With at least 15,000 people in attendance from over Pottawatomie County, a picnic was given as a demonstration of the patriotic feeling of the citizens of the county in honor of the drafted soldiers, who would soon go into service. This happened over the weekend of August 25-26, 1917, at Woodland Park. Afterwards, it was announced as the most successful gathering in the history of Pottawatomie County.

THOUSANDS GATHER AT WOODLAND PARK TO HONOR COUNTY’S YOUNG MEN SELECTED FOR ARMED SERVICE

With at least 15,000 people in attendance from over Pottawatomie County, a picnic was given as a demonstration of the patriotic feeling of the citizens of the county in honor of the drafted soldiers, who would soon go into service. This happened over the weekend of August 25-26, 1917, at Woodland Park. Afterwards, it was announced as the most successful gathering in the history of Pottawatomie County.

Following the old English custom of celebrating when soldier boys were preparing for war, it was apparent that good will and friendly feelings existed over the entire grounds of Woodland Park. Some compared it to “just a great big family gathering.” The predominant spirit being that of wishing the boys God-speed and good luck.

The food provided was in abundance. More than 500 iced watermelons were donated by the various farmers and distributed throughout the crowd. Walking from one table to another, everyone felt at liberty to help themselves to anything that they might see that appealed to them. There was no limitation, except as to the eating capacity of the individuals participating.

The Shawnee Band furnished music throughout the greater part of the day, and the speeches made by the speakers were indeed thrilling and interesting. The addresses were made by Ed S. Vaught, Sargent P. Freeling, Governor R.L. Williams, State Treasurer Bill Alexander, and Judge J.B.A. Robertson.

Much credit for the success of the picnic was given to the Red Cross organizations in the county. The Red Cross members worked hard to make everyone feel at home and to see that they enjoyed themselves.

The New-Herald reporter described the event as such: “Without a question of a doubt, such a demonstration cannot help but fill the hearts of the boys soon to enter this war with pride and instill in them the true spirit of the American solider, that of fighting for the sake of humanity and liberty. They will no doubt carry with them cherished remembrances of this day.”

NEW SOLDIERS LEAVE FOR TRAINING CAMPS

Early in the month of September 1917, a few young men left for their basic training into the military. However, the first big wave exited the city on September 20. The first quota of young men, headed by the Shawnee City Band and a delegation of Civil War veterans, and followed by a large crowd marched to the Santa Fe depot. The group consisted of 61 young men drafted and departing for the new United States Army.

They boarded a special train headed to Camp Travis, at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, TX. They were applauded by the cheers of those left behind. While leaving, some of them possibly never to be seen in Shawnee again. They waved farewell from the coach windows and the car platforms.

The young soldiers proceeded to the station in two divisions. One in the command of Clyde Cox, and the other of J.A. Bailey. Impressed with the gravity of the occasion, yet they could not help but show their elation at being among the first chosen. The general sentiment was that they realized it was a privilege, rather than an unwelcome duty, that they go out in defense of their country and of democracy.

There were many touching farewells, as mother embraced son, maybe for the last time, and the two mingled with tears. The boys stood up bravely under the ordeal, but many as the train pulled out were too deeply affected to return the farewell salute of their loved ones. The band played the Star-Spangled Banner, flags waved, and the crowd cheered itself hoarse.

HALF-MILLION REACHED IN POTT COUNTY LIBERTY LOAN DRIVE

With one bank not reporting at all, and the others reporting only in part, up to noon on October 26, 1917, a total of $423,400 worth of Liberty Loan Bonds had been sold by the local committees. It was suggested that the total was probably as much as $100,000 higher than reported.

There were an unusual number of voluntary subscriptions. In some cases, the persons subscribing requested their names not be made public. So great was the avalanche of subscriptions, that it was impossible to publish all the names.

CONSERVATION ARMY IN SHAWNEE WAS GREAT

The food conservation campaign closed with a great drive on Saturday, November 3, 1917. So successful were the workers that the total signatures for the week were brought to about the 2,000 mark for Shawnee alone. The teachers of the public schools and the high school students conducted the campaign, starting early and not stopping until all had been seen and given a chance to sign the pledge cards.

More than 2,000 housewives of Shawnee enlisted in the Hoover Food Conservation campaign, which at the authorized estimate of five to the family, indicated that when the work was summed up, it would be found that more than 12,000 Shawnee people from now on be under the directions of the food administration.

The “Four Minute-Men” were meeting with large crowds at public places to raise enthusiasm for the support of the war. Dean F. Erdmann Smith of OBU headed the program at the Cozy Theatre on most nights.

“During the war, several definite propositions were put before the American people. At this time, the attention was called to food conservation. Since the American people are preeminently practical, they were interested in the ‘WHAT, WHY, HOW and WHEN’ of every proposition put before them.

“It is not promotion or reduction of family expenses, nor is it to reduce the high cost of living that is much desired, but it is to conserve food in order that we may win the war. The WHY is that our allies are not producing like they did before the war, and we must feed their armies, and keep down dissatisfaction in our big cities. The HOW of the proposition is to limit and substitute by reducing the number of banquets and substituting other foods for wheat, beef, pork and dairy products. The WHEN of the proposition is now. If a pledge for food conservation is presented to you, sign it!”

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of “Redbud City,” the comprehensive history of the city. It is the first part of a five-part series on the history of Shawnee. It describes the development of the town up to 1930. It is now available for purchase. Volume Two, the 1930s and 1940s, has just gone to press and should be available for purchase before Christmas. I am offering a Christmas special that will last until the holidays are over (Jan. 2). You may purchase both books for $60; volume one alone for $35; or volume two for $30. Contact Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or email cewool@live.com and reserve your copy. Only 100 copies of volume two are being printed. Volume Three, 1950-1979, should be ready sometime in 2019.)