Wednesday, April 5, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: April 5

April 5, 1917 – Mrs. Ida May Riley, a widow of Elk River, Minn., 55 years old, is no slacker. She is also no pacifist. She has three sons of military age and today she took these three sons to the railroad station at Elk River, kissed them goodbye and sent them to Uncle Sam with only one regret, that her one boy who stayed at home was three years too young to serve with his older brothers.

The Riley brothers, brawny and red-haired, appeared at the Naval Recruiting Station downtown Minneapolis today, and all were accepted. This evening they were on their way to the Great Lakes Training Station. They are William J., 27 years old, Nels G., 26 years old, and Frank B., 18 years old.

Navy Recruiting Post1

The Riley brothers were born with a fighting strain, their mother said today, and will uphold the family tradition.  “My father served four years in the union army and my husband also served in the Civil War,” she said. “With that example to follow, I felt that if the country needed my sons, it would have them and I didn’t need to urge them to go. My husband died when the oldest child was 16, and there were nine in all, five girls and four boys, and all of them are living. I am glad the navy accepted all three of the boys. I wish my youngest could help the country, too.

In a letter of thanks and congratulations to Mrs. Riley, Lieutenant James D. Wilson, in charge of the recruiting station, said: “This nation will never die while it has mothers of your type. While we all hope that nothing will happen that will involve this country in the terrible conditions that exist in Europe today, you can be assured that the only thing that will prevent that condition is the fact that there are such mothers as you and such sons as yours.”

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Minnesota Mother Offers Nation Three Sons—Mourns That Fourth Is Too Young. Fifty-five-Year-Old Irish Widow Adjures Boys to Emulate Father and Grandfather, Veterans of the Civil War—Recruiting Officer Sends Thanks.”; April 6, 1917; p. 1.


Photo taken by Pamela J. Erickson. Released into the public domain April 5, 2017, 
as long as acknowledgement included.


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