The first Armistice Day, now called Veterans Day, was observed 100 years ago, on the first anniversary of the official end of World War I. The armistice ending the war had been signed on Nov. 11, 1918, and one year later people all over the world, including those in Vernon County, marked the day. Soldiers were still returning home from overseas postings at that time. The remains of those who had died and been buried in far-off lands had not yet been returned to their hometowns for reburial. The recent war was still very much on people’s minds.
That first anniversary prompted WW I veterans in Vernon County to form American Legion posts in their communities. The nationwide American Legion organization had just been created earlier in the year, and now local posts were being founded.
American Legion posts were named for soldiers who didn’t survive the war. The first post in the county was organized in Viroqua, and it was named for Private William A. Jacobson. Jacobson was born on Asbury Ridge in 1898. He volunteered for the army just before the U.S. declared war in April 1917. Jacobson served in the hospital corps. He was in one of the first units to go to France, and was assigned to the famed 32nd Division.
On Oct. 7, 1918, Jacobson was killed in action near Gesnes, France, while helping the wounded on the front lines. For this act of bravery he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Jacobson was buried in France.
The post in Westby was named for Private Miles R. Syverson, who was born in Westby in 1895. He served in Company C of the 16th Infantry, 1st Division. Syverson was killed in action in the Argonne Forest in France on Oct. 8, 1918, one day after Jacobson. He was the first soldier from Westby killed in the war. In September 1921, his body was returned to the U.S. and reburied in Coon Prairie Cemetery.
The American Legion post in Hillsboro was named for Clifford M. Harrison, the first serviceman from the Hillsboro area to die in the war. He was born in 1892 and enlisted in February 1918. He served in the Navy, Company O of the 10th Regiment.
Harrison died in a naval hospital in New York, probably of Spanish influenza. Coincidentally, he also died on Oct. 8, 1918, the same day as Syverson. Harrison was buried in Mount Vernon Cemetery in Hillsboro. His gravestone indicates that he was a machinist’s mate for naval aviation, a very new position during WWI.
We’ll look at the original names of a few more American Legion posts in Vernon County later this month.
The museum is now on its winter hours of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, noon-4 p.m., or by appointment. The last meeting of the year for the genealogy class will be Thursday, Nov. 14, at 10 a.m., at the museum. Teacher Karen Sherry will talk about genealogy websites.