1918 was the year that the Great War, now called World War I, ended, and 1919 was the year that the American Legion began. Stories from these two centennials will be shared at the Vernon County Historical Society’s annual Cemetery Walk on Sunday, June 2, at 4 p.m., at the Viroqua Cemetery.
Costumed actors will portray the lives of (among others) Jane Butt, Elmer Eugene Hall, Captain Adolph Heinz and Capt. Charles Butters. These four were all Viroqua citizens who were involved in the war and/or the Legion, and who now lie buried in the Viroqua cemetery.
As was mentioned in this column last November, Jane Butt, daughter of Civil War Col. Cyrus Butt, entered the Red Cross just as the Great War was ending. She was sent overseas to France, where she worked as a hostess at an American Officers’ Club in Paris, providing the officers with “wholesome” entertainment to keep them out of trouble while they were waiting to go back home.
Elmer Eugene Hall served in the army during World War I enlisting in April of 1918 in Viroqua. He was discharged in June of 1919 in New York, and returned home to Vernon County. Six months later, he became a charter member of the Viroqua post of the American Legion. The Legion had been founded earlier that year as a national organization for returning service men.
Another charter member of the Viroqua post was Adolph Heinz. An immigrant from the country now called the Czech Republic, Adolph established himself as an attorney in Viroqua before enlisting and serving in France. He rose to the rank of captain, and after the war he was the first Post Commander of Viroqua’s American Legion.
The first Chaplain of the Viroqua post was the Rev. Charles Butters. Butters was a Methodist minister and, with his wife, also worked for a time as superintendent of the Vernon County Asylum. In addition, Butters had a long military career, serving during the Spanish-American War, at the Mexican border conflict, and in France during World War I.
Learn more about Butt, Butters, Hall and Heinz at the Cemetery Walk on June 2. The theme of this year’s walk is centennials, and several centennials will be explored in addition to those of WWI and the Legion. The walk begins at the cemetery gate at 4 p.m. Most of the walk will be on paved surfaces in the old part of the cemetery. A donation of $5 is requested.