Company K (early history)
Excerpt from History of Wasmer Post No. 241
Company K, 56th Infantry of the Iowa National Guard, was first mustered into service on December 8, 1913. It’s organization was arranged by the LeMars Commercial Club under the leadership of Jacob G. Koenig, a LeMars youth, who had had some previous military training.
When the 150,000 militiamen from various states were ordered to the Mexican Border by President Wilson in 1916, the local company saw its first active service as a member of the Punitive Expedition. In June 1916 Company K, now designated as the Second Iowa Infantry, left LeMars for Camp Dodge, and later proceeded to Brownsville, Texas, where it remained for a period of nine months.
On March 3, Company K, Second Iowa Infantry, entrained from Brownsville and was back at Camp Dodge on March 9. A big celebration had been planned in LeMars to observe the return, but because was with Germany appeared inevitable, the local company was at first ordered to remain in DesMoines indefinitely. Orders, however, were changed and at 11:30 p.m. Friday, March 23, 1917, they returned to LeMars via the Illinois Central to the accompaniment of ringing bells, fire whistles and bon fires in the towns to the east. After marching to the Armory and being served a lunch the men were dismissed.
The roster of Company K on its return was as follows:
Other members of Company K at the time it was called into the service, or who enlisted later, who had already been mustered out were:
On March 27, 1917, a banquet was held at the Armory in honor of Company K, local papers describing it as the largest patriotic meeting of its kind ever held in LeMars. An elaborate dinner was served to 634 persons, with the following program.
Music by orchestra, singing of patriotic songs led by C.A. Wernli.
The recruiting office was in the Armory, with Lt. Rothermel in charge. On April 6, 1917, war was declared with Germany. The following day a patriotic meeting was held in LeMars, with a band concert given on the main street, followed by a parade ending at the Armory. J. U. Sammis presided and spoke at the meetings. Flags were displayed in all stores and homes on the occasion. By April 8, Company K had been recruited to more than full war strength with the names of 154 men on the company roster, making it the first Guard company in the state to attain its full quota. April 10 Sgt. Russell Bowers was commissioned a Second Lt.
May 15, 1917, Henry Bender and J. U. Sammis of LeMars were among the first 1500 men chosen to attend Officer’s Training Camp at Fort Snelling, Minn.
On May 18, President Wilson ordered the Selective Service Act, recently passed by Congress to begin functioning. The Act arranged for the registration of all males from 21 to 30 inclusive. The first Plymouth County registration was held June 5, with 2300 men registering on that date—327 of this number from LeMars. (Already between 60 and 70 men in the county had volunteered for service.) On registration day in LeMars bells were rung and whistles blown, a band concert was given and a patriotic meeting was held in the evening. On June 1, plans were made for the organization of a Volunteer Engineers Unit in Plymouth County, with County Engineer Merrill in charge, but this plan was later given up. By June 25, Company K had enlisted 156 men, 126 of these from Plymouth County.
On July 1, 1917, Company K was mustered in at Camp Faber, located on the Western Union College Campus and the nearby Country Club grounds in LeMars. Two buildings, a kitchen and an office had been erected and the men were first housed in tents and at the Armory. Two hundred cars from Kingsley accompanied the Kingsley boys to Camp Faber. By July 6, 135 men were at the camp under the command of Capt. Koenig and Lts. Bowers and Rothaermel.
On July 6, the County Selective Board, consisting of Sheriff Maxwell, Chairman; Jesse Hayes, Secretary; Dr. J. M. Fetters, Examining Physician; and Nelson Miller, Government Challenger, was selected.
On July 10, the local papers reported a busy week at Camp Faber. During this period, the men of Company K were given their shots by Lts. Roost and Davies of Sioux City. On July 12 the National Guards of the state, 8217 strong, were ordered into Federal service. On July 15, Harry Cannon, George Kalless and Walter Sullivan of LeMars enlisted in the new Ammunition Train to accompany the Iowa Brigade. On July 20, Camp Faber was placed under quarantine due to an outbreak of smallpox among members of the company.
Also on July 20, the first draft of Plymouth County men drawn under the Selective Service, 224 in all, was announced. No. 1 in the county (National Number 258) was Roman Swegler, of LeMars. The first county quota was 71 men.
On July 27, the 150 men of Company K were formally mustered into Federal Service, Capt. Ellsworth, of Dubuque, being the mustering officer. The final physical examinations were given by Lt. Sampson. By August 3, a Mess Fund of $1800.00 had been raised for Company K. Noteworthy gifts were $500 from Matt Faber of Remsen, after whom Camp Faber was named, and $100 each from William Nicholson and John Ruble, of LeMars. On August 15, a concert was given at Camp Faber by the Second Iowa Band and a ball game was held between Company K and Company M, of Cherokee.
On August 20, 68 men from Company K (chosen by number) were called to DesMoines to become a party of the Third Regiment, 168th Infantry, 84th Brigade, later to be known as a part of the Famous Rainbow Division. The local band and several thousand people saw the contingent off at the station. The following men were selected to become a part of the 168th Infantry:
The remaining members of Company K left for Deming, New Mexico, August 27, 1917, after the 68 were transferred to the Third Regiment. Picnics were held at the park for the Company, a band concert was held on Main Street, and $175 was added to the Company fund. Between three and four thousand people saw the Company, dressed in new uniforms, off at the station. The Kingsley Fife and Drum Corps led the parade from the Armory to the station. Members of the G.A.R. made up a portion of the parade. Over $100 worth of tobacco was presented to the departing men of Company K. After the departure of the Company, Camp Faber was torn down.