GREAT WAR ENDS!

Story by Larry Chabot  •  Illustrations by Mike McKinney

One hundred years ago this month, The Great War—the “war to end all wars”—ground to a halt on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 as Germany and the Allies signed an armistice.
The headlines blared the news: “People go wild in every state … Paris lets go … Mass crowd in front of White House … New York’s Broad Street choked solid … Draft calls cancelled.”
In England, the Downing Street home of the prime minister was mobbed by celebrants, as was Trafalgar Square. “We want the king,” they shouted. Crowds in Sydney, Australia, were so tightly packed that they couldn’t move, and November 12 was declared a national holiday. On the front lines in Europe, American and German soldiers began socializing, while in Paris a ceremony marked the renaming of a street in honor of American president Woodrow Wilson.
Locally, Ishpeming blew its top. Of the celebration, the Marquette Mining Journal reported that “nothing of this kind ever held here before has approached it.” The revelry was only to be topped when “the city’s sons come marching home.” It began at 2 a.m., when the Journal received Associated Press dispatches. The paper notified Ishpeming and Negaunee mayors Shaddick and Robbins, who immediately began notifying others in their cities.
The paper’s presses pounded out an early edition, copies of which were offered for sale in the streets by 4 p.m. Newsboys roamed about with calls of “Extra! Extra!”—the traditional promise of hot news. Streets were alive with people racing about in all directions, making jarring noises. The firehall bell was the first to be sounded. Hundreds of people of all ages were lined up at the fire hall by engineer John Sullivan to take turns ringing the fire hall bell. One man in line held a sledge hammer on his shoulder.
Mine and train whistles joined church bells in ringing nonstop for hours. Then came the parade at one o’clock, with hundreds of residents marching for nearly two hours to tunes by the local drum corps, intermixing with 150 automobiles full of hollering and singing riders. Mines closed for the day, but companies said the men would be paid for the day. Retail stores also closed all day. Mayor Shaddick conducted a short thanksgiving service at the Nelson House, where the crowd raised a rousing version of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Ishpeming’s Iron Ore paper noted happily that no Ishpeming boys were killed in the war (although several had suffered non-battle deaths). The paper announced that the government was asking employers for their immediate employment needs so soldier releases could be prioritized. It was expected that miners would be among the first to come home.

Rattling Nerves
Although Marquette’s celebration started soon after the first Associate Press reports, the parade was delayed until 2 p.m. The wait was worth it. It was, according to The Mining Journal, “the most enthusiastic observance ever.” Marchers included workers from plants and offices, with at least 3,000 to 4,000 civilians headed down Front Street to Baraga, then up Fourth to Washington. Small batches of citizens wandered aimlessly all afternoon to the racket of various nerve-rattling noisemakers. All retail stores closed, as did the industrial plants. All day long, crowds formed, broke up, reformed, marched around, made loud noises, then disappeared off and on until the parade started.
The Negaunee Iron Herald reported that the mayors of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming held a conference call in which they agreed to postpone any public functions and whistle-blowing until 4 a.m., but Marquette citizens were already celebrating with a “sonorous chorus.” Many concluded that it was not worthwhile to pile out at such an unearthly hour, but there were enough patriots to crowd downtown streets. A lone fire truck made a noisy circuit of city.
The paper claimed that all of Negaunee was on the streets by 4:30 a.m. Among the numerous automobiles were some with attached metal items to add to the noise. There were parades of all kinds as evidence of the happiness at the war’s end. The nearby town of Palmer put on a happy parade as work ceased in that village. All of Richmond Township was there, while in Republic, there was hilarity and yelling as Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm was hung in effigy.

 

 

Chaos In Crystal and L’Anse
The Crystal Falls Diamond Drill called the town’s peace celebration the best in the town’s history, as citizens turned out in droves on hearing the good news. Parades filled downtown all morning until the main event mounted at 1 p.m. At that time, it was estimated that 6,000 people were on the streets. In the line of march were police officers, the McKinney steel band and a band from Alpha.
In L’Anse, the Sentinel reported the area as being wild with joy over the end of hostilities: “Whistles and bells in the copper country started making their joyous noises promptly at the time the war ended. Though Baraga County was a little late in starting, the din raised was none the less hearty, and the lateness in starting was more than made up by the lateness of ceasing.” Every bell and whistle in the county sounded until late at night. Workers dropped their tools and quit for the day. All places of business closed their doors, and “even the good wife [abandoned her] regular schedule and took part in the celebration.”
Baraga held an evening parade and L’Anse hosted an enormous daily march. Bands from Pequaming and Zeba presented free concerts in the streets, and here, too, the Kaiser was burned in effigy, being dropped into the fire by one William White. In the parade, Edith Lofquist and Freddie Proctor of Pequaming played the Goddess of Liberty and Uncle Sam. Besides the parade, Pequaming marked the day with a free dance and free lunch.
The Sentinel recounted the tale of a Zeba soldier named John W. Asher, who told his troubles in a letter to Kathryn Papin of Assinins. Kathryn told the Sentinel that Asher was seriously wounded in France a few weeks before the armistice. He boasted that he “poured forth blood in democracy’s cause” but didn’t mind the wounds because he enjoyed attacking the enemy. He fired his rifle until the end, but the Germans eventually got him with machine gun fire which fractured a leg bone, cut the nerves on three fingers of one hand and tore a hole in his arm. Before help arrived, Asher lay in a shell hole for three days, unable to move. He expected to be in an English hospital for several months, so Papin urged his friends to write him a cheerful letter, then gave the paper his address.
There were last minute reports of deaths, like that of John Rantanen of Calumet, who ate breakfast, fell to the floor and was dead before getting to a hospital. He was buried at sea with full military honors as the crew stood at attention and taps was sounded. Another Calumet man, Olaf Nelson, died of pneumonia at his barracks in Washington; he’d been in the army just a few weeks. These two were among at least 447 U.P. men who died in uniform; Houghton County had the most casualties with 85. Several veterans’ posts are named for World War I fatalities.
All told, nine million soldiers, sailors, and air crews from all over the world died in the war. The U.S. had 4,355,000 soldiers in uniform, of whom 116,516 lost their lives. But more U.S. military personnel died of the flu than in combat. A worldwide flu epidemic, which started in an American military camp, killed at least 50 million worldwide.
The American Expeditionary Force—the official name of the U.S. contingent in Europe—was coming home. Ironically, large numbers sailed on captured German ships. A reporter for the soldier paper Stars and Stripes claimed that many a soldier couldn’t wait to “step into a taxicab a few moments after their transport docks at Hoboken.”
For the Red Cross, however, work continued in providing aid to the citizens in the devastated countries, especially France and Belgium.
As for the “war to end all wars,” how did that work out?

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