A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Daughter's Wartime Service Marked Upon Her Untimely Death in 1929

On Armistice Day 1929, Matawan dedicated a monument at Memorial Park in honor of Elizabeth Spader Clark Clegg, who died in Philadelphia on 6 February 1929. Her father, William V Clark, of Matawan, arranged for the memorial, which "commemorates the service of one who did her bit."

Elizabeth's 22 July 1919 letter home, published in full in the 27 Sep 1929 Matawan Journal article (pp 1, 8) about the memorial, indicates that she served honorably at the Eagle Hut, a renowned center for servicemen operated in London by the YMCA beginning in 1917.

 Operated by the Y.M.C.A. the centre, staffed by some 800 voluntary personnel, offered overnight accommodation and food for American servicemen passing through London. The centre additionally helped with arrangements for London sightseeing tours and entertainment.  Turnover was heavy: in February 1919 alone 134,566 meals were served.  The Eagle Hut remained open beyond the armistice, finally closing its doors on 25 August 1919. (FirstWorldWar.com) (For more about the YMCA in World War I, see Women and War: A Historical Encyclopedia from Antiquity to the Present, by Bernard A Cook, pg 654, available at Google Books)

Her letter home tells of long hours cleaning dishes and serving ice cream and soda to long lines of soldiers. But it also tells of being rescued from her labors to attend a ball at The Savoy, where she hobnobbed with generals, including General Pershing himself.

The Matawan Journal describes the monument: The memorial takes the form of a sundial on a granite base, which matches in kind the memorial to those who were in service from here in the World War. The pedestal is simple and graceful of design with a bronze plaque to register the time of day. It is beautifully surrounded with a planting of evergreens. . ."

I went to Memorial Park and found the monument, which appears as a pedestal with a planter in the back of the park. It commemorates her service in Liverpool, not London, suggesting that she served briefly in London in the final weeks of YMCA operations in Europe. The plaque reads:

Y. M. C. A.

The 1920 Federal Census for New Jersey shows Elizabeth S Clark, single, 31 years old, a musical director at a school (probably Matawan High School, as the Matawan Military Academy, nee Glenwood Institute, had closed in 1915), living with her widowed father, William V Clark, age 68, who was head of household at 224 Main Street in Matawan. Elizabeth's three spinster aunts, her father's sisters, lived there, too.

Elizabeth married Joseph Worrell Clegg on 15 August 1921 in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

Sources: Index of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in The Journal and Matawan Adviser, Book VI (1919-1928), Book VII (1929-1938).

See also later blog articles on this topic, including those detailing her obituary and marriage announcement in the Matawan Journal.


  1. Pat,

    I’ve since located 3 more sources of information on Elizabeth Spader Clark on the web:

    1. I found 10 references in the Smith College Monthly), vol. 15 available at google books, where she was an editor (class of 1909).

    2. She is mentioned in the December 17, 1911 issue of the New York Times), in the society section, as a maid of honor at the wedding of Miss Lucetta Tiebout Davies and Paul Beekman Roura in Brooklyn, NY.

    3. And most significantly, someone posted about her at ancenstry.com to the effect that the dress she wore while working at the Eagle Hut is on display in an antique store in Wolfe City, Texas.

  2. I, W. Kelly Wood, of Wolfe City, Texas have the collection of items related to Elizabeth Spader Clark and her service to her country. For several years I have tried to find a proper home for the collection and have held it for display in an antique shop and now in a small private museum in Wolfe City, Texas. I will be sending you pictures of the collection which includes two uniforms she wore, her documentation for service with the YMCA, letters she wrote home during her service in Europe and some personal pictures of her. I also have a collection of other letters and photos taken during the war which you may be interested in. I am very happy to at last find a proper home for the collection and hope you will accept it as a gift from me. Photos and more information to come soon. Please feel free to publish any and all information I send you. Gratefully yours, W. Kelly Wood, President Wolfe City CARES Inc.

  3. I've spoken to officials of the Matawan Historical Society and Smith College regarding the collection. The Society will be meeting in a few weeks, after which I should have more information. Smith College's Sophia Smith Collection and College Archive are interested in the photographs and letters, but the textiles (uniforms) are still a question mark. I will try contacting the YMCA and the Smithsonian if I can't find a place for them. Thank you for the gift and for watching out for posterity on our behalf. I know you saved these materials from the dustbin of history and it is appreciated.

  4. I found no home for the materials with the Matawan Historical Society or Smith College, but the YMCA Archives in Minneapolis, MN have expressed an interest, so I'll be sending the materials to their archivist this week.