Battery A: Second Battle of the Marne

Post written by Jenny Hannifin, Archive Research Assistant, and Doug Ernest, Archive Volunteer.

During four months in combat in World War I, Battery A took part in three major battles: the Second Battle of the Marne (July 15–August 6), the Battle of St. Mihiel (September 12–16), and the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne (September 26–November 11). The Meuse-Argonne remains the largest battle ever fought in American history, with 1.2 million American troops involved and a casualty roll of approximately 122,000 dead and wounded.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Fort Collins soldiers of Battery A had a significant role in World War I.

At the Second Battle of the Marne (also known as the Aisne-Marne Offensive) Battery A saw their first dead and wounded soldiers from both sides of the conflict, witnessed enemy aircraft circle overhead, and suffered deadly gas exposure.

In his history of Battery A’s Grande Puissance Filloux artillery piece, aka “Gila Monster,” Hurdle tells us that at the start of the German offensive, the GPF was in action for 72 hours. The barrel grew so hot that it could have fried steak and eggs and at times had to be filled with water to cool it.

H0096: Excerpt from Hurdle’s history of the GPF “Gila Monster,” with “steak and eggs” reference circled

The troops’ efforts in July and August of 1918 would significantly impact the future of the war. Whereas in the spring and early summer of 1918 the Germans had been on the attack, hoping to defeat the French and British before American troops arrived, the Second Battle of the Marne reversed that situation. From August 1918 until the end of the war, the Germans were on the defensive, and the Allies always moving forward.

An anonymous letter from a member of Battery A to the Rocky Mountain Collegian reported: “We counter-attacked right in the center of [the German] push, men met men, and after the hell stopped we held the River Marne’s south bank, and Paris, if not the world, was saved.” (“Battery A Actively Engaged in Fiercest of American Drives,” Rocky Mountain Collegian, January 2, 1919).

In a letter to The Weekly Courier (published August 16 but dated July 12), Hurdle writes “the doughboys here tell us that when the gas comes over, there are just two kinds of soldiers, ‘the quick and the dead’ … ” (page 2.)

Unfortunately, that deadly gas could spread almost instantaneously, and Hurdle was caught by it on August 10, near the village of Chery-Chartreuve. Though in serious condition due to gas exposure, he refused to be evacuated. His military Record Book shows him as having participated in battles until August 16, 1918, but not thereafter. It seems likely that the Army sent him to a rear area not just for further officer training (he had been promoted from corporal to sergeant in the summer of 1918), but also to allow him time to recuperate from the lingering effects of that terrible gas exposure.

H0108: Hurdle’s Officer’s Record Book, with gassing incident circled

 

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Diamond T Fire Truck

Post written by Kristin Rush, Marketing & Communications Manager. 

History speaks to us from many sources. From words and pictures we construct images of the past. But no source is more alive than the legacy we can still see and touch for ourselves. And so it is with the Diamond T Fire Truck.

The Diamond T was a mainstay of the Fort Collins municipal fire department from 1937 to 1963. When the department’s original ladder truck was damaged in a collision in 1937, City Council approved the $1,234.85 necessary to purchase a Diamond T chassis. Without delay, the firefighters sprang into action. They repaired and remodeled the body from the wrecked truck and installed it on the new Diamond T chassis. As shiny as a newly minted coin, bearing 287 feet of ladder and 237 different tools, the Diamond T, Truck No. 3, found its home in the Walnut Street Fire Station.

The Diamond T reached the end of its fire-fighting days in the 1960s when newer equipment pushed aside the old. It was sold to Lake County in 1963. In 1981, after years of languishing in the elements, the deteriorated Diamond T was sold to a private individual, who then sold it to the Fort Collins Museum for $685.

In 1994 the Fort Collins Museum and retired fire chief Ed Yonker [pictured below] initiated a campaign to restore the Diamond T, which was designated a Local Landmark in 1996. Local citizens, businesses and the Colorado Historical Society State Historical Fund all contributed to the effort to breathe new life into the Diamond T and restore it to its 1952 appearance.

The restoration process was completed over the course of a year by the Colorado Artifact Conservation Center (CACC) in Ordway, Colorado. The truck was completely taken apart, rewired, repaired, rebuilt and rechromed piece by piece. The restoration crew is pictured with the Diamond T below.

Poudre Fire Authority Lead Mechanic, Jim Mirowski, rebuilt and installed the Diamond T’s engine. Although much of the original vehicle was preserved, its dilapidated condition required the use of some parts salvaged from other Diamond T’s. The tires and upholstery are reproductions.

Our history tells us who we are, and preserving it sharpens our understanding and sense of direction. Preserving the Diamond T, saving it from near extinction, helps us stay in touch with a century of fire-fighting lore, and the small town ingenuity which found ways to adopt the Diamond T to ever-changing needs.

“Our history tells us who we are.”

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery will continue to care for the Diamond T and all the other objects within its trust, preserving them for generations to come.

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Earth Day 1970

Post written by Jenny Hannifin, Archive Research Assistant.

On April 21, 1970, the Coloradoan’s above-the-fold front page was dedicated to Earth Day stories: a national AP piece (“Key is local participation”), a picture of an electric car at CSU (“Electric car part of environmental teach-in at CSU”), and a few inches about students advocating for a cleaner environment (“CSU students sign national interdependence declaration”).

This year marked the first Earth Day celebration. According to the AP article above, Earth Day grew out of a suggestion made by Senator Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis.

The text accompanying the electric car photo notes “the automobile is powered by a 15 horsepower electric motor and 20 six-volt batteries. Before modification the car weighed 1,775 pounds. It now weighs 4,160 pounds. … The car has a driving range between 70 and 120 miles before recharging. The batteries can be charged up to 800 times. Replacement cost of the batteries is estimated at $600.”

Compare these to the specs for the Tesla Model 3 (long range sedan):  271 horsepower, 75 kWh 350V lithium-ion battery, weight 3,838 pounds, driving range 310 miles, battery charge time 12 hours at 220V.

The 1970 article doesn’t mention how long it took to charge the battery, which remains one of the biggest practical obstacles today to committing to an electric car. According to NREL, approximately 8,600 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) were registered in Colorado as of the end of 2016. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, by 2020 over 120 electric vehicle models will be available to consumers, including the Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model 3, and 2nd generation Nissan Leaf.

Here’s the Department of Energy listing of charging stations in Colorado. We are so pleased that FCMoD is included.

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Sugar Beet Science and Microbiology

Post written by Jenny Hannifin, Archive Research Assistant.

Did you know that scientific research using the humble sugar beet led to the birth of microbiology?

In the 1800s, agriculture and manufacturing industries struggled to meet the demands of a growing and changing population. Science was applied rigorously to solve domestic challenges, and the “industrialization of agriculture was reflected in the growth of the sugar beet, fermentation and other food industries.” (Needham, p. 189)  Scientists in the mid-1850s wanted to understand the chemical nature of living matter, not only for the betterment of agriculture, but for the sake of pure science.

Louis Pasteur (1822 –1895), famous for his vaccines and processes of sterilization, began his career by studying the crystalline structure of organic substances. He believed that asymmetrical structure, which produced optical activity (the polarization of light), was related to life itself, and that processes like fermentation worked because the substances involved were alive (what we now call microbes or microorganisms). Pasteur taught his students the principles of bleaching, sugar refining, and fermentation, including the processes used in the manufacture of beetroot alcohol.

Sugarbeets were a big industry in France, and one of the Lille distilleries asked Pasteur to help them solve a problem they were having with spoiled product. Pasteur analyzed the fermentation processes that he observed at M. Bigo’s sugarbeetroot distillery (circa 1856), and tied those observations to his research on the asymmetry of living substances.

What began as a search for the cause of spoiled beet alcohol led to a full-on investigation of fermentation. If the products of fermentation were alive, as Pasteur thought, then fermentation was a living process, not one of decay, as was believed by many scientists at the time.

But if that were true, where did that life come from? Could it spontaneously generate, as some believed (Pasteur thought not)? Fermentation was at the root of important scientific debates at the time, and investigating questions like these heralded the beginning of microbiology (the study of microscopic organisms).

Pasteur eventually proved that microbes in the air we breathe kick-start many processes (like fermentation) that are inherent in organic matter. Pasteur also determined many important principles about living microbes; for example, that microbes infecting animals caused disease, the so-called “germ theory” of disease.

Image: Wagons bringing in sugar beet harvest to C&S Depot on Mason Street, Fort Collins, Colorado, circa 1902.

 

Sources:

  • Needham, Joseph (ed.). The Chemistry of Life: Eight Lectures on the History of Biochemistry (1970: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge).
  • Geison, Gerald L. The Private Science of Louis Pasteur (1995: Princeton University Press, Princeton).
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Leave it to Beaver: Conservation of our natural and cultural heritage

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections

(A personal disclaimer: I grew up in Oregon–the Beaver State; in Corvallis, which is the home of Oregon State University and, of course, the mighty OSU Beavers. Our family drove around with twin stickers on our back-bumper declaiming “I’m a Beaver Believer” and “I’ve Got Beaver Fever.” I come by my love for these buck-toothed engineers honestly, and my “beaver fever” is unabashed.)

My experience with historical research has taught me that it can be almost impossible to pick up and follow a single topic: inevitably one thing is knotted on to another, tangled up with a dozen more, and sometimes tied on to its own tail. This has been the way it’s gone with my research on the beaver felt top hat of my last post. My research on that object made me curious to see what other artifacts of beaver history are preserved in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s collections. Turns out it is an impressive inventory:

3 beaver felt top hats in addition to the one attributed to President Lincoln

1 elegant felt lady’s riding hat

2 wide-brimmed beaver felt Stetsons

1 pair of beaver fur mitts

1 bearskin coat trimmed at the collar and cuffs with beaver fur

1 sweet beaver fur cape and muff set, made from beavers trapped on George Campton’s ranch in Livermore about 1910 for his sister

1 old beaver trap, pulled out of the Cache La Poudre River and donated to the Museum in the 1960s

1 pelt from a beaver trapped by the donor himself in Colorado and donated in 1979

2 stuffed and mounted beavers (the largest and fattest dang beavers I’ve ever seen)

a set of beaver skulls

and, finally, various pairs of bright orange upper front beaver teeth

The presence of these beaver-related objects in the Museum’s collections reflects a steady involvement of the species in our region’s history, despite an economically driven “beaver fever” that severely depleted their numbers before Colorado had even become a state. The earliest historical trapping records of the Colorado Rocky Mountain region show sixty to eighty beaver present per mile of stream. By the turn of the 20th century the species’ population nationwide was as low as 100,000 individuals, very few of whom were here in the West.

Two sources I’ve come across recently not only decry the West’s loss of beaver populations, but advocate their protection and reintroduction as a means of conserving our region’s natural and cultural riches. Both recognize that in shaping the region’s waterways to their own purposes, beavers once played, and can play again, a vital role in maintaining the environments in which the region’s unique human history has unfolded. The first of these is Beaver World, a charming book by Enos Mills, a signed copy of which is in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s Local History Archive. Mills was a passionate advocate for the natural world, and an astute direct observer of wild animals interacting with the environment. Beaver World was published in 1913, and in it Mills not only gushes about the beaver’s emblematic industriousness, “He works not only tooth and nail, but tooth and tail,” but more insightfully recognizes the role the species plays in maintaining both a healthy ecosystem, and a landscape humans find welcoming and pleasing:

Beaver works are of economical and educational value besides adding a charm to the wilds. The beaver is a persistent practicer of conservation and should not perish from the hills and mountains of our land. Altogether, the beaver has so many interesting ways, is so useful, skillful, practical, and picturesque that his life and his deeds deserve a larger place in literature and in our hearts.

The beaver’s role in maintaining healthy, functional Western ecosystems is the central focus in the much more contemporary article “Voyage of the Dammed,” carried in The High Country News. Writing at a time when water conservation is a high-profile problem and many of its proposed solutions carry high price tags, author Kevin Taylor outlines the position of environmentalists and other concerned citizens who advocate, at least in part, leaving it to the beavers:

The humble, hardworking rodent, through its dams and ponds, can extend the release of water late into summer, saturating the ground and healing watersheds. It has the power to re-create the primordial, wetter West that existed for millennia.

The article extends the beaver’s vital restorative role to cultural values as well. Taylor quotes a Coeur d’Alene tribal elder, 86-year-old Felix Aripa, who sees within the native ecosystems restored by beaver activity the roots of cultural restoration: in the returning native plants, fish, and animal species are embodied the cultural riches of language and long-held cultural knowledge.

These two sources have whetted my appetite for learning more about this species, and for doing what I can to promote its ongoing presence in our region. I understand that in caring for the beaver artifacts which lie within the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s collection — clothing, tools, and scientific specimens — we preserve the history of a species which plays a central role in the Native American traditions of this area, as well as in the story of the region’s surge in population and development in the 19th century. As I read the strong praise Enos Mills gives this species and the excited plans of those advocating its restoration, I’m thrilled with the possibility that within today’s beaver population is preserved a solution to our region’s compelling need to conserve both the health of the environment and the wealth of our cultural and historical heritage. “I’m a Beaver Believer” indeed.

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Battery A: Bound for Europe

Camp Merritt (in New Jersey) was the final stateside station for Colorado’s WWI Battery A soldiers. On January 23, 1918, they boarded the steamship Baltic, bound for Europe.  After a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, they set forth on January 27, escorted by a British cruiser (and later in the journey, eight destroyers). These precautions were necessary to ward off U-boat attacks.

On February 5, 1918, the artillerymen witnessed the sinking of the troopship Tuscania by UB77 off the Irish coast. The Doughboy Center website (http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/tuscania.htm) tells us that “The Tuscania was the first ship carrying American troops to be sunk, and public opinion in the USA regarded its loss as an outrage.”

Hurdle’s scrapbook page shows a typical transport convoy; the Prince George; and a shot of the Tuscania taken from the Baltic.

 

The soldiers disembarked at Liverpool, traveled by train across England, then across the English Channel. Heavy seas were running, and “packed like sardines,” the men uniformly became seasick before finally setting foot in France. In a letter home, John Hurdle discussed the seasickness – and a dubious remedy for it – on the trip across the Atlantic:

“We went on the boat in the afternoon, and before midnight had several cases of seasickness while the boat was still tied tip to the pier. … One of the boys in B Battery had a sure method of preventing seasickness [eating onions]. … But let me give you a tip—if you ever take a sea voyage, don’t eat onions, and don’t let any of your associates eat them, because they don’t help any…”

 

Two days of discomfort riding in boxcars on French railroads brought the regiment to Camp de Souge, where it spent the next two months in additional training. The highlight came when the regiment received its artillery piece, the 155 mm Grande Puissance Filloux (GPF).  John Hurdle’s gun crew called their GPF “Gila Monster,” and Hurdle would later give a very extensive description of its use in the war. Here’s a picture of it, labelled “My gun, ready to move, in position.”

 

Post by Doug Ernest.

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WWII POWs in Colorado

Did you know that during WWII German prisoners-of-war were held at a camp just west of Greeley on Highway 34? POWs from Camp 202 were dispatched to farms in Larimer (and Weld) counties, often to bring in the sugar beets. The camp housed about 3,000 prisoners (about 2,500 were held in the camp in Trinidad; 12,000 in Colorado Springs).

 

 

The Archive has a booklet called World War II German Prisoners of War in Larimer & Weld Counties (published by the Pioneer Association in 2011; cover photo above), which includes recollections of local area residents of their interactions with the POWs. Below is my favorite story from this booklet, titled “Remembering Mr. Helmke,” by Ruth Wagner Haake (trust me, you’ll be glad you read it to the end).

 

If you’d like to learn more about WWII POWs in northern Colorado, you can:

  • Read Janet Worrall’s lecture (a Fort Collins Historical Society Program from 1995)
  • Visit the Camp 202 website which includes pictures of the site as it looks today
  • Learn about the preservation of the Camp 202 site at Colorado Preservation, Inc
  • Flip through the vertical files “LC – Military – POW Camps” and “CO – Military” at FCMoD’s Local History Archive
  • See the original (1944) beet field manifests from this camp at the Local History Archive

And for personal recollections about WWII in general, check out this page – our World War II Oral History Excerpts, on the History Connection website.

 

Post by Jenny Hannifin

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Thank you Comet Chicken!

We’re so delighted to be Comet Chicken’s Tip Jar recipient for the month of October! You can enjoy some delicious food and support FCMoD at the same time!

We thought it would be fun to comb through some of our local historical resources here at the Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery to uncover some of the history of Comet Chicken’s location at 126 West Mountain Avenue.

By checking the 1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, we can see that the location (in blue) was a grocery, flour, and feed store, and jutted up next to a roller skating rink!

By 1918, the block has filled in with more buildings, and 126 West Mountain was a grocery store alongside a notions and wallpaper shop.

Here’s a nifty view of the area from the 1920s. Note the trolley tracks running down the center of Mountain Avenue.

By 1955, the building was home to the Bea & Beryl Shop, a children’s clothing store owned by Beatrice Shoberg and Beryl Hess.

A Larimer County tax assessor card from 1969 shows that the address had become the Household Finance Corp, a loan company managed by J.W. Giles. The façade of the building had changed quite a bit to be more “mod.”

After hosting a copying company and other office-oriented businesses through the 1980s and 1990s, the location was outfitted as a restaurant about 16 years ago. Today, we welcome Comet Chicken to this historic location, and thank them for their support of FCMoD!

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Great War Blog Series:   Battery A: Training for War     

By Doug Ernest

 

“Ever since our arrival at Camp Baldwin we have all contended that whatever anybody else could do, Battery A could do a little better.”
– John Hurdle, letter published in The Weekly Courier, March 22, 1918

 

FCMoD’s Great War blog series is highlighting the scrapbook album compiled by Fort Collins native John Hurdle, who served with Battery A in the 148th Field Artillery Regiment of the 66th Field Artillery Brigade, and fought on the Western Front. Hurdle created a detailed album of his experience, which is housed at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery Local History Archive.

 

In July 1917, Battery A was quartered in Camp Baldwin, Denver, under the command of Captain Roy G. Coffin. Battery A soldiers completed basic training with Battery B (from Denver) and Battery C (from Colorado Springs). Soldiers were taught basic drill orders, command structure, and military discipline. They were also tested to gauge their physical and mental fitness, as well as their proficiency with weapons.

 

This scrapbook page gives a glimpse of what it was like at Camp Baldwin. Images show the Battery A office, a man doing a handstand, the Battery C jazz band, and (presumably) a medical building (with the caption “Now Cough,” upper left-hand corner):

 

 

In September of 1917, Batteries A, B and C departed Denver for Camp Greene, North Carolina, arriving on October 2. Battery A traveled by train through Kansas to Memphis, where it paused long enough for the men to swim at the YMCA.  Their train must have stopped briefly at Ellis, Kansas, because a photograph of that town appears in Hurdle’s album.

 

About Camp Greene, Battery C noted that Charlotte “girls were not a bit bashful and if a fellow didn’t get acquainted it was his own fault.”

 

Battery A’s Cliff Robertson gave this report of Camp Greene, which was published in the Loveland Reporter on October 15, 1917.

 

And here’s a look at Camp Greene from the FortWiki series.

 

In October 1917, the soldiers transferred to Camp Mills, New York. In the opinion of Battery C, Camp Mills was “dilapidated and forlorn,” and a “disgrace” to the US government. A problem with drainage caused the camp to be covered with as much as 6 inches of water after a stout rainfall. The water flooded the tents, extinguished stoves, and caused pipes to freeze. Bathing was limited to sponge baths.

This page from Hurdle’s scrapbook shows Battery Street in Camp Mills, with tents erected, or being erected, and a mysterious image upper right (is that a hat? a bird? an airplane?):

 

Here’s a link to the FortWiki description of Camp Mills.

 

Soldiers sent letters and telegrams home, which were often published in local newspapers along with other news articles about the war. Just a few references are included at the end of this post.

 

Battery A would see one more stateside location (Camp Merritt, New Jersey; here’s Camp Merritt’s FortWiki description) before heading to the front. Our next Great War blog will delve into Battery A’s journey across the Atlantic in January 1918 aboard the steamship S.S. Baltic.

 

 

A few mentions of Battery A published in local newspapers in 1917:

  • “Cliff Robertson Tells of Life at Camp Greene,” Loveland Reporter, October 15, 1917, page 2.
  • “Battery A Ranks, Regiment and Men Enjoy the Smokes,” The Weekly Courier, October 12, 1917, page 3.
  • “Battery A Enjoys Stop at Memphis, Tennessee,” The Weekly Courier, October 5, 1917, page 4.
  • “Battery A is OK, at Camp Greene, North Carolina, Coffin Going Up,” The Weekly Courier, October 12, 1917, page 7.

 

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A Pioneer Banquet

How do three different kinds of cake (chocolate, white, and spiced) served along “Pine Apple Sorbet” sound to you? Yummy!

Well, it probably tasted great to the 150 members of the Fort Collins Pioneer Association who attended the 3rd annual banquet of the association on February 4, 1909.

We have the program from that event here at the Local History Archive, pictured below:

  

The menu sounds as intriguing as the lecture  program, which featured tales by Mrs. John Coy, Charles Ramer, and other early residents of Fort Collins. The event was summed up a few days later in the February 10, 1909 edition of the Fort Collins Weekly Courier:

“…they had laughed with each other till the tears came over the jokes and witticisms of the speakers and had absorbed with breathless interest the graphically told stories of early day adventures, dangers and privations met with and endured when the Cache la Poudre valley was a howling wilderness.”

Read the entire article here!

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