Mathew B. Juan – Native American Hero of World War I

Curiousity Aroused by Soldier's Name on a Monument in a Park

Sitting in the center of the dusty little Arizona town of Sacaton is a small park with a monument to its war dead. Little parks with monuments to those from the town who gave their lives in past wars are not uncommon in the small towns of rural America.

As one approaches the park, the large, bold letters on the monument makes it clear that this park is a memorial to those who fought and gave their lives for us. However the name, Matthew B. Juan - Ira H. Hayes Veterans Memorial Park, immediately raises the question of who was Matthew B. Juan?

Many people recognize, especially since the movie Flags of Our Fathers and book of the same name, the name Ira Hayes as belonging to one of the six U.S. Marines and sailors who raised the flag atop Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. However, the name Matthew B. Juan rings no bell in the minds of most people.

Mathew B. Juan Monument in Sacaton, Arizona
Mathew B. Juan Monument in Sacaton, Arizona | Source
Inscription on Juan Monument
Inscription on Juan Monument | Source

A Simple Plaque on a Stone Monument

Looking at the plaque on the simple stone monument that stands a few feet away from the much larger monument commemorating Ira Hayes and the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, one reads the following:

Dedicated

to the Memory of

MATHEW B. JUAN

Co, K 28th Infantry

First Arizonan

Killed in the

World War

Battle of Cantingy

May 28, 1918

Erected by

American Legion

and Auxiliary

Department of Arizona

1928

While the plaque tells us how Matthew Juan came to rate a monument in this little town, space prevents it from telling his story and thus letting know Matthew Juan the man rather than simply Matthew Juan the battle casualty.

Park Honoring Mathew B. Juan in Sacaton, AZ

A markerMatthew B. Juan - Ira Hayes Veterans Memorial Park -
Sacaton-Casa Blanca Rd, Sacaton, AZ 85247, USA
[get directions]

Location of the park in the center of the town of Sacaton, Arizona in which the Memorial Marker honoring Mathew B. Juan is located.

Question of Birth Date Plays a Big Role in the Mystery in this Hero's Life

Mathew* B. Juan was a Native American born into the Pima tribe on the Gila River Indian Community reservation. The Gila River Indian Community is made up of two related tribes, the Pima (Akimel O'odham) and Maricopa (Pee-Posh).

According to his military Draft Registration Card , Mathew Juan was born on April 22, 1892, while other accounts of his life list him as having been born in 1895 or 1896.

As will be seen below, the question as to when Matthew Juan was born is at the center of a mystery that, to this day, still surrounds Matthew Juan's life story. Since the Arizona Territory (Arizona did not become a state until February 14, 1912) did not require the civil registration of births, there is no known public record of the date of his birth.

Matthew Juan was born in or near Sacaton, Arizona and grew up in that town with his parents, Joseph and Mary Juan. He appears to have had at least two brothers and a sister.

The brothers were Antone who had the honor of unveiling the monument to Matthew in Sacaton on Memorial Day 1928 and Siply (or Sibley) who, along with their mother Mary, appears to have died in an auto accident in January 1928.

Grave records indicate that Sibley was born in 1886 which means that Matthew would have been a younger or possibly the youngest child in the family. Interestingly, their mother, Mary's, middle initial was B and Mathew and his two brothers had B for their middle initial.

When he signed his Draft Registration Card, Mathew wrote his middle name as Ben, however, since he was using the assumed surname of Rivers it is difficult to tell whether the B in his name stood for Ben or Benjamin or whether that was made up as well.

Mathew B Juan - Ira Hayes Memorial Park
Mathew B Juan - Ira Hayes Memorial Park | Source

Mathew Juan's Early Life and Education

At some point in his young life, Mathew moved to Riverside, California where he was enrolled in the Sherman Institute.

The Sherman Institute opened as a high school for California Indians in 1902. Like its predecessor institution, the Perris Indian School, it was a boarding school run by the Federal Government for Indians.

Since it is a high school specializing in agricultural studies some sources, like WikiPedia,appear to have assumed that Mathew attended and graduated high school at the Institute.

However, in an article on page 14 of the May 2008 issue of the Gila River Indian News (to go directly to Mr. Gall's article rather than the entire issue, click here) author Gerald Gall claims that Mathew studied agriculture at the Sherman Institute and then returned to the reservation in Arizona and worked in their experimental farm for the next three years with no mention of his having graduated from the Institute.

Since the Perris Indian School had children as young as five and as old as twenty it is possible that the Sherman Institute, as the successor school, also taught younger grades and that Mathew attended for part of grade school as well as possibly a year or so of high school.

Mathew also must have either shown some real promise or his family must have had some connection to California tribes for him to be sent to a school that billed itself as a school for children from California Indian tribes.

The Sherman Institute itself continues to this day as a highly regarded Native American boarding school.

Mathew Joins the Circus then Takes a New Name and Joins the War

Gerald Gall, in the article cited above, states that upon his return from California, Mathew spent the next three years working at the experimental farm on the reservation as well as making a name for himself in local sports including rodeo.

In September of 1917 he attended the Ringling Brothers Circus which was performing in Phoenix. Infatuated with the performance, he immediately sought out the manager and got a job with the circus. When the show left Phoenix, Mathew was one of the workers who left with it.

A little over two months later in Wichita County, Texas, on November 26, 1917 Mathew registered for the Draft and this is where mystery enters his life

According to WikiPedia, Mathew left the circus and joined the Army in San Antonio Texas, which is located in Bexar county in the southern part of the state, while, according to Gerald Gall's article, he was traveling with the circus somewhere in Texas when he left to join the Army.

However, according to his Draft Registration Card he registered for the Draft in Wichita County which is on the northern border of Texas some 380 or more miles from San Antonio. Further, he indicated on the registration that he was an unemployed laborer.

Of course, the big question on his draft registration was his last name, which he gave as Rivers rather than Juan.

Small Cemetery on grounds of Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church where Mathew Juan is buried.
Small Cemetery on grounds of Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church where Mathew Juan is buried. | Source

Mystery of Mathew Juan's Name Change

All accounts that I have found state that Mathew Juan used Rivers as his last name because he was too young to join the military at that time. This may be true and his reason for using a different last name and stating that he was unemployed may have been to prevent the authorities from checking his age with his employer.

The Gerald Gall article, which is the most complete secondary source that I have found to date, states that Matthew attended the Sherman Institute where he studied agriculture and then returned home where he worked for three years on the reservation's experimental farm.

During this three year period, according to Gall, he was active in sports, including rodeo events, and won honors and prizes in all of these sports. He was more than likely close to or over eighteen at the time he joined the Army.

Further, on his Draft Registration Card he gave his age as 25 which was seven years older than the minimum age for enlistment. Given the sparse information requested on the Draft Registration Card, the military's need to fill the ranks quickly, and the lack of good public records there was not much chance that he would have been caught by giving his correct last name.

There was probably a greater chance of raising suspicions by exaggerating his age by seven or more years than by giving his correct last name and, if he looked 25 years old, he probably was not under eighteen.

Also, according to Gerald Gall, right after enlisting, Mathew sent a postcard to his family announcing that he had joined the Army. The normal assumption for using an assumed name in this case would be to prevent one's parents from finding out about the enlistment and contacting the authorities to have the young man discharged and sent home.

But Mathew not only told them that he had enlisted but they probably also knew that he used the name Rivers when joining, otherwise how else would they have been able to 1) know that he had been killed, and 2) after the war to request that the authorities exhume the body of their son Mathew B. Rivers so he could be laid to rest on his home soil?

The World War I Military Draft

Some of the confusion here may be due to the fact that the Selective Service Act that was passed on May 18, 1917 called for the draft to be done in three stages with the first stage requiring all men between 21 and 31 years of age as of June 5, 1917 to register.

The second stage, which started on June 5, 1918 required all men who attained the age of 21 after June 5, 1917 to register.

It was not until the third stage, which started on September 12, 1918, that all men between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register. I

t should be noted that registering for the draft and being called to duty in the military were two different things. This was a Selective Service System, as opposed to a Universal Service, System. Registering merely made one available to be selected.

This information about ages and dates for the draft is easy to find on the Internet. What is not easy, is finding the minimum age for voluntary enlistment. In fact the closest I came to finding 18 years of age as being the minimum was a copy of a 1917 U.S. Army Recruiting poster calling for young men between the ages of 18 and 21 to volunteer to join the Army.

It should be noted that, regardless of his age, Matthew B. Juan was more than likely exempt from both registering for the draft and from serving in the military. Because he was a Native American, he was probably exempt from military duty (there were some tribes whose members were not exempt but these tribes appear to be located mostly in the East and Midwest).

This exemption from military duty was not due to any special treatment for Native Americans, but rather the refusal of Congress and the American people to recognize most of the native Indian population as American citizens.

It wasn't until June 2, 1924, six years after Mathew Juan died on foreign soil fighting for the United States, that Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act which granted full citizenship rights to Native Americans (since voting was regulated by the states, many Native Americans were not allowed to vote until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which guaranteed all citizens the right to vote).

Mathew and/or the person registering him for the draft were apparently not aware that Indians were not citizens as, on line 4 of the registration, he is listed as being a natural-born citizen (a term used at the time to indicate citizenship by birth rather than through naturalization) and then in line 10 of the registration card he listed his race as Indian.

Of course citizenship has never been a requirement for military service (other than officers) and the World War I registration cards provided options to be listed as an alien as well as be listed as one intending to register for citizenship (even today, serving in the Armed Forces of the United States can be a short cut to citizenship).

Mathew Survives the Sinking of his Troopship the SS Tuscania

Whatever his reasons for assuming the name Rivers, Mathew Juan soon joined the Army and was assigned to either Camp Travis Texas or Fort Sill in Oklahoma (accounts differ) for his basic training.

Following his training, he and his unit shipped out to Hoboken, New Jersey where, they boarded the British Cunard Liner the SS Tuscania, a pre-War ocean liner that had been pressed into service as a troop ship for the war, at Pier 54.

Pier 54 was the same berth from which the RMS Lusitania had departed less than three years before on a voyage that ended with her being sunk by a German torpedo. Since there were many Americans on board, the sinking of the Lusitania became a factor, along with the Zimmerman Telegram, in our entering the War in 1917.

On January 24, 1918 the SS Tuscania departed for Halifax, Nova Scotia where it joined up with the British Cruiser the HMS Cochrane, an oil tanker and nine other merchant ships that were now being used as troop ships to form a convoy that would traverse the North Atlantic together trying to avoid German U Boats, lurking beneath the surface.

The destination was Le Harve, France where the troops planned to disembark and join the war that was raging on the European Continent.

The Atlantic crossing was successful and on the morning of February 4th as they approached the west coast of Ireland the HMS Cochrane was joined by eight sister Royal Navy Cruisers who would help escort the convoy through the U Boat infested waters surrounding the British Isles.

In the evening of February 5th at 5:42 p.m., while sailing between Ireland and Scotland, a torpedo, fired at close range, from German U Boat UB-77 hit the Tuscania.

As the rest of the convoy beat a hasty retreat from the area as per standing orders, the crew of the Tuscania began dropping lifeboats and evacuating the 2,179 troops and crew while a couple of the British warships began picking them up as they fled the ship.

Killed by Machine Gun Fire at the Battle of Cantigny

Along with most of his fellow soldiers, Mathew Rivers/Juan survived unscathed and soon resumed the journey to Le Harve.

In Le Harve he was assigned to the 28th Infantry of the U.S. Army's First Division, The Big Red One.

The unit was organized in 1917 and nicknamed The Big Red One because of the red "1" on the unit's shoulder patch - The Big Red One is also the name of a 1980 war film which stared Lee Marvin and was about the First Division.

American troops had been in France providing fighting support to our British and French allies since their arrival following the U.S. entry into the war.

However, it wasn't until May 28, 1918 that the U.S. Army launched its first major offensive in the war by attacking and capturing the French village of Cantigny which had been occupied and fortified by the Germans.

This battle was a victory for the American Army. I

It was also during this battle that Private Mathew Rivers/Juan was fatally struck by machine gun fire causing him to exit this life and enter into the history books as the first Native American and first Arizona casualty of the war.

He was buried in France following the battle.

Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sacaton, Arizona - Site of World War I hero Mathew Juan's Funeral on April 9, 1921
Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sacaton, Arizona - Site of World War I hero Mathew Juan's Funeral on April 9, 1921 | Source

A Hero's Burial for Mathew Rivers Followed by a Monument for Mathew Juan

Following the war the U.S. government gave the families of those who had given their lives while fighting in Europe the choice of leaving their sons and husbands to rest in American military cemeteries in Europe where they had fallen, or having them exhumed and brought home for burial in the United States. Mathew Juan's family, like thousands of others, opted to have their son brought home for burial in Sacaton.

The body of Mathew Rivers/Juan crossed the Atlantic a second time, on this trip leaving France and sailing to Hoboken, New Jersey and then overland to the Fisher Funeral Home in Casa Grande, the county seat of Pinal County and just a few miles from Sacaton.

On Saturday April 9, 1921 an honor guard from a Casa Grande American Legion Post escorted the body to Sacaton. The Rev. D.A. Lay of the Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church along with six native pall bearers and a church chorus went out from Sacaton, met the procession part way and joined it.

Over 1,000 people from all over the reservation came to pay their respects and Governor Thomas Campbell of Arizona sent the Adjunct General of the National Guard to attend as his personal representative (other business prevented him from attending) along with a letter to be read on his behalf for the family.

The war was over and Mathew Juan was dead, however, nowhere in the Friday April 15, 1921 issue of the Casa Grande Valley Dispatch (the local weekly newspaper published in nearby Casa Grande) is there any mention of Mathew Juan or any of his family members by name. He is referred to as Mathew Rivers and his family as the family of Mathew Rivers.

However, by 1928 both accounts in the Casa Grande Valley Dispatch of the unveiling of the monument to Mathew B. Juan, make no mention of Juan having served under the name of Rivers and make no mention of the name Rivers at all.

In the 1928 accounts the Reverend Dirk Lay, the same Rev. D.A. Lay who presided over Juan's 1921 funeral in Sacaton, is referred to as an intimate friend of Mathew Juan, who will recount the life and biography of the war hero.

There is also no mention of Mathew Juan having joined the circus or of having been underage when he joined the Army. They just state that he was in Texas when he joined.

The fact that there appears to be some mystery and unanswered questions surrounding the circumstances of Mathew Juan's entry into the military in no way detracts from the fact that he served his country courageously in time of war and gave his life defending the cause for which America was fighting.

His actions are even more admirable given the fact that his country did not legally recognize him as one of its citizens and therefore did not expect or require him to fight. Thus, despite his secrets, he is a genuine hero and deserving of the honors he has received posthumously and it is hoped that even though nine decades have elapsed since he received that fatal wound on the battlefield in France that we will be able to remember more about him than the few lines that appear on a monument in a park in his hometown of Sacaton, Arizona.

*NOTE: as is common with names that have more than one spelling, the spelling of Mathew Juan's first name is spelled in some records with two tees and other with one tee. In fact, if you look closely at the pictures of the plaque on his monument and the name of the park you will see that the plaque refers to him as Mathew (one t) B. Juan while a few feet away the name of the park is Matthew (two t's) presented as B. Juan - Ira Hayes Veterans Memorial Park. A close examination of the digital copy of his Military Draft Registration Card has his name spelled as Matthew (two tees) on the name line at the top but where he signed at the bottom his name appears as Mathew (one t) indicating that he and his family may have spelled it with one t while others used the more common spelling with two tees.

Tomb of WW I Hero, Mathew Juan is decorated with new wreath  on grounds of abandoned  Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sacaton, AZ
Tomb of WW I Hero, Mathew Juan is decorated with new wreath on grounds of abandoned Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sacaton, AZ | Source
Headstone of WW I Hero Mathew Juan in small cemetery next to Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sacaton, Arizona
Headstone of WW I Hero Mathew Juan in small cemetery next to Cook Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sacaton, Arizona | Source

© 2008 Chuck Nugent

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Comments 13 comments

Chuck profile image

Chuck 5 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

alaina - thank you for visiting and for your comment. I did mention in the first section of this Hub that the park where I found the monument is the Mathew B. Juan - Ira Hayes Memorial Park. It should also be noted that while the name of the park, which is in the city of Sacaton which is the capital of the Gila River Indian Community, remains the Mathew B. Juan - Ira Hayes Memorial Park the city has since added memorials to additional Native Americans who have given their lives in recent wars.

Thanks again.


alaina 5 years ago

In the frist pic that is at a park in the GILA RIVER RESERVATION in az and it has 2 hero not just one mattew b.juan and ira h.hayes how i know that is that i live there


Chad A Taylor profile image

Chad A Taylor 7 years ago from Somewhere in Seattle...

What a valuable tribute to a fallen warrior...


Steve 8 years ago

I just wrote an iquiry to the Parks Dept about "Jim Rivers" his name does not appear in the "Soldiers of the Great War" the list of casualties, the only surname of Rivers for Arizona listed is Mathew's. My source that told me that Mathew was the first native American killed in WWI comes from these two sources:

1) Funeral Record http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~azpinal/funeralr...

2) Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_B._Juan


Chuck profile image

Chuck 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

Steve, Thanks for the additional comments and information. I am going to leave the comments visible as they do add to the information I posted in the Hub and others may not only find it useful but also come forward with additional information.

Thanks for the link to the Gila River Indian Reservation article. This is the Gerald Gall article that I referred to in the Hub article above and tried to link to. Unfortunately, when I originally published the Hub the only source I had for the article was the entire electronic version of the May 2008 newsletter in which Mr. Gall's article appeared so I had to include instructions with the link to click on the link and then go to page 14 for the article. As I said in my article, Mr. Gall's article is the most complete account of Mathew Juan's life I have found to date. However, when I was researching my article the May newsletter had apparently just been published and the search engines had not yet picked up that article so I did not find until the end of my search. On the one hand it was a little disheartening to find that everything that I had been digging for piece by piece, was now available in a single, very interesting and well written article. But on the other hand, it convinced me that I had, like Mr. Gall, probably had found all of the readily available sources of information about Mathew Juan and would have to explore other avenues to learn more. I have replaced my link to the May 28 issue of the Gila River Indian News containing the article with the direct link to the article itself which you gave in your comments above. Thanks for that.

One of the avenues I am exploring is whether or not there was a real person by the name of Mathew Ben Rivers who was either a friend or possibly a relative on Mathew Juan's mother's side of the family. It is interesting that Mathew, his mother, and both of his brothers all had 'B' for their middle initial and references to them in print almost always include the 'B'. This suggests a family connection on his mother's side. During the Civil War it was possible to have someone come forward, either voluntarily or paid to do so (I believe the going rate was $300), to take the place of someone who was drafted. I have never heard of this being done in World War I but, given the relative lack of records establishing identity, it might not have been that difficult for someone to stand in for a cousin or friend in the draft. That might explain his registering for the draft first rather than simply enlisting directly. Then again, it might not be the reason for using Rivers as his last name. He did give his correct address on his draft registration application and apparently gave his correct address and family contact information to the Army as a May 27, 1918 article entitled "American Casualties Now Past 10,000 Mark; Day's Lists Give 91 in Army, 50 in Marines" on page 5 of that day's issue of the New York Times in the first column under the subtitle "Privates." lists "RIVERS, MATHEW B.; Mrs. Mary B. Juan, Sacaton, Ariz." as one of the casualties and his next of kin.

I have seen a Mathew B. Juan American Legion Post listed as one of the greater Phoenix area American Legion posts as well as the Ira Hayes Post in Sacaton, AZ. I will check to see if the names of either was previously known as the "Mathew Rivers Post". Also, I did run across a claim that the World War II Japanese Relocation Camp located about 10 miles west of Sacaton, AZ on the Gila River Indian Reservation was named "'Rivers' after Jim Rivers after the first Pima Indian killed in World War I" according to "Arizona: A Geography" by Malcolm L Comeaux( pub 1981 ISBN 089158563X which is available in limited view on Google Books). I have also run across the same claim on a National Park website but can't find any other references to a "Jim Rivers" in the area. Apparently, Mathew Juan was still known as Rivers in some circles as late as World War II.

Thanks again and I will contact you by email at the link on your site.

Chuck Nugent


Steve 8 years ago

Chuck one more comment, as to the question of Mathew's birthdate. I think that the Funeral Record kind of threw everyone for a loop, stating that he was too young to enlist and so he changed his name etc. I believe now that this too must have been false information. Looking at the 1910 census that is dated May 11, 1910 it states that mathew was 19, there would have been no reason for his age on this document to be false. Doing the math that places the birth year at 1891 while his draft registration, in which he filled out states 1892. I think when I put up these two documents, I now tend to believe that the birthdate on the draft registration is correct, and that the suggestion that he changed his name in order to enlist because of his age is a false statement. I do not believe that the Military had anything to do with him changine his name to Rivers, and I have a hunch that he may have changed his name prior to 1917. Its possible that he may have used Rivers as a business or Associate name, while still using Juan to family and friends, just a hunch though no proof to back that up.


Steve 8 years ago

http://gilariver.org/index.php/news/28-may-2008-gr...

The Gila Indian Reservation also had this article too from the Ira Hayes American Legion Post, which I believe was the Mathew Rivers Post prior to WWII


Steve Schwartz 8 years ago

Chuck, yes Mathew and a few other's whom were on the Tuscania have been a bit difficult to focus on either because of name changes, or lack of paper trail. Now that you mention it, it does appear that the funeral home document must have been in error. Your article mentioned the parents name, names I didn't have before, usieng this information I was able to find Joseph's family in the 1910 census using Hertige Quest, whereas Mathew is the only child listed. Sometime next week I will look his name up in Ancestry at our local library and see if I can't find a 1900 census on that family. I try and pofile all the soldiers that were on the Tuscania. I began on Mathew some time back, not having any prior knowledge of this man, the information as you say became interesting. Rest assure there will be web links to your page from my web page, or rather Mathew's page on my site to your's shortly. Your pages as I stated was splendily researched, I know it was time consuming, and well done.

I wrote to the Pima Indian Reservation a couple of times, a couple of years ago to see if I could spark some communications about this man, to see if I could learn from them more about this man, but in both instances, I never received any reply. I have noticed this year that the Gila Indian Reseravation web page placed an article about Mathew on their web site for Memorial day - http://www.gilariver.org/index.php/news/28-may-200...

I just pulled up my records, Trudie Cook Trudie.Cooke@azdema.gov at the Arizona Military Forces Museum was my contact for WWI Service Cards for Arizona. I tryed several times to request a name check for Mathew Rivers (the name he registered for the draft, the name that was on the passenger list for the Tuscania in Feb. of 1918) If he entered the service in Arizona, his card would be at that museum. Each time I had contacted Trudie, she was just to busy doing other things and said she would contact me later, and never did.

As I stated earlier, my Texas contact stated there is no service card for Mathew in Texas, so he apparently didn't enlist there. Of cource if he didn't join the Army in Texas or Arizona, there are plenty of other states in which he may have entered, you mention Oklahoma, which is a posisbility, unfortunately Oklahoma service cards don't exist.

As far as the one t vs the two t's in Mathew, You noted quite well, in those days there were many people whom used there name "loosely" sometimes using a different name, sometimes spelling their name a bit different. Not everyone did this, but it wasn't uncommon to see it. Matthew is a very old name that can be found in the Bible, it is most commonly found ijn the form of two t's. In fact when I write Mathew with one t in MS Word, it want's to correct me and put in two t's. I noticed in the 1910 census that its Mathew with one t, but census records are often full of mystakes too. Regardless we know his first name was Mathew. I had a friend I havent' see for a long time whom was a Tulalip Indian, whom said that he had two names, his name as I knew him and his Indian name which was totally different. With so many variables, sometimes clues are all you can go by.

Please delete my comments from your page after reading all this, I just wanted to touch base with you and didn't want to take up so much space. I will link to your page within the next 2 days. Should you wish to contact me further, you can find my e-mail address at: http://renton.50megs.com/Tuscania/Saxon/schwartz.h...

Best Regards,

Steve Schwartz


Chuck profile image

Chuck 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

Steve - Thanks for the comment and additional information. It is my intention to dig deeper into Mathew's life and hopefully find enough to publish a biography about him. From what I have uncovered so far, his life is certainly an interesting tale which should make a good read. He is also a hero who gave his life for his country and his story should be told. There are a couple of new leads in your comment, which I appreciate, and I will follow up on them.

Your site, http://renton.50megs.com/Tuscania/ , was one of the sources I discovered while I was researching this Hub and I found it to be both helpful in what I was looking for as well as very interesting in its own right. I did include, in my links section, a link to the page you had on Mathew Rivers/Juan, and I did find and study the Rootsweb page that you linked to above. However, in the Gerald Gall article which I linked to in the text of my Hub, I saw that Siply (actually Sibley) Juan was Mathew's brother and if you scroll down on the Rootsweb page you will find Sibley Juan's name on the list as having died in an automobile accident in 1928.

The Fisher Funeral home, whose records make up the Rootsweb page you cited, obviously made a mistake when they noted that his name was originally Siply. However, there was apparently some confusion at the time his body was brought home. All of the local news accounts gave his name as Rivers both at the time of his death in 1918 and reburiel in 1921 but omitted any mention of his family by name. This was in contrast to the local news accounts of the unveiling of the monument in 1928 when there was no mention of Rivers name and members of his family in attendance were identified by name. However, 1918 New York Times article listing battle deaths in the battle in which he was killed list him as Mathew Rivers but gives his mother's name correctly as Mary Juan indicating that Mathew gave correct next of kin information on his Army records. One other comment on the funeral home record entry. If you notice, it gives his date of birth as 1890 and then states that he lied about his age to get into the service. The person recording this obviously did not do the math because if you subtract 1890 from 1917, the year that the U.S. both entered the war and Mathew joined the Army, you get 27 as his age at enlistment which was more than enough to enlist on his own.

Thanks again for your comment and leads you provided.


Steve Schwartz 8 years ago

Good Job.... Matthew Rivers according to a Fisher funeral home document lied about his age and used the alias name in order to enlist into the Army. According to the document, his real name was Siply Juan. See: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~azpinal/funeralr...

He was the first native American killed in WWI, as well as the first Arizonian according to records.

While Matthew Rivers registered for the draft in June of 1917 in Texas, he did not enlist in Texas, I confirmed that with the Military Museum in San Antonio which has the A.G.O. Texas WWI service cards. These cards also known as Bonus Cards, and were sent to each state in which a soldier entered service. I have made a couple reqest from the Arizona Military Museum (national guard) to check there cards for a Matthew Rivers to see if they have one in their possesion, to my knowledge, they have not made such a search. Oklahoma and California are the only two states I know that tossed out their WWI service cards many decades ago, most states have them and are in the possession of either in the State Archives, a Military Museum, or a Historical Society, and in a few instances the Adjutant General office. So if the Arizona Military Museum doesn't have a card for Mathew Rivers, then I would probably draw the conclusion that he joined in Oklahoma. I cannot say where Matthew Rivers did his basic training, but he was definitely part of the Camp Travis Detachment#2, 90th Division, 357th Infantry when he boarded the SS Tuscania.

Again, Good Job on an article well done.


Tammy 8 years ago

This is a very interesting piece. Mathew is a true hero.


TF Wagner 8 years ago

Most outstanding article. The real story is in the details. tfw


rodney southern profile image

rodney southern 8 years ago from Greensboro, NC

Excellent hub.. great job!

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