Cumbee Pace: Should his name be on the Doughboy Monument?

Published 10:00 pm Friday, June 2, 2017

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth installment of a series of articles about Polk County veterans of WWI whose names are listed on the Doughboy Monument in Columbus.

A “Henderson Heritage” source claims that 19 men from Henderson County died in World War I, Private Cumbee Pace among them. But close examination of records shows that four of those who perished were not Henderson County residents. For five others, residence is questionable or unproven, and that is the case for Private Pace.

He was from the Mountain Page community, which straddles the Polk-Henderson line, southwest of Saluda. A lack of certainty probably accounts for the fact that his name was not carved into the granite plaque on the Doughboy Monument in Columbus.

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Cumbee Pace was the grandson of Burrill Pace, who owned 1,300 acres in the mountainous in the far southwest corner of Polk County, which included the present Orchard Lake area in Mountain Page. In the 1900 census, Cumbee Pace is listed as living on that family land with his parents, Henry Hazard Pace and Sarah Ann Matilda Hart Pace. His father lived there at the time of the 1910 census, and died in Saluda in 1914.

Cumbee Pace was working in an Inman, S.C. cotton mill when he registered for the draft in Spartanburg County on May 29, 1917. His place of birth was Saluda; his “precinct” was Raven Rock, which is the Mountain Page portion of Henderson County, and his address was listed as “R.F.D. #1, Saluda.” He was tall and of a medium build, and had hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He stated that he provided partial support for his widowed mother.

On April 26, 1918, Cumbee Pace was inducted into the Army at Hendersonville. The Hendersonville Visitor, a local paper, reported that he was among the men who departed from there, bound for training at Camp Jackson, S.C. Army service records list his home as Saluda, N.C.

Private Pace arrived in France on July 31, 1918 with the 323rd Infantry Regiment of the 81st “Wildcat” Division, which was composed of draftees, mostly from North and South Carolina, and Florida. On August 25 he was transferred to the 168th Regiment of the 24th “Rainbow” Division, which was a combination of units from 26 states.

In September 1918, the 24th Division participated in the Battle of St. Mihiel, the first operation and victory by an independent American army in World War I. It was also the scene of the first tank attack in U.S. military history, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George S. Patton, “Old Blood and Guts” of World War II fame. Private Pace was mortally wounded by machine gun fire in that battle on September 14, 1918, and 15 days later he died of wounds in a hospital.

Private Pace was initially buried in France. His remains were later returned to the United States, arriving in New York on March 30, 1922 for delivery to his mother, Mrs. Henry Pace, on May 4.  The Polk County News for May 11 reported that services were conducted for Cumby Pace at Mountain Page Baptist Church in Henderson County, with a large crowd in attendance. Former soldiers were the pall bearers of his flag-draped coffin, which was laid to rest in the church cemetery.

If Cumbee Pace was a Polk County resident he would have been the first Polk County soldier to be killed in action in World War I. James Metcalf, a life-long resident of Mountain Page, authority on the history and the families of that area, and the third cousin of Cumbee Pace, points out that the Burrill Pace descendants had a long association with the Polk County portion of that community. He adds that confusion as to county of residence is an “easy mistake in Saluda.”  Polk’s case for the residency of Private Pace is stronger than Henderson’s.

In 1920, the War Department began distributing the bronze Victory Medal to all members of the U.S. military who served in “The Great War for Civilization.” It featured a standing “winged victory” holding a shield and sword, and was suspended from a colorful ribbon of a “two rainbow” design.

A light brown box was no doubt received in the mail by Mrs. Henry Pace of “RFD #1, Saluda, NC.” An inner box contained the Victory Medal awarded to her son, wrapped in white tissue paper. The ribbon bore a bronze battle clasp, with the name “ST. MIHIEL.”

– article submitted by Alan Leonard