During World War One, the United States first recognized gold star families, families who lost a member during war time. In Sherburne County, the only gold star family in the area of Big Lake came with the death of Arthur Embretson in 1918.
Serving aboard the U.S.S. Cyclops, Embretson was one of 306 sailors lost when the ship sank in March 1918. Because of failed radio transmissions, the exact location of the ship was lost for many years. The ship could have been captured or sunk as it sailed along the North Carolina coast. The exact cause of the sinking remained inconclusive, although maritime experts believe the Cyclops had been overloaded and storms in the Atlantic Ocean caused the ship to founder or break apart. The sinking of the Cyclops remains the single largest loss of life aboard a United states naval ship not directly involved in combat.
Before he enlisted in the navy in 1917, Arthur Bernard Embretson left a small mark in history. Born in October 1888 to Ole and Marie Embretson in Orrock Township. He apparently lived on the family farm until his naval service. In the Navy he attained the rank of fireman, third class.
Very little is written about Arthur Embretson. During his service, the Sherburne County Star News published three reports from letters Embretson sent home. In July 1917, he sent his photograph, in uniform, to friends reminding them to write often. The January 18, 1918 issue of the newspaper, his letter sent thanks for the Red Cross Christmas package. “I sure did appreciate it and am glad to see the old friends and neighbors remember me,” he wrote. By April, 1918, the Navy declared the U.S.S. Cyclops missing. On June 1, 1918 the ship was declared lost and all hands aboard as deceased.
Because Arthur Embretson died at sea, his remains were never recovered. A memorial stone in Orrock Cemetery marks the life and death of Arthur Bernard Embretson, the only resident of Orrock and big Lake Townships to give his life in the service of the United States in World War One.
Photos courtesy of LuAnn Watzke