Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Tribute paid Palouse soldier under park gate with his name


July 18, 2019

Carl Osborne

Carl Osborne, Potlatch VFW member, plays Taps to conclude Sunday's 100-year observance at the Palouse park.

The ultimate sacrifice Lester Dean Hayton made for his country 101 years ago was detailed by Brad Pearce of Palouse on Sunday beneath the gateway entrance for Hayton-Greene Park in Palouse. Hayton died in action in France, probably on the first day of the counter offense against German troops.

Hayton's fate after he officially went over the top of the trenches in the big counter offense July 18, 1918, wasn't known until almost a year later when he was officially designated as missing in action in the battle of Chateau-Thierry.

The official announcement July 11, 1919, ended a year of hope and anguish for his parents who had been awaiting word of his fate. Months earlier they had received an erroneous report that their son had been injured, probably in the first day of the battle.

Pearce Sunday at the start of the ceremony noted Jacob and Samantha Hayton and their family were relative newcomers to Palouse when the war broke out in Europe. They moved to Palouse from Milton, Ore., and developed a farm close to town.

Lester, who was active in his church and town, was one of the first young men to answer the call when the United States decided to enter the war which had been waged between Germany and the allies since the summer of 1914.

Hayton was a member of the General Pershing's American Expeditionary Force.

Pearce said the Germans had advanced to within 37 miles of Paris, and the July 18 counter offensive would be the first action for American troops.

During the counter offensive, Hayton was with soldiers who penetrated the German lines, but then found themselves behind the enemy as the Germans countered.

The next day Hayton was among soldiers listed as unaccounted for, probably the results of a roll call muster the following day.

The Haytons had two other sons, William and Ernest, who served in the Navy during the war and returned.

With their three sons in uniform, the Haytons lacked enough manpower to operate their farm. They sold out and moved to Clarkston. The report in the Palouse Republic noted they had made many improvements on the farm and it sold for a top dollar price at $125 per acre.

Pearce noted the final word on Lester's fate, issued July 11, 1919, was reported in the July 18, 1919 edition of the Palouse Republic.

Lester Hayton

Lester Hayton

The arch honoring Hayton and William Greene, a Palouse soldier who died of illness, possibly the Spanish Flu, in England, was dedicated by the Palouse Round Table Club at the park in summer of 1927.

Hayton's name is also among those listed among the missing at the Aisne-Marne Memorial Cemetery in France.

A marker with Hayton's name is located over an empty grave site next to the graves of his parents in the Clarkston cemetery.

Hayton's name was also used as the post title for the the now dormant Palouse American Legion.

Kenny Alsterlund, former commander of the Idaho VFW, and Tim Sievers gave tributes to Hayton at the Sunday ceremony, and brothers Cody and Ian Wendt of Moscow sang folk songs, including one original, related the chapter in American History 100 years ago.

Potlatch VFW honor guard fired a tribute and Carl Osborne played Taps.


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