WA Ritter to Woodrow Wilson


WA Ritter to Woodrow Wilson


Ritter, W. A.




1918 July 26


President of League of American Patriots of Henry County believes they prevented possible pro-German mob violence.


National Archives and Records Administration 230/06/41 #158260 file #1276


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library




Hon. Woodrow Wilson,
Washington D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

We have read your recent statement relative to lynchings and mob spirit with much interest and we fully agree with all that you have said, and write you at this time because there appeared various statements in the press some three weeks ago relative to an episode in which our league took part. To be brief, a german lutheran preacher had been in the little town of West Hope, a few days after he had taken the opposite side to placing a service flag in his church, some young men placed a flag upon his buggy, while he was in a black smith shop, he took it off, they placed it on the buggy again and he took it off, that night about nine oclock quite a large number of germans began to gather at his residence and the few people of West Hope became frightened because they did not know what they intended doing, they had threatened to clean up the town at an earlier date. About ten oclock I was informed over the 'phone that they were out there with guns and were going to make trouble, about fifty of our members from Napoleon including the sheriff and deputy and several hundred from our branches appeared upon the scene a little before midnight, or rather we gathered within three miles of the house and as president of the league I required all of our members to hold up their hand and I told them we would go out and see what was the matter, that if we saw nothing wrong we would go on past the house and return home. Just as our first machines came up to the house several men were seen to go to an automobile take out some guns and run into the house, all of the others having left or had hidden in the vicinity. I then requested our members to stay on the road while I took a man we had caught, a member of the church and went upon the porch. I instructed this man to ask the preacher what was wrong, but we got no reply from within, and did not try to break in. About this time several were seen to run out of the back door, I took five men and went to the rear, sent eight or ten into a field and the five of us in the rear were fired upon. To cut the story short again, we caught one man in a field, found near him a gun and some amunition, and got a department of justice operative upon the job, who succeeded and in ascertaining the fact that a great many had been there as reported and had their guns with them. He made a statement in the papers that there had been no mob violence in Henry County even upon this night or the following morning. A week later the Federation of Leagues at their Convention passed a resolution commending me and our patriots for the action we took. We believed we prevented trouble that night, and stand ready to do so again or to assist any officer who may call upon us. As the papers stated that five were shot and other numerous erroneous statements our Governor James Cox got the wrong impression, but writes to the Secretary of our Federation of Leagues partly as follows:

"Communication from Mr. Ritter received at the time eliminated any possible misconstruction upon the patriotic work undertaken by the League"
Signed James M. Cox.

Our purpose is to crush pro-germanism in Henry Co. to aid the Administration in every way and we have done a wonderful work, we did not reach one-third of our quota in the first and second Liberty Loans, we then organized and the third Loan was a 200 percent one. We have had nineteen prominent persons to appear before the league and explain why they opposed the loans, Red Cross and the Government, eighteen we found guilty and so notified the public, but now since we have adequate laws we are only seeking the evidence. Mr. President, are we doing wrong?

WA Ritter

[Handwritten note along right margin of p. 2 of this letter reads:] 4400 of our 5800 voters are members. P. G. Prentice whom we voted out of our league for making false reports, F. M Givashner who interfered in the sale of bonds M. Reiser who did the same, L. W. Shultz who took one flap off of an auto. Will write you more.

Original Format





Ritter, W. A., “WA Ritter to Woodrow Wilson,” 1918 July 26, TI00146, Race and Segregation Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.