World War I draftees leave for training

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

With the completion of the drawing at Washington to determine the order of draft liability in World War I, in July, 1917, the local draft board began to prepare to induct men into the military service.

The registration had taken place June 5 of all men between 21 and 31 years of age.

The Hancock County draft board, composed of O.P. Shaw, Charles F. Coe and Dr. J.P. Baker, announced that physical examinations of registrants would start Monday, Aug. 6. A total of 354 men were scheduled to receive physicals during the week, with 60 or so due each day. Each man was given a definite time for his tests, through the mails.

The first group of draftees left Findlay Sept. 6 for Camp Sheridan, Chillicothe, Ohio, to start their new military careers. They constituted 5 percent of the county’s initial draft quota. The remaining 95 percent were to leave a few weeks later.

The city gave them an enthusiastic farewell demonstration. They reported at 7 a.m. at the draft headquarters in the municipal building to receive instructions. Milton H. Decker was named the leader of the group of nine men.

At 8:30 a.m. they lined up on Broadway, headed by Captain Coe, the board secretary. Ahead of them was the Morning Republican newsboys’ band. They marched to the New York Central Railroad station on East Sandusky Street and boarded the regular morning passenger train for the camp at Chillicothe.

Over the country, the government was constructing training camps rapidly to receive the drafted men. The work continued at a feverish rate, and when the first contingents arrived in September they found much work yet to be done.

The local board received orders about every month to send a group of men away. Each departing contingent received a warm send-off with large numbers of citizens on hand to bid the men farewell. There usually was a band to provide music.

The monthly rate of departure continued the rest of the year 1917 and through 1918 until fall. The last of the registrants of the June 5, 1917 enrollment went in July and August. Additional registrations were conducted to enroll others through the war and some of those who registered at these further enrollments went into the service in the fall of 1918.

The additional registrations were as follow:

June 5, 1918, for all who had become 21 years old following the registration the year before, with 254 enrolling at this 1918 registration; Aug. 24, 1918, for all becoming 21 after June 5, 1918, with 65 qualifying; and on Sept. 12, 1918, for all males between 18 and 45 years of age who had not been registered under the previous orders. This brought the complete Hancock enrollment of all registrants at all times to 4,330.

The Hancock County board examined a total of 2,656 for military service before the war ended Nov. 11, 1918.

A district board of appeals was created for northwestern Ohio, with headquarters in the Hancock County courthouse. Charles A. Blackford, Findlay attorney, was one of the members of this board. Claims for deferment on various grounds were heard by the board of appeals from the local draft boards. A total of 27,263 claims were filed before the board. Of these, 14,084 were granted.

Guy C. McCullough was the first clerk of the district board and he was followed by Roy Ulrich and then by Miss Ruth Pocta.

The other members of the board were Judge Frank Baldwin, of Bowling Green; C.A. Benedict, of Toledo; Emmett R. Curtin, of Lima; W.W. Farnsworth, of Waterville; and Dr. A. Rhu, of Marion. Judge Baldwin was chairman. He later was succeeded by Mr. Blackford.

With the war’s end in November 1918, the boards were dissolved, after their records and reports had been assembled and shipped to Washington.

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