The war in Europe had been raging for nearly two years before the U.S. became involved, although it would be months before the Americans were trained well enough to engage in any battles. Among the first wave of enlistments of those young men who felt a patriotic duty to volunteer, was Russell Silverthorn. He convinced his brother Lee to join him and they were both assigned to Company G of the 112th Infantry, 28th Division. General Pershing called them his “Iron Division,” at least until he saw them in battle… then he renamed them “the Fighting Red Division.”
These young area men who enlisted were soon sent off to their training camp, leaving behind “thousands who had gathered there to say goodbye,” reported the Erie Daily Times in its account of this departure on September 8, 1917. “Mothers, Wives and Sweethearts Take Last Tearful Farewell Amid Blare of Bugles and Rattle of Drums – Streets Thronged at Early Hour to See Departing Soldiers,” the headlines proclaimed. These were the first young men in the Erie area to join and leave en masse.
Nearly a year later, in late August 1918, Company G was engaged in a fierce battle at Fismette, in France. Russell Silverthorn did not survive, although his brother Lee did. Russell was buried alongside many of his comrades in an American military cemetery at Fismes, on the Vesle River.
On the eleventh month of the eleventh day at the eleventh hour in 1918, an Armistice was signed to end World War I. This year is the 100th anniversary of this event. It is a bittersweet anniversary, but one that deserves full honors.
The Fairview Area Historical Society has planned an appropriate commemoration, with the Conneaut Creek String Band playing songs from this war at the Sturgeon House on Wednesday, November 14. The doors will open at 7 p.m., the band will set up to play and the music will follow. Here’s something to note: an admission will be charged. Each person who attends will be asked to donate a can, jar or package of food, which will then be turned over to the Fairview Presbyterian Church Food Pantry. Peanut butter, jelly, spaghetti sauce, canned fruit and cereal would be especially welcome.
This event is open to the public. Come be a part of history.