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WWI – Fallen in France

On August 27, 1896, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Jefferson welcomed a baby into the world. Earl Vincent Jefferson was born in the Steele County township of Colgate. The family moved to Hope in 1902, and Earl entered the school system there. He graduated in 1914. His life was off to a promising start. But on this day in 1918, the Hope Pioneer announced to the community that Earl Vincent Jefferson had been killed in action on a battlefield in France.

By all accounts, Earl was an industrious young man. The Great Northern Railroad hired him as a depot assistant shortly after his graduation from high school. The railroad appreciated his work ethic and determination. By 1917 he was in charge of the depot at Bremen on the Fargo-Surry line. He seemed to have a good career ahead of him, but that was not to be.

The United States entered World War I on April 6th, 1917. Draft age at the time was 21. Earl, still 20, was too young, but he did not feel right about staying home when so many others were heading to the front lines. He had to ask his parents for permission to enlist. Knowing how patriotic Earl was, they reluctantly agreed. On July 29th, 1917, he went to New Rockford and proudly enlisted in Company B, 2nd Infantry, of the North Dakota National Guard. Earl continued to demonstrate the same dedication that had earned him a promotion with the railroad. He was immediately chosen as corporal. Within a matter of weeks, he was promoted to sergeant.

Earl was sent to Newport News where he served as quartermaster sergeant. He shipped out to France in April, 1918. He earned another promotion to master sergeant. He saw action in several battles. His letters told of living in the trenches and going “over the top.” But he assured his parents that he was well and would soon be home.

On September 4th, 1918 Earl’s parents received the dreaded telegram from the War Department. They were informed that Earl had been killed at Chateau-Thierry on July 23. He was buried in France. His body was eventually returned home to Hope.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Hope Pioneer. “Memorial.” 12 September 1918. Hope ND. Page 1.

North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs. “Sgt. Earl Vincent Jefferson – Fallen.” http://www.nd.gov/veterans/heroes/earl-vincent-jefferson  Accessed 8 August 2019.

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