'The Most Patriotic Town in All America'

In 1919, the NNTC Community of Coleridge, NE was named ‘The Most Patriotic Town in All America’ by the Omaha World-Herald. See pictures and read the Omaha World-Herald article below.

Sunday World-Herald

Omaha, Nebraska

May 11, 1919


Coleridge, Nebraska , the Slackerless Community, Sends Most Volunteers Per Capita and Is First to Unveil Memorial Monument

By Raymond Soat

The most grand worthy Oompah was about to receive a salaam from one of the lessor poteniates.

It was a solemn moment for the lodge.  The room was hushed. Before the rite could be staged with its fitting dignity the door opened suddenly and a youngster shouted: “Pat Flynn’s Back.”

Every lodge member jumped from his seat.  Costumes were doffed in a moment. All rushed to the door.

“Meetin’s over,” cried the chief dignitary, as he tried to elbow through the crowd and be among the first to exit. There was no need for an announcement of adjournment.  In just three minutes every member of this Coleridge, Neb., lodge had taken his place at the railroad station. But they were not alone.

Of the town’s 600 population more than 300 were there.  The absentees included the sleeping school children, the aged folk and few sick.

When Pat Flynn stepped from the train he was as much astounded as was the first German he encountered in the late European fray.  Before the war Pat was a farm hand and had been reckoned as just one of the boys.  Now he was one of Coleridge’s heroes.

The bank officials, town lawyer, preacher, the merchants and the postmaster all strived to be the first to seize his hand.

“Welcome home,” shouted one.

“You did fine work, old boy,” yelled another.

“Did Pat lick the Germans, well I guess yes!” This from the preacher, who face was as flushed with excitement as a bleacher fan when the peril of the ninth inning had subsided.

The parade up the business street started. Members of the community chorus struck up a song. Lack of talent did not keep the others quiet.

The corner was turned and at the end of the street was a lone white collage. 

A gray-haired woman, aroused by the cheers, stood in the lighted doorway.  She wondered at the cause of the excitement.  The hero of the march broke away.  He rushed to the door and gathered the little woman tenderly in his arms.

“Mother,” was his only utterance.

“Patrick, and sure is it you?” asked the thin, trembling voice, and she sobbed softly as she clung to her war-scarred son, fresh from battle.

The crowd withdrew, it’s duty was done.

Pat was not an exceptional war hero for Coleridge. Neither was his reception exceptional, Save for the hour and minor circumstances it is to be compared with the greetings extended other heroes.

The secret is: Coleridge is an exceptional town.

It is called the most patriotic spot in the United States.

Some boast! But then scan its war record.

Coleridge for its population send the greatest number of volunteers to battle. There were sixty-three boys who jumped into uniform before the draft call was issued.

Sixty-three lads from a community of 600 leaves quite a gap. 

The number from Coleridge and surrounding territory who participated in in the war, including the drafted and the volunteers, totals 103.

Every Liberty loan and war fund was over-subscribed by more than a third. But that doesn’t end the recital of their achievements.

Coleridge was the first town in Nebraska to complete and unveil a monument erected in memory of their new heroes.

The Eventful Day

When the first few fighters returned a month or so ago they noticed a small building standing in the center of the main street square. They asked about it. Folks were rather reluctant in volunteering any information and the boys dismissed the matter from their minds.

Then came a day when the building was removed and a tall object unveiled in white, revealed.

Questions were again asked but evasive answers given.

Finally came the announcement proudly heralded in the town weekly.

“Coleridge’s memorial monument will be unveiled on April 27.”

There may be great fires in the village; it’s principal resident may die; the town baseball nine may win the championship, but no event, no matter how important, nor any due date, however significant will live in the memory of Coleridge people as long as that famous April 27.

The announcement was received in all the nearby towns. When the eventful Sunday came there were more than 8,000 persons on the streets. One tabulator of statistics counted 1,500 automobiles parked in every highway and byway. At least a score of communities were represented.

One hundred returned soldiers and sailors in uniform led the parade which stopped in front of the monument. There they and their families occupied a thousand seats that had been placed for them. The Community Chorus was on the program.

One Soldier Killed.

Little Minnie Korff, a relative of Carl Korff, the one Coleridge soldier killed in France, dressed in white and draped in the folds of the flag, pulled the cord that unveiled the monument. 

Small girls placed four wreaths of flowers at each side of the memorial for the four men who died while in uniform. Lisle L. Abbott, an attorney of Omaha, delivered an address, as did Sergeant Charles Walter. This was followed by an exhibition given by a war tank. Then the crowd disregarded the formal program and greeted its heroes in its own warm and personal way.

The history of Coleridge’s monument is not told in a cold repetition of the program of April 27.  There were days last fall when the city fathers were wont to gather and discuss the means by which they could pay tribute to the fighters who were doing so nobly.  These men of Coleridge are always in the lead when it comes to community action. The first community club in the state was organized by them. 

A number of memorial ideas were suggested, but none adopted.

After weeks of indecision on the part of the men, Hans Guenzel finally acted.

The Monument Builder

No one knows the trepidation with which Hans came forth. He sought Charles Young, president of the First National bank. Guenzel told of his coming to America five years ago. He reviewed his life in Germany, his period in the kaiser’s army, of his determination to flee as soon as his compulsory term of service had expired.

“I know too well,’ he exclaimed brokenly, “just what the words freedom and liberty mean.  There is so much that I owe to America, I want to do something – I must do something to show my gratitude.”

Then Hans, a mason by trade, offered to construct the memorial monument. The idea was welcomed by all.

Hans obtained the assistance of his friend, Hans Krug (whose parents were not born in Ireland, by the way), and the two laid their plans.

But there were not alone. All the business men joined in. Work on the affair become their nightly task. There were evenings bleak and severe when the group of men toiled constructing the base, digging at this, or placing something or another.

The Town’s Triumph

“Working on the monument,” was an explanation that justified an evening off the stay-at-home husband as a fully as if he said he was going to church.

Visitors in the town thought it strange to see Mr. Bridenbaugh and Mr. Young, the two bankers, forgetful of their business rivalries, laughing away in glee and content as they carried bags of sand or helped to mix materials for Hans.

Paris may have its Arch of Triumph, New York its new Victory arch and Washington the famous monument of this nation, but none of these viewed daily with half the regard, none is cherished one-tenth as much as this simple structure when it is beheld by the townspeople.

Aglow at night under the shower of light, or bright in its whiteness throughout the day, it stands an intimate and personal tribute to Coleridge’s soldier boys – a tribute which is the handiwork of Coleridge’s own people.

Coleridge leaped at the head of patriotic towns in almost one burst of patriotism. A few days after the declaration of war a brief recruiting rally was held. 

The next day, April 21, to be exact, more than forty boys, amid cheers and hurrahs, clambered aboard the train that was the first of their journeys to France.

But the hours pervious were not wholly exultant ones. There were clashes of emotions.

There was the heart-to-heart conference held by two brothers, Claud and Glen Peck. Circumstances were such that it was impossible for both to go. They stood on a quiet street corner, each beseeching the other for the privilege. Claud was insistent that he should be allowed to enlist, but Glen argued his own case equally as well. Tears came, the tears of strong men deeply moved. An hour passed, and finally Claud won.

He raced eagerly down the street to join his war-bent friends. Glen went mournfully home. Claud maintains today that his brother underwent the greater sacrifice.

There was an identical situation with the two Flynn brothers, and in this Pat was the victor. There were four pairs of brothers in that first aggregation that marched away.

The men of Coleridge were loath to part with all.  A score of the older residents stayed with the lads until they reached Omaha, where they started for the training camp at Fort Logan, Colorado.

The Days at the Front

The period of training passed quickly. In a few brief months seventy lads from Coleridge were on the line in France, standing with their American brothers, a solid, brave throng that held and finally brought victory to the world. 

But the trying months before the end.

Each day scores of people visited First National bank. There Mr. Hunt assiduously kept account on a large map of the standing of the armies. Children stopped in for a few minutes on their way to school. Housewives visited the bank first before going to the grocery. Business men could not start the day’s routine until they had seen how far the brightly covered tacks, denoting the American troops, had been moved forward.

Then the saddest announcement of all. The death of Carol Korff.

It was the first heavy pressure of the hand of war. But Coleridge was proud. This pride, however, did not measure with that exhibited by Henry Korff, the hero’s father. Though the cost was heavy there was no complaint. Instead this parent plunged the more heavily into Liberty bond campaigns.

Two Heroic Women

There was a little solace when report of the incident in France reached the community.

Edward Knaack, a Coleridge boy, was serving on the line as a bugler. One day he was summoned to play taps for a fallen hero. As the bugler was about to commence the dirge he glanced at the body and discovered it to be his playmate and associate. It was the first time he had seen his friend’s features since their departure from Coleridge. It is not necessary to relate that Knaack did all possible to see that the fallen Coleridge hero received every care and tender consideration that he could bestow.

Coleridge’s representation in Europe included one woman. She was Miss Elizabeth Oberlander, a Red Cross nurse, who served eight months in a base hospital.

There was another woman, however, who deserves more than passing mention. This is Mrs. Charles Young, late wife of the banker. Her enthusiasm and ability for local Red Cross work and relief activities was such that her services were frequently enlisted by people in adjacent towns. It was while busted in this manner that she contracted influenza, from which she died suddenly.