Veterans Day and a look back 100 years
ELDRED, NY — There were two stories at Highland’s Veterans Day ceremonies, one that was traditional and one that required some search.
About 100 people turned out for annual commemoration services on a breezy and sunny Veterans Day, November 11. VFW County Commander Peter Carmeci acted as master-of-ceremonies and the audience heard remarks from Methodist Pastor Nancy Vonderhorst and Fr. Joselin Pens Berkmans of St. Anthony of Padua RC Church. Guests included Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff.
“We honor the 57 million Americans who have honorably served in the various branches of the United States Armed Forces,” said Eldred American Legion Commander Richard VandeVelde. The program was supposed to conclude with the rifle salute, but a group of kindergarteners on hand added a bright conclusion by parading before and shaking the hands of the uniformed veterans. A coffee and cake reception inside the town hall followed the ceremonies.
This Veterans Day marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The anniversary of Armistice Day, as it is still known in Europe, was mentioned in the program and highlighted more by the prominent placement of a “doughboy” WWI helmet near the speaker’s podium. But the town’s 1921 bronze war memorial had more to say.
The old plaque was originally mounted on the front of the Sunshine Hall Library. It remained there until it was removed in 2015, during the building’s renovation for its 2016 centennial. The plaque then went into storage until a new location was decided and a mount acquired. It is now installed at the edge of Hero’s Park, near the assessor’s office.
A new plaque was placed in Hero’s Park’s circle of war monuments. The new one lists five men who went to war and did not return. They include M. (Mortimer) McKinley Austin, an Eldred resident. The New York State archive of WWI dead lists Austin as killed in action while serving with the 11th Infantry on October 21, 1918.
A search found little about Frank E. Clouse. A brief listing in the international “The World Remembers” (TWR) archive listed only his March 3, 1919 death, presumably from wounds or illness incurred in service.
No archive listed the service of Henry J. Loerch, but a 1919 newspaper article reported a probate court disposition of the estate of a Henry J. Loerch of Highland Lake, who had died in the fall of 1918 while serving as a boxing instructor at Camp (Fort) Dix, NJ.
C. (Clarence) Dewey Liebla, of Barryville, was listed in the New York State archive as having served with the 109th Infantry and having been killed in action on September 6, 1918. The Liebla family’s next generation provided Sylvan S. Liebla, who died while serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII and became the namesake for the Eldred American Legion Post in 1946.
Edwin T. Wolfe is another mystery. The only Edwin T. Wolfe found in either archive served with a Saskatchewan, Canada regiment and died in Belgium on July 23, 1916. Some Americans did enlist in Canada prior to the U.S. entry in the war in 1917.
The original monument lists all 51 names of Highlanders who served in the military during World War I, but it tells more about the community. Highland had only 1,031 residents in the 1910 census. Fifty-one men represented fully 5% of the town’s population, perhaps up to 30% of all eligible men. History also uncovered the importance of family connections in the town. The 46 survivors included three named Bosch, three Becks, two Hortons, two Livingstons, two McBrides, two Metzgers and two Morgans.
Four family names, Austin, Clouse, Liebla and Wolfe appear among the list of survivors as well as the dead. The plaque’s dedication states that “Our citizens presented this plaque… for all those who fell that right may emerge from the sting of autocracies rule.” The war marked the end of monarchies in Germany, Austria and Russia.
“Our citizens presented this plaque… for all those who fell that right may emerge from the sting of autocracies rule.”