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home : columnists : columnists November 18, 2017

Fighting to free the world

By Paula Dunn
From Time to Thyme

Since Veterans Day is tomorrow, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of America's entrance in World War I, it seemed appropriate to devote this week's column to some of the Hamilton County soldiers from that war.

Back then, the Noblesville Daily Ledger often published letters written by servicemen fighting overseas to their friends and relatives at home. As with World War II, all communications were censored, so no dates or places were mentioned and there were few details of actual fighting, but the letters still managed to give some idea of what the local boys were experiencing.

In October of 1917 the Ledger printed a letter Lieutenant Frank Huntsinger sent to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Levi Huntsinger. Huntsinger wanted to let everyone know he'd arrived safely in France, and to say how impressed he was by the beauty of the countryside and by the hospitality the French people had shown the Americans.

A little less than a year later, Huntsinger became the first Noblesville man killed in the war. (Noblesville's American Legion Post 45 is named for him, although they use the spelling,"Huntzinger.")

A letter from Emmet Armstrong appeared in the newspaper in September of 1918. Armstrong was one of several young men from this area assigned to the Rainbow Division, an army division made up of National Guard units from 26 states.

(Douglas MacArthur is credited with coming up with the name when he said, "The 42nd Division stretches like a rainbow from one end of America to the other.")

Armstrong wrote to his grandfather, Civil War veteran William Miller, that the Noblesville boys "did their bit, not a yellow dog among them" and noted, "You fought to free the states. I am fighting to free the world."

After the war, Armstrong returned home to become one of Noblesville's prominent citizens. (Some of you may remember Armstrong's shoe store.)

The following month, the Ledger printed a letter from Private Orin B. Walden, Corporal Ezekiel Armstrong (no relation to Emmet,) and Sergeant Terrel M. Roberts to Sheriff Oscar Waddell.

The young African Americans told the sheriff that no barracks had been available for them when they first arrived in France, so they'd been forced to live in pup tents and cook their meals outdoors for a few days. They added that they probably would have enjoyed it had it not rained every day! (They soon got bunks.)

I couldn't find any more information about Orin Walden, but Terrel Roberts later became a trustee of Roberts Chapel.

Ezekiel Armstrong came from a prominent Westfield family. He and his four brothers all served in the army during the war and their mother, Sarah, was honored as the only mother in Indiana with five sons in the American military at the same time.

(A few years ago I wrote about Ezekiel's brother, Isaac, penning a letter on the back of a Van Camp's Pork and Beans label to his old employers at the George Van Camp factory. He wanted them to know he'd eaten beans for lunch that day that he'd helped pack earlier that year!)

In January of 1919, the Ledger noted that another local soldier had also used "stationary" from back home for his correspondence. A. B. Sluder, a cook in the 84th division, wrote his letter on a label taken from a can of Wilson's Milk. (Wilson's Milk was produced by Sheridan's Indiana Condensed Milk Company.)

After the war, Adron Sluder moved to Zionsville where he became an educator and civic leader.

Thanks to ALL of our veterans for your service!

Paula Dunn's From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com

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