The library has been researching the 100th anniversary of WW1 in the newspapers. What is happening on the homefront? Information taken from the 1917 Farmer Herald http://ocnews.co.oconto.wi.us/
United States declared war on Germany April 5th, 1917. Though war was declared in April, first troops sent by U.S. government did not land until June 29th in France. With 1917 being the 100th anniversary of WWI, we thought it would be interesting to share what the paper was writing about locally.
Why did it take so long for the United States to enter the war? The government saw that the Allies were unprepared for war. There were food and munition shortages throughout Europe. The Defense Department wanted to plan ahead so that our troops did not face the same consequences. Train car loads of potatoes were ordered by the Defense League and were expected to arrive in communities before May 10th. May 5th, Oconto Falls held a mass meeting for county residents to prepare not just for battle but also for food and munition production for the army. The Wisconsin State Superintendent Ellen McDonald wrote a letters to the schools of Oconto County urging children older than fourth grade to plant and care for potatoes. As a contest, in the fall instead of a Fall Harvest Festival, urging schools to have a Potato festival, exhibit the potatoes and have prizes. She wanted schools to start Potato Clubs. Gillett and Lena School Districts did start clubs.
Falls Manufacturing secured 75 lots for cultivation by employees. All lots were spoken for. The company would plow and drag the land and place it in condition for cultivation by employees. National Defense Council said this method, if adopted throughout the country, would insure no food shortage and have some to also export.
In June, Falls Manufacturing erected a 20×30 foot flag on a 55 foot pole located in the little court in front of the paper mill. Continental Paper, who owns Falls Manufacturing and Union Manufacturing, announced the purchase of $65,000 worth of Liberty Bonds. President J.H. Delbridge of Falls Manufacturing and Union Manufacturing announced to employees that anyone wishing to purchase bonds of $50 or $100.00 could make payments through their paychecks. The company purchased the bonds and placed them in escrow in the State Bank of Oconto Falls to be turned over to the purchaser as soon as full amount was paid
With the end of the Mexican American Border War, Company M, the Oconto County National Guard Unit, came home at the beginning of March. Company M, even though it was a National Guard unit, had war experience having served in New Mexico. They did not see active combat but were a support group and were prepared if called to battle. In April they began to enlist men into Company M. If men enlisted with Company M, they were assured that they would stay with the 2nd Regiment (2nd regiment has four Companies, A, G, L and M). Wisconsin men would be able to stay in Co M and serve with friends and neighbors. If you were drafted, you could be sent to any branch. In May, Stiles was looked at by the Army as a possible site for a Divisional Camp that would house and train 30,000 troops from Wisconsin and Michigan.
On June 5th, the Registration Board in every city, village, and town in the United States held a session for registration. Every male, between ages 21-31, must register and is different from the draft. If you were not in your home town, you must register wherever you are. 119 registered from Oconto Falls with a county total of 2,160. In June the U.S. Government appealed to men over the age of 31 to enlist as officers. Mature men have business and leadership qualities ideal for officers.
June 29th it was decided that Oconto Falls Business Men’s Association would cancel the 4th of July celebration and donated funds to the local Red Cross and Defense Council.
June 29th saw the landing of the first troops in France.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum website states ‘10,000 Wisconsin men and women volunteers for service, while 90,000 men were drafted. They served in hundreds of different units within the Army, Army Corps, Army Nurse Corps, Marines and Navy. Oconto County had 1302 men and women in service. Wisconsin suffered about 10 percent casualties with over 2,000 dying in service’.
What impact did this have at home? Keep watching the Oconto Falls Library Facebook page for the next installment of WWI at Home.