Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A South Dakota Soldier prepared for World War I Combat

South Dakotan Ernest Roth answered when President Woodrow Wilson called for volunteers.
The United States had declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917, committing the country to join the Allied Powers of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan in their efforts to defeat the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The Great War had been raging since 1914.
Roth had been working as a carpenter and living with his uncle and aunt at Columbia when he decided to enlist. On April 25, 1917, he boarded the freight train for Aberdeen, where he went to the National Guard recruiting office and signed up. The next day, he was taken by train to Mobridge and transported to the headquarters of Company “L” of the 4th South Dakota infantry regiment. A total of 32,791 soldiers, sailors and marines from South Dakota served in the war, according to the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs.
Two soldiers training on a machine gun
(Courtesy of SD State Historical Society)
“In the forenoon of April 27, 1917, we were lined up and duly sworn in, thus making us full-fledged soldiers on paper although we were to learn the hard way that it required many, many months of intensive training and drilling on our part, much of it under a broiling sun, to become proficient at soldiering,” Roth wrote in his diary.
The World War I Reminiscence of Ernest Roth is kept in the South Dakota State Historical Society --State Archives manuscript collections. Find it online at www.history.sd.gov/Archives/, by clicking the Digital Archives icon, then selecting the Manuscript Collection and typing in “Ernest Roth.”
Two companies, both of the 4th South Dakota Infantry, were billeted in tents along a railroad siding about two miles northwest of Mobridge at Camp Pontis.
“When we arrived there the only buildings in evidence were the partly completed mess halls,” Roth wrote. “The company kitchens were set up in three or four old boxcars on railroad sidings. I was immediately set to work on the buildings under construction.”
Roth described infantry training at Camp Pontis as: reveille at 6 a.m. followed by calisthenics, breakfast, clean-up quarters, drill or hike (usually with full pack), lunch at noon, more drill, return to quarters for more clean-up, supper, and attend lectures and school.
Toward the end of September, rumors were rampant that the companies were going to be sent directly to the battlefields of Europe or to Mexico to prevent the Germans from coming over and entering the United States through Mexico.
“The facts were: the last two days of this month we loaded all the property of the Company as well as our own personal stuff into boxcars and on October 1, 1917, both companies from Camp Pontis entrained for a destination yet unknown,” Roth wrote.
Many people, some from Columbia, turned out to meet the train when it stopped at the Aberdeen depot. Crowds were always on hand to cheer on the troops whenever the train slowed to pass through a town, according to Roth.
The troops’ final destination was Camp Greene near Charlotte, N.C., where they were joined by other units comprising the entire 4th South Dakota regiment. Roth learned that the regiment was to be converted from infantry to machine gun battalions.
“The rank and file of the fellows were quite unhappy with the machine gun assignment as rumor had it that these units were always the first to be ordered into the front lines of combat in actual battle and were consequently referred to as ‘Suicide squads,’” Roth wrote.
Roth arrived at the battlefields in France in January 1918.
U.S. troops aboard a commandeered train in Germany
(Courtesy of SD State Historical Society)
In his diary, Roth shared some of his combat experiences. He wrote about meeting a battalion coming from the trenches that had a captain and enlisted men killed, experiencing a chemical weapons attack, marching for hours, walking through knee-deep mud, and preparing to go to the front lines.
On Nov. 11, 1918, Roth’s diary entry read, “Hostilities ceased at 11 a.m. This means – the war is officially over.”
By the time World War I ended, more than 9 million soldiers had been killed and 21 million more were wounded. An estimated 10 million civilians had been killed. A total of 554 South Dakotans died overseas who were killed in action or died from wounds, disease or other causes.
Roth returned to the United States in January 1919. After being discharged from the service, he went to Cresco, Iowa, where his father and stepmother lived. He later returned to Columbia and served as postmaster for 23 years. He died in Walla Walla, Wash., on June 7, 1976.

This moment in South Dakota history is provided by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Find us on the web at www.sdhsf.org. Contact us at info@sdhsf.org to submit a story idea.

Historic South Dakota newspapers selected for digitization

The South Dakota State Historical Society has announced that more historical newspapers will be digitized as part of a federal grant.

In September the State Historical Society-Archives was awarded a second round of grant funding in the amount of $240,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue digitizing historical newspapers.

An advisory board made up of individuals from history and newspaper backgrounds met in November and March to select which titles would be digitized with this second round of federal funding. Among those selected and approved by the Library of Congress were the Deutscher Herold of Sioux Falls, the Lemmon Herald, the German and English editions of the Eureka Post, the De Smet Leader, the Madison Daily Leader and the Oglala Light of Pine Ridge. In total, 17 more South Dakota towns will be represented in the collection by the end of the project.

The project is part of Chronicling America, a Library of Congress initiative to develop an online database of select historical newspapers from around the United States. As part of the grant the South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives will digitize approximately 100 rolls of microfilmed newspapers pre-dating 1922 over two years.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Registration open for Youth Summer Camps in Deadwood

DEADWOOD – Deadwood History, Inc. in partnership with the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission will host a series of summer camps for area youth.  

Exploration Camp kicks off the summer camp series for children in grades K-2 for the 2017 – 2018 school year from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Days of ‘76 Museum on June 5 - 9. This year’s theme is S.P.A.R.K. Your Creativity. Campers will be learning about snapshots (photography), plants (nature), art, rocks (gold mining), and knowledge (science). Each day will include a related activity and/or craft project. The cost is $40 for members and $50 for non-members.
Archaeology Camp:  Session 1 for students going into grades 3-7 is scheduled for June 19 – 22, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Camp begins at the Days of ‘76 Museum with field work on the Pearson family property.  Students will learn archaeology, orienteering, mapping, and cataloging.  The cost is $45 for members and $50 for non-members.  Limited to 20 participants. 

Archaeology Camp:  Session 2 on June 26 – 29, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. is for students going into grades 3-7.  Camp begins at the Days of ‘76 Museum with field work on the Pearson family property.  Students will study archaeology, orienteering, mapping, and cataloging.  The cost is $45 for members and $50 for non-members.  Limited to 20 participants. 

On July 10 – 13 students will have the opportunity to participate in Mysteries at the Museum Camp, from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. for students going into grades K-2. Campers will be investigating and deciphering at the Days of ‘76 Museum. Participants will learn about Morse code, find secret messages written in invisible ink, and crack an enigmatic code to solve the museum’s mysteries. The cost is $40 for members and $50 for non-members.

Camp Chief Eagle wraps up the 2017 summer camp series on July 17 – 21 at the Days of ‘76 Museum from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. for students going into grades 3-7. Students will learn about Native American culture, lifestyle, beliefs, art, and music during this camp. Dallas Chief Eagle will teach children a traditional Native American hoop dance and there will be a performance on the last day of camp for parents to attend. The cost is $45 for members and $55 for non-members.

For more detailed information on the lessons and activities planned or to register for summer camp, please contact Shantel Pettit, Education Director, at 605-578-1657. A $10 non-refundable deposit is required per camp.  The deposit will be applied to the cost of each camp.  Scholarships are available.  The camps fill up quickly, so please reserve your space today. 

Summer Camps are co-sponsored by the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission, Adams-Mastrovich Family Foundation, Deadwood History, KEVN Black Hills Fox, Twin City Hardware, Bill Haas, Jaci and Bill Pearson, Black Hills Pioneer, Pack Horse, Lead-Deadwood Regional Hospital, Mayor Turbiville Supporting Kids, Lynn’s Dakotamart, and the William Karl & Laura L. Haas Education Endowment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Historian Rick Mills to talk about railroading in South Dakota

Fort Pierre depot before it was moved in 1963
PIERRE, S.D. – People can learn about the history of railroads and one historic depot in South Dakota during a program that will begin at 7pm CDT on Tuesday, April 11, in the 1906 Fort Pierre Depot Museum.

“Railroads played an important role in the history of South Dakota. Railroads brought immigrants into Dakota Territory. Many towns sprang up along railroad tracks, and some towns died when the railroad passed them by,” said Michael Lewis, president of the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation. “The railroad depot handled passengers and freight. A depot that has been restored and now is a museum is the perfect place to have a program about railroads, enabling people to see what a depot was like.”

The foundation is the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society and is sponsoring the program with the cooperation of the Verendrye Museum in Fort Pierre. Everyone is welcome to attend the free program, made possible by a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Rick Mills will present the program “Yesterday and Today – Railroading in the Land of Infinite Variety.” He is a fifth generation resident of western South Dakota and a lifelong railroad enthusiast. He has been director of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum in Hill City since the museum opened in 2010.

Rick Mills is director of the South Dakota
Railroad Museum in Hill City
Mills has authored or co-authored books about railroad history and has been involved with programming for South Dakota Public Broadcasting, the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Mills’ PowerPoint program on April 11 will feature images from some of his previous books on railroading, images from the museum’s collections, and previously unpublished images which will be used in the museum’s new book on state railroads, scheduled for publication in late 2017.

Gary and Connie Grittner of Fort Pierre’s Bring it Home Committee will tell about efforts to bring the Fort Pierre depot back to Fort Pierre. The Fort Pierre depot was built in 1906 and decommissioned in 1958. It was sold to Shirley Miller in 1963, moved to his Mud Butte ranch and used as storage. The Bring it Home Committee brought the depot home to Fort Pierre in 2013 in a location along U.S. Highway 83 and has since restored it.

The book “South Dakota Railroads” by Mike Wiese and Tom Hayes will be available to purchase at the program. The book contains postcards and images of depots, trains and wrecks that defined South Dakota railroading in the early 20th century.

For more information, call (605) 773-6006.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Windows restored at historic All Angels Church

One of our favorite buildings in all of the Black Hills is nestled on a corner not far from downtown Spearfish.

It's the All Angels Episcopal Church, a structure with remarkable history – surpassed only by its beauty.

And that aging beauty has been significantly restored over the past many months, thanks to restoration work done on stained glass windows that give the structure its beauty and character.

Read about the project in this story from a recent edition of the Black Hills Pioneer.