the peak of another war ninety years ago, a small East Texas sawmill
town made a statement about American soldiers being killed in a
Angry over Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany for sending soldiers to France
and killing Americans, sawmill workers at Oakhurst
in San Jacinto
County gathered to burn an effigy of Wilhelm in front of a local
In an era when people seldom did anything so drastic, it was a memorable
event to eight-year-old Iva Arden, the daughter of Richard and Julia
of Snowtown, a community near Oakhurst.
Richard was a train repairman and Julia ran a restaurant in Snowtown.
One morning, as Iva walked to Oakhurst
to pick up the family's mail and, she noticed something that frightened
her. She ran to the post office, where the postmistress tried to
"What's wrong," she asked Iva. "Who hung the scarecrow in front
of the sawmill church?," asked Iva.
"Why, Iva, that's no scarecrow," said the postmistress, "Bob Andrews
(who worked for the lumber company) hung an effigy of the Kaiser
on the pole. You must come tonight and see Bob burn the Kaiser."
That night, Iva and her sister Etta went into Oakhurst.
As they neared the church, Iva clasped Etta's hand. They could see
the arms and legs of what appeared to be a person dangling in the
A rope harness was tied around the body and fastened to a well pulley
so the body could be drawn up and down. A black hat hid the effigy's
face from view. On the ground, beneath the effigy, was a pile of
The mill company's preacher opened the program with a prayer, followed
by a song, "The Yanks are coming. The Yanks are coming over there."
The crowd applauded vigorously.
John Niederhofer talked about the Germans and how they were killing
American boys in France. For most Americans, it was the first time
they knew of American soldiers dying in a war far removed from their
"We will win
this war," concluded Niederhofer. The crowd applauded.
the effigy, Bob Andrews drenched it from top to bottom with kerosene,
and again raised it into the air. The cluster of cardboard boxes
on the ground were also soaked with kerosene.
In one swift move, a lighted match was tossed on the boxes and,
as flames shot into the evening air, Andrews lowered the effigy
to the flames. In a few minutes, the effigy of the Kaiser was burned
to a crisp.
Oakhurst residents, seemingly satisfied they had done something
to support American boys in far-away France, applauded vigorously.
The next morning, Iva Arden went back to the scene to shoot a photograph
of what was left of the Kaiser, but Andrews had removed the debris.
In its place, American flag and Confederate flags were flying in
the morning breeze. Iva snapped a photo of the scene--and kept it
for years to remind her of the day the Kaiser was burned in effigy.
With America's help, Germany lost the war and an Armistice was signed
in 1918. The Kaiser fled to Holland, where his sister lived, and
spent his remaining days in exile.