The Bureau of Investigations, later known as the FBI, was a critical tool for the United States in counterintelligence during World War I, especially after the Espionage Act of 1917. This act was used to stop interference with the military, preventing insubordination in the military, and preventing support of the enemies of the United States during the war. Any person who conveyed information that was intended to interfere with the U.S. war effort or promoting the success of enemies was subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years. In one famous case, Eugene Debs made a speech criticizing the Espionage Act and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. These acts were stopped around the country by the Bureau of Investigations and one occurrence even happened right here in Suffield. In a declassified report from the Bureau of Investigations, the investigating officers detail this occurrence in Suffield. A fairly successful tobacco farmer of West Suffield, CT, Ewald Wever, discouraged many people in his tobacco warehouse not to buy the second Liberty Loans. He told the people that they would just lose their money because soon the Germans would be ruling over the United States. There were at least two people, who before talking to Mr. Wever, wanted to buy the Liberty Loans, but after talking to Mr. Wever, they decided against doing so because of the way that he talked about them. When Mr. Wever was later asked to buy some Liberty Loans, his response was that he had no money. This was obviously not true since it was well known to everyone around he was a quite wealthy man. Our research so far shows that Mr. Wever had a tendency to be pro-German as he was born in Germany before becoming a United States citizen. Once while in Springfield, MA, Mr. Wever refused to stand for the National Anthem until a fellow resident forced him to stand. Mr. Wever’s actions caught the attention of the FBI thanks to a tip from Charles Bissell, who has a strong connection to the Suffield School. The FBI followed up with Mr. Wever and their desired action is unknown.
Based on 1920 Census, Mr. Wever lived in West Suffield, CT, was from Germany and was sixty-two years old. According to an article in the Hartford Courant, the tobacco warehouse that Mr. Wever managed was called the “Kaiser & Boasberg plantation,” which consisted of two warehouses, one where the women sort the shade-grown tobacco and the other where the men sort the Havana seed leaf. He lived with his wife and one of his sons and one of his daughters. The family also had a maid who lived with them, which shows that they were financially strong. While doing research on Mr. Wever through Ancestry.com, it was revealed that he had a total of four children with his wife. We continue to research the family of Mr. Wever and are looking to see if there are any direct relatives of him. We will also look into if Mr. Wever and Mr. Bissell were economic rivals, which may have prompted Mr. Bissell to report Mr. Wever. It was known that Mr. Bissell made money in tobacco, therefore this could give him a reason to report Mr. Wever. As we continue to look into new leads, look into acts of espionage in your own town.