America remained neutral in the 1914-1918 Great War until 1917, when Germany’s submarine attacks on American ships in the Atlantic could no longer be tolerated. President Woodrow Wilson, to make the world “safe for democracy,” declared war on April 6, 1917. Men across the nation volunteered for military duty to “save civilization.” Others were drafted. Every American community joined the war effort. Victory gardens, women taking up nursing and factory jobs, Red Cross community projects, school letter writing campaigns, troop entertainments, all were part of war efforts.
Most of the eager young recruits from California headed to newly established Camp Lewis, Tacoma, Washington for training, and many became part of the 91st “Wild West” Division, 363rd Infantry. They left for France and the Western Front in the summer and fall of 1918. The exhausted British, French and Belgians, having suffered millions of casualties since the war began in August 1914, welcomed America, and the fresh soldiers it recruited, into the fight.
This exhibit honors local veterans. Most of the photographs, newspaper accounts, books, letters, maps and objects come from collections donated, or loaned, to Trinidad Museum, by the Saunders Family, the Grinsell Family, Thomas Hannah, Mary Spinas Kline, Chris Stone and Jim Baker, all relatives of WWI participants.
Chag Lowry’s book, “The Original Patriots, Northern California Indian Veterans of World War II,” on exhibit, contains a section on the WWI service of Robert Spott, Barry Phillips, Andrew James, Lewis Sanderson, Sr., Frederick Riecke, Grover Knudsen, Thomas Reed, Walt McCovey Sr., who declared “We are some soldier boys.” The title of the exhibit, “We Are Patriots” comes from Lowry’s story of a family member asked about why Native American men, some of whom were not yet citizens, volunteered. The response was “These men were patriots.” They excelled as scouts, snipers and messengers.
Also familiar in Trinidad’s history, and commemorated for their service, are:
Private Glenn Chaffey, age 27, died in Argonne, France on September 30, 1918. He served in the 91st “Wild West” Division, 363rd Infantry. His family managed the Webster-Chaffey Store (later to become Saunders Market) in Trinidad.
Private Albert T. Tighe, age 29, died in France on November 9, 1918, two days before the Armistice. He was a member of the 91st Division, 313th Infantry Overseas Casual Company.
Albert’s brothers Corporal Harvey Joseph Tighe (1891-1974), assigned to18 CO A, 8th Ammunition Train Motor Battalion, and Army Private Enos Francis Tighe (1896-1964) also served.
Corporal Moses Saunders (1895-1967), born and raised on a Stockton ranch, and Private Glenn W Chaffey became fast friends while they trained at Camp Lewis, Washington. They served in the 91st Army Division, 363rd Infantry. Moses was badly wounded in Argonne Forest campaign in the last days of the war, which ended November 11, 1918. After a long rehabilitation in hospital, Moses came to Trinidad to pay his respects for his friend, Glenn Chaffey, to the Chaffey family. He and Mae Chaffey, Glenn’s sister, fell in love and the Saunders family of Trinidad began.
Archibald “Archie” Stedman Day (1895-1979), served in the Observation Balloon Battalion and was stationed at a German fort on the Rhine called Eiren Britzstien.
Albert “Abbie” Ehreiser (1896-1983), served in the 91st Division His family owned the Trinidad Hotel at Ocean and Wagner Streets before it burned down in 1955. He suffered from shell shock after the war.
Halver “Holly” Paulson served in Army Supply Company 326 in the American Expeditionary Force in 1918. A Christmas greeting from his sister, Alyce, in 1918, as well as two letters between Halver and his family, are exhibited.