Celebrating History-April 20, 1918

In its April 20, 1918 issue, The Havre Plaindealer released the names of fifty-one of Hill County’s lads would be going to training camps to get them ready to fight in the trenches in Europe. It was also announced that merchants across the state were required to report any excess flour to the state food administrator and that flour mills could not sell their product outside the established rules. Liberty Bond holders were reminded that sums under $5,000 were not taxable, and the Salvation Army was ramping up efforts to raise funds to go to the war effort.

The American railway contingent, which included Havre residents Lieutenant J. M. Ryan, Captain J. C. Benson and Lieutenant James Duffy, was at Harbin, Manchuria, China, on its way to Siberia. Lt. Ryan reported conditions as not ideal, “Martial law governs here with the Chinese in control, so for a time we are safe enough. We do not go out nights, and wander around in squads during the day.” The country we were there to help, Russia, was also not ideal. With four different warring factions splintering the country, Lt. Ryan states: Seems as though we were looked upon with suspicion. The people had been advised by German agents that we’re the emissaries of capitalists that wanted a foothold in their country. The Russian soldier has quit and the people seem to think if Russia is to be divided amongst the nations, why not let the Germans go ahead.”

The anti-German sentiment was strong and getting stronger 100 years ago. The two local Lutheran churches would place announcements for their services, one for the Norwegian Lutheran Church and the other for the German Lutheran Church. Governor Sam Stewart convened a special session on February 14, 1918 specifically to deal with wartime issues (some were real, others were imagined), and among the pieces of legislation that was passed was the Sedition Act (more on this subject in a later column), a statewide gun registration law, a stringent espionage law, and the formation of the Council of Defense as an official state agency (prior it had operated under the Governor’s office) and giving it broad powers to do “anything not contradicted by the U. S. Constitution or the Montana Constitution”, which quite frankly it did just that with some of the orders it created. Each of Montana’s then 43 counties had a Council. The state’s Council of Defense went right to work creating 17 orders in 7 months that included the prohibition of the speaking of German anywhere. Schools were no longer allowed to teach German as part of their curriculum. Churches were not immune either. In this week’s Plaindealer, the omission of “German” from the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church’s services was absent for the first time. As reported in the Society column, it didn’t take long for its pastor to leave the state.

“Pastor Leaving
“Rev. W. J. Hilgendorf, who has been past or of the St. Paul’ Evangelical Lutheran church in Havre, has accepted a call to a North Dakota charge and will preach his farewell sermon in this city Sunday. A farewell party was given by members of the church on Wednesday evening for Mr. and Mrs. Hilgendorf.”

In other local war effort news, the Society column ran an entry on the Red Cross teas:

“Red Cross Teas.
“The Red Cross hostesses for the past week were Mesdames Grady, Jones, McCroskey, Loranger, Jacobson, Dunlap, John Lamey, Jr., Nelson and Misses Thompson and Broadwater.”

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