Mud of the Trenches: the 4th Liberty Bond Train

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Throughout the fall of 1918, Harvey County was focused on the war effort in France.  The purchase of Liberty Bonds was one way to show support for war efforts at home.

Liberty Bond Booth, Fall 1918. Intersection of 6th & Main, Newton, Ks. (Kansas State Bank in the background)

“Crowds Expected to Gather”

To kick off the 4th Liberty Loan Bond drive, a train with a war exhibit stopped in Newton on Saturday morning, September 28, 1918. Across the nation, kick-off events were held to encourage the purchase of Liberty Bonds. As part of the promotion, twenty-four trains traveled from town to town reaching four towns each day.  On board, were “speakers and salesmen”  who received “subscriptions . . . as they moved place to place.”

In the days prior to the trains arrival,  the newspaper editor assured the public that there would “be ample space for the crowds expected to gather.”

“Mud of the Trenches”

On Saturday morning, the train under the guard of  three squads from Co F National Guard arrived and parked at east 6th. The train consisted of two flat cars, one box car and a Pullman.  Items on display were “all newly captured” at the front including German howitzers and siege guns. Together the objects “show . . . what our men are going through over at the front.” Many of the objects were captured during a battle at Hoboken on September 12, 1918 and arrived in Newton “with mud of the trenches adhering to their wheels.”

Wounded soldiers recently returned from the trenches in France also accompanied the train.



Evening Kansan Republican, 28 September 1918, p. 3.

The occasion was also marked with a parade of the Newton drum corps under that direction of Paul Hubner.

After completing the tour, “the war material, guns, bombs, were returned to France “to be used in the war on the Hun.” 

The editor of the Evening Kansan Republican noted:

“Perhaps no one thing could be picked out as of special interest, but it was all a display that brought the people into a feeling of closer proximity to the actual fighting.”

List of objects in the War Exhibit

Evening Kansan Republican, 28 September 1918.

4th Liberty Loan Drive

The week following was devoted to “education, publicity, and preparation.” Sunday, October 6 was declared “Liberty Loan Sunday” and subscriptions to the loan would take place October 7 through October 12. The quota for Harvey County was $688,000,000.

Newton Journal, 27 September 1918

The following week, October 14-19, was “devoted to cleaning up unfinished work and looking after slackers.”

A new button was created.  Earlier buttons had a metal base with a celluloid cover with a lithograph design.  Buttons for the 4th Liberty Loan did not have the celluloid due to expense and “the fact that it is needed for making explosives.” The design was lithographed on the metal at nearly half the cost. More than 30,000,000 buttons were ordered.

4th Liberty Loan Pin, 09/1918 HCHM # 91.19.53

“Over the Top”

The Saturday, October 19 Evening Kansan Republican reported that “Harvey County is nicely over the top in the Fourth Liberty Loan drive.”

Evening Kansan Republican, 19 October 1918.


Click the link below to watch President Wilson leading the 4th Liberty Loan Parade in September 27, 1918 at Pennsylvania Railroad Station, New York.


  • Evening Kansan Republican, 26 September 1918, 28 September 1918, 19 October 1918.
  • Newton Journal 27 September 1918.

A Piece of History: ‘Dog Tags’ from the Great War

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

One of the smallest objects in the museum’s collection  consists of two small  aluminum discs on a cotton string. The object may be small, but  tell a big story.

Not used officially in the U.S. until December 1906, the Identification Tag, or ‘dog-tag’ was a small aluminum disc worn around a soldier’s neck and included name rank and “USA.” Initially, only one disc was worn, but in July 1916, a second disc was added. The purpose of the tags were to aid in identifying the dead after battle.

These small discs are very personal objects that soldiers wore at all times –  relaxing with friends or in the heat of battle.  The Identification Tags might also be the last connection a family would have with their loved one.

We have several ‘dog-tags’ from Harvey County men who were in France during the Great War.  Walter H. Deschner was one man.

Walter H. Deschner tags

Dog Tag with serial number.

Walter “Dash” H. Deschner was born January 9, 1895, the son of Charles and Orpha Fenter Deschner. He graduated from Newton High School May 21, 1916.  Deschner was working as a clerk when he enlisted on May 9, 1917 and went to Doniphan, Fort Sill, OK where he was with Co K 139th U.S. Infantry.

Before he left, his mother, Orpha, wrote on the front fly leaf of his Bible; “mother’s prayers will be often and many for you.

Walter H. Deschner, 1918

April 24, 1918  he left the US  on the Adriatic and roughly 40 days later arrived at Mellville, France. August 5, was his “first under fire”  experience in “No-Man’s Land in Vosgues Mountains.” On October 26 he was involved in the Argonne Drive.

Sad News

Evening Kansan Republican often reprinted “soldier mail” and in the October 21 issue the editor noted “there were many smiling faces that were soon overshadowed as word was noised about that three of the Newton boys . . . had fallen.

Frank Sheets wrote that he had been involved in the “big battle which had been raging for five days, and seeing Roy Barker *** lying dead beside the road.” 

Sheets went on to describe the conditions he experienced, noting “he was five days and nights without time to change his clothing and said that a cold rain fell much of the time.”

A Soldier’s Memories

These pages are from a Memory Book that Walter Deschner filled out highlighting his experiences while a part of the US Infantry.


 Friends and Places

On the Front

The same issue of the Evening Kansan Republican that had a letter from Sheets included one from Deschner.  He wrote that “he was back from the front safe and sound. . . . Leo Burgener was injured, but not seriously, but  Arthur Whitesell and Loren Finnell were both killed within 15 yards of him.” ***

Other battles he was involved in included Meuse-Argonne, and Verdun. He also noted the deathes of Whitesell and Finnell.


Return to Harvey County

Deschner returned home to Harvey County  May 8,  1919 and resumed his work as a clerk for the Santa Fe Railroad.  He worked for the Santa Fe for more than 25 years.

 He married twice. On December 24, 1920, he married Erma Marie Ragsdale.  Sadly, she died due to complications in child birth on  March 23, 1939. The infant girl also died. He remarried March 5, 1945 to Emma Billau. Deschner died August 28, 1948 survived by wife, Emma, brother, George, and a niece.

***The report of Roy Barker’s death  turned out to be false, however both Arthur Whitesell and Loren Finnell were killed during the Meuse-Argonne drive. Both were from Harvey County.
  • Walter H. Deschner Collection, HCHM Archives 98.1
    • “My Soldier” Scrapbook Walter H. Deschner Collection, HCHM Archives 98.1.9.
    • The Jayhawker in France: the Unofficial Organ of the 137th Infantry Sampigny, France  5 February 1919, Vol. 1 No.2.
    • “Pictorial Supplement Overseas Edition Camp Dodger” Published by 88th Division.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 25 July 1917, 9 August 1917, 17 July 1918, 24 September 1918, 21 October 1918, 26 October 1918, 20 September 1920, 24 October 1921, 23 March 1939, 28 August 1948, 1 September 1948.
  • Greenwood Cemetery, “Deschner” at
  • “Identifying the Dead:  a Short Study of the Identification Tags of 1914-1918” at

Stuff We Love: Volunteering at the Canteen

This week’s post is based on memories shared by Vere English, HCHM Board Member, for the exhibit, Stuff We Love. Vere picked a photograph of the ladies that served at the Red Cross Canteen during WWII.  This was just one of several groups of women that would meet the trains and provide snacks for the troops as they came through Newton.

Photograph of Red Cross Canteen No. 9 1942

Red Cross Canteen No. 9, 1942

Red Cross Canteen No. 9, 1942 Regina Starr is on the far right, by the mixer.

As a boy, Vere remembers traveling to his grandmother’s house about once a week to visit. His aunt, Regina Starr (also a teacher at McKinley), would tell stories of her volunteer work at the Canteen in Newton during World War II. She would mention the piano that the soldiers signed, but even more importantly, the music that they would play on it. According to her, some were “quite good and entertaining.”

Interior of USO Canteen, Newton, Ks, ca. 1945.

Interior of USO Canteen, Newton, Ks, ca. 1945.

Sometimes a soldier might stay a little too long in the lounge eating cookies and playing the piano. They would have to run after the departing train and jump on. Some lost their hats in the process. For shorter stops, the women from the Canteen would walk along the trains with huge wicker baskets full of cookies and the soldiers would reach out of the windows to grab a few.

Canteen Food Cart, American Red Cross Canteen, Newton, ks, 1945.

Canteen Food Cart, American Red Cross Canteen, Newton, ks, 1945.

Vere also remembered coming to Newton on Saturday nights with his family. They would park the car near the tracks and watch the trains go past. For a 10 year old boy, it was fascinating to watch the train cars loaded with war machinery and troops go by. Vere recalled that the trains ran 24 hours, both ways.

Do you have memories of the canteen?