‘Great War’ display
Thu, 02/23/2017 - 5:00am admin
Former Hardin editor compiles BHC veterans of WWI
By Andrew Turck, Big Horn County News
Editor's note: The print version of this article has the incorrect date for the Big Horn County Historical Museum open house. It is, in fact, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 22.
Residents countywide will get the chance next week to visit the Big Horn County Historical Museum in Hardin and learn about their ancestors from the time of what was once called “the Great European War.” Among the estimated 400 local men to enter the conflict was J.P. Buschlen, Hardin State Bank employee and editor of what would later become the Big Horn County News.
A native of Toronto, Canada, Buschlen moved to Hardin sometime around 1917. Despite stating in the Hardin Herald that he was “unsentimental,” Buschlen somehow also managed to write romantic poetry and express an affinity for the scent of sage grass in Hardin.
“But, believe me, although there is no sagebrush growing anywhere near my new place of business,” Buschlen wrote of a temporary return from Hardin to Toronto, “I smell it several times a day and swallow surprisingly hard for so unsentimental a person.”
Describing Buschlen on June 11, 1920, an article in the Hardin Tribune states: “While we may not agree with Jack in all that he hands out to an unsuspecting public through the columns of the press, yet withal, he is a good fellow.”
According to Museum Director Suzy Havener, who took over from Diana Scheidt on Jan. 1, the names of the county’s World War I veterans will be available in the exhibit. These names are offered courtesy of descriptions from Buschlen’s 1919 book, In the World War: Big Horn County. As an anthropologist with “varied background” and a “flair for map making, history and exploration,” the World War I display is the first exhibit Havener has designed for the Hardin museum.
Thanks to local loans, the display now has artifacts such as a traditional spiked German helmet, an American semi-automatic pistol, a teletype machine from the Associated Press and an old-time reporter’s uniform.
“We have people here from World War II who have an interest in World War I, and they were able to loan a lot of the artifacts,” Havener said. “The idea is for people to come in, celebrate and memorialize their families.”
Amassing the book
The United States entered World War I against the Germans on April 6, 1917, nearly three years after an assassination in Bosnia set off a system of opposing alliances plugged into the “Balkan powder keg.” Fighting in the trenches, sea and sky, U.S. forces – called the “dough boys” – gave the Allied Powers the extra push needed to defeat the Central Powers’ forces by Nov. 11, 1918.
“The Big Sky State furnished one-fourth more men proportionately than any other state in the Union,” states Chester K. Shore, retired American Legion adjutant, in his book Montana in the Wars. “They came by the thousands from farms, ranches, mines, logging camps, villages, towns and cities of this sparsely populated western commonwealth.”
More than 16 million people would die as a result of the war, including more than 117,000 from the United States and 4,061 Montanans. Eighteen Big Horn County fatalities were recorded by Buschlen. He also mentioned among the dead Arthur Carroll of Yellowstone County and Ira W. Hathaway, who didn’t enlist in the local area, but “friends here wanted him enrolled among our boys.” Walter Kollmar, a county-based battalion runner for the 315th Infantry, was killed in France by a high-explosive shell just two days before the war ended.
Working from March to October 1919, Buschlen obtained photos and records for his book from more than 350 soldiers, including “Indian boys in the service.” He accomplished the task in time for Christmas despite, according to his forward, a lack of “public financial assistance, save the small and uncertain revenue expected from the sales of the book.”
“The Hardin Tribune ran many advertisements during the seven months mentioned and the editor made speeches, wrote letters and interviewed parties energetically during the same period,” the forward states. “In spite of this propaganda, not all the material belonging by right in the book was obtained. However, mention at least has been made of every man whom it is known entered the service in Big Horn County.”
Finding his place
Based on his description, Buschlen’s service in the U.S. Army kept him within the United States. He entered the army at the age of 29 on May 10, 1918 and was soon assigned to Company L of the 62nd Infantry, 8th Division. He then transferred from group to group on the mainland until the end of the war, and was finally discharged on Dec. 15 of that year in Camp Lee, Va.
Buschlen left the Hardin “bungalow” after his discharge and returned to Toronto on Jan. 31, 1919, stating the needs of his family obliged him “to once more engage in the grind of city life, for their sake.” He returned Jan. 23 the following year, however, when Big Horn County farmers organized into a cooperative and purchased the Hardin Herald, appointing him as editor and manager.
Yet another editorial change occurred on June 11, 1920 when Buschlen resigned to become editor of “the state organ of the Nonpartisan League.” This Great Falls paper was called, naturally, the Montana Nonpartisan.
Succeeding Buschlen was former Hardin Herald reporter Nannie Johnston as editor-in-chief and J.W. Johnston as manager. Nannie’s term as editor appears to have continued without incident. J.W., however, did not follow her path.
J.W., also manager of the Nonpartisan League, would go on to fracture his left leg in what the Hardin Herald called a “very regrettable accident.” According to a Nov. 5, 1920 article, he hit the chairman of the Republican County Central Committee across the back with a cane during a heated argument, was slapped in return and slipped at the head of the stairs as he left.
Addressing his time in the local area, Buschlen wrote: “I have lived all over Canada and much of the U.S., but I can say, without exaggeration that no place ever agreed with me like little old Hardin.”
Big Horn County Museum will be holding a free open house from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 22. Hardin Mayor Jack Lane will give a speech on the subject: "Remembering World War I."