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Bill Stewart of Deep Gap says he’s proud to be the current owner of a scrapbook that has begun to draw much interest and attention around Watauga County, even with its missing pages. Photo by Sherrie Norris

Originally published: 2013-05-04 16:56:15
Last modified: 2013-05-06 13:25:09

WWII scrapbook holds snippets of history

by Sherrie Norris

A scrapbook that apparently took much time and effort to compile years ago has surfaced, but it appears to be missing a few key pages related to local history.

According to Bill Stewart who said he recently obtained the book from his friend, Sam Miller, the scrapbook contains yellowed newspaper clippings of more than 400 Watauga County residents who served in World War II.

The scrapbook has passed through several hands until Stewart obtained it several months ago and did "a little repair work to it."

"From the first time I ever saw it, I just fell in love with it," Stewart said. "Somebody has really put a lot of work into it and it's just too good for us to let it fall apart."

Stewart said the missing pages are from the back of the book.

"If the veterans had been listed alphabetically, it would be a lot easier to figure out who's missing, but they aren't in any kind of order," he said.

Stewart, a history buff, said he knew of several war veterans whose pictures are not in the book.

"I'm doing everything I can to try to figure out who's missing," he said. "I'd like to make sure we have every single one of the veterans in there." 

Each page of the scrapbook descriptions of the soldiers and their assignments, acts of heroism, family connections and, sadly, some about their deaths. It appears that the majority of the clippings originally appeared in the Watauga Democrat.

"This is a treasure that represents an important part of local history," said Jerry Moretz of Boone, sergeant-at-arms of the Watauga County American Legion Post 130, after seeing a copy of the book that was presented to his post.
Moretz, along with Stewart and Miller, would like to learn more about the scrapbook -- including who created it.

"We can't seem to find out where it came from," Moretz said. "Some people just don't realize the importance of this collection and what it could mean to our county. Just by looking through these pages, you can get a pretty good idea of what Watauga gave up during the war."

Headlines of the book's clippings vary from the dismal, "Body of Local Sailor is Lost," "Young Casualty," "Dies in Crash," "Captured by Nazis," to the more cheerful "Gets Naval Promotion," "Ted Hodges' Regiment Plays Outstanding Role in Invasion of France" and "Blowing Rock Man is Made Lieut. Colonel."

Of particular interest and pride to Moretz and his fellow legionnaires, is the following announcement: "Watauga Post No. 130 of the American Legion has enrolled its first member from World War number two, Dale C. Adams, son of Solomon Adams of Vilas, N.C., the father being the veteran of the first world war."

Numerous pages in the scrapbook indicate that several families had more than one soldier serving at one time: "Shull Brothers In Service," "Three Brothers in Service," "Five Sons, Son-in-Law, in Service" and "Brothers, Sister in Service."

"It was an amazing project for the woman, or whoever it was, who put it together," Moretz said.  "It's something we know that the older people will enjoy and something we hope the younger generation will appreciate in years to come."

In an effort to "spread the word" throughout the community, Stewart said, he has made "about 40 copies, so far," one of which he gave to the American Legion Post, in memory of his late wife, Barbara-Jean Stewart, who, he said, was a great encourager to him in his hobby of preserving local history.

"I think people will want one, especially if they had a family member in it." But, the cost to have one reproduced is around $40, he said, which he would need to help recover his expenses.

Stewart has been invited to bring the scrapbook to the May 3 meeting of the Appalachian High Country Round Table and to have it displayed at the upcoming World War II Symposium on May 18.

He has also agreed to loan it to the Watauga Democrat for its 125th anniversary celebration on June 20.

"I want it be put in a permanent home, eventually, he said, "at the public library, or somewhere like that."