The hope of mankind was that it would be the war to end all wars. We know it wasn’t. Battle casualties amounted to more than 8 million among the warring nations. Its ending was the catalyst for worldwide celebration.
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918, an armistice was effected which ended the First World War. One popular novelist reported it as a day “all quiet on the Western Front.”
But not here in Bartow.
The citizens were aroused in the early pre-dawn hours. Such a gathering was never before witnessed in the history of our city; pandemonium broke from center to circumference.
Nye E. Jordan gave his glorious message of peace to our people through the telephone office just 20 minutes after it reached President Wilson at the White House in Washington. Telegraphers had tapped out the message, sending the news to state capitals, where it was then relayed to county seats.
Bartow came to life with a jump at 2:45 Monday morning when the fire station’s siren sent out its familiar wail. Those who wondered where the fire was located began to wonder more as the whistle continued its roar.
For 15 minutes without a break the siren continued, during which time most of the citizens jumped to the conclusion that such a demonstration could only mean that peace had come.
Nearly 50 men and women crowded upon the city’s fire truck, which went careening up and down the streets with siren blaring and bell clanging, adding its noise to the din.
A parade was organized with the fife and drum corps and home guards participating. The demonstration took on every form that wildly enthusiastic crowd could think of.
Speeches were made, and jests at the German Kaiser’s expense won applause.
In the midst of the festivities, Rev. I.H. Dixon, a black minister of East Bartow, for the idea of conducting the Kaiser’s funeral, a stick impersonating the dethroned royalty. The funeral was a huge success, and all citizens applauded the funeral sermon.
The dawning of Monday saw no cessation of the merriment. Farmers began to gather in town early, the news having spread through the country like fire through grass.
At 10 o’clock, another gathering was called at the courthouse, to which thousands responded. Several parties made talks. Sgt. E.J.R. Lessel of Canada, who served 17 months in the fray, made the principal speech. He had recently recovered from combat wounds after spending 11 months in the hospital. His talk was a narration of what he saw and experienced in this great Wold War so happily ended on that day. He was sent to Bartow to speak on behalf of the United War Work Drive.
At this meeting, Rev. J.L. Yeates delivered a beautifully engraved gold medal to Rev. Dixon of the A.M.E. Church as a token of respect, esteem, and appreciation from the community for his patriotic services and also the other black preachers and citizens in Bartow.
Dr. A.P. Montague, president of Columbia College in Lake City, gave a short address expressing his admiration of the manner in which the patriotism of Bartow’s black citizenry was recognized. He suggested that his act should be sent to The Associated Press for publication throughout the United States.
Armistice Day was proclaimed in 1919 to be a day to commemorate the end of World War I. It became a holiday in the United States, France, Great Britain and Canada.
In 1954, its name was changed to Veterans Day. Its significance was broadened to commemorate all those living and dead who served in the Armed Forces during wartime.
Twenty-seven brave men from Bartow gave their lives in the First World War. Their names are inscribed in granite along with all of Bartow’s war dead at the Veteran’s Walk north of the library. They gave their tomorrows for your today.