On June 5, 1917, my grandfather, Rudolph Ernest Beyer, left his family farm in Beyersville, Texas, before the 6 o'clock sunrise and headed for Taylor. He was a young, social, single man, 22 years of age and the son of German immigrants. He had learned to work hard helping to clear mesquite brush, prickly pear cactus and rattlesnakes from his father’s cotton farm. Although June 5th was a Tuesday with sunny weather, there would be little time for work that morning.
This was National Registration Day. Two months before, on April 6th, at President Woodrow Wilson's urging, the United States Congress voted to declare war on the German Empire. A few weeks later, The Selective Service Act of 1917 was passed, authorizing the federal government to raise an army through conscription. All able-bodied men from age of 21 to 30 were required to register for the military draft on June 5th.
Registration for the draft in Taylor was organized by the Taylor Council of National Defense, a committee of ten persons appointed to cooperate with the National Defense Council and the State Defense Council in a number of ways, including "To assist and list all available men and women in this city and county for the different needs of the nation and aid for such recruiting as is required by the government from the lists when so completed, for the army, navy, Red Cross, motor and all other essential departments of the government." (The Taylor Daily Press, April 23, 1917, page 4).
The response on that Tuesday morning in Taylor was remarkable. "Throngs of the young men of this city between the ages of 21 and 31 were anxiously awaiting the opening at 6:30 o'clock. When the poll opened at exactly 7 o'clock a mad rush was made to offer their services to the United States in this great fight of Democracy vs. Autocracy. Ferguson Allison was the first to register and Paul Baur, second." (The Taylor Daily Press, June 5, 1917, page 1).
|Registration Card for Rudolph Beyer, age 22, June 5, 1917. Note that his was registration #15.|
Since Rudolph was number fifteen, he was near the front of the line of young men waiting for the doors to open so early that morning. In Taylor alone, so many young men were on hand to register, officials had to go to Georgetown, Texas, to get more registration forms. In all, 957 men were registered that day.
|The Taylor Daily Press, June 6, 1917, page 1,|
retrieved from Newspapers.com
I do not know whether Grandpa was simply eager to join the fight or if he was anxious to show he was more American than some people might have assumed because his parents came from Germany - he may have had other reasons as well. In later years Grandpa often talked about doing his part by serving in the army.
At the time, Grandpa lived with his parents and three of his four living siblings. The oldest, sister Olga was 29 and had been married to Fritz Becker for six years. Sister Ella was 25. Brothers Emil and Ewald were 18 and 14, respectively. The family may have gone to town together to see the huge patriotic parade and rally, and perhaps gather with friends.
|The Taylor Daily Press, June 5, 1917, page 1, |
retrieved from Newspapers.com.
Click image for larger version.
Rudolph Ernest Beyer would be drafted a year later on August 8, 1918. He frequently wrote letters to his sister, Ella Beyer, while he was away from home. I have copies or originals of about twenty of those letters that I want to share as their 100th anniversary dates come up.
Grandpa's life was defined by his family, his faith, his community and his vocation, but as lives so often happen, the forces that came into play during his military service transformed every part of his life thereafter.