Saunders County NEGenWeb Project




THE sufferings of soldiers in the Crimean War first directed the world's humaner impulses toward measures for the systematic care of the wounded. In 1859, when the Swiss humanitarian, M. Henri Dunant, was visiting in Italy as a tourist, he was caught in the dreadful carnage of the battle of Solferino. Dunant personally administered to the wounded, and--what is more important--he organized volunteers in the vicinity to help him in the work. Soon after he formulated the first proposals for volunteer associations to care for the wounded of war, and for the neutralization of the personnel of such relief associations. His prophetic vision embraced the services such associations could render in times of floods, epidemics, and other disasters.

   His appeals resulted in a preliminary conference held at Geneva in 1863, which in turn led to an official international conference at Geneva in 1864. During this second conference the delegates from the United States made a valuable--perhaps a decisive--contribution by showing that the United States Sanitary Commission, by actual relief operations, had always solved problems which were troubling the conference and were making its success a matter of doubt.

   The Geneva convention adopted at that time was the formal beginning of the Red Cross.

   The name "Red Cross," comes from the insignia adopted at that time by the conference, a Greek cross in red on a white ground. The Geneva convention of 1864 was almost immediately adopted by 14 nations, and this number has since been increased to 43. Consequently its provisions have come to be recognized as a part of international law.

   The American Red Cross was organized in 1881 under the leadership of Clara Barton, who was its first president. Thru her efforts the scope of the society was increased to include the relief of suffering in great calamities.

   Immediately upon the entrance of the United States in the world war in April, 1917, the American Red Cross greatly extended its organization and activities, increasing its membership by many millions and raising by popular subscription a fund exceeding $100,000,000.

County Chapter and Its Origin

   This great international society would not have accomplished the wonders it did and received the blessings of the millions of suffering humanity in this great and terrible world war if it had not been for the thousands of working units thruout the civilized world.

   In order that this great and humane work could be carried on most efficiently in the United States, the "Department of Chapters" came into being. Its purpose was to provide local machinery for the various activities of the American Red Cross.

   The plan of organization was very simple yet very effective. The country was divided into divisions, the divisions into state boards, and then into chapters, branches, and auxiliaries. The chapters may be said to be the Red Cross in epitome. They are permanent local organizations which represent all local activities in their territory.

   Branches are subordinate parts of chapters and are a replica of the chapter on a small scale, carrying on all activities expected of a chapter.

   Auxiliaries are temporary local organizations formed for the purpose of doing one or more specific kinds of work.

   Our American women long before the war and before the local organization of Red Cross chapters were interested in this humane Red Cross, and our Saunders County ladies were no exception.

   Saunders County Chapter has an origin and history that will be of interest to every one of the county, and it, like so many other great organizations, originated in a very commonplace way.

   One afternoon in February, 1917, Miss L. Klotz, in looking thru a magazine, noticed a very small advertisement which read like this:

"Join the American Red Cross,--
Membership $1.00, Natl. Hdq., Wash., D. C."

Which she did. Later an answer came from the Hampton Co. Chapter, Springfield, Mass., dated February 17, 1917. Her interest was aroused, she began collecting information and reading about Red Cross work, even offering her services at the time of the mobilization of our boys on the Mexican border. To this offer she received the following reply:

   "The women of Europe found that they could do more good by working for the soldiers at home than by administering at the front." With this reply she turned her thoughts to home service work. In the following April others became interested and took up the work. Dr. M. A. Miller was corresponding with Lincoln in regard to organizing a Service League, as Lincoln had already done. Miss C. Cook wrote to Washington headquarters for information and was referred to Miss Klotz.

   Soon those interested in Red Cross work in the county began to confer with one another. In April Miss Klotz went to Lincoln to confer with Mr. E. A. Burton of Denver regarding organization. He referred her to Mr. W. A. Evans, director of the Denver district, who in turn referred her to M. S. Poulterer Morris, director of the Mountain division, American Red Cross, State Capitol, Denver.

   Mr. Burton visited Wahoo, and at a meeting in the court house he told those interested about Red Cross work, giving details of organization, etc. Those attending were: Mr. and Mrs. M. A. Miller, Mrs. A. L. Anderson, Mr. A. Z. Donato, Mrs. St. Martin, Tess St. Martin, Miss Cook, Mrs. Perky, and others. Mr. Burton advised at that time that Saunders County become a branch of the Lincoln chapter, but it was decided to organize a separate chapter for Saunders county. A short time after this meeting Miss Klotz received the following letter:

Denver, Colo., May 1, 1917.

   Wahoo, Nebraska.
Dear Miss Klotz:

   Acknowledgment is made of your letter of recent date. In order to save time and in view of the possible developments in the international situation, I am sending you some suggestions on the method of procedure in the organization of a Red Cross chapter. In event that it is determined by your citizens to organize, I am sending herewith a petition, and at the same time authority to organize, with certificate of election of officers.

   I am enclosing under separate cover a copy of the "Join Now" folder, in which is set forth the various classes of membership.

   Also a copy of a very recent circular from Washington, setting forth the various lines of activity upon which a chapter can enter, that I think probably will be helpful. In this latter circular is set forth the portion of the dues that is retained by the chapter for Red Cross work.

   In as much as the Red Cross work is equally vital in times of civilian disaster as in war times, it will be readily seen that it is highly important to have the entire community represented in the chapter, and to have the executive committee sufficiently large to include the various lines of community life.

   In appreciation of the humane patriotism of your community, on behalf of the American Red Cross, I am,       Very truly yours,

Director Mountain Division.

   Having authority to organize a chapter, the next step was to call a meeting having representatives from all parts of the county to perfect the organization.

   The meeting was called June 1, 1917, in joint session with the meeting of the Council of Defense League. The meeting was called to order by E. E. Placek on the adjournment of the defense league for the purpose of organizing a Red Cross chapter for Saunders County. After a general statement or short outline of Red Cross work by Judge Donato, the following officers were elected:

   County organization: A. Z. Donato, chairman; Miss L. Klotz, secretary; F. E. Anderson, treasurer.

   The following chairmen were elected to represent their communities:

   M. A. Miller, Wahoo; A. E. Stuart, Cedar Bluffs; Dr. Wright, Ceresco; E. E. Wolf, Morse Bluff; F. Koudele, Jr., Weston; Dr. McCaw, Colon; Herman Lind, Malmo; Miss A. O'Kane, Ithaca; P. Townsend, Valparaiso; Mrs. H. Gilchrist, Mead; Mrs. H. H. Ostenberg, Mead; Mr. H. Ehlers, Memphis; Mr. W. A. Harnsberger, Ashland. The meeting proved to be a very interesting one, and much enthusiasm was displayed. Before the meeting closed more than 100 members had signed up. Miss M. Manners was elected chairman of the membership committee.

   A meeting of the Saunders County chapter was held July 2, 1917, at the court house, at which time the chairman was authorized to appoint chairman of the supply committee and also to appoint chairman of any committee that he might deem advisable at any time. At this meeting F. J. Kirchman was elected chairman of the finance committee. The matter of raising Saunders County's apportionment of the Red Cross war fund was taken up, and this was left to the chairman of the finance committee, who was also authorized to appoint his own committee.


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