Sharing the Common Wealth showcases objects, artifacts, documents, structures and buildings from the collections of PHMC.
William Curtis Truxal’s World War I footlocker. Somerset Historical Center

William Curtis Truxal’s World War I footlocker. Somerset Historical Center

William Curtis Truxal (1882–1960) was a 34-year-old attorney residing in Somerset when the Pennsylvania National Guard unit he commanded, Company C of the 10th Infantry Regiment, was mustered into federal service for World War I on July 15, 1917. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, he had first enlisted in the guard as a private in February 1914, and by October of that year he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. He had risen to the rank of captain by June 1916, and as part of the federalized 7th Infantry Division (predecessor of the modern 28th Division), he led Company C in the Mexican Expedition against the paramilitary forces of revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa.

In May 1918, after several months of training in Georgia, Company C, now part of the 110th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Division, arrived in France to join the Allied fight against Imperial Germany. By mid-July, the 28th was embroiled in the German offensive along the Marne River, one of the first engagements of the American forces in the war. Although the 28th succeeded in repelling the Germans, Company C was decimated and suffered heavy casualties. Truxal himself was captured and remained a prisoner until the end of the war (see “The Sacrifices of Company C: Somerset County’s Valiant Soldiers in the Great War”).

After the conflict, Truxal preserved his own war story in this 16½-by-31-by-13 footlocker, now in the collection of the Somerset Historical Center. The locker is constructed of engineered wood and held together by riveted straps of metal, with Truxal’s name, rank and unit stenciled on the lid. Inside the locker, which Truxal had used during his service in France, he saved mementos of his experience such as notes, photographs, postcards and trench art. Among these items was another significant document of the war, a logbook in which he recorded vital information and wartime activities of other POWs and described the actions of his German captors.

To commemorate the centennial of World War I, Truxal’s footlocker and many of its contents will be on display with other related artifacts in the exhibition Answering the Call: Somerset County in the Great War, opening at the Somerset Historical Center on July 14, 2018.


Kyle R. Weaver is the editor of Pennsylvania Heritage.