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