Archives Day shines light on WWI

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By Charles Pritchard cpritchard@onei­dadis­patch.com

WAMPSVILLE, N.Y. >> The War to End All Wars af­fected ev­ery­one across the world, in­clud­ing Madi­son County and its res­i­dents.

In the lobby of the Madi­son County Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles, the pub­lic was in­vited to the on­go­ing Archives Day event and see posters, news­pa­per clip­pings, let­ters and even a list of peo­ple in the county who went to fight in World War I.

Among other pieces on dis­play, Madi­son County His­to­rian Matthew Urtz said they have a book be­long­ing to the Madi­son County clerk dur­ing the war, which con­tained all the names of peo­ple who joinedthe ef­fort. Right next to it were let­ters and per­sonal af­fects of a par­tic­u­lar Clin­ton County res­i­dent, who moved to Canastota af­ter serv­ing in World War I and be­ing de­clared MIA.

Theodore J. Mero was born in Rouses Point in 1887. Mero was on a ship that was tor­pe­doed by Cen­tral Pow­ers forces and was listed miss­ing in ac­tion. A se­ries of let­ters were sent back and forth between the Red Cross and Mero’s fa­ther dur­ing that time. Af­ter he re­turned from ser­vice, Mero moved to Canastota and worked as a car­pen­ter for the Madi­son County High­way Depart­ment.

“Theodore Mero was a lot of things. He fought over­seas and his grand­fa­ther was H.P. Peck­ham, who built the court­house. It all ties to­gether,” Urtz said.

Ben­jamin Adams with the Oneida Com­mu­nity Man­sion House was also there to ex­plain how Oneida Com­mu­nity Ltd. moved from just cut­lery to trench knives, among other im­ple­ments for the war.

“They were still mak­ing sil­ver­ware, but at least over 50 per­cent of Oneida Com­mu­nity Ltd.’s out­put went di­rectly to gov­ern­ment con­tracts,” Adams said. “I like to say they made tools for both the preser­va­tion and tak­ing of life.”

Be­sides trench knives, Oneida Com­mu­nity Ltd. pro­duced mag­a­zine tubes, sur­gi­cal for­ceps, plat­ing shells and stan­dard sil­ver­ware needed for both camps and hos­pi­tals. The com­pany made a to­tal of $1.75 mil­lion through war con­tracts with the gov­ern­ment — $31.45 mil­lion by to­day’s value.

“We have old ad­ver­tise­ments of how the war ef­fort be­came a mar­ket­ing de­mo­graphic for Oneida Ltd.,” Adams said. “So when soldiers were com­ing home, they started ad­ver­tis­ing to­wards pro­vid­ing that sil­ver­ware box set for the fam­i­lies com­ing home.”

Among the peo­ple learn­ing more about Madi­son County and World War I was Ni­cholas Dansby and his mother Chris­tine. Ni­cholas is a ju­nior of Canastota High School and got per­mis­sion to take lunch and a study hall off for the day to visit for Archives Day for the first time.

“I’d love to be an ar­chiv­ist. I love any­thing that has to do with his­tory,” Ni­cholas said. “It was my mom’s idea, though.”

“In re­gards to his­tory, be­ing able to look at the pieces left over, kids should be com­ing in and see­ing this. Un­less it’s viewed or spo­ken about, it’s lost,” Chris­tine Dansby said. “I asked one of his teach­ers if it was al­right. Archives Day is in­ter­est­ing.”

Ni­cholas said go­ing into Archives Day, he didn’t re­al­ize how much peo­ple re­ally sup­ported the war ef­fort or its scale. His­mother couldn’t be­lieve how many peo­ple ac­tu­ally were a part of the war from Madi­son County.

When asked what he plans on do­ing af­ter col­lege, Ni­cholas said he wants to ma­jor in his­tory and li­brary sci­ences, all to bet­ter fur­ther his love of his­tory.

“I want to be an ar­chiv­ist, work in a mu­seum or a li­brary,” Ni­cholas said. “Any­thing with his­tory. It’s best to learn the his­tory of your area be­fore the his­tory of any­thing else.”

CHARLES PRITCHARD - ONEIDA DAILY DIS­PATCH

Lo­cal res­i­dents ex­am­ine pieces of his­tory dat­ing back to World War I dur­ing Madi­son County’s Archives Day event on Tues­day, Oct. 9, 2018.

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