Memories of Camp Cody Weblog

September 26, 2015

Vestige of Camp Cody – Part 2 of 2

Filed under: Camp Cody Deming — Tags: — Michael Kromeke @ 3:37 pm

Major Fred Simonds, contracting quartermaster, recruited Mexican labor at 25 cents an hour for an eight-hour day. A 10-hour shift yielded time and a half for two hours.

The camp’s water requirements amounted to 2 million gallons daily. In the event of fire an auxiliary plant was utilized to pump heavy quantities for short periods. Storage of water was contained in two huge wooden tanks each with a capacity of 100,000 gallons.

As the 34th Division was building itself to full strength in mid-1918, downtown Deming was peaking in its wartime prosperity. There were eight theaters in the traditional business section. A proliferation of billiards parlors, soft-drink establishments, lunch counters and novelty stores dotted the area. Watermelon stands offered the ripe-red fruit, packed in ice. A nickel bought a U-EAT-UM pie with a scoop of ice cream.

War is mankind’s most wasteful enterprise. It is lavish in its execution; it is dissipative in its aftermath. The half-million dollar sewer system in Camp Cody was hardly finished when World War 1 ended. Orders were issued to disconnect and abandon the network. Today, the spillway remains in formidable condition after 80-plus years. As it lies on private property anyone considering a visit to it is advised to request permission from the owners. Guard dogs keep a watchful eye on the area.

Another viable relic of the Camp Cody days lies a little west of North Eighth Street. It is a swimming pool that was used by soldiers. Only the skeletal ruins remain, also on private property. John C. O’Leary will long be know in Deming annals as the one who coined the phrase “Kingdom of the Sun.” In 1918, he was covering the news of the town and camp for the Associated Press. He received word by wire at 1:15 am Monday, November 11 that the armistice was signed.

J.C. rushed to the fire house to arouse the custodians on duty. Soon the fire siren was shattering the midnight silence. Engines in the railroad yard added their blasts to the bedlam. The few automobiles on the streets joined in the din.

The jubilation gathered momentum as half-clad citizens filled the streets, shouting, laughing, crying and waving flags. Before noon, town officials declared a half holiday. A parade formed about 3 pm. Jack Adams of the telephone company sported a car overflowing with pretty girls, while the Harvey House hastily produced a decorative float that was drawn by a black horse.

A group of young muscle men took a truck to the Catholic church under construction on South Ruby and confiscated the huge bell that awaited hanging. Its deep tones added to the jubilant atmosphere.

A crowd gathered at Pine and Gold about 4 pm to listen to Brigadier General James Lindsay, commander of Camp Cody. He was more prophetic than those who hailed World War I as the “war to end war.” The general said, “This is not the last war, nor will nations cease to make war as long as human passions endure. Until the end of time when diplomacy fails, resort must be had to arms.”

So ended a propitious and prosperous chapter in the history of Deming. Although not verified by census count, it was a time when the town was likely, for a short period the most populous in the state.

C.A. “Gus” Gustafson is a historian and free-lance writer. He lives in Deming and has been writing for “Desert Winds” magazine since 1987. – Desert Winds magazine/Fall 1999


September 12, 2015

Vestige of Camp Cody – Part 1 of 2

Filed under: Camp Cody Deming — Tags: — Michael Kromeke @ 5:52 pm

Despite its remoteness and relative small population, the city of Deming has been the stage for an amazing number of events that were memorable locally and pertinent nationally as well.

One of the most notable of these was the establishment Camp Cody on the northwest fringe of the, town in 1917.

The United States declared war on Germany April 6, 1917. With the conscription of men for the Army under way, the existing military post were unable to handle the rapid expansion.

Thirty-two camps were established around the country for training new conscripts. By mid-June, Deming received word it would be the site of one of the camps, and would be named Cody after the famous buffalo hunter.

The encampment was to occupy and greatly expand upon the site of Camp Deming, which had closed only four months before. The latter bivouac was abandoned after Pershing had withdrawn his Punitive Expedition from Mexico.

Construction of Camp Cody began in July 1917 and continued its rapid pace to the end of the year. When work was at its height, a force of 3,000 men were employed. Carpenters received $8.25 per day, while plumbers and carpenter foremen garnered $9.63, A bricklayer foreman earned $11 for a shift.

The military reservation measured 2 ½ miles east and west; 1 ¼ miles north and south. This figures out to about 2,000 acres.

The estimated cost of Camp Cody was a little over $2 million. The buildings consumed 18 million feet of lumber. An analogy was made that if this lumber were converted to board an inch thick and a foot wide, then placed end to end, the expanse would reach from New York City to San Francisco.

Accounts of Camp Cody often state that troop strength was about 30,000. That, of course was for only a brief period of time. When the 34th Division shipped out to Fort Dix in September 1918, the count dropped to around 3,000. Then the formation of the 97th Division began, and numbered around 8,000 at war’s end.

The lament of many visitors to Deming is that there are hardly any physical vestiges remaining from the Camp Cody era. There are a few that are generally not know and little publicized.

Plans for a new sewer system for the camp were approved in June 1918. The structure was such that it began at the west end of Camp Cody and flowed eastward. Adjacent to the Mimbres River, a huge spillway was constructed to complete the disposal process and empty into the river. The large septic tank was approximately 100 feet long and 80 feet wide. It was divided into 12 sections and had a capacity of 2,500,000 gallons. The project cost was an estimated half-million dollars.

The late Dannie Simonds was age 13 at the time and employed as a water boy. He was witness to most of the construction. After the expansive excavation, wooden forms were placed to contain the mixed cement. Simonds estimated that about 100 men at the site were stationed at 4-foot intervals to tamp the concrete.

Other crews were digging trenches and laying tile. Mainline sewers connected latrines and shower baths, while secondary lines serviced the mess halls. Five ditching machines were engaged in the undertaking.

C.A. “Gus” Gustafson is a historian and free-lance writer. He lives in Deming and has been writing for “Desert Winds” magazine since 1987. – Desert Winds magazine/Fall 1999

September 5, 2015

Credit Camp Cody With Being Healthiest Camp In U. S.

Filed under: Camp Cody Deming — Tags: — Michael Kromeke @ 4:16 pm

Deming maintains its lead as the healthiest army camp location in the United States, for the Official Bulletin quotes the surgeon general of the United States as follows, the statement being authorized by the war department: “Camp Cody again has the lowest sick rate of all camps of this group (divisional camps), camps Sevier, Beauregard and Shelby having the highest sick rates. The largest number of new cases of pneumonia reported from a single camp is 13 (Camp Cody).”

At Camp Cody, in addition to the 13 new cases of pneumonia, there were 21 new cases of venereal disease, 17 cases of measles, and no deaths, while the noneffective rate was only 18 per thousand. – El Paso Herald Newspaper – Monday, August, 12, 1918

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