Iredell County Celebrates the Armistice

Joel Reese, Guest Author

[Today's WWI blog post was written by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian at the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville, N.C. The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources would like to thank Mr. Reese for his contribution to North Carolina’s commemoration of the state’s role in World War I.]

The U.S. State Department in Washington’s announcement simply said, “The armistice has been signed.” After 4 years, 3 months, and 2 weeks World War I had come to an end. Germany had signed the agreement at 5 a.m. Paris time and midnight New York time on November 11, 1918. The agreement was to come into effect at 11 a.m. Monday, or as it became known, “at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”

In Statesville, N.C., Iredell County’s only newspaper, The Landmark, received word that the war had ended Monday morning before sunrise. The paper was eager to get the word out, but they faced a problem. The newspaper was not a daily and the next issue was not scheduled to go out until a day later on Tuesday the 12th.

The newspaper’s editors decided to create a free extra to go out immediately. With J. A. Brady setting the type and Cicero Johnson as pressman, the Landmark began running off stacks of 7” x 9” sheets of papers that read, “Landmark Extra: War Is Over! Germany has signed the armistice and hostilities cease at 6 o’clock this morning.”

Jack Scronce, Campbell King, Ralph Moore, and Frank King were the newspaper carriers that hit the streets at 5:30 a.m. on Monday morning to hand out the free copies. It was a one page sheet of paper, but soon the entire town and county was alive with people waving the announcement and celebrating the news. Whistles began to blow and the courthouse bell rang as the news hit the streets. People got out cow bells and automobile horns were pressed to their limit.

Businesses and stores closed and people took the day off from work. It all culminated in a gigantic parade in downtown Statesville, which was staged by the local American Red Cross chapter at 3 p.m. More than 200 motor floats carrying Red Cross workers and other organizations that helped in the war effort were in the parade, along with automobiles and motor trucks. One automobile dragged Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany in effigy down the street. Another automobile was draped in Confederate colors and carried two Civil War veterans wearing their uniforms.

Describing the announcement of the war’s end a day later in the regular edition, the paper said, “The extra wasn’t very large, but was large enough to get the news to the people.” The paper went on to state, “And there were several thousand lusty, happy Americans to raise their voices to the skies in celebration of peace.”

It was a joyous occasion in the midst of sad times. The same paper carried the latest lists of soldiers killed in the war, along with those dying locally in the Spanish influenza pandemic that had closed schools and churches in an effort to keep the disease from spreading.

The ending of WWI began a transition period in Iredell County and the rest of the country. Prohibition was underway along with the women’s suffrage movement. The old Hotel Iredell built in 1885 burned to the ground in November 1918, and the November 19th issue reported that the last livery stable in Statesville had closed. Names of foreign counties and cities had become familiar to the citizens of Iredell County, whose young men and women returned having seen a war unlike any in history.

A copy of the Landmark Extra is on display in the Local History Room at the Iredell County Public Library. It was donated by the Iredell County Genealogical Society, and is the only copy left that we know of.