Military Monday: Charles Francis Marion Underwood

Charles Francis Underwood in 1918.
Charles Francis Underwood in 1918.

Whitener Family, Underwood Family (Click for Family Tree)

On this Labor Day, it is fitting to mention one of the most important labors in our country- that of protecting our country via service in the military. Whether it was in the local militia to protect a town, the National Guard protecting our cities and states, or our national Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines, the men and women who serve protect our valuable freedoms 24/7/365. We do not have the words in our language- or any language!- to thank them enough for their sacrifice.

Charles Francis Underwood was one of those who left home to fight in World War I. He was the son of Joseph Abner Underwood (1847-1930) and Elizabeth Adeline (Rickman) Underwood (1855-1936), and probably born in Crooked Creek, Bollinger, Missouri. We told a bit about the Charles and the family in an earlier post, “Sibling Saturday: The Underwood Family in 1904.”

Charles registered for the draft, as required, at age 29 on 5 June 1917.

5 June 1917 draft registration of Charles F.M. Underwood, front of card.
5 June 1917 draft registration of Charles F.M. Underwood, front of card. (Click to enlarge.)

(Love that he used “Charley” instead of “Charles” as part of his very long name.)

5 June 1917 draft registration of Charles F.M. Underwood, reverse of card.
5 June 1917 draft registration of Charles F.M. Underwood, reverse of card. (Click to enlarge.)

Charley was 6’1″ tall, medium build, and had gray eyes and dark hair. Despite him working as a farmer, which he probably also did as a child, and a “gigman” in a lead mine- both dangerous occupations- he listed no disabilities. He was unmarried.

Charley went back to work on his farm after registering for the draft, but he and his family likely paid close attention to the news of how World War I was proceeding. Just a week or so after Charley’s 30th birthday, his life changed forever.

Charley was not in the first groups of men drafted, as he was a bit older, but he did receive the following notice dated 20 May 1918.

1918- Order of Induction - Charles Francis Underwood
1918- Order of Induction – Charles Francis Underwood. (Click to enlarge.)

Charley was to report just one week later, at 3pm on 27 May 1918, to the Marble Hill Missouri Draft Board for induction into the United States Army. He was going off to fight in “the present emergency,” or World War I.

We have been unable to determine if Charley ever made it overseas. He may not have, as he contracted the terrible Spanish influenza which killed more of our soldiers and young people around the world than the war itself. Boot camps and training areas would allow fast spread of the very contagious disease. If Charley had contracted it overseas, he would likely have died there, it seems, rather than be transported to Sault Sainte Marie, Chippewa, Michigan, where he died of the flu on 22 October 1918. (More research needed here.)

So thank you, Charley, and all the other family members who have served our country and protected our freedoms, and especially those who lost their lives in its defense. (Thank you to those who are not family members, too!) On this Labor Day we honor your work and your sacrifice, as we should every other day that we are privileged to live in this great country.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Family treasure chest of photos and memorabilia.
  2. “Sibling Saturday: The Underwood Family in 1904”–
    In this older article, we stated that Charley had enlisted, but as new documents have come to light, we now know he was actually drafted.
  3. “Armistice Day- Ethel Underwood Whitener Remembers”–
  4. “Friday’s Faces of the Past: Elizabeth Adline Rickman Underwood”–
  5. A true description of a “gigman” in a mine has been challenging to find, but they often were at the ‘pithead’ or near the main mining section, and apparently had some authority and responsibility for safety as well as probably making sure the work was proceeding properly.


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