Peace, 'pandemonium' in Princeton Armistice news drew city-wide celebration

The Armistice Day 1918 edition of the Princeton Clarion-News

PRINCETON — Princeton Clarion-News Editor F.R. Ewing got the United Press bulletin at 3 in the morning Monday, Nov. 11, 1918.

The "War to End All Wars" was about to end, with an armistice agreement.

Ewing woke the mayor of Princeton to share the news, then put out an "extra" edition of the newspaper, then in print for 73 years.

The regular Nov. 11, 1918 four-page edition of the afternoon Clarion trumpeted the news and shared the plans for a celebration in this front page story:


“Everything for Which America Fought Has Been Accomplished” — The President


Formation for Big Parade Tonight Is Announced — Pandemonium This Morning

A parade to celebrate the victorious ending of the war is scheduled for 7:30 o’clock tonight, Mayor Noble and a committee of citizens having made the necessary plans at noon today.

The parade will form on south Main Street, the head resting on Main at Evans street, facing north. Following will be the order: Princeton band, a squad of soldiers and sailors home on furlough, United Mine Workers of America, Southern railway men, floats, Company D, Indiana militia, other organizations, automobiles and marchers.

Captain George Soller is chief marshal and Ed Meyers is marshal for the railroad men and Ray Cockrum for the Mine Workers. The railway men will form on south Main street, at Pinckney street, the Mine Workers on east Clark street heading on Main; Company D at Main and Monroe. Other organizations and marchers will form on west Clark and west Monroe streets heading on Main street. Archer Post Grand Army of the Republic will form on Main Street at Water street.

There is no set program for tonight, but there may be impromptu speeches. Of course the noise brigade may make speeches out of the question, but everybody is supposed to celebrate in his own way so long as life and property are protected.


In a separate news item in the 1918 Armistice Day Clarion:


It was again demonstrated this morning that Princeton people do not have to depend on outside papers for the news. At 3 o’clock this morning a United Press dispatch brought to the local papers the official news that the war was at an end.

The Clarion-News at once issued an extra, which sold readily, and about 5 o’clock bells and whistles opened up.

Later pandemonium broke loose. About 7 o’clock the Princeton miners, more than 100 strong, all carrying flags, marched through the streets, headed by a big flag. The miners started the “big works.”

Soon all the Southern shopmen had joined them in a great parade, the stores had closed and everybody was assembled on the square, with a meeting at the south steps, presided over by Mayor Noble and with a number speaking, guns firing, autos, sirens and whistles tooting and such as clamor as Princeton has never before known.

It continued all morning and business was practically suspended throughout the day. The schools were dismissed this morning.

Tonight comes the big parade and “official” celebration.


Celebrants took their celebration cues from the precedent set 53 years prior when the county received word of the end of the Civil War. Ewing published an account that was originally printed in an April 1865 edition of the Clarion:


How Princeton Celebrated the Surrender of Lee

Everywhere There Were Exuberant Outbursts of Joy — Soldiers celebrated in Camps

The surrender of Lee’s army in April, 1865, virtually ended the great Civil war that for four years had torn this nation asunder. The news of the surrender was everywhere in the army camps hailed with joy and wild celebrating, similar to that which marked the news throughout the North.

How Princeton rejoiced at that war ending is best told through the April 13, 1865 Princeton Clarion. Editor A.J. Calkins wrote:


Seldom have the outbursts of joyous sensations shown themselves more clearly than was developed in our midst on Monday morning on receiving the news of Lee’s surrender.

Although the tidings were not entirely unlooked for, yet when it was indisputably announced that the boasted and military dictator of the rebel armies had been brought to kiss the dust the surrendering himself and the broken fragment of his vanquished army to the gallant and persistent Grant, a new and impressive glow of gratitude seemed to infuse itself through the entire community, (with very few exceptions). Even nature seemed aglow with new charms. All hands and hearts were extended to their fellows in mutual congratulations and felicitous greetings.

The church bells began to ring to send forth their deep toned yet cheerful news of joy, which were continued with but short intermission during the day and until late at night, and each successive peal seemed full of augury of approaching peace to a nation where indeed in truth, “All, all are free.”

The firing of anvils throughout the same time responded to the sentiment in the loudest and best language they were capable of uttering.

Arrangements have been made for a general jubilation at night which was attended to with all our limited means, and a hearty good will, and consisted of the floating of flags, shooting rockets, blazing bonfires, bright and beautiful illuminations in many of the stores, offices and dwellings, raising balloons, exhibition of transparencies with appropriate mottos and the discoursing of many soul stirring national airs by our town band, whose performance was highly creditable to themselves and an honor to our town.

About 8 ‘o’clock the concourse traversing the streets were directed where in a short time the spacious court room was literally jammed and crammed with an audience who with rapturous applause listened to short and patriotic speeches from Messrs. Donald and Land and Revs. Jenkins and McCormick, and after joining in three rousing cheers for Gen. Grant and three for the United States of America, very reluctantly separated at nearly 11 o’clock p.m.


It was a late and loud night in Princeton that first Armistice Day, according to the Tuesday, Nov. 12, 1918 edition of the Clarion:

Until a late hour, Matt Wiedenbener and other shop men fired four anvils at intervals in the east side of the Princeton Yard while members of the Princeton band and others, John Cullen, Don Stormont, Charlie Skelton, Roy Noble and Will Lightner, made the rounds of the square repeatedly playing and singing popular and patriotic songs, or leading sing-tests for the crowd. It was a day and a night that Princeton will never forget….


The community was invested in the war effort in many ways. A war subscription drive included local boards holding citizens to account for making good on pledges and meeting the county goal. In one account reported in the Clarion, a widow was released from her family's pledge, and in another account, a man threatened to "whip" anyone who insinuated he was not doing his part.

During the war years, many local families reported updates to the Clarion of what news they had of their loved ones serving in the military. According to the Nov. 11, 1918 edition of The Clarion-News, the newspaper commissioned a portrait of the first Princeton soldier killed in service in the war — Homer Kessner — framed and presented to the mayor for display at the Princeton Public Library.

Editor's Note: On a personal note, searching the archives of the newspaper, I discovered the names of scores of Gibson County natives in service in the war. Among them, Conrad Miln Howe (my husband's grandfather) who mustered into military service in 1916 and arrived in Europe in early July 1918, according to the newspaper, under the command of General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front. Howe's parents, Robert and Delia Howe, reported to the Clarion in June 1919 that he had arrived safely back on U.S. soil. Among his possessions of war service was a well-used gas mask. — Andrea Howe

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