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This Week in Sapulpa History – Remembering Corporal Roscoe Frye and Others in World War I
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
January, 1918, the Great War. Four men from Sapulpa were selected to become officers in the Army. They were Curt D. Edgerton, Edward M. Lotridge, Ben Braden, and Roscoe Frye. Edgerton and Lotridge were former justice of the peace. Braden was the former assistant county attorney. Frye was the former linotype operator for the Sapulpa Herald.
These men were among the 106 drafted men of the 179th Infantry Brigade, part of the Nineteenth Division comprised of Oklahomans training at Camp Travis. They were selected for “entrance into training camp for officers…The probable strap wearers have been carefully selected from a list of several hundred applicants.”
“Under a rule prescribed by the War Department, ten men in each 100 (or 10%) were allowed to apply to enter the school. Only the best men were selected and only those who had shown promise of becoming officers. Out of this 10%, only 1.7 percent were finally selected.”
March, 1918, the First World War. “Eight hundred thousand men in the so-called second draft [would] be called into service.” The call for 598 Oklahomans were included in the order. The first draft was announced nearly a year earlier.
“By the end of World War I in November 1918, some 24 million men had registered under the selective Service Act. Of the almost 4.8 million Americans who eventually served in the war, some 2.8 million had been drafted.” The first draftees from Sapulpa were: Merle L. Martindale, George Howard Fox, Archie L. Jones, John Denton Braden and Edmund Walker in August 1917.
April, 1918, the War to End All Wars. The Sapulpa Herald listed 43 men who had attended Sapulpa High School who were now in the military. “A service flag in their honor [had] been made and shows the extent to which the high school has done her bit for the government and nation.”
According to the Euchee Alumni Military Veteran booklet, two members of the Euchee school served in World War I. Many students and community members served in the service of the Great War.
July, 1918, World War I. From time to time the Police and Sheriff’s Departments would canvas the town and ask the men in the community, between the ages of 21 to 31, to show their draft cards. On one such sweep, they found 120 men without their cards on them. Only 5 hadn’t been registered. They were then taken to the defense council to explain why they were not registered.
Members of the community contributed and supported the war effort. Later that year, Sapulpa met and surpassed their quota for war bonds. The town earned to have their name honored on an oil tanker.
This week in Sapulpa history, on October 10, 1918, the town learned of the first Sapulpan killed in action of this war. Mrs. P.T. Frye, mother of Corporal Roscoe Frye, received a notice announcing the death of her son. The statement from the Sapulpa Herald read:
“Perhaps the announcing of the death of no soldier could have caused more sorrow or cast more of a gloom over the city than that of Roscoe Frye. A young man, only about 28 years of age, practically reared in Sapulpa and known to almost everyone, that announcement comes with unusual force. His father, the late P.T. Frye, was one of the early school teachers of the county and was the first county superintendent after statehood.
“It was in this office that Roscoe first began his work. Leaving this office, he took up the printer’s trade, which he mastered thoroughly. At the time of his enlistment, he was a member of the local typographical union.
“When the first big bunch of men left Sapulpa on September 20, 1917, Roscoe Frye went with them, having claimed no exemption. He went to Camp Travis with astounding work ethic. He trained new men coming into the camp. He was sent overseas in June of this year.
“The first star in our Service Flag was for him, and the first gold star will be his.*”
*Note: “Son-in-Service” or “Service Banners” or “Service Flags” were small banners hung in windows of the household to the family of those serving in the military of WWI. Families hung a banner in their window with blue stars that indicated how many members of the household were serving in the military during the war. Gold stars indicate a family member in the military that died during the war.
Roscoe’s mother read the notice that was given to her on October 9, 1918. It simply stated her son was killed in action on September 12, 1918. The family sent a letter inquiring about his death. The response from Hubard T. Bowzer, First Lieutenant, 358th Infantry came in December 1918 to Roscoe’s sister, Cynthia:
“‘He was with me on the 12th of September when we went over the top; he stayed with me all day until about 4, when we were returning with about twenty German prisoners. Three German machine guns opened up on us and killed all but two of the prisoners. And it killed all of my men except three. How the remainder of us escaped, no one knows.
“‘Your brother is buried near the little town of Vilcey-sur-Trey, France.*’”
*Note: Vilcey-sur-Trey, France is near the southern border of Luxembourg. The town is approximately 200 miles east of Paris, France.
“‘Today we have the news that the war is over-may God grant it is true, because no one can appreciate the losses and suffering as much as I.’”
The Sapulpa Soldier, Sailor, and Marine Club reorganized and became a part of the newly organized American Legion in May 1919. The new post was named the Roscoe Frye Post.
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.