Traverse City Record-Eagle


Do you have a World War I story?

By Loraine AndersonThis is the first entry of a new local history blog that will run regularly in our online History section. I call it History Crossroads because I hope it will become a gathering place and forum for people who enjoy local history and the many stories about our area’s past you can find in the Record-Eagle and Reflections by the Bays, our stand-alone quarterly magazine that has a strong history emphasis.

I will monitor this blog and write small pieces weekly, but it is my hope that readers will help, too, through comments, by providing additional historical information about a story or asking questions about local history that others readers can help answer.

Thank you to all who emailed and called to tell me how much you enjoyed the first installment (available at of our occasional series that will run this year on local veterans and the area home front dating back as far as the Civil War.

If you have a World War I story about the Traverse City area or comments on our Nov. 21-22 World War I stories that you would like to share online with other readers, please write them in the comment box below.

To get things started, here are some comments I received from readers about the World War I package.

Tony Rakowski , my mother’s first cousin was killed by a German sniper in early November ( as we know the Armistice was signed Nov 11, 1918). He was the grandson of German emigrants Michael and Mary (Englander) Limberger of Potter Road. As the family story recounted many times – a few more days and he would have made it !!   He is buried in the Old Catholic section of Oakwood

P.S. My aunt Clara Moon (the artist) might have more detail as he was also her first cousin.

Sen. George McManus Jr.
Traverse City

Editor’s note: Former state Sen. George McManus is also a former Grand Traverse County extension agent and author of  “The Boy from Archie,” published in  2008.


Clara Moon, 92, a long-time Peninsula Township water colorist, did have more to tell about the 19-year-old son of a Garfield Township farm family. In fact, she has an old letter sent by a member of his platoon to Tony’s sister.  He died on Nov. 2, 1918 by shellfire near Metz, France, while trying to take two hills.  Clara also has a card Tony sent her mother in June 1918 just days after she was born.  He was at training camp in Waco, Texas.

“How’s my little cousin getting along?” he asked in the card.  “I hope you are both well. When I get back there will be lot of strangers I’ll have to get acquainted with…”


Nice article in Sunday’s paper about WWI.  Am glad you included information about Thomas H. Coxe.  He is one of my heroes.  To the best of my knowledge, only the socialists in town raised any objection to that war.  And that objection was quite muted–understandably.  The illustrations were impressive.  Love the sepia one on page one that shows the train at the station.

Richard Fidler
Traverse City

Editor’s note: Richard Fidler is a retired Traverse City biology teacher who now focuses his research skills on local history. He has written and published two books on area history: “Glimpses of Grand Traverse Past: Reflections on a Local History” (2008), and “Who We Were, What We Did: Fresh Perspectives on Grand Traverse History” (2009).

The latter offers a chapter on Thomas H. Coxe  and World War I dissonance in Traverse City.  Coxe, editor of the short-lived Traverse City Press, refused to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner” and was ejected from a 1917 city commission meeting shortly after the United States entered the war.   The Socialist Party of America drew significant support in the early 1900s from trade unionists, progressive social reformers, populist farmers and immigrant communities and one Traverse City commissioner at that time was a socialist.  The party staunchly opposed U.S. entry into World War I.


Jim Neve, Leelanau Township supervisor, said  the Nov. 21  front-page photograph  of a crowd gathered at the old Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad station during World War I reminded him of a story he once heard about the Cedar railroad depot during World War I.  According to that story, soldiers departing from Cedar wrote their names on the wall of the depot.  I checked with a couple of Leelanau County local historians but they hadn’t heard this story.

Does anyone out know more about this?  If so, please fill the rest of  us in by leaving a comment below.

  • Guest

    In the Page 1 photo caption on Nov. 21, you identified the location of the old Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad depot in Traverse City, but where were the Pere Marquette and Manistee & Northeastern depots?

  • Anonymous

    WWI soldiers who died during their service were honored in another way besides memorial plaques. Veterans Drive was planted with a double row of sugar maples in 1923, each tree inscribed with a name of a soldier who died during the conflict. This road was the main entrance to the City at this time and the Women’s Club and city officials wanted visitors to pass under the branches of the stately trees as they approached Traverse City. Perhaps they were thinking of the shaded boulevards of Paris which so many US soldiers had visited during and after the war. At any rate, unfortunately many of the trees died or were cut down, though some Traverse Citians now living may remember them. There are four sugar maples still remaining near the Memorial Gardens entrance which are the right age for the trees. I do not know if they were part of the original planting or not; perhaps they were planted only to supplement the first trees. I am moved, though, when I pass by them.

    Richard Fidler

  • Susan Odom

    I work at the Leelanau Historical Museum in Leland. I don’t the answer – but I do know we have one box and maybe two, of records mostly pertaining to the RR depot in Cedar. I’m not sure if it goes back as far as WWI. I’ve not had the chance to look closely at those records, but I would welcome anyone who would like to do so. Just contact the museum and make an appointment.

  • Dhumenik

    Hello Loraine,

    My story is not about WWI but you may be able to help. I found a picture from 1944 in the Reveille of a PFC Albert Alexander Cascagnett as he is being examined by an INS agent presumably to become a citizen. Through the internet I have found people with the same surname in your area and am trying to locate him or his relatives to see if they are interested in having this picture.

  • Ann P. Miller

    My story about world war 1 is short. My father, Patrick Joseph McGhee, a native of Glasgow Scotland,was in the British Army.He was only about 16 or 17 at the time.He would talk about being in fox holes and eating hard tack.,and being in France.

  • John L.

    I don’t have a historical story but thought that others might find this interesting. I am a TC native living in Belgium for 3 years. I have have visited the Battle of the Ardennes (WWII Battle of the Bulge for Americans) and Ypres Salient (WWI Flanders Fields) both located here in Belgium. The battle of the Bulge saw the greatest number of American deaths, 19,000 in any battle. The British/French/Belgians lost about 500,000 men in the three major battles, the scale of the devastation in WWI in relatively small areas is almost beyond comprehension. If you visit Tyne Cot Cemetary in Flanders where 12,000 British are buried and also discover the cemetary is half surrounded by their version of our Vietnam War Memorial where there is a wall with the names of 35,000 British that were never found (in a small area) because of the mud and total devastation. My point is that WWI is distant history for many Americans but now after living here in Europe, the scars are still very evident if you know where to look.

  • Richard Hansen

    Hi Loraine,
    Great idea for a blog about WW1 vets. My grandfather, Edwin T. Hansen, was born and raised in Onekama, Michigan. He enlisted in the Army on 27 Apr 1918 and served in France and Germany as a sergeant in the motor pool. The highlight of his service was being awarded the Crois de Guerre by the French government for a very daring ammo run he made to the front lines. My grandmother often told me the story of how her brave young husband drove the truck through the darkness as the bombs illuminated the trenches and the barren landscape. Edwin was discharged in July of 1919 and died about 20 years before my grandmother. She loved him and his heroism so much, the French medal was burried with her.

    Richard T. Hansen
    Griffith, IN

  • Vjw_65

    In WW-I my grand-father was the private watchman for the railroad board he guarded the train tressle in Holton, IN.
    Evidently the troops & supplies used that route.He said it was an un-eventful job.
    He had a nice private watchman badge,

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