Tales from the Archives: Camp Sherman

Written by: Amanda Vasquez, DAR Archivist
December 19, 2017

DAR has honored the 100 year anniversary of the United States entering into World War One throughout 2017 and this commemoration will continue through the centennial celebration of the Treaty of Versailles in June of 2019. The NSDAR Archives has highlighted the DAR’s efforts during the war with the Women of Resilience: DAR Service in World War I exhibit as well as a series of Tales from the Archives blog posts that further explain DAR’s involvement in the war. Today’s blog post continues this series by exploring Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio.

When the United States entered World War One on April 6, 1917, the military rapidly mobilized in order to join a war that began in Europe in 1914. On May 18, 1917 the U. S. government authorized the Selective Service Act, often referred to as the draft, which required young men to register for military service. Work began around the country to build facilities to prepare and train the new military forces.

Camp Sherman was located outside of the city of Chillicothe and named for Union Army Civil War General and Ohio native, William Tecumseh Sherman. The area is known for earthen mounds built for ceremonial and burial purposes by the Hopewell. Prior to WWI, Chillicothe had a history of military facilities, such as the War of 1812 era Camp Bull and the Civil War era Camp Logan, which lent itself to a choice for a new and updated training facility. In June of 1917, the U.S. War Department announced that Chillicothe would be the site of Army cantonments and nearly 2,000 acres were purchased, including the Hopewell earthen mounds. From June until September nearly 2,000 buildings would be built at this facility. This would grow the local population from 16,000 to 60,000 in only a few months. 2,000 buildings were built at Camp Sherman between June and September. Camp Sherman grew to become the third largest military camp in the nation during the war. 

The Ohio State Society of DAR, under the leadership of Ohio State Regent Eva Ellsworth Harris, searched for a meaningful way to contribute to the war effort locally. In September 1917, Commanding Officer of the 83rd Division, Major Edwin F. Glen, requested that the DAR erect a DAR Lodge at Camp Sherman to accommodate the mothers and friends visiting soldiers, and provide the soldiers comfortable atmosphere.  The DAR Ohio State Society moved to quickly approve the project and the lodge was completed and dedicated on December 19, 1917. The project cost $21, 847.78. and provided comforts like electricity and steam heat to 65 sleeping rooms that were furnished with small iron bed, dresser, chairs, and washstand. Four living rooms complete with fireplaces and wide porches allowed places for families to meet in a homelike setting. The DAR Lodge stood facing the plaza at the entrance of Camp Sherman and an electronically illuminated DAR insignia stood over the entrance to welcomed guests. The Ohio daughters took turns serving as hostess at the Lodge, bringing comfort to guests throughout the war. The Cleveland Leader described the December dedication of the Lodge as “unquestionably the most significant moment in the history of organized Ohio women.”

With 120,000 men passing through Camp Sherman before it was decommissioned in 1921, the site aided to the war effort in many ways. At the DAR Lodge’s dedication Major General Edwin Glenn accepted the gift and said, “In the heat and strife of battle, the memory of the home with its Christian influences will be worth infinitely more it has cost or will cost.” The DAR is glad to have played a role in giving comfort to soldiers during this trying time. Under the command of Major General Glenn, the 83rd Division was the first to leave for Europe, leaving Camp Sherman on June 5th, 1918 and arriving in Europe on June 19th, 1918. The Spanish Influenza Epidemic arrived at Camp Sherman in late summer and early fall of 1918, taking 1,777 lives. Camp Sherman also housed a German Prisoner of War camp until 1919.

Nearly all of Camp Sherman’s buildings have been razed. In 1920, the War Department began selling wood from the buildings as surplus, and today you can still find homes in Chillicothe built from this wood.  At the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park you can find Camp Sherman’s former Library marked as “ODRC FARM" on its side.

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