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World War I Centennial News



23378788 web1 M WW1 Monument 1200x852A World War I memorial stands in front of the Island County Courthouse with the names of eight men who died in military service during the war. Candace Nourse-Hatch went digging to find out their stories. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times 

Curious about World War I memorial, WA woman researches the names set in stone 

By Emily Gilbert
via the Whidbey News-Times newspaper (WA) web site

Although she had walked by the World War I memorial numerous times when she still lived on Whidbey Island, Candace Nourse-Hatch didn’t know who put it there or the stories of the men on the stone monument.

Nourse-Hatch’s great-uncle, Harry Nourse from the Maxwelton area on South Whidbey, is one of the eight men from Island County who died during their military service in World War I. They are memorialized on a stone monument in front of the Island County courthouse, right across the street from Coupeville Town Hall.

Nourse-Hatch collected biographical and military service information about each of the men over the course of a year from government archives, local newspapers, obituaries and a book written about one of them.

She found that none of the men were born on Whidbey Island, but each somehow made their way to Island County.

Nourse-Hatch’s great-uncle lived with his wife and his siblings on a farm in Maxwelton just after the turn of the century. The Nourse siblings emigrated to Whidbey Island from Australia.

“They’d never even heard of Whidbey,” Nourse-Hatch said, adding that the group had been looking to settle in Canada at first and wasn’t sure how they came to the island. The farm became their family home.

When her great uncle was 37 years old, Nourse-Hatch said, he joined the Canadian Army because the United States was not yet involved in World War I.

“For some reason he decided that he had to go fight,” she said.

He said goodbye to his wife and siblings (he had no children of his own) and went to British Columbia where he enlisted in Canadian Army, British Columbia Regiment, 7th Battalion on Oct. 18, 1917.

He died about a year later on Sept. 2, 1918, after being hit by shrapnel from an enemy shell, according to Nourse-Hatch’s research. He is buried in Vimy Memorial Cemetery, Pas De Calais France.

“Uncle Harry’s loss was a very tragic event for the family because he and his wife lived right there,” with the extended family, she said. “We knew all about him. He was a real hero in the family.”

Read more: Curious about World War I memorial, woman researches the names set in stone


Fallsington, PA hosts Veterans Day ceremony at restored WWI statue

via the Fairless Focus newspaper (PA) web site

Against the backdrop of a recently restored World War I statue, local officials, military veterans, and spectators gathered in the heart of Fallsington to salute those who served their country, particularly those from the World War I era.

DOUGHBOY4Historic Fallsington Inc. Executive Director Kimberly Praria Boice (left) with Anthony Sattilaro of NJ, medic display representing the 111th Ambulance Company, 103rd Sanitary Train, 28th US Infantry Division, circa 1918.The brief ceremony was held at the sight of Falls Township’s Doughboy statue, which honors WWI veterans.

The Falls Township Board of Supervisors this year hired a conservation company to breathe new life into the limestone statue.

The company thoroughly cleaned the statue and pedestal, strengthened the stone, repaired a crack, and recreated a missing barrel on the rifle stock.

The brick walkway and low wall were also steam-cleaned to reduce soiling and biological growth.

Falls Supervisors Chairman Jeff Dence said the board is committed to its restoration efforts, noting that preservation is planned for the historic Three Arches home in 2021.

“We have a rich history in Falls Township,” Jeff said. “It’s our duty and obligation to preserve our history.”

Historic Fallsington Executive Director Kimberly Boice provided a Thank-a-Vet kit to those in attendance. She offered “sincere and heartfelt gratitude” for veterans’ service and noted that more than 4.7 million served in WWI.

“Some returned home,” Kimberly told the small crowd gathered at the statue. “Others did not. All bore the scars and marks of their service.”

Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie, who lives in Falls and previously served on the board of supervisors, noted that the statue has been situated in the center of Fallsington for almost 100 years.

Read more: Fallsington, PA hosts Veterans Day ceremony at restored WWI statue


Port Jervis ceremonyPort Jervis, NY Mayor Kelly Decker salutes the flag as Broome Street Band members Jason Csencsits, Jaelyn Csencsits, Makayla Csencsits, Stacey Joergle and Al Gessner perform The Star-Spangled Banner during a re-dedication at Skinners Park on Veterans Day 2020.

Port Jervis, NY rededicates WWI monument to veterans 

By Sharon E. Siegel
via the Times Herald-Record newspaper (NY) web site

PORT JERVIS – As many people celebrated Veterans Day in quiet ways on their own due to pandemic restrictions, Port Jervis Mayor Kelly Decker and a small number of local musicians carried out a brief, socially distanced rededication at a local park.

With both of the city’s veteran posts closed due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases in the city, and with Port Jervis under a limited state of emergency, the traditional Veterans Day parade, ceremonies and veteran dinners were canceled.

At the original dedication at Skinners Park in 1940, Ora Wheat, commander of Roosa-Fleming VFW Post 161, declared the 20-ton granite disc monument “dedicated to the memory of the living and dead.” Post 161 planned to add later an eternal flame and a marker intended by General Chairman Harold E. Scales during planning stages in 1938.

This month’s re-dedication included the addition of the flame and a bronze plaque naming the 34 Port Jervis men who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty during World War I. They are Joseph M. Alvord, James C. Bilz, William E. Bross, John Collins Jr., Tracy K. Decker, Aloysius A. Delaney, William J. Earley, James Fleming, Lewis V. Gray, George Hamilton, Harrison E. Hornbeck, Norman Howe, Charles Kalin, Walter Koenig, Joseph Mascanz, Elliott McAllister, Joseph McGuire, Charles F. Meade, Hugh Leonard Miller, William Mulligan, Horace Murtha, Francis J. O’Connor, Levi Owens, Daniel Joseph Quigley, Harold Reid, Harold P. Rooney, Isaac H. Roosa, William J. Ryan, Charles Shaneberg, Arthur Sterritt, Bruno Terpilowsky, Samuel Thorne, William Williams, and Fred Youmans.

As the Nov. 11, 2020 Skinners Park event was broadcast live via social media, several members of the Broome Street Band provided music for the brief ceremony marking the completion of the monument as it was originally intended.

“On Monday, Nov. 11, 1940, Armistice Day 80 years ago, this plot of land known as Skinners Park was dedicated with the Eternal Light Monument in honor of the living and memory of the dead World War I veterans,” said Decker, himself a veteran and grandson of a WWI Doughboy.

Read more: Port Jervis, NY rededicates WWI monument to veterans


bakersThe molding table of detachment of Bakery Company No. 341 in Paris, France 1918. Fourteen thousand pounds of bread per day was baked there, sufficient to supply all troops in the Paris District. (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo.)

Baking During a Time of Crisis 

via the National WWI Museum and Memorial web site

“The American Baking Industry found itself during the war,” declared the Ward Baking Company in their 1920 publication, Bread Facts. Proclaimed before the “sliced-bread” era (the technology was created in 1917, but found its audience the 1920s), it may feel like an overstretched statement. The national food effort, and reorganization of the supply chain, served an Allied victory and inarguably changed how Americans ate, prepared and thought about food. During this current era of uncertainty, a multitude of parallels, including the unifying role of baking, arise with a time 100 years ago, when the nation grappled with the world’s first truly global war. 

In World War I, food scientists around the nation focused on bread making as essential to winning the war. Government commissions studied baking and milling to economize both the process and nutritional value, recognizing that wheat, having been essential in European food aid prior to U.S. entry into World War I in April 1917, was one of the major energy sources for Americans both “over there” and on the homefront. Feeding more than 4 million Americans serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, while continuing to supply agricultural provisions for allies, was a tactical feat that relied upon military precision and a broad base of support among the population.

In the early 20th century, Americans obtained nearly 30%of their calories from bread. To conserve the necessary wheat to ship overseas (As many Europeans had neither the facilities nor familiarity to efficiently process other grains such as corn at the time), Americans had to make individual choices for change every day. A major effort for patriotic wheat conservation, both local and federally funded, meant an emphasis on using alternative ingredients to wheat flour in homes and restaurants: buckwheat, rice, rye and graham flours, cornmeal, potatoes (sweet and white), among others – all items that may feel “modern” to the 21st century cook. The U.S. government declared if each member of an American family gave up a slice of bread a day, each household could share 91 loaves with those in need.

Read more: Baking During a Time of Crisis


Byron Field’s life in the Western Front trenches of World War I 

By Bill Castanier
via the lansingcitypulse.com (MI) web site .

When Elizabeth Field Connor discovered her grandfather’s army footlocker from World War I while digging through her father’s musty basement, she had no idea the treasures and mysteries it would unleash. It wasn’t long before the old metal box took Elizabeth and her husband, Hilary Connor, on an adventure.

20201126 045401 BooksCoverByronFieldThe trunk, belonging to Byron Field, was a treasure chest of WWI ephemera. It contained dozens of war letters written from a woman who was unknown to the rest of his family; a yellowed-diary; hundreds of postcards from European cities and hundreds of letters Field had sent from the battlefield to his parents and his college sweetheart.

Elizabeth Field Connor’s grandfather was a saver and a collector. She had never known her grandfather well, and last tried to connect with him in a letter she sent on the last Christmas before his death. She inquired how he was and what he would like for Christmas. She received no answer and he died seven weeks later. The letter was among the items contained in the trunk. She believes the trunk is his “belated answer.”

Hilary Connor, an investigative prosecutor and mystery writer, decided to research the life of his wife’s grandfather and see if a book was a possibility.

The contents of the army-green trunk brought her grandfather’s story to life. In May 1917, the 19-year-old Field took a train from Jackson to Detroit to enlist in the Army as a member of the 168th Ambulance Co. in the 42nd Infantry Division. Known as the Rainbow Division, it saw intense action in the WWI trenches.

Field, at the time of his enlistment, had just finished his freshman year at Albion, where he was studying to be a Methodist missionary. He attended Albion with his girlfriend, Estelle Corzine, whom he would write more than 180 letters to during WWI.

The research resulted in Hilary Connor’s new book, “I Hope This Reaches You.” It provides historical details about what caused the United States’ entrance into the war — including information about the sinking of the RMS Lusitania and the infamous Zimmerman memo. The book also details Field’s boot camp experience at Camp Grayling, and his agonizing and terrifying ocean crossing to France, which took him through the heart of the German submarine hunting grounds.

The book explains that after landing in Saint-Nazaire, the command would be put in a hurry up and wait mode as Field and his company slowly made their way to the Western Front.

The more gruesome details of war are told in Field’s 238-page diary, which recalls German shelling and deadly gas attacks. Hilary Connor said Field’s letters to Corzine and his family avoided details of the danger faced by the ambulance corps.

Read more: Byron Field’s life in the Western Front trenches of World War I


interment WWI unknown soldier cropBurial of the Unknown Soldier from World War I in 1921 at the dedication ceremony for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.. 

Preparations Underway for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial 

via the maritime-executive.com web site

The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) Centennial Committee has many projects currently under development in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of the burial of an Unknown American Soldier who fought and died in World War I and is buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

On the 11th Hour, of the 11th Day, of the 11th Month in 2021 Americans will pause to recognize those who have sacrificed and those who will sacrifice in the future in the defense of America’s freedom and democracy. SHGTUS hopes to include all Americans and bring communities together through a range of initiatives.

“It is important to remember that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is not just about World War I, but it is about every individual who has ever served - or will ever serve - and America’s promise to them that they will never forget them,” says President Gavin McIlvenna. “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier fosters a unifying national identity that transcends our differences of politics, race or religion, and we have applied our best efforts to plan, develop and initiate a number of activities suitable for this solemn occasion of national importance.”

Those plans will culminate in 2021 with a Centennial Week in Washington DC from November 8-11, 2021.

Among the initiatives underway, SHGTUS has reached out to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America to develop a new merit badge for recognition of the occasion. It has also developed a commemorative coin that will be used as a fundraiser, which is currently for sale on their website.

“We have developed an educational tool kit containing materials that will help Americans reunite with those who have served and sacrificed in times of war or armed conflict,” says McIlvenna. “This tool kit is intended to help children learn more about the Unknown Soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery and all those who have served and sacrificed. The kit informs the groups before they visit or lay a wreath in Arlington, and then upon returning to their schools and communities, to help them share their experiences.”

He says that SHGTUS is also working with the Naval Historical and Heritage Command and midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy to research and preserve the historical documents, photographs, and items surrounding the transportation of the Unknown Soldiers by USN/USCG vessels. SHGTUS has also been working with the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia to highlight the important part the USS Olympia and her crew played in the transportation of the World War I Unknown Soldier in 1921.

Read more: Preparations Underway for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial


USA Today Thanksgiving story header image 

We're celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here's how we did it in 1918 – and what happened next 

By Grace Hauck
via the USA TODAY newspaper web site

More than 200,000 dead since March. Cities in lockdown. Vaccine trials underway.

And a holiday message, of sorts: "See that Thanksgiving celebrations are restricted as much as possible so as to prevent another flare-up."

It isn't the message of Thanksgiving 2020. It's the Thanksgiving Day notice that ran in the Omaha World Herald on Nov. 28, 1918, when Americans found themselves in a similar predicament to the millions now grappling with how to celebrate the holiday season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Every time I hear someone say these are unprecedented times, I say no, no, they're not," said Brittany Hutchinson, assistant curator at the Chicago History Museum. "They did this in 1918."

On Thanksgiving more than a century ago, many Americans, like today, lived under various phases of quarantines and face mask orders. Millions mourned loved ones. And health officials in many cities issued the same holiday warning: Stay home and stay safe.

The first cases were detected in the USA in March of that year, growing exponentially by the fall. In October, the virus burned through the nation. Dozens of cities implemented face mask orders and curfews and locked down for two to three weeks, temporarily closing schools, libraries, theaters, movie houses, dance halls, churches, ice cream parlors and soda shops. The virus killed about 195,000 Americans during October alone.

As Thanksgiving rolled around, some cities celebrated the relaxation of flu-related restrictions – partly due to opposition campaigns by retailers, theater owners, unions, mass transportation companies and other economically stressed stakeholders. Washington, Indianapolis and Oakland, California, had lifted restrictions days before, and San Francisco was on the brink of lifting its mask mandate.

Read more: We're celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here's how we did it in 1918 – and what happened...


Thanksgiving WWI Americans experienced five Thanksgivings during wartime before the Treaty of Versailles was signed, meaning that things looked decidedly different at the holiday dinner table. Among the familiar favorites, you'll find some eyebrow-raising items.

What Thanksgiving Looked Like During World War I Rationing 

By Hayley Sugg
via the allrecipes.com web site

In 2020, it's safe to say most of us are experiencing a highly unusual Thanksgiving. Between eschewing gathering with family and friends to making do with different dishes due to food supply issues, it has seemed like one of the weirdest holiday seasons to date. But not so long ago, before the nation was grappling with the novel coronavirus, the United States was battling another foe: the Central Powers of World War I.

As WWI raged on, Americans experienced five Thanksgivings during wartime before the Treaty of Versailles was signed, meaning that things looked decidedly different at the holiday dinner table. We spoke with historians at the National WWI Museum and Memorial to learn more:

What Did Families Eat?

Food shortages during WWI made ingredients like wheat, sugar, dairy, and red meat hard to source. Instead, the U.S. government recommended swapping in similar ingredients, such as poultry, fish, corn, rye, molasses, and honey. They also released Win the War in the Kitchen, a helpful cookbook to encourage citizens on how to eat, including a chapter titled "War Service in the Home."

But despite these challenges, many recipes we know and love today were also enjoyed by families a century ago, according to the National WWI Museum and Memorial. "Classic dishes include turkey, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, oyster stuffing, apple pie, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and gravy, and more," says the team. Some of the dishes that are less common now, but were a staple back then, are options like mayonnaise salad, carrot pudding, or mince pie.

What Did Soldiers Eat?

The National WWI Museum and Memorial's archives boasts a large collection of Thanksgiving-related information, including menus, letters, and calendars that all help us learn what the United State's military was serving up. In many ways their holiday menus looked similar to ours today, with soldiers dining on options like turkey, oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, vegetable sides, and a variety of pies.

One soldier, Thomas Shook, wrote a letter to his parents about Thanksgiving while stationed at Camp Funston in Kansas, "I have ate so much today that I can hardly travel. We sure had some feed. Had tea for first part of feed and coffee for last. First was turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions fresh, celery, lettuce fresh, cranberries, and bread. Ate this at the tables then the cooks and kitchen police brought us mince pies, apples, oranges and pears." While the menu varied greatly depending on the soldier's location, one consistent thing the Museum's team found was that "Nearly every menu included cigarettes [or] cigars."

Read more: What Thanksgiving Looked Like During WWI Rationing


Learning about The Great War – through cards 

How a World War One centennial exhibit evolved into an immersive card game 

By Dana Lombardy
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

In 2018 I was publishing World War One Illustrated magazine for the educational non-profit World War One Historical Association (ww1ha.org). In February of that year my work involving the Great War led to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which in turn led me to create an educational, immersive card game on the subject.

01 SF War Memorial complexThe San Francisco War Memorial building complex

The SFWM and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

The San Francisco War Memorial building complex houses the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Herbst Theatre, Opera House, and San Francisco Ballet. The complex was dedicated on November 11, 1932, as a memorial to all American veterans who served in The Great War.

In 2018 the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission designated it as a World War One Centennial Memorial eligible for a matching grant as one of the commission’s 100 Cities / 100 Memorials awardees.

In February 2018 I was asked to give a presentation to the SFWM’s trustees regarding why a centennial exhibit about the First World War was important for them. They concurred, and I was then asked to:

  1. Help create a 100th anniversary visual exhibit that explained America’s role in World War One;
  2. Enable that exhibit to be installed by Memorial Day three months later;
  3. Install a second, larger, artifact-intensive exhibit to open by Armistice Day (Veterans Day) on November 11.

In late May of 2018, eight 8-foot square banners were installed in the lobby of the War Memorial Veterans Building (see photo). In 2019 the banners were moved to the second floor in a permanent display free to the public. These banners can be viewed online at http://alwmcsf.org/ww1/ enabling people from around the world to continue to “visit” the exhibit.

Photos 2 3 Dana Lombardy and daughter artifacts display(Left) Dana Lombardy and daughter Erin in the lobby of the War Memorial Veterans Building with the banners; (Right) A few of the artifacts displayed in the Gallery next to the lobby.

The project consumed me. For eleven months in 2018 I lived for The Great War. But my extensive research resulted in another creation, one that might reach an even larger audience: a simple, fast-playing card game about World War One that could educate while it entertained.

MacGowan and Lombardy’s The Great War™ card game

Games have proven to be successful classroom tools. If done well, they improve learning and retention. I knew the game had to be historically accurate, but it also had to be easy to learn, with few rules (two sides of one sheet) and dozens of interesting photos and illustrations to immerse players in the time period.

Read more: Learning about The Great War – through cards


Kane County History: Meet Elgin’s Mary Muirhead of The WWI Army Nurse Corp 

By Beth Nawara, Elgin History Museum Curator of Collections
via the Kane County Connects (IL) web site

American nurses have a long and fabled history of selfless service during the most critical times of war.

According to E-ANCA.org, nurses were requested to help the Continental Army in 1776 and during the Civil War.

In 1898, when medical care proved inadequate for the service members struck down by yellow fever, malaria and other tropical diseases during the Spanish American War, 1,500 contract nurses were recruited, and they helped to turn the tide with epidemics.Mary Muirhead WWI dog tagMary Muirhead's World War I dog tag

The nursing professionals’ contributions ultimately became the justification for a permanent female nurse corps, and when the United States entered World War I, there were only 403 Army nurses on active duty. But by November 1918, the number rose to 21,460.

Mary Muirhead, born and raised in Elgin, was one of those nurses.

She graduated from Sherman Hospital in 1908 and received a letter dated Feb. 18, 1918, from the American Red Cross, which had been asked to find nurses for service in the U.S. Army and naval hospitals and with base hospitals.

“You are likely to find the methods of procedure in a military hospital somewhat more formal than in a civil hospital and authority more absolute,” the letter said. “May I urge, however, that you accept conditions without comment or criticism and make every effort to adapt yourself cheerfully and without friction to the new environment.

One of her first stops was at Camp Dodge, IA.

On Nov. 1, 1918, Muirhead arrived in New York City, awaiting her next orders. She arrived by train and promptly wrote her parents a five-page letter on Hotel Breslin paper. The hotel was located at Broadway and 29th Street. It is still there today and is called the Ace Hotel.

In the letter she wrote the following:

“We had a very pretty trip all of the way. Ohio with its pretty old rail fences and rolling country dotted here and there with a bit of woodland surely is very beautiful.”

“New York state I shall say is generously supplied with stones. You see miles of stone fences and lots of pretty old fashioned homes built into the hillsides, and numerous little streams rippling down to the stoney hill side …”

“When we went to the dining room at noon after we left Chicago, the girls all marched single file through the train singing the ‘Yanks are Coming & We’re Going Over.’ I was afraid that some of the passengers would be singing ‘the roughnecks have arrived.’

Read more: Kane County History: Meet Elgin’s Mary Muirhead of The WWI Army Nurse Corp


Cover and drawingThe Chugach Arts Council in Arkansas invited artists from all over the country and world to submit art that featured any animal that had been part of the World War I story. In addition an the art show and traveling exhibit, selections from the submissions were published in a full color book titled Fur N Feathers: Animal Heroes of WW1. 

Fur N Feathers: Book honors animals and people who served in WWI 

By Marie Wagner, Chugach Arts Council, Arkansas
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

The Arkansas Department of Heritage chose the theme of WW1 for 2017 Heritage Month events and encouraged programs and activities along those lines. Chugach Arts Council endeavors to encourage and support the arts in rural and remote areas and connect them to the world through creative collaborations. Art is a gift that we love to share to benefit other worthy causes. We strive to be of service and to help others when we can. It isn’t always just about art. Although art inspires us and helps us think creatively. Each project connects us to the next. Each experience leads to new understanding and new horizons.

When we began to ponder the expansive subject of WW1, we tried to narrow it down to a manageable segment. Since we had done previous projects that focused on animal welfare we thought we might go that direction. Our goal with this project, was to use our talents and blessings to honor the animals and people that served in WW1 and to bring awareness and support for animal welfare organizations. Coincidentally, we found that art itself played a crucial role in the war efforts.

Artists from all over the country and world were invited to submit art that featured any animal that had been part of the WW1 story. In addition to original works of art, we showcased historic photographs, vintage art and posters. Submissions came from across the continent and a month-long art show and exhibit was hosted at the Vada Sheid Gallery, Arkansas State University-Mountain Home. The exhibit then moved to the Boone County Library and is now available for loan or sale. Our hope is that it can be shared and not simply sit in storage.

Every animal story is also a human story. Men cared for the animals; feeding, training and veterinary needs. Animals served in a multitude of practical ways. Horses, mules and donkeys pulled wagons for supplies, munitions and ambulance. Many lives were saved through the performance of the animals' duties or assistance. Pigeons carried critical messages, dogs alerted soldiers to gas and searched for wounded. Many others, pets or mascots, brought comfort and humanity during a terrible conflict.

Read more: Fur N Feathers: Book honors animals and people who served in WWI


Springfield, IL park renamed for World War I hero Otis Duncan 

By Steven Spearie
via the State Journal-Register newspaper (IL) web site

The Springfield Park District board voted Wednesday to rename a near north side park after Otis B. Duncan, the highest-ranking Black officer to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I.

Otis DuncanOtis B. DuncanStephen Douglas’ name was removed from the 26-acre park, which marks its centennial this year, by a board vote on Sept. 16.

The 6-1 vote at Erin’s Pavilion at Southwind Park came on the 147th anniversary of Duncan’s birth.

“It gives us an opportunity to honor someone who is truly worthy,” park board president Leslie Sgro said of Duncan, before the vote. “I just love the idea we put forward this individual who has long been overlooked, I believe. His star is starting to shine in our community, as it should have for a century, but better late than never.”

A ceremony for the renaming will be held at a later date, Sgro said.

“We’re very proud and pleased on the consideration of renaming the park after our namesake,” said American Legion Post 809 Commander Richard Rump. “In this day and age, in light of current social movements in the country, I think it’s a very positive move for the city and for the park board.”

The Springfield post was named for Duncan shortly after his death in 1937.

The last park in the district to change names was Colony West Park, in the Colony West subdivision. It was renamed Patrick J. Cadigan Park, for the longtime park board president.

There has been a recent backlash against Douglas, who served as a U.S. Senator from Illinois and was a one-time presidential candidate.

Nicknamed “The Little Giant,” he is perhaps best known for his debates with Abraham Lincoln for the senate seat in 1858.

The park district took suggestions for names on its website.

Read more: Springfield, IL park renamed for World War I hero Otis Duncan


Thank-you letters from 1915 point back to unlikely Minnesota hero 

By Curt Brown
via the Star Tribune newspaper (MN) web site

Handwritten by Belgian schoolgirls caught in the middle of an adult clash, the letters from 1915 are frank and brimming with gratitude. Germany had invaded their country, British allies mounted a blockade to starve out the German soldiers and millions of innocent Belgians faced starvation at the outset of World War I.

James Ford BellFlour milling company executive James Ford Bell was instrumental in leading a U.S. hunger relief effort during World War I, resigning his business post and devoting himself to the government’s effort. He was honored by Belgium and France after the war ended.“I do not yet fully understand the meaning of war, poverty, starvation, these words I hear so often at home.” 7-year-old Maria Clerbois wrote. “All I know from what my dear papa has told me is that without the great and generous America, we would be suffering great hardship.”

The Great War raged for three years in Belgium and the muddy trenches of France before the United States joined the fight in 1917. But U.S. humanitarian aid had started pouring in years before — including tons of wheat milled in Minnesota. Nearly a quarter of the first 283,120 sacks of flour shipped to Rotterdam in January 1915 came from Minneapolis millers.

“At the outset of this frightful calamity that is striking us, we could only look ahead with terror … [and] the threat of starvation,” another student wrote in 1915 from Liege, Belgium. “One day, just as all hope of receiving food supplies was vanishing, America the brave and the beautiful came to promise us relief and to give us bread to survive …”

A traveling exhibit of these translated letters — “When Minnesota Fed the Children of Europe” — visited the Mall of America in October. Here is the link to the opening and more resources on the exhibit: https://www.globalminnesota.org/events/past-events/exhibit-opening-of-when-minnesota-fed-the-children-of-europe/“This was the largest humanitarian relief effort in human history and much of this food aid was wheat flour coming from Minnesota,” said Mark Ritchie, the former Secretary of State who’s now president of Global Minnesota. The nonprofit group promotes international education and is bringing the exhibit here for the rest of the month.

The girls’ letters were written generally to their American peers, but two unlikely men with Midwestern ties were pivotal players behind the massive relief effort that helped feed 150 million Europeans a century ago, from 1914 to 1923.

Iowa-born Herbert Hoover is mostly remembered for a woeful presidency that included the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression. But 12 years earlier, President Woodrow Wilson tapped the Stanford-trained mining engineer to feed Belgium as the head of the federal Food Administration.

Hoover, in turn, named Minneapolis milling mogul James Ford Bell to head the Food Administration’s influential Milling Division in 1917. Eleven years before Bell founded General Mills, he had replaced his late father, running the Washburn-Crosby mill in Minneapolis.

Read more: Thank-you letters from 1915 point back to unlikely Minnesota hero

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