Owen Historical Society: Find our heroes in the fields

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By Bonnie Strassell

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below ...
“In Flanders Field” is a poem written during World War I by doctor and Lt. Col. John McCrae.
Dr. McCrae witnessed the enormous loss of life on the battlefields of France, and noticed the abundance of red poppies growing among the carnage. Many believe the poem and the resilience of the poppy itself led to the small crimson flower’s example as a symbol of the heroic resolution and actions of soldiers who fought in this war.
During WWI, Company D of the United States 166th Infantry had a tenuous hold on a chateau and surrounding ground in northern France.
A machine gun, manned by the enemy, was discovered hidden among a clump of trees not 500 meters north of the chateau.
It was imperative to drive the enemy from its position and Company D requested permission from their platoon commander to do so.
With only their rifles for protection, these men advanced over open ground and in the face of concentrated enemy fire.
Among this courageous group was Owen countian Frank Ford, who with his company drove the enemy from their position and captured the machine gun.
For his act of bravery, Frank Ford was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
When the United States entered the war in 1917, hundreds from Owen County volunteered their services.
Many are featured in photographs and letters included in a compelling exhibit on WWI now featured at  the Owen County Historical Society Museum.
Please take the time to visit and take a step back in time as artifacts tell the story of a soldier’s life during WWI. 
Posters, shells, helmets, uniforms, cavalry boots, and much more reveal different aspects of this war which was fought to ensure world freedom.
The very young were not the only ones who joined to fight in WWI. Others who were older also offered their services.
One much-loved Owen countian who served in the war as a captain in the Army Medical Corps was Dr. John Hall Chrisman.
He was not only a dedicated doctor in Owen County, but during the war he became a specialist in the treatment of pneumonia. A significant number of soldiers died from the complication of this pervasive illness.
Dr. Chrisman began practicing in Owen County in 1905 and during his 65 years as a doctor delivered 3,771 babies.
There are many stories of Dr. Chrisman’s  determination and fortitude. One such incident occurred when he was making a house call on a patient who lived in Gest opposite Monterey in Henry County.
The Kentucky River was flooded and the skiff ferrying Dr. Chrisman across the water almost upset in the swift current. Dr. John Chrisman showed the same conscientious concern during his war years, and his life reflected his ability and passion for helping his fellow man.
Other stories of Owen countians who fought in WWI are stored in the memories of their families.
 Take the time to share with others these cherished lives of your ancestors. Bring your family to the museum to enjoy not only our new exhibit but to view artifacts of Owen County’s past.
The guest speaker at our historical society meeting tomorrow evening will be Ron Reimer from KRCC. Ron collects old telephones and telegraphs and his program will illustrate the progress of communications. Please join us at 6:30 p.m. for refreshments and 7 p.m. for our program.
   Don’t forget to visit our web page www.owencohistory.com. It contains updates on our programs, a list of our books and publications, and other important information about the historical society. Join us in preserving the history of Owen county. Yearly dues for membership are $25 and can be sent to: The Owen County Historical Society,  206 North Main St., Owenton, KY  40359.