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100 Years Ago In and Around Haddam: March 1916


Submitted by Sally Haase. 

The purpose of these articles is to provide news of Haddam interest and sometimes news of the world outside of Haddam. We hope to stir the memories of our oldest readers and bring insights into the past for our youngest readers. The news items will be quoted, summarized and lightly annotated.  We encourage you to share memories and details through your comments.

Bunce’s Songsters. The Penny Press. Middletown, March 1, 1916.

“Pythian hall was filled to overflowing last night and then many more were disappointed through their inability to get in.  The occasion was the presentation…by the Bunce’s Songsters…This was the first public entertainment given by the Songsters and for that reason they had no way to judge of the crowd that would be present. As a result the hall was somewhat over crowded for dancing, but the entertainment which preceded the dancing  was given in such an excellent manner, that it more than made up for it.” Some of the tunes on the program were: “My Sweet Adeline”,  “Are You From Dixie”, “They Hung Up The Old Cordeen”, “The Sweetest Girl in Monterey”, “Back Home In Tennessee”,  “ The Song Of Songs”, “Come Back Dixie”, and “Drifting”. [For those who are too young to remember, Bunce’s was a department store where the Clock Tower Shops are today.  The dry goods store opened in 1861 and closed in 1974. Can anyone share memories of shopping or working at Bunce’?]

Lighting Up The Town.  The Penny Press. Higganum, March 1, 1916

“Mr. Gavin of East Haddam has been in town in the interest of the Electric Light company.”

“The linemen connected with the Electric Light company of East Haddam were in town yesterday.” [Electricity in 1916…Solar in 2015].”

“A party of young men visited Middletown last evening. Among the number were John Becket, Ernest Rich and Wilbur Goff.”

John W. Swanson Killed by Train. The Hartford Courant. Portland, March 3, 1916.

“John W. Swanson, about 55 years old of Haddam Neck, was almost instantly killed tonight at Bride’s crossing…when  the passenger train known as the “Black Diamond,” struck the wagon in which he was riding and killed the horse and smashed the wagon into kindling wood. The train came to a stop at the station and backed up where Engineer Hall and Conductor Porter picked up the body and brought it here…”The body was barely scratched except for the bad wound on the back of the head. The buckskin pony…was badly injured…This is the first accident on the the Middletown & Colchester line in some time.”

Higganum Highlights. The Penny Press. March 7, 1916.“The Higganum baseball team is planning to hold a masquerade dance, March 17. Prizes are to be given to the prettiest attired woman in costume and to the most comically dressed man.”

“Fred Olson, one of the local jitney drivers, had the misfortune to break a gear on his automobile, yesterday.”

Small Pox Vaccine -25Years Ago. The Penny Press. March 6, 1916.

“(From The Penny Press, March 6, 1891.) The Rogers’ Bone Manufacturing company of Rockfall have recently received large orders for vaccine points from localities where small pox has been raging.”

President Wilson Enjoys Sports. The Penny Press. Washington. March 28, 1916

“President and Mrs. Wilson are looking forward with keen interest to the opening of the baseball season…Golf takes the front rank in the president’s recreations…Owing to the heavy demands on his time it is impossible for him to get away from the White House until long after 2 o’clock in the afternoon…He has always been a fair driver, only recently has become really good with irons.”

Freight Station Not Up to Par. The Hartford Courant. Middletown. March 30, 1916.

“The transportation committee of the Middletown Chamber of Commerce has taken a hold of the matter of obtaining better freight facilities for the city…Local manufacturers and other large shippers of freight complain greatly over the location of the freight station. It being located at the extreme north end of the city, whereas most of the factories are at the other end of town.  It is also claimed that the trackage facilities are inconvenient and insufficient to handle business here.”

‘Butterfly in Higganum. Reports of spring like conditions are coming in almost daily these days. Yesterday Ellen Johnson, the young daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Johnson of Higganum reported catching a butterfly. The insect was prettily colored and apparently as lively as if it were summer.”

 Republican Caucus. The Penny Press. Haddam. March 31, 1916

“At the republican caucus held in Brainerd hall, in Higganum, Thursday evening, the following delegates to then republican state convention were chosen: Elwyn T. Clark, Charles Carlson, George C. Russell, Robert S. Bailey. Town committee – Elwyn T. Clark, Chares B. Carlson, Jacob Johnson, John A. Warner, Sterling C. Gillette.”

Notes On The Great War ( WWI). The Penny Press. March, 1916

Tales of a Russian Spy. Petrograd. March 3, 1916.

[This is an account of a Russian scout who penetrated the Austrian lines to blow up bridges in Austrian controlled Poland.]

“As I have good knowledge  of Polish I was sent to blow up some bridges in the Austrian rear, I changed my uniform for civilian dress, and having crossed myself, left our trenches and crawled in the direction of the enemy’s position…It was a dark night and very late. I ventured several steps forward, but was then unexpectedly met by a field patrol of fifteen men. The commanding officer (An Austrian) seized me, and began questioning me in Polish. He asked who I was, where I had come from, and how I got there at that late hour. I told him that I was an Austrian Pole, and had run away from the Russians in Tarnopol, as they had compelled me to dig trenches without any wages.” The officer believed him but ordered that he be taken to the regiment. “When the guard and I reached the depths of the enemy’s position he asked me for a match, which I readily gave him as I had a box in my pocket…..He then leaned his rifle against a tree and taking a pipe and tobacco out of his pocket, struck a light. It was still quite dark and taking my chance with my left hand I grasped the rifle, while with my right I made a gesture as if I intended to blow my nose. With a violent swing I struck the man on the head with the butt-end of the rifle, and he fell down without even uttering a cry.

“Having satisfied myself that the Magyar was dead, I took off his distinguished conduct medal…Dragging the body to the nearby ditch, I laid it down beside the rifle, and continued my course forward towards the bridges….

“I reached the first bridge and saw a sentry with his rifle. On seeing me the sentry called out, ‘Wer Kommt?’

“ …I ran up to the bridge and threw four hand grenades …and the bridge, with the sentry, blew into the air. The body fell into the river and the bridge began to burn. Not losing a moment, I ran on to the next bridge, which lay half a mile distant. The sentry was standing and staring at the burning bridge, without paying any attention to me. As I approached I flung a grenade at a distance of fifteen paces. I struck the man’s feet and both his legs were torn off by the explosion. Then I quietly drew the remaining four grenades, and the bridge collapsed and began burning.  Soon I heard an alarm, which had been raised to catch me. Men on horseback fired and galloped in search of me, but luckily they just missed me…An hour after the uproar I crept out of my hiding place….I managed to slip past unnoticed…and I soon got within our lines again. I received the St. George’s cross of the third degree.”

March 1, 1916. Berlin. “A heavy bombardment has been opened upon the German positions by the allies at man/points upon the west front, the German war office announced today….Three aeroplanes, one British and two French, have been shot down.”

March 1, 1916. Washington. “A situation absolutely without parallel in the entire history of the United States prevailed today in the Nation’s capital. President Wilson has demanded that Congress uphold his hands in his negotiations on the submarine question”…The president “told his visitors that the Teutonic powers looked upon the United States more in character of a “big mass meeting” rather than a closely welded nation. In consequence, the president said it was growing increasingly hard to secure even ordinary consideration for the demands of this government…Excited conferences were in progress in the corridors, in the cloak rooms, in offices, and in all corners.”

March 4, 1916. Washington. “War conditions have caused the tide of immigration to the United States from Europe to drop to the lowest point recorded since 1900….showing that although the nation added 1,000,000 a year to its population before hostilities bean, the net annual gain has been reduced to a few thousand.” Statistic “show last year 434,244 were admitted, but the country’s net gain was only 50,079…most of whom returned to their native land to join the colors.” [How many immigrants today in Europe are returning to join the colors?]

March 6, 1916. Paris. “’President Wilson must decide for or against Germany, ‘said Gabriel Hanotaux, former foreign minister of France…”Mr. Hanotaux writes as follows: ‘Apparently, America is enriching herself from universal ruin. Really, she is impoverishing herself. It is a matter of fat dividends now, but when the respect of other nations and her own sense of honor are put on the other side of balance sheet, she is the loser.

‘It is more and more evident every day that Germany considers America her enemy…Our committees know that Americans engaged in relief work have been expelled from Servia and Montenegro, because Germany does not want imperial or sympathetic  eyes to witness the systematic throttling of the Slav race.

‘Germany boasts of having built submarines that can cross the Atlantic and is nothing more than a veiled threat against the United States…Victorious, Germany would strike at the only power standing before her.’”

March 8, 1916. Washington. “The state department resumed operations today. Secure in the knowledge that Congress will make no further effort at this time to interfere with the executive handling of controversy over the submarine warfare.”

March 21, 1916. Washington.  Headlines: “Preparedness Plan May Be Halted. Clash Is Likely Between Big and Little Army Advocates Between Two Branches of Legislation.”  The House will stand by its limit of 140,000 men for the regular army, expandable to 175,000 by executive order if war impends.   The senate will pass …within the next fortnight the Chamberlain bill making the regular army limit at war strength 254,000; creating a volunteer army of 261,000 and increasing the national guard to 280,000.

March 28, 1916. Petrograd. (Russians) Saved Verdun And The Suez Canal. “The Russians have saved Verdun and the Suez canal. That is the view held by the leading military critics who see in the great offensive against the Austro-Germans and the drive through Persia and Armenia two master strokes which may prove to have been the salvation of the allies.

Germany has been forced to shift troops back to the eastern fronts that were needed for he Verdun enterprise. Turkish troops and German officers that were being concentrated for the drive into Egypt had to be recalled to reinforce the armies facing the Russians.” [ Notice the news is from Petrograd!]

Pancho Villa And The Mexican Revolution March 1916

On March 9, 1916, Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa attacked the border town of Columbus, New Mexico.  It is unclear if the attack was in retaliation for the United States recognition of  its leader Venustiano Carranza, who he fought with, to bring down the dictatorship of General Victoriano Huertas.  Another theory as to why Villa crossed the border into New Mexico is that Villa needed supplies and ammunition for his guerilla war.

March 11, 1916. The Penny Press. El Paso, Texas. “Major General Frederick Funston is expected to reach the border within twenty-four hours and his arrival probably will be the signal for the advanced of American troops into Mexico to take Francisco Villa dead or alive.

The military authorities moved quickly when notified that Villa spies were active here and that ammunition was being smuggled across the border to the forces which American troops are going to hunt down. Federal agents learned that 100,000 rounds of ammunition had been loaded into wagons a South El Paso and taken along the border to the west, where Villa outposts have been observed.

Soldiers in automobiles were sent in pursuit of the wagon train, with orders that under no circumstances must, the ammunition  reach the Villaistas.”

March 10, 1916. The Penny Press. Washington. “All United States troops along the Mexican border are now on American soil and will remain there until authority is granted them to re-enter Mexico in pursuit of Francisco Villa’s bandits.”

March 14, 1916. The Penny Press. El Paso, Texas. “News of the advance of American troops into Mexico was expected here hourly today. Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing has left El Paso and taken command at a point on the border….All along the border of the southwest is waiting for the bugle call that will signal the opening of the campaign to bring Villa to a long-deferred justice.”

March 27, 1916. The Penny Press. San Antonio, Texas. “American troops are pressing close upon the heels of Francisco Villa and his fleeing bandits 240 miles south of the border, Major General Funston said today. “I would not be surprised to hear at any time that our men had been in contact with the Villaistas,” he said.”

“General Pershing in his reports to headquarters here has confirmed the reports that Villa succeeded in escaping from the “ring of steel” which the Carranzistas boasted had been drawn about the elusive bandit leader.”

An Editorial to the Hartford Courant, March 31, 1916.

“To the Editor of The Courant: May I have the pleasure of expressing…my viewpoint of this country’s duty towards Mexico?

It seems to have been quite generally agreed by American statesmen for almost a century that we owe our fellow republic south of the Rio Grande some duty as a protector and guide.

In 1810 a President of the United States scared off the avaricious and commercially greedy war dogs of Europe by throwing around Mexico that protecting cloak known as the ‘Monroe Doctrine.’ In 1845 we rescued the people of that part of Old Mexico known as Texas from an abominable Spanish tincture form of government…We also rescued New Mexico and California from what might have otherwise meant ten more years of Mexican rule. All three of those states we unite to ourselves in the sisterhood of the United States, and under the protection of the Stars and Stripes they have prospered…

For over a hundred years Europeans have longed to control the potential riches of Mexico. Her numberless mine, her rich oil fields, magnificent water power, and great ranches have appealed to all the enterprising English, French and Germans.  And they have almost wept at the sight of a continually disordered Mexican government which makes the investment of great capital inadvisable…While the Civil War raged in the states, the French under Maxmillian took possession of Mexico. But when the war ceased, we showed our conception of duty …by sending Sheridan with a veteran army to the border, Maxmillian withdrew. For nearly a century we have protected Mexico from wholesale European aggrandizement.

And yet…we have paid little attention to the internal affairs of Mexico. Governments have been unstable, rebellions frequent and petty wars the pastime of an uneducated and illiterate people. As a result, her natural resources have scarcely been scratched. Perhaps we have been less interested than the Europeans in the development of Mexico because of the hitherto large undeveloped territory within our own border.

But beyond the Rio Grande a stable and orderly government has become a proreguiste to further industrial progress…

For at least five years our troops have had to guard the border…Within a month an American town has been burned, soldiers have been killed and citizens murdered by the bandit Villa. After a fatal delay of six days a little American army of 5,000 men has taken up the pursuit. What a commentary on the preparedness policy of our government!

Whether Villa be captured or not, the question still remains of how best to fulfill our duty toward Mexico. The President….has expressed himself as desiring to pursue an ideal, an altruistic course, toward the Mexican people. And yet with all his professed good feeling…he has been responsible for nearly four years of chaos in Mexico.

How much better it would be for the Mexican and United States if we would face the music, realize our responsibilities…toward the lesser civilizations of the world. Mexico will always be unable to govern herself until she has a little more of the leaven of Anglo-Saxonism. Let the United States take the opportunity, while all Europe is otherwise engaged, to establish a benevolent protectorate over Mexico.

Within two decades, I venture to predict, millions of men and women from the United States would cross the border carrying with them brawn and capital to help in that development. The leavens of Anglo-Saxonism, already versed in methods of democratic self-government, would soon be able to maintain law and order single-handed.  Clarence W. Spencer”

100 years ago, much has changed and, then again, nothing has changed.