Chillicothe, Ohio, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Region of America played a huge role during World War I. After the United States entered the “Great War” in April 1917, the country realized it was not fully prepared for the war effort. This resulted with the government creating a system in training troops. Construction began on Camp Sherman in Chillicothe in July 1917 with the first recruit arriving in September 1917. The quaint, emerging city with roughly a population of around 16,000 soon found itself with an influx of 40,000 personnel and the third largest training camps in the United States. The expanse of the training camp encompassed over 2,000 acres dedicated to training soldiers for World War I.
Moving forward one-hundred years to 2017, Chillicothe will be welcoming guests into the community for the commemoration of Camp Sherman. Camp Sherman Days is a nine-day event that will offer visitors the opportunity to explore the impact of the Camp beginning July 1st through July 9th.
Many of the community’s attractions and social organizations will be hosting events to compliment Camp Sherman Days. This includes Veterans Appreciation at “Tecumseh!” Outdoor Drama, Chillicothe Paints baseball game, Adena Mansion & Gardens providing an ice cream social, VFW hosting a steak dinner, and the Chillicothe Kiwanis Club offering a pancake breakfast.
In addition to these special activities, there will be daily exhibits available to tour and explore regarding Camp Sherman’s history. The Ross County Heritage Center offers a permanent exhibit on Camp Sherman and has included a special, temporary exhibit to showcase the Camp’s history in Chillicothe for this event. The Pump House Center for the Arts is presenting their July exhibition centered around the artwork of Camp Sherman.
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park will be hosting a complete overview of the history of Camp Sherman. As the Camp damaged many of the prehistoric earthworks created by the Hopewell Culture over 2,000 years ago. Following the end of WWI, as the camp began dismantling its buildings, the restoration work began on these earthworks and are now protected by the National Park Service. As part of the centennial, the National Park will be offering exhibits that include artifacts and memorabilia from the site.
The Majestic Theatre not only was an entertainment outlet for Camp Sherman but also served as a facility for the city and Camp during the Spanish Flu outbreak. The theatre will be participating in the centennial commemoration by hosting a special Vaudeville performance, and a movie night showing of the 1941 film, “Sergeant York”.
One of the main events of the centennial will be the Living History Encampment. This is a rare event – a World War I living history demonstration. Visitors will be able to see authentic camp and tent displays, drill practices, live fire demonstrations at the original Camp Sherman Rifle Range, as well as many other living history activities. Plans also include a WWI antique show and other period vendors. This part of the event will take place on an active Ohio National Guard facility that is located at the base of Chillicothe’s Mount Logan on the original part of Camp Sherman used as the rifle range.
As the Camp was decommissioned and the buildings were disassembled, materials salvaged were used to build homes throughout Chillicothe. The only remaining building of nearly 2,000 structures at Camp Sherman is the former library. Burton E. Stevenson established the library at Camp Sherman which allowed for national efforts to model other libraries off the Camp Sherman Library. Stevenson became the director of the Chillicothe public library. In 1918, he founded the American Library in Paris and 12 years later he became the European director of the American Library Association’s Library War Service. The Chillicothe Ross County Public Library will be offering an exhibit on Burton E. Stevenson during Camp Sherman Days for his efforts on the library system in Chillicothe and abroad.
Additional details of the history of Camp Sherman can be found online at www.CampShermanDays.com. Visitors can also obtain more information about Ross County, Camp Sherman Days, and other events happening in the area by contacting the Ross-Chillicothe Convention & Visitors Bureau online at www.VisitChillicotheOhio.com or by phone at (800) 413-4118.