William M. Wickes

No. 13185 William M. Wickes

Photograph of Willia Wickes. Contained in an album at the Dorchester Historical Society of about 150 photos kept by Nathaniel R. Perkins, MD, who examined thousands of men who were going into the war, 1914-1918. Given by Mrs N. R. Perkins in accordance with instructions from her late husband, Dr. Nathaniel P. Perkins of 1122 Adams St, Dorchester. Index catalog has entries for the individuals.

William Wickes Dorchester Co A 101st Infantry

William Daniel Wickes was born on July 1, 1901. His parents, Bernard Wickes and Mary (Nagle) Wickes, were living at 162 Linwood Street in Somerville at the time. In the 1900 census, the family had three older sons, and Bernard was working as a produce dealer.

In 1905, the family suffered a tragic loss. Their two-year-old son, Walter, was killed in a railroad accident near his home. This may have inspired the family to leave Somerville. Around 1906, Bernard changed professions and became a horse dealer. By 1910, the family had moved to Roxbury, and the family then had seven sons. In 1912, Bernard founded the Bay State Motor Car Company at 15 Berkeley Street in Boston, and was one of the pioneers in the used car branch of the automobile trade.

In the summer of 1917, William became fired with the spirit of the war. On his 16th birthday, while his schoolmates at Dorchester High School were making plans to celebrate the Declaration of Independence, William went to the East Armory, where the 9th Regiment was recruiting, and passed himself off as a man of 18 years old.

His parents knew of his intention, and after considerable argument on his part, they gave their consent, provided he could pass muster on his age. He filled out his draft registration card under the name William McKinley Wickes, and recorded his birth year as 1899. His papers passed scrutiny, and he was welcomed into the ranks of the 9th. He sailed to France with Company A, 101st US Infantry, on SS Tenadores on September 7, 1917. For a time he worked with a detail of men helping about the docks, and then returned to the regiment for training for the trenches.

Just before the 101st began its activities against the Germans, William was sent to the army hospital with trench foot, a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions. There, he became ill with scarlet fever. That proved to be a bar to his military ambitions, for he came in contact with an army doctor from Roxbury, who not only knew William’s father, but knew William’s age as well.

“Just my luck,” Private Wickes told a Boston Post reporter. “The day that I was to be discharged from the hospital and I had been dreaming of going to the trenches with the boys, the lieutenant informed me that I was to go back to the States. He told me why and then I knew it was all off. I left France March 3 [1918] with several other boys who were also under the age limit. After landing in America we were sent to Fort Jay [New York], and from there I was sent to Dorchester. Of course I’m disappointed, but when they’ve got you right what’s the use of putting up an argument?”

William resumed his studies in Dorchester High School after the Easter recess, but he found it hard to keep his mind on schoolwork while his former army mates were making new history for the world. He told the Boston Post, “Uncle Sam barred me from taking a crack at the Germans in France because of my age, but if the war is on when I am 18 – well, I’m going back!”

William worked for his father along with several of his brothers after the war. In an advertisement in the Boston Post in November 1918, his job title was listed as assistant sales manager. He lived with his parents at 14 Rosedale Street, near Codman Square in Dorchester, until his sudden death in an accident in 1927. The company he had joined briefly during the war, Company A of the 101st Infantry, headed a firing squad at his services. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden.


Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

Year: 1900; Census Place: Somerville Ward 1, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Page: 11; Enumeration District: 0925; FHL microfilm: 1240665

Year: 1910; Census Place: Boston Ward 18, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: T624_621; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 1538; FHL microfilm: 1374634

Year: 1920; Census Place: Boston Ward 19, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: T625_738; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 482

Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) 31 Mar 1918, Sun Page 6

Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) 24 Nov 1918, Sun Page 16

The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) 26 Mar 1919, Wed Page 5

The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) 13 Aug 1927, Sat Page 8


Posted on

April 12, 2022

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