FRANKLIN — Since July, Miners Hall Museum in Franklin has featured an exhibit on World War I — "The War to End All Wars” — which will continue to be open to the public through Sept. 28.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, Shannon Kelly will give a special presentation titled “World War I: The Western Front, Then and Now.” Kelly will discuss life in the trenches, as well as his recent trip to France and Flanders and battlefield artifacts he found there.
Kelly, who grew up in Missouri, began collecting military artifacts at nine years old because of his interest in his family history. Kelly’s grandfather, who was from Seneca, Kansas, served in the 353rd infantry of the 89th Division, known as the “All Kansas Regiment,” according to information provided by Joe Maghe, who has been hosting the “War to End All Wars” exhibit.
Kelly’s presentation will be the third special program during the Miners Hall World War I exhibit. Maghe said the first two programs — “Harry S. Truman - WW1 Memories,” presented by Kavan Stull, and “Uniforms and Equipments of the Imperial German Army 1914 -1918,” presented by Barry Linduff — were very well received.
“We’ve had quite a few people interested,” Maghe said. He added that there were more than 60 people at each of the first two presentations, “so pretty good attendance,” he said. “Both of the presenters were just kind of amazed.”
Maghe said that aside from the special programs featured during the "War to End All Wars” exhibit — which will also include a Sept. 22 presenation by Jeff Patrick titled “Mighty Men of War: The Soldiers of Carthage in World War I” — there are also many interesting World War I artifacts on display, some of which have local origins and some that do not. Miners Hall has been adding new items and switching others out during the course of the exhibit, Maghe said. One item planned to be added to the exhibit this week will be a World War I era gas mask, which will be on display along with information on the soldier who wore it.
The gas mask “once belonged to Private John G. Tsiatires of C Company 30th Infantry, but somehow came into the possession of Lt. Charles Southgate, Company L 104th Infantry,” according to Maghe.
“He was born in Greece but came to the U.S. and enlisted when the country went to war in 1917. He served in the 30th Infantry in the 3rd Division. On May 30th the 30th Infantry and the U.S. 3rd Division stepped into history after being placed in the line on the Marne River in northern France. On the 14th of July 1918 this area, that the 30th infantry knew so well, would turn into their own personal hell,” Maghe wrote in an email.
“On midnight of the 14th/15th a bombardment of the 30th Infantry’s position began. At 4 a.m. on the 15th the German forces began to cross the Marne under the cover of a smokescreen by using a hastily built pontoon bridge and canvas boats. The men of the 30th had remained in their dugouts during the entire bombardment. The Germans thought that no one could live through the shelling, but the moment the German troops crossed the Marne they encountered heavy resistance along the length of the 30th Infantry’s lines. The 30th Infantry fought off the crossing for three hours and killed or captured many of the Germans making that crossing.
“The regiment’s casualties in the Champagne-Marne Defensive action were 25 officers and 1,400 men. For this action the 30th and 38th Infantry regiments earned the 3rd Division the name to be remembered forever… THE ROCK OF THE MARNE.”
For more information on the "War to End All Wars” exhibit or to set up tours for large groups, call 620-347-4220. Miners Hall Museum, located at 701 S. Broadway St., Franklin, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Museum admission and programs are free, although donations are accepted and appreciated.