Hartland in World War 1

Starting in 1848, Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck sought to unite the many German states into a German empire. Prussia was by far the largest and most populous state. Three successful wars against neighboring countries (Denmark 1864, Austria 1866 and France 1870-71) demonstrated to the citizenry how powerful a united Germany could be. Germany also created a colonial empire, claiming much of Africa not yet claimed by other European powers. As Bismarck was succeeded by Wilhelm II in 1890, the German Empire was becoming one of the most powerful nations in the world. It had the largest army; its navy was second only to the British Royal Navy. Germany had the largest economy in Europe and only the United States’ was larger.

By the turn of the century, many European nations had formed alliances for mutual defense. If one were attacked, allies would come to its aid. This arrangement set the stage for how a relatively minor event could lead to a truly global war. Germany was aligned with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy. Under Bismarck it had been allied with Tsarist Russia, but Kaiser Wilhelm II had allowed that treaty to lapse. Russia then aligned with Britain and France.

On 28 June 1914, a Bosnian Serb and Yugoslavian nationalist assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo, causing a diplomatic crisis. One month later, the Austro/Hungarians shelled the Serbian capital of Belgrade, starting the war. Soon Russia mobilized and France mobilized to support Russia. Germany invaded Belgium, causing it to invoke the 1839 Treaty of London, requiring Britain to join the war. Even Japan joined the Allied Powers as it hoped to seize German possessions in China and the Pacific. Italy left its alliance with Germany to join the Allies. The Ottoman Empire joined with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Eventually fighting spread to the African colonies. In 1917, the Russian Revolution ended Tsarist autocracy, and Russian military resistance to Germany collapsed. Germany transferred a large number of troops to the Western Front.

After the sinking of seven U. S. merchant ships and the revelation that Germany was trying to incite Mexico to make war on its neighbor, the United States declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917. The U.S. had already been on somewhat of a war footing in that it had been providing war materials and foodstuffs to war-ravaged Europe for some time. The cover page of this issue is one of several large posters displayed in our museum. They were used to encourage men to sign up and citizens to buy War Bonds, in effect lending funds to the government so it could prosecute the war.

That the country was at war was evident right here in Hartland, where the National Guard was detailed to guard railroad bridges. Much of what we know about Hartland in the World War comes from a paper prepared by Walter Hatch in September, 1966. Mr. Hatch reprints an Honor Roll of 62 men who served in the War. It was prepared by Wilbur Sturtevant who was Town Clerk for fifty years. The men’s names are followed by the unit to which they were assigned.  The original handwritten Honor Roll is displayed in our museum.

  • Claude E. Wood had the highest rank of the Hartland men. He was commissioned Captain in the Medical Reserve Corps. He was the town’s doctor for many years. He had an office in his home in Three Corners on the left side of the road to Woodstock.
  • Lee Graham was a 1st Lieutenant in the Air Service. He was a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard. Stationed in England, he was assigned to ferry a very old type of plane to France. He ran into a storm, the plane’s controls failed, and he crashed into a trash dump in Hastings, England, breaking his ankles.
  • Earle Graham was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Service, stationed at Love Field in Dallas, Texas. The Grahams grew up in the brick house near the Fire Station.
  • Rodney Burk was an Engineer in what was called the American Expeditionary Force (the AEF). Mr. Hatch recalls him later telling stories at hunting camp of his time in France, including building a bridge while under enemy fire. He lived in the red house on the corner where the County Road begins.
  • Elbridge Davis grew up in Hartland and Windsor. In the war, he was with a Coast Artillery Unit of the AEF.  When he returned, he married Eudora Sykes of Brownsville. They knew each other here but happened to meet in France where she was a WWI nurse. They had five children: Arthur was a well-known businessman in the area; Virginia married Micky Cochrane of Windsor and three of their children became Olympic skiers.
  • Mr. Hatch knew Orso Patch in Springfield where they grew up. When Hatch moved to Hartland in 1911, he roomed with the Patch family that was then living in the first house on Rice Road. Hatch worked at nearby Martin’s Mill. Orso went to France, where he drove a car for a Major.
  • The local National Guard trained during the summer of 1917 and sailed from Halifax on October 3, 1917. Frank Bement, Frank Russell and Ben Russell served in that unit. Ben was wounded in the Meuse offensive just before the war ended. The other two were in an ammunition train unit. Mr. Hatch recalls stories at hunting camp of what it was like in France to harness kicking mules to wagons at night while under orders to use no lights and make no sound. The roads were deep in mud and often ran through woods. Frank Bement married Ethel Russell [Yes, that happens a lot in wartime, your buddy’s sister starts writing you. In this case, they were classmates at Windsor High.].
  • Webb Hatch went to England on the Mauritania, without convoy as it was a fast ship. His unit crossed the Channel to Le Havre, France where they engaged in moving supplies. At first, they lived in tents in a muddy field but later were billeted in a barn’s hay loft, which was not so bad.
  • William Crane was one of the National Guard soldiers sent to guard the Martinsville railroad bridge when America entered the War. He later was in an artillery unit of the AEF. About three months after arriving in Hartland, William married a local girl, Mildred Howe, who was not yet seventeen. Mildred was born in 1900 and lived to 1992. She was aunt to Raymond, Viola, Paul, Avery and Laura Howe.
  • Walter Hatch was a corporal when discharged. He was stationed at an Aviation Repair Depot in Montgomery, Alabama. He lived in the house by the bridge just south of the Village. He was Marjorie Royce’s father. Mr. Hatch was involved with establishing an American Legion Post in Hartland in 1938. Much of his 1966 paper is concerned with members of the Legion—whom they married, what they did for work and leisure, and when they died. There was a lot of information about the old folks in town when I was growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s.              

The majority of Hartland men served in units of the American Expeditionary Force and probably went overseas. Several were at camps or bases stateside. Five men were in specialized training at Dartmouth, UVM and Clarkson College when the war ended. Three Hartland men died in the war, all of disease: Winfred Morgan on March 11, 1918, Lester Harwood on September 26, 1918, and Isaac Springer on October 4, 1918 at sea. The disease may have been the “Spanish” flu. While millions of people died in the World War, tens of millions around the world died of the influenza that probably didn’t originate in Spain. Certainly that so many people were displaced by the war and troops moved from one place to another–often living in crowded, sometimes unsanitary, conditions–contributed to the spread of disease.

For a local perspective of the War, I scanned the 1918 weekly Vermont Journals published in Windsor. One article stated that deaths by influenza in the U.S. in just two weeks were far greater than those in the American Army in the past year. A November paper stated that the ban on places of public congregation and all other rules enforced for the prevention of the spread of influenza had been lifted on November 9. The Hartland News column noted that no events or meetings had been held at Damon Hall in October fbecause of the ban.

I wondered how I might learn how many Hartland people died from the Flu. I remembered something from the information HHS Secretary/Treasurer Pip Parker had provided me about the Howe family.  Mildred Howe had an older brother, Raymond Stickney Howe, who married a Hartland girl the same age as Mildred. Christine Barbour married June 18, 1917 and died October 19, 1918. Raymond then married her sister Hazel Barbour. According to the recorded Certificates of Death in the Hartland Town Clerk’s office, Christine’s cause of death was Pneumonia Lobar – Influenza. William Nugent, age 45, a Canadian working in a woolen mill, and Francis Spaulding, age 1, also died of the flu in early Fall 1918.

It’s apparent that civilians were expected to make sacrifices and volunteer for the war effort. At HHS, we have quilts that were made to raise money. We have several booklets in which groups of women kept track of the items they had made. They were making knitted items, surgical dressing, hospital garments, and so on.  An item in the Windsor paper stated that 8 million had volunteered for the Red Cross, and 291 million items had been made.

Every week included a section of the paper devoted to war news. By late summer of 1918, it was clear that Germany was nearly beaten, and discussion turned to what it would take to make the Germans surrender and what the terms should be. Articles encouraged farmers to produce as much as possible as Europe would need help long after the end of the War. The government was still asking landowners with walnut trees to sell them to sawmills with government contracts as walnut was the best wood for gunstocks and aero-plane propellers.

The November 5, 1918, edition reprinted an article from the Boston Globe, saying it would be especially interesting to Hartlanders. “Daniel Willard, Chairman of the Baltimore and Ohio R.R., has been appointed a Colonel of Engineers, U.S. Army, for duty in France. General Pershing recommended the appointment. The French Government has taken over operation of all French railroads and thought it desirable to have an American executive in view of the extensive use the American Expeditionary Force is making of those railways.” [Daniel Willard was born in North Hartland.] In Hartland news. “Deer hunters at Plymouth are F. A. Durphey, Frank Barrell, Frank French, A. B. Howe and Raymond Howe.”

Germany surrendered November 11, 1918. My grandparents’ generation knew it as Armistice Day. The U. S., Britain and France returned to peace; Germany was in chaos. Millions had died, great damage had been done, and the terms of the Peace Treaty were particularly harsh. Germany was marginalized by its former enemies. With no government, leftist and rightist groups fought for power. Just over twenty years after the Armistice, Germany would start an even larger World War.

Hartland Celebration: Those who were overseas didn’t come home immediately after Germany surrendered as there was still work to be done. It wasn’t until August 23, 1919 that Hartland held an all-day War Service Festival in honor of those from Hartland who served. The morning was devoted to sports. At noon there was a banquet at Damon Hall. At 2 p.m. there was band music and an address by Vermont’s Adjutant General. In the evening there was a band concert and dancing until midnight.

Background on Germany and the World War is mostly from Wikipedia. Thanks to Susan Motschman for typing and arranging and Pat Richardson for editing.

                                                                                    Les Motschman

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