In mid-May I created a post asking about local stories. I’m delighted that one came our way as a comment to that post, but I’m also going to copy it and post it here with thanks to Mr. Larson and with hopes it may inspire a few additional stories! From Erik Larson:
Cpl. Louis Elmer Larson
My Grandfather was born in Castle Rock, Colorado in 1887 to Swedish immigrant parents. He lived in Colorado until 1900 when the family of six returned to Cherokee County, Kansas where his father had initially homesteaded 160 acres after immigrating in the late 1860s. It was here that my Grandfather graduated from Columbus HS, taught for a year in a one room school and left to attend the University of Kansas in Lawrence in the Fall of 1908 where he played on the Freshman football team. He returned to Cherokee County the following year and continued teaching for the next few years. He was also part-owner of the Cherokee Co. Flour Mill with one of his brothers as well as a mill in Agenda, KS. In October of 1917, at the age of thirty, he was drafted into the army and sent to Camp Funston near Ft. Riley, Kansas for basic training. On a weekend pass in late-April he returned to Scammon in Cherokee County and was married. The unit left Kansas on May 25th and arrived at their training area in France exactly one month later on June 25th, 1918.
After six weeks of advanced training, the 89th was determined ready for combat and was part of the successful effort to reduce the St. Mihiel Salient in September of 1918. Going over the top in the pre-dawn of September 12th, my Grandfather and the men of Company H progressed over No Man’s Land and headed in the direction of the Ansoncourt Farm a few hundred yards away. During their advance, the commander of Company H, Lt. Wickersham, was mortally wounded. He refused medical treatment and insisted that care be given to his wounded aide instead. Lt. Wickersham died of his injuries soon afterward. For his act of selfless heroism he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He is buried in the St. Mihiel American Cemetery.
After nearly a month in the St. Mihiel area, the 89th was moved to the Meuse-Argonne and were in combat operations by Oct. 10, 1918. Heavy combat was experienced by all units in this densely forested and well defensed region for the next several weeks. My Grandfather was a medic with Company H and after stepping out of the Bantheville Woods on Nov. 1, the start of the final offensive push that would end the war, he spent the next several days working in a first aid station in the small village of Tailly. On November 11, Company H crossed the Meuse River and entered Stenay. The war was over. Following the armistice and just after Thanksgiving, the 89th Division marched through Belgium, Luxembourg and into Germany where they served in the Army of Occupation until late-May of 1919.
My Grandfather was honorably discharged from the army in June of 1919 and returned to Cherokee County, Kansas. He continued to teach, owned a small dairy for a few years, had a son (my father) and eventually worked as an Education Field Agent and School Superintendent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His career included working with the Sioux and Assiniboine tribes on the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation in eastern Montana, with the Pawnee tribe in Oklahoma and was the headmaster of Carter Seminary, an Indian boarding school in Ardmore, Oklahoma. It must be noted that he was adopted into the Sioux tribe in Montana and the Pawnee tribe in Oklahoma. This speaks volumes as to the kind of person he was. He died at the age of 92. He was the greatest person I’ve ever known.
I know as much about my Grandfather’s service as I do for a number of reasons. He had the foresight to buy two history books published by the US Army in the early-1920’s, both on the WWI service of the 89th Division and the 353rd Infantry Regiment. From these two sources (which included notes he made in the margins of many pages) I was able to reconstruct his time in the army, from basic training in Kansas to combat in France. Most importantly, I have a small pocket diary he kept with daily entries as he and Company H fought through Saint Mihiel and the forests of the Meuse-Argonne. All of these resources allowed my wife and I to follow his path through the war when we visited these battle site in the Fall of 2015. Our plan is to return for the Centennial in 2018.
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