James McConnell Day Declared in Carthage
Monday will be James Rogers McConnell Day in Carthage, by order of the Town Board.
Mayor Ronnie Fields signed the proclamation at the May meeting of commissioners.
The day honors McConnell, a founding member of the World War I group of American volunteer combat pilots that became known as The Lafayette Escadrille.
"James Rogers McConnell lived in Carthage and served as the land and industrial agent for the Seaboard Air Line Railway, as well as the secretary of the Carthage Board of Trade before leaving for France to assist the French " the proclamation says. " because he fought for democracy, humanity and liberty with valor and devotion we pause, honor, and praise this day for his conspicuous bravery "
A Virginian by birth, McConnell had been an enthusiast for his adopted state, writing her praises in a 1914 Board of Trade booklet.
"Wonderful is the South, and great beyond our dreams will be her future, but in all these Southern states there will be none to compare in the magnitude of growth with the pre-eminently well-favored state of North Carolina," McConnell said. "The town of Carthage, which is the capitol of Moore County, is in the center of this section. Its supremacy over other towns in the region has not been due solely to its having occupied the point of vantage, but by reason of its vastly superior surroundings and more valuable resources.
"Carthage itself has a very engaging appearance with its commanding location, wide, tree-bordered streets, and really remarkable number of handsome residences, and the surrounding country is exceedingly charming."
It was on that commanding location, gazing across that surrounding countryside in the direction of Fayetteville, that McConnell made a fateful decision.
In an earlier presentation to the board, Bert Patrick of the town Historical Committee told how McConnell left Carthage to fight for others.
"In 1915, Jim McConnell was standing across the street, in front of the old courthouse, as France was under attack," Patrick said. "Everyone here was conscious of our connection to France, with Fayetteville, named after Lafayette, so near."
Patrick said McConnell, like many young American men, wanted to help France fight off the German attack.
"He looked around him," she told the board. "He said, 'These sandhills will be here forever, but the war won't; and so I'm going. And I'll be of some use, too, not just a sightseer, looking on; that wouldn't be fair.' He went to drive an ambulance."
McConnell was honored by France with the plaque now displayed on a stone in front of the old Town Hall across the street, she said.
It was originally at the McConnell Hospital (named for him) then moved to the county hospital, and finally brought home to Carthage.
McConnell was the last American pilot of the squadron to die under French colors, Patrick said. He was killed in aerial combat with two German planes, above the Somme battlefields, near the village of Flavy-le-Martel, Aisne, on March 19, 1917, just three weeks before the United States entered the war, Patrick said.
"His body was laid to rest where he fell, and later re-interred at the Lafayette Escadrille memorial near Paris," she said. "He is one of only four Americans entombed in that shrine erected to honor them.
"On the first of April that year, a thousand people crowded the courthouse for a memorial to Jim. The stars and stripes and the tricolor of France flanked his portrait."
Now, on this Memorial Day, the state will dedicate a highway marker honoring McConnell, and a copy of the proclamation will be presented to the Carthage Historical Committee.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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