100 years ago: The final day of the ‘old world’
Friday, July 31, 1914, was probably much like any other late summer day in Bonner Springs, Edwardsville or Basehor. Local residents had concerns — there was a primary election the following week, which expected to go heavily Republican. Then, as usual, there were worries about the crops because all three communities depended heavily on agriculture.
I have to wonder if anyone in the three communities realized that July 31, 1914, was the final day of the old world. You see, on Aug. 1, 1914, hostilities in Europe would erupt into World War I, which would change the world forever. Europe was called a powder keg, and the fuse was lighted on June 29, 1914, when an Austria-Hungarian archduke and his wife were assassinated. In a domino effect countries began declaring war. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which had alliances with France and Russia. Germany was an ally of Austria-Hungary, and when Germany violated Belgium territory, England entered the war.
There was no mention of Europe’s problems in The Chieftain, although there was a lot of big news. Bonner Springs had a population of 3,000 and was a commercial center. Edwardsville and Basehor were not incorporated cities, and the only news from those communities was in “country correspondents” columns. Basically they wrote about social events and, to my surprise, baseball.
Bonner Springs had come through a difficult winter and spring after the local marshals and a posse had shot a young man. Even though a coroner’s jury said it was justified, the victim’s father — who had political clout — had charges brought. One marshal died of typhoid fever before the trial; the other was found innocent.
The biggest “good” news was the completion of the electric railroad from Kansas City to Bonner Springs. The city hosted a festival to honor the opening, and a crowd of 3,000 attended the special events. From what I’ve read, most felt this transportation link would be a major financial boon for the city.
The event made a profit of $70, donated to the Booster Club to help pay the city’s cost for the Golden Belt Road, which is basically now Kansas Highway 32.
The Chieftain was modernizing. The newspaper purchased a linotype, which was an automated typesetting machine. The newspaper also moved to expanded facilities, causing an edition to be printed late. The editor wrote: “We make no apologies for being late. After moving a newspaper printing plant, it’s a wonder we ever got a newspaper out.”
The other big news during the month was the dedication of the new $15,000 Methodist Church. Yes, it was a very busy month, with the Chautauqua or traveling show visiting Bonner Springs.
There probably were only a few residents, if any, who worried about a war in Europe. We were protected by the Atlantic Ocean, and there seemed to always be hostiles. If there was any international concern, it was over Mexico, where bandits sometimes crossed the border to commit mayhem. In general most Americans were isolationists, and even President Woodrow Wilson promised to “keep us out of war.”
By 1915 the war touched the area. Theodore Naish was aboard the Lusitania, which was sunk by Germany. Later, his wife would donate the land that became Camp Naish.
Even Europeans felt it would be a short war and the troops would be home by Christmas. They couldn’t imagine a brutal and bloody conflict that would last more than four years and result in 37 million casualties worldwide. The United States entered the war in April 1917 and would suffer 116,708 casualties before in ended in 1918. Nations didn’t envision the horror of modern weapons.
It was called “the war to end all wars,” but we know that didn’t happen. It set the stage for World War II and many problems that we face today. No, the world was never the same after Aug. 1, 1914.