The First Liberty Loan in connection with the world war was called for by the United States Government in the spring of 1917. At that time no organization outside of the banks of the country had been perfected, but the loan was largely oversubscribed. For example, one bank in Saunders County sent in subscriptions for $134,000 and was awarded some over $92,000 of bonds. Saunders County took about $600,000 of this issue.
It was early seen that a vast amount of money would be needed to prosecute the war and that the country would have to be organized to sell bonds and to provide the sinews of war as in the other departments. On account of his high standing in Saunders County and his patriotism and ability, Mr. Charles A. Perky was appointed by the federal authorities as chairman of the Liberty Loan Committee for Saunders County. But Mr. Perky was engaged in Red Cross work and had been out nearly every night for two or three months in that work, and his health was not good and he declined the appointment and recommended Mr. F. E. White of Ashland, who was appointed.
The Second Loan was called for in the fall of 1917. No county organization had been perfected at that time. The quota for Saunders County was $700,000. A meeting of the bankers of Saunders County was called at Wahoo, and after some discussion the bankers voted to subscribe for the quota of the county, each bank to take bonds in proportion to its resources. The banks did so subscribe and took $700,400 of the bonds. Some of the banks sold all, or nearly all, of these bonds to their customers, but many did not and were obliged to carry them or sell them at a loss. Saunders County altogether took $708,000 of the Second Loan.
Prior to the call for the Third Loan the county was organized by the appointment of an executive committee consisting of Charles Perky, F. J. Kirchman, Emil Benson, E. E. Placek, Oscar Hanson, E. O. Weber, B. E. Hendricks, J. J. Johnson, Elmer Johnson, and G. J. Railsback. Mr. Oscar Hanson was elected secretary, and it was owing to his energy, ability, and patriotism very largely that the subsequent work was successful. It was decided to organize the county by school districts, and accordingly a meeting was called at Wahoo to which all the members of the school boards of the 118 school districts in the county were invited. The meeting was largely attended, and patriotic addresses were made and music furnished, and the members of the school boards almost unanimously showed themselves to be thoro Americans, loyal and eager to work and sacrifice for the good of their country. Subsequently, almost without exception, these men spent many days and evenings in this work and endured many unpleasant experiences in its performance. And to the more than 300 members of the school boards of the county who worked hard and gave their time and spent their money during three campaigns are due the thanks and good will of the county for maintaining its reputation as a loyal and patriotic county. They were the real workers who put the thing over the top. In addition to the school boards, some twenty precinct captains were appointed, and every bank was asked to assist the school boards. Of the banks it can be said that they have been the back-bone of the Government's financial operations during the war. The war imposed a burden of work and worry on the banks all over the country which they accepted as a matter of course. The taxable valuation of each school district was figured out and the county's quota of bonds was divided among the school districts in proportion to this valuation. The quota of the Third Liberty Loan assigned to Saunders County was $779,200. The banks of the county sent in subscriptions for $1,207,650. This loan was called for by the government in the spring of 1918.
Saunders County had a very poor corn crop in 1918 and not much wheat, and it was hoped that its quota would be made lighter on this account when the Fourth Loan was called for. But in October the Government called for a loan of $6,000,000,000, and the quota of Saunders County was placed at $1,875,500, larger than that of any county in Nebraska except Douglas and Lancaster. Not discouraged, the organization went valiantly to work, and Saunders County sent in subscriptions for $1,909,700, the banks absorbing a small deficiency.
Prior to the call for the Victory Loan, Mr. White resigned as chairman of the Liberty Loan Committee, on account of lack of time to take care of it and thinking that a man living in the center of the county could better handle it; and upon recommendation of the banks of the county, B. E. Hendricks was appointed and vigorously conducted the campaign to a successful termination. The quota of the county was about $1,275,000, which was nearly or quite subscribed.
B. E. Hendricks, attorney, Wahoo, Nebraska, was appointed by the treasury department to serve as county chairman of the Fifth Liberty Loan, and rendered very excellent service in that respect.
It was generally acknowledged that this was the most difficult of all the loans. The signing of the armistice released, to a great extent, the patriotic tension that had existed since the United States first entered the war. To many this meant the end of a great struggle, and they considered that money for war purposes was no longer necessary. During the former bond drives the Council of Defense was active and did much to see that bond slackers were made to perform their real duty respecting the purchasing of bonds. This organization had been discontinued by law prior to the Victory Loan drive, and, as might be expected, some few took advantage of this fact and, feeling that they were not compelled by force to subscribe for bonds, refused to buy at all. Persons of this class, however, were very few when compared with the whole citizenship of this county. Generally, the people were loyal to the core, and in many instances many persons with much inconvenience to themselves and at a financial loss purchased bonds liberally. Some even purchased far more than their financial circumstances and patriotic duty would require. Indifference and not lack of real patriotism was the greatest obstacle. The need for the loan had to be repeatedly explained, making the campaign largely an educational one.
The same organization was used in making this campaign that had been used in the previous drives. While the school boards had already made five or six different drives for bonds, Y. M. C. A. funds, united war work, etc., and in many instances had met rebuffs and occasional insults, and in some districts had greatly exceeded their own proper quota in order to make up the district's allotment, yet generally they took up the Victory Loan Campaign with a true, patriotic spirit and are to be commended for the generous giving of their time and energy to make the campaign a success. In a district or two the school boards felt that other persons could do better than they, and others were designated by the county chairman to do this work. On this account, John H. Mott, E. P. Knode, and E. J. Cullen were appointed to handle the Fifth Loan drive in District No. 41 and did very commendable work.
Ten German helmets, captured on the field of battle and shipped to this country, were offered to each of the first ten districts equalling or exceeding its quota. It was also announced that Honor Flags would be given to each school district which exceeded its allotment. In addition to this, a War Record Flag was offered to every school district which had subscribed its full quota in the Third and Fourth Liberty Loans and which met its quota in the Fifth Loan. This War Record Flag contained four vertical bars and one "tally mark," and when possessed by any school district means that that district has met every war demand. It is a distinct honor for any school district to have possession of one of these flags. These prizes, or tokens, caused a good deal of prompt activity. School District No. 114, northeast of Mead (Charles Nelson, E. R. Fuchser, and George H. Nelson being the members of the school board), was the first to go over the top and obtain a helmet. It was followed closely by District No. 47, southeast of Mead (J. C. Thompson, George Laudenschlager, and Chris Kolb being the members of that board). Other districts followed closely until all the helmets were exhausted. Helmets were awarded to the following school districts: Nos. 114, 47, 11, 82, 28, 100, 109, 93, 70, 2.
Honor Flags and War Record Flags probably created the greatest interest of any of the tokens offered, and these flags were obtained by the following school districts having the following quota:
In addition to these tokens, a medal made from captured German cannon was awarded to each member of the school boards thruout the county, and to a few others, for active patriotic services in connection with this Liberty Loan.
In handling this campaign, approximately 7,500 letters were prepared and mailed from the office of the local chairman. Students from the High School and Luther College, and others volunteered their help without charge and were of great assistance. 5,000 envelopes were addressed, letters folded and inserted, enveloped sealed and all made ready for mailing in about six hours. The services of these parties were greatly appreciated by the county chairman, and a letter by him to that effect was sent to each.
The quota assigned to Saunders County was $1,273,600. This was about $55 for every man, woman, and child in the county, and was really quite a large sum to raise. When it was seen that the amount could not be fully raised by popular subscriptions, the bankers of the county were called together for their assistance and asked to make up the deficiency. This appeal was responded to generally by the bankers, a few of the banks even exceeded the quota assigned to them in order to assist the county in raising its full share. Much credit is due the bankers of the county for the loyal assistance rendered by them in connection with this loan.
While this county did not quite reach its quota in this drive, it did remarkably well under the circumstances, and if all loans and war activities are considered together, it greatly exceeded its quotas and goes down on the records as composed of a loyal, patriotic people, a fact of which every resident of the county may feel justly proud.
There were no salaries paid to any one in connection with this work, the county chairman, secretary, executive committee, and all others giving their services without expectation of reward, the county chairman even paying individually his own stenographer. The total expense of the work in this county was $110.57, divided as follows:
While the handling of this campaign required a great deal of work, the efforts put forth were fully appreciated by the treasury department. In a letter to the county chairman written May 14, 1919, W. R. Rowe, director, says: "The results in Saunders County have been most gratifying as compared with those attained in some other counties in the state, a condition which is duly appreciated, because I know the campaign has been a very hard one."
While it would have been highly desirable to have raised our full quota in this last loan, yet Saunders County has every reason to feel proud of its record in the bond issues as a whole, as well as in other war activities.
The quotas assigned to each bank and the subscriptions with percentages for all the loans are given below. It will be readily seen that Saunders County has made an enviable record in this as in all other drives for money in the county. Credit for these successful drives cannot be given to any one individual, tho the work of directing the efforts of the precinct captains fell on the shoulders of the county chairman, Mr. F. E. White of Ashland, and Mr. B. E. Hendricks of Wahoo. To them great praise is due for the efficient manner in which they handled these man-sized jobs.