They say Ephraim Francis was a hero. They say he was eager to serve as a soldier. They say he showed uncommon bravery by volunteering, not even waiting for the draft. He enlisted on his own volition, and went to war. Ephraim Francis, was a Bahamian, born in Bimini in 1889. He emigrated to Miami in 1906, at the age of 17. When World War One began in 1914, in Europe, the United States waited and watched. It wasn’t their fight. Then soon it was. The first American troops landed in Paris in the summer of 1917.
Ephraim Francis went to war at 28 years old. He died, just two weeks, after the armistice had been declared on 11th November 1918. The war had officially ended; hostilities in some places had not. Ephraim Francis was on a ship when it was torpedoed. No one knows how long he was treading water or clinging to pieces of the bombed ship or if he died immediately. What is known is that Ephraim Francis was listed as having died from exposure in France.
NEGRO WHO DIED FOR HIS FLAG BE BURIED SUNDAY
Ephraim Frances Enlisted Soon After War Was Declared and Died in France in 1918
With full military honours accorded by the coloured former service men belonged to Thomas Larkins post of the American Legion (the coloured branch) the body of Ephraim Francis, negro soldier who died in France, will be laid to rest tomorrow afternoon, the services to he held at 3 o’clock from the Pharr undertaking establishment in coloured town. Ex-servie men are to assemble at 2 o’clock at the corner of First street and Avenue M. full uniform to be worn.
The funeral services will open with a song by one of the church choices, the singing of “Lead Kindly Light” by the coloured chapter of the Red Cross and prayer by the Rev. S. J. Johnson. Franck Clifton will read the preamble to the constitution of the American Legion; John F. Bethel, president of the British Overseas Club, will deliver the funeral oration; Rev. S. J. Johnson will preach the sermon; Drucilla Jones will sing a solo and the exercises will close with the singing of the national anthem.
Ephraim Francis was on the negroes who did not wait for the draft, but enlisted within a month after the declaration of war, and went overseas with the 100th engineers. He died in France two weeks after the signing of the armistice, as the result of exposure when a ship on which he saw service was torpedoed. He was born in Bimini in January 1889, and came to Miami in 1906, engaging in the dry cleaning business. His mother , Josephine Redfern, and one sister Eliza Rolle, reside in Perrine, and another sister, Addie Williams, lives on Winn Avenue, Miami.
The British-West Indies ex-service men and the coloured branch of the Red Cross will also be in the parade tomorrow.
(The Miami Metropolis, Saturday July 31, 1920)
Francis was officially declared dead in November/December 1918. However, it would take almost two long years before his remains could be shipped back to his family in Miami.
Ephraim Francis was not laid to rest until Sunday August 1, 1920.
Was Ephraim Francis a Bahamian citizen or an American citizen in 1918?
Another story in 1920 makes an interesting point. Ephraim Francis may have still been a Bahamian citizen when he was killed. No naturalisation papers for him could be found.
“His people are of the impression that he took out citizenship papers, but are not positive at to that.”
(The Miami Metropolis, Saturday July 3, 1920)
In 1987, Francis was remembered as part of a Black History in Miami article.
“When Ephraim Francis’ body was returned to Miami in 1920, it was treated with full military honours. Francis, who came to Miami from Bimini in 1906, was one of the first Miamians to volunteer for military service– in fact he joined a month before the draft.
…Today his final resting place in the old “Coloured Section” of the Miami City Cemetery is in the shadows of a tool shed, his broken tombstone further dishonoured by a garbage can next to it.”