DEL NORTE—Mikayla Baird will be presenting “WW1 Homefront in Rio Grande County” on Sept. 22 at the Rio Grande County Museum. The topic will go over the county’s experience and participation in the Great War.
The citizens of Rio Grande County enthusiastically engaged themselves in aiding the war effort. Unlike previous wars, every citizen— man, woman and child— had a role to play during this war. Many Red Cross chapters were organized throughout the county and members worked tirelessly to raise money and collect or make supplies for soldiers overseas. During each Liberty Loan Drive, the citizens of Rio Grande County eagerly participated, and each drive surpassed the goals set. In one instance, Monte Vista set a world record of funds raised for the Red Cross for a town of its size and was praised in newspapers throughout the country.
Children also played their part. School credit was offered for students that raised gardens. “Pig Clubs” were organized and quite popular. Each member would raise their own pig to add to the meat supply. Many kids also joined sewing, canning, or “chicken clubs.” The students of Monte Vista even organized their own fundraiser in April of 1918. Headed by the high school band, they paraded through town collecting donations from the residents, earning around $160, which they used to buy Liberty Bonds.
Conservation of food was front and center of the Homefront war effort across the nation, and Rio Grande County was no exception. However, unlike many other counties across the nation, Rio Grande County not only conserved food, but also produced food. Rio Grande County was already largely agricultural but a concerted effort was made during the war, to produce much, much more. With less manpower available, the citizens of the county worked together towards this goal. Specialists were brought in to help maximize crop yields and minimize losses from disease, pests, and spoilage. Every acre possible was utilized. A.F. Middaugh of Del Norte, for example, donated his vacant lot near Spruce Street for the Boy Scouts to garden.
Although the fighting was thousands of miles away, the lives of every citizen in Rio Grande County were impacted during the First World War. Mikayla Baird will discuss many of these experiences during this unique time in the county’s history. The presentation will be at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at the Rio Grande County Museum, 580 Oak St., Del Norte. A “Homefront” exhibit will be opened on Sept. 11 and will remain until the end of the year. For more information visit Facebook or call 719-657-2847. The museum is open Tuesday–Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.