Let Their Stories Be Told

In 1919, New York State passed one law directing the State Historian to publish a set of volumes called "New York's Part in the World War," detailed record of the broad contributions of men, women and children overseas and at home. They passed a second law requiring every municipal leader in the state to create and fill the office of local historian so the information for the books could be gathered. This is a staffing requirement that remains to this day.

While very earnestly begun, the book volumes were never published. 

NYS Historian James Sullivan explained in 1920, "The Legislature at its session of 1919 directed this Division to prepare several volumes on 'New York’s Part in the World War.' For the purpose of getting a full account of what each town, incorporated village and city did in the way of contributing men, subscriptions to loans etc. The executive officers of those political units we’re authorized by an act of the same year to appoint local historians (with remuneration if the local board saw fit) to gather the necessary information and forward it here to Albany."

Important leaders in the county like Major Joel Spingarn of Amenia called for the volumes to go beyond a list of men in service overseas to include women and activities at home such as bond drives, Red Cross activities, and programs like the Farm Cadet program that enlisted high school boys and girls in farming to free up able men to go overseas. He called on the recently-formed Dutchess County Historical Society to be active in supporting the effort.

The response was uneven at best. A number of historian positions were not filled, those that were found it difficult to gather information.

Fortunately all of Sullivan’s early correspondence survives and we have Dutchess portions on available online.

Today, Dutchess County municipal historians and historical societies at a county and local level are working with us to “publish the book” to some degree, but in a more contemporary way than printed volumes. In November 2017, under a joint declaration between the County government and County Historical Society, the program "2018: The Year of the Veteran" in Dutchess County was officially launched which involves both a gathering and sharing the stories of these men, women and children.

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Recommended Reading:
A Complete History of the World War in five volumes
by Eaton, Read, and Wood, 1919