Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Great War: September 17, 1918

On September 17, 1918, the front page of the Columbia Republican reported that the French and Siberian offensive had begun, Allied planes had scored many successes, and the Allied forces were advancing. The armistice that ended the war was only two months away, but just the week before twenty-four more men from Columbia County left for recruitment camp in Syracuse.

Page three of the Columbia Republican for that week announced that Hudson was to have "a huge roll of honor containing the name of every boy who had gone out of this city to battle in the great war for right." Philmont already had one, which had been dedicated the previous Saturday. The Republican was doing the early 20th-century equivalent of crowd sourcing to raise the needed funds to pay for the honor roll.

This picture, from Historic Hudson's Rowles Studio Collection, shows the honor roll that was created.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson
So far, I have found not any progress reports in the newspaper on the success of the fundraising effort or the creation of the honor roll, but on January 14, 1919, two months after the war in Europe ended, the Columbia Republican covered the dedication ceremony for the honor roll, which had been erected in the Public Square.

The account of the dedication reads in part:
The Hudson Honor Roll containing the names of 562 boys who went out from this city to do their bit in the war was unveiled Sunday afternoon in Public square before an amazingly large crowd, considering the extreme cold. The board is the result of the Republican's efforts as this paper started the agitation for such a memorial and went ahead to raise the fund. After a good beginning had been made the Republican appointed a committee composed of Tristram Coffin, chairman, and Mark Rosenthal, treasurer, who, with the assistance of a number of others completed the details, raised some more money and assigned all of the work incidental to completing the undertaking, and they did a host of work, too. A. A. Elliott was the designer and the Superintendent of Public Works O'Hara was a host in himself in setting up the big affair. A Victory wreath from Will Christians of the Allen Green Houses was sent to the park and adorned the board.
The workmanship of the Honor Roll is very beautiful. On a 28-foot base stands each letter, so plain that the aged eye may read at a glance the name of his grandson or his neighbor's boy who served his country. In solid black letters on a white field each name is painted. The marbelized [sic] slab presents a very neat and attractive appearance.
Standing at attention is a gilded figure of a soldier and sailor at each side of the Roll. The seal of the city of Hudson, Neptune and the whale, bringing citizens back to when Hudson was a whaling station, stands in colors above the tablet and effective burnished scroll work adds the finishing touches to the whole Roll.
R. D. Wentworth did the decorating and the painting of the names, assisted by Augustine Costa, who did the marble work, the entire piece being by all odds the handsomest in this section of the State.
The dedication program was simple but effective. Surrounding the Board was Company F and the Hudson band, hundreds of others being in the throng, many of the families of the boys who went over there; some whose sons or brothers or grandsons will never come back, others who are anxiously awaiting the return of the beloved ones. Old and young braved the cold to attend the exercises.
First, America was played by the band, the audience joining in the singing; then a prayer by Rev. R. Irving Watkins, D.D., after which the cloth covering the roll was dropped and Hon. Frederick J. Collier delivered [an] . . . eloquent oration. . . .
This image of the honor roll accompanied the coverage of the dedication in the Columbia Republican.

I've had no success in finding out what happened to the World War I honor roll. It's been suggested that the honor roll, fabricated of wood as it was, did not withstand constant exposure to the elements and simply rotted to a point beyond repair. The conclusion to the oration by Frederick J. Collier at the dedication of the monument, however, may provide some hint of what happened.
This Roll of Honor is indeed an inspiration and I trust the time is not far distant when there shall be erected in our city a more enduring structure commemorative of the services of all our soldiers and sailors in all the wars in which our country has fought: fought from Bunker Hill to Appomattox; fought from Appattomox [sic] to San Juan Hill; fought from San Juan Hill to Chateau Thierry; but always fighting for lofty purposes and ever inspired by the message of that Liberty Bell which over a century and a quarter ago proclaimed "Liberty throughout the world to all the inhabitants thereof."
It is likely this monument, in the southeast corner of the Public Square, "Erected by the citizens of Hudson in grateful recognition of her sons' and daughters' services in the Armed Forces of the United States," is the "more enduring structure" of which Collier spoke, replacing the honor roll.


No comments:

Post a Comment