David Hudson Lee was born March 14, 1893, a fifth-generation descendant of Hudson founder David Hudson (1761-1836). His father was Henry E. Lee (1857-1934), a farmer; and his mother was Anna (Gregory) Lee (1858-1902). He was one of five children.
Young David spent part of his boyhood at the historic David Hudson House on North Main Street and attended school at the Western Reserve Academy. At age 17, he was employed as a grocery clerk, later becoming a self-employed taxi driver. After the United States entered World War I April 6, 1917, David registered for the first draft passed by the Selective Service Act. On his WWI Draft Registration Card, he described himself as dark-haired, blue-eyed and tall. He also claimed exemption on the grounds of poor eyesight, but was drafted anyway on June 5, 1917.
By Nov. 4, David had been assigned as a private to B Company of the 308th Engineers, a regiment comprising mostly men from Ohio and regarded as the best in its division. He only stayed with the regiment for about a month, however, and was transferred to C Company of 308th Field Signal Battalion where he became a private first class. He left for Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Force June 12, 1918, on the White Star Line ocean liner — turned troop transport SS Megantic.
David participated in a number of major battles such as Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and survived the hostilities.
As the army often assigned soldiers to specific positions based on their civilian skills, David became a chauffeur Sept. 1, 1918. While the war ended Nov. 11, 1918, David would remain in Europe as part of the Signal Corps of the 32nd Division of the 3rd American Army of Occupation. Condition V of the Armistice stated that the areas on the left bank of the Rhine would be administered by the Americans, so Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, ordered the formation of an occupation force dubbed the Third Army under Gen. Joseph T. Dickman. The army consisted of eight divisions, later increasing to 10 for a total of more than 250,000 American men garrisoning a 2,500 square-mile area of Germany.
It was around this time in the winter of 1918 that David caught influenza, part of the worldwide epidemic that killed millions. While David survived the virus, it left him weak and susceptible to other illnesses. On June 6, 1919, at the age of 26, David Hudson Lee passed away in Koblenz, Germany, from lobar pneumonia. His father Henry E. Lee was informed of his son’s passing through cablegram, and the Northern Summit Independent newspaper published a brief obituary in its June 19, 1919, issue.
David Hudson Lee’s passing occurred less than a week after the dedication and unveiling ceremony of Hudson’s WWI Memorial Bronze Tablet on the Clocktower, on Decoration Day (Memorial Day), May 30, 1919. During the dedication, the Rev. L.J. Travis said that “the eight-one Veterans whose names that appeared on this tablet were but following the often-repeated example of patriotism and sacrifice when they offered their lives in The Great War.” He went on to say that “Hudson had been blessed in not losing a son either on the battlefields of Europe, upon the high seas or in camp, where thousands had died from disease, a record which it would be hard to duplicate in any town in the United States!”
David Hudson Lee was the only casualty from Hudson in the Great War. He is buried in the Markillie Cemetery at his family’s grave site, and his memory and sacrifice are forever remembered through the Hudson WWI Memorial.
As Hudson prepares to honor the 81 WWI local veterans who served the country a century ago, and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the original dedication of the WWI Memorial bronze tablet this coming Memorial Day, May 27, the Hudson Hub-Times will feature more stories of these veterans whose names are engraved on the recently restored bronze tablet.
The goal is to bring a greater awareness to the importance and preservation of the existing Hudson WWI Memorial, honor the names of those who served and recall the history of the community in which they lived.