|Unidentified soldier World War One
in the photo collections of
The Sherburne History Center
The Minnesota Home Guard organized in 1917 after the state National Guard joined the regular army to fight World War One in Europe. With the creation of the Home Guard, Elk River, for the only time in its history, became the headquarters of a military organization. Although the Home Guard receives little attention in the histories of the Minnesota war effort, they provided some significant service to the communities of Sherburne County as well as aid to the state.
The creation of the Minnesota Home Guard originated by the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety. The state organized twenty-three battalions, consisting of over 7,000 men. The Elk River unit became known as Company C of the 12th Battalion. The first step in organizing Company C was the election officers. County Attorney George H. Tyler received the rank of captain, while W. T. Parry and Herbert Imholte were named first and second lieutenants. Following elections, an estimated 60 men from throughout the county, signed up to serve.
Enlistment in the guard required a minimum age of 26. In addition, these men were unpaid volunteers unless called away for extended duty. More often the men were called upon to aid in recruitment drives, bond sales, and disaster relief.
Company C served a vital role in helping fight fires and aid in recovery efforts in northeast Minnesota in the fall of 1918. According to the Sherburne County Star News at least fifty members of the company quickly turned out to provide aid in the crisis.
“People who have been inclined to poke fun at members of the Home Guard of Elk River and Sherburne County have now changed their minds about the efficiency and usefulness of this organization,” the paper opined after the events about the fires and the actions of Company C became known.
Shortly after the fires in northeastern Minnesota, the war ended. At the conclusion of the war in Europe, life in Sherburne County returned to a normal state of affairs. The need for the Home Guard diminished and their function ceased by January 1921. Although the company disbanded, their service and aid to the county remains a mark of pride for Sherburne County.