The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Brendan Relaford
For the Sentinel 

County kids off to the Great War


February 6, 2019

Caption – Klickitat County soldiers, with enlistment papers in pocket, prepare to embark for Europe and fight the Huns. [Photo courtesy of Presby Museum]

On April 6, 1917, the United States joined its allies-Britain, France, Italy, Romania, Russia, and Japan-to fight the Germans, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire in what was being called "the Great War." Two months later, 20 draftees from Klickitat County began reporting for duty. When the war ended on November 11, 1918, more than 2 million American soldiers had served on the battlefields of Western Europe; about 50,000 of them had lost their lives. Among them were the 14 men from Klickitat County whose names are inscribed on the altar of Sam Hill's Stonehenge Memorial in Goldendale.

Dressed in an authentic World War I uniform, Washington State Park Ranger Mark Harris presented the first of four talks on Feb. 1 as part of the Regional History forum to a packed house at the Original Wasco County Courthouse. Harris originally developed this PowerPoint Presentation as part of the 2018 centennial of the war and subsequent armistice. As part of the 2019 Regional History Forum Series, the presentation was titled "Stonehenge and the Great War."

According to a local historian, Sam Hill first got the idea of building a replica of Stonehenge when he visited the American troop encampment on Salisbury Plain in 1n 1916. While he was there, British Field Marshall Lord Kitchener showed him Stonehenge. Repeating the lore of the time, Kitchener explained that the altar was where the ancient Druids offered human sacrifices to placate the gods of war. The story made an indelible impression on Hill. On April 11, 1918, The Goldendale Sentinel announced, "Sam Hill Will Dedicate Land for a U.S. Soldiers Cemetery." Within a month, Hill changed his mind and planned to erect a monument modeled on Stonehenge. He wanted it to be a "sermon in stone," a striking reminder of the "incredible folly" of sacrificing human lives to the god of war. But when the altar was dedicated on July 4, the inscription read, "In memory of the soldiers and sailors of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their Country. This monument is erected in the hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in the love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death alone can quench." From then on, Hill's Stonehenge was considered a war memorial, not the peace monument he had first envisioned.

After a brief discussion of Stonehenge, Harris talked about how the war began, the new technology used in the war, the uniforms of the contending forces, the role of women in the war effort, life in the trenches, the fall of empires, and the ongoing effects of one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

Harris has a series of remaining talks coming up, all also at the Original Wasco County Courthouse at 410 W. 2nd Place, The Dalles. His second presentation, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9, will be a living history presentation featuring the uniform American soldiers would have worn and the equipment they would have carried into battle.

On Saturday, Feb. 16, the talk will focus on the Japanese families in the Mosier area in 1942 and the vibrant community on what is now the Mayerdale Estate and nearby properties prior to the WWII internment.

On Saturday, Febr. 23,The town above Celilo Falls is the topic, and local historian, John Brookhouse who has family connections to the long-ago town that served as the entry point to the upper Columbia River above the falls will present enhanced maps and photos from the Wasco County Historical Society.

Admission to all talks is free, but donations are welcome. There is a TV monitor on the ground floor of the 1859 courthouse to accommodate people unable to climb the stairs. Coffee and cookies will be served after each program.


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