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An Honor To Their Country

John Conway - Sullivan County Historian
Posted 11/6/20

It was shortly after daybreak on Friday, September 7, 1917, that 13 young men boarded a train in Monticello on their way to Camp Dix in Wrightstown, New Jersey and entry into the Great War then …

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An Honor To Their Country

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It was shortly after daybreak on Friday, September 7, 1917, that 13 young men boarded a train in Monticello on their way to Camp Dix in Wrightstown, New Jersey and entry into the Great War then raging in Europe.

The 13 men represented the first five per cent of those inducted after the initial draft in July resulted in filling Sullivan County's first quota of 261 men.

“Godspeeded on their way were Sy Bockman of South Fallsburg, Charles R. Brands of Mongaup Valley, Nicholas Broughton of Callicoon, Louis Frederick Cormiea of Monticello, Sidney Cregier of North White Lake, Frank Joseph Ertz of Woodbourne, Walter Gerow of Liberty, H. Nelson Krum of Liberty, John MacIntyre of Barryville, Jacob Miller of Mountaindale, Fred Pell of Monticello, Herbert Baxter Turner of Fallsburg, and Albert Weber of Glen Spey,” the Liberty Register newspaper reported in its September 7, 1917 edition. “Liberty was honored by the exemption board's selection of Krum for Captain of the contingent. Cormiea and Turner were selected Lieutenants.”

“Bright and early this morning, soon after 5 o'clock, they were roused,” the article continued. “After breakfast, there ensued another roll call and with countless good-byes and god-bless-yous ringing in their ears, they clambered aboard the waiting train and were off—stout-hearted lads not a whit less esteemed than the volunteers who have gone before, and an honor to their country.”

On September 29, an additional 101 men—40 per cent of the county's quota, left Monticello in much the same fashion, and on November 23, 1917, still more boarded the train in Monticello headed for Camp Dix.

“There wasn't a cross-roads hamlet from Mongaup to Lew Beach that couldn't name at least one son or daughter in the closely packed throng, thousands strong, which jammed Broadway for the big parade,” the Register reported on October 5, 1917.

In a true sign of the times, that same Register article noted that “among the alternates was Wm. E. Gillson, colored, of Jeffersonville, who passed one of the best examinations on record at the time he was called before the examination board.”

In April of 1918, another 33 Sullivan County boys left for Camp Dix on a morning train, the county's first quota for the second draft. That June, 200 more Sullivan County men registered in a new draft class, as one million men nationwide were added to the eligible list that began when ten million men registered the year before.

Patriotism has always run high in Sullivan County, and whenever Uncle Sam has issued a call for troops, the county has provided more than its share. During the Civil War, Company H of the 28th Regiment, much of the 56th regiment, and all of the 143rd comprised Sullivan County soldiers, and many county men fought with other regiments, as well. The county's response to the call for troops during World War I, however, was unprecedented, and in the end, 47 men from the county lost their lives in “the war to end all wars.”

In 1926, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution recognizing November 11 as Armistice Day, commemorating the signing of the cease fire with Germany at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Armistice Day became a national holiday twelve years later.

The holiday was renamed Veterans' Day in 1954 in order to recognize the service of the soldiers in all U.S. wars. There have been attempts over the years to change the date of the observance, but tradition has been strong, and the holiday has always been returned to its original date. And throughout, the sentiment of honoring those who fought to preserve freedom has remained constant.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian. His e-mail address is jconway52@hotmail.com. He will deliver the keynote address tomorrow following the Veterans' Day Parade in Woodbourne.

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