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Transcribed for IAGenWeb by Janelle Martin, March 2015

Mexican Border Service 1916-1917

Hamilton County, Iowa

Daily Freeman Journal, Webster City, Iowa

(Written by Max Maxon. Nov. 10, 1982 issue)

Remember Co. C and their role on the Mexican border?

As Veterans’ Day, 1982, arrives, it would be good to think back and consider the many area men who answered their country’s call, both in times of special emergency or in times of war.

When America was in danger of an invasion from Mexico, President Wilson called for troops to handle that problem.

On June 18, 1916, Iowa answered that call by sending 4,500 of her National Guardsmen to the border. One of the major units answering that call was Co. C, Second Iowa infantry, which was mustered into federal service June 28, 1916, and arrived at Brownsville, Texas, July 27.

Started in 1884

Co. C dated back to October, 1884, when it was mustered into service under Capt. F.E. Landers and was then part of the Sixth Iowa Infantry. In 1892 the unit was transferred to the Fourth Iowa Infantry, being mustered into federal service May 25, 1898, during the Spanish-American war episode. The men were mustered out Oct. 30, 1896, with the 52nd Iowa Infantry. On March 16, 1899, it was reorganized as Co. C, 52nd Infantry being transferred to the 56th Iowa Infantry in 1902. On July 4, 1915, it was transferred to the 2nd Iowa Infantry.

When the Mexican border emergency flared up, the Webster City unit was headed up by Capt. A. M. Martin; First Lt. C. J. Jennings, and Lt. N. L. Soderholm and First Sgt. H.R. Mahoney.

Sergeants included Barnett, Meller, Wedding, Norton, Smith, Strever, Burleson and Knight. Corporals included Richardson, Gilmore, Bonebright, Wedding,. Tewalt, Calkins, Loring, Cheever and Morgan.

Among the privates were Adams, Aubrey, Anderson, Britson, Butler, Cain, Cave, Calkins, Caldwell, Donovan, Draper, Davis, Evonah, Fortune, Gaddis, Gordon, Hess, Hyatt, Henry, Hall, Jensen, O. Jones, Jondell, Linahon, Leeper and McCleary.

Also, McKay, Norton, Nicoloff, Oleson, Oxley, Patterson, Pardoe, Philbrook, Richardson, Smalley, Swanson, Silvers, Sexe, Shell, Sonnerholm, Smith, South, Sweazy, Willson, Winchell, Wilcox, Walterman, West, Wallace, Weedman, Remy, Terry and Yockey.

According to a booklet published under the title of “Iowa Troops in Mexican Border Service, 1916-1917,” and loaned to the Daily Freeman Journal by George Worthington, the Iowans found campsites that were covered with brush and cactus, not a clear space anywhere large enough on which to pitch a tent.

Human “Horses”

They soon had their cars unloaded and escort wagons assembled. Axes began to ring out and the cactus and brush were loaded into wagons. There were no horses or mules to draw the wagons, but the men pitched in and pulled the loaded wagons to the edge of the camp area, dumped them and returned for another load.

By nightfall, a place large enough to pitch tents had been cleared, bunks were made on the ground and the Iowa troops turned in for a much needed rest.

The Iowa camp turned out to be one of the finest in the entire valley and reportedly was the pride of the district commander. The booklet added that “the regular officers pointed with pride to the Iowa troops and their camp, as a model for the regular army to pattern after.”

Eight deaths occurred during the stay in the south, but all were of an accidental nature and not due to any illness.

The Iowa troops entered into many contests, baseball, football, polo, drills, shooting and “Iowa always brought home the bacon.” They won many first prizes and in shooting won the world championship.

The Iowans stood guard on the Rio Grande for six months under trying conditions, and as the booklet comments, “They have worked hard and have set a standard of proficiency that no other troops have ever reached. They returned home better men, morally, physically and more patriotic than many who stayed at home.”

Tremendous Welcome

The Webster City boys returned home March 23, 1917, and received a tumultuous welcome, with the Chicago and North Western railroad grounds being jammed with happy residents.

The Freeman-Tribune on March 24 described their arrival home as follows; “The CNW grounds near the passenger station were packed with humanity yesterday afternoon when the special train bearing the boys of Co. C drew slowly into the city amid the blowing of whistles and the waving of flags. About half the city’s population was at the station long before the appointed hour, and by prearranged signal the fire whistle blew as the special train left Jewell. The streets were soon filled with happy faced people hurrying to welcome the boys who marched away amid the tears and prayers of the entire population last week in June, 1916.”

A big parade was formed, and they marched up a flag-lined Second St. Three days later a giant banquet was held in the Elks room and ladies of the Methodist church prepared and served the dinner, which was followed by an emotion-filled program.

Not Much Rest

Co. C, however, did not get much opportunity to relax as World War I was building up on the horizon. The president declared war on Germany April 6 and then came a hectic period of recruiting more members to build the unit up to war strength. By June 5, the company was up to 156 men, headed up by Captain Martin; First Lt. Jennings; Second Lt. Soderholm; Supply Sgt. Verne Tewait and Mess Sgt. James W. Wedding, who, incidentally, was the first local man to die in action overseas in World War I.

On Aug. 22, orders came for the Second Iowa regiment to go to Camp Cody, Deming, N. M., and on Aug. 27, the local contingent entrained for the southwest.

Thus ended any rest the Co. C members may have tried to enjoy following their return home as heroes from the border March 23, 1917.