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Laughy, Joseph Linwood (1897‒1917)

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Joseph Linwood Laughy

Joseph Linwood Laughy in his US Navy uniform, 1917.

Joseph Linwood Laughy was born in 1897 and moved to Baudette, Minnesota, in 1915. In April 1918, four days after the United States entered World War I, Linwood signed up for the Navy. After serving only five months, he was killed in an accident, making him the first victim of the war from the Baudette area.

Joseph Linwood Laughy (called Linwood) was born to John Patrick and Elizabeth Ann (Harding) Laughy on August 1, 1897, in Marinette, Wisconsin. In 1912, his father, John Patrick, moved to Baudette, Minnesota, to work for the Minnesota and Manitoba Railway. In March 1915, Linwood’s mother and sister joined John Patrick in Baudette. The following month, Linwood and five of his siblings arrived in Baudette. His two remaining sisters joined the family following the school year.

Linwood enlisted in the US Navy on April 12, just four days after the US declared war on Germany. He served as captain on the USS Culgoa, stationed in Brooklyn, New York. While Laughy would only serve five months before being killed in an accident at the shipyard, a letter he wrote to his mother provides insight into his time with the Navy. His tone shows he wants his mother to know he is safe and that life is good, but his words indicate that he cannot tell her many details: She received it shortly after he arrived in New York.

“I came on board this ship last Sunday night and like it first rate. The officers are all nice and discipline is not as bad as it is claimed to be…I marched in the front rank in the march through Chicago. We were four abreast and about three hundred deep. There was seven hundred sailors that came in the draft I was in.

“Now mother, there are lots of things I would like to say regarding the life of a sailor and the ship, but I can’t. About the life I will say it is fine, and I am well satisfied about the ship. It is a good ship, but where I am and what I am doing I am not allowed to tell. I may be many miles at sea and I may be in port but that is all. It’s a good life anyway. When the ship is in port we are allowed to go ashore three nights a week, so that is not bad.”

Five months after he left to join the Navy, Laughy lost his life. According to the newspaper, “[Laughy] was assisting in hoisting a motor launch when a large iron chain hit him on the head, rendering him unconscious and his death occurred a half hour afterwards.”

Following his death, Laughy’s shipmates purchased a headstone in Elmpark Cemetery as a tribute to his sacrifice. In 1918, an American Legion in honor of Joseph Linwood Laughy was proposed for Baudette; it opened on September 22, 1919.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

“First War Victim.” Northern News, September 29, 1917.

“Letters From the Boys at the Front Received.” Baudette Region. May 11, 1917.

Lake of the Woods County Historical Society. Lake of the Woods County: A History of People, Places, and Events. [Lake of the Woods County Historical Society]: [Baudette, MN], 1997.

Oren, John. Baudette: The First 100 Years. Baudette, MN: Lake of the Woods Historical County Historical Society, 2006.

The People of Lake of the Woods County. Lake of the Woods County Heritage. Baudette, MN: The Lake of the Woods County Historical Society, 2000.

Related Images

Joseph Linwood Laughy
Joseph Linwood Laughy

Turning Point

Laughy enlists in the US Navy on April 12, 1917, just six days after the United States declares war on Germany.


August 1, 1897

Joseph Linwood Laughy is born in Marinette, Wisconsin.

April, 1915

Joseph Linwood Laughy moves with his family to Baudette, Minnesota.

April 12, 1917

Laughy enlists in the Navy.

September 29, 1917

Laughy is killed in an accident while working on a ship.

September 22, 1919

Linwood Laughy American Legion Post 217 in Baudette, Minnesota, opens. It is named in Laughy’s honor.