Today I’d like to introduce you to one of Northfield’s servicemen during World War I.
Arthur Newton Persons was born November 26, 1891 to Newton and Phebe Persons in Waterford. He attended Carleton College, graduating in 1915. He registered for the draft alongside his fellow Northfield citizens after the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917. On June 25, 1918, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
He spent the rest of the summer training at Camp Grant in Illinois, and we have recently digitized a large collection of letters that he received during that time from his family – including his mother – and friends – including Cecile Sletten, who became his wife in 1922. Selections of these letters, along with his war record from the Rice County Historical Society, will soon be uploaded to the Northfield History Collaborative‘s website.
Despite repeated pleas from his mother to choose a “safe” clerking job – which he could easily have done, since he was a banker – Arthur was assigned to a Machine Gun company in the 55th Infantry, Seventh Div., and shipped overseas in September of 1918. His unit served in France during the Puvenelle defensive October 21 through November 9, 1918 and the Puvenelle offensive November 9 through November 11, 1918, when the war was officially declared over.
Arthur and his unit did not just return home that November, however. He stayed in France with the American Expeditionary Forces until June of 1919.
Our records don’t tell us what exactly he did there from November 1918 through June 1919, but it doesn’t appear to have been very strenuous. In her closing remarks to Arthur, his future wife Cecile writes that she hopes he is enjoying himself. Not exactly what you might expect from war correspondence, right?
In any case, after his honorable discharge June 27, 1919, Arthur returned to his life in Northfield. He became head cashier at the Northwestern State Bank for many years prior to his retirement. He was a member of the American Legion Post No. 84 and a member of the Last Mans Club. He was a 50 year member of the Masons and a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church. He died May 16, 1982. His records, and those of his family, are preserved at the Northfield Historical Society. We are very glad that now many of them can be digitized and shared more widely!