Above: Front page of April 5, 1917 issue of the Gratiot County Herald
By the time that most people read their newspapers at the end of the week they already knew Gratiot County was at war. Now, their sons would be a part of it.
Some advertising in newspapers still seemed to make light of the European war. In Ithaca, J.L. Barden advertised that “War is Declared” and that rugs and floor coverings would be going up in price. Slater and Goodes Men’s Wear warned that “The Big Guns in Europe Are Shooting Away your Shirts, Socks and Underwear.” Cotton was sure to go up in price – one should buy their clothing now. There were also advertisements that the French Army wanted horses. From April 11-14 a buyer for the Good Horse Company would be in Alma, Shepherd and St. Louis to buy good Army horses. They had to weigh 100 to 1400 pounds and be in sound condition.
President Woodrow Wilson had already asked for a declaration of war against Germany. All that mattered was that Congress had to make a formal declaration. The Kaiser had to go. The German government could not be trusted. Its use of spies, unrestricted submarine warfare and slaughter of innocent people had to stop. Wilson was expected to raise 500,000 soldiers immediately and then to increase the army until enough men were in uniform to adequately defend and fight for the United States in the Great War.
Patriotism was said to be extremely high and Gratiot County would be called upon to do its share to make the world safe for democracy.
How many men served our county in the Great War? What was the role of ordinary people in maintaining the war effort? Who were the men who died in the Great War while serving Gratiot County? What were the war years really like in Gratiot?
Follow Gratiot County’s role and place in World War I here on the blog. We start the journey here this week.