Monday, September 19, 1932 – Bicentennial – Purple Heart Celebration Record Spectacle for Associated Communities

Exercises and Parade Biggest Ever Here, Are Seen by Great Crowd

Brilliant Affair Great Success in Every Way

The Washington bicentennial celebration on Constitution Day, Saturday, at which purple heart veterans of the World War2 were honored, will go down in history as the most brilliant and successful event in which the associated communities ever joined. The parade which formed in Derby, and passed through Main Street, Ansonia, on the way to Athletic Field3,  was a long and colorful one, while the exercises at the field were World War veterans received the award of the purple heart, established by Washington, were most impressive and were witnessed by the largest assemblage ever seen in Ansonia.

Fully 20,000 people were present at the exercises at the Athletic Field, while over 50,000 saw the parade. Thousands of people lined the streets along the route of the parade, but the greatest crowds of all gathered on Main Street, Ansonia, between Bridge Street and the Maple Street Bridge. Both sides of the thoroughfare along between the two bridges were solid masses of humanity which flowed over the curb into the street, while windows and roofs of buildings and other vantage points were filled with people. Residents of Ansonia, Derby, Shelton, and Seymour turned out en masse, while thousands of visitors from Oxford, Orange, Bethany, and Woodbridge, with hundreds from New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Naugatuck, and other places.

Distinguished Visitors

The purple heart medals were presented to the veterans by Assistant Secretary of War Frederick B. Payne. Other distinguished visitors to Ansonia, included Congressman Edward W. Goss, of Waterbury who spoke at the exercises held at Athletic Field; Brigadier General James A. Gaggerty of the 35th Infantry Brigade, Captain F.W. Holloway, adjunct of the 35th Infantry Brigade; Col. Lewis I. Field, 102nd Infantry; Major James M. Quinn, 102nd Infantry; Major James A. Sarret, U.S.A., Captain Irwin Manteuffel, of Torrington, 102nd Regiment, C.N.G., Captain G.L. Prindle, U.S.A., of Shelton, John Eliano, of Bridgeport, Vice Commander of the Disabled American Veterans of the World War, and John J. Mulligan, Waterbury, State Commander of the Disabled Veterans of the World War.

All occupied seats on the reviewing stand during the parade, along with Mayor Michael J. Cook of the city, Mayor William J. Riordan of Derby, Mayor Frank V. Crofut of Shelton, First Selectman Harry Mannweiller of Seymour, Frank Gates of Derby, honorary chairman; Judge Robert I. Munger, Senator John T. Walsh, Henry M. Bradley Jr., , Lieutenant William F. Hayes, County Sheriff James Goddes, Captain H. A. Thompson, general chairman of the bicentennial; George Liftig, Chairman of the bicentennial ball, former Mayor James B. Atwater, of Derby, members of the Ansonia Board of Aldermen, and others.

The address of the day was delivered by Henry M. Bradley Jr., of Derby, who spoke on “Valley Men Who Knew Washington”. Judge Robert L. Munger of the Court of Common Pleas, chairman of the reception committee who spoke briefly at the exercises and Mayor Michael J. Cook of Ansonia, extended a welcome t the gathering.

A Perfect Day

Perfect weather helped to make the success of the celebration complete. The heavy rain of Friday effectively laid the dust4 and the bright sunshine and bracing atmosphere had an exhilarating effect, which reflected in the faces of participants in the parade and exercises and in the spectators.

Not an accident marred the celebration. Although thousands of people lined the street, not a single mishap was reported to the police. Traffic in Derby and Ansonia was heavy, more automobiles assembling in both towns than were ever seen before in either city, but the police handled the situation well and there was no confusion. Not a single vehicle of any kind was parked on the streets through which the parade passed and in Ansonia every member of the police force was on duty and officers were stationed at every intersecting highway along the route of the parade. It was the first time any celebration that all vehicles were kept front he streets over which the parade passed, but the regulations were strictly enforced and were obeyed with a willingness that showed everybody was ready to help in making the festivities a success.


The parade was one of the largest and most brilliant ever seen in this section and the streets of Derby and Ansonia were thronged all along the line of march. Commander Nelson W. Pickering, grand marshal; Capt. Theodore M. Terry, chief of staff, and Lieut. Commander Leroy Davidson, assistant chief of staff, marched at the head of the parade.

The general staff of the parade was: Capt. S. Howard Cohen, Lieut. Nathan Levy, Lieut. Carlos French, Lieut. William Hayden and four Boy Scouts.

Leading the first division were the Second Company of the Governor’s Foot Guard and band, attired in their bright red colonial uniforms with bearskin shakos. Major Chas. Lockhart was in command. This was the Foot Guard’s first appearance in the valley and it was accorded much applause all along the line of the parade. The marshals of the first division were Major John Voorhees and Capt. Charles Clark.

Following the Foot Guard came the fife and drum corps of Michael Comcowich post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, in their blue and gold attire, followed by the New Haven Grays and Companies M and I., of the national guard, led by Capt. N. I. Poulssen. the neat naval militia drum corps of Bridgeport followed by a battalion of the naval militia in charge of Lieut. Commander Leonard of Bridgeport was next in line. All the units looked their best and were acclaimed all along the route.

The assistant marshals of the second division were Lieuts. John Lightfoot and Charles Schmidt. the American Legion drum corps  of Corporal Coyle post, American Legion of Waterbury, led this division followed by the massed colors of the veterans’ organizations of Ansonia, Derby, Shelton, and Seymour. The purple heart veterans followed with John H. Collins post drum corps of Derby, led by Patrick F. Reidy , of Ansonia. Next came William H. Gordon post, American Legion, of Ansonia; John H. Collins post, American Legion, of Derby; Michael J. Comcowich post, V.F.W., of Ansonia; Chateau Thierry post, V.F.W., of Derby; Naugatuck Valley chapter, D.A.V.Y.D. association: Gen. Jos. Wheeler camp, United Spanish War Veterans; American Legion drum corps of Stratford; Charles W. Sutter post, American Legion, of Shelton; Emil Senger post, American Legion drum corps, of Seymour; Emil Singer post, American Legion, of Seymour, veterans of Oxford, Southbury, and Beacon Falls, the women of the “8 and 40” in their bright red capes and hats; auxiliary of Emil Senger post, A.L., of Seymour; Congdon post, American Legion drum corps, of Waterbury. The massed flags and the war veterans made an inspiring sight.

The Fire Companies

The third division was in charge of Captain Harry Terrill and Lieut. Richard Bowen, marshals. The sliver helmeted drum corps of the Hughson post, American Legion, of West Haven, led this division. The Eagle Hose Hook and Ladder Company was next in line. The Eagles, in single file, drew after them their famous parade carriage, for which their company was named and received an ovation from the throngs along the streets. The Huntington Fire Company was next in line, followed by the American Legion Fife and Drum corps of Stamford. the Echo Hose company of Shelton, in their dark green uniforms, carrying bouquets of flowers in their trumpets, also made a fine appearance.

The Hotchkiss Hose company of Derby was next in line. Their beautiful parade carriage with a revolving drum, the sides of which reflected the sunshine and mirrored the faces of the crowd as it passed, as attractively decorated and made a big hit. Gordon post’s drum corps followed, and won much applause as it passed the reviewing stand. The Paugassett Hose, Hook and Ladder Company was next in line, followed by the Websters. The Websters drew after them an old hand drawn hook and ladder truck which was one of the first apparatuses of that type in the city. Then there came the old horse drawn white fire wagon of the Websters, famous in years gone by. Seated in the wagon were James McGrath, costumed as George Washington, with his daughter, Miss Anna May McGrath, as Martha Washington.

Applause for Seymour

There followed the Maple Street School Fife and Drum corps of Seymour which made a fine showing and elicited much applause all along the line of march. Seymour was well represented. The Citizen Engine Company of that town marched with its fine old parade carriage followed by “Old Jumbo”, a steamer fire engine once owned by the Hartford Fire Department. “Old Jumbo” was resplendent with its polished paint and polished nickel trimmings. James Swan, assistant fire chief of Seymour, who owns the apparatus, drove it. He was garbed in the old time firemen’s uniform of the Citizen company, as were Martin Ummer and George Healey, stokers, and Fire Chief Harry Chamberlin of Seymour who rode on “Old Jumbo” also.

The hook and ladder truck of the Citizens was also in the parade.

The William H. Gordon post, American Legion, Boy Scout drum corps of Troop 5, Ansonia, followed in Indian regalia, and the Red Men of Ansonia, Derby, Shelton, and Seymour, also garbed as Indians, followed in line with a float representing an Indian wigwam. The Red Men won much applause, as did the Legion’s Scouts in Indian regalia.

The fourth division was in charge of Harry Hanson, executive director of Housatonic council of the Boy Scouts. His aides were William Bauer, Howard Reffelt, Lester Johns, and Edmund Strang. The American Legion Junior corps of Milford and the Derby high school band were in this division and both won applause. The Boy Scout troops of the valley followed.

The fifth division was marshaled by Mrs. Alice Russ of Shelton, her aides being Miss Marian Anderson and Mrs. Michael Aaronson. The Ansonia high school band led this division and as it marched through Ansonia it won applause from the crowds. The Girl Scouts made a fine appearance as they marched along. The Women’s auxiliary of the Comcowich Post, V.F.W. drum corps, brought up the rear and the quaint costumes for the women and their fine playing won much commendation.

Features of the parade included “Leaping Lena”, a Ford which performed all sorts of antics. A 1904 Ford, driven by Joseph Purcella, of Derby, with a delegation from Actor’s Colony in the rear seat, also attracted much attention.

Exercises at Athletic Field

The exercises at Athletic field, watched by thousands of persons, were most impressive. The parade units marched on tot he field and took their assigned positions around a large open square in front of the speakers’ stand at the westerly end of the field. Mayor Michael J. Cook of Ansonia was the first speaker. In behalf of the people of Ansonia, and all the mayors of Derby and Shelton and selectmen of Seymour, he extended a welcome to the visitors and paid tribute to the veterans who were to receive the purple heart medals. The parade, the mayor declared, and the exercises before the vast throng at the field, in honor of Washington and the veterans who were to receive the medals of the order of his founding, presented spectacles the like of which have not been seen here within the memory of the oldest residents. The mayor declared that the sight of so many thousands gathered for so patriotic a purpose must prove an inspiration to all and said it was especially appropriate that the exercises should be held at a community field dedicated to the youth of Ansonia, for he furnished a patriotic inspiration to the boys and girls of the associated towns that would remain with them as long as life lasted.

The mayor spoke of how the four communities, Ansonia, Derby, Shelton, and Seymour, had joined as one in this undertaking to do honor to George Washington and the veterans of the World war. He spoke of the large numbers of veterans who turned out to assist in making the affair successful and said that in thus honoring the recipients of the Washington medals they honored themselves.

In concluding the mayor said that he would speak for himself and the other mayors present to extend, in behalf of the associated communities, a hearty welcome to all visitors, with all the warmth that the word implies.

Judge Robert L. Munger, presided at the exercises. He presented Congressman E.W. Goss who said that he marveled at the fact that this section boasted more men who had earned the purple heart award then any other section of the United States.

Mr. Bradley’s Address

Judge Munger them presented Mr. Bradley, well known Derby historian who was the principal speaker of the occasion. Mr. Bradley chose as his subject “Valley Men Who Knew Washington” and in the course of his remarks mentioned particularly Gov. Johnathan Trumbull, Captain Isaac Hull of Derby, Col. David Humphreys of Derby, and Captain Edmund Leavenworth who lived in what is now Shelton. The speaker reviewed the early history of the associated communities and presented many interesting facts

Mr. Bradley’s remarks were as follows:

“Let us try to visualize the associated communities in the opening days of the Revolutionary war. Today the area of Derby is the smallest township in Connecticut, but in 1775 it was more than ten times the size of the present town, nearly 35,000 acres, and embraced the present cities of Derby and Ansonia, the town of Seymour, then the little village of Chusetown, the parish of Oxford and most of Beacon Falls. Its population by the 1774 census was 1,832 and its inhabitants were either farmers or sailors, the former being in a large majority.

“To the north was the town of Waterbury, including Watertown, Wolcott, Prospect (then Columbia Parish) and Salem’s Bridge, now Naugatuck. On the west was Woodbury, which included Southbury, Middlebury, Washington, and Roxbury; on the south and east, Milford, which embraced North Milford (now Orange) and part of the parishes of Amity (Woodbridge) and Bethany. Across the Housatonic River lay Stratford, and within its borders were the parishes of Stratfield, the modern Bridgeport, Unity, otherwise known as North Stratford or Trumbull, New Stratford (Monroe) and Ripton, the present city of Shelton, which in 1789 was named Huntington. The entire five towns of Derby, Waterbury, Woodbury, Milford, and Stratford, with all this vast acreage, had a population of half of that of the present city of Ansonia.

“Ansonia, Seymour, Shelton, Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Bridgeport, Orange, Woodbridge, Birmingham, and Huntington were unknown names to the inhabitants of the Revolutionary period.

Derby Minute Men

“At the Lexington alarm, there were three companies of minute men ready for action in the old town of Derby under the commands of Captain Nathaniel Johnson, and Nathan Smith of Derby, and Captain Thomas Clark in Oxford Parish. They at once sprang to arms.

“Major Jabez Thompson led the contingent that took part in the siege of Boston and the next year commander of the second regiment in the retreat from Long Island, fell while rallying his troops in Bloomingdale. Ensign Nathan Blackman, Captain Beach Thompson, and Captain Gideon Leavenworth led detachments of Ripton men to battle. All the local communities sent companies to the defense of Danbury, during Tyron’s raid in 1777,and Major General David Wooster, native of Shelton and grandson of Derby’s first settler, was commander of the patriot troops. He was mortally wounded at Ridgefield. Part of the supplies hastily  removed from Danbury were hidden at the Birdseye farm on White Hills.

“Supplies for the Continental army were also stored in the custom house at Derby point. Captain John Tomlinson of Derby Neck was in New haven won afternoon when a Continental spy informed him that the British troops were coming to Derby, to seize these supplies. Hastily mounting his horse, the captain rode at full speed over the hills to Derby (it was 20 years before the building of the turnpike5), and reaching just before nightfall a house in Derby Narrows6 where the patriots were accustomed to gather, fairly fell from his horse, gasping; “Save the pork, men, save the pork! The British are in New Haven.

Story of Pork Hollow

“There was a hasty meeting, and as there were many Tory sympathizers secrecy was imperative. Under the cover of darkness, men, women, and children went to the custom house, loaded the pork on a cart driven by Isaac Smith, and hid the supplies in a grove of trees on the west side of the Naugatuck. The place where they hid the pork, is known to this day as “Pork Hollow”, and Wakelee Avenue runs through it. When that night, the British troops arrived at the custom house, it was in the condition of the cupboard of the well known ‘Mother Hubbard’.

“The attack on New Haven in July, 1779, saw not only the companies of Col. Daniel Holbrook of Sentinel Hill, ‘the Fighting Deacon’, Major Nathan Smith, and Captain Nathan Pierson, on the scene of the action, but many individuals responded from the hilltops when the call for aid came from the beleaguered city of New Haven.

“Among the later was Captain Joseph Hull, the father of Captain Isaac Hull, who had been a lieutenant of the artillery and a prisoner of New York, and later to command a flotilla of whaleboats on Long Island Sound. Boys of 12 and old men of 70 fought side by side and the British, with enemies facing them in all directions, were forced to hastily retreat from the captured city.

“The Tories who had taken $6,000 from the home of Captain Dayton in Bethany and kidnapped Chauncey Judd, passed through Derby in their flight and were pursed by Derby men who took to whaleboats to pursue them down the river. The Derbyites, led by Captain William Clark and Captain Harvey, caught them just within the British lines on Long Island, captured all but one, and regained their booty and saw the British safely confined in Old Newgate prison.

Visit of French Troops

“The six hundred French troops (300 foot and 300 horse) in their resplendent uniforms, led by the Duc de Lauzen and Count Dilion, on their way to join Washington’s army, on the Hudson, encamped the night of June 28, 1781, on Sentinel Hill, the officers being entertained that evening in Brownie Castle – the home of Squire Beard – and the ext morning at the home of Deacon Daniel Bennett, the grandfather of Commodore Hull, in an old house which stood until 1890 on Center Street, Shelton. Fragments of the corduroy road made by them still exist in Shelton.

Lieut. Col. William Hull, uncle of the Commodore and grandfather of  Gen. Joseph Wheeler – “Fighting Joe” – served gallantly in many battles of the war and was personally commended by Washington. A native up uptown Derbyhe ruined his splendid Revolutionary record by the surrender of Detroit to the British and Indians in 1812.

“It has been said that Connecticut furnished to Washington both David and his Jonathan. The later was of course, Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, whose ancient chair was seen today with Mr. Boothe, its present owner. Washington greatly valued Trumbull’s advice, and used to say “Don’t do anything until we hear from Brother Jonathan”. The ‘David’ was a young man who was born on July 10, 1752, in a house still standing on Elm Street, Ansonia. Son of the minister of Derby’s first church8, an honor graduate of Yale, scholar and poet, he had successfully served on the staff of Gens. ParsonsPutnam, and Greene, before being assigned on June 26, 1780, to the personal family of the Commander-in-Chief.

Favorite of Washington

“‘Death, darling Putnam; then immortal Greene, then the great Washington my youth approved’ wrote David Humprheys in later years. He was soon high in the general’s favor: on the general’s visit to Mt. Vernon before the siege of Yorktown, Humphreys was the only one of his aides to accompany him. In the siege of Yorktown he greatly distinguished himself and Washington entrusted him with the official dispatches and the captured British and German standards, together with a letter highly commending the bearer, to the Continental Congress at Philadelphia.

“After Washington’s resignation of his command at the close of  the war, Humphreys accompanied him to the Christmas festivities at Mt. Vernon and remained with him as secretary and aide until Washington wrote to Gen. Mifflin suggesting Humphreys for the post of minister of foreign affairs (his only request of Congress). He praised Humphreys for his ‘ability, integrity, punctuality, and sobriety’ – all major virtues with the father of his country. Congress did not grant this request, but made Humphreys secretary to a commission composed of Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson appointed to negotiate treaties with 20 foreign countries. A letter from Washington to Franklin in France is still extant, introducing Humphreys as ‘a young man who is very dear to me’. After his return from abroad Humphreys served as Derby’s representative in the State Legislature, and then, following the death of his parents in 1787, took up his permanent residence with Washington at Mt. Vernon, doing carving at the table, accompanying the general in his survey of his plantations and his greatly beloved sport of fox hunting, and being treated as one of the family. He also accompanied him to New York in 1789 as first secretary to the president, but after a year, was sent abroad on missions to Portugal and Spain, maintaining, however, constant correspondence with the President.

The War of 1812

“Upon his retirement in 1797, Washington wrote asking Humphreys to again take up his residence at Mt. Vernon and to edit or write his memoirs of the Revolutionary War, but Humphreys had recently married and could not comply. The general congratulated him upon his marriage, but said sadly he had ‘ hoped to have an intimate in whom he could confide during his declining years’. The letters of Washington and Humphreys still in existence are many, and some day should be collected into a most interesting book. Humphreys survived his patron nearly a score of years, becoming captain general of the ‘veteran volunteers’, composed of Revolutionary survivors, in the War of 1812 and major general commanding the Connecticut troops. Seymour was long ‘Humphreysville’ in his honor. John Trumbull proposed for his epitaph:

Patron of the arts and guardian of the state;
Friend of the poor, yet honored by the great;
To sum all titles to respect in one:
Here Humphreys rest, beloved of Washington

Their Memory Lives

“The associated communities furnished many soldiers to the patriot cause. Forty headstones of Revolutionary veterans are still standing in the Colonial cemetery of Derby, and many others have crumbled into dust. Locally the last of Washington’s volunteers to pass away was Captain Edmund Leavenworth. At the age of fifteen he had enlisted in his father’s Ripton company and saw considerable fighting. Later on at Indian Well he built the first bridge across the Housatonic and many ‘Boston coasters’ that brought the rum and molasses of the West Indies to the associated communities. Depleted in fortune by the War of 1812, he became a tavern keeper in Derby where he died in 1856 at the age of 94.

“For nearly a century, Washington’s soldiers have slept beneath the sod, but their memory is still cherished in patriotic hearts. As the years go by, we realize what their toll and sacrifices have meant to the community, the state, and nation and whether our ancestry came over in the Mayflower or as more recent immigrants from foreign lands we can all say with the poet:

‘Oh, do not wrong the generations past,
By scorn, or bitter prating of ‘dead hands’,
Tis not our fault that their achievements last,
Or whim of fortune that their building stands.
It was for us they strove; we are the heirs,
Of all their sweat and agony and tears,
And, willing or ungrateful, each one shares,
In the long legacy of toilsome years'”.

Payne Presents Medals

Following Mr. Bradley’s address Judge Munger presented Assistant Secretary of War Payne, who presented the medals to the purple heart veterans, while all assembled military units presented arms. Secretary Payne spoke as follows:

“This is George Washington’s bicentennial year and almost exactly the 150th anniversary of his first establishment of the decoration of the purple heart. It is thus most appropriate for us to assemble to do honor to a group of men who have performed in outstanding manner one of the fundamental duties of the American citizen – the defense of our country. It is even more appropriate that these exercises should take place in Connecticut and that the recipients of the decoration should be Connecticut men. So far as the records of our Revolution show, the purple heart was awarded only three times by General Washington. In each and every case the men who had demonstrated outstanding military merit came from a Connecticut regiment. We salute you who have won the modern decoration as worthy successors to Sergeant Daniel Bissell of the Second Connecticut Regiment, of Sergeant Daniel Brown of the Fifth Connecticut Regiment, and Sergeant Elijah Churchill of the Second Connecticut Dragoons.

“In establishing this order, General Washington stated that it was his desire to foster and encourage every species of military merit and directed that upon the performance of any singularly meritorious action the author of it be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast the figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk edged with narrow lace or binding.

“Subsequent to the Revolution, the order of the purple heart seems to have fallen into disuse and no further awards were made. The 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth was selected as obviously the most appropriate time to reestablish it.

“Award of the purple heart is authorized to persons who while serving in the army of the United States perform any singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service. Wounds received in action are included in this category. Power to make awards is vested in division and hire commanders.

“The revised decoration consists of a heart shaped medal, its face gold bordered and its center of purple enamel. On the obverse is a relief bust of George Washington in the uniform of a general of the Continental Army. Its reverse is gold with the inscription: ‘For Military Merit’. The Washington coat-of-arms is incorporated in the ring which attaches to it to a purple ribbon bordered with white.

“The purple heart is probably one of the most coveted military awards. It usually signifies that its wearer has been wounded in battle against the enemies of our country. It is a token that a man has interposed his body between America and a dangerous foe. It is a sign of the full and unhesitating assumption of citizenship.

“It is now my privilege to express to each on of this group of heroes their country’s admiration and gratitude. May we who are assembled here long remember this day and take from it inspiration to serve our country as bravely and unhesitatingly as did those we honor”.

Purple Heart Veterans

Purple heart medals were presented to the following:

Ansonia – Frank J. Cushner, Joseph Staffey, Newton Wedin, Clinton Spears, Michael Worcolik, William J. Pratt, Micheal Ahern, James T. Bird, Patrick F. Reidy, Paul Johnson, Carl Bohman, T.W. Worley, Redevers Bowen, Harry Ogden, Benjamin Bernstein, John Compy, Edgar Wahlberg.

Derby – John Murasky, William Burke, Maurice Romm, Edward Kurtya, Martin Lombardo, A. Jaccubicci, Tony Lauretto, W.H. Keefe, Anthony Frisco, Stephen Shaughnessy, Bernard J. Nicolari.

Shelton – Stephen T. Honas, William Jones, Edward J. Duffy, Ernest Gressot, George H. Hummel, Stanley Kaiser, William R. Goodman, George Clark, James Canganelly, A. Gambacini, G. Orisetti, W.H. Keefe, J. Crapalicho.

Seymour10 – Frank Trevelin, Fred Hummel, Peter Muchisky, Andrew Masavage, Joseph Strefco, Dennis Bennett, Frank Marshall, Floyd Clark, William A. Ulrich.

New Haven – Henry Gosslin, John J. Renson, Michael Ematrudo.

Waterbury – John J. Mulligan, Joseph Buckingham, Anthony Chancio, William Aylward.

Torrington – Capt. Ernest Manteuffel.

Orange – Capt. Howard B. Treat, Levi O. Petersen and Morris Berger.

Naugatuck – Albert Sumpf.

Quaker Farms – Clarence Roberts.

Bethel – Herbert Hopkins.

Closing Ceremonies

Judge Munger then announced that the exercises would close with retreat and the assembled military units stood at attention while bugles blared and then the Foot Guard played “The Star Spangled Banner” while the Stars and Stripes were lowered from the flag pole which had been erected on the field that morning.

Following the exercises there were drum corps concerts. Most of the visiting units marched from the field to the state armory9 after the exercises and there they found refreshments which had been proved by the women’s auxiliaries of the local veterans’ organizations under the direction of Mrs. J. Sterling Edwards of Shelton. Judge Frederick M. MaCarthy was chairman of the refreshment committee which did its work well.


The George Washington Chapter #1, Military Order of the Purple Heart

The Founding of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Ansonia


1) The events of Saturday, September 17, 1932, were the culmination of months of planning. The celebration joined the observance of the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, which was a major national theme, and the reestablishment of the Purple Heart to the United States Army. The Purple Heart medals were being sent to World War I veterans through the mail, and the veterans organizations and cities and towns of the Naugatuck Valley the medals should be properly awarded on Constitution Day, September 17. The observance received national attention before it was even held prompting the Hoover Administration, which was still smarting over its recent handling of the Bonus Army in Washington DC, to send Assistant Secretary of War Frederick B. Payne to the event. Immediately following the ceremony, the veterans agreed to form the Purple Heart Association (see the September 22, 1932 article), which became the first chapter of what is now the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the most exclusive veterans’ organization chartered by the U.S. Congress.

2) Since World War II had not yet happened, what we now know as World War I was simply known as “The World War” in the United States.

3) Athletic Field is today’s Nolan Field, off Wakelee Avenue, Ansonia.

4) Many country roads were still unpaved in 1932, and many automobiles were convertibles. Choking dust would be kicked up when the roads were dry, and the best time to drive was after a moderate rain, when the water “laid the dust” – keeping it on the ground instead of on drivers and passengers.

5) “The turnpike” was the Derby Turnpike, today’s Route 34 from East Derby to New Haven.

6) Derby Narrows was the neighborhood of today’s East Derby along  the Housatonic River, just below the Naugatuck River.

7) Uptown Derby, or simply Uptown, was along the east side of the Naugatuck River, along the border of today’s Ansonia and Derby. It would include Ansonia’s Elm Street and Derby’s original green off Academy Hill Road.

8) Derby’s First Church would be today’s First Congregational Church on Derby Avenue.

9) This was the Ansonia Armory.

10) Some of the members of the American Legion in Seymour were from Oxford.