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Thread: WWI Widows & Mothers Pilgrimage Medallion

  1. #1

    WWI Widows & Mothers Pilgrimage Medallion

    This story begins in 1929 - 11 years after World War One. That year Congress authorized government-funded pilgrimages for mothers and widows of American soldiers killed in the war. Leaving from New York, they sailed to France, and visited the American military cemeteries in Europe.

    In 1930, a grieving widow, or mother, boarded a train in Utah, bound for New York. She left New York Harbor a week later, aboard a United States Lines cruise ship. After two-days at sea, the mothers and widows were invited to the fore-deck for a formal ceremony.

    Each woman was individually honored with a serialized medallion made by Tiffany & Co. The bronze medallion had a raised gold-plated star and was numbered on the rim at the six-o-clock position. The serial number matched a certificate that was presented along with the medallion. Obviously, the medallion and what it commemorated would have been precious to the owner.

    Our story now jumps ahead 94-years to present day Vernal, Utah. Louis Haynes, a U.S. Army veteran who suffers from anxiety related to his service connected PTSD, is metal detecting with a machine presented to him by Metal Detectors 4 Veterans ( Since receiving the metal detector Louis has found several silver coins from the early 1900s and, more importantly, says metal detecting therapy is helping his anxiety.

    As Louis slowly moved his coil across the ground carefully listening to the machine, he had no idea he was about to find a real treasure, an actual piece of American history. The detector came alive, telling him some type of non-ferrous metal was below his search coil. The target was deep, and it took some work to get down to it through the hard soil. At the bottom of the hole was a 1930 Gold Star Mothers and Widows Pilgrimage Medallion!

    “The opportunity provided by Metal Detectors 4 Veterans has been wonderful. It has gotten me out and moving, and provided me with something positive to focus on,” said Haynes. Louis hopes now that he has identified the serial number on the medallion, he may be able to return it to the family this piece of Americana belongs with.

    Metal Detectors 4 Veterans Inc. (, is a 501c3 charitable organization that supplies veterans suffering from service related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with metal detectors and metal detecting equipment free of charge. Research has shown that hobbies like metal detecting can be very beneficial for combat veterans suffering from PTSD, as it provides a way for them to be distracted from negative thoughts and feelings, reduces their stress, and improves mood.
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  2. #2
    Elite Member Digger_O'Dell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    near Milwaukee Wi.
    Tat's a real piece of history, and I'm sure means something to the family that lost it. Good luck on the research and return! Keep us posted how it turns out. Thanks, for the story!
    Minelab: CTX 3030, GPX 4800, X-Terra 705. Whites TDI SL.

    2024: Silver 1, Gold 0
    Best finds: 28 silver dime spill, 1800s Dutch customs seal.
    Oldest/best coins: Late 1700's Chinese Cash Coin, 1837 Upper Canada large cent, 1877 Seated Dime
    Oldest Relic find: 1800 Sailors Luck token
    You Tube: Rediscovering America
    Quote: Treasures are like potato chips, you can never have just one!

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  4. #4
    What a great story and incredible find! Kudos to your organization for helping this man with his PTSD. Metal detecting can be very therapeutic. I hope the family of the medallion's original owner can be located. What a wonderful return that would be.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Lifetime totals:
    10 Large Cents, 421 Indian Heads, 2 Two Cent Pieces, 1 Capped Bust Half Dime, 1 Seated Half Dime, 10 Shield Nickels, 68 V Nickels, 125 Buffalo Nickels, 31 War Nickels, 16 Seated Dimes, 133 Barber Dimes, 407 Mercury Dimes, 250 Rosies, 4 Seated Quarters, 18 Barber Quarters, 20 Standing Liberty Quarters, 90 Silver Washingtons, 1 Seated Half, 3 Barber Halves, 17 Walking Liberty Halves

    YouTube Channel: Tony Two-Cent

  5. #5
    Thank you Tony! It has been picked up by newspapers in Utah, so hopefully someone will see it and help us solve the mystery. - Terry

  6. #6
    The Family has been located! I just got off a speaker phone conversation with Louis, and the family he has returned the medallion to - WOW! More to come..

  7. #7
    The Rest of The Story from the man who found the medallion, Louis Haynes:

    Former Soldier Using a Metal Detector Receives New Orders, Medallion Return

    When I received the X-Terra 505 metal detector from Metal Detectors 4 Veterans I would have never guessed that I would be assigned a mission to complete, one bound by honor and respect.

    Discovering the Gold Star Pilgrimage Medallion made by Tiffany & Co. in 1930 for the mothers and wives of fallen soldiers in World War 1, bound me to do my best to return it to the family of the fallen soldier. Although these events took place well before my life began, he is my brother-in-arms and I was honor bound. Even if that were not the case, the courage and love of his mother, that drove her to travel far from Utah to see his final resting place deserved respect and recognition.

    The soldier was Private Hubert Hyrum Burns from Randlett/Leota, Utah.

    When Hubert Hyrum Burns was born on 25 February 1895, in Pima, Graham, Arizona, United States, his father, Jacob Armstead Burns, was 31 and his mother, Rebecca Fannie Weech, was 24. He lived in Cove, Union, Oregon, United States in 1910. He registered for military service in 1917. He died on 4 June 1918, in Château-Thierry, Aisne, Hauts-de-France, France, at the age of 23, and was buried in Marne, Champagne-Ardenne, France.

    As I read this obituary from over a century passed the mission brief came into focus, for me any way. You see Hubert Burns spent his childhood in the mountains of Northeastern Oregon, in the same small mountain valley that I was born in, in 1966. I was raised 13 miles from Cove, Oregon in LaGrande, Oregon. Coincidence? I will have to let the reader decide for themselves.

    At the age of 23 he was engaged in combat for our nation on foreign soil. At the age of 23 I was leading a scout platoon with K troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd armored Cavalry Regiment in Desert Storm.

    To add a little more to the mix, his family migrated from Oregon to Utah to engage in mining activities including Gilsonite, where my family on my mother’s side migrated, leaving mining behind, from Utah to that small valley in Oregon around the same time.

    His mother Rebecca Fannie Burns attended the Gold Star Pilgrimage to visit his final resting place and received the medallion with the serial number 2923, that I found, onboard ship as it sailed to Europe in a formal ceremony.

    To say the task of locating family was daunting is an understatement. I reached out to one of the metal detecting groups I found on Facebook, Utah Metal Detecting and a member there, Brandy Reynolds. (Need Info) provided a link to documents online titled: A LIST OF MOTHERS AND WIDOWS OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS SAILORS AND MARINES ENTITLED TO MAKE A PILGRIMAGE TO THE WAR CEMETERIES IN EUROPE. https://digital.library.villanova.ed...577%2C2999&cv=

    Without Brandy’s assistance I don’t know if I would have ever made the link to the Burns family. Thank you, Brandy!!

    Through this list I identified one mother from Uintah County, Utah that requested a trip. In the official record, the County name is misspelled and her name is incorrect but her last name was correct.

    Armed with this information I reached out to Errol E. and Darlene Burns. As the former Public Affairs Officer for the Ashley National Forest, I had worked with Darlene when she served as a County Commissioner for Uintah County. Must be because we live in a small community that this fell into place, or was it? Again, I must let the reader decide.

    Armed with a telephone number, and the only thing to lose was sounding really strange leaving a message about a medallion from 1930, and a name that was hopefully a relative. I left the message in hopes that it would not be a dead-end.

    Several hours following my message I received an excited phone call from Darlene. The name I had was incorrect but lined up with the rest of the story about losing a son in the war and taking a trip. As fate would have it, Errol who is 87 years old is the grandson, and his sister, Ellen Burns Galley who is 90 years old is the granddaughter, of Rebecca Fannie Burns, who long ago traveled to France to visit the final resting place of Private Hubert Hyrum Burns, her eldest son.

    I was able to return the medallion to the grandson and granddaughter to remember the sacrifices their family has made for our nation, and the strength, courage and determination of a mother’s love to see the final resting place of her eldest son on foreign soil.

    As we talked about the parallels of our family personal histories the Burns family repeated to me again and again, that I was meant to find and return this medallion.

    All I can say is, Mrs. Rebecca Fannie Burns and Private Hubert Hyrum Burns, the mission has been completed. May your family, and all who have read this story, always remember your strength, courage, determination and sacrifice.

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  9. #9
    This such an amazing story!!! Thanks soooo much for sharing!!
    On Instagram- oxshoedrew

  10. #10
    Thank you! Thanks for taking the time to check t out!!

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