Dengler Domain: War

When driving through Traer, there is a significant piece of the town’s history gracing one of its iconic landmarks, the Taylor Park arch. Built for $900 and dedicated on July 3, 1923, the arch has stood for almost 100 years in honor of the men who gave their lives to our country during World War I. Their names are Clair E. Finch, Edward Ray Kubik, Edgar L. McCord, William Lawson McTurk, Roy L. Pearce, George Wieben, and Fred G. Pippert.

Clair E. Finch

Clair Finch was born in Boone, and he was one of the first nine Traer boys to volunteer to fight for his country during the Great War. According to the January 25, 1918, Traer Star-Clipper, he unfortunately passed away at Camp Mills on Long Island after an illness of pneumonia, followed by a hemorrhage on January 17, 1918. His parents were unable to reach him before his death. Businesses and public schools closed for his funeral, but to make matters worse, his body did not show up when it was supposed to. His was the second World War I Tama County death after Frank Benda of Chelsea. He is buried at the West Union cemetery which is just east of Traer.

Edward Ray Kubik

Edward Ray Kubik, the son of Frank Kubik, was killed in action at Chipilly Ridge, France on August 9, 1918. As described in a September 27, 1918, Traer Star-Clipper article, his death announcement was delayed weeks until his parents finally received a telegram but no other particulars are known about what happened that day. A Star-Clipper article revealed he was killed by a machine gun bullet.

Kubik was in the 131st Infantry and 33rd (Prairie) Division, and was buried at Vaux-sur-Somme, France. He was twice cited “for gallantry and splendid performance of duty.” While born near Clutier, he farmed with his brother Amos near Voorhies before he was called to service. His four brothers, Joe, James, John, and Amos all farmed north of Traer while Frank farms south of town. His sister lived in Tama, and another lived in Cedar Rapids. He is now buried at the Somme American Cemetery and Memorial. The American Legion Kubik-Finch Post No. 142 is named after Edward and Clair.

Edgar L. McCord

Edgar McCord was originally from Flora, Illinois, and worked near Traer for Arthur Calderwood, John Currel, and other men for four years before serving his country. Unfortunately, a Star-Clipper article on November 29, 1918, stated his cause of death in France was unknown. In a July 6, 1923, Star-Clipper article, he was said to have been killed in France on October 18, 1918, and his body was returned from France on May 31, 1921. He was buried in Flora. According to Hubert Caloud of the American Battle Monuments Commission, Edgar was in the I Company, 3rd Battalion, 151st Infantry, 88th Division. There were many Tama County soldiers in the 88th Division. In addition to his death, another soldier in this division was Joe Hora on July 12, 1918, from Clutier of which the Clutier Legion is named after.

William Lawson McTurk

William McTurk passed away in the service from pneumonia on October 3, 1918. He was in the L Company, 163rd Infantry, 41st Division. This division was a unit of replacement soldiers who went to additional training before being assigned to a unit at the front. He also served in the same company and infantry as Luie Machachek who the Clutier Legion is also named after according to Caloud. These two replacement drafts were first put in quarantine when they got to France because of the Great Influenza Epidemic.

It was later revealed William died in a hospital after joining the service in July 1918 and sailing for France in September. His parents struggled with getting answers on his whereabouts. They had not heard from or about him for over two and a half months despite talking with the Red Cross and war department. He passed away at age 24 in Noyes-Lor-et-Cher, France, and was born and reared on the McTurk Farm in Crystal. He had two younger brothers aged 20 and nine. He was returned from France, and he is now buried in the Crystal cemetery.

Roy L. Pearce

Roy Pearce also hailed from Flora, Illinois, and worked in Traer and for two years before the war worked with Emil Erickson according to a Star-Clipper on October 25, 1918. He left behind a wife and child in Illinois. He was 29 when he died from pneumonia on September 21, 1918, at LeMans, France. He was a part of the B Company, 323rd Machine Gun Battalion which was a part of the 83rd Division. This was also a replacement division like McTurk’s 41st Division, according to Caloud. His body was returned from France in November 1920 to his final resting place in Flora, Illinois.

George Wieben

George Wieben died at Camp Cody in Deming, New Mexico after a battle with pneumonia over 10 days on January 26, 1918. His parents, Mrs. and Mrs. Hans Wieben, lived between Reinbeck and Dike, and for many years lived on the Knoop farm west of Traer before moving to Black Hawk County, according to the Star-Clipper. He was 24 years old and a member of the first draft contingent to the national army from Black Hawk County. His mother was a sister to George Knoop. He was laid to rest in the West Union cemetery.

Fred G. Pippert

Fred Pippert of Dysart died in France on October 2, 1918, according to a Dysart Reporter’s November 28, 1918, article. He was an industrious young farmer, assisting with work at home before serving in the military and dying at 23. He was in the July draft for young men and entered the service on July 24. After he arrived in France on September 28, no messages were received until his death weeks later. The government reported he died from pneumonia on October 2, 1918, but Carl Stouffer, a Geneseo soldier, saw Fred in Brest, France on October 11, according to the Star-Clipper. It was later reported he died at Vichy, France, and his true circumstances of his death may never be known. His final resting spot is at Arlington National Cemetery.

I have a small connection to Fred Pippert. My great-grandmother was Kattie Klink. Her maiden name was Pippert. She was Fred’s sister, and my grandmother’s (Ferne) twin brother was named after Fred. Another interesting fact is the farm Fred grew up on is less than a couple of miles away from where I grew up, south of Highway 8 between Traer and Dysart.

I am certain there are others in our community who have a small connection to the men listed on the plaque on the Taylor Park arch – showing how this small community is still very much connected to the not-so-distant past.

For those who are curious about the arch, there will be a ceremony for it during Traer’s Big Birthday Bash set for June 3 at 7 p.m. in Taylor Park.

I would like to thank Kennan Seda, Hubert Caloud, Judy Morrison, my mom Sandy Dengler, the Traer Star-Clipper archives, the Tama County Historical Society for digitized Star-Clipper articles, and anyone else I am missing who helped me with this column. Due to these articles publishing a long time ago and new facts potentially being presented, I apologize for any errors. Please let me know, and I will correct the record if need be.

If you kept count, many of these men passed away from pneumonia. According to the National Institutes of Health, their pneumonia was caused after an infection from an influenza strain commonly known at the time as the Great Influenza epidemic or by the common misnomer, the Spanish flu. According to Caloud, of the approximately 110,000 military deaths the United States suffered in World War I, 50,000 were from combat but 60,000 were from the Spanish flu.

Before I started this project, I did not know much about these men. While I will never know their full life histories, they deserved to be honored again. They gave the ultimate sacrifice, and I hope this Memorial Day we all can remember those who gave their life for this great country.

Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at sean.h.dengler@gmail.com.