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April 5, 2014

Area heartily welcomed home troops from WWI

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The Daily Star

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World War I had ended in November 1918. While a few local men who served had already arrived home, there was a large group who were probably champing at the bit to get home after a lengthy delay. Oneonta was ready for them with a festive arrival at the D&H Railroad station on Thursday, April 3, 1919.
“Company G of the 107th regiment with other members of the 27th division residing in Oneonta and vicinity are to receive their discharge today at Camp Upton,” The Oneonta Star reported on Wednesday, April 2. Camp Upton was in Yaphank in Suffolk County. “It has been planned that the men from this section will gather at Albany on Thursday and come out on the evening train at 6:45 o’clock. Some of the men received their papers yesterday and it is possible that a few will hurry home, but it is believed that over 40 will join together at Albany and come home together.
“Preparations for the reception of the soldiers are well nigh completed and it is hoped that all citizens will unite heartily in the plans to fittingly honor them upon their return.”
Oneontans were urged to fly their flags on Thursday, and to be listening for the city’s fire bell, warning them that the train had left Cobleskill, and then another round of ringing when the train was departing from Colliersville.
“The men will be met in Albany by a committee of citizens headed by the common council, who will have a supply of cigars and cigarettes and will assist in making the trip to the city enjoyable,” the Star reported on Thursday.
“Chief among the features of the evening’s demonstration for the men is the line of citizens it is desired to form along the line of the march from the station to the armory, through which the browned and sturdy men will march.” At that time, the parade route was uphill on Broad Street, left onto Main Street through downtown, and right on Fairview Street to the armory.
The fire bell signals rang out, and Oneontans turned out in force. The train was probably a little late, as it was reported that the troops were welcomed all along the route of the D&H, as “numerous citizens gathered to cheer the boys from many farmhouses west of Worcester,” complete with waving handkerchiefs.
“In the city elaborate decorations were made, both along the route and elsewhere, and the streets were cleared as much as possible of ice and snow. Some show windows were especially attractive and scarcely a merchant failed to make some display to honor the boys.” Thousands lined the parade route.
Two bands were at the head of the procession, as were veterans of the Civil War. About 200 other men who had arrived home earlier from the war also participated in the march to the armory.
“The cheer of the crowd was instantaneous as the sturdy form of Captain (Royal C.) Johnson and the heroes of the 27th came alongside and it continued until the end of the parade. The soldiers marched with the firm step and square shoulders of the seasoned soldier. It was no fulsome cheering to those who had an opportunity to see the smiles of gladness and welcome that illuminated the faces of many in the throng as they caught sight of a familiar figure among the brave boys in the line. The march to the armory was one continuous ovation and must have meant much to the boys.”
A brief ceremony followed inside the armory, and then the men were free to join their family and friends. A dinner and dance was also planned on Tuesday, April 22, but it was reported that only 150 attended at the state armory.
During World War I, one Oneonta boy had died in combat, another from wounds and two others from disease.
On Monday: A name change to Delaware County Community College was studied in Delhi in 1959.
Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.