The Area S Bungalow Section of Nitro, West Virginia, August 19, 1918. The town was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I.
What’s in a Name: The Definition of a ‘Boom’ Town
By Eric Douglas
via the West Virginia Public Broadcasting web site
There’s a town in Kanawha County, West Virginia where some locals say living there is a "blast."
As part of our occasional series, "What’s in a Name," we take a look at the history and folklore of the names of Appalachian places. The town in question, Nitro, West Virginia, grew out of the explosives industry and was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I. Ken Thompson volunteers at the World War I museum in the city of Nitro.
According to Thompson, Nitro was established in 1917 by the federal government to manufacture nitrocellulose, a highly flammable compound formed by bringing cellulose from trees or plants into contact with it to nitric acid. It is also known as “guncotton,” because of its explosive characteristics.
“It was to support the war effort for WWI," he explained. "A lot of people were under the impression it was nitroglycerin. It was not. It was nitrocellulose. That was added to the other components to make the gunpowder smokeless."
It took the federal government about 11 months to build the town from 1917 to 1918, and approximately 100,000 people representing 41 nations participated.
Nitro's construction coincided with one of the coldest winters in recorded history, Thompson said.
One of the town's builders would go on to become famous: Clark Gable.
Read more: What’s in a Name: The Definition of a ‘Boom’ Town
Members of the Simeon L. Nickerson American Legion Post 64 in Middleboro and a number of other local veterans and town officials gathered at Glass Square in downtown Middleboro last Thursday to dedicate a new sign memorializing the late John F. Glass, Jr,. who was the last service man from Middleboro to be killed in action in World War I. The spot has long been known as Everett Square, but Post 64Commander Bob Lessard and a number of other local veterans led a decade-long push to have the square rededicated in keeping with a 1929 Town Meeting vote which established he spot as Glass Square.
Middleboro, MA town square renamed for WWI soldier
By Jon Halglof, Editor, Middleboro Gazette
via the South Coast Today .com (MA) web site
MIDDLEBORO — The somewhat disorienting five-way intersection located at the top of Center Street in downtown Middleboro known locally as Everett Square is due to be redesigned in 2020, but before that, Everett Square had to be renamed, or better yet, reestablished, as John F. Glass, Jr. Square, as it was always supposed to be.
That happened with little or no resistance from those partial to the name “Everett Square,” which in all likelihood was named so for no other reason than its proximity to Everett Street, one of the five intersecting streets converging at the Square — along with Station St., High St., Center Ave and the aforementioned Center St.
So now, John Glass Square is again — and as it has been since it was decided so in 1929 — John Glass Square, and John Glass Square is due to be redesigned in 2020.
Well, that redesign got an early start last Thursday with the unveiling and dedication of a new sign recognizing the square as John F. Glass, Jr. Square, and for Bob Lessard, current Commander of American Legion Post 64 in Middleboro, it’s a small gesture that will go a long way in correcting a bit of local history and acknowledging, for all time, a Middleboro soldier who paid the ultimate price while serving his country.
“He died October 26, and the war ended Nov. 11. So, the poor guy got killed just a couple of weeks before the war ended,” Lessard said, relaying the story of PFC John F. Glass, Jr at the dedication.
PFC Glass was the last serviceman from Middleboro to be killed in action in World War I. At the time of his death, he was serving with the Yankee Division’s 101st Infantry, Company D. His remains did not make it home to Middleboro, and he is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.
Lessard, who’s been leading the call for the correction for the better part of a decade, says Middleboro American Legion Post 64 membership petitioned to have the square memorialized in the name of John F. Glass, Jr. back in 1929. The spot was dedicated and took the name of John F. Glass, Jr. Square on May 30, 1929, part of that year’s Memorial Day services, and later that spring, on June 18, the request to make it official and put it on the books was approved by Town Meeting voters.
Read more: Middleboro, MA town square renamed for WWI soldier