Sunday, May 29, 2016

A MOTHER’S PILGRIMAGE ~ Bessie Cowen Gillen's visit to the grave of Glenn C. Gillen ~ Killed in action in World War I

A U.S. Army 37-mm gun crew manning their weapon on September 26, 1918 during the World War I Meuse-Argonne Allied offensive, France.  This would have been the day after Corp. Glenn C. Gillen was killed in this battle.

The Gillen family is a direct line for me.  I descend from William Gillen (1782-1841) and his wife Rachel Frampton (1781-1855).  They are my 4th great grandparents.

It is one of their great grandchildren that is the focus of my post today. 
Corp. Glenn Clifford Gillen
born 1 Jan 1896 in Chesapeake, Lawrence, Ohio
Killed in action 25 Sep 1918 in France

Corp. Gillen is my 2nd cousin 3 times removed.  Glenn’s parents are Elijah C. Gillen and Bessie Etta Cowen.  Glenn was the 2nd son born to this family.  He had 3 sisters and 5 brothers, two of which were twins.  All but the youngest girl would have had vivid memories of him.
A recent hint on brought up a record group I had never heard of before. It’s called U.S. World War I Mothers’ Pilgrimage, 1929.   In it is a list of mothers and widows who desired to travel to Europe to see the final resting place of their sons who were killed in action during World War I.

Here is the index:
Name: Glenn C Gillen
Gender: Male
Relationship to Soldier: Self
Rank: Corporal
Military Unit: Co. D, 139th Inf
Cemetery: Meuse-Argonne
Burial Place: Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, Meuse, Lorraine, France
Mother: Bessie Gillen

The image lists the Name and Addresses of the family member, their relationship to the deceased soldier and information about that solider.

GILLEN_Bessie E_WW I mothers pilgramage_1929_Kansas_enh_edited-2
GILLEN_Bessie E_WW I mothers pilgramage_1929_Kansas_cropped

Transcription of this entry:
Mrs. Bessie Gillen of Independence, Montgomery, Kansas is the mother of deceased soldier Cpl. Glenn C. Gillen, of Co. D, 139th Inf.  He is buried in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery and she desires to make a pilgrimage to his burial location at a later date.

I wanted to learn more about this young man, who died at age 22 yrs. serving his country.  I was able to find the following records:
GILLEN_Glen C_WW I Draft Card_1917_IndependenceMontgomeryKansas
World War I Draft Registration for Glenn Clifford Gillen

During this tough time in our country, I wonder what this young man thought as he registered for the draft.

His parents visited him before he left for duty in September 1917.

GILLEN_Mr & Mrs E.C. visit son Glen_The Evening Star_25 Sep 1917_pg 2 - on Newspapers GILLEN_Glen_spends time with parents_The Evening Star_1 Sep 1917_pg 2 - on Newspapers

And there was a family picnic too.

GILLEN_picnic_The Evening Star_25 Sep 1917_pg 4_cropped-annotated

I think about this family, like millions of others, who said goodbye to their sons and never saw them again.

From the Independence Daily Reporter, 21 Oct 1918, pg 3.
This article is titled OME BOY HIT BY MACHINE GUN BULLET and is a letter from Sgt. Ben Taylor to his mother Mrs. Myrtle M. Taylor.  In it he mentions his experience and then says the following:

“I don’t know how true it is but I heard that night that Sergt. Frank D. Coate and Corp. C. Gillen were killed in action….”


Two more articles located on mention Corp. Gillen as missing in action and another names him for an honor roll.  I notice that Glenn’s brother, E. Ross Gillen is also mentioned for this honor roll.

GILLEN_Glen_C_missing_in_action_The_Topeka_Daily_Capital_6_Dec_1918_pg_10 GILLEN_Glen_C_named_for_memorial_honor_IndependenceDailyReport_25_Jul_1918_pg_1_annotated

Glenn’s mother, Bessie, was finally able to make that journey to France to see her son’s grave.  She was 61 yrs. old and appears to have traveled alone.  We can only imagine how she felt as she walked up to his headstone, so far from home.

Name Bessie Etta Gillen
Arrival Date 4 Sep 1931
Birth Date 1 Dec 1869
Birth Location Missouri
Birth Location Other Springfield
Age 61
Gender Female
Port of Departure Cherbourg, France
Port of Arrival New York, New York
Ship Name America

GILLEN_Bessie_pass list_France to New York on SS America_1931_annotated

Corp. Glenn Clifford Gillen of Independence, Montgomery, Kansas served in the 139th Infantry, 35th Division, Company D.

You can find his memorial on by clicking here.
He is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery & Memorial in Romagne, Lorraine, France.

Here is a photo of his headstone.  Used with permission.

GILLEN_Glenn C_headstone_25 Sep 1918_Lorraine France

I’m glad to have met Glenn C. Gillen all these years later, and learned a little about him and his family.  He never married and had no children that I am aware of.  But, his memory lives on.

Rest in Peace Corporal Gillen.

If you think you might be related to anyone mentioned in this blog post, please contact me.
In honor,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2016   Diane Gould Hall


  1. It is interesting, but even when I know the outcome, reading "missing in action" always makes my stomach hurt a little bit. Just imaging how his mother must have felt and knowing this really did happen to people brings it all home. I am so grateful for the many brave men who gave their all.

    1. Me too Michelle. Very grateful. I always think of the family. I tried to find a photo of this young soldier, but was unable to. I am in contact with other Gillen descendants and haven't turned one up yet.

  2. What a wonderful way to remember this young man who died in service to our country! I love how the family had a picnic reunion before sending him off to fight... I hope those last memories of time spent together were happy ones!

    1. Dana - Thank you. When I discovered this young man I just had to honor him in some way. That picnic was held one year to the day prior to his death. I am still trying to find photos of him.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Dana, my grandfather was a brother to Glenn Gillen, he was one of the twins. I will look through my mother’s pictures to see if I can find any that have Glenn.

    1. Hi Marsha. Thanks for your comment. We must be cousins on some level then. Probably 2nd cousins 4 times removed. I would very much like to see more photos of, not only Glenn, but the entire family. Parents and children. I will gladly share anything I have with you. Do you have a tree on Ancestry or MyHeritage etc.? I look forward to hearing back from you. Please contact me via email, which is easier than this format. michiganfamilytrails(at)

    2. Hi Diane, I do not have a tree on ancestry but have thought about starting on. I will spend sometime going through pictures and let you know what I find.

    3. Marsha - That would be wonderful. I'll look forward to hearing from you.

  4. Diane- I would be interested in hearing more about Marsha’s connection to my grand uncle Glenn C Gillen. Did she find any pictures?
    Thanks, cousin Susan Klein Burdick

    1. Hi Susan. I don’t have any more photos of Glenn, so it seems she either didn’t get back to me or didn’t have any more. It was 2 years ago and I don’t specifically recall. I do keep pretty detailed research notes and have none regarding anything from her. Sorry.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.