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The Great War - Tragedy Nov. 28, 1918

aston jensen - 1915 It is good to reflect and especially mark certain dates. Here is the story of one person and their story, 95 years ago.

John Laurence Jensen, born 1857 in Denmark, who came to the United States in August 1881. By the mid-1880s he arrived on the eastern coast of Florida eventually settling just a few more miles south of Eden along the western shore of the Indian River to an area of high rolling hills and staked a claim. A patent for the homesteaded property was issued on November 14, 1888, totaling 138.72 acres of land on the western Indian River shores with one full mile of river frontage. John had become a US citizen on October 21, 1886 in Titusville, worked his land and thrived in pineapple production. He married Lucy Elizabeth St. George Braendlin, a widow, on April 24, 1891. Their first child was Aston St. John Jensen, born Dec. 23, 1891 in the family home along the Indian River.

Encouraging others to move to the region, including John’s sister and her family, a new community was laid out from the lots of his 138 acres. The new village was named Jensen, with a business section and streets labeled Main, North, South, and Market running east-west and Maple and Aston Streets intersecting in a north-south direction. This was the close knit community of 20 plus families that young Aston grew up in along the Indian River, with plentiful fishing, hunting and adventures for a youngster. By 1900 more people arrived to live in Jensen, creating many shops, a school, churches and businesses, all which were flourishing. Aston’s parents made a major move in 1904 when John Jensen sold his remaining property, perhaps due to mounting debts and the entire Jensen family (John, Lucy, Aston and two younger children, Meredith and Lucy B. Jensen) moved to Asheville, North Carolina where Lucy had family, never to return to the village of Jensen.

Aston Jensen matured in Asheville, becoming a ‘golden boy’ of medium height and weight with blue eyes and what he described as ‘muddy blond’ hair color. He attended Winn’s School for Boys, and then North Carolina State College (later made a University) from Sept. 1910 to May 1911 where he majored in agriculture. The family lived at 15 Blake Avenue in Asheville when Aston finished his schooling to work for different companies. Tragically, his father, John died in 1914. With America’s entrance in the Great War (World War I) on April 6, 1917, Aston, a single handsome fellow, registered for the military. On June 1, 1917 he entered the U. S. Army as a private, trained in the states to serve with the 105th Sanitary Train (field hospital corps). He so excelled he was made a sergeant on Nov. 12, 1917 and by May 1918 his unit was sent overseas to France.

For months he tended to the wounded American soldiers, possibly saving countless lives. Unfortunately, the golden boy of the Indian River was struck by a railroad train on November 28, 1918 (possibly Nov. 29th, different references to the exact date) in Belleau, Aisne, Picardie, France and Sgt. Jensen died from his injuries. This was just seventeen days after the Nov. 11th Armistice to end the war was signed. Aston was buried in Plot B Row 10 Grave 46 at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France. Back in the Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, the grieving family placed a cenotaph / monument to Aston Jensen, which was next to his father, John and where his mother, Lucy would be buried in 1943.

Memorial Belltower at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh was first conceived in 1920 and its height added to until it reach 115 feet and finished in 1937. A special Shrine Room dedicated to the 35 alumni from the school who died in the Great War was completed on November 11, 1949. Aston Jensen’s name is on the memorial plaque in the shrine, part of the 35 names forever included in the Memorial Belltower. The Jensen name also lives on the thriving town of Jensen Beach, a community today of some nearly 12,000 residents.

Photo of Aston Jensen in 1915.

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