Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Globeville and The Great War

“Globeville Smiles Despite War That Rages in Europe” proclaimed the August 2, 1914 headline in the Denver Post. The Post continued, “There are 600 foreigners working side by side at the Globe Smelter. Austrians, Servians, Prussians, Bohemians, Greeks, Italians, Germans, Montenegrans, almost every nation of Europe is represented. Officials at the Globe Smelter felt no little anxiety when hostilities broke out between Austria and Servia[sic]." There was an expectation that old national loyalties would lead to confrontations and violence in the community.
But Globeville's immigrants felt no loyalty to Germany, Austria-Hungary, or Russia, the empires that had annexed and suppressed their native countries. Many had come to America to avoid the constant wars of Europe, and to avoid mandatory service in the army of their oppressors. The Post elaborated, “John Domitsky, an intelligent Austrian, declared, ‘The foreigners in this community came here to stay . . . these fellows are much more interested in earning their bread and butter here in Globeville than they are in fighting over the murder of a crown prince and a princess in Austria or Servia’.” 1
There were unavoidable repercussions of the war, however, as travel and communication between the Old Country stopped. In February, 1914, five year old John Werner, his sisters and his mother arrived from Sussanental, Russia and joined his father in Longmont with the hope that their grandparents and uncles would join them in September. They never saw rest of the family again.
As the war continued, there were other consequences. Reports of German atrocities were circulated and anti-German feeling reached a fever pitch in the nation. People of German heritage were suspected of being disloyal or subversive and many people were harassed. “English only” legislation was enacted in Denver, German books were burned, and classes in the German language were no longer taught in the Denver public schools. By the time the United States entered the war in April 1917, the suspicion of all things German had reached Globeville.
The fact that worship services in the three Volga-German churches in the community were conducted in the German language had never been an issue before, but war hysteria called attention to the situation. When the patriotism of the congregation was questioned, minister John Strohecker and Matthew Eagleton, the principal of Garden Place School, invited Mayor Speer of Denver and other city officials to attend a Sunday service at the First German Congregational Church. Two hours of preaching and singing must have convinced the dignitaries that there was no disloyalty in Globeville. Perhaps Matthew Eagleton pointed out that George Lauck, Henry Kilthau Jr., and John Reisbeck had enlisted in the armed forces of their adopted country, or called attention to other contributions to the war effort by the citizens of Globeville. Services continued to be held in German. 2.
The abdication of Russia's Czar Nicholas II March 2, 1917, took Russia out of the conflict and aided the Axis powers. and cut support for Globeville's Transfiguration Orthodox Church, which was funded by Czar Nicholas himself (the bells in the cathedral were a personal gift of the Czar). As the Bolsheviks gained power, Globeville's Carpatho-Russians also came under suspicion and many changed their names to sound more American. Photos of church or lodge events included large American flags as a backdrop.
Two men, Martin Clements and John Wysowatcky, would sacrifice their lives for their country as Globeville and the rest of the nation would be forever changed by the Great War.
1. “Globeville Smiles Despite War That Rages in Europe,” Denver Post, August 2, 1914
2. First German Congregational Church, Diamond Jubilee. 1894-1969. by Chester G. Krieger, Schwartz Printing Company, Denver, Colorado pg 26 

Western Slavonic members proudly display their American flag