Profiles from the Archives: Warren C. McNeill

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Warren Carson McNeill was born on September 28, 1898, in Robeson County, N.C., to William (or Warren) Preston and Cora Gatsey McNeill. By 1900, the McNeill family was living in Lumberton, N.C., and William McNeill worked as a farmer. Warren’s father died on May 23, 1909, leaving his wife Cora to raise their five young children. By 1910, the McNeill family was living in their own house in Lumberton.

Nothing is known of Warren McNeill’s life prior to World War I. Warren enlisted in the U.S. Navy on January 6, 1917, with the rank of Apprentice Seaman at the Naval Recruiting Station in Richmond, Virginia. On April 6, 1917, McNeill was assigned to serve aboard the USS Louisiana (BB-19), a Connecticut-class battleship that had been part of the famous U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet years prior.

During the war, the Louisiana was stationed along the East Coast of the U.S., and used to train gunners and engine room personnel. Later in the war, it would be used to transport American troops home from France, with its first trip taking it to the port of Brest in January 1919. McNeill and his ship were stationed for a period of time in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Louisiana also spent time at the Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.

Warren McNeil served aboard the Louisiana through December 3, 1919, when he was honorable discharged from the Navy. McNeil reached the following ranks in order during his Navy career: Seaman Second Class; Seaman; Gunner’s Mate Third Class; Gunner’s Mate Second Class; and discharged with the rank of Gunner’s Mate First Class.

After his military service, Warren McNeill returned to live with his family in Lumberton, and went to work as a laborer in a shipyard in Wilmington, N.C. He married Frances Marsh Gibson—a native of Red Springs, N.C.—in 1927 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1930, McNeill and his wife were living in the town of Red Springs in Robeson County, N.C., where he was the manager of a dry cleaning company. He was still living in Red Springs in 1940, and owned a dry cleaning plant by then.

Warren C. McNeill died on February 19, 1977, in Robeson County, and was buried in the Alloway Cemetery in Red Springs, N.C.

You can learn more about McNeill's WWI service through the only records that document his Navy career--his photographs taken while he served aboard the Louisiana (found in the Warren C. McNeill Papers, WWI 140, WWI Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina). A selection of McNeill's photographs can be viewed online in the digital WWI collection through the North Carolina Digital Collections, a collaborative partnership between the State Library of North Carolina and the State Archives of North Carolina.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of N.C.’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of N.C.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of N.C. will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of N.C., and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.