Roanoke City

A Community History



Roanoke is located in a rich agricultural section and is an industrial center. In the territory adjacent to the city, agriculture has for some years been intensified and quite diversified because of the splendid market which the city of Roanoke offers. The leading agricultural activities are truck gardening, dairy- ing, fruit growing, canning, stock raising, and the growing of grain. Farms are usually well equipped with buildings, machinery and live stock.

Prior to the entrance of the United States into the war and afterwards, agricultural activities were greatly increased because of the larger demand for food products and the higher prices obtainable.


The churches stimulated patriotic activities in every particular and especially by holding at various periods special services, displaying the United States flag and service flags. There were no pacifist clergymen in Roanoke. While deploring war, they preached sermons that led the citizens of the community to believe the end of the military necessity would be righteousness and a God-like peace. Church organizations entered whole-heartedlv with almost martial enthusiasm into plans for the entertainment of soldiers, such plans being many and varied in their nature and scope.

The public schools played an important role in arousing the public conscience and promoting a united interest. Mr. D. E. McQuilken, Superintendent of Schools, and teachers of the entire system were untiring in their endeavors along patriotic lines. Each time the Red Cross work was presented there was a response from the schools of one hundred per cent enrollment. Despite the fact that the schools were closed twice during the influenza epidemic, membership fees from the school children in the Junior Red Cross amounted to $4.313.75. By completing 6,567 articles the schools rendered some wonderful and beneficial aid to the Red Cross. Another important piece of work was the making of packing boxes for the Senior Chapter by the manual training department of the. Junior High School. This department was kept open during summer vacation for the first time in order to continue this work, 40 boxes being reported. The schools supported twenty-six French orphans from the Junior Red Cross funds. The “fun books,” which were a source of pleasure and amusement to many a heart-sick soldier boy, were made by the hundreds in the Roanoke schools.


The faculty and students of Virginia College, a school for young women situated in Roanoke, gave much of their time even before America went into the conflict, in aiding French and English soldiers. For five years they supported three French orphans, while several members of the faculty adopted one or more Belgian soldiers, writing regularly to them, sending them knitted goods and Christmas boxes.

Mrs. Gertrude Boatwright, vice-president of V irginia College. was president of the Woman’s Branch of the Association of Commerce, chairman of Naval knitting unit and lieutenant of the Red Cross canteen committee. In her canteen work. Mrs. Boatwright donated postals and many delicacies to the men passing through the city. Many soldiers remember with delight her generous hospitality and her perfect confidence in their integrity as, while waiting between trains, she took them to her school and, after feasting them, permitted them to dance with the girls until train time.

The faculty and students of the college knitted aver 500 garments and aided the city in the Liberty Bond drives, purchasing liberally themselves. Each week during the war the students practiced one day of self-denial, using the money thus saved to buy wool for the soldiers. Before the 318th Infantry from Camp Lee went overseas, about thirty of these boys who came to Roanoke to give a minstrel show (“A Night Attack”) were entertained by Virginia College, the girls serving as ushers for the entertainment.

The students and staff of Hollins College, located outside of Roanoke, responded as a whole to any demand made upon them. Under an instructor, several boxes of surgical dressings were made. They participated in Liberty Loan drives and bought War Savings Stamps liberally. They also tools part in a number of parades. Professor Estes Cocke waged a separate War Chest campaign and raised $10,000.


Twenty-five hundred and ten Roanoke men registered in the draft, ages eighteen to thirty-one. There were two draft boards. Roy B. Smith was chairman of Board No. 1, and H. D. Guy, chairman of Board No. 2. Examining physicians were Dr. Leigh Buckner, Dr. E. C. Ambler, Dr. H. E. Jones and Dr. John O. Boyd. The lawyers of the city volunteered their services to these boards, rendering valuable assistance.

The first contingent of drafted men left the city on September 5, 1917, and was composed of Hill Powers, Frederick C. James, Maces West, Hill Bowden and Cecil Morris.

Recruiting stations were maintained in Roanoke by the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps. Many Roanokers went into the service through these branches. Between twenty-five hundred and thirty-two hundred men were enlisted.

One little incident of interest that demonstrates the ability of the recruiting office to educate the people, pertains to a shoe merchant who wished to display a patriotic window while advertising his goods. He draped a flag upon the floor and placed the shoes very neatly upon it. Viewing it complacently and with satisfaction he went’ home to rest. He was called out of bed about two A. M. by a recruiting officer who explained the disrespect to the flag, had him remove the shoes and showed hint the proper way in which, to handle the flag. The merchant was patriotic enough not to resent the lesson.

The Second Virginia Infantry. National Guard, after service on the Mexican Border, came to Virginia, and for a few weeks of the summer of 1917 was stationed at the Fair Grounds in Roanoke. The regimental commander was Colonel Robert F. Leeds. In this regiment was a company of Roanokers. The officers of the company were: L. G. Figgat, captain; Charles F. Krouse, Vernon H. Speese. James C. Jessup and James H. Phillips, first lieutenants, and harry F. Powell, second lieutenant.

On September 5, 1917, the company, along- with the rest of the regiment, left Roanoke for Camp McClellan, Anniston, Ala. Company F went to France, being one of the units of the 116th U. S. Infantry, 29th Division, and received honorable mention from General Pershing for its splendid service.

The First Company of Coast Artillery, National Guard, was composed of Roanokers. Henry K. McHarg, Jr., captain Caesar Massei, first lieutenant, and Henry K. ‘1-ice, second lieutenant. The company, after doing guards duty in Roanoke, and guarding the railroad in the spring of 1917, entrained for Fort Monroe, NJ. It was then sent to Camp Mills, Mineola, L. L, N. Y., and became a part of the 117th Trains Headquarters and Military Police, 42nd Division. The unit vent to France in 1917. A “Mother’s Club” was organized for this company which did a great work for them while they were overseas and gave them a big barbecue to celebrate their homecoming. Mrs. J. C. Cook was president of the club; Mrs. Geo. Markley, secretary, and Mrs. A. P. Repass, treasurer.

The Fifth Company of Coast Artillery was organized in Roanoke with Marshall Milton, captain; Lawrence S. Woods, first lieutenant; J. C. Holmes, second lieutenant, and Carol McCredy, first sergeant. The unit went to Fortress Monroe in 1917 and in 1918 was assigned to duty in France as an aircraft unit. When this company was first organized they had no quarters. An appeal for homes was made in our papers and at least fifty homes responded and these men were scattered over the city for two weeks at the end of which time the old Stratford Hotel was given to them for headquarters.

An earnest, orderly company of volunteers, thev had man-,friends. Just before they left for Fortress Monroe a beautiful ball was given them at Hotel Roanoke, with Miss Gertrude McConnell and Mrs. Adrian Davant Antriam as sponsors and most of the citizens as patrons. Mrs. Fred Foster, of Hotel Roanoke. was more than generous to all the soldiers, but with this company she was particularly so, sending them cigars, cigarettes, and many other luxuries as long as they could be sent.

In France the Fifth Coast Artillery was changed to Battery B, 60th Artillery and they received, about the last of October, 1917, a citation for splendid work done in getting the battery into position over bad roads, under shell fire, thus assisting to get all traffic in that sector straightened out.

The Eleventh Company of Coast Artillery-L. H. Justis, captain; Robert H. Cutshall, first lieutenant, and C. A. McHugh, Jr., second lieutenant, was organized in Roanoke in 1917. mustered into the service, sent to Fortress Monroe early in 1.918 and from there assigned to duty in Chester, Pa., where it remained throughout the war in very active home service.

When the National Guard was called into service, Governor Westmoreland Davis through his Adjutant General Jo Lane Stern, issued a call for volunteers to guard the home State. Roanoke’s response was one worthy of the highest commendation. Four companies composed of the finest type of citizenship, men who loved their fellowmen, and proved their love by service, were organized as follows:

Company A-John C. Cooke, captain; C. W. Richardson, first lieutenant, and Charles E. Turner, second lieutenant.

Company B-William Mounfield, captain; H. A. Davies, first lieutenant, and G. C. Friend, second lieutenant.

Company C-Henry L. Francis, captain; Tai; yes «’. Hatcher, first lieutenant, and Thurston E. Frantz second lieutenant.

Company D-R. F. Taylor, captain; B. M. Hartman, first lieutenant, and W. R. Engleby, second lieutenant.

On October 23rd, 1917, these companies were mustered into service and authority given to establish Battalion Headquarters with R. Frank Taylor as Major; W. H. Howell Adjutant; Thomas W. Spindle, Quartermaster; Garland Calhoun, Sergeant Major; Gordon H. Baker, Quartermaster-Sergeant, and R. A. Sinclair, Color Sergeant. This was the “Jo Lane Stern Battalion.”

A strong citizens’ committee headed by the mayor, Charles M. Broun, gave financial support to the extent of more than $20,000 far uniform equipment and the city- furnished quarters in the new capacious city auditorium where daily drills were held by some detachment and the battalion drilled weekly. From this command twenty men entered the United States service as commissioned officers and 120 as non-commissioned officers. The battalion was mustered out of service in January, 1920.

The Women’s Auxiliary to the Jo Lane Stern Battalion of Infantry, Virginia volunteers, was organized in October, 1917, for the purpose of rendering aid and encouragement to the men of the battalion in their social and military affairs, and to stimulate their activities generally. Mrs. R. Frank Taylor was president and Mrs. John C. Cook was secretary.

The. auxiliary, with the aid of a contribution of twenty dollars from the Suffrage League of Roanoke, purchased material for a Virginia flag. This flag, even to the fringe, was made by hand by the members with the exception of the field, which was solidly and handsomely embroidered by a Miss Kessler, an invalid. The whole finished product was valued at more than one hundred dollars and was presented to the battalion by- the president of the auxiliary at a public entertainment ands drill held at the city auditorium.


In answer to the appeal for increased food production and conservation, through the Roanoke Association of Commerce, a woman’s branch to the association was formed with Mrs. Gertrude Boatwright, president; Mrs. Adrian Davant Antriam, vice-president, and Mrs. C. C. Ellis, secretary. This organization brought to Roanoke experts in food conservation, and through its woman workers was instrumental in obtaining co-operation and a hearty willingness to save food at home, that our bays abroad might have a few luxuries. City and county schools served joyfully in this respect, making an impress on the people and paving the way for the Hooverism which quickly overtook us. The spirit which entered into this newly-created and much-needed service is not to be under estimated.

The Food Administration for the City of Roanoke, during and after the World War was composed of S. D. Ferguson, Local Administrator, with the following staff: W. B. Lovvorn, Administrator of Flour, Meal and Feed; E. B. Fishburn, Administrator of Perishable Foods; J. A. Turner, Administrator of Ice, and A. M. Clay, Administrator of Publicity. This group of business men was most efficient and contributed good service to food conservation.

In almost every instance where the laws were violated the Food Administrator found that it was done either through ignorance, or a desire for personal gain on the part of the tradesman. When the Food Administrator took up with these violators the question of complying with the law, it was found that they not onlv did what they could to correct the wrong but were much better American citizens than before.

The farmers co-operated magnificiently with the government in obtaining maximum production and there was great increase in the production of live stock and cereals. Women worked valiantly in gardens and on farms, taking the places of their men.

The industries of Roanoke adjusted themselves immediately to war conditions and various items were manufactured for the government, such as overalls, uniforms and structural steel.

The men called into service naturally depleted the ranks of those engaged in agriculture and industry, but in nearly every case farmers and industrial concerns were able to fill tip the ranks and production increased rather than decreased. As commodity prices advanced under war conditions, the scale of wages for labor advanced accordingly.

Most of Roanoke’s population is native horn, the City of Roanoke and surrounding territory being approximately eighty per cent native white, eighteen and one-half per cent native negro and one and one-half per cent foreign born. The section did not lose many negro laborers because of the demand for labor in the North. This is probably due to the small percentage of negro residents.

The foreign-born element is confined almost exclusively to the city. It is made up largely of Assyrians and Greeks, with a few Italians, Hungarians and Chinese.

While there was some pro-German and anti-English feeling, it was scattered and non-assertive save in a few instances. One citizen, well-known for his German affiliations, was knocked down in a public place for treasonable utterances and was somewhat damaged. This incident, accompanied by dire threats against similar offenders, was broadcast and had a wholesome and quelling effect. Most of the foreign-born citizens demonstrated their patriotism through active participation in various war activities, giving of their money and tinge in war work. The Greeks and Assyrians were particularly active in organizing themselves for effective service and in giving to the Red Cross, to the War Chest, and in purchasing Liberty Bonds.

The amount of subscriptions to the four liberty loans and the Victory Loan in Roanoke amounted to $12.897,800. This amount being $2,496,740 over the quota. W. C. Stephenson was director. Mrs. L. Franklin Moore had charge of the street groups for these drives and made an enviable record in this important work. Edward L. Stone was director of the war savings stamps and G. G. Gooch, Jr., deceased, was managing director. The schools and citizens after a little practice of thrift became enthusiastic and thousands of dollars were saved.


Roanoke will ever cherish the memory of the Red Cross and its wonderful achievements at this period of her history. It was to a great extent through the Red Cross that there was revealed to us the appreciation of real values. The following digest will demonstrate the ability and concentration of Roanoke members.

The Roanoke chapter was organized in July, 19’16, but only began work when diplomatic relations were broken off and the National Red Cross wired our chapter to secure headquarters, organize certain committees, and be prepared for work. The chapter secured headquarters in the Hammond Building on South Jefferson Street, and opened them, equipped for work, and organized on February 22, 1917. It was the first chapter in the State to open headquarters for work.

The headquarters were in a large new building, conveniently and centrally located. The use of this building was given the Roanoke Red Cross free of charge for the entire period of the war and until the spring of 1919, by the Hammond Printing & Litho. Works. The electricity for lighting and for the electric motors and tile cutting machines was furnished without cost by the Roanoke Railway & Electric Co.

Prior to securing the Hammond Building as headquarters for the Red Cross work, the home of Mrs. T. S. Davant was given over to the use of a committee of fifteen women who came daily to sew, and who, with the aid of five sewing machines, made numbers of articles.

The officers of the Roanoke Chapter were Mrs. S. V’. Jamison, deceased, who, as organizer, served as chairman from the beginning. She brought to the Red Cross work a vision, sound judgment, and an enthusiasm which never failed. Mrs. Edward Stone was vice-chairman. Mrs. Stone managed and personally financed a large knitting unit during the entire period of the war. She was most active and successful in the sale of liberty bonds. Mrs. Paul Blackwell was the faithful and untiring secretary. Miss Pauline Massie was the treasurer, and was also a lieutenant of the canteen committee. John B. Newton was chairman of the finance committee, which was composed of L. E. Johnson, deceased, T. W. Goodwin, Edward L. Stone, C. E. Michael, A. J. Kennard, Joseph A. Turner, N. D. Maher, 1=I. C. Elliott and T. S. Davant, deceased.

W. R. Moore, chairman of the Home Service and Civilian Relief Committee, brought to the work his executive ability being one of the State agents of the Equitable Insurance Company. His knowledge of insurance helped the soldiers and their families, and his interest and patriotism made him give much valuable time from his business to the work of this committee.

Soon after the headquarters was opened, came the order for the first Red Cross War Fund drive, with Roanoke’s quota of $50,000.00. We had not learned then to think in large figures and that amount was thought to be absurdly impossible. After consultation with the Finance Committee, it was decided to ask L. E. Johnson, the well-known president of the Norfolk and Western Railroad, to be chairman of the drive. Mr. Johnson, since his coming to Roanoke some twenty years ago, had always identified himself with Roanoke’s best interests. He accepted the chairmanship and threw himself into the work with the utmost enthusiasm, with the result that Roanoke raised $110,000.00. We fairly gasped with surprise that it could be done. In connection with this campaign, Mr. John W. Waynick gave, through the Roanoke Red Cross Chapter, a Cadillac Ambulance, thoroughly equipped. This was turned over to the U. S. Army and sent by them to France.

By the time another drive was necessary so many demands were taking the time of the business men that it was deemed wise to pool the interests of the various activities and organize a Community War Chest. Mr. L. E. Johnson was again made chairman, raising for the Red Cross the quota of $50,000.00 for the second National War Fund and giving to the Roanoke chapter $44,000.00 for its own use. T. W. Goodwin, a banker of Roanoke, was the efficient treasurer of both of these drives, all the work of collecting war funds being done from his office.

The fact that the chapter had such generous funds to work with, enabled it to produce an unusually large number of supplies. In the sewing department, of which Mr. S. B. Cary was supervisor, the number of articles sent out including hospital linen, patients’ garments, and refugee garments, was 48,036. The department was well organized with various committees, 12 sewing machines, two electric motors and electric cutting machines. Also much work was given out to be done at home and by the branches and auxiliaries.

The knitting department showed wonderful results. Mrs. E. T. Burnett was the chairman and turned in a total of 38,253 knitted articles. There was devised for this department a rather unique system, the committee working through knitting unit each unit’s chairman being held responsible for the work of her unit, as to production, quality and amount of wool received. There were 98 of these units. Miss Marion Maher, who was in the motor service in New York, also acted as chairman of the wool committee and later Miss Lila Jamison was in charge. It is interesting to note that the fire department knitted 3,135 pairs of socks.

Mrs. Joseph E. Crawford, chairman of the hospital supplies and surgical dressings committee, carried on the work of both departments until they had grown so that it was necessary to have separate headquarters with a chairman for each department. She was untiring, most efficient, and of unusual executive ability. She gave up the greater part of her time to the work until instructions came that it was no longer needed. This committee made 241,319 dressings, and 2,500 influenza masks.

Other chairmen who served faithfully and well were: Mrs. J. H. Whitner, chairman of extension committee; Mrs. R. Frank Taylor and Mrs. Elizabeth F. Sinclair, chairmen of comfort kits committee and Christmas boxes. Over 3,000 comfort kits were sent away. Much of this work was financed through the efforts of these two women. Mrs. John Miles was chairman of publicity; Mrs. James R. Schick and Mrs. J. M. Snyder, chairmen of the packing committee; Mrs. J. W. Preston, chairman of the reclamation committee, and also chairman of the motor service for the delivery of meals during the influenza epidemic. Mrs. Lawrence S. Davis was chairman of magazine distribution. Miss Lucinda Lee Terry was commander of the canteen committee.

Early in the canteen work the Norfolk and Western built an artistic and convenient but in the corner of the Hotel Roanoke grounds to be used for canteen service. This was completely equipped by John B. Guernsey, light, heat, water and ice being furnished free by the Norfolk & Western Railroad as was the gas for cooking by the Roanoke Gas Light Co. As the interest in the work grew and its importance was recognized, many other conveniences were added by the Norfolk & Western and by interested individuals.

From April 27, 1918, to October 31, 1919, when the Canteen Service was discontinued, 222,100 men were served. One important feature of the work consisted in the removal from trains of men taken ill or injured enroute and sending them to hospitals. When ready to leave the hospital they were taken to the trains and lunches provided for the journey.

In addition to the lighter refreshments, 2,200 meals were served in the hut The Canteen was recognized as an order station which could procure anything on less than an hour’s notice. The workers served as early as 6 A. M., and as late as 2 A. M., when called upon. The Roanoke canteen was on the list at headquarters as a transfer station, with ambulance, doctors and hospital service. The volunteer work of Mrs. E. V. Gookin as purchasing agent is to be highly, commended.

The people of Salem were most generous in their contributions of food and money. A committee from the Salem chapter served with the Roanoke Canteen Committee on certain days of the week. There was a total of fifty-eight auxiliaries and branches of Roanoke Chapter, A. R. C. The branches and auxiliaries were a valuable force in the life and work of the chapter. Through them the interest was made widespread, the work was broadened, and the output increased.

The Y. M. C. A. and the Y. W. C. A. both played a very active part in promoting the work of the Red Cross in Roanoke and due acknowledgment is hereby made to the splendid services rendered by these two organizations.

Some of those who received the Red Cross Service Medal for a maximum number of hours devoted to the work were: Mesdames S. W. Jamison, Ernest B. Fishburn, Byrd Newton, Mamie Lee Jeffrey, A. R. Bowdre, «’. D. Maher, George MacBain E. V. Gookin, Paul A. Blackwell and J. E. Crawford; Misses Lila Jamison, Lila Terry, Lucinda Lee Terry, Marion Maher. and Pauline Massie.


The history of Roanoke’s work during the World War would not be complete without mention of the part played by the colored citizens, numbering about 10,000. It has been impossible to secure accurate records of their achievements or the names of those serving in the various departments, for tile reason that, in most cases, what the colored citizens did was not recorded separately from the work of the white citizens, but was considered a part of the work at large. In the purchase of bonds, War Savings Stamps, etc., the men who were the most liberal contributors were those in the railway shops and the records do not show any distinction between white and colored workers. The same condition exists with reference to the work done by the colored women, it having been considered a part of the work of Roanoke women irrespective of color or race. It is well known, however, that during the dark days of the war, while the world waited for the outcome of the conflict beyond the seas, there were none more loyal and true that the Roanoke negroes.

The negro churches and schools were the centers of activities pertaining to the war, both in the holding of religious services and in the conducting of patriotic meetings. Too much cannot be said in praise of the negro ministers and teachers as leaders of their people during those days of war. The ministers, led by Dr. L. L. Downing, Rev. E. E. Hicks, Rev. «`. W. Hicks, Rev. J. R. Lauderback and others, devoted much time to speech making at public meetings and in holding numerous shop meetings. All of the colored ministers rendered counsel and advice to their people and urged them to be loyal and faithful to the country under whose flag they lived. The colored schools did some splendid work, buying $989.60 worth of war stamps and making numerous articles for the Red Cross. The teachers were active in the purchase of Liberty bonds. The only male teacher connected with the colored schools served overseas. The three schools, Harrison, Gregory and Gainsborough, supported a French war orphan each for two years.


Early in April, 1919, C. Francis Cocke, a young lawyer of Roanoke, in response to a telegram from Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., agreed to accept the chairmanship for the State of Virginia to see that temporary local legion posts were organized throughout the State with a view to electing delegates to represent Virginia at the National Caucus to be held in St. Louis, where the American Legion was launched as a national organization. At this convention Mr. Cocke was elected permanent chairman of Virginia, which position he held until the first State convention was held in Roanoke in October, 1919. He was the first commander of the Roanoke Post No. 3. The auxiliary to Post 3 is an active unit, assisting them in all their work, especially in rehabilitation.

Roanoke also has a Foreign War Veterans post, a Disabled War Veterans’ post, a Veterans’ War bureau, a Red Cross relief office, a Vocational Training office and a Salvation Army-all very active.

The return of the soldier was eagerly awaited by the people at home and everything possible was done for his reception and comfort. In practically every case his position was held for him and on his return he was able to pick up his vocation or business where he laid it down on entering the war.

Roanoke had a great celebration of the Armistice and extended a warm and hearty welcome to the soldier on his home-coming.

The city has just completed a beautiful concrete bridge across Roanoke River at 13th Street, which is dedicated to those who passed beyond the Great River in the war, and the bridge is officially named “Memorial Bridge.”

Argonne Circle a lovely spot in the southwest residential section of the city, has been dedicated to the soldiers and a very fitting monument has been presented by the Margaret Lynn Lewis Chapter, D. A. R.

Roanoke gave to each returning soldier a Roanoke City Medal. As quickly as possible after the Armistice, Roanoke converted all war agencies into institutions for peace and the best efforts of the entire community have been devoted to the establishment of peace conditions and the adjustment necessary in passing from war-time activities to those of peace.

After the war was over the Attorney General asked the local Food Administrator to appoint a Fair Price Committee whose duty is was to check prices of various commodities. Mrs. E. Z. White was the leading spirit of this committee, rendering willing and capable aid wherever needed.

The Veterans’ Bureau, opened in Roanoke under the auspices of the Federal Government, has done a great deal toward the vocational training and education of the ex-soldiers.


It has been difficult to secure facts relating to Roanoke’s war-time activities because few records were kept. Due to this lack of records we have probably omitted, unintentionally, the names of men and women who were particularly active during the war period. The committee desires to pay generous tribute to all who participated in Roanoke’s many activities. They were all inspired by a single purpose-to help bring about a lasting peace for democratic people.