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Here are newspaper clippings and photographs showing the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific wreck located two miles east of Smith Center, Kansas.  The wreck occurred when the Rock Island passenger train No. 7, the Rocky Mountain Limited, was derailed, resulting in three cars being burned and passengers and employees being slightly injured.  It was reported the accident was due to excessive speed over a defective piece of track. The train was traveling about 35 miles an hour when the accident occurred.  The locomotive left the rails and landed in a field.  The cars were dragged with the locomotive, and the large tender was wrenched and twisted. One of the mail cars collided with the tender and the wrecked cars immediately caught on fire and quickly burned.  A mail clerk was quite badly wounded and four others were slightly injured.  Ray Wiggins, engineer, and Will Doleman, fireman, were in charge of the engine and retained their places on the locomotive during the accident.  Wiggins sustained slight injuries by being thrown from his seat.  The fireman Will Doleman is credited with rendering assistance to the injured and extinguishing the fire.

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89th Division personnel office, Camp Funston 89th Division personnel office, Camp Funston

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Feb 4, 2017 by Megan Macken

Private First Class Albert Thompson, Jr.This photograph of Private First Class Albert Thompson, Jr. was taken in a photography studio while he served in France during World War I. In October 1917 the National Army assigned Thompson to the 302nd Stevedore Regiment in Camp Hill, Virginia, but whether he was drafted or volunteered is unknown. The conditions in the camp were very poor--upon arrival they had no shelter, few blankets, three mess kits for every ten men, and nowhere to bathe. Two months later Thompson's unit set sail from Hoboken, New Jersey for France.

In Europe, Stevedore regiments--formed of African American men--provided every variety of manual labor. At the port of Bordeaux, Thompson's regiment loaded and unloaded cargo from ships, reportedly 800,000 tons in one month or 25,000 tons on average per day.

In September 1918 the men of the 302nd were transferred to the 813th Stevedore Battallion of the Transportation Corps, part of the Service of Supply or SOS. Their new duties in "Graves Registration" made light work of their previous stint as dockworkers. The 813th, along with two other black regiments, removed 23,000 decomposing bodies from the battlefields of Romagne, France into the future Argonne National Cemetery.

Military and community leaders back home likened the black troops to Simon of Cyrene, the African who carried Jesus' cross to Golgotha. White American soldiers in France, however, spread word that the African American regiments were sent to remove the dead because the regiments were diseased. By the end of the war it was evident that the latter sentiment, which dismissed the black contribution to the Allied cause, largely prevailed. Black American soldiers were excluded from marching in the Allied victory parade in Paris, although black soliders from France and England took part. Fearing that black soliders would return to the U.S. with radical ideas of equality, military leaders restricted the movements of black soldiers in France. Upon their return home, especially in the south, African American soldiers were stripped of their uniforms, excluded from service organizations, and labeled cowards.

In 1919 Private First Class Albert Thompson, Jr. returned from France to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he died on July 16th of an unknown illness at age 23. He wasn't commended for his service until after he was buried on the 21st of July in Topeka, Kansas. In a large public ceremony on July 30, 1919, Kansas Governor Arthur Capper, Topeka city officials, and African American community leaders honored Thompson and other African American servicemen, particularly of the 92nd Division. Colonel Charles Young, a black West Point graduate, addressed the assembly. In her 1922 letter to the Kansas Historical Society, Thompson's mother, Alice, mentions that her son also received a diploma from France honoring his service and an unspecified memorial from Washington, D.C. 

Further reading:

Barbeau, Arthur E., and Florette Henri. 1996. The unknown soldiers: African-American troops in World War I. New York: Da Capo Press.

"Colored Fighters of 92nd Division Honored by City" in Topeka Daily Capital, Wednesday, July 30, 1919. Accessed February 4, 2017. (Please click here to login first). 

Dalessandro, Robert J., Gerald Torrence, and Michael G. Knapp. 2009. Willing patriots: men of color in the First World War. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History.

Aug 22, 2016 by Megan Macken

We are often asked at the Kansas Historical Society how people can contribute to KansasMemory.org or to the Kansas History Museum. There are many ways to get directly involved in Kansas history.  Unidentified member of the 5th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry

Donate Kansas artifacts to the Kansas Museum of History or State Archives. Curators evaluate artifacts for possible inclusion in the Society's collections but cannot provide estimates.

Loan your items for digitization and preservation in Kansas Memory. Items will be evaluated for possible inclusion in Kansas Memory, and if selected, arrangements will be made to borrow, photograph, and return them.

Help your organization apply for a grant or become a contributing institution on Kansas Memory. Have ideas about connecting your community to Kansas history? Let us know.

Volunteer your time or expertise. Volunteers guide museum visitors, catalogue historic photos, write Kansapedia articles, transcribe handwritten manuscripts. Myriad projects are available depending on volunteer interest.

Become a member of the Kansas Historical Society. Get free admission to the Kansas History Museum and free or discounted admission to hundreds of other museums around the country.

Sound interesting? Get in touch by email at kansasmemory@kshs.org, connect with us on social media, or reach us by telephone at (785) 272-8681. 


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