Imagine Neosho a century ago, a much smaller city primarily located in the valley where the Square and Big Spring Park are located. Neosho stretched out from that area, up into the residential areas in the surrounding hills, east toward the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, north toward north Neosho, a part of town that had been its' own city, known as Neosho City or Martling, at one time. The high school, new at the time, occupied the block where today the Graystone Apartments fill the former building with senior apartments.
As November began in 1918, the world remained in the throes of what was called The Great War or the World War, efforts were underway to halt the war.
The Armistice called a halt to the hostilities between the Allies and Germany in Compiegne, France
at the 11th hour of the 11th hour of the 11th month in 1918. A formal peace agreement didn't come until The Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.
As word spread that the war had in effect ended, celebrations broke out around the world.
In Neosho, an Armistice Day celebration took place on the Square. According to an account from The Neosho Daily Democrat newspaper, "The celebration of the singing of the armistice terms began in yesterday morning before daylight and continued until a late hour last night. A few shots began the fun, then bells began to ring, whistles began to blow and as the day advanced, the noise became more general and increased in intensity."
Mayor Beavers issued a proclamation that declared November 11, 1918 a legal holiday and called for a parade. According to accounts, one of the largest crowds in Neosho history had gathered downtown. Thousands of American flags waved with pride and a parade formed at the high school at 1:30 p.m. The parade continued onto the west side of the Square and paused for a prayer. The cavalcade began with horseback riders and include businessmen, a drum corps, the Home Guards, and vehicles of all kinds. An old cannon brought home from the Spanish-American War was fired several times.
In the evening, bonfires were built on the square and the celebration continued long after dark.
With my writer's eye, I can imagine the festivities, the joy and relief that a war that took a great toll had ended. I can envision Neosho of a century ago and almost wish I could time travel to be a part of it.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, a major milestone in American and world history. It takes me back to a time when no one thought there would ever be another world wide war. They hoped humanity would have learned a lesson but no, the next world war launched a mere twenty-seven years later.
And, sometimes we don't remember that a major flu epidemic swept the nation at the same time that the Armistice was signed.
In my novel Valley So Low, written under my pen name Patrice Wayne, I wrote about Neosho in that era. So those who want to know more about what I imagined Neosho to be at that time period can read the novel, still available after three years on Amazon.com and other online book outlets.
Armistice Day became Veteran's Day as more wars occured and a desire to honor all veterans emerged.
Next Sunday, November 11 is Veteran's Day. Celebrations and observances have already begun and will continue.
I will be wearing a red poppy, something I've done since childhood when my grandfather, Thomas B. "Frenchy" Llafet bought them for me. He was a Navy veteran of the first World War. He never forgot and he always honored those who served in all wars.
Like my Pop, let's remember our veterans on Veterans's Day this year and every year. And in 2018, let's remember the Armistice, signed a century ago.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a reporter for The Neosho Daily News and writes a weekly column. She also writes fiction as both Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy and Patrice Wayne.