In September 1917, Uncle Sam went about collecting the young men of this nation to serve in what was called at the time "the First National Army." All across the country, likely young men registered for the military draft.
In Cape Girardeau County, the first of these men came to be called "the First Eight." Those eight would-be soldiers were Linus C. Morton, Emra A. Fulbright, William Hobbs, Norman Buell Proffer, Joseph C. Roussell, Hathorne H. Ranney, Lyman Steele and Paul Mueller.
At the time of their selection for the Army, The Daily Republican newspaper ran several articles about the group, as well as a photograph of the men as they prepared to depart Cape Girardeau. One hundred years ago, the publication of a locally made photograph in The Republican was quite unusual. The newspaper had no means of engraving images, and the negative would have had to be transported to St. Louis for processing and then returned here. I think this photo shows the high regard the newspaper and residents here had for the "First Eight."
Published Sept. 5, 1917, The Daily Republican:
EIGHT MEN OFF TO UNCLE SAM
Assigned to care of Hathorne Ranney for trip west.
ALL SEEMED ANXIOUS TO GO
Family of One Was at Station to See Them Off -- Reach Fort Riley Thursday Afternoon.
The eight men composing the first draft of men for the National Army left Cape Girardeau this afternoon at 3 o'clock. There was hardly a corporal's guard at the station to bid them goodbye and good luck. A friend or two of all the men were on hand and the mother and other relatives of one of the men, Linus C. Morton, were there.
All but Morton went away with faces shining with smiles and apparently eagerness to go and get at the business at hand. Morton was choking with sobs as he bade goodbye to his family.
Hathorne Ranney was placed in charge of the men, having had the experience of training at the officers reserve corps camp at Fort Riley the past summer. He was given the tickets entitling the men to meals on trains and elsewhere in the trip and the tickets for their passage.
Two of Them Tickled.
He said they would leave St. Louis tonight on the first train possible and go immediately to Fort Riley, where they would arrive some time Thursday afternoon.
Emra A. Fullbright and Paul Mueller were apparently much pleased over their leaving. Both were highly lighted with smiles and joked continually over the prospects. Mueller is the young son of the well known meat packer and a brother of the Mueller boys of Cape Girardeau. Fullbright has been a school teacher for several years after training at the Normal School. He is the best man in the bunch physically, from all appearances. His friends are expecting him to make a record as a soldier when once he gets into the real work.
The other boys were more subdued in their manner but gave no inkling by their expressions of any regret over their departure for the front.
A half hour before the train departed the eight men in tow of a Republican representative went to the Kassell studio where a picture was taken. Once back at the station the men were joined by Sheriff Hutson who had charge of them for the government until they left.
Others More Subdued.
Hutson said that the next group of men, 57 strong, would leave on or about Sept. 19.
James R. Smiddy of Oran and Jesse Walton of Blodgett were two men from Scott County taking the train also for Fort Riley. The Scott County group of six men will go on different days, two the first and then one each day for four days.
Jeff Tucker of Illmo, Anderson of Kelso, Mike Legrand of Kelso and Poe Casebeer of Sikeston will follow them.
On the train also was a half dozen boys from Dunklin County.
Mayor E.J. Malone of Sikeston was on the train going to Camp Clark at Nevada (Missouri) to visit his three sons, all officers in the Sikeston company of the state guards. He will surprise the boys.
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JACKSON, Sept. 5 -- The boys of the first contingent of the Cape Girardeau County quota of the National Army appeared here this morning early to receive their transportation. Only six of them, namely, Lyman Steele, Paul A. Mueller and Linus C. Morton of Jackson, Hathorne H. Raney of Cape Girardeau, Emra A. Fulbright of Millersville, and Norman Buell Proffer, were on hand. If the rest of the boys are as fine specimen of manhood as these six are, Cape Girardeau County need not be ashamed of its sons.
No formality was had upon the departure of the boys. Only the relatives and friends stood about to cheer them on the way. The boys were in fine spirits, laughing, and joking.
Joseph C. Roussell of Jackson and William Hobbs of Cape Girardeau, the other two men of the first contingent of eight, did not appear, Roussell being busy arranging some last details before his departure, and Hobbs not being present in Jackson, as he expected to join the boys in Cape Girardeau for the trip to St. Louis over the Frisco.
Two Men Not in Picture.
This is history in the making. Such scenes as the one enacted here this morning will now be frequent, but it is the first scene of its kind in this city in more than two generations. Long will bystanders who witnessed it remember the morning of Sept. 5, 1917.
The members of the county board of exemptions did everything in their power to smooth the way for the boys in arranging for their transportation and their meals while en route. They also gave the boys all possible information and advice as to their future welfare.
When it was proposed that a photo be taken, some enthusiasts lowered the huge flag from the steel mast in the courthouse yard and carried it to the photo gallery, where it was draped back and over the group, an emblem of protection and a reminder of the seriousness of the occasion. That photo will be valued highly by relatives and friends.
Published Sept. 12, 1917, The Daily Republican:
The 5 Percent of County Quota of 152 Men Sent Sept. 5 to Fort Riley for First National Army.
The eight men who composed the first 5 percent of the county's quota of 152 men for the first National Army were virtually volunteers for the duty. They asked to be sent in the first lot called for by the war department.
The eight were sent out in one squad Sept. 5 under the leadership of Ranney, who had received the officers' reserve corps training at Fort Riley during the summer. Ranney was disappointed in not getting a commission as an officer then and came home with the intention of going in the first draft for the selected army. He closely watched the turn of events and when the call for 5 percent came volunteered and asked to be sent as one of the eight men. His request was granted. With such training and his experience he is bound to rise rapidly from the ranks to a good place.
The other eight men were no less imbued with the desire to serve their country quickly and efficiently. Every man of them had the one idea of giving his best service to the government in the big fight they face.
Sept. 5, 1917, will prove to be a red letter date both for the eight men and for Cape Girardeau County, honored as it was by the patriotic action of the men in going as they went, virtual selected volunteers.
Of those eight who departed Cape Girardeau on Sept. 5, 1917, one was returned home to Jackson quickly because of ill health: Joseph C. Roussell. The other seven all served honorably in the Army. According to Missouri's World War I military service cards found on the Missouri Secretary of State's website, all but one of those seven served overseas.
I thought it would be interesting to see what became of the "First Eight," so I tracked down the obituaries for each.
Joseph Charles Roussell was the son of William and Anna Simpson Roussell. He was born Nov. 1, 1892, in Jackson and died Nov. 7, 1926, in Jackson. Roussell was at Camp Funston only a short time before it was decided he could not be sent overseas because of his "physical condition," and he was discharged from the Army. Returning home, he entered the service of the Western Union and later became a telegraph operator for the Frisco Railroad at Chaffee, Missouri. He was buried at Russel Heights Cemetery in Jackson.
Hathorne H. Ranney was the son of H.H and Hettie Gaither Ranney. He was born Jan. 29, 1890, at Spring Farm near Cape Girardeau and died Nov. 2, 1962, in Cape Girardeau. Ranney was a private in Co. F, 314th Engineers, 89th Division, in World War I. He served overseas from June 12, 1918, to April 27, 1919. According to his obituary, Ranney moved with his parents to Cape Girardeau as a young boy, and he received his early education here. He received a degree from the local Normal School; a bachelor of science in education from Southeast Missouri Teachers College in 1921 and his masters from the University of Missouri in 1931. In addition, he attended Bradley Polytech in the summers of 1922 and 1936; the University of Chicago the summer of 1923 and the University of Colorado the summer of 1925. "His teaching career included the high schools at Malden, Richmond, Central in Cape Girardeau, State School of Agriculture at Lawton, Okla., Township High of Pontiac, Ill., and Lake Ozark. He also served as superintendent of schools at Commerce." He retired from teaching in 1955. While living and working at Lake Ozark, he served as a scoutmaster. In 1956 an Explorer Post there was organized and named for him. Ranney was buried at New Lorimier Cemetery in Cape Girardeau.
Linus C. Morton was the son of George P. and Olivia C. McNeely Morton. He was born June 5, 1894, in the Leemon-Fruitland area and died Dec. 20, 1974, in Cape Girardeau. Morton served in Co. F, 314th Engineers as a cook, in World War I. He served overseas from June 12, 1918, to Dec. 21, 1918. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in the Battle of St. Michiel on Sept. 23, 1918. According to his obituary, upon returning from the war, "he attended Missouri University and was a carpenter, farmer and cattleman until ill health forced retirement." Morton married Marie Milde on Dec. 25, 1924, and she survived him, along with his daughters, Mrs. Lyman Stevens and Mrs. Vernon Strack, and four sisters. He was preceded in death by a son, Robert Morton; a brother and a sister. Morton was buried in Russell Heights Cemetery in Jackson.
William R. Hobbs was the son of William and Laura Randol Hobbs. He was born March 4, 1887, in the Hobbs Chapel community and died March 14, 1957, in Cape Girardeau. In World War I, he served as a private with Co. F, 314th Engineers from induction to Dec. 8, 1917, and then in a mechanics regiment to discharge. H served overseas from Feb. 10, 1918, to June 16, 1919. Hobbs married Linda Schrader on Sept. 30, 1920, and she survived him, along with a half-sister, Blanche Brookes. He was preceded in death by several brothers and sisters. Hobbs worked for the shoe factory in Cape Girardeau for 36 years before retiring because of ill health. He was buried at Cape County Memorial Park Cemetery.
Emra A. Fulbright was the son of Peter and Elizabeth E. Gilliland Fulbright. He was born Feb. 6, 1888, at Millersville and died Jan. 14, 1960, in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He served as a corporal in Co. F, 314th Engineers, in World War I. He served overseas from June 12, 1918, to May 26, 1919. Fulbright was an educator 45 years, before he retired. According to his obituary, "He taught in Southeast Missouri for several years, moved to Northeast Arkansas 35 years ago and was superintendent of schools in Monette, Marked Tree, Weiner, Tuckerman and Heber Springs. About 10 years ago, he moved to Mississippi and taught in Mount Pleasant and Lacedale. A year ago he returned to Jonesboro due to poor health." Fulbright was survived by his wife, the former Bessie K. Kennedy, and a sister, Mrs. G.G. Kurre. He was buried at Oaklawn Cemetery in Jonesboro.
Norman B. Proffer was the son of John and Artemisia Emma Lail Proffer. He was born Jan. 24, 1895, in Whitewater and died March 10, 1967, in Columbia, Missouri. He served as a sergeant in Co. F, 314th Engineers from induction to July 15, 1918, in World War I. He was then with Battery E, 340th Field Artillery to discharge. Proffer was a teacher in Missouri schools for 45 years, retiring in 1964. According to his obituary, Proffer graduated from the college in Cape Girardeau and taught at Central High School for four years. He left here in 1933, teaching at Scott City, Bragg City, and Hickman High School in Columbia. He earned a master's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Proffer married Mabel Blevins on July 2, 1921, and she survived him, along with a son, Max Proffer, four grandchildren, a brother and a sister. Proffer was buried at Proffer Cemetery in Crump.
Lyman Steele was the son of Carmi and Martha J. Hinkle Steele. He was born Sept. 15, 1894, in Millersville. He and his wife, Mabel, were killed in an automobile accident on Sept. 22, 1972, in Evansville, Indiana. Steele served as a sergeant in Co. F, 314th Engineers, in World War I. He served overseas from June 12, 1918, to May 28, 1919. Steele graduated from the college in Cape Girardeau and returned to Millersville to teach school. In the 1930s he owned and operated a stationery and book store in Jackson. For many years he was an embalmer at Cracraft-Miller Funeral Home, retiring in the 1960s. Steele married his first wife, Ora Switzer, on April 15, 1918, just months before his induction into the military. She died on April 7, 1941, and he married Mabel Z. Blevins Proffer in 1969 in Columbia. (She was the widow of Norman B. Proffer, above.) Steele was survived by two sons, Lyman Steele Jr., and Dean Steele, and three daughters, Mrs. T.D. Hay, Mrs. C.M. Myer and Mrs. Jimmy Givens. He was also survived by two brothers, a sister, 18 grandchildren, for step-grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Lyman Steele was buried at Russell Heights Cemetery in Jackson.
Paul A. Mueller was the son of H.H. and Ida Brahs Mueller. He was born Jan. 5, 1893, in Jackson and died Oct. 1, 1982, in Jackson. He served as a corporal with Co. F, 314th Engineers, in World War I. He served overseas from Jan. 29, 1918, to May 16, 1919. He married Edna Riley on Nov. 25, 1919. She passed away in 1979. Mueller was a partner in H.H. Mueller and Sons Meat Packing Co., and later was a partner in the Ideal Grocery Co. in Jackson, retiring in 1979. Mueller served on the Jackson Board of Aldermen in the 1930s. In 1981 he was presented the Heritage Award from the Jackson Heritage Association. In addition, he was a member of the Golden Troopers American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps in Cape Girardeau during the 1930s. Mueller was survived by a son, Paul A. Mueller Jr., and a daughter, Mrs. Harriet Howard; two sisters and seven grandchildren. Mueller was buried in Russell Heights Cemetery.