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Camp Sherman

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BerichtGeplaatst: 09 Sep 2012 21:07    Onderwerp: Camp Sherman Reageer met quote

Ninety five years ago – thanks to the entry of the United States into World War I – Chillicothe became an Army town.

Rising up from 2,000 acres of rich, flat farmland along what is today Ohio 104 north of the city in the summer of 1917, Camp Sherman consisted of more than 2,000 buildings, which could house and train as many as 40,000 soldiers, or two full army divisions. In addition to the crowded barracks where the soldiers lived and trained, there were churches of many denominations, community buildings where soldiers could find a piece of home, three theaters, a large library, an ice house, a massive laundry facility, post exchanges, and more. The camp also included a sprawling hospital complex made up of some 40 buildings, located across Pleasant Valley Road (Frankfort Pike in 1917) from where Unioto High School is today.

The recruits began arriving on September 5th and training was soon underway.

Many of the soldiers (mainly officers) brought along their families. Rooms were needed and often these rooms were rented out by local home owners, but the Warner Hotel on North Paint Street took advantage of the need and expanded, adding a number of rooms. Restaurants in the city expanded and new ones were opened (there were at least 15 operating in the area of downtown, which is more than there are today). Two Army Clubs were established and the city’s churches opened their doors to the young soldiers.

Entertainment was a priority. The Majestic Theatre remodeled and began showing movies, as well as offering live shows, which often featured “beautiful girls in daring costume creations.” Along Paint Street were the Star, Queen, and Royal theaters, offering a variety of movies and live acts.

Two new theaters opened circa-1918, both on Water Street: The Sherman Theater was built on the north side of Water, on the old canal bed at the west side of the entrance to Yoctangee Park (facing east on what are today the street’s west bound lanes). Directly across from it (to the east) was the Wintergarden (which faced west), where not only were movies shown, but dances and other events could be held. Both of those structures were torn down in the late 1950s, after the state offered to give the old canal land to the city on the condition that they widen Water Street to four lanes.

Camp Sherman is probably best remembered for its part in the Spanish Influenza “pandemic,” which struck in the fall of 1918. Like most of the army camps, Sherman was hard-hit. By late September, thousands of soldiers were already bed-ridden and training had ground to a halt. Although the base hospital could accommodate and care for about 2,000 soldiers, it wasn’t nearly large enough for all of those sickened by the Spanish flu, and many barracks were turned into temporary hospitals, which at the height of the outbreak were occupied by as many as 5,200 “patients.”

The morgue at the base hospital was severely lacking, only large enough to hold about a dozen bodies. Unfortunately, by the end of the first week of October there had already been 140 deaths and alternate means of storing and embalming the bodies were badly needed. Area morticians were contracted to help, but none could handle more than a couple of bodies at a time. A few temporary morgues were opened in the city, with the Majestic Theatre becoming the best known. All of Chillicothe’s theaters had already been closed by the city health department, so the seats were removed from the Majestic and for the next few weeks bodies were transported from the camp to the East Second Street theater. There they were embalmed and placed in wooden caskets before being transferred to the train station on East Main Street and their final train ride home.

Before it ended the outbreak had claimed the lives of 1,154 soldiers – including at least two doctors and a few nurses who had worked at the base hospital. Likewise the epidemic spread to Chillicothe and Ross County, where by the end of 1918, 150 people had died from influenza or one of its complications.

Just a few weeks after the influenza outbreak subsided at Camp Sherman, World War I also ended. Almost immediately soldiers began to be shipped home. Within a few months the once bustling camp was a virtual ghost town. The hospital continued to be used for some time, treating soldiers injured in the fighting in Europe, but hundreds of other buildings stood empty. Soon the government started selling off the structures, which had to be dismantled and hauled away by the buyers. Today only one original Camp Sherman building still stands in the same spot it did 95 years ago, and that’s the camp library, which is now one of the prison farm buildings located on the south side of the Ross Correctional Institution.

Although Camp Sherman is long gone and sadly forgotten, its legacy remains. While the ancient mounds that make up Mound City were indeed further destroyed by the building of the camp, they had already been badly damaged by a century of farming. After the war and after the buildings of Camp Sherman were taken away, the mounds were rebuilt and a national park – Hopewell Culture National Historic Park – was established.

Likewise, two prisons now occupy camp land: RCI and the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, which was built in 1938 as a federal reformatory, before becoming a state institution.

Schools and industrial parks also reside on former army land, but probably the most notable legacy of Camp Sherman is the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which grew up at the northern edge of the camp site in the years that followed the end of the war. Had a different city been selected 95 years ago for Ohio’s army training facility, it’s very unlikely that the two prisons and the extensive hospital complex for veterans would be located here and able to contribute hundreds of jobs to the local economy.

Although Camp Sherman provided just a brief economic windfall 95 years ago, its benefits continue to be in evidence today in Ross County.

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Geregistreerd op: 14-12-2006
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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Sep 2012 21:38    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

tx Tandorini thumbs up!

Even de Hallwag/USA n°8 -Road Guide en de Rand McNally Atlas
erbij genomen want de Amerikaanse toestanden interesseren me wel.
En... dan moeten vaststellen dat we toen op een kleine 50 miles Chillicothe passeerden, damn Smile.

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