On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. So, check back often for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1917
This will be a generally cloudy day with cool temperatures. Today’s high will reach 60° with the low tonight of 50°.
The funeral of George Eppley took place this morning. By 6:00am hundreds of mourners had gathered at the little house at 5116 Merion Avenue where the policeman’s body had laid in repose. Mr. Eppley was murdered by hired gunmen as part of the political power struggle between the Vare Brothers and Mayor Smith and the faction of state senator James McNichol and United States Senator Boies Penrose for control of the 5th Ward. As the door opened and the body of Mr. Eppley was brought out a hush fell over the crowd. The casket was followed by Mrs. Theresa Eppley, the policeman’s grief stricken, white-haired mother.
One hundred and twenty blue-coated policemen of the 29th District, which was were Mr. Eppley served, lined the street and acted as an honor guard for their fallen comrade. Six of those would also act as pallbearers. They were joined by over 100 detectives of the city’s vice squad. Led by the Police Band, the honor guard and mourners slowly walked to St. Gregory’s Catholic Church at 52nd & Lancaster Avenue for the funeral Mass. There thousands more had gathered to greet the procession.
Inside the church the pews and aisles were filled. Mourners who could not get inside stood on the steps of the church and down into the street. The church was filled with wreaths and flowers from friends, relatives and police organizations. One particularly poignant arrangement was a heart shaped array of blood red roses with the message “From your dear friend, Jennie”. These were from Miss Jennie Finnegan, the policeman’s sweetheart. She sat in the front pew, dressed in black, with the family of the deceased.
At one point during the ceremony emotion overtook all attending. Rev. Father Nicholas Travo, the priest celebrating the Mass said, ‘a great war is being fought abroad. Many heroes have died in Europe but there are heroes here who have also shed their blood. George Eppley was one.’ Then he stated “He saw his duty and he did not fail”. At that Mrs. Eppley broke down with grief. According to those who know her, the elderly woman has borne this loss with remarkable grace. Mrs. Eppley came here from Ireland as a young girl and brought with her the indomitable strength the Irish are known for in the face of tragedy. But now tears flowed and her shoulders heaved with sobbing. And at that sight most in the crowd also began to weep. Even the typically stone faced policemen were seen wiping their eyes with handkerchiefs.
When the Mass concluded the body was borne to a waiting hearse and the mourners proceeded to St. Denis Cemetery in Ardmore where George Eppley was laid to rest. The Mayor did not attend the funeral. However, it is doubtful judging from the faces and countenance of the mourners that he would have been welcome. The same can also be said of the brothers Vare, senator McNichol and Senator Penrose.
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