Historically speaking: Spanish American War veterans returned home to heroes’ welcome
By KAREN KASPER
Ishpeming Historical Society
It was a long journey home from Santiago, Cuba, to Ishpeming and not an easy one for those Ishpeming citizens who fought in the Spanish American War. With cessation of hostilities on the August 13, 1898 the difficult task of getting everyone home began.
By the end of August/beginning of September the men began trickling home. One of the first to arrive was Elmer Clark.
“There was evidence of much joy in Ishpeming Monday morning when it became noised about that Elmer Clark, who was one of the volunteers from this city in the late war, and who had but a few days before returned from Santiago, was to arrive home. “ (Iron Ore, September 3, 1898)
“Elmer was not expected home so soon, as he said nothing about his coming in the letter received from him a few days ago. It was half-past 8 o’clock when a telegram was received from John W. Jochim, who was on the train coming from down the line, stating that Clark was aboard and that he was coming through to Ishpeming.” (Mining Journal, August 30, 1898)
A hasty reception was arranged and despite the shortness of notice, many people turned out. “There were fully two thousand people at the depot and on the adjoining streets when the train pulled in. As it steamed into the depot the bell on the fire department headquarters was rung, and the whistles at several of the mines as well as on the switch engines in the yard were making all the noise they could. But Mr. Clark did not arrive on the train.” (Iron Ore, September 3, 1898)
Clark had gotten off the train in Negaunee, after witnessing the reception at the depot in Negaunee and was intending to take the streetcar home. “Elmer is a very modest fellow and he did not care to be the central figure in a demonstration of this kind, or in fact any other kind.” “Clark escaped the racket at Negaunee and had found his way to a barber shop to have a shave, which he thought would improve his appearance somewhat. As soon as the barber got through with him, he was escorted to a car and was soon in Ishpeming.
Clark was not advised that the people of Ishpeming were out in a body to welcome him. When he came within a few blocks of the center of the city he noticed that a great many were out looking toward the town trying to see if there was a fire. Even then it did not occur to him that he was the cause of the excitement.” (Mining Journal, August 30, 1898)
“Twenty minutes later a mighty cheer went up from the thousands of throats along First street as the car hove in sight around the corner of High street. The bells rang and the whistles again blew. Cheer after cheer rent the air as Mr. Clark was led from the streetcar and given a seat in the decorated wagonette beside his father.
“A short trip about the streets was taken after which the one in whose honor the monster reception was give was taken to his home. Although not well, he said he was in far better condition that a large majority of his company.” “The great strain to which he had been subjected was telling upon even his strong constitution and when taken to his home he was compelled to go to bed and be placed under the care of a doctor.” (Iron Ore, September 3, 1898)
“The upper peninsula companies of the Thirty-fourth Michigan volunteers returned to their homes on Monday, having been granted a sixty-day furlough by the war department. They arrived at Marquette by special train at 1 o’clock and were given a rousing reception.” “Among the members of the Marquette company were two who had enlisted from this city. These were Charles Young and Joseph Thomas. When it became known that they were to return Monday preparations were immediately started for a monster jubilee. The Ishpeming City band kindly volunteered their services and went to Marquette to bring the boys home.”
“All along the line from Marquette to this city the boys were cheered by throngs of people who had gathered to get a good look at them, but it was when they returned home that the demonstration occurred. The depot and streets were crowded with people, not less than three thousand being on hand to greet the returning heroes. As the train pulled in a mighty cheer went up and all made a rush for the car in which Young and Thomas were seated. There was also present one of the members of the Calumet company who proposed remaining here with friends for a few days. He came in for as much consideration as the others.” (Iron Ore, September 10, 1898)
“Both the gentlemen appear to be feeling quite well and say as much. Charley Young had not been sick a day while he was in service, but Mr. Thomas was not as fortunate. He suffered from the fever which carried off so many of our brave boys, but he said he felt no effects from it now. Both have been about the streets during the week shaking hands with their numerous friends and telling how the fight was won.” (Iron Ore, September 10, 1898)
There were six Ishpeming men who enlisted in the army. Elmer Clark was one of them and the rest were Olaf Husby, Joseph Thomas, Charles Young, Peter Gingrass and Gust Schultz. Gingrass and Schultz did not make it out of the country, but the other four went to Cuba to fight.