Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.
On April 28, 1918, 24 Barton County men reported for the draft on a Sunday afternoon, the Great Bend Tribune reported on Wednesday, April 24, 1918.
“Notices have been sent out to the registrants who will go. The men are showing a patriotic spirit and only those actively engaged in planting now have asked to be placed on the reserve list at this time. The boys already sent from this county who fill the emergency call are giving good account of themselves. The men, after receiving instructions from the board Sunday afternoon will be allowed to return home for the night but must appear at the board offices again Monday morning.”
On Monday, April 29, 1918, a list of the 24 men leaving on the train to Camp Funston was published in the Tribune. (See image)
Of those men, one, Calvin Victor Krebaum, would somehow find himself in the Argonne Forest of Germany, along with members of the Kansas National Guard Co. C from Great Bend, where he fought and died in “one of the largest and bloodiest operations in World War I, and one of the deadliest battles in American history, in the densely forested terrain of the Argonne Forest in Germany.” He and 23 others from Barton County were listed on the Honor Roll for the battle.
According to documents obtained from the Barton County Historical Society Museum, The Battle of the Argonne Forest (the Meuse-Argonne Offensive) began on Sept. 26, 1918, and continued for 47 days until the Armistice was declared on Nov. 11
Those on the honor roll will be memorialized on Saturday afternoon by the Great Bend Tree Board during its observance of Arbor Day and the rededication ceremony of a Great Bend living memorial in Veterans Park, named after that battle.
The patriotic spirit went beyond the willingness of young men to serve in the armed forces. As of April 26, 1918, Barton County residents had more than tripled the subscription quota for the third Liberty Loan. According to Wikipedia:
“A liberty loan was a was a war bond sold in the United States to support the Allied cause in World War 1 ... The Act of Congress which authorized Liberty Bonds is still in use today, as the authority under which the sale of U.S. Treasury Bonds are issued.”
The quota was $200,000, to be raised by May 4, 1918. But, it was announced, Barton county had already raised $610,250 and was expected to raise another $50,000 by the cut-off date.
A breakdown of each community’s contributions was provided, and while each exceeded the allotted quota, Claflin, Ellinwood, Galatia, and tiny Red Wing subscribed more than twice as asked.
This generosity also helped put the State of Kansas over the top nationwide. Kansas was the first state to receive an honor flag for its contribution to the war effort.
It should be no surprise that following the war, as the surviving heroes returned home, the county welcomed them with a huge parade in Great Bend, and the Argonne Forest living memorial was dedicated to those who lost their lives.
As time passed and many of the veterans from that war passed away, the significance of the battle was lost on the generations that followed, but in recent years, the Great Bend Tree Board has adopted the project and has gone to work, diligently renovating and rebuilding the Argonne Forest at Veterans Park. “A wooden arboretum has been built at the entrance to the park area, with new signage that includes the names and pictures of many of the original soldiers who fought in the Argonne Battle from the Great Bend area. Many new native trees with excellent signage have been planted, and new walking paths created,” according to a press release from the Great Bend Tree Board.
On Saturday, the Great Bend Tree Board will mark Arbor Day with a celebration and rededication of the newly renovated Argonne Forest park at 3 p.m. Board members will be giving away free trees while they last to community members, as well as hot dogs and drinks. The park is located at the northeast corner of Veterans Park.
In other news, this week in 1918 ...
“Members of the Great Bend Municipal Band have decided to carpet their rehearsal room and wish to appeal to the music-loving public to give them any old carpet or rugs that they may have and do not need. The Band has outgrown its present small quarters on account of the large number at rehearsals and the acoustic properties are such in the present meeting place that something will have to be done if the band makes the desired headway for summer concerts. The only remedy seems to be to cover the floor with carpet.”
“Sugar certificates are to be issued during the canning season by the U.S. Food Administration for Kansas to enable householders to buy supplies in excess of the fifty cent maximum for city customers and the $1 maximum for country customers.”
“An emergency call has been made by the U.S. Food Administration for the return of all surplus flour in the hands of consumers, and the appeal asks all persons holding more than a 30-day supply to turn this back to their dealers before May 15. The urgency of the situation, increased by the great need of our Allies abroad and the shortage of supplies in some of our communities, necessitates prompt action in making a proper redistribution of our stocks of flour. The appeal is therefore made to the loyalty of every patriotic citizen to cooperate...”
Two days later...
“No farmer is allowed to sell any surplus flour he may have on hand to a neighbor who may need it, but he must return it to his dealer in order that a fair and equal distribution may be had. Also, no farmer is allowed to hold enough flour to tide him over harvest, even though the denial may work a hardship on himself and family.”
“All woolen mills in the country have been directed by the War Department to hold their looms at the service of the Government from now until July 1 in order to insure adequate supplies of cloth for uniforms. Manufacturers of civilian clothing who get any of the output of the mills will do so under special government permits.”
“Lightless nights rescinded — On receipt of advice from the state fuel administrator, O.W. Dawson, fuel administrator for Barton county, issued the following statement this morning, suspending lightless nights: “To all consumers of electric light: Beginning Thursday night, April 25th, it will not be necessary to observe the lightless nights. This is in line with an order from the state fuel administrator.”
A farm labor shortage was anticipated, so farmers in Hoisington planned to offer a “unified wage” for any man willing to work in the harvest fields.