Remembering Ephrata’s fallen

By on November 7, 2018

A familiar sight at the entrance to Grater Memorial Park, this monument was erected to memorialize Ephrata area sevice members who died in World Wars I and II.

Anna Kemper was a young woman who volunteered to be a U.S. Army nurse shortly after the U.S. entered World War I on April 6, 1917.

She began her service on Aug. 15, 1917, and died at Fort Jackson, S.C., a little more than a month later, on Sept. 25. While on active duty, she contracted influenza, as did 650,000 of her countrymen and some 500 million more souls around the globe.

It was history’s most infamous pandemic. Millions, like Kemper — almost a third of the world’s population at the time — died.

Beyond these bare facts, gleaned mostly from the pages of the Ephrata Review, we know little about Kemper. We do know that she is the only woman among a list of 110 names on a monument on the grounds of Ephrata’s American Legion Post #429.

Of those 110 names, 25 belong to local service members who died while on active duty during World War I, including Anna Kemper.

Robert Reynolds, an electrical-mechanical engineering student at Penn State York spent about three months earlier this year studying the World War I names on the monument.

He came to the Ephrata monument at the suggestion of his history professor, Jon Price, who became hooked on history while a student at Ephrata High School.

He has remained in Ephrata and has been curious about the monument since he first paused to actually look at it some years ago after dropping his two children off for swimming lessons at the Ephrata Community Pool.

Reynolds is a U.S. Army veteran who served eight years of active duty. He left the service after deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq took him away from his wife, Melissa, and their son for periods that lasted as long as 15 months.

As a civilian, he used his Army skills to work as an electrician and industrial mechanic for five years before returning to school in pursuit of an engineering degree. Reynolds and his wife are Ohio natives who now live in Red Lion with their two sons.

Price suggested to his student that he might want to complete part of his requirement for a history minor with an independent study project of the Ephrata monument. Reynolds liked the idea and decided to focus on the 25 World War I names.

He wanted the stories behind the names and in the process learned many stories of the times. It’s what historians do, Price told a small gathering at the Ephrata Public Library on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 30. One thing leads to another, to another, to another and that’s how histories are pieced together.

For his project, Reynolds carefully documented his research in a three-ring binder then summarized it in a poster headlined “The Great War and a Pennsylvania Town.”

The poster was the centerpiece of the Ephrata presentation, which was part of the library’s continuing program of outreach to area residents on topics of local interest.

Reynolds used the resources of the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley, which is on West Main Street and includes the Connell Mansion. He also used the website ancestry.com, the facilities of the Lee R. Glatfelter Library at Penn State York, the Lancaster County Historical Society and archived issues of Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine.

He learned that Lincoln Schlott, whose name is on the monument, was killed in action the same day his twin brother earned a Purple Heart. Both were members of Company H in the 30th Infantry. They were together in the same battle, but one twin lived and one died.

He learned that Charles Reemsnyder, the son of a prominent Ephrata doctor, probably didn’t have to go to war, but he enlisted anyway. He served as an infantry officer and is perhaps the only officer named on the monument.

Reynolds’ research uncovered the fact that Reemsnyder’s mother’s maiden name was Winters, and a little more digging revealed the Mrs. Reemsnyder was directly related to Major Dick Winters, the storied hero of the World War II band of brothers saga.

There were things to be learned beyond the battlefields, Reynolds said. Shipping manifests of troops headed overseas often contained the names of a dozen or more men from the same town, assigned to the same unit, who went into battle with their townsmen, friends and relatives by their side. One battle could decimate the 18-45-year-old population of men from a small town.

World War I, like the Vietnam War, was unpopular here at home. That may explain why there was no rush to memorialize Ephrata’s World War I fallen.

One thing he couldn’t quite find out much about was the monument itself. The Legion’s ladies’ auxiliary is named on the monument and obviously responsible for its installation.

The year it was installed, how much it cost, who’s responsible for its repair and maintenance were facts that Reynolds couldn’t pin down.

The Review is looking for anyone who does have knowledge of the monument. If you are that person, and you’d like to share your knowledge, you are invited to contact Dick Wanner at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com, or by phone at 717-419-4703, or by mail at the Review office, 1 East Main St., Ephrata PA, 17522.

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