Pine Plains Goes to War
By Dyan Wapnick
Pine Plains goes to war. From The Pine Plains Register, August 16, 1917. Pine Plains participates in the county send-off parade in Poughkeepsie. From The Pine Plains Register, September 13 & 27, 1917.
Pine Plains in WWI: The Home Front
In addition to those who served in the armed forces here and abroad, many contributed in other ways here at home. One of these was through a volunteer civil defense militia called the Home Defense Corps, which was composed mostly of men 45 to 64 years old who for various reasons were unable to enlist in the army or navy. In July of 1918, Pine Plains received a W.S.S. service flag for oversubscribing the War Savings Stamp Drive. Pine Plains, in fact, was the first town in Dutchess County to exceed its quota in the drive, which was $26,000. Pine Plains subscribed $28,550. Samuel Deuel was the chairman of the drive committee and received the flag which was flown at the Stissing National Bank. War Savings Stamps were issued by the Treasury Department and used to fund participation in the war. These stamps were aimed at everyday citizens rather than businesses. Pine Plains was also on the Liberty Loan Honor Roll for war bond subscriptions several thousand dollars over its allotment of $41,900.
Pine Plains Soldiers in the Great War
At the time of World War I, America was still largely rural and small town. Many of the young recruits from Pine Plains were farmers who had never been far from home. One can imagine that the prospect of going overseas for the first time filled many of them with romantic notions. Over 70 men from Pine Plains were drafted or enlisted in the armed services. Not all went overseas; some were stationed their entire tour of duty in stateside camps. Two died during the war. We know of one Purple Heart awarded and one Distinguished Service Cross for Bravery in Action (see clipping Pine Plains Register March 13, 1919).
Although we know very little about the men from Pine Plains who served in the Great War at the time of their service, their draft registration cards do tell us some things. For example, we know their occupations, which were surprisingly varied for a rural community: farmer, worker for GE in Schenectady, dentist, student, milker at Briarcliff Farms, mason, machinist, painter, well-driller, veterinarian, driver for Hudson River State Hospital, store clerk, and "commission man", to name a few.
The draft registration cards also tell us where the registrant was born, and Pine Plains had a few young draftees who were citizens of other countries, namely Italy and Holland. Dutchman Antoon DeVries worked at Briarcliff Farms, which is not surprising to anyone who knows anything about that large operation: Briarcliff Farms employed milkers from Holland because they had a reputation as the best milkers in the world.
The form also had a field for the race of the applicant, but if the applicant was of "African descent" they were required to clip off the bottom left corner of the form. We know of only one black man from Pine Plains who served in WWI: Payton Anderson. Private Anderson never went overseas. Instead he was stationed at Camp Humphreys in Virginia for his entire service, from October – December 1918. We don’t know any specifics about his service there, but we do know that the heavy labor of the construction of this camp over an 11-month period, beginning in January of 1918, was performed by segregated African American troops.
Several brothers enlisted together, including the four Harris brothers: Clifford, Leigh, Paul, and Raymond. All four survived the war, and Raymond Harris earned a Purple Heart.
On Active Service with the American Expeditionary Forces: Letters Home
Pine Plains Welcomes the Boys Home
On Sept. 12, 1919, Pine Plains held a big celebration to welcome the boys home, arranged by Company G of the New York Guard with an evening banquet organized by Mrs. W.J. Bowman. There was a concert given by the Rhinebeck Band from 2-4 pm, who then led a parade at 4:00 with the returning veterans as well as veterans of the Civil War, Company G New York Guard, women of the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, school children, and fraternal organizations.
The parade halted at the high school, where Dutchess County service medals were presented to the boys by Supervisor Vernon J. Rockefeller and the principal address was given by Judge Charles S. Wilber, President of the 128th Regimental Association and a Civil War veteran. This was followed by a supper beginning at 6 pm at Memorial Hall attended by the boys, their wives and parents, and other honored guests, where an address was given by Assemblyman J. Griswold Webb, an early supporter of veterans’ rights.
From several articles leading up to the event in The Pine Plains Register, and from The Columbia Republican of Tuesday September 16, 1919.