Henry Weston Farnsworth

Henry Weston Farnsworth (August 7, 1890 – September 28, 1915[1]) was one of the first Americans killed as a soldier in World War I.[2][3] He was a "newspaper correspondent, world traveler, adventure-seeker, avid reader, and member of the French Foreign Legion."[4]

Early lifeEdit

Farnsworth was born on August 7, 1890, in Dedham, Massachusetts.[1] He attended Groton School and then Harvard College where he was graduated in 1912.[3][5] After graduating, he toured Vienna, Budapest, Constantinople, Odessa, Moscow, and St. Petersburg.[5]


Farnsworth came from a Boston Brahmin family.[6] His parents, William and Lucy Holman (née Burgess) Farnsworth, also had a daughter, Ellen Holman Farnsworth, who was said to be "the prettiest girl in Boston."[6] Henry and Ellen were very close.[2] Ellen was married to Alfred Lee Loomis, Henry's classmate at Harvard University.[6][7] Ellen's great-grandson, Reed Hastings, was a co-founder of Netflix. He was described as "bookish and idealistic."[2]

The Farnsworths had homes on Westfield Street in Dedham[3][6] and Beacon Street in Boston.[7] The family purchased the Beacon Street home from Charles Winslow.[7]


Farnsworth worked as a reporter for Collier's and The Providence Journal during the Balkan War.[2] He was working as a reporter in Mexico when US troops occupied Veracruz in 1914 and when World War I began.[5][3] He wrote a book about his experiences in the Balkans, The Log of a Would-be War Correspondent[2][3] as well as several plays and five volumes of short stories.[5] His letters were also posthumously published by his father.[3]

After returning home, he worked for his father, a wool merchant in Boston.[3][7][5]

World War IEdit

In the fall of 1914, Farnsworth sailed back from the United States to Europe[2] before his family could object.[5] He "got caught up in the military fever that was sweeping London and Paris."[2] Preferring to fight, he refused to be a war correspondent.[5]

Farnsworth enlisted with the French Foreign Legion in January 5, 1915,[1][2][3][5] and served in several battles.[5] He was hospitalized several times, but always showed an eagerness to return to the front.[5] He often served the night patrol in no man's land.[3] On one such occasion, after Italy declared war against the Central Powers, Farnsworth was part of a group who put newspapers on the barbed wire near the German trenches.[5] On March 15, 1915, he wrote to his mother: “I long to be with you all again, once the war ends. I think it will be this summer some time; then for the rest and peace of Dedham.”[3]

Farnsworth was killed in action at the battle of Fortin de Navarin near Tahure, France, on September 28, 1915, in the Second Battle of Champagne.[2][3][5][7][8] He was shot in the neck and the spine by a machine gun.[1] Sukuna, a Fijian comrade, pulled Farnsworth into a trench but was unable to save him.[1] After watching Farnsworth die, Sukuna vowed to avenge his death, advanced towards the German line, and was shot in the leg.[1]

Farnsworth was one of 642 men from Dedham who served in the war, and one of 18 who died.[8] After his death, those with whom he served spoke of his spirit and bravery.[3] He was posthumously awarded the Médaille militaire on October 1, 1915.[1]


At Harvard's Lamont Library, the Farnsworth Room is dedicated in Farnsworth's honor.[1][4][5] The room, which is "devoted to non-curricular leisure reading, houses approximately 4,000 eclectic titles."[4] It "is a treasure trove of bizarre finds."[4] Originally opened in Widener Library in 1916, and moved to Lamont upon the latter's opening in 1949, it was the first American college reading room dedicated to extracurricular reading.[4] Alumnus Thomas Wolfe says he learned more in the Farnsworth Room than anywhere else at Harvard.[4]

In 1920, Farnsworth's family erected a monument to him and the 130 Foreign Legionnaires from the 1st and 2nd Régiment Etrangers who died in the Battle of Champagne in Souain-Perthes-lès-Hurlus.[1][3] It is an ossuary and holds the remains of the 130 Legionnaires.[1] The stones for the monument came from the same quarry as those that form the Arc de Triomphe.[1] The war had devastated the region, making construction very difficult.[1] Nevertheless, the work was completed in less than six months, beginning in May and ending in November 1920, with work taking place seven days a week.[1]

The monument, which was designed by Alexandre Marcel, measures 17 metres (56 ft) by 22 metres (72 ft), with the entrance on the north.[1] Due to the poor soil quality in Champagne, fertile soil from Seine-et-Marne was trucked in to plant fir and pine trees, as well as a thick hedge.[1] An inscription on the memorial was written by Charles W. Eliot, and another contains the names of the men buried in it.[1]

It was dedicated on November 3, 1920 by Joseph-Marie Tissier, bishop of Châlons.[1] Present at the dedication were Farnsworth's parents, sister, Pierre-Georges Duport, and representatives of the French government.[1] Darius Milhaud gave a speech.[1] It is known today as the "American Monument" by the residents of Souain.[1]

Rue Henry Farnsworth in Souain was named for Farnsworth at a ceremony in September 1965 that was attended by Ellen.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Le monument de la Légion Etrangère Henry FARNSWORTH, Souain" (in French). Légion Cavalerie. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Conant 2013, p. 30.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Parr, James (May 31, 2010). "2 Dedham Heroes- John A. Barnes III & Henry Farnsworth". Dedham Tales. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Alban, Dan (September 30, 2005). "Bizarre Finds in Lamont Library's Farnsworth Room". The Harvard Law Record. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Henry Weston Farnsworth". Monongahela Books. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Conant 2013, p. 29.
  7. ^ a b c d e "157 Beacon". Back Bay Houses. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  8. ^ a b "A Look at Dedham in World War I". The Dedham Transcript. April 6, 2017. Retrieved August 28, 2018.