Trench warfare came into use during The Great War, as World War I was called until 1939. The Slater Area Historical Association now has on exhibit “The Great War — Slater and Story County in World War I,” in which Slater soldier Simmie Winsett writes home describing digging down 25 feet to create a trench and whole room below the surface to protect his officers. SAHA’s exhibit is a comprehensive description of the war at home and “Over There,” using soldiers’ letters, mementos from Slater resident, and newspaper clippings of the era to recount life at home with its tragedies and its patriotism.
Going “over the top” meant coming out of the safety of the trenches and crossing no man’s land to attack the enemy. It was the most dangerous thing a soldier could do and the exhibit displays the story of Tillet Torgerson, a young soldier from Slater who went over the top 19 times, facing death, before finally being shot and wounded. In a letter, Tillet describes witnessing the death of his close friend, Obed Folgero, another Slater boy, just a few months before.
The trenches were called “open graves” by the soldiers. Just like any ditch, they collected water and were seas of muck. The soldiers came down with trench foot, which could kill with gangrene if not cared for.
The Great War is on exhibit through 2017 and into 2018. Heritage Hall Museum is open 10-2 on Thursdays, and 6-8 on Wednesday evenings through summer and early fall. Or you can call 515-480-9789 or 515-228-3293 for an appointment to view. Docent tours are available. Heritage Hall Museum is at 318 First Ave., Slater.