Tree to finally honor the local boys of World War I
By JACQUE ANDREW
Special to The Jefferson Herald
A mission to recognize the service of Jefferson soldiers in World War I — in the works for more than 97 years — appears to be finally complete.
The Jefferson Floyd W. Brown Post 11 of the American Legion on June 12 planted a burr oak tree in the Memorial Garden on East Lincoln Way to finish the efforts started in 1922 of another local military support group.
The project began with the recent discovery of a plaque reading, “This tree planted in honor of the boys of Jefferson who served their country during The World War 1917-1918, Service Star Legion, Jefferson Chapter, 1922.”
Using the Jefferson Public Library’s website, Barb Labate, the Legion’s adjutant, researched the Jefferson Bee and Herald archives online, revealing the history behind the plaque and the trees in several stories written more than 60 years ago.
The Service Star Legion — “a national women’s group organized in 1919 to bring comfort and aid to service men and their families and to support the country’s government” affiliated with the American Legion — often planted trees in honor of those who served in the military.
A newspaper report from Aug. 29, 1946, recounted the planting of “two cut leaf birch trees in honor of the soldiers of the World War both living and dead” on the grounds of the Jefferson grade school and high school with a service including a patriotic address and participation by students.
Two other trees had also been planted in the fall on the “court yard” as noted in the original story, which may refer to the Greene County courthouse grounds.
These four trees replaced the original tree planted on April 28, 1922 (Arbor Day), just a few years after the end of the war.
Perhaps due to the selection of tree stock, none of the trees survived.
The plaque, which had been mounted on a boulder, was removed and placed in storage. It was discovered just last year and the work to plant a new tree began.
The Floyd W. Brown post of the American Legion was organized May 28, 1919.
In preparation for the observance of its centennial, the members of the post chose to honor the soldiers from “The World War” by planting another tree and mounting the plaque on a granite marker provided by David Sloan.
Post commander at the time, Jim Andrew worked with the Greene County Conservation Commission and the Jefferson Garden Club, as both entities help to maintain the garden, in establishing the location for the tree.
Through Andrew’s efforts, the 18-foot-tall burr oak tree valued at $450 was donated by Bentley Ridge Tree Farm and Nursery of Urbandale. Owner Jimmy Juergens offered that he “just wanted to support the project of the American Legion” in donating the substantial tree, a variety native to Iowa and grown at his nursery.
The Legion hopes that in selecting a native species, the lifespan will be far longer than the previous memorial trees.
More than a dozen were on hand for the planting, including 11 members of the local American Legion post and other volunteers who rallied to help with site preparation on tree planting day.
Veterans Tom Hammel and Andrew picked up the tree and delivered it to the garden. Kurt Krieger provided the use of his tree spade and expertise to plant it.
Don Labate assisted in planting and staked the tree, and Louis Swanson provided the water tank to be used to keep it watered.
Janet Sabus, vice president of the Jefferson Garden Club, also participated in the planting.