George Mc Coy

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George McCoy is Missing No More
By Marcia Worth
May 11, 2010

George Baldwin McCoy is missing. So said Donald Thomas, lifelong South Orange resident, who discovered the omission when he was writing a history of Saint Andrews and Holy Communion Church. He found a parish register that listed men of the Village who served and died in World War I. Except for McCoy, all the names also appear on the memorial flagpole in the center of town. Thomas wondered if McCoy belonged there, as well.

"This is important," explains Thomas. "This man gave the ultimate sacrifice. If he were my son or nephew, I would want him recognized."

On Saturday, June 12, at 9:30 a.m., Girl Scout troop 816 and guests, including Donald Thomas, Village officials and U. S. Rep. William Pascrell, Jr., will gather at the town flagpole to honor World War I soldier George McCoy. The ceremony is a culmination of months of collaboration, research and coincidence. When Thomas turned to South Orange Patch for research assistance, this writer found McCoy's name and photograph in The Home News, a local newspaper, under a headline that reads,"On the Honor Roll: They Died or Suffered for Their Country." He was listed along with other local World War I veterans.

Still, Thomas and I weren't certain that McCoy was a South Orange man, nor that he had died in war. McCoy was a common name of the time in the area, and there are no available copies of the South Orange newspaper of that era. I listed the possible addresses that I found in old town directories and started making the rounds. While town boundaries are firm, early directories often listed a given address as Orange one year, South Orange another. I hoped to narrow down the hunt to one or two McCoy families.

At the same time, Don Thomas and I pursued George McCoy through New York Times archives and military records. Stumped, I called Congressman Pascrell's office. Thomas and I hoped for assistance, and Nancy Everett provided it, leading us to amateur historian Gary Abrams. His research, including a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and an archived copy of McCoy's draft card proved Thomas's point: McCoy was born and raised in South Orange, N.J.

Born in 1892 to Kate Philbrick Baldwin McCoy and Walter Irving McCoy, a lawyer, George McCoy, known to his friends as "Baldy," and more generally as "Baldwin," attended Miss Beard's School, South Orange High School, and graduated from Newark Academy in 1911. He had two brothers and two sisters.

This information confirmed the McCoy family's home in South Orange, a Hartford Road address that looked oddly familiar. When I drove past the house to photograph it, I understood why: it's the Hilton family home. Karen Hilton is my oldest South Orange friend, and she and I co-lead a Girl Scout troop.

The Hilton family was pleased to learn that Walter McCoy served as Village Trustee from 1893 until 1895, 1901 until 1905, and again, briefly, in 1910. After calling Congressman Pascrell's office for help, I was surprised to learn that McCoy was elected as a Democrat to the 62nd United States Congress, serving first the eighth and then the ninth Congressional District. Pascrell now holds the eighth district seat, also elected as a Democrat. The elder McCoy resigned when he was appointed by then-President Wilson as an associate justice and then chief justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia (now the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.) George McCoy entered Officers Training Camp at Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga., in May of 1917. He was the first to sign up for deployment to France; after receiving his commission as First Lieutenant on Aug. 17, 1917, he spent a last week in South Orange before sailing on Sept. 8, 1917. File:George McCoy.jpg

After a brief assignment with the Military Police, 1st Division, McCoy requested a transfer to a fighting unit. He was placed in command of the 1st Division, 18th Infantry, Company 1. He was next appointed to the staff of Lieutenant Colonel R. H. Griffiths, becoming Battalion Bombing Officer, a post he held until wounded in grenade practice. He returned to duty in the Headquarters Company and was twice in command. He went over the top at Cantigny, and in the great drive for Soissons on July 19, 1918, he received multiple gunshot wounds. He died at Field Hospital No. 12 the following day and was buried in the American section of the French cemetery at Pierrofonds, and a memorial service was held in Holy Communion Church in South Orange. McCoy was reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery in 1921.

In spring, with a dossier of McCoy information in hand, Don Thomas reported his findings to Village President Doug Newman. Newman, other trustees and Village personnel moved swiftly to mark McCoy's absence on the flagpole. His name will soon appear on the list of South Orange's honored World War I dead. South Orange honors McCoy in June, just in time for Flag Day, the culmination of many months of research and collaborative effort. As Karen Hilton and I considered the ceremony and the role our Girl Scouts might play, we looked out her back window. A large tree fell recently, and as it was removed, Hilton thought about its age. "George McCoy probably climbed that tree," she told me. "Sometimes 1918 doesn't really seem all that long ago, after all."

Note: This article originally appeared in, used by permission of the writer.