World War I in Lawrence: Thousands gather to bid soldiers farewell

Although several individuals had departed Lawrence since the war’s outbreak to serve in various positions on the front and at home, the first large-scale departure of troops didn’t take place until autumn, 1917. The Lawrence Journal-World of Oct. 1 described the scene: “The Lawrence units of the Kansas National Guard are on their way in the first lap of their journey to France. The main force left early yesterday morning while the Battery left this morning. All the units from here went directly to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they will be encamped in Camp Doniphan during a training period before being sent into actual warfare. The send-off given the Lawrence troops exceeded by far that of last year when the boys went to the Mexican border. This was true in spite of the fact that no general announcement was made of the time of departure. Thousands of Lawrence people were at the depot to bid the boys good-bye. The occasion was marked by solemnity although the troops for the most part were a jolly bunch…. The University Band under the direction of J. C. McCanless was on the platform early cheering the soldiers and their friends with several good selections. The civilian band, recently organized for this purpose, gave the boys a good send-off with several fine pieces. The entrainment and departure of all the Lawrence units was on schedule time and there appeared to be no hitch in the arrangements. Different routes were followed by the various troop trains although all the organizations have the same destination.” The newspaper also noted the surprisingly large amount of local produce sent with the troops: “Enough fruit was donated to the soldiers Saturday to keep them supplied for a few days.” Sixteen individuals and organizations were listed with descriptions of their gifts of peaches, apples, grapes, and plums.