80 Years Ago This Week…

First let me say, this is the 800th post written on this blog.  The blog started the end of October last year, so that’s not too bad of a volume of works.  I was going to do a retrospective, but decided to save that for next month.  Thank you to all who have been so supportive with emails and comments!  Now, on to the reason for this post.

Click here for a full photo set of the World War I Memorial

Original World War I Memorial

On September 28, 1918, Fort Wayne and Allen County’s first World War I memorial arch was dedicated.  Its location was the southwest corner of the Allen County Courthouse Square.  By that date, 37 men and one woman from FW/AC had given their lives in service of their country.  The one woman memorialized was Miss. Irene Byron who was a Red Cross nurse.  At the dedication, Dr. Arthur J. Folsom, pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church said:

We have assembled here today not as those who mourn in deep sadness but as friends, loved ones and patriots who rejoice in the final triumph of our soldiers and sailors who have made the supreme sacrifice.  This beautiful arch is the symbol of victory, the bow of promise, the emblem of divine favor.  We have paused in our busy life and almost ceaseless activities to dedicate this sacred monument to God, to good and to humanity.”

The arch stood until March 1, 1921 when plans were started for a permanent monument to replace it.  The original arch was constructed of lumber and beaver board.  These light materials were part of the reason for its removal.  When the memorial arch was taken down, Col. David N. Foster, Civil War Veteran and President of Park Commissioners promised that a permanent memorial would be built.  This promise was made to the mothers, fathers, widows and orphans of the men and woman who died in service of their country.

Planning and Construction of Permanent Memorial

For various reasons, the bronze tablets were not realized until in January of 1928 when the commander of American Legion Post No. 47 appointed a committee to join forces with a committee of City Council and County Commissioners to fulfill the earlier made promise.

Seven years later, on September 28, 1928, construction was started.  The tablets with the names of those memorialized were on display in the Allen County Courthouse while waiting for completion of the memorial.  Capt. John K. Shawvan, member of the American Legion, designed the memorial which was built by the Muldoon Monument Company in Louisville Kentucky.  Planning for the dedication ceremonies took place at a joint meeting of various patriotic organizations in the courthouse on November 1, 1928.

Dedication Ceremony

The new Memorial was dedicated on November 12, 1928.  Even though the anniversary of the end of World War I was the previous day, Armistice Day, as it became known, was celebrated on the second Tuesday of November at this time.  The names totaled 106.

The ceremonies started with, “one of the largest and most impressive of recent years” parade.  The 10,000 participant parade wound its way down Berry, Clinton, Glasgow, Harmar, Maumee, Washington and Wayne Streets and started at 2:00 pm.  

School children made up most of the participants in the parade.  The Jefferson School children  were arranged so their hats, they all wore, formed the American flag.  A dozen bands and drum corps played.  A platoon of police and a platoon of firemen headed the procession.  Then came the grand marshal, Major Leonard F. Wood, Lt. Col. Charles Sharp, chief of staff and First Lieut. James C. Smith – all on horseback.  Automobiles, furnished by the Fort Wayne Woman’s Club, carried the Gold Star mothers and fathers and members of patriotic organizations.  Members of the G.A.R. rode in taxicabs.

Also present were a large group of nurses from the Methodist, Lutheran and St. Joseph’s Hospitals.  Many war and patriotic organizations were also present.  There were also several floats.  The Fort Wayne’s Woman’s club placed a floral tribute at the base of the memorial.  

Col. David N. Foster presided over the ceremony.  The dedicatory address was given by Dan Sowers, the National Americanization Officer of the American Legion.  Harry McMillen, City Councilman and Chairman of the Memorial Committee, turned over the memorial to the City and County.  Mayor William C. Geake and Clarence McNabb, Country attorney accepted.  

Mayor Geake in part stated:

…They were of the flower of the young manhood of this community.  They were in love with life and enraptured with the world, but in their country’s cause, they passed to silence and eternal glory.  As future generations pass this way and read the names inscribed on this memorial, may they ever feel and know that the people of this generation were proud of their heroic deed and have taken the humble means of ever preserving them in grateful remembrance.

Flowers were dropped on the memorial from a Stinson-Detroiter monoplane.  The plane was piloted by Arch Alspach and had members of the Wayne Flying Service.  A battalion of Concordia Cadets provided a military gun salute at the time of unveiling.  After the unveiling, the General Electric band played the National Anthem, the American Legion color guard advanced the colors and the American Legion buglers sounded to the colors while floral tributes were laid in honor.

Capt. John K. Shawvan, designer of the monument explained the symbolism of the arch:

…the arch was chosen because since the days of Rome it had been the emblem of victory and pointed out that the local memorial is built on a plan similar to the Arch of Triumph in Paris.

The three sections of the memorial symbolized the fighting of the World War, in the three great elements of nature – land, sea and air.  The monument also contains the names of the great battles in which the American soldiers fought.  The bronze tablets preserve the names of those who are honored by the main arch is the gate of triumph through which Fort Wayne and Allen County may lead in public ceremony any of her sons who are in the future honored for bravery.

There are two purposes which this memorial serves.  One is to pay our debt of gratitude to those who served.  The other is to write the story of patriotism for future generations.

The dedicatory address was given by Dan Sowers who spoke briefly because of the cold weather.  In part he said:

Eleven years ago, your sons went away to answer the challenge of a mighty monarch.  I can picture them giving every effort that we who live might enjoy the great blessings of America.

I think it is well that each individual dedicate his life in the service of America in these days of peace, and to keep faith with those who gave their all in service to their country.

The benediction was given by the Rev. Michael A. Chapman of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  Taps with echoes was played by the American Legion buglers.  WOWO broadcast the ceremonies live.

A Year Later – More Names

Almost a year later on the next Armistice Day, another bronze tablet with the names of 25 additional soldiers was added to the memorial.  These Allen County soldiers died during the actual duration of the United States’ participation in the great World War, but died shortly after the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.  From a News-Sentinel article published that afternoon:

The Legion parade starting downtown at 1:30 o’clock terminated at Memorial Park for the dedicatory services.  Invocation was given by Rabbi Samuel H. Markowitz.  Samuel C. Cleland made a short talk and Mrs. Isabelle Taylor also gave a brief talk.  Mayor WIlliam C. Geake paid tribute to the fallen heroes in a talk during the services.  Col. Ralph D. Cole, of Findlay, Ohio also gave a talk.

The presentation of wreaths for the Memorial Arch was made by Com. John L. James, of the Disabled American Veterans; Com. Carter Bowser, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Com. Samuel Jones, of the Charles Anderson Post of the American Legion, and Com. William Lacey of the Fort Wayne Post, No. 47.

The placing of the wreaths was followed by a salute to the dead by the American Legion firing squad which in turn was followed by taps by Legion buglers.  The Re. Louis N. Rocca gave the benediction.


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