He was a typical boy of his generation: here one day and gone the next, swept into a war whose machinations he could not understand, killed by an enemy he could not see, buried in a place he could not pronounce.
Bothwell Bierce Kane was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1893, the only child of John and Garnet Kane.
The Kanes soon moved to Fort Worth, where John Kane owned a prosperous plumbing business. Notice that the family had two servants. One, an African-American male born in 1850, possibly was an ex-slave.
Bothwell attended high school at Culver Military Academy in Indiana (as did Samuel Benton Cantey Jr., son of early Fort Worth attorney Sam Cantey Sr.). Kane graduated in 1912 and attended the University of Texas, where he lettered in football.
Returning to Fort Worth, Kane worked for the Head, Teas real estate company. He was often mentioned in the society section of the Star-Telegram.
Soon after America declared war on Germany, Kane was admitted to the officers reserve corps training camp at Leon Springs in Bexar County.
From “somewhere in France” Kane wrote to his mother (father John had died in 1908), praising the spirit of British officers. Kane graduated at the top of his class in a British high-explosives school.
Amid the fighting near Rheims in July 1918 Kane cabled his mother that he was “well and happy.”
But on July 28—the day after the Star-Telegram printed that report from “well and happy” Bothwell Kane—he was dead, cut down by shrapnel from a German artillery shell as he led an assault on a machine gun nest.
He died eleven days short of his twenty-fifth birthday.
The Star-Telegram reported that Kane was the first Fort Worth officer to be killed in the war. Actually,
Second Lieutenant James Aubrey Cooper had been killed nine days earlier at Berzy Le Sec in France.
Before Kane had gone into battle, he had made a pact with Second Lieutenant Jack Rhodes, also of Fort Worth and a graduate of the Leon Springs training camp.
After Kane was killed, Rhodes honored that pact. He wrote to a friend in Fort Worth:
“I suppose you have heard about Bothwell Kane. I passed his position about an hour before he was killed, and on my way back they told me that he had been sent to the hospital seriously wounded. This terrible thing just about finished me, but I had to go ahead with my work, and that evening I found time to go to the hospital in the rear. They told me there that he died in the ambulance and where he was buried. I have located and marked his grave and took several pictures of it because we both agreed to do this if either of us got killed. I never had the pleasure of meeting his dear mother, but tell her for me that he died like a man and even though he was seriously wounded he still gave commands to his men before they carried him away. He was worshiped by his men and was one of the best liked officers in the regiment . . . all that I can say is that his death has been fully repaid in German blood.”
A few days later Kane’s mother received a letter from an Army chaplain: “He [Bothwell] lies buried in the rear garden of the residence of M. George Adolph Edouard Heberlins, No. 11 Avenue D’Essomes, Chateau-Thierry. With Lieutenant Rhodes I visited his grave again today. I saw the neighboring landowner, who assured me that Mr. Heberlins would carefully protect these graves as ‘the very least he could do.’”
Kane’s tombstone in Belleau Wood, France.
The Kane family plot in Oakwood Cemetery.
In 1919 American veterans of World War I organized the American Legion, a national network of veterans whose posts would honor veterans and lobby for veterans’ rights. Soon after, the first American Legion post in Tarrant County was organized and named for Bothwell Kane.
The Star-Telegram wrote that Tarrant County had more than eighteen hundred veterans at the time. By June 1919 the Bothwell Kane American Legion post had almost one thousand members. The post was soon the largest in Texas.
This full-page ad by the post welcomed General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during the war, when he visited Fort Worth in 1920.
As part of the post’s mission to honor veterans, in November 1940 the post entered a float in the Armistice Day parade. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library Star-Telegram Collection.)
And in 1943 the post and its women’s auxiliary sponsored Memorial Day services at the Doughboy Memorial in Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library Star-Telegram Collection.)
In 1967 the Bothwell Kane post moved into its first permanent home, formerly the site of Youngblood’s Fried Chicken on Hemphill Street.
The post apparently has disbanded, and the name of Bothwell Bierce Kane is largely forgotten now, but the American Legion post named in his honor served for more than seventy years, supporting veterans affairs into the new century, with its new wars and new veterans.
(Thanks to Donna Humphrey Donnell for the tip.)