(Editor's note: The following story is one in a continuing series on the history of Mayfield and Graves County by historian Berry Craig)
World War I had been over for six months in May 1919. But Mayfield was wrapping up a fourth Liberty Loan drive that raised $290,000 in cash and pledges.
Uncle Sam needed money partly to help bring home thousands of Doughboys like Gayle Brand of Mayfield. Buried in Maplewood Cemetery, Brand was a bugler in Company G, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division. He and his outfit saw action on the Western Front in France in 1918.
In April 1919, the Graves County courthouse had been “crowded to capacity with people to hear the community singing that during the war kept the 'Home Fires Burning' and since the war [has]...been...greeting the returning soldiers,” the Paducah News-Democrat reported.
The singing was also supposed to boost the loan drive. “A returned soldier, and two orators of note made addresses to the crowd,” the paper said. The featured speaker was Capt. Chauncey Y. Dodds, just back from France. “He took part in several of the hardest fought battles of the war and won promotion on the field of battle.”
Dodds recounted “the brave deeds done and sacrifices made by the Sammies.” (Stemming from “Uncle Sam,” “Sammie” was another nickname for U.S. troops, though the moniker wasn’t as popular as “Doughboy.”)
State Sen. W.A. Frost and attorney R.E. Johnston also gave speeches at the songfest.
Dodds was lucky to have survived the war that was supposed to end war and make the world safe for democracy — and failed on both counts. Twenty-nine men from Mayfield and Graves County who left for the war didn’t return from "over there," according to "Story of Mayfield Through a Century," D. Trabue Davis’ 1923 history book.
“During the late World War, Mayfield supported the cause of our country and sent many men to the colors,” he wrote.
Davis’ book included a death roll. Three city and county men were killed in battle, and two died of wounds. The rest succumbed to disease. The author didn’t say what disease, but a worldwide influenza pandemic in 1918-1919 killed between 50 and 100 million people.
Mayfield had hosted three Liberty Loan drives between May 1917, and May 1918. The war ended in German defeat with a Nov. 11, 1918, armistice. Davis wrote that the news reached Mayfield "about three o'clock in the morning," adding that "it was only a few minutes until all the town was awake, out on the streets, building bonfires, and making noises of all kinds, showing their joy at knowing the greatest of all wars had come to an end. That morning and the day following was a great day for all Mayfield."
A century ago this month, the victorious allied leaders, including President Woodrow Wilson, were finishing up the Treaty of Versailles, which would officially end the war. Wilson, who carried Graves County in landslides in 1912 and 1916, objected to the harshness of the pact but signed it anyway on June 28, 1919, because it included a League of Nations, an international body he hoped would prevent another world war. June 28 was the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, the slaying that led to the war and an estimated 40 million military and civilian deaths.