About The Treaty of Versailles

My Grandfathers Farm, Rossville Indiana, painted by him – Floyd R. Wagoner, circa 1972

When I was 12, my grandfather gave me a diary he had kept through the year 1918. He was 23 that year, managing a farm by himself and supporting his mother and six younger sisters. His father had abandoned the family. As head of the household, he was not drafted into the army. As a committed member of an Anabaptist pacifist church, he did not volunteer, as many people he knew did. But he followed the news of the war closely.

The diary is composed of war news, weather, family events, farm notes and beginning in October 1918, lists of those who died of Spanish Flu. It’s a bleak document that made a huge impression on me. From the first time I read it I have been fascinated by that war and its disastrous aftermath – which rains shrapnel on our world to this day.

I had family on both sides of WWI and WWII, civilians and soldiers of at least three armies. Some survived the wars and some did not. We all had family who died of Spanish Flu – even if they have been nearly all forgotten. Any time I enter an old cemetery in the US or Europe I am alert to dates of death and the ages of the dead. You can always tell. For the flu it was nearly always October or November 1918. Most were young. Covid, to me, has not been a surprise, rather a familiar – if unwelcome – visitor. The parallels to 1918 are striking.

I have a theory that one’s personal links to history go back as far as the lifespan of the oldest person you knew well. You can touch that. Farther back it’s all academic. I also have ancestors who fought in the Napoleonic Wars but that’s not personal – I didn’t know them. WWI, WWII, the Spanish Flu, those connections are personal. That’s what this group of pictures is about.

Diary of Floyd Raymond Wagoner, Rossville Indiana, October 1918