Prepping for World War I

Part 2

Shortly after the return of Company E of Sheldon’s National Guard from the Mexican border in 1917, it set up a recruiting headquarters in Hollander’s 5-10-25 Cent Store on the northeast corner of Ninth Street and Third Avenue, where Locke’s of Hair salon sits today.

Company E was ready to induct 18-year-old men and those who were over that age who passed the requirements necessary to become a National Guardsman.

Even though it had not been notified by the official call to prepare for the “Great War” in Europe, Company E wanted to be prepared when it received the official message from the president.

Company E had 70 members when it returned in March from the border incident at Brownsville, TX. By April 10, enlistments numbered 155. It was rumored that the National Guard would train at the Sheldon Fairgrounds from the middle of July until it would be called to replace regular soldiers in France.

The special order was received July 14, 1917. The order stated that Company E and all other Guardsmen in Iowa would go into camp under the federal service on July 15. This order only affected about 15 percent to 20 percent of the company. The new members and about 25 of the original members of the Guard already received an order two weeks before to mobilize. Lt. Edward Starrett was the local commander of the Guardsmen.

This call-up caused problems meeting the expenses of housing and feeding the company while at the Sheldon Fairgrounds on the west side of the community. The Sheldon Commercial Club appointed a special committee of E.A. James, J.A. DeWitt and W.E. Clagg to seek donations for a Company E Special Fund. The money was used for incidental expenses, like setting up a camp to hold 150 men. Tents were rented and placed on floors. Water had to be supplied. By the end of the first week, the committee had raised $272 from donors, such as Sheldon National Bank, $10; Sheldon Savings Bank, $10; First National Bank, $10; Empire Loan & Trust, $10; Starrett Bros., $10; White House Clothing Co., $5; W.J. Hollander, $5; Fiebig Bros. Bottling, $5; and Otto Bartz, $5.

Citizens from the area gave gifts and parties throughout the months of July and August for the Guardsmen. The Church of the Brethren gave each member a pocket-size New Testament Bible. All the officers, men and their wives were invited to a reception at the C.O. Button’s home with the Washington Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution as a host.

The recruits received their second and third shots for typhoid.

Orders arrived unexpectedly on Aug. 17, 1917. Company E and was ordered to draw 67 men from ranks to become a part of the “Fighting Third” Regiment. They were to leave the next day on the Illinois Central Railroad from Sheldon to Des Moines.

The names of the all the newly enlisted men were placed in alphabetical order on a roster and the odd-numbered privates were chosen to become the Rainbow Division. The duty sergeants were taken in the same manner. Many of the guys enlisted with their friend and had hoped to go together. So, some of them volunteered to trade with others who wanted to be together. However, if they all had their way, they would have liked to go altogether as a whole company.

On the morning of the departure of the 67 men, people from all around gathered to see them off. The Sanborn band joined the Sheldon Band and furnished music until the train arrived, the Rainbow Division, would go to Des Moines, then to Long Island, NY, and then to Europe.

On Aug. 27, 1917, the remaining members from Company E left for Fort Deming, NM. C.C. Schaap was in charge of the farewell program, assisted by C.O. Button and R.L. Manning. Frank Kehrberg was in charge of the Mess Fund and Earl Tangney collected for the Tobacco Fund for the Guardsmen.

Company E. assembled at the Sheldon City Park around noon and marched to the Commercial Club Room. A farewell dinner was arranged by Dr. J.J. Bushnell. The men stood at attention for “The Star-Spangled Banner” and during the prayer by Bushnell. Then they sat down and ate while music played in the background. At 1 o’clock, the bugle called them to order and roll call was taken. Then they marched back to the city park for a program.

The program opened with “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the Rock Valley Band. Several music selections were given by the Rock Valley Band and the Sanborn Band.

After the concert, Judge W.D. Boies was the speaker. He had nothing good to say about Germany and the Kaiser. It was a time for action! The audience applauded his remarks. He emphasized that this was no time for tears, but a time for cheers, and a time for “bravery.” He urged the boys to do their best for their country.

After the address by Judge Boies, Fred Frisbee directed and lined up the parade of Company E, the band, the Boy Scouts and the people for their trek to the railroad depot. In front of the marching Company E were three cars carrying Lt. Col. W.H. Bailey, Capt. Henry Geiger and Judge Boies.

When the train arrived, it was gaily decorated with bunting and had a huge sign on each side, “Company E Second Iowa.” On the front of the train was a large five-pointed star with a large “E” in the center. The train was commanded by Lt. Col. Bailey.

By the time the men had assembled their things and said goodbye, the Mess Fund had collected almost $200, and Tangney had accumulated $23.50 and 1,000 cigarettes from the crowd.

The train remained in the station for a full hour before pulling out.

On the opposite side of the train, Joe Spangler fired a small cannon occasionally.

As the train slowly pulled out of the station, the men hung out the windows waving their farewells. The hometown people were waving hats, hands, and scarfs or handkerchiefs.

It was estimated the crowd that saw them off was in the thousands. Amid tears, cannon salutes, band music, cheers and a short message from Judge Boies, the crowd bid farewell to Company E. In spite of Judge Boies’ appeal of cheers instead of tears, there were many tears.

Capt. Geiger sent word two days later that the train reached Council Bluffs at 3 a.m., arrived at Kansas City at 11:30 that same morning, and reached Camp Cody in Deming, NM, on Aug. 31, 1917. This was another step closer for the troops to be entering the Great War!

Part 3 will be published in The Sheldon Mail-Sun next week.

Millie Vos is the secretary/treasurer of the Sheldon Historical Society and the museum director and a board member of the Sheldon Prairie Museum. This is part of a series of historical articles about Sheldon. Members of the Sheldon Historical Society receive a yearly newsletter with articles like this. To join the society, call her at 712-324-3235.