Mrs. Kelly's Gold Star Mother Pilgrimage
Gold Star Mother Pilgrimage of Mrs. Carrie Kelly  
July - September, 1930

Private First Class Leo Francis Kelly

Compiled by Kenneth L. Thames


The Gold Star Mother

Gold Star Mothers you are waiting, Oh so patiently
To go across the ocean, your son's grave to see;
To place some lovely flowers and say a silent prayer
Will be such a comfort to you while kneeling over there.

You have had so many heartaches, no one knows what pain,
To see your sons go to war and not return again.
But God in all his mercy, His kindness and His love
Has taken every one who fell to His home above
And there up in Heaven's blue
Your boy is waiting just for you,
Little Gold Star Mother.


--Mrs. Mary Kessler

The Frisco Employee's Magazine, September, 1930


The Government of the United States
extends an invitation to
Mrs. Carrie Kelly
to make a pilgrimage to the
Cemetery in Europe where the remains of her
Son are now interred
Leaving New York on the
George Washington
July 23, 1930







In reply refer to QM 293 A-C



            Kelly, Leo F.    1232-M                                           April 4, 1930


            Mrs. Carrie Kelly

            Star Route,

            Palacios, Texas.


                        This letter, which contains general information regarding the

            Pilgrimage to the cemeteries of Europe, is being sent to each mother and

            widow who has expressed a desire to make the pilgrimage during the

            calendar year 1930.  The general plan for the conduct of the pilgrimage

            is shown in the Pilgrimage Regulations, a copy of which is enclosed here-

            with.  In addition to the information shown in the regulations, the

            following explains in detail some of the most important things connected

            with the pilgrimage.


                        Formal invitations are being extended to each mother and widow

            who has expressed a desire to make the pilgrimage during 1930.  In so

            far as practicable, these invitations are being extended with a view to

            keeping the women from each state together and the order in which the

            invitations to the women from the several states are issued is based on a

            drawing by lot which was held about one month ago.  Inclosed with each

            invitation is a card for acknowledgement and it is quite important that

            you accept or decline this invitation promptly in order that the neces-

            sary railroad, steamship and hotel reservations may be arranged.  The

            government will  defray all the necessary expenses of the pilgrimage,

            including railroad fare, hotel accommodations, steamship fare and all

            other incidental expenses.  It will not provide anything other than the

            necessary expenses so that you should bring with you such funds as you

            may desire to use for making small purchases and for other uses distinct-

            ly of a personal nature.


                        Arrangements have been made with the American Railroad

            Association which assures us the united support and cooperation of all of

            the railroads in the United States in handling the movement to and from

            New York City. The local ticket agent will secure your railroad and

            sleeper ticket and will make the necessary Pullman reservations.  Before

            your departure from your home we will mail you a check, sufficient to

            pay for your meals and other traveling expenses while enroute to New

            York.  Your railroad ticket will provide for a round trip from your home

            to New York and upon arrival in New York the army officer in charge of

            the New York office will collect the return trip stub and hold it until

            your return to New York from Europe.


                        Upon arrival in New York, you will be met by an army officer


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            and escorted to a first class hotel where reservations have been made.

            The duration of your stay in New York will be from 24 to 48 hours.  At

            the proper time, you will be escorted to the steamship upon which passage

            has been engaged for Europe.  All of the women making this trip will be

            provided with cabin class accommodations aboard steamers which means that

            from two to four will be quartered in the same stateroom.  If you have

            any friend that you would like to be quartered with we will endeavor to

            arrange it if you will communicate with this office.


                        The ocean voyage will last about 8 days and when the ship docks

            at Cherbourg, France, each party will be met by officers especially

            detailed for the purpose and taken in a special train to Paris where

            first class hotel accommodations have been reserved.  The first day in

            Paris will be a day of rest.  On the 2d day, the women of each party

            will place a wreath on the tomb of the French unknown soldier.  In the

            afternoon there will be a reception in which the French war mothers,

            government officials, and prominent civilians will participate.  The

            following morning the groups going to the different cemeteries will leave

            Paris, travelling in motor busses, and proceed to the cemeteries where

            they will remain for about 7 days.  Twenty-five women will be assigned

            to each bus and an army officer will have charge of the bus.  The

            itineraries to an from the cemeteries and the daily itineraries while at

            the cemeteries have been varied so as to take in points of historical

            interest as well as some parts of the battlefields where American troops

            were engaged.  Upon return to Paris, each party will remain for about

            5 days and during this time an opportunity will be given to see the points

            of historical interest in Paris and vicinity.  The entire duration of

            your stay in Europe will be 14 days, and the itineraries have been so

            arranged that each day will be provided for.  Except in case of illness

            or other unavoidable causes, it will not be possible for any woman making

            the pilgrimage to remain in Europe for a longer period than 14 days nor

            to leave the party with which she is travelling unless she is prepared to

            pay all of her expenses after leaving the party since the Act of Congress

            authorizing the pilgrimage specifically states that the government shall

            not pay the expenses of any woman who willfully leaves her party.


                        Upon return to the United States each ship will be met in New

            York City by army officers who will escort the mothers and widows to the

            trains which will take them home.  Before leaving New York each woman

            will be provided with her return railroad ticket, a sleeping car ticket

            and funds to cover the cost of meals and other traveling expenses.


                        Army officers are being used as guides and escorts throughout

            this entire movement and care has been taken to select officers who will

            see that proper care is taken of the women who are entrusted to their

            charge.  Arrangements have been made for taking care of women who may

            be taken sick during the pilgrimage and also to care for the remains of

            any who may die and provision has been made for returning the remains of

            any who may die to their homes.  It is essential that each woman making

           the pilgrimage furnish the Quartermaster General with an emergency address

            of some relative or friend to be notified in the event of an emergency.

            Medical care will be provided by civilian agencies.  If such care is

            needed in New York City it will be furnished by the hotel physicians or


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            by local hospitals.  Aboard ship, medical care will be provided by the

            ship’s doctors and in Paris arrangements have been made with the American

            Hospital for the hospitalization and treatment of any woman who may need

            it.  In addition to this, six doctors of the regular army will be on duty

            throughout the pilgrimage. 


            Baggage will be limited to not to exceed two pieces of hand baggage

            and the articles taken should be such as will be required for a trip of

            about one month.  Laundry service can be obtained in New York and Paris.

            Since the climate of Europe is much colder than that of the United States,

            each woman should provide herself with sufficient warm clothing to stand

            the motor bus trip and the visit to the cemeteries.


                        Since it is necessary for this office to make all reservations for

            your accommodations throughout this pilgrimage, it will be greatly appre-

            ciated if you will make prompt reply to any communications received from

            this office. 


                                    For The Quartermaster General:


                                                                                    Very truly yours,




                                                                                                   A. D. HUGHES

                                                                                              Captain, Q. M. Corps,



1 Enclosure.



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Mrs. Carrie Kelly of Palacios, Mother of Private First Class Leo Kelly, United States Army, World War I, was the only Gold Star Mother from Matagorda County to accept an invitation from the United States Government to make a pilgrimage to France to visit her son’s grave.


PFC Kelly was Killed In Action in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on September 29, 1918 and was buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery near Romagne-Sous-Montfaucon (Meuse), France.


Wear this Badge in a Conspicuous Place
While On The Pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage of Mothers and Widows Badge


Each of the 6,654 pilgrims who made the trip to France between 1930 and 1933 received by mail before she sailed, her official pilgrimage badge. The badge was to be worn at all times while on the trip to identify the person as a pilgrim, and as a person to whom carte blanche VIP service was to be provided. The badge consisted of a large bronze medallion suspended from a blue, white and red suspension ribbon.  The medallion had a gold star inside a circular logo containing the words “Pilgrimage of Mothers and Widows." Over crossed American flags above the inscription was an eagle, as found in the Great Seal of the United States, and below the inscription was oak and laurel leaves. The suspension ribbon was attached to a bronze colored metal bar where the woman’s name and state were engraved.


The government arranged for the women who wore this distinctive badge to be accorded VIP privileges on busses, trains, in taxi cabs, at hotels and restaurants and at every place she went, both in America and Europe.  



Identity Card issued to each mother or widow to
carry with her on the pilgrimage.


The bearer of this card, Mrs. CARRIE KELLY, is in France to visit the grave of her SON who lost his life in the World War. She is a member of the official Pilgrimage organized by the United States Government, called "GOLD STAR MOTHERS PILGRIMAGE". Her address in Paris is HOTEL AMBASSADOR, BOULEVARD HAUSSMANN. You are requested to give her aid or assistance if needed. In case of accident to the bearer of this card, please telephone to the number indicated above or conduct the bearer to the Commissariat de Police du Grand Palais.

RICHARD T. ELLIS, Colonel United States Army, Officer in charge.

[The information was repeated on the back of the card in French.]



Palacios Gold Star Mother to Visit France



Mrs. E. M. Kelly, of this city, a Gold Star Mother, is to be a guest of the Government for a trip to France, and will sail from New York July 23 on board the S. S. Washington. Mrs. Kelly is looking forward with great anticipation for the making of this trip. She will land at Cherbourg, France, and from there go to Paris. Then a visit to the cemeteries and the grave where her son, Leo F. Kelly is buried. She will also visit the battlefield where he was killed, by the explosion of a shell while delivering a message, as a member of the 128th [129th] Machine Battalion.


Mrs. Kelly expects to be gone six weeks or longer and plans to stop over at Topeka, Kans., enroute home, where she will meet her daughter, Miss Monica Kelly, who will visit relatives at St. Mary's Kansas, during her mother's absence.

The Palacios Beacon, June 19, 1930

B. C. Legion Aux. Honors Palacios Gold Star Mother


Mrs. E. M. Kelly was in Bay City Tuesday afternoon as an honor guest of the American Legion Auxiliary, Unit No. 11, at a reception held at the home of Mrs. E. E. Bond.


Mrs. Kelly is the only Gold Star Mother from Matagorda County who is to make the pilgrimage to France to visit the grave of a son. The Bay City Auxiliary desired to have a share in the pleasure of Mrs. Kelly's trip and presented her with a handsome traveling bag fitted up with toilet articles and accessories, handkerchiefs, and a sewing kit. Many were the wishes extended her for a happy voyage and requests that we keep them posted as to her travels by post cards. The occasion was a most eventful one for Mrs. Kelly and she returned with many fond remembrances of the day including a magnificent bouquet of pink carnations and varied colored gladiolas.


Mrs. Kelly was accompanied by Mrs. R. S. Starr, who thanked the ladies for their generous hospitality and gifts, as Mrs. Kelly was too overcome with joy to give expression of deep gratitude.

--The Palacios Beacon, July 3, 1930,  reprinted in The Daily Tribune, Saturday, July 5, 1930

Auxiliary Honors Only Gold Star Mother


In recognition of her position as Matagorda County's only Gold Star Mother, the American Legion Auxiliary tendered Mrs. Carrie Kelley [Kelly] of Palacios, a beautiful compliment Tuesday afternoon at the home of Mrs. E. E. Bond, taking the nature of a shower. Mrs. Kelley sails from New York on July 25 [23] as the guest of the government for a visit to her son's grave in the Argonne region, where he fell in action.


A number of interesting contests were held, followed by the presentation of the gifts from the auxiliary and individual members of the Legion post. The auxiliary as a unit gave Mrs. Kelley a handsome fitted bag, with numerous other individual gifts from members.


Punch and cake were served. Mrs. Bond being assisted in hostess duties by Mrs. Henry Huck and Mrs. S. A  Byars.

Those present for this charming party were Mesdames Vance Porter, C. J. Green, C. M. Amos, Wm. Ehlert, J. F. Doggett, S. A. Byars, W. S. Leslie, R. F. Anderson, Grant Potter, W. D. Williams, Mrs. Starr of Palacios, P. T. Lipscomb, J. L. Walters, Frank Kraft [Craft?], J. L. Hood, Mrs. Cherry. Misses Anita Hill, Shirley Carter and Mrs. Ed C. Anderson.


The Daily Tribune, Saturday, July 5, 1930

[Note: Matagorda County had other Gold Star Mothers, but Mrs. Kelly was one of two eligible to make the pilgrimage and the only mother who did.]



A number of friends of Mrs. E. M. Kelly met at the home of Mrs. R. S. Starr Wednesday evening, to tender her a bon voyage party. The affair came as quite a surprise to the honoree, who, with her husband, had been invited over to the Starr home for evening chat, but was none the less enjoyed and a most happy one for all. Refreshments of ice cream and angel food cake were served. Those present to wish Mrs. Kelly a most enjoyable trip were: Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Greenwood, Mrs. Willis, Mrs. S. H. Moore, Mrs. Webster, Miss Smith and Mrs. Starr.


Mrs. Kelly leaves Friday noon for Houston and from there will go to New York, from which place she sails July 23, on board the S. S. Washington for Cherbourg, France. She, with other Gold Star Mothers, will be entertained in Paris and from there go to the cemeteries where their sons were buried and other places of interest. Mrs. Kelly is anticipating a wonderful trip and promises to keep her friends posted as to many of her stopovers.


The Palacios Beacon, Thursday, July 17, 1930

So. Texas Mothers Leave for Graves in Flanders Fields


"Our boys were not afraid. They were not afraid of the water, nor sea-sickness, nor of death--they expected that. Why should we be afraid?"

"Our boys were not afraid. They were not afraid of the water, nor sea-sickness, nor of death--they expected that. Why should we be afraid?" asked Mrs. Carrie Kelly of Palacios, Gold Star war mother, who was entrained at the Union station Friday night with a group of South Texas mothers on the first lap of their long pilgrimage to the graves of their hero sons in France.


Mrs. Kelly voiced the sentiment of the group, which included seven mothers from Houston and one from Aransas Pass. These included Mrs. R. B. Klement, Mrs. Wilhelmina Kuhlman, Mrs. Annie Green, Mrs. Bessie Snodgrass, Mrs. M. P. Miller, and Mrs. Sylvia Thomas, all of Houston, and Mrs. Ellen Cheaney of Aransas Pass.

Mrs. Mary Palmer will leave Saturday for New York where she will join the Houston group, and Mrs. Carrie Pitts, who left Wednesday, also will join the group when they sail July 23 on the government ship, the George Washington, for France.


Besides a large group of relatives and friends, officials of the state and local American Legion auxiliaries were at the station to bid the mothers bon voyage.


Obvious courage and a light-hearted spirit pervaded the little group of Gold Star mothers as they met for the first time and look forward to the two months trek of sacred sentiment together.


Mrs. Cheaney of Aransas Pass will be 82 years of age next Christmas, but is keenly anticipating the trip. Mrs. Kelly expects to clip "red tape" and obtain Leo Francis Kelly's citation for bravery under fire. The boy, a member of the 129th machine gun battalion was killed instantly when hit by a high explosive shell while carrying a message regarding the advance of the Hindenburg line.

The trip to France will last two months. Thomas Dismukes Post No. 52 auxiliary is now planning a reception and dinner for the group upon their return, at which time the mothers will tell of their experiences in France.--Houston Post Dispatch.


The Palacios Beacon, Thursday, July 24 1930


Gold Star Mothers Numbering 248

Nine passenger vessels will leave today for Europe and the South. Crossing the Atlantic on the George Washington are 248 Gold Star Mothers.


abstracted from the New York Times, July 23, 1930


In researching Mrs. Kelly’s pilgrimage to France we were able to locate her government file tucked away in her son’s decedent affairs file. Within this file was a type written itinerary of her trip labeled “Party “M” – Itinerary – Meuse-Argonne Group.”  From this itinerary we have constructed a "picture" story of her visit to France using vintage postcards.  We have collected these postcards from ephemera dealers all over the United States and from Canada, Israel, Peru, Portugal, Hungary, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay Germany, France and the Netherlands. In some places we have had to fill in with a most probable picture, i.e. “Morning Free”, to continue the story.  Due to the rigors of the trip, Mrs. Kelly may have taken her free mornings/afternoons and simply rested at the hotel.

This is a work of fiction. There was a real Mrs. Carrie Kelly from Palacios, Texas whose son PFC Leo F. Kelly was Killed In Action in WWI in France. Mrs. Kelly was the only Gold Star Mother from Matagorda County to make the Gold Star Pilgrimage to France in 1930. No personal record has been found of her journey. In her Gold Star file an itinerary was found and was utilized to construct a photographic journey of her trip. Any comments implied to be made by Mrs. Kelly were created by Ken Thames to provide a story to accompany the pictures. These attributed comments were developed from information derived from various research resources, and drawn from experiences Ken had while on vacation in France. At no time was there an intent to malign Mrs. Kelly or her family.

Special thanks to the following people who graciously granted permission to use their work, searched archives for needed items and scanned photos for use on Mrs. Kelly's page.

Dr. Lisa Budreau, author, Mourning and the Making of a Nation
George Cuhaj, author, Gold Star Mothers--Their Voyages and their Medals
Shannon E. Bowen, researcher, University of Wyoming American Heritage Center
Chris Killally, researcher, National Archives, Washington, D. C.
Sharon Culley, researcher, Still Picture Reference, National Archives, College Park, Maryland
Russell T. Parmerter, maritime artist, painting of USS Republic
William Loocke, Wharton County [Texas] Historical Commission, Palacios depot and train photos
Palacios Library, Inc., providing Beacon microfilm
Bay City Public Library, providing Daily Tribune microfilm
Marilynne Ocando & Brenda Iraola, photograph of Group M at the Tomb of the Unknown in Paris

Palacios to New York City

Sailing to France

Cherbourg to Paris

Journey to the Cemetery

Visiting Leo's Grave at Meuse-Argonne Cemetery

Returning to Paris

Paris Again

Returning Home

Continue the Journey


Copyright 2008 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Dec. 1, 2008
Jan. 9, 2009