THE FIRST WORLD WAR I DRAFTEES
HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y.
The article below appeared in The Herkimer Evening Telegram on May 10, 1941. It was again reprinted in the paper on September 15, 2001. This draft occurred two days before our tragedy at the World Trade Center that occurred on September 11, many years later in 2001. All spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc. is exactly the same as the newsprint.
Thank you to Beth A. Brewer, publisher of the Evening Telegram, for permission to reprint historical articles on our site.
FILE CLIPPING MAY 10, 1941
Above are the 13 men who left Herkimer, September 9, 1917, in the first World war draft contingent from this village. They are (top row, left to right) George J. Wilkinson, Clayton Miller (now dead), son-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Perry, Graham St.; Frank Steber, Poland, ex-supervisor from the town of Ohio; Otto Reynolds, now a civil engineer in Kansas City, son of W. W. Reynolds, former Municipal Commission employee; Vernon K. Snyder (now dead) who ran a grocery store with his brother in the old Vilhauer block, Prospect St.
Second row (left to right), Clarence T. Guthrie (leader); Earl B. Lenneker, town of Little Falls, now a veterinarian, then a medical student; Hiram Speece, Frankfort, now a Savage Arms employee; Carl Falk, meat merchant; Fred Volk, Mohawk, then employed in Bateman's grocery where Prine's cleaners now located.
Bottom row (left to right), Ray Bleekman, who operated restaurant on N. Main St. between old Munger store and Grogan's, now an auto salesman; Willis Weeden, Frankfort, medical student; Valentine Gosson, Frankfort, who worked in the New York Central freight office, now employed by the railroad in Utica.
Reynolds went into the aviation corps, Wilkinson, Guthrie, Snyder, Lenneker and Bieckman attended officers training school and Miller, Falk, Speece and Gosson saw active service in the A.E.F.
OLD PICTURE RECALLS FIRST 1917 CONTINGENT
Village Worker Finds Photo of 13 Men taken Day They Left for World Service; Two Now Dead, Five Earned Commissions, Four Saw Service Oversees; Changes in Draft Setup Told by Vets.
For months now contingents of young men have been speeded on their way to army camps under the new peacetime draft. Since last October about 30 such groups have left Herkimer, Ilion and Little Falls.
The sight, reminiscent of World War days, has turned the memory of older residents back 24 years to the time when the first draftees left Herkimer to join Uncle Sam's army and help make the world "safe for democracy."
What of the first draft contingent of World War days that left Herkimer Sept. 9, 1917? What has become of the men who started this same training at a time when many of the present draftees were mere babes, or yet unborn?
OLD PICTURE THROWN OUT
This week Francis Macrina, village employee, who resides at the Hemstreet Apartments, noticed an old photograph as he picked up some refuse left at the curb in Bellinger St., during "cleanup week." It was the picture reproduced on this page of the first contingent of Herkimer draftees, taken the morning they left for service.
Of these 13, two are dead. Four saw service in France, five became commissioned officers and many still reside in Herkimer county where they have taken responsible places in community life and probably "feel homesick" for bugle calls when they see younger men preparing to defend democracy again, if necessary.
George Wilkinson, 439 Henry St., who went away a raw rookie, returned a lieutenant and later served as captain commanding Co. I, New York National Guard, and Carl Falk, who served oversees as a non-commissioned officer had charge of his company on the return from France, lived again their draft experiences as they studied the 24-year old photo.
EXPERIENCES TIMELY TODAY
The experiences in camp, the segregation of home town units, is all being re-enacted today and therefore becomes timely.
The leader of the first contingent, Clarence T. Guthrie, was a professor of mathematics at Herkimer high school and became leader of the group, which went (soon after the photograph was taken on the courthouse steps) to Troy and later to Camp Devens, Ayer, Mass., where for three or four months all the men were members of Company A, 33d Infantry. Shortly after other draft units from Herkimer county joined them.
Early in 1918 the men began to be transferred and separated.
Most radical difference in the draft of 1917 and 1941 was that soldiers then took all their medical exams before being sent away and that each man when he left wore in his lapel a "shipping tag" as may be seen in the picture.
Some of the first World War draftees returned home before Christmas, 1918, but others did not get back into civilian life until July, 1919.
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Article Copyright © 1945, 2001 Herkimer Evening Telegram
Copyright © 2001 Betsy Voorhees
All Rights Reserved.