Monday, July 31, 2017

PFC Charles Norman Fletcher (1896-1918)

“Working day and night to take care of a number of pneumonia patients that poured into Base Hospital 50,” Private First Class Charles Fletcher contracted the disease and died two days later on October 9, 1918.1

University of Washington TYEE, 19197
Charles Norman Fletcher was born on July 10, 1896, in Buckley, Washington. His father, Charles Fletcher, was a native of England and his mother, Anna Spence, of Scotland. Charles had two older sisters, Charlotte and Hazel Velma Fletcher. Just three weeks after Hazel was born on December 13, 1889, Charlotte died of membranous croup at the age of 3, on January 4, 1890. The family was living at 1609 Front Street in Seattle, at the time, and Charlotte was buried in Lake View Cemetery. Charles Fletcher, Sr. was a miner and later a saloon keeper and lumberman. The family moved back and forth from the Buckley area to Seattle, before settling at 5269 17th Ave NE about 1910.2, 3

"Chuck" as he was called in high school graduated from Seattle's Broadway High School in 1915. His senior class entry notes he entered from Lincoln High School in September 1913 and included the quote "A laugh is worth a hundred groans in any market."4

At the time he registered for the draft, Charles was working in a salmon cannery in Dundas Bay, Alaska.5 His draft card described him as a blue-eyed redhead of medium height and build. Charles was one of the first to enlist after the organization of Base Hospital 50 in Seattle, by Major James B. Eagleson. Charles interrupted his sophomore year at the University of Washington (UW), where he was majoring in business administration, to enlist in December 1917. When he previously attempted to enlist in the infantry and artillery he had been rejected.

"Charlie Fletcher and mates"17
While at the UW, Charles was affiliated with Kappa Sigma (KΣ) fraternity. At the time of his enlistment, the KΣ service flag for the UW's Beta Psi chapter had 93 stars and Charles' death was the first gold star for his chapter.6 Before his departure, Charles was elected to Tyes Tyon, the sophomore honor society.7

Along with other members of Base Hospital 50, Charles was first ordered to Fort Lawton in March 1918. In April, the unit headed south to Camp Fremont, in Palo Alto, for training and to await their overseas orders. Finally, in early July, the unit was given orders to travel to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, in preparation for their deployment to France. Base Hospital 50's staff sailed from Brooklyn on the Karmala on July 14, 1918.8

Base Hospital 50 records, UW Libraries10
At the time of his death, Charles was wardmaster of the hospital, responsible for the patients and the enlisted staff. Word of his death from pneumonia reached Seattle in letters home from his comrades before his parents received official notification.9 He was originally buried in the Base Hospital 50 Cemetery at Mesves, in the department of Nievre, his name recorded in a notebook of burials kept by chaplain Bergen Hansen.10

After World War I, the Army gave families the option to have the remains of their loved ones buried in permanent cemeteries in France or repatriated to the United States. The Fletcher family elected to have Charles brought home and his body arrived in Seattle on January 15, 1921.11 Funeral services were held for him at 3 o'clock the following day, Sunday, January 16, at the Bonney-Watson Chapel at 1702 Broadway. Coincidentally, Rev. Hansen, who had buried Charles in France, officiated at his funeral.12 Charles was buried at Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery with his sister, Charlotte.13

University of Washington TYEE, 191214

Unfortunately, Charles' was not the last untimely death for the Fletcher family. Charles was survived by his parents, Annie and Charles Fletcher, and his sister, Hazel, who had married William Whitlock Mattson.6 Hazel received her bachelor of arts degree in Latin from the University of Washington in 1912, where she was a member of Chi Omega sorority.14 Her marriage in 1915 was the result of a "campus romance" with William, who was a standout football player under legendary UW coach Gil Dobie.15 Her husband became a surgeon and they were married in Minnesota where William was working at the Mayo Clinic. William also served during World War I, as a Lieutenant with the 342nd Field Hospital, part of the 311th Sanitary Train.

Hazel and William were the parents of three children, William Whitlock, Jr., Muriel Ann, and Charles Fletcher Mattson, born in 1926 and named for his uncle. On December 27, 1936, young Charles was kidnapped from his parent's home at 4506 N. Verde St. in the affluent Point Defiance Park neighborhood of Tacoma. Despite responding to the kidnapper's ransom requests, the story ended tragically on January 11, 1937, when Charles’s body was found south of Everett by a teenager hunting rabbits. "The kidnapping and murder of Charles F. Mattson has never been solved and, because capital crimes have no statute of limitations, the case remains an open file at the Federal Bureau of Investigation."16

  1. "University Boy Dies Suddenly in France." Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 28, 1918, page 9.
  2. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Buckley, Pierce, Washington. Enumeration District 148, sheet 5B, Charles Fletcher household; National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1748; digital image,, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  3. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Seattle Ward 10, King, Washington. Enumeration district 181, sheet 8B, Charles Fletcher household; National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1661; digital image,, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  4. Broadway High School, Seattle Washington. Seatlh, 1915, Charles Norman Fletcher "Chuck", page 45: digital image,, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  5. "U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital images, ( : accessed 30 July 2017); Seattle, King County, Draft Board 2. Charles Norman Fletcher, dated 5 August 1917, Dundas, Alaska.
  6. "Charles N. Fletcher, member of University Kappa Sigma fraternity, whose death in France has been reported." The Seattle Daily Times, December 3, 1918, page 9.
  7. University of Washington. Tyee, 1919, Charles Norman Fletcher, page 40.
  8. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939; Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, National Archives Record Group 92, roll 457; digital image,, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  9. "Comrades Tell of Death of Local Boy." The Seattle Star, November 28, 1918, page 12.
  10. United States Army Base Hospital No. 50 records, 1917-1971. Accession No. 3847-003. University of Washington Libraries.
  11. "Bodies of soldiers arrive." The Sunday Seattle Times, January 16, 1921, pg 3.
  12. "Charles N. Fletcher" funeral notice. The Seattle Daily Times, January 14, 1921, page 19.
  13. PFC Charles N. Fletcher. Find a Grave,, Memorial #153928281. (Accessed 30 July 2017.)
  14. University of Washington. Tyee, 1912, Hazel Velma Fletcher, page 35.
  15. "Here and Elsewhere" The Seattle Star, March 27, 1915, page 7.
  16. "Ten-year-old Charles F. Mattson is kidnapped in Tacoma and held for ransom on December 27, 1936." HistoryLink, (Accessed 30 July 2017).
  17. United States. Army. Base Hospital No. 50. The history of Base Hospital Fifty : a portrayal of the work done by this unit while serving in the United States and with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Seattle, Wash. : The Committee, 1922.