Blog # 23 Libraries Gather Books for Troops

As a librarian, I was interested in reading about the role libraries played early on in the war.  In September, the American Library Association called for all the local federated clubs to take up the patriotic work of procuring books and magazines for the soldiers.  In response, Kinsley librarian, Margaret W. Hills, asked for book donations in the September 20 Graphic.  “One of the very great needs of the present hour for our soldier boys is plenty of good reading material.  Throughout the nation all the public libraries are collecting used books for this purpose.  There is not a home in town that cannot spare one or more books.  The week of September 24 to 29 is set for gathering 1,000,000 volumes.  The Kinsley public library will receive at Edwards, Noble & Company’s store all books and forward them without delay for immediate service.  Let us send at least 100 books from Kinsley.  One book is not much to give, but it may do a great deal of good to some soldier boy.  Get the book now and send it or bring it to Edwards, Noble & Company’s store.”

The October 4, Graphic reported:  “Many books to go To Sammies — More than 135 Already Contributed Here, and Many More Expected.  Last week was library week, when a movement was made nationwide to gather library books for the camps.  We were asked to contribute not less than a hundred here and when Saturday night arrived Miss Margaret Hills, who was acting for the Wednesday Night Club, reported 135 volumes ready to go.  She also stated that she expected to have enough books for another shipment by the close of another week.  Good work.  The boys in the camps get awfully lonesome.  The books contributed are a miscellaneous collection, mostly new, and every soldier should be able to find something to suit his taste.”

The term “Sammies” in the headline above was new to me as a name for American soldiers.  The Europeans used it, and it presumably derived from “Uncle Sam”.  “Sammies” did not catch on, but “doughboys” did, the origin of which is unclear.  At this time, the Kinsley Library was not a publicly funded library, but a club library run by the Wednesday Night Club.  It would not be a publicly funded library until 1926.

Back to the book drive news.  In the November 8, Graphic, W. H. Kerr, the librarian serving Camp Funston 3-5 days and week and coming from the Kansas State Normal School (now Emporia State University) wrote to Miss Hills:  “I wish you and your people to know how much we appreciate the shipment of books for our Camp Funston libraries.  It is an unusually good lot of books, and came in very nicely this week in making up a library for one of our new recreation buildings just being opened.”

At the end of the month, Miss Hills announced that more books were needed at Camp Funston, and she would be collecting them to ship out that Saturday.  It was reported in the January 31 issue of the Kinsley Mercury that Librarian Kerr in an address to Kansas librarians stated the following:  “Even though there are about 20,000 books on the shelves and between 4 and 5 tons of magazines are received every week, all of these put together will not meet the steadily increasing demands made upon the library at Funston.”  He went on to emphasize that donated books should be recent, sound and clean “in every sense of the word….

Most of the 4 or 5 tons of magazines and periodicals which the library received weekly are the so-called ‘Burleson 1 cent magazines’, and a remarkable feature is that they are received within a few days after publication.  About 450 copies of the Saturday Evening Post, 300 copies of Literary Digest and over 400 copies of Colliers are received weekly.”  Mr. Kerr said the following magazines, many of which are still familiar to us today, were most needed”  Life, Judge, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Illustrated World, Harper’s Monthly, Scribner’s, New Century, Scientific American, Current History from the New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, Vanity Fair, and even copies of the Police Gazette.”



BLOG #22 Horses and Mules Fought the War too

Besides our “World War I and America” historical series (see Post #20), we will also be hosting a Kansas Humanities Council Talk About Literature in Kansas (TALK) book discussion series entitled “The Great War.”  I chose to use the same books that High Plains Public Radio is using for their Radio Readers book discussion series which begins in January.  On January 10, we will be reading and discussing the 1982 novel, “War Horse” by  Michael Morpurgo .  It is the story of an English farm horse sent to serve the troops in the trenches of France.  The horse is the narrator of this book written for young people.  It recounts the suffering of the horses and mules during the war.  Steven Spielburg produced and directed a 2011 movie with the same title and based on this book.

As mentioned in Blog #14, Troop C of the First Kansas Cavalry was formed just outside Dodge City and several men from Edwards County enlisted in this troop.  From Dodge City they were sent on to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Clarence Craft was one of those soldiers.  In an October 14, 1917 letter to his brother, he described Fort Sill to be a very “…poor place.  They say the wind blows in Kansas, but this has got it beat a mile, and blows all the time.”

Clarence goes on to tell of cavalry life at Fort Sill.  “It keeps the bunch busy on guard and taking care of the horses around here, so only get to drill about one and never more than two days out of the week.  There is close to 5,000 head of horses and mules here now that the three troops have to take care of, or help rather.  There has been a quartermaster corps helping the last couple of days.  They only haul the hay or part rather.  There are hayracks to feed hay in and a trough to feed grain in.  They feed two times a day.  It sure takes some hay and grain, oats, to feed them.  It takes 240 bushels of oats a day to feed the horses in the corals, besides the ones they have in stables and is about 300 head in the stable, and somewhere near a couple of carloads of hay.  They feed them pretty good for a horse that is worked is allowed twelve pounds a feed.”

Some of those Fort Sill horses came from Kansas. Throughout the fall and winter of 1917, George McLaughlin, a Kinsley breeder with a sales stable north of the tracks (at the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Fifth St.), advertised to buy horses and mules.  The September 27 Graphic reported: “George McLaughlin shipped a car of army horses and mules to Oklahoma today.  Last week he shipped in a carload from Hanston and is holding them here for the government inspector, who must first pass on them before the government will ratify the selling contract.”

Last spring, when I first started researching the news in the local paper, I came upon a disturbing report.  The editor wrote in the July 12 Graphic:  “During these strenuous times when everything is being used which has here-to-fore been discarded, a protest should be made against an operation which is being carried on along the trenches in France.  The American mule, that most noble and useful animal, is being made to undergo an operation which makes it impossible for it to bray.  If the mule is separated from its bray, it might just as well be discarded altogether for the two properly go together and it seems almost criminal that such proceeding should be allowed to go on.  The reason given is that the enemy is too apt to learn the location of the trenches from them.  The mule might be trained and employed in some manner in the signal corps or some other use found for the bray, but by all means do not separate the two.”

This fence pictured below is around the contaminated forbidden no-man land of the Battle of Verdun, France.  It displays the shoes of some of the mules and horses which died there.
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Post # 21  John P. Wire’s Experience with the Selective Service

In Post #19, I mentioned finding Raymond Smith’s graduation picture in a scrapbook made by Louise Wire.  Louise Wire was married to John E. Wire.  Their son, John P. Wire, was born on May 16, 1892 and was in the same 1912 Kinsley High School graduating class as Raymond.

Another item I found in Louise’s scrapbook was John P.’s draft classification card.
It appears that on January 2, 1917, John, age 25, received a 1 classification.  According to the Graphic, John was one of 54 men who filled out a required questionnaire with the local exemption board.  These men would be the first on the selective service list.  They would be sent to training camps when the next call was made provided they passed the physical examinations and were not aliens.  John was notified to appear with 31 others for a physical examination on January 28, 1917.

In the next week’s paper (January 31, 1918 Graphic), it was reported that 10 of these men passed their physical examinations and were fit for military service.  However, five men were rejected by the board, and John P. was one of those five.  That is where I find it a little confusing, as the card above dated February 26, still has John classified as 1 and “qualified for military service.”

The newspaper clipping accompanying the draft notification in the scrapbook is from the May 16 Graphic where it appears John was called to report to Camp Funston for training.  However, he would not be there long.  The June 13 Graphic stated, “John Wire and Walter Haney, who were among the last bunch of boys to go to Camp Funston, were rejected for general military service and came back here Saturday.”  It seems that John P. had not passed his physical at Camp Funston.  John Wire, Jr. suggested to me that his father was rejected due to flat feet.

I imagine that this six month time span might have been a very unsettling time for the Wire family.  I did find another item reported in the Graphic during this time when John P’s military fate was being decided (February 14, 1917).   John P.’s mother, Louis, was a member of the Country Women’s Club.  The Graphic reported that at this club’s February 28 meeting, “Mrs. John E. Wire would deliver a paper entitled “What lasting benefits will be derived from this war.”  It is too bad that we do not know what she wrote in her paper.


# 20 You are invited to the “World War I and America” Series

Spent today finalizing our winter discussion series.  I hope you live close enough to attend!  It is going to be a great one.  We will be meeting  on Sunday afternoons, 2-5 p.m. on January 14, February 18, March 18, and April 15.

World War 1 and America” is designed to bring veterans and their families together with the general public to explore the continuing relevance of the war by reading, discussing, and sharing insights into the writings of Americans who experienced it firsthand.

We are able to host the series because a two-year initiative of Library of America presented in partnership with The Gilder Lehman Institute of American History, the National World War i Museum and Memorial, and other organizations, with generous support from The National Endowment for the Humanities.   Additional funding comes from the Kansas Humanities Council, a non profit cultural organization promoting understanding of the history, tradition, and ideas that shape our lived and build community.

You can see/print a series flyer and register for the series by visiting the Kinsley Library website: .  Her are some of the highlights.

Larry Burke is our scholar who will be leading a series of interesting talks and discussions every month.  He is retired from teaching history for 43 years at Dodge City Community College.  He is also a decorated Vietnam War veteran.  He has received numerous academic awards, published book reviews in the Journal of Military History, wrote a short story entitled Quon Loi which won him recognition and was published by Vietnam Generation Journal and Kansas Voices.

Each month we also have what I call PLUS features.  If you watched Ken Burns’ documentary, The Vietnam War, you would have seen, John Musgrave,  a native Kansan, prominently featured.  Since the documentary, he is in national demand to speak, but he has graciously agreed to join us in March to tell us about his experiences during and after the war.  He was gravely wounded and not expected to make it off the battlefield.  However, he did  survive to return home to a government which considered Vietnam Veterans as “expendable”, to the World War II generation who considered them “losers”, and to war protesters who called them “baby killers”.  He became an anti-war activist and member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  Today he actively counsels those who fight in American wars.  

In February, we have Mike and LaVetta Stephens of LaCrosse bringing a collection of World War I artifacts from their “Museum of the Common Soldier”. These will be items that soldiers carried, guns, uniforms, and other military items.

In April we will have a panel of veterans on board to compare and contrast their experiences in the more recent wars with World War i.

This is the seventh year we have hosted a series.  They have always been popular and this one looks to be even more so.  Again, hope you live close enough to drive to the Kinsley Library.  And please tell others, especially veterans, about “World War I and America”.


#19 Young People Support Soldiers

This week John Wire, Jr. brought in one of his grandmother’s (Louise) scrapbooks as I had requested information about the confiscation of a large quantity of illegal liquor by his sheriff father, John P. Wire, Sr.  After scanning that very interesting 1942 picture, I couldn’t resist looking through the scrapbook for other items we might add to the library archive.  What treasures it contains!

There were pictures of the 1912 Kinsley High School graduating class of which John’s father was a member.  Among them was a picture of Raymond Smith, the man who wrote the letter I quoted from in the last two posts.

In the September 20, 1917 Graphic, I found a little more about Raymond’s entry into service and the support he was given by his friends in the Methodist Sunday School class.

“A Farewell Party.  A bunch of the M.E.A. Sunday-school boys met at O. E. Smith’s residence Tuesday night and routed Raymond Smith out of bed and gave him a farewell party, as he left the next day for Camp Funston.  The boys gave Raymond a treat to some fine watermelon and presented him with a new testament which pleased him very much.  The boys left at a late hour and wished Raymond all the good luck possible.  Raymond thanked the boys very much for remembering him, and promised to honorably represent the M.E.A. Sunday-school class in whatever branch of the army service he is assigned to.”

Six weeks later, the November 8th Graphic reported:

“Monday evening the Senior Young People’s Department of the Methodist Sunday school gave a “Soldiers All Party” in the church parlors.  Letters from William Timken, Raymond Smith, Kathleen Riley, Ruth Craft, and Glenna Eslinger were read.  Then the young people, about seventy-five in number, wrote chain letters to fourteen absentees, most of whom are in the army.  Patriotic music and conversation of war topics closed the evening.  The idea of service was uppermost in the entire program.” 

Note that the young ladies mention had left Kinsley to attend nursing school in Colorado (Kathleen Riley and Ruth Craft) and to become a Methodist deaconess in Detroit (Glenna Eslinger).  Glenna served as a  pastor’s assistant, a role “deemed gender appropriate by church and state”.


#18 Y.M.C.A. Provides for Soldiers

After work and drill was done at Fort Funston, the evenings could get long and lonely if it were not for the Y.M.C.A.  The important services the Y.M.C.A provided in World War I were completely unknown to me before I started reading these old newspapers.  Raymond Smith praised the Y.M.C.A. in the September letter mentioned previously.

 “The Y.M.C.A. furnished all kinds of good amusements free to the soldiers.  I enjoyed listening to the Swiss Yoddlers last night.  The boys from all the other states come to our Y.M.C.A. and we visit theirs.  So that way we get good talent for our Bible study classes and singers….  I am beginning to like it here.  We work about eight hours.  Wash our clothes while we have time and spend our spare time at the Y.M.C.A. or visiting the boys from other places.  The boys are all friendly and out for a good time when not on duty.  There is not anything bad sold here but cigarettes and they are here in plenty. All other evil things must be sought elsewhere.

I previously had read an article in the June 14, 1917 issue of the Kinsley Graphic which announced: “On Friday night there will be a band concert at the northside park.  Beck’s Boys’ Band will play and there will be speeches made in the interest of the Y.M.C.A. movement which is being agitated over the country.  This movement is for the cleaning up of the camps where the soldiers are and to provide for the establishment of clean recreation.”

 Becks Boys’ Band formed by Lester Beck in 1913

The June 21st paper made another call to meet this goal.

The work of raising a million dollars to promote Y.M.C.A. work is being actively pushed in this state and we are trying to raise our apportionment, $315 for this county.  A little more than half this amount has been raised and the balance should be contributed at once.  This is a matter that will commend itself to every person who thinks of the temptations and pitfalls that surround our boys in the camps.  The government is doing its part, but there is a part of this work that has been assumed by the Y.M.C.A. that is very important.  This organization aims to supply reading rooms and clean entertainment for the men in the camps and so assist in reducing the chance for error to the minimum.  Every parent who has a son in the camps will feel the appeal in this movement, and should call on their neighbors to contribute their mite to the cause.” 

 Five months later, Edwards County was asked to raise $2,500 to provide Y.M.C.A. rooms overseas.  Individuals and community groups all took up the cause.  An offering was taken up at a special patriotic service at the Nettleton Church.  There was singing of national hymns, an address by the minister, and pieces performed by the children.  (Nettleton was a small town located between Kinsley and Garfield on the Arkansas River.)

The editor of the Graphic in the November 8 issue quoted from a letter Albert Wilson wrote from Great Lakes training camp.  “The Y.M.C.A. is a God send to us, and I do not know what we could do without it.  Every soldier who writes home from where there is one, speaks of the good it does.”  

Later, on November 19 he wrote again, “I was glad to hear that Edwards County doubled its share of the Y.M.C.A. fund.  If the Ys went out of commission, I don’t know what we would do, and I suppose that the boys over there need them even more than we do.  There is an entertainment of some kind here at the ‘Y’ nearly every night.  Here we buy stamps, get paper and envelopes, send money orders, and express packages.  If you want anything outside the station one of the men in charge will see that you get it.”
Good Reading and Correspondence Facilities in Y.M.C.A. Building. (Kinsley Graphic, 11-8-1917)

Throughout World War I, the YMCA provided morale and welfare services for the military. By war’s end, the YMCA, through the United War Work Council, had operated 1,500 canteens in the United States and France; set up 4,000 YMCA huts for recreation and religious services; and raised more than $235 million—equivalent to $4.3 billion today—for relief work.




#17 Army Life Begins at Camp Funston

My last blog mentioned a letter published in the Graphic on Sept 27, 1917, which was written by Raymond A. Smith from Camp Funston to Sheriff G. D. Hoffman of Kinsley. Sheriff Hoffman was the Registration Officer for Edwards County.  Raymond was the son of Oren and Mary Smith and graduated from Kinsley High School in 1912.  He had been placed in charge of the squad as they traveled to Camp Funston.  Smith describes Camp Funston a little later in his letter.

 “Seven states send their quotas here.  About 25,000 men have arrived already and they are pouring in by the thousands every day.  I guess we will have plenty of company. There will be between sixty and seventy thousand men here when they all arrive.”

Guy Lee Crawford graduated from Lewis High School in 1913. He then attended dental college and received his degree in Dentistry.  Upon graduation from dental school, he was drafted into the army.  On October 5, 1917 he wrote to his parents a description of those first few day of army life at Camp Funston.

“Well this is the end of my first full day of army work, so will let you know how I like it as far as I have gone.  We arrived Thursday morning and an officer took charge of us immediately, marched, or rather walked us away, and divided us according to our counties and states.  Then we “bathed’.  It was some cool, too.  However, a fellow feels better after it is over. We got in the way of clothes: one shirt, one pair sox, two blankets, one hat, one canvas bag to be filled with straw for our cot, one poncho, and mess kit and toilet kit consisting of tooth brush, comb and hair brush.  Most of the fellows had the articles in our toilet kit with them when they came.

Yesterday afternoon we had a small amount of drilling.  Col. Sims and Josh Gibson were to see us yesterday afternoon.  Col. Sims had quite a bit of fun with me about the way in which my overalls fit me.  They didn’t.  They were 40s.  I traded them for a smaller pair today.  The Edwards County bunch had to do guard duty one hour each yesterday.  My stunt was from 7-8 in the evening.  I was appointed a temporary corporal today and was informed just now that I and three of my men were to do guard duty from 9:15 to 11:15 tonight.

 All of the fellows seem to be pretty well satisfied. Personally, I like it.  Of course it is new and after the novelty wears off, it may become monotonous, but I like it now.  I have stood all of the work and drilling fine.  Our officers seem to be a mighty fine set of fellows. We have a negro cook, then he has helpers.  Guy Belcher has been in the kitchen since he came….”

 Another letter written by Robert Benner, son of Mr. and Mrs. Calvin of Lewis, was published in the same issue of the Graphic.  In researching to know more about him, I came upon the notification that he was killed in action on the battlefield in France on September 13, 1919.  That knowledge adds perspective and poignancy to this blogging project.  It is good to remember Robert’s sacrifice today through his words as a new recruit.  He is writing to his brother Jim who would be drafted one year later.

“I received your letter the other day, and was sure glad to hear from you.  Well, I am sure tired tonight.  We are putting in 8 hours a day.  They take us out to the field at 7:30 in the morning.  The first thing when we get there is to put us on double quick, that is a stiff run for about a quarter of a mile, and they have been running us a little farther each day, and then make us climb the hill and then drill up there and then bring us down for dinner.  We are getting it a little stronger each day.  Have not taken us on any hikes yet, but will get that sometime soon….

They are going to put about 250 men in each barrack.   There are about 225 in this barrack, and we are sure packed in, but there is more room upstairs.  I sleep down stairs.  I sure dread tomorrow’s work.  In the morning we have to go through all these drills, and about half of them on double quick before the major.  He comes around every so often to see how we are getting along….”

#16 Twelve More to Camp Funston

and a big Crowd Escorted Them to the Special Train Last Night

(Taken from the Kinsley Graphic, September 20, 1917 )

“The band, the Home Guard, and a large body of citizens turned out last evening to escort the twelve men from this county to the station on their way to ‘Camp Funston’ to join the National Army.  Following are the names of the young men who went:

Frank Strate, Lewis; Clayton Parks, Fellsburg; Andrew Roberts, Lewis; Wm. L. English, Belpre; George Lobmeyer, Kinsley; William Crawford, Kinsley; Henry Turner, Lewis;
Raymond A. Smith, Lewis; Otis Leonard, Lewis; John Williams Jenkins, Kinsley;
Gilbert Wayne Guthrie, Lewis; Samuel Roscoe Nicholas, Belpre….

These young men gathered here yesterday afternoon, as directed, and were taken in charge by Registration Officer Hoffman.  After calling the roll he placed Raymond Smith, of this city, in charge of the squad for the trip.  They had their suppers at the Mission Café, and W. T. Williams, secretary of the Kinsley industrial Club, took the opportunity and presented each of the men with a trench mirror and two khaki handkerchiefs in behalf of the Club and our citizens, and just before supper Sheriff Hoffman presented each of the men with a handsome buttonhole bouquet, each fastened with a small flag, in behalf of the courthouse officials.

About 8:30 the procession formed, the band leading followed by the Home Guard, and then the new army men, and marched to the station where the crowd so thronged the platform that it took agent Teed and all of his helpers to clear the track when the soldier special and No. 5 both pulled in at the same time.  The special carried eight coaches, it had come from Colorado, picking up squads at the county seats and seven cars were crowded with a flag waving and cheering crowd of young men who were generating as much enthusiasm as a bunch of college men going to a football game.  They were a jolly, happy bunch, and we all tried to hide the ache in our hearts that they might not know how those feel who are left behind.  It was certainly a fine looking body of young men, and it was a great pleasure and privilege to be able to say to them “good luck and may you all return safely to your families and friends.”

 There was some added excitement in this send off as was described in the same issue:

“Andrews Roberts, who was drawn and went to Camp Funston with the other boys last night, had rather an exciting time in getting started.  He went to Kansas City for an automobile several days before notification cards had been sent out, and so when he drove into Lewis last evening, he was greatly astonished to learn that he had been called and that the train was pulling into town.  Fortunately it was compelled to stop to meet No. 1, so he abandoned his car on the street and ran to the train and tried to get in, but the doors were fastened.   The boys on the train were appealed to, and with much boosting and pulling, he was passed through a window.  He had not stopped the engine of his auto in the excitement, but it was cared for by the home folks.”

 One week later in the Graphic, R. A. Smith wrote a letter from Camp Funston to Sheriff G. D. Hoffman where he also mentioned this event.

“We arrived here at 11 a.m. Thursday, and all the twelve of us are accepted so far.  We picked Andrew Roberts up at Lewis.  He was on his way to Kinsley in a motor from Kansas City, and had a blow-out two miles east of Lewis and just did get to the depot in time to climb in the car window.  He sure was one tickled boy to get on that car….”

Research discovered that Andrew Jackson Roberts was born on Feb. 1, 1892 in Cedar Grove, Georgia to George and Janie Roberts.  He was a resident of Fellsburg, Kansas in 1916.  He would come to be stationed overseas during the war and was discharged in May, 1919.


#15 Draftees Leave for Camp Funston

The first two men to be drafted were Charles O. McClaren of Lewis and Frank Carlson of Garfield who graduated from Kinsley High School in 1913.   They left for Camp Funston on September 7.  H. J. Wilcox, the editor of the Kinsley Mercury wrote the following:

“The call came for a man with some military experience and for one who can cook.  These boys asked to be allowed to go first.  This presents an opportunity for the public spirited citizens of the county to give these boys something to look back upon when they have reached the front.  It is true of course that the public appreciated what these boys are doing and it is quite probably that the boys know it, but in view of what they are doing, a public acknowledgement seems a small thing to do. Then too, these are somebody’s sons, some father and mother are sending their son to fight your fight and my fight.  Let’s give these fathers and mothers something, in part payment, to be proud of until the boys come home.  Remember, parents, these boys did not claim exemption and it may be that this made it possible for your boy to spend a few more of what may be his last days with you at home.”

 Frank Carlson wrote the following letter on September 9, 1917 from Camp Funston.

“We arrived here at 2:15 p.m., September 8.  As yet, everything that we have been required to do has been interesting.  Upon our arrival, all Kansas men, likewise other states, were ordered off to a separate bunch.  Then we were taken over to our barracks, where we indulged in a good cold shower bath.  The rest of the day was spent in receiving mess kits, clothing and bedding.  Also a few were given a physical examination.  Very few are being rejected.  Both McClaren and I are feeling fine and enjoying the experience.  The officers are a fine set of fellows, not the regular army type, and we feel that we are being treated royally.  Yours truly, F. a. Carlson, 353 Infantry     (Kinsley Graphic, September 13, 1917)

This picture of Frank and his siblings (c. 1904) is taken from the book Honey Locust Ranch: a Kansas Epic by Carl E. Carlson.  Carl described Frank as being born with a smile, someone never seen with “either a frown or pout.”  Maybe that accounts for the sunny outlook in the above letter.  Frank was the only one of the brothers who served in World War 1.  He was a sharpshooter and was severely wounded.  He will be appearing in this blog from time to time.  Frank Carlson was his brother Harry’s best man just one month before he reported to Camp Funston.   I just finished reading an account of this wedding written by the bride, Avis Dungan Carlson, in her book Small World – Long Gone.  It would just about take a war to top all the calamities of that wedding.  Every bride that has one thing go wrong (and there always is one thing) needs to read the wedding chapter of this book to know how lucky she is.

#14 – Men Enlisted Before the Draft

A note about this blog.  I will be mentioning many specific soldiers as these posts continue.  I am doing this out of respect for their individual service to the country.  You’ll also be reading about many of these individuals in the future as I draw my information from the newspaper, published letters, and what I can research in online records. I am hoping that descendants might see the blog and be able to supply more information, letters, diaries, artifacts, or pictures we could scan and add to blog posts and our archive.  In this way, the library strives to honor each veteran and keep his/her memory alive.

While some men were drafted, others had not waited.  They had volunteered.  Before the draft, President Wilson called for recruits to the regular army to get it up to war strength.  In April, the quota of the Wichita district had been doubled, which raised the required number of enlistments to be procured by June 1 to 2,308 men.  An article in the April 26 issue of the Graphic made the following plea:

“The State of Kansas has responded nobly in times past when emergency called, so let the state now show its colors, let the young men come forward and help fill up the ranks…. Let everyone in the state work faithfully so that the War department will know that Kansas stands ready at all time to furnish young men to do its part in upbuilding the army in times of emergency….Now let the grand old state of Kansas rally to the colors at once.  Remember the splendid opportunities now offered young men in the army.  Remember the government needs your support in the capacity of a member of the army.  The recruiting offices in the Wichita district are open day and night and Sundays.  ” 

Men who enlisted in the army had an added incentive of knowing they would be discharged when the war emergency was over.  They were not required to sign on for a certain number of years.  Kinsley High School 1913 graduate Chester Bidleman wrote in his diary of April 23, “Put down my John Henry to join Army.”  The following day he took the physical and enlisted.  By August 31, he wrote:  “Signed Muster roll first time.  Some important fellow to have my name on an army payroll????”

Lawrence Crabtree and Harvey Lancaster enlisted and were assigned for training to Fort Logan, Colorado.  Three others who passed their physical examinations were R. V. Thomas who was sent to Fort Worth, Texas to the aviation school, Claire Penrod who went to the coast, and Pierce Mills who was stationed at Fort Logan.

Later in June, recruiting officers Captain J. R. Geary and Leut. Baker came to town to enlist 8 men for Troop C of the First Kansas Cavalry.  Troop C encampment was set up on the Dr. H. A. Ballou farm one mile east of the Santa Fe depot in Dodge City and a short ways out on the Fort Dodge Road.  Capt. Geary chose the farm because it had plenty of shade for the men and horses, commodious buildings, a plentiful supply of pure water, and in close proximity to the city.

According to the editor of the Kinsley Mercury (June 14, 1917), they wanted to bring Troop C up to war strength “before the draft as they don’t want any drafted men in the troop if they can help it. Troop C is a short grass troop, being made up of men enlisted within 50 miles of Dodge City.  The chances are that there will be some of the boys go from here and it would be fine if they could get the entire squad here so that they could depart of their drilling here”

The recruiters succeeded in enlisting the following nine men: Dewitt Craft, Clarence Craft, Howard Elsey, Merl M. Miller, John C. Cormack, Andrew L. Barbee, Leslie Timken, James R. Somerville, and Lowell Johnson.

Other men who enlisted early on included Albert Nicolet of Omar and William Timken who both joined the navy; O.L. Weese and Earl McClintock who signed up for the Signal Corp; Leon C. Shank and Richard Thomas Weidmer who joined the Kansas National Guard; and Thomas Elliott who signed up with the Ohio Infantry.  The August 9 edition of the Mercury added Carl Geer (army) and Willard Corpin to the list of volunteers.