World War I in La Plata County

conscription headlines

The Selective Service in Washington picked draftees in a lottery-style drawing attended by cabinet members and key congressmen. On July 20, 1917 the first number, #258 was drawn. Those whose numbers were drawn received a notice in the mail to report to the draft board for examination. Exams were held in the district court rooms at the courthouse in the presence of Sheriff John Alexander, Dr. Lingenfelter, John Wingate, and the press. Results of the physicals were published in the localpaper including, height, weight, chest expansion, medical history, and basis of claim for exemption (if any). Eleven of the first 50 who were examined were passed and selected for service.

Durango draft board

Members of the La Plata County Draft Examination Board on the steps of the courthouse.

Exemptions could be granted for physical limitations or to those with jobs critical to the war effort, such as farmers. However no exceptions were granted for professional baseball players! The draft continued through the fall of 1919 when the armistice was declared, however the draft scheduled for November 1918 was cancelled due to the flu epidemic.

New draftees

Three new inductees standing before the courtyhouse. Catalog number: 92.22.184

World War I draftees were a cross section of ordinary, young American men who were, for the first time, asked to serve in a non-American war. Every young man over the age of 18 and under the age of 30 was required to register for the draft. This involved completing a draft card with twelve questions including full name, date and place of birth, race, citizenship, occupation, personal description, and signature. The form was turned in to the local Selective Service Office which assigned a number to each. The local draft office opened on June 8, 1917. La Plata County registered over 800 men. Additional registrations were held periodically throughout the war to register those who had recently turned 18.

Durango draft parade

Members of the Grand Army of the Republic, Civil War veterans, on 12 St. & E. 2nd Ave. as they prepare to march to send new enlistees off to war. Photographer: W.R. Rowland, Catalog number:

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