In July of 1917 Dodge County officially formed a chapter for the American Red Cross. However, the work for Red Cross and the war effort had begun earlier that year when the first of Dodge County men went into the service at Fort Snelling. By the time those men left Minnesota for training in New Mexico they were supplied with an abundance of war comforts prepared by the women of Dodge County who would later make up the work force for the Red Cross. With the help of E. L. Sanford, director of the Dodge County chapter, the women of Dodge County were able to pass every quota the Red Cross had for Dodge County. By the end of the war in 1918 Dodge County had raised forty thousand dollars and supplied soldiers and relief efforts with over twenty thousand articles of clothing, bedding, bandages, etc.
The work of the Dodge County chapter was carried out through five branches under each of which was one or more auxiliaries. The branches took care of the detail of the work, looked after raising the quotas of both work and money and left the chapter officials to look after the management of every factor of the chapter. Each branch of the Dodge County chapter of the Red Cross helped out the war effort tremendously. Branches were at Claremont, Hayfield, Kasson, Mantorville, and West Concord.
In Mantorville, the branch exceeded every allotment of goods or money quota assigned to it during the war. At one Mantorville fundraiser an egg was sold and resold until it had brought in over sixty dollars. The Kasson branch dealt almost exclusively with aiding in the equipment of the Mayo Brothers’ Base Hospital at Rochester. In addition to helping supply the base hospital with bandages and other items, the Kasson branch also helped supply clothing for refugees and war sufferers in France. The West Concord branch was home to the first Junior Red Cross organization in Dodge County. Every teacher and pupil in the school took part in various project to help the effort. Some of these projects include the making of garments, knitting, the gathering of clothing for refuges and the saving of fruit pits.
One project that many Red Cross chapters across America took part in during World War I was the making of Red Cross Signature Quilts. For a one dollar donation, your name was embroidered on to a quilt. Here at the Historical Society we have a quilt that was made by the Concord Farmers Club in 1918 on display and also pictured below (donated by Marilyn Miller of West Concord, MN).
During a visit to the Dodge County Historical Society Museum author Erica Vetsch saw our Red Cross Quilt and was inspired not only to write a book, but to make a quilt of her own. With the help of her sister-in-law, Linda Amrose, Erica made a Red Cross Signature quilt with the names of over three hundred Dodge County World War I Veterans embroidered on it. This quilt can also be seen on display in our museum. A Bride Sews with Love in Needles California by Erica Vetsch is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many other book retailers.
Source for Dodge County information: A History of Dodge County, Minnesota in the World War 1917 – 1919, a Chronicle of the Activities of Soldiers, Sailors, Officials and Citizens.