Published On: Thu, Jul 18th, 2013

Heitman shares story of World War I monument

COLERIDGE — The small village of Coleridge had a record number of men serve in the military during World War I.

A volunteer rally was held in April of 1917 according to the Coleridge Centennial Book. Sixty-three boys from the Coleridge area went into uniform before the draft call was issued. The population of Coleridge at that time was 600.

The final number from Coleridge and the surrounding area that went to war totaled 103.

A May 11, 1919 edition of the Omaha World Herald proclaimed Coleridge as “The Most Patriotic Town in all America.”

The news story stated “Coleridge, Nebraska, the slackerless community, sends the most volunteers per capita.”

Coleridge was one of the first towns to construct and set up a monument in honor of their World War I veterans.

The 1919 news story displayed a picture of the huge crowd that filled the streets of Coleridge when the monument was unveiled.

“The businesses and the people in Coleridge paid for it,” Don said.

The monument, which was originally located in the center of the intersection of Coleridge’s Main and Broadway Streets, was constructed by Hans Guenzel, a German-born mason, who lived in Coleridge. Hans Krug helped Guenzel build the memorial.

“He (Guenzel) put up a shed on the street and then built the monument inside the shed,” Heitman said. “When the war was over he took the shed down and they had a celebration.”

Several years ago when Heitman was caring for the monument, he crawled up to the top and looked down through the hole at the top.

“It’s hollow inside,” Don said.

A wood frame was built, wire mesh was wrapped around the frame and cement was put on the wire mesh. Four granite slabs, which display the names, were placed in the cement on each side of the monument according to Heitman.

The 16-foot tall monument has close to 100 names of veterans who served overseas engraved in the four granite slabs.

The names include two women; a nurse and a Red Cross worker.

Four of the men were wounded in battle. One of the men, Pat Flynn, was wounded three times. One of the Coleridge men who served died.

“American Legion Post 114 is named after Carl Korff — the man who died,” Heitman said.

 

The World War I Monument, which was originally located in the center of the main street through town, had a wrought-iron fence around it and the women in town planted flowers inside the fence according to Heitman.

The monument remained at the main intersection for many years, but eventually had to be moved in order to pave the street.

“It was a gravel street,” Heitman said. “The WPA (Work Progress Administration) under President Roosevelt would pour the cement on the two blocks of street from Hefner’s Station up to the mortuary.”

The monument was put on a stone boat and a tractor pulled it down to the City Park sometime in the late 1930s.

The monument was put on a cement slab base.

Later, Lee Cautrell, Maintenance Supervisor for the Village, put up a wood containing wall around the base of the monument and planted a hedge.

 Pick up this week’s issue of the Coleridge Blade to read more!
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