Monday, August 19, 2013

Military Monday: William D. Rosser and the Spanish War

I am somewhat familiar with the surname ROSSER. My mom always talked about her cousin Roy, but I don't remember too much more. I found a picture of Roy with aunt Florence and mom, and I was going to put a little story together about him, but as it turns out, he isn't the subject of this post. Today's post is about William, Roy's father.

The Rossers are distant relatives; they are part of my mom's side of the family I know very little about -- my great grandfather August F. Buschick's first marriage. Because they are collaterals, I haven't researched them much at all. Recently I was looking at some scans of the Buschick family when I came across a picture I never really paid a lot of attention to. I was thrilled to see a young man in a military uniform...identified as "Will Rosser Spanish American War."  Ah! It's Military Monday! We don't see much on the Spanish American war...this would be a nice posting.

I did a quick bit of info gathering on and just for this post otherwise I wouldn't have anything to say and it would have to wait until "Wordless Wednesday," I write that with a grin. As it turns out, I may have more questions than answers.

William David was born 27 Jul 1876 in Youngstown, Ohio to David and Ann (Samuels) Rosser who were both born in Wales. Of all the children cousin Roy Llewellyn is the only one with a noticeably Welch middle name. I wonder if that is a clue to where William's parents were from in Wales?

On the left in the image below is the 1898 Record for Private William D. Rosser. I found it on while searching the Military records, but didn't find much more to go with this. I checked the Illinois list of volunteers for the Company M, 1st Illinois Infantry but couldn't find his name. Yet the documents I have found online all indicate he was part of that company. Was it an error? Maybe he was out of the infantry so fast he wasn't listed. Maybe that is why I can't find any more military information on him. I wonder if there are discharge papers; haven't seen those either. Was he in active duty? If so, he had a whirlwind adventure; he possibly signed up at the start in April, out around September, and back home to marry his sweetheart by the December of 1898. Makes my head spin!
(Source Information: U.S., Spanish American War Volunteers, 1898 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.  Original data: General Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers who Served During the War with Spain. Microfilm publication M871, 126 rolls. Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s–1917, Record Group 94. The National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.)

Doesn't William look proud in his uniform? I wonder, was he on his way to war or did he have the picture taken for his mother or sweetheart as something to remember him by... just in case? Or had he just come back? There is a medal on his chest. What is it for? Don't you wish sometimes the answers would be on the back of the photo? I was lucky my aunt Florence wrote his name under the picture in the family album.

Was his uniform actually for the Spanish American War? I wanted to make sure, so I checked a couple websites to compare uniforms. I concluded it was so similar to the others online, from the leggings to the canteen, they had to be of that war. 

Not being familiar with war medals, I can't make out or identify the medal pinned to his coat. I looked online for other medals from that war and found a ribbon with the cross, but the top "bling" didn't match to any. The medal might just signify which regiment he was associated with. Or, was the picture taken after the war and the medal was earned for some event during it?

I wonder if he knew what he was getting into when he volunteered? I heard many boys died from tainted food as well as malaria. Did he serve with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders? Was he one of those who charged up San Juan Hill? Was there anything exciting for the 1st Illinois to be involved in?

The Spanish American War only lasted from April to August 1898 with the Treaty of Paris being signed in December of that year. Makes one wonder how much time was given to actual fighting when you think of the travel time to the battle grounds of Cuba and Puerto Rico. 

From The Spanish American War Centennial website, Joe Petritsch gives "A Brief History of the 1st Illinois Volunteer Infantry." This is an interesting site because it explains 1st Illinois went to Cuba, but by the time the 1st Illinois got to Cuba, it was well into July 1898. They participated in (or prior to) the siege of Santiago. The 1st Illinois received orders to leave Cuba on 24 August around noon. They boarded a transport ship heading for New York's Long Island. There were many men who contracted tropical diseases which some died from. Petritsch never mentioned anything about tainted food. In September many of the men took a 60-day furlough and went home to Chicago. Some of the men who were quarantined didn't get leave. The members of the 1st Illinois Infantry were released from service in November 1898. They still remained part of the Illinois National Guard after they got home.

On 24 December 1898, in Chicago, William David Rosser married Elizabeth Susan NORRIS who is my "half first cousin once removed" and the daughter of Catherine W. (BUSCHICK) and Samuel NORRIS. Catherine is the daughter of my g-grandfather August Ferdinand Buschick and his first wife Catherine (WYLIE). They lived in the West Pullman area in south side of Chicago on Eggleston Ave. They had 10 children. Their first child Roy was the cousin mom talked about most. 

Continuing to look on and on, I found William had registered for WW I. It is hard to make out, but at the bottom you can see "wife is Elizabeth Rosser" and they lived at 11527 Eggleston Ave. This address matches all the entries in censuses from 1900 to 1940 and if we had access to the 1950 and 1960 censuses, I would think Elizabeth remained there until her death. I found Fold3 to have slim pickings for Spanish American War information. 

I haven't done military research, so I'm not sure if William actually served in this war or how to find out. He would have been about 42 years old. Was that too old to serve? Was there an "old man's" draft? I couldn't find any more information. Maybe a Rosser family historian can tell me and I can fill in the blanks. My contact information is on the right column.

Source Citation: Registration State: Illinois; Registration County: Cook; Roll: 1493571; Draft Board: 22.
Source Information: U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.

William * was a mail clerk or carrier according to the 1910-1930 censuses. 

William David Rosser died in August 1931 and is buried in Mt. Greenwood Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Elizabeth applied for death benefits the following September. Here again it states he was in Co. M 1st Illinois Infantry and was an "Invalid" January 7, 1899. This doesn't tell me if he was injured in the Spanish American War or if on his job after serving. It left minor children blank, only his wife as a dependent. By 1931 all the children were out of the house with only one passing away in 1926. Elizabeth passed away Oct. 1961 at the age of 77.

This above card was also found on National Archives and Records Administration. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000.  Original data: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. T288, 546 rolls.

The picture of Elizabeth has been removed. It was mis-identified. If I can identify another, I'll add it to this post.

I would love to learn more about this family and if anyone connected to it is researching. There are so many blanks to fill in. Such as when and where Catherine (Wylie) Buschick died and is buried; when and where Catherine and August married. I know they were living in LaSalle County, Illinois in 1850 and by 1860 they can be found in Chicago.

To work up a time line of August's life, knowing more about Catherine could help me solve some mysteries like when and where August married his second wife, my great grandmother Susan FOWLER. Right now I can only guess and I don't like doing that.

* Corrections:
Originally I had written that William was a stone cutter and sculptor. He never was. The stone cutter and sculptor was his father-in-law's profession. (refer to the comment by Anonymous below.)


  1. What an interesting post! I love military research so I was drawn to your story. The best answer to find out more about William's service is to get a copy of that pension file. Because he died after 1928 his file would be held by the VA. The Spanish American War Centennial website you mentioned has a great page explaining how to order the file. I have never ordered a pension file from the VA, so I'm not sure how much it would cost. Since you mention that William was a distant relation, you'll have to weigh the cost vs. the knowledge. As for the medal, if he did indeed earn one he would not have gotten it until his return. I also could not find one that looked exactly like that, however, it does look similar to the participation medal for that war.

    Oh, and as for his participation in WWI, I would think that he did not fight in that war if he was already listed as disabled. But you never know!

    Thank you for the fun post...I was really intrigued by William. Good luck finding out more!

    1. Thanks for reading my post. I enjoyed writing it and found it more interesting to me as I got more into it. I also appreciate your suggestions on getting the pension file, but since William is the husband of a distant half-cousin... I'm not sure if the VA would send me his pension file. I'm also not sure I want to spend a lot of time and money researching deeper into the collateral lines. Maybe one of these days I'll have the time to dig more into these lines.

    2. To Karen Porteus Glass: I was so surprised to find your posting about William D Rosser, who was my grandfather! My mother, Catherine Elizabeth, was one of the 10 children (#6) of William Rosser and Susan Elizabeth Norris. The other children were Roy Llewellyn, 1899, (who was actually Llewellyn Roy, but I am told it was common for the Welsh to go by middle name, plus his first school teacher said Llewellyn was too difficult to learn how to spell); Caroline Grace, 1901,(known as Grace); William Samuel, 1903; Lillian Pearl, 1905, (known as Pearl); Raymond Earl, 1907; Catherine Elizabeth, 1909; James David, 1911 (known as David); Lincoln Hugh, 1913; Marie Samuella, 1916; and Roger (middle name not known), 1922. I do indeed have a lot more information, and actually grew up in the house at 11527 Eggleston in Chicago, where we (my mother and father, Leo and Catherine Ayotte, and my brother Ronald James)lived with my grandmother. My Aunt Grace and her family lived in the 2nd floor apartment, which is where Samuel Norris and Catherine Buschick Norris lived when the house was first built in 1906. Samuel was indeed a stone mason, although I never heard that my grandfather worked as such. We were told he was a mailman. Also, the picture you identify as Susan Elizabeth Norris Rosser is not. I have a picture taken of Elizabeth (as she was known) on her wedding day, and it is definitely not the woman in the picture. Also, Samuel and Catherine Norris were both deaf and spoke in ASL, in which my grandmother was proficient. I do believe they are also buried at Mt. Greenwood cemetery, and lived in the house on Eggleston until their death, as did my grandparents. I have much more information, so if you would like to continue to correspond, please email me at Sincerely, Geraldine Ayotte Hofflander, age 75 years.