Tag Archives: Connecticut

Leaving the Killingly Homefront – WWI

In 1914 began one of the most significant wars that happened across the world, World War I. President Wilson had campaigned on the slogan, “He kept us out of the war.” So in 1917, when he declared that the United States would enter the war, he needed to convince the homefront to support the war efforts. He created the Commission on Public Information (CPI) to persuade citizens to support the war. 

M Jacques Baseball KHS

Merrill Clinton Jacques

The activities of the CPI were successful in that there was a massive outpouring of support for the men when they left home for the armed services.

Here is the story of one young man from Killingly, Connecticut, Merrill Clinton Jacques, about the time when he left for the war and the support he received from family and friends. The photograph is of Merrill when he was on the East Killingly baseball team.

From his draft registration card, we learn that Mr. Merrill C. Jacques was a Caucasian male who registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 at precinct 3 in Windham County, CT, USA when he was 25 years old. He was born July 4, 1891 in Killingly, CT. He wasn’t married when he filled out the card.

M Jacques Draft Reg

Draft Registration Card

His physical characteristics were short, medium build, brown eyes, and he was bald. Mr. Jacques worked at White Stone Worsted Company, a cotton mill located in Elmville, CT.  An interesting entry on the card is that in response to the question on prior military experience he stated he had for two years and four months been a private in the C.A.C.

When it was time for Merrill to leave for the war, 75 of his family and friends gathered and gave him a party at his father’s house. There even was a dance! He was given a watch, and Mrs. R.P. Gates wrote him a poem, which was read at the party. The poem is about when you go to the war and you feel lonely, look at the watch and think of us, your family and friends.  Our prayers will be with you “until Merrill returns to us at last.” I found this poem in the Fall 2017 issue of the Killingly Historical Journal.

M Jacques Danielson Depot KHS

Danielson, CT Railroad Depot

The Historical Society has a 1917 photograph of crowds of people at the Danielson train station sending their men off to the war, the same station from which Merrill probably departed.  Merrill survived the Great War and at 50 years old was drafted in World War II. He is buried in the South Killingly Cemetery.

From this research, I Iearned that during the World War I period, the U.S. government wanted to convince people to join and support the war. I believe we need to respect and be grateful for the men who went to war.  If they had not done so, my classmates and I may not be able to come to this school and country to study. Thank You.


“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZFK-X3M : 13 March 2018), Merrill Clinton Jacques, 1917-1918; citing Windham County no 16, Connecticut, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,570,495.

“When Leaving for World War I.”  Killingly Historical Journal. Fall 2017. Volume 23. Page 10.

Coolidge, Natalie L., and Robert A. Spencer. Images of America. Killingly. Arcadia, 1999.

Photo Credits:


Picture of Merrill C. Jacques. Photo courtesy of Killingly Historical Society.
Picture of Killingly Railroad Depot. Coolidge, Natalie L., and Robert A. Spencer. Images of America. Killingly. Arcadia, 1999.

Connecticut Before and After The Great Migration

During the 1910’s and 1920’s, African Americans participated in the Great Migration, and Connecticut served as a safe area where “Negroes” migrated to after leaving southern areas, such as, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, according to our research. This historic event changed Connecticut’s landscape forever and was etched into history as “The Great Migration.” While Georgia was the main area that most of the African American people migrated from, other states such as Florida and Virginia also saw a large decrease in African American population during this time. Other Caribbean countries like Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Virgin Islands also had populations that were part of the Great Migration as most of their population was dispersed throughout the northern states in the US, with Connecticut being one of the most popular. This information can be tracked by comparing the 1920 US Census to the 1910 US Census. A census is defined as, “an official count or survey of a population, typically recording various details and statistics of all individuals inside the US.” The 1920 census shows a bar graph of the increase of the African American population in the northern and western states between 1910 and 1920. The north saw a 26.6% increase in their African American population as it changed from a mere 16.7% to a whopping 43.3%. The total amount of African American’s in the northern states in 1920 was 1,472,309. Connecticut counted for 21,046 naturally born African American citizens, and the Hartford region alone counted for 4,199 of that total population. The 1920 census does not list individual cities and towns, but instead graphs the regions of the state. This means that all Suffield information and statistics are included in the Hartford region of the bar graphs.

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*Graph from the 1920 census showing the population of Negroes in the Northern states during this time*

Censuses also list other valuable information besides just the populations of specific areas. When government officials are asking for information for the census, they also ask questions like, “What is your average source of income?” Due to the effect of the Great War, Connecticut actually saw a dramatic increase in their salaries and wages between 1914-1919. This was largely due to the fact that industrial changes needed to be made in order to accommodate the production needed for the war. From the information that government officials receive from the census, they are easily able to calculate other valuable information just from the population. For example, they are able to tell the difference in gender varying from state to state. In the US as a whole, there were more female African Americans than there were male African Americans, specifically 5,253,695 people to 5,209,436 people respectively.

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*Graph from the 1920 census showing the population of Negroes in Connecticut regions during this time*

When researching the 1920 census in Suffield, I took the time to target individual people, specifically African Americans who migrated from southern states to Suffield, CT. Two of the people that I found, Virginia Rice and Barbara Jesse, were originally born in Georgia and then migrated to Virginia, before meeting with the same family that claimed them and brought them to Suffield. Interestingly enough, the family that claimed Virginia Rice and Barbara Jesse in 1920 was the headmaster at Suffield Academy, Hobart Truesdell. Virginia Rice is listed as a servant in the 1920 census meaning she worked for the headmaster presumably performing whatever duty for which she was tasked with; perhaps she was a maid. Barbara Jesse is listed as a boarder in the 1920 census, which is strange because a boarder is usually as student and it is uncommon for a student to be living in the headmaster’s house, especially if she was attending the Suffield School. This could be some sort of scholarship type reward or based off a distant family connection to the headmaster. I will continue to investigate her situation more.