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Patriotism during World War I in Central Oregon  

The Pinsta land warfare art.

Taken from Antelope, The Saga of a Western Town by Arthur H. Campbell

Because so much wheat was diverted to the military, there was a shortage of this product from home consumption. The shortage was becoming so acute in the spring of 1918 the government asked Oregon family’s and manufacturing firms to turn wheat into the nearest governments, commissary where they would be reimbursed at the market price.  This gave the citizens and businessmen an opportunity to contribute to the flour bins of the Army and Navy.  The plan, originated by the Federal Food Administration, was implemented nationally by Herbert Hoover.  It was aimed at Hotels, Bakeries and other large users of flour, but it could receive donations of a little as 5 pounds from individuals.

Unlike wheat, a surplus of potatoes existed in January of 1918. It was said that unless the potatoes were eaten within the next few months, they would

Antelope, Ore. 1910

sprout and rot.  Of little consolation to the bread lovers, it was said that one potato equals nourishment equal to one slice of bread and potatoes at 1½¢ents a pound was more than full value when bread was 10¢ a loaf.  One lady who was in the Antelope grade school at about said that when lunch pails were open, those with nice slices of bread made into a sandwich were in the envied while the patriotic potato eaters lunched in silence. She said that students from poor families often brought potatoes before the wheat shortage, so the potato for lunch was not all that unusual.  Most of the Antelope town kids went home for lunch, and it was not uncommon to take home a friend, so no one went hungry.

During 1918 there was some decline in the quality of beef around Antelope,

The National Archives Catalogue

mainly due to the high prices the year before. Ranchers had sold off some of their breeding stock because of good prices and the increase in meat consumption at the military training camps. Now the government was recommending meatless bases and asking for increased production from the now decreased herds. This had less effect on the Antelope area ranchers then on larger cattle producing countries to the south and east.  With wool prices up during the war due to the need for military uniforms there was an ample supply of mutton sheep at the meat markets and on the local farms. Pork production was also increased, especially along the banks of the john Day River east of Antelope.

By the spring and summer of 1918, the area’s patriotic fever was running at a high pitch.  To fan the flames of pride a report was issued from the office of the Secretary of War, placing Oregon first in the Nation in three areas.  First Oregon furnished more volunteers in proportion to population than any other state.  Second, Oregon had more counties that were freed from the new draft than any other state because of the volunteers.  The number of men called for the draft depended upon how many volunteered.  If a county quota was met with volunteers, there was no draft for that period.  Third, it cost Oregon’s 11¢ per man to register for the draft, which was lower than any other state.  The figure was based on the number called, the number accepted and the cost for processing each draftee. 

Leaving for military camp in 1917. Left to ight: Bonfoy (Bonnie) Rooper, Virgin Bolton, and Phillip Brogan. Photo courtesy of Carsner collection.

On May 11 and 12th 1918 the Grand Patriotic Rally kicked off. The Clarno picnic was a huge success. Over 500 people showed up for the festivities. Tom Craig, who had purchased Charlie Clarno’s ranch some 13 years earlier, was given the privilege of hoisting an honor flag on the a newly constructed flagpole in the front yard.  After the cheers, tooting of auto horns and clapping died away, W.  C. Trill of fossil give a short talk.

 The afternoon events included a tug-of-war between Antelope and Fossil participants and a foot race between Oscar Kelsey and Viv Bolton there was also a sack race between Earl Reinhardt and Hugh McGreer and a special heavyweight race between Coe Barnyard and Cold Camp Charlie Smith.  Hugh McGreer was said to have been so excited just before the race that he took off his bib overalls before stepping into his sack and hopped all the way in his BVD’s. and hopped all the way in his be the disease.  It is not known if his strip act helped him win or not but he no doubt took second place.

The big fundraiser of the day was a goat raffle.  129 tickets were sold at $1.00 each. A Mr. Nill who bought the Andrew Claro holdings in 1912 won the goat.  Nill promptly put the goat up for auction. The high bid was A. Johnson of fossil for $175.  Johnson not to be outdone by Nill auctioned the goat off yet again to the highest bidder.  Ed McGreer, Hugh’s older brother, who had not bid high enough in the first bidding had the last bid at $100 and he got the goat.  Ed was heard to say, a feller could get a cheap bull for a $100, but the money for the goal was for a good cause.  he $404 in proceeds for the goat was divided between the Red Cross the wheeler and Wasco Counties.

A patriotic picnic of foods not on the shortage list was spread out on tables and planks in D.H. McRae’s orchard and alfalfa field across the John Day River on the Wasco County side.

Old McRae house along John Day river during flood

The most well attended event of the area’s third Liberty Bond drive was in Antelope. The program was chaired by Wasco County School Superintendents and former Antelope-Shaniko principal and teacher Clyde T. Bonney.  The grandstand was profusely decorated with “flags and the national colors,” said the May 16 Dallas Optimists. Area man, women and children heard several speakers who talked of war work and what was expected number of them.

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About Author

Dr. Michael Manford McGreer is managing editor of Nevada-today.com and writes on issues that impact public policy.

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