By Linda Emley
The Great War was over and our boys were coming home. The Richmond Missourian had this to say on May 8, 1919: “A note has just been received at the Missourian Office from Adjutant General Clark in which he says: ‘In conjunction with the state of Kansas we have established headquarters in the Kansas building at Camp Funston where all returning Missouri soldiers will be met and entertained while awaiting discharge. We find that above all things the boys want to see the papers from their hometown’ etc. All right, General, the Missourian will go to them Thursday morning.”
Jewell Mayes and the Missourian staff made sure the boys had some local news to read while they were waiting to get back to Ray County.
Plans were being made for the welcome-home parade in Richmond. The Home Guard was busy getting things ready for the rest of the troops that had not arrived yet.
The Missourian said this: “Missouri Home Guard. Adjutant General Clark has telephoned Capt. C. H. Johnston that 80 rifles have been shipped to him from Kansas City to be issued to the soldier boys who take part in the parade. Capt. Johnston also offered the 40 he has with his company to be used likewise, the distribution to be made at the courthouse by him.”
All the soldiers were going to be in uniform and carrying guns.
Finally, the big day arrived. Richmond Missourian had this to report on May 15: “Glorious Welcome to Our 907 Heroes. Greeted by a surging sea of life. Ray’s Biggest Day. The Decorations in Richmond was Wonder of Multitude. Hot Time in the Old Town. Great Rivers of Tears of Joy Flowed on Like Crooked River on a High Tide.”
That was just the headlines. I guess they couldn’t pick just one headline, so they used all of them.
“It has come and gone, and for incalculable reasons the 14th of May, 1919, will always be remembered and take its place in history as the biggest day that has ever been experienced in Ray County. Its meaning is broader and longer and deeper and higher than mortals can comprehend.”
A band from Kansas City arrived by train around 8:30 a.m. The musicians marched around the courthouse and got the crowd ready for the boys’ return. It was estimated that 18,000 to 20,000 people were in Richmond for the big event. In the afternoon, the boys arrived in Excelsior Springs via the electric line where 30 or 40 cars picked them up for the ride to Richmond. At 6:55 p.m., the soldiers that were already in Richmond, went to the top of the hill west of the courthouse and waited for them to arrive. The cars arrived at 7:45 p.m. and then the mile-long procession started toward the square. It was led by five men on horseback, one of whom was Sheriff Higdon. Then came the band, the Red Cross nurses, the soldiers of Company G and the rest of the soldiers and sailors. The group circled the square and a wonderful welcome-home ceremony was enjoyed by all.
Following the ceremony, the ladies of the Methodist Church served a dinner for the soldiers and their guests. The newspaper story claimed that 1,000 people enjoyed the dinner.
After the boys arrived home, there were many parties because everyone wanted to make sure they knew how much their service was appreciated. This is what the Richmond Missourian wrote on July 3: “May Be at Mr. Roadcap’s. When a gentleman from the Millville country was in the Missourian office yesterday morning he told us that he had heard the next neighborhood dinner in honor of the soldier boys would be at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jake Roadcap. If we find out the date, count one more who didn’t kill any Germans over there but wanted to.”
The State Fair in 1919 was even dedicated to the boys. “A Victory Celebration and Peace Jubilee is to be the key note of the Fair, and will be staged in connection with the first State-Wide Reunion of Veterans of the World War.”
The same paper mentioned how the county was going to honor our soldiers. “Ray County’s solider boys are to receive a ‘Token of Appreciation’ from the Ray County Court for their service in the Great World War in the form of a diploma under the seal of said court. The diplomas have been ordered and will be distributed to each Ray County soldier in a few weeks. The form of the diploma will also serve as a record and will read something like this, ‘John Jones, date of enlistment, company, division, etc, battles taken part in, degree of wounded if any, date of discharge etc.”
The county even put together a book about the soldiers. “The first of this week County Clerk Forrest Smith received a book in which the biographies and service records of the soldiers, sailors, and marines in Ray County will be recorded. Several months ago Mr. Smith sent out blanks to the soldiers and sailors to be filled out showing their service during the war. A large percent of these blanks have been returned, but there are a few men who have not returned their blanks. In order that the Ray County Historical War Record may be complete, Mr. Smith requests that those who have so far failed to return their blanks do so at once.”
My favorite story was about the “war souvenirs” we got to keep. This was in the newspaper at the time: “There are standing in the Fleetwood Garage two big things on wheels that the general public would like to see in operation. We refer to the two large Nash 2-ton U.S. Army motor trucks, presented to Ray County by Uncle Sam. Just what will be the first thing they will be used for is not known this morning, but they are huge vehicles with strong beds on them constructed of iron and their hauling capacity would seem to be almost unlimited.”
The war was over, but residents of the county were still paying for it. “The price of ice cream cones, which had hither to remained at five cents (the dealers paying the war tax) was raised to six cents the first of the week by the Richmond ice cream dealers. The reason for this is of course the government war tax. Even the kiddies have to pay.”
Speaking of taxes, income tax was a lot different in 1919. This is how the Richmond Missourian put it on July 31: “County Collector Robert Robb has begun the work of collecting the income tax for the year 1919. If the tax is not paid by December 31st this year, the delinquent tax payer will be liable to a 200 percent penalty.” I sure hope that the “200” was a typo.
I did find one thing from 1919 that hasn’t changed. Jewell Mayes, the Missourian publisher and I agreed on the “Daylight Law.” Jewell said it like this: “The Richmond Missourian is still against the so-called ‘Day-Light Saving Law’ – against it but not ‘still’ thank you. If we had our way about it we would kick the daylights out of this law, and then bury it in a grave as deep as Haman’s scaffold was uppish – J.M.”
You can write Linda at email@example.com or see her at Ray County Museum during business hours.