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April 06, 2017

Hamilton County in the Great War

Hamilton County in the Great War

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

April 6, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the United States entry into the Great War, or as it’s called now, World War I.  President Woodrow Wilson had asked on April 3 for Congress to declare it and, after some debate, they did.  Of course, the war had already been going on in Europe for two and a half years.  I’ve done posts on two Hamilton county men that served – Hanson Booth and Harvey Harrison.  This evening, the library will be offering a program by Nancy Massey on the diary and scrapbooks of Adolph Mueller, a Hamilton County resident.

There is an interesting resource that the library has made available online.  The 1922 county atlas has list of most of the soldiers in the war.  The first part of the list is made up of the Gold Star soldiers – there were 10 killed in action, 9 who died from a service-related illness or accident, and 22 who died from the influenza epidemic.  Frank Huntzinger was the first to die in action and the American Legion post in Noblesville is named for him.

The collection of names shows African American participation in the war.  There were some enlistees from Roberts Settlement – Terrell Roberts, Guy Winburn, and Conrad Newsom.  An enlistee from Noblesville was Broda White, the father of Murphy White.  These soldiers are usually given the designation of “colored” in the list, although it’s interesting that the five Armstrong brothers from Westfield were not.  Their father had possibly come to Westfield as an escaping slave on the Underground Railroad.  One of the brothers, Irven, was a teacher whose students wrote to him during the war.  The letters are preserved at the Indiana Historical Society.
The list also includes nurses like Ruth Nettie Ale, Laura Lowe, Mrs. Halcey Lysett, and Flossie Stahl.  One of the nurses, Alma Lancaster, spent a year and a half overseas.  She was a Quaker who graduated from Methodist Episcopal Hospital Training School in Indianapolis in 1913.  She enlisted as a nurse in September of 1917, arrived in France on December 24, and served with Base Hospital 32.  Her brother Cyrus served with the Navy at the Great Lakes Training Center, but never got overseas.  Tragically, her mother died in the flu epidemic in December of 1918 while Alma was in France.  Alma returned to the United States in March 1919.  She lived to age 93 and is buried in Carmel Cemetery.

One person on the list had an unusual military career.  Gray Hawkins enlisted in the Indiana National Guard 1st Field Artillery on May 4, 1917.  According to his obituary in 1930, he was dismissed because of foot problems, so he went to Canada and enlisted there.  The obituary said that he had joined Princess Patricia’s Own Light Infantry, which is a famous regiment.  However, actual Canadian records say he enlisted on August 5,1918 in the 12th Reserve Battalion.  He shipped overseas on August 27th and landed in Liverpool.  He served in various places in England until July 3, 1919 when he was shipped home and discharged from the Canadian army.  The listing points out that he was never officially discharged from the Indiana National Guard.