The Boal Mansion along Route 322 attracts visitors from around the country. But when the United States became entrenched in World War I, the now-historic site served as the birthplace of "The Boal Troop," a volunteer militia group, and a training ground for battle.
There is some fascinating history behind the Boal Mansion and the 28th Division and its worth revisiting as we observe Memorial Day, in honor of those who've made the ultimate sacrifice.
Theodore Boal, born in Iowa City, IA, in 1867, moved his family to a farm in Central Pennsylvania in 1898. By 1914, war had broken out in Europe. The United States was still neutral at the time, but Boal still made contributions. According to Pennsylvania Military Museum Educator Joe Horvath, Boal and his son volunteered for military service in France.
When he came home, Boal prepared for the United State's entry into The Great War. He began forming what would be a horse-mounted machine gun troop, a unit needed by the Pennsylvania National Guard.
In May 1916, the troop met for the first time, on the grounds of the Boal Mansion. Soon after, construction of Camp Boal began. A mock front line trench was built on the mansion grounds to train soldiers. The training ground is located on land that runs along Business Route 322 in front of the military museum.
Boal provided rations, horses, uniforms other provisions and the unit reached 78 men.
According to Horvath, many members of the militia unit were Penn State faculty, employees and students.
When the State Adjudant General and U.S. Army Regulars deemed the volunteer militia unit fit for battle and by the time they left for war, and with 172 men in its ranks, The Boal Troop joined the 28th Machine Gun Battalion. The unit was renamed Company A of the 107th Machine Gun Battalion.
When the war finally ended on Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1918, 12 men from Company A had been killed in battle, Horvath said, and the division reunited at Camp Boal to honor the soldiers who had given their lives. They dedicated a monument and a plaque that said, "This simple stone cross, found broken in the debris of an obliterated French village, through which our troops passed, is erected to the memory of Hayes M. Wilson, Bromley R. Smith, Eugene R. Davis, Michael A. Miller, Donald J. Hile, Arthur Monroe, Ralph I. Dunlap, Claude K. Kahle, William C. Conway, Lewis Crosovalt, James Thorp, George Simcox. They died in France for liberty," according to Museum history.
Camp Boal lasted as a training site through the 1930s but was closed when the troop disbanded in 1936. Boal, who had been promoted before the war, died in 1938.
The Twenty-Eighth Division National Shrine is located at the Pennsylvania Military Museum, on Business 322 in Boalsburg which is three miles east of State College. For more information, visit www.phmc.state.pa.us or phone (814) 466-6263.
For information on the 28th Division Association see 28thinfantrydivisionassoc.org.