Monday, February 10, 2014

Victory Day, Joe Dachenbach & St. Anthony

A crowd estimated at 10,000 gathered in Chariton on Nov. 14, 1918, to celebrate the end of World War I with a giant parade. The north side of the square looked then much as it does now, with one exception. The Hotel Chariton would not be added for another five years.

It's unlikely I'll be attending Mass at Sacred Heart any time soon, considering skepticism about organized religion in general, but I did develop a new appreciation this weekend for Saint Anthony, patron of all lost things. Here's what happened:

The two Terrells --- Kathleen (Terrell) Ditmer and Suzanne Terrell --- and I were working Saturday morning in the military collection out at the museum. Sue has been obsessing for months about the fate of the flag that covered the coffin of Terrell kinsman Carl L. Caviness, Lucas County's first World War I fatality, when his remains were repatriated to Chariton during 1921. That flag is not in the historical society collection.

So I mentioned my own flag-related frustration. I had been looking everywhere for the flag that had covered the coffin of another World War I fatality, Joseph A. Dachenbach, when his remains were brought home from France for burial out in Zion Cemetery. I knew it was somewhere because my cousin, Maisel Dachenbach, had donated it to the historical society some years ago. It had been carefully folded in tissue paper and stored in an archival box --- or so I thought. But where had it gone?

Kathleen said something to the effect, "Well, both of you should be asking for help from St. Anthony." Sue allowed that she already had done that and was thinking of moving on to Saint Jude, patron of hopeless causes. I harumphed. Episcopalians honor the memories of saints but rarely ask for their assistance. "Oh well," Kathleen said.

Then about a minute later, added --- "Oh, by the way, here's Joe's flag."

There really isn't a mystery here. In order to display the flag, we'd found someone who knew how to fold it  into the proper triangular presentation form, then placed it in a display box. I'd just forgotten. But thanks for reminding me, St. Anthony.


The whole thing brought to mind these postcards, also in the LCHS collection, depicting the "Liberty Day" parade held in Chariton on Nov. 14, 1918, to mark the end of World War I.

This view of the Nov. 14, 1918, parade shows the south side of the square. Buildings in the distance are (from left) the Temple Building (burned in 1930), the building that now houses the Sportsman Bar, and the Kubitshek Block, burned during the 1960s.

As many will remember, that great war ended officially at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 11 November 1918 (a Monday), as provided in the armistice signed by allied and German representatives  at Compiegne, France.

News of the armistice reached Chariton early Monday because of the difference in time between the American Midwest and France. That allowed Mayor Horace G. Larimer to issue the following proclamation in a timely manner:

"The hour is come! The blasphemous doctrine of the diviner right of kings and emperors has received its death blow.

"Liberty, Freedom and the Power of Right have triumphed over the power of might.

"The menacing voice of the autocrat spoken by his cannon is stilled. The bloody sword has been broken by the gallant and courageous sons of the liberty-loving nations. Let us unite in joy and thanksgiving.

"By virtue of the power vested in me as Mayor of the City of Chariton, I hereby request that during the hours of 2 to 4 o'clock p.m. on the 11th day of November, 1918, all business houses and workshops in Chariton be closed and that the people cease their vocations and repair to their usual places of worship to give praise and thanksgiving for the manifest blessings and victory that have come to the arms of our soldiers and sailors and the worthy allies."

Henry Gittinger, then editor and publisher of The Chariton Leader, reported in his Nov. 14 edition that, "There was great enthusiasm in Chariton when the news came that peace was here. The various churches of the city were well filled in the afternoon, where thanks services were held and speaking was listened to. It would be impossible to give a summary in detail but the true American spirit prevailed."

That evening, according to The Leader, a big bonfire on Grand Street "illuminated the cause of liberty and told of victory. Other entertainments enlivened the evening."

Mayor Larimer declared the days that followed "Jubilee Week," with Tuesday as "United War Work Day," where the focus was on the sale of war bonds, work on sewing projects undertaken for the troops by the women of Chariton (pajamas for hospitalized soldiers was a major project) and preparations of the big celebration. Wednesday was to be Victory Day, featuring a "great parade by all the school children of the county, public speaking (in the) afternoon and evening music"; and Thursday, "Liberty Day with Everybody's Grand Parade, public speaking (in the) afternoon and Evening Music plus forty-eight beacon fires at night, representing our 48 states."

Henry was able to report in a later edition of The Leader that the great Victory Parade, actually held on "Liberty Day" --- Thursday, Nov. 14 --- had been "the best ever in county." Here is his report:

"There were fully ten thousand people in Chariton, on last Thursday, in attendance at the final and greatest day of the four-day series celebration over the victory of the allied arms and peace. Gladness was depicted upon the face of everyone, for they realized the long hostile struggle was at an end, let the problems confronting us in peace be what they may....

"Programs of music and speech-making were carried out and enjoyed by the vast crowds, but the great feature of the day was the monster parade --- a surprise to everybody --- an impromptu response by a willing people. It was classical in appearance and inspiring in effect and reached far up and down the avenues over a mile long --- nine blocks quadrupled.

"It was a pageant of banners and moving triumph --- a populace in the buoyancy of success --- success for the right. Bands of music in glittering uniforms led the way and seemed to invest Old Glory with a new lustre.

"Moving caravans representative of war airships, gas tanks, engines of force and combat, marching infantry, and mailed combatants marched forth, with hospital reliefs, and all the war benevolences well represented, in every preparation of civilian genius. The artillery thundered and was timed by the sharp rattle of musketry --- shot and shell resounded the Hun death knell of despotic power upon the earth.

"Gaily decked war chariots --- the vehicles of peace --- glided by in time to cavalry tread. Civilian groups in variegated regalia moved forward --- the civic and fraternal orders of the county --- squad by squad --- the lady orders --- and knighthood. Men on foot --- men on horseback --- and youth with mottoes held high and elastic step. Through the human causeways this pageant went --- back and forth and thence around the public square and the cheer was inspiring.

"In cannot be described, but never since the boys came home from the Civil War was there anything similar and then not on such an elaborate scale because the means were not at hand."


The grand celebration on Chariton's square did not mean, however, that war-related sorrows had ended. Elsewhere on The Leader front page, Gittinger also reported:

"The casualty lists are being reported from overseas and it is feared that they will show fatalities and hazards in greater numbers than expected. A few days since, Mr. and Mrs. Link Dachenbach of Pleasant township, received a message to the effect that their son Joe had been killed in action. He had been transported to the hostile fields not long since."

As his family eventually learned, Pvt. Joseph A. Dachenbach, son of Lincoln Grant and Forence (Shore) Dachenbach, had been killed in combat on 3 October 1918, little more than a month before the armistice was signed.

Joe's flag, now at the museum, had covered his coffin when it was unloaded from a train at Williamson on Friday, Sept. 23, 1921, and transported to his parents' farm home.

On the Sunday afternoon following, with the flag still in place, an estimated 2,000 people gathered in and around the little Zion Church --- just across the road north of the cemetery --- to pay their last respects.

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