November 1918: Walker County celebrates end of WWI


"The great war has ended," The Mountain Eagle reported on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 1918.

The big, bold headline went on for eight lines: "Germany surrenders and hostilities cease; Terms include evacuation of invaded territories and the left banks of the Rhine, surrender of U-boats, vast supplies, equipment, etc. Kaiser has fled; President Wilson says everything has been won."

News of the armistice, which had been signed at 6 p.m. Parisian time on Nov. 10, reached Jasper on Monday afternoon.

The Eagle reported that Jasper "went patriotically wild" and "pandemonium reigned" well into the night: "Demonstrations such as have never been seen in the county took place at every important point in the county. Schools were dismissed, miners quit their work and joined in the celebration. Bells rang, whistles were blown, guns and pistols were fired and the whole county gave way to hilarity."

Locals had reportedly gone quietly about their work for most of the day, having been fooled by a false report of peace the previous week.

However, the silence gave way to chaos when a car decorated in red, white and blue arrived in Jasper from Carbon Hill about 1 p.m. The Eagle does not specify who the occupants were, but they sang "The Star Spangled Banner" in front of the courthouse.

"That was the spark that caused an explosion. Soon the public square was covered with a  mass of humanity. Cars were decorated, and then the singing, shouting and shooting started," the Eagle reported.

The latter posed a bit of a problem as the celebration continued.

The Eagle reported that of the thousands of "joyous, unorganized demonstrators" that packed Jasper, "half of them seemed to have pistols" and "there must have been about 10,000 pistol shots fired."

The trigger-happy revelers caused an estimated $1,000 in damage to telephone cables and other equipment. 

"But everybody was happy and the damage was not intentional and no arrests will be made," according to the Eagle.

On the afternoon of the armistice celebration, the county's service flag was displayed on the band stand from which Judge J.W. Shepherd, Judge J.D. Acuff and T.L. Long gave patriotic speeches.

The flag had been dedicated in the circuit courtroom less than a week earlier.

A flag raising had been planned, but a steady rain resulted in the Saturday afternoon ceremony being moved into the courthouse.

The service flag, purchased by T.L. Long, was reported to bear more than a thousand stars and cost several thousand dollars. Long had donated the flag to the Jasper Red Cross, which in turn donated it to the county. Long also donated a cedar box in which to store the flag in a vault in the courthouse.

A record book was also created containing the names and short sketches of the life of each soldier represented on the flag. The Eagle reported that there were about a dozen gold stars representing Walker County boys who had been killed in the war.

Long had also announced his intent to purchase a separate service flag for the county's African American soldiers.

Long composed a song about the anticipated homecoming of American soldiers, which he sang at the ceremony:

"When our soldier boys return from France, we will be wild with song and dance.

We will shout for joy And hallow 'Good boy'

When our boys return from France"

When our boys return from France, slackers will have no chance.

The reason so plain, it's useless to explain

They were not with our boys in France.

When our boys return from France, politicians will flee in advance.

They may run if they will tho' they best be still

They were not with our boys in France.

All homes will be happy, mother, children and pappy,

When our boys return from France."

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.