It is fairly well known Jackson County has three Medal of Honor recipients – John Wollam, Donald Long, and James M. Compston – but a fourth has been found and although he is not from Jackson County, he has Wellston connections.
With Memorial Day just around the corner it seems appropriate to publish this story now.
Wellston native and a graduate of Wellston High School, Class of 1953, Mel Christian, has been interested in genealogy for many years and gets information about his family from the Christian Message Board which is seen around the world.
On one post, the name Herbert F. Christian came up as a Medal of Honor recipient and Christian got on the Internet, began searching for Herbert, worked through census records including births and deaths, and came to the conclusion he was, in fact a very distant cousin.
“I’ve been working on this about six years,” Christian told The Telegram. “There wasn’t much known about Herbert so I started from scratch. It’s taken that long to verify the information. I have learned not everything on the Internet is right.”
Based on what Christian has learned, Herbert’s father John and his brother James lived in Wellston from about 1900 to 1912. Herbert was born in 1912, but not in Wellston.
The family had moved to Byesville, near Cambridge in Guernsey County, where Herbert was born and that is where he grew up and where he is buried after his death in WW II action which took place June 2 and 3, 1944.
Herbert was a Private in the U.S. Army serving with Company E, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division when, according to the award report, he went “above and beyond the call of duty…and elected to sacrifice his life in order that his comrades might extricate themselves from an ambush.”
The battle was in Valmontone, Italy.
The report continues, “…although his right leg was severed above the knee by cannon fire, Private Christian advanced on his left knee and the bloody stump of his right thigh, firing his submachine gun.”
Christian’s actions allowed his comrades to withdraw and he was ultimately killed about 10 yards from the enemy’s position.
The award was presented posthumously to his son who is still alive today.
“We are called the Lawrence County Christians,” Mel said. “Our family followed the coal.” His father, Alexander, moved to Wellston in 1904. After graduation from WHS Mel moved south to work, but returned to Wellston in 2001 and married Paula who is pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, formerly the EUB Church, which is set to close in the near future.
“I don’t know what she will do now, but she works at My Brothers’ Place and I go with her and meet a lot of interesting people.”
In regards to his family research, he said, “The Internet is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it is scary what you can learn about people.”