Curt Libbra, managing editor of the Highland News Leader, and I were discussing the USS Finland, the ship that brought Edmund Matter Jr. of Highland home from his Army of Occupation duties following World War I. I speculated that the ship had probably been captured during the war from Finland, but I was mistaken.
We found out that the SS Finland was an American-flagged ocean liner built in 1902 for the Red Star Line. During World War I, she was commandeered for use as a military transport.
Before her Navy service, she was USAT Finland, as she had been in the service of the United States Army when America entered into World War I in April 1917. She made five transatlantic runs under Army control, ferrying troops to Europe. On the return portion of her third voyage, Finland was torpedoed by a German submarine, U-93, but was able to return safely to port.
In April 1918, Finland was transferred to the U.S Navy and commissioned as the USS Finland. She completed an additional five voyages to Europe, carrying almost 13,000 troops. After the Armistice, she returned more than 32,000 troops to the United States, including Edmund Matter.
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She was decommissioned by September 1919, but returned to International Mercantile Marine, resuming her original name of SS Finland. She served on New York-to-Europe routes until 1923, then steamed on New York-San Francisco service. She was scrapped in 1928.
Now, here’s some more on what was happening in Highland during World War I.
Nov. 23, 1916
Mr. Kreider of Collinsville opened a first class blacksmith shop in Grantfork.
Adolph Bellm of rural Highland purchased an 80-acre farm of Fritz Hug Sr. at the rate of $139.50 per acre.
A test was made at the Stocker gravel pit, north of Highland, just east of the Bargetzi Lake, to see how much water could be obtained from the gravel pit supply, a few feet below the pit. A pump was put in place, a meter attached to the pipe. It showed that 250,000 gallons could be pumped every 24 hours.
The Highland Store Co., for Thanksgiving, shipped 300 geese to St. Louis in a single day.
The Helvetia Milk Condensing Co. distributed a 100 turkeys among their employees for Thanksgiving. It was their annual custom.
Martin Pinhock, the popular basket maker of Grantfork, died from the effects of burns when his clothing caught on fire.
Otto Frieberg had conducted the saloon, known as the Vestibule Saloon, on the east side of the Square for two years, then sold to Fred Neumann.
The Helvetia Milk Condensing Co. at the stockholders annual meeting proposed to vote on the proposition to increase the capital stock from $50,000 to $4 million at the company’s annual stockholders meeting.
Dec. 7, 1916
Henry Hediger’s Place was a saloon at 1000 Laurel, served an opossum lunch, with oyster dressing, which was liberally patronized. (The saloon was originally Crownover’s Store, then Fred Pauley’s Saloon, before it became Hediger’s. After many changes, it became Owen “Buster” Browns’ Candlelight Café-Lounge. Today, it’s Mark Voegele’s Marx Brothers Lounge.)
Kaufman School of Saline Township, just north of Highland, had a small fire. Some damage was done to the school building.
Jan. 4, 1917
Christ P. Baumann, who owned the saloon at 1013 Broadway, and family moved into their new residence on East Broadway. (Today, we would say, “at the northeast corner of Broadway and Zschokke,” as today East Broadway goes beyond Iberg Road. C.P. operated his saloon, just east of the Square on Broadway. Later, this bar was called Broadway Tavern and today, Broadway Bar and Grill at 1013 Broadway. Thanks, Carl Baumann.)
The SSSS Club elected the following officers: Ed “Doc” Schnurr, president; Charles Vetter, vice president; Gus Vaupel, secretary; A. L. Moser, treasurer; and Jacob Gutzler, guard.