I happened upon this mystery photo --- mystery now almost resolved --- while looking for another at the museum yesterday. "Mystery" because there's no indication on it of why this group had gathered on Sept. 20, 1931, nor had the required --- but sometimes missing --- object number been added to it when it came into the collection many years ago. Without that number, there's no easy way to track it back to the museum catalog and find out more.
So I decided to follow the hints that were on the photo and see what turned up. The first hint was the date; the second, a list on the back, written in ink, of the men in the photograph, but not the women and children. So what was going on?
Bless the hearts of those who came up with the idea of searchable databases filled with digitalized images of vintage newspapers. By searching in September of 1931 for some of the surnames written on the back, I came up with the front page of The Chariton Leader of Sept. 22, 1931, and a story headlined "Members of 339th Field Artillery Meet Here Again."
Back up to World War I and you'll discover that the 88th Infantry Division was activated at Camp Dodge during the late summer of 1917 and deployed to France a year later, during early September 1918. Among its components was the 339th Field Artillery Regiment (of the 163rd Field Artillery Brigade), including Battery D.
A considerable number of young Lucas County men, drafted into World War I service, were assigned to Battery D, which also included men from elsewhere in Iowa and adjoining states. Many of these men served together through repatriation to Camp Dodge once the war ended and formed strong bonds that endured for the remainder of their lives. The division was placed on inactive status during June of 1919.
Battery D veteran Glenn Curtis, by 1931 partnered with his father in operating the Chariton Broom Co., also was a founding member of Carl L. Caviness Post No. 102, American Legion. He got together with several of his local Battery D buddies at the Legion Hall during 1930 for a small reunion. Out of that grew the idea for a much larger event to which all Battery D veterans would be invited.
So the event held on Sept. 20, 1931, was actually the second Battery D reunion, but the first to cast so wide a net for veterans. These Battery D reunions would continue into the 1950s, always organized by Curtis. Fifteen of those reunions were held in Chariton. During 1951, the event began to move from town to town and after that, faded away as the veterans aged.
But that was all in the future when that group gathered during September of 1931 at the Chariton Gun Club, reported upon in The Leader as follows:
"Former members of Battery D, 339th Field Artillery, held their second annual picnic Sunday, Sept. 20, at Crystal Lake west of Chariton.
"Seventy members of the company, their wives and sweethearts (I count 34 veterans), were present at the reunion this year. But twenty-four were able to attend last summer. Many sent wires and letters of regret that they were unable to attend the reunion. Included among these were Capt. Earl Maul of Minneapolis, who declared in his telegram that although he was unable to come this year he would be present next summer.
"The group enjoyed a picnic dinner at the Gun Club at noon and following the dinner the women of the reunion came to Chariton and spent an enjoyable afternoon at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Curtis. The men remained at the Gun Club and conducted the annual business session.
"So enjoyable had been their picnic here that the members of the company voted to get together here again next summer. Harry J. Passno, photographer, snapped a picture of the group."
And here the Battery D veterans are:
First row (from left) Chester F. Van Dyke, Chicago; E.E. Martin, Mill Grove, Missouri; Keith L. McClurkin, Morning Sun; Floyd McQuern, Osceola; R.E. See, Guthrie Center; Glenn Curtis; R.A. Wornstaff, Keota; Carl D. Landes, Kansas City; Oscar L. Coberly, Gallatin, Missouri; F. H. McMahon, Jamesport, Missouri.
Second row: Clarence McCann, Osceola; Edd Miller, Mill Grove, Missouri; Henry E. Perry; G.H. Foster, Osceola; A. Rasmussen, Omaha; Vern L. Haskett, Pulaski; W. R. Kime, Tingley; E.C. Hosman, Hickory, Missouri; Joseph Hoaglin, Hillsboro; G.C. Jellsma, Cambria; Ben F. Miller., Osceola.
Third row: Bill Terrell, Hiteman; Wilbert Allison, Newton; John W. Gebhart, Hamilton, Missouri; Harry S. Funston, New Virginia; Henry Nanke, What Cheer; Gerald O. Boylan; Reece Thomas; Nels O. Nystrom, Council Grove, Kansas; Daniel Moore, Bison, Kansas; Raymond Booth, Gallatin, Missouri: Hugh O. Tinnen, Ravanna, Missouri; Earl E. Houdek, Delta; Walter Mosik, Dana.