrville depot.
Leonard Denton never left Camp Bowie; he died from influenza in April 1918 and is buried in the Turtle Creek Cemetery.
Francisco Lemos and several other Kerr County men traveled to France on the steamer Finland, leaving Hoboken, New Jersey, on July 26, 1918. Sidney Baker also was onboard.
The Battle of Saint-Mihiel was fought Sept. 12-15 and involved the American Expeditionary Force and 110,000 French troops under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. Pershing’s plan, in part, was to break through German lines and capture the fortified city of Metz.
According to Wikipedia, it was the “first and only offensive launched solely by the United States Army in World War I, and the attack caught the Germans in the process of retreating.”
Like Francisco Lemos, both Sidney Baker and Earl Garrett also died in northeastern France. Sidney Baker died in the Argonne Forest on Oct. 16, 1918; Earl Garrett, near Exermont, on Oct. 4, 1918. Of those three, for whom streets in Kerrville were named, only Francisco Lemos is buried in Kerrville. His body rests at the Mountain View Cemetery, across Holdsworth Drive from Antler Stadium.
Francisco Lemos had been in France with his regiment for only a short time, and the Battle of Saint-Mihiel was his first engagement.
I’ve heard a story about the moments before the shell exploded, about how Lemos was singing as the scouting party proceeded along carefully, walking through a muddy field in the rain. I’d like to think the story is true, and that Lemos died singing quietly, singing a song of home.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. If you have something you’d like to share with him it would make him happy.