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Sunday, February 14, 2021

New facts about Francisco Lemos -- and a newly confirmed photograph of him

The entry on Francisco Lemos in 'Price of Our Heritage.'
Click on any image to enlarge.

As our community gets closer to having its own history museum, the kindness and generosity of folks with items from Kerr County’s long history continues to amaze and delight me. People are bringing amazing things from our community’s past because they know those items will soon have a home.
A few weeks ago, a kind person gave me several items relating to Sidney Baker, the young war hero for whom one of Kerrville’s principal streets was named. Surprisingly, the box of historic items included an original handwritten letter from Earl Garrett (another Kerr County war hero) to his sister, Harriet Garrett.
Newly confirmed
photograph of
Francisco Lemos
The box also contained another set of surprises: information about Francisco Lemos, another local war hero who died in France during World War I, for whom a street was also named.
Of the three men honored with a street being named for them, Francisco Lemos left behind the least amount of written or photographic records. He is something of a mystery.
I was delighted when I found in the box a taped interview with the late Rev. Matias Rodriguez, a conversation which focuses on facts about Francisco Lemos’s life. And I was very happy to find a newly confirmed photograph of Francisco Lemos.
Up until now the only confirmed photograph of Francisco Lemos was the one taken with his friend, Emmett Rodriguez. (Emmett Rodriguez was Matias Rodriguez’s father, and both men were long-serving local ministers.) It is that photograph which was reproduced in many places, including Lemos’s entry in the book “Price of Our Heritage,” which lists the men of the 168th Infantry killed in World War I.
However, Matias Rodriguez confirmed another photograph of Francisco Lemos, one showing him with the rest of Company D when they were at Camp Bowie, undergoing training before shipping out to France.
Lemos's draft
registration card
Here are some other things I learned about Francisco Lemos from the interview with Rev. Rodriguez:
Franciso Lemos had a nickname: ‘Quico,’ pronounced Kee-koh.
Lemos was raised by his grandmother, because his mother died when he was young. He had two brothers, Pedro and Ramon, and one sister, Paula. They were members of a pioneer Kerr County family. Francisco Lemos was the only one of his brothers to fight in World War I.
One of Francisco Lemos’s nephews, a man named Mr. Lara, was a small child when Company D boarded the train in Kerrville and left for Camp Bowie. Lara also told Matias Rodriguez, years later, that all of the photographs of Francisco Lemos and his family were thrown away.
On September 15, 1918, Francisco Lemos died in France, giving his life for his country. He was only 30 years old.
Private Francisco Lemos was on scout duty with Company G, of the 168th Infantry, 42nd Division, in the Saint-Mihiel Sector, about 1,500 yards northeast of the Louisville Farm, when a German high explosive shell killed him instantly. The same shell injured another soldier from Kerrville, his friend Emmett Rodriguez, who survived the explosion.
Lemos, who was born in San Diego, Texas, on December 7, 1887, volunteered for service in Kerr County, where he worked for the Schreiner Cattle and Sheep Company in Mountain Home. 
Emmett Rodriguez 
and Francisco Lemos
His registration card describes him as short, with a medium build, with dark brown eyes and black hair. He was a single and had no dependents. He'd never served in the military before volunteering. It is possible he did not know how to write his name, since his registration card is signed with "his mark," an "X." 
Like Francisco Lemos, both Sidney Baker and Earl Garrett also died in northeastern France. Sidney Baker died in the Argonne Forest on October 16, 1918; Earl Garrett, near Exermont, on October 4, 1918. Of those three, for whom streets in Kerrville were named, only Francisco Lemos is buried in Kerrville. His body rests at the Mountain View Cemetery, across Holdsworth Drive from Antler Stadium. Baker and Garrett are buried in France.
Francisco Lemos had been in France with his regiment for only a short time, and the Battle of Saint-Mihiel was his first engagement.
I've heard a story about the moments before the shell exploded, about how Lemos was singing as the scouting party proceeded along carefully, walking through a muddy field in the rain. I'd like to think the story is true, and that Lemos died while singing quietly, singing a song of home.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items and photographs about the history of Kerr County. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 12, 2021.

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