A previous post reviewed the WW I draft registrations of my dad’s Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau and his three brothers — among them my paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau. Yet for various reasons, none of them ended up serving abroad.
Albert’s alternative service
Albert was not called up for active duty, perhaps because he was married. But he may have performed a sort of alternative service through his job as Woodworking Foreman at the Julius Breckwoldt Sounding Board Company in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., New York.
In its 12 July 1918 issue, the Otsego Farmer and Republican — published in Cooperstown, N.Y. — carried a front page column on Central New York that describes U.S. Naval officers visiting the Breckwoldt company where Uncle Albert worked to select spruce wood for military hydroplane construction.
According to the article, the U.S. government planned to take “between five to ten percent of the spruce timber turned out at the Fulton Chain mill” of the Breckwoldt company.
Even without documentation, it’s not a stretch to suppose that Uncle Albert — a Woodworking Foreman who had worked with Fulton Chain timber since the age of 15 — may have been on hand when the Naval officers made their lumber-selection visits.
My grandfather’s home defense work
Meanwhile, my paternal grandfather Ray — exempt because he was married with three children — did alternative service of his own.
In Franklin W. Christman’s book Herkimer County in the World War: 1916-19181W.R. Charboneau is listed among non commissioned officers and privates who served in the Dolgeville Home Defense Unit of the Herkimer County Defense Committee — a local affiliate of the Council of National Defense.
One of the first tasks of the county group was to conduct a military census and inventory of resources and report back to the New York State group.
Christman’s book2details some of the group’s many other tasks, which make clear the profound daily economic and social impact of the world war — from cultivating fallow farmland and working with the Red Cross on healthcare issues to recruiting workers to fill jobs that were vacated by those who were called up.
Yet amid helpful tasks were other duties that likely turned neighbor against neighbor — such as reviewing and signing off on the credentials of immigrant job applicants in an area with a huge German-born or descended population.
A telegraphy school graduate
I don’t know what tasks my grandfather Ray carried out. However, his obituary says he was a graduate of the New York State Telegraphers School in Albany, N.Y. 3So I like to think that skill may have placed him in the more helpful sphere of communications.
And Ray and Albert may have worked together here and there as well — since Uncle Albert was head of the Dolgeville Masons lodge, which the Defense Committee collaborated with on various community-aid projects.
Up next: The brief WWI service of Uncles Tom and Dewey Charboneau. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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