One hundred years ago today, jubilant celebrations throughout northeast Indiana marked the end of World War I.
The “war to end all wars” in Europe, which claimed about 40 million military and civilian casualties, finally was over.
The first news of the signing of the Armistice between the Allies and Germany, which came on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 in Paris, reached Kendallville shortly after 4 a.m. from the United Press International representative in Indianapolis to The News Sun office. The joyous news spread quickly as church bells rang all over town.
Later that evening, according to a report in the Kendallville News-Sun, a parade was held downtown, led by the Rev. H. S. Morrill, pastor of the local Baptist Church, who drove his decorated automobile through the streets and led the singing of “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here,” (a popular song first published in 1917. A large crowd joined in on the chorus.
The “cremation” of German Kaiser Wilhelm II, the eldest grandson of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who abdicated as the last German emperor two days earlier, was held on a vacant lot west of the J. Keller & Co. store off of Main Street, Kendallville. Hundreds of people assembled as the kaiser was placed in a casket and his last will and testament read before the casket was set on fire.
News briefs in the Kendallville News-Sun on Nov. 11 also mentioned celebrations that occurred in Albion, Avilla, Brimfield, Rome City, Corunna and Stroh. My late grandmother, Ila Housholder, remembered the church bells ringing in Avilla, the same day she gave birth to her firstborn, Evelyn.
According to a report in the Angola Herald, “the streets (of Angola) were alive with eager and excited citizens of this city and neighboring towns at an early hour as the news of the end of the war reached Steuben County. Automobiles carrying happy and celebrating parties dashed from one end of the town to the other, dragging tin cans and pails … for but one purpose — noise.”
At 10:30 a.m., a thanksgiving service was held at the Christian Church. Music in the afternoon, in the circle downtown, was provided by the Buckskin Band, the Angola City Band, the Pleasant Lake Band and the Flint Band. Among the band members were three veterans of the Civil War, one of whom played the same drum he carried for the Union Army in battle. At 2 p.m., a formal program was held at the circle in front of a platform on the west side. The crowd was estimated at between 3,000 and 4,000.
A parade occurred in the evening in downtown Angola, and a “funeral” was held for Kaiser Wilhelm II. An effigy of the kaiser was set on fire. Some 100 boys from Tri-State College, dressed in their pajamas, acted as mourners to the delight of the crowd.
The young people decided that the fun shouldn’t end and after an hour of dancing to music in the street, they talked the managers of the Elks Hall into opening their facility for a dance party. An orchestra agreed to play and the celebration went on well into the night.
The celebrations were similar in DeKalb County, running from early morning to late at night. The jubilation started in Garrett shortly after 3 a.m., when the news of the surrender came over the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad wires. Whistles from factories were sounded and church bells were rung. A crowd soon gathered in the business district and the city’s fire truck and the city band joined in a procession. Schools were closed for the day.
The residents of Waterloo were awakened at 3:50 a.m. with the sounding of the fire bell at the railroad depot. The church bells soon rang out and by daybreak the drum corps was marching in the streets, joined by many well-wishers.
A parade of automobiles was formed at 2 p.m. in Waterloo. Ninety cars paraded to Auburn and joined an Auburn parade on to Garrett. It was estimated that the parade reached 250 vehicles in Garrett, with many of them decorated with American flags and patriotic-colored buntings.
A report in the Waterloo Press said the celebration in Waterloo continued with an event at the town hall, where a big crowd gathered to hear patriotic speeches and music.
In Hamilton, the joyful news was first heralded by the ringing of the Methodist Church bell. According to the Hamilton News, “soon guns, dynamite and almost every noise-making device imaginable was in evidence and continued throughout the day and into the night.” School was dismissed and a crowd circled around the Liberty pole where a number of patriotic songs were sung.
A heavy price was paid worldwide because of the war, which lasted four years. The Allies, including the United States, lost about 6 million military personnel while the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire) lost about 4 million. American combat deaths totaled 53,402 with 204,002 wounded. Another 64,000 Americans died of non-combat related reasons, including many who died in the influenza epidemic of 1918.
The war took its toll in northeast Indiana, too. The men who died in the First World War from the four northeast Indiana counties (according to some military records) are: Noble County — 20 dead, including Virgil G. Winebrenner and Tony Lewis Gandy who were killed in action; LaGrange County — eight dead, including five killed in action, Laurence Faust, Myrl D. Hoopingarner, Harvey Wallace LeMaster, Ray Albert Stroman and John L. Vaughn; Steuben County — 28 dead, including five killed in action, Lee Cassell, Charles E. Lyon, George Parrish, Leo Ross Porter and Glenn D. Ransom; and DeKalb County — 23 dead, including five in the line of duty, Earl Monroe Mortoff, Russell J. Darnell, Wayne Wilber Gonser, Charles Sarpa and Walter Scott Whitehurst.
Of the American soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to influenza or pneumonia. That was true of most of the men from northeast Indiana who died in service to their country.
Although the armistice ended the fighting, the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, and officially took effect on Jan. 10, 1920.
On this famous day in history, we should remember those who gave their lives for freedom. This is from the poem “For the Fallen,” first published during the First World War:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Terry Housholder is president and publisher of KPC Media Group. Contact him at email@example.com.