The History of Camp Zachary Taylor — Part 1

Next summer, in June of 2017, “Camp Zachary Taylor” will be celebrating it’s 100th Anniversary. The World War 1 Cantonment, and now neighborhood in Louisville KY, was built in the summer of 1917, and survived for three years until it was closed shortly after the war ended. Over the next year, and leading up to the anniversary of the Opening Day of the camp, we will be posting stories about how the camp came to be located in Louisville, Kentucky.

I will be talking about the events that led up to Louisville being selected as the location for one of the 16 new camps built in the United States. I will delve into the details of the political maneuvering, bidding and negotiating by the city leaders to win the project. We will be talking about the people who passed through it, some on their way to success, and some of the regular soldiers, who felt duty bound to fight for their country. We will look into the people who volunteered in various capacities to help keep the installation running, and many other topics related the history of Camp Zachary Taylor.

(photo above) Review of The 84th Division at Camp Zachary Taylor, photo taken 11-10-1917 in the Maneuver Field (On the land of the Standiford’s homestead, looking north – Henry Phillips homestead house in background).

This astronomical construction project was conceived, drawn and built (and substantially complete) in 69 calendar days. It was turned over to the Construction Quartermaster 80 days after the first board was cut. The Main Camp covered nearly 4000 acres and contained 1787 buildings. The artillery range was an additional 16,000 acres. The initial cost was $7, 041,400.00. However, the army continued construction during the three years of occupation. On January 1, 1919, the total expenditures for construction topped out at over $8,800,000.00 .

Work Begun 6-23-17

(photo above) Construction of first Barracks at Camp Zachary Taylor, June 1917.

Camp Knox was originally part of Camp Taylor, and served as the training branch for the Field Artillery that was stationed at Camp Taylor. It’s existence today is due to it’s connection to Camp Taylor. We will be covering the history of this relationship later in this series. Check back as we post more stories over the next year. I also welcome inquiries about Camp Taylor, and invite anyone to submit questions to us. We can be reached at EMail Us

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copyright 2016, Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society

General Pershing – Born on this date : September 13, 1860

One Hundred and Fifty Six years ago, September 13, 1860, the commander for the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during World War 1, General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, was born in Laclede, Missouri. He graduated from West Point in 1886, and fought during the Indian Campaigns as a cavalry officer from 1886 to 1891.

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General Pershing c. 1918

From 1891 to 1898, Lt. Pershing instructed tactics at both the University of Nebraska and West Point Military Academy. During the Spanish-American War, he fought with the Tenth Cavalry and the years following the war, he became the Chief Ordinance Officer and rose to the rank of Major. Major Pershing served in the Philippines from 1903 to 1906. In that same year, Pershing was promoted to the rank of General by then President Theodore Roosevelt.

pershing General Pershing, France c. 1918

As General, he governed the Moro Provinces of the Philippines, and during that time was commander during the Battle of Bagsag, July 12, 1913.

In 1915, General Pershing was dealt a great blow to his family, with the deaths of his wife and three daughters. The fire that took them, spared his only son (Warren) who was six years old at the time.

In 1916, he led the expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. Later that year he was made a Major General. In 1917, he was given the command of the AEF, and in October of 1917, was made a full general.

The following link is a recording of General Pershing’s short speech to the American people, recorded in France on April 4, 1918, asking for their support in the war. This Audio is available from the National Archives. Below is the transcription of this recording.

“Three thousand miles from home, an American Army is fighting for you. Everything you hold worthwhile is at stake. Only the the hardest goals can win against the enemy we are fighting. Invoking the spirits of our forefathers, the army asks your unblinking support to the ends, that the high ideals for which America stands may endure upon the earth.”

Gen. John J. Pershing was the supreme commander of American Forces during World War 1, and at the conclusion of The Great War, General Pershing was promoted to “General of the Armies”. Although this post was previously only held by Gen. George Washington, Pershing, nor any other US General could be ranked equal to General Washington.

General Pershing retired in 1924, and passed away on June 15, 1948, at the age of 87. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.

10,000 Soldiers Spell Out Camp Zachary Taylor

Of the dozens of photographs taken at Camp Taylor, one that is somewhat popular, is photo #678, taken by Simes and Campbell, of Louisville Kentucky. This iconic photograph was taken on September 15th, 1918, and it used over 10,000 soldiers of the 159th Depot Brigade, to form the letters. This newspaper article featuring the event, has a handwritten note on it which says, “Olon was in the photo, and he helped to form the letter”C”, Keep it Please”.


They creatively used light and dark clothing to enhance the letters, which allowed them “stand out” from the background.

The photo was taken in an area known as “Renfro Field”. It was named after a nearby market, Renfro Station, that was located near the railroad tracks that bisected Camp Taylor. Renfro Field was also used as a makeshift airport for Curtis JN-4 (Jenny), and other small military airplanes. There were never any aircraft stationed at the Camp, but a week after this photo was taken, 20 airplanes arrived at Camp Zachary Taylor from the Wilbur Wright Field at Dayton, Ohio, to give exhibition flights. The airplanes stayed for a week, and were parked on Renfro Field.

It was noted that an “Armed Detail” would be dispatched around the clock to “Prevent curio seekers and souvenir hunters from taking away parts of the planes, as mementos of the world war.”

Curtis JN-4 Jenny at Camp Zachary Taylor c.1918

Naturalization Tree Monument Relocation is now complete.

In September of 2015, the Naturalization Tree Monument was relocated from it’s original installation and moved to nearby Camp Zachary Taylor Park, which is one block west of Poplar Level Road and Taylor Avenue. The plan was to have signage placed near the monument so visitors would be able read about the monument and it’s history.

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2016-04-19 13.11.44

The signage was installed April 19th, 2016, and a thank you goes out to Louisville Metro Park’s Marty Storch, and Metro Councilman Pat Mulvihill for making this entire project happen.

Veterans Day – Wednesday, November 11, 2015

This Wednesday, November 11, 2015, will make the 97th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War 1. The event was commemorated every year as Armistice Day. Today we know it as Veterans Day.

The City of Louisville will be hosting a Veterans Day Parade in downtown Louisville this Wednesday at 11:00. The parade will be on Main Street with the review stand at 6th and Main. You can read more about it here.

Veterans Day Parade – Louisville 2015

Here are some pictures from previous years parades.

















The Naturalization Tree Monument Re-Dedication Ceremony September 20, 2015


On Sunday, September 20th, 2015, Metro Councilman Steve Magre will be presenting the Re-Dedication Ceremony for The Naturalization Tree Monument in Camp Zachary Taylor Park in Louisville Ky.

Nat Tree Monument Sign lo-res This sign will be installed at the Monument’s new location. The soldiers in this image are Foreign Born Men of the 23rd Company, 159th Depot Brigade, who were granted US Citizenship at Camp Zachary Taylor. They are proudly wearing full combat gear, standing in front of The Naturalization Tree, the symbol of their new citizenship.

The Naturalization Tree at Camp Zachary Taylor, was a sprawling North American Ash Tree that once stood along Lee Avenue, near Grove Avenue. It stood approximately 300 yards from where the Monument is in now located at 1630 Taylor Avenue. It was a mature ash tree that stood for many decades after the Monument was placed, but unfortunately, was struck by lightning and taken down. All that remains is the marker, which was erected by The Daughters of the American Revolution, and formally dedicated on November 11, 1921.

The Congressional “Act of 1862” permitted “Any Alien of the age of 21 and upwards, who has enlisted, or may enlist in the armies of the United States during war time, upon honorable discharge shall be admitted to become a citizen of the United States”. At the onset of the United States entering World War 1, Congress passed the Naturalization Act of May 22, 1917, which amended the 1862 law to read “Any Alien who may under existing law, become citizens of the US with 1 year of Military Service”. The preceding requirement was 4 years’ service. However, it specifically excluded this right to all those of Asian descent.

The “Act of May 9, 1918” again amended the law to “provide immediate naturalization of alien soldiers as US citizens upon enlistment“, and was expanded to include Filipino and Porto Rican nationals. It was not until “The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1953” that all Asian’s were granted this right.

On Wednesday, October 2, 1918, 400 alien soldiers at Camp Zachary Taylor, swore allegiance to the United States. The ceremony that granted these men citizenship to the United States of America, took place under the crown of the mature ash tree on the slope of Flag Hill. Seventeen nationalities were represented that day.

bildeA swearing in ceremony under The Naturalization Tree, 1918

Gilmore Jacob Gayle, a native of Kingston Jamaica, was one of those individuals who received citizenship that day. He was a citizen of Great Brittan, a graduate of the University of Illinois, and was fluent in several languages. He was the first black man to be sworn in as a US Citizen at Camp Zachary Taylor. Gayle was a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Training School (FACOTS) that was being conducted at Camp Zachary Taylor.

Shortly after his naturalization as a US citizen, Gayle received a commission in the 814th Pioneer Infantry Division (AKA The Black Devil’s) at Camp Zachary Taylor.

From October 2, 1918 to October 12, 1918, three ceremonies were held where 2365 soldiers took the oath of citizenship. Approximately 4000 soldiers were eventually naturalized at Camp Zachary Taylor in 1918. Of the 546,490 foreign born nationals who were granted citizenship in the USA from 1918-1920, 244,300 became United States citizens while enlisted in the US armed forces.

NYT Naturalization Tree-1

In January 1921,The Naturalization Tree was one of 10 tree’s inducted into the American Forestry Association’s “Tree Hall of Fame“. On January 14, 1921, the New York Tribune printed a full page article describing all 10 trees. It stated that The Naturalization Tree was selected because “more aliens have taken the oath of allegiance under its branches than under other tree in the world“. The tree certainly was famous across the US following WW1.

We take great pride in announcing this re-dedication ceremony 94 years after it was first dedicated. The ceremony starts at 4:30, and other activities are planned after the re-dedication. Thanks to everyone involved who helped to make this possible.

Julian Bond, 3rd Generation Civil Rights Activist Passes Away

With great sadness, I learned today that Julian Bond had passed away yesterday at the age of 75. #47 Julian-Bond

I had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Bond on a couple of occasions, via eamail, several years ago while researching his his grandfather, Dr. James Bond.I have read several of the main stream media reports on Julian Bond’s passing, but no one has mentioned the remarkable linage of the Bond Family. Julian Bond was a remarkable person. His accomplishments were way beyond what I could ever hope to achieve, and those accomplishments were built on the success of his father (Horace Bond) and grandfather’s (James Bond) work. The contribution that this family has made to the fight for racial equality cannot be rivaled. Here is short essay about the Bond family.

J Bond Newspaper Photo

James Bond, who was born a slave in 1863 Kentucky, and later graduated from Berea College to become a successful teacher and minister.

James Bond, grandfather of Julian Bond, was an 1892 graduate of Berea and later served as a College Trustee from 1896 – 1914. During his career he was pastor at churches in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia and was a professor at Fisk University. As financial secretary of Berea he was a principal figure in raising money for Lincoln Institute, a school initiated by Berea College in 1910 after Kentucky’s Day Law denied African Americans the right to attend Berea, and served as Lincoln’s first financial agent when it opened in 1912. His children, including the late Horace Mann Bond, Julian Bond’s father, attended Lincoln Institute. As a Rosenwald Foundation fellow, H. M. Bond conducted research used by the NAACP in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case. Horace Bond went on to earn a doctorate and was a distinguished educator serving as president of two colleges and later as dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University.

Dr. James Bond, a Kentucky champion of education in the latter part of the 19th century, and the early part of the 20th, became a successful teacher and minister. He taught African American soldiers to read and write at Camp Zachary Taylor while working for the YMCA in Louisville.

James Bond was born a slave in Woodford County, Kentucky in the year of 1863 near Lawrenceburg. His mother, Jane Arthur and their family were emancipated two years later at the end of the Civil War.

In 1879, James was enrolled in school in Berea, and in 1886, entered Berea College and graduated in 1892 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He was one of only 2000 African Americans with a college degree in the United States at that time. He also served as a Berea College Trustee from 1896 to 1914.

He later enrolled in Oberlin College in Ohio and studied ministry, graduating with a Bachelors Degree of Divinity in 1895, and his Doctorate from Berea in 1901. He later became the pastor of church in Birmingham, Alabama, and later assumed the position of Pastor at The Howard Congregational Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He then joined the teaching facility as a professor at Fisk Theological Seminary.

While in Nashville, Dr. Bond became an out spoken advocate for the repeal of laws that enforced segregation in the city in the late 1890’s. His work in this endeavor gained him great respect among the African American community in Kentucky and the surrounding states.

In 1906, Dr. Bond returned to Kentucky where he worked as the financial secretary at Berea and was later the main influence behind the creation of the Lincoln Institute, an all African American School built near Shelbyville, Kentucky.

The Lincoln Institute was founded in 1909 due to the “The Day Law”, which was written and directed specifically at Berea College. The interracial college was the target of the times, where in whites focused on removing all the African Americans from the college. The Day Law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1904, and mandated the segregation of all higher educational institutions.

Dr. Bond and Mr. Kirke Smith joined the campaign to raise the funds necessary to build a new school for the African American students put out by the finding. Dr. Bond and Mr. Smith were instrumental in securing a $200,00.00 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, and along with contributions from other individuals, they raised the $400,00.00 necessary to start the school.

After many legal battles, and some violence from people opposed to the construction of an all black school in Shelby County, Ky, the construction began in 1911 and the first students were enrolled in October of 1912.

Dr. Bond worked at the Lincoln Institute as the financial director until 1917, when the outbreak of World War 1 took the United States into new territory. Br. Bond had volunteered for the Chaplains Corp, but due to his age (54), he was not accepted for active duty. However his service was far from unneeded. He was offered a position of the Service Director for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) at Camp Zachary Taylor.

James Bond YMCA Protrait small Dr. James Bond at Camp Zachary Taylor 1918

Dr. Bond worked with the United States Army, and through the services provided by the YMCA, which had seven facilities at various places in the camp, he organized and taught literacy and writing classed to African American soldiers. The YMCA Services Program also included counseling, emergency services and recreation for the men stationed there.

After the War ended, Dr. Bond was appointed Kentucky Secretary for the black YMCA’s. He also held the position of Kentucky Director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. While working for the YMCA and the state of Kentucky, he traveled throughout the state, helping communities establish and organize programs of interracial communication and cooperation. He held some of the first interracial meetings of white and black citizens where open discussions were held on topics of mutual problems in an interracial setting. Both the Southern Regional Council of Atlanta and the Kentucky Council on Human Relations were based on the work of Dr. Bond and his programs at the YMCA and Commission on Interracial Cooperation.

Dr. Bond’s youngest son, Horace Mann Bond, held a doctorate and was president of two colleges and also served and dean of the School of Education at Atlanta University. Horace M. Bond was also a main contributor to the research of the Supreme Court Case, Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954.

#46 Horace Bond Horace Bond

His grandson, Julian Bond was Chairman of the NAACP and a professor at the American University in Washington DC, and at the University of Virginia.

We will miss Julian Bond, and wish to extend our sympathy to the family, along with the gratitude for the contributions your family has made to this nation in the struggle for equality for everyone.

Naturalization Tree Marker at Camp Zachary Taylor is Moved to New Home

Old and New Monument Location-2

To very little fanfare, the Naturalization Tree Monument at Camp Zachary Taylor, was relocated to it’s new home in Camp Zachary Taylor Park the week of June 15th, 2015. This great achievement is a long time coming. This only original marker from the era of WW1 is now available for all to see.
The limestone Monument was erected in 1921, the year the camp was closed, by the Daughters of the American Revolution, to mark the spot where the tree was standing. The Magnificent Ash Tree stood for many more years, but died after being struck by lightning. The Memorial was protected by deed restrictions, but following the closing of the VFW Post, who was the caretaker, the small plot of land was sold off. The Monument ended up in the back yard of the property owner along Lee Street, where it was fenced in for several years.
Now it, along with a planned Flagstaff and Historical Plaque will soon accompany it in Camp Taylor Park. The Historical Plaque will give details about the tree, it’s role in the US Army during World War 1, and will feature photographs of it. A re-dedication ceremony is planned for this fall. I will post updates as they become available. Thanks to all who helped this happen, especially Metro Councilman Steve Magre.

Tree Photo-3

The Naturalization Tree circa 1925

June 11, 2015 – The 98th Anniversary of the announcement to build Camp Zachary Taylor

Work Begun 6-23-17

June 11, 2015, marks the 98th anniversary of the announcement that Louisville KY was selected as one of the sixteen cities in America, where the US Army would build a Army Training Cantonment at the onset of World War 1. The City of Louisville had been competing with six other cities in the region to win the contract for a camp that would be located in the Mid-West.

The other competing locations were: Evansville IN., Fort Wayne IN, Indianapolis IN., Jeffersonville IN., Bowling Green KY. and Lexington KY.

Louisville was selected over the other sites for several reasons.
1.) Nearly 4000 acres of undeveloped land was available within a six mile radius of the City.
2.) It was more centrally located (geographically).
3.) It had a better railway system with access to all north to south and east to west lines.
4.) It had a never diminishing water supply.
5.) It was the only City that offered a 5 cent street car line.
6.) It was only one of three cities that had a sanitary sewer system.
7.) It was only one of three cities that would have a rifle range available.
8.) It was the only city that could offer all of the prime requisites.
9.) No other city could provide an equal or better offer.
10.) The City of Louisville guaranteed to give the camp “An Atmosphere of Patriotism, Efficiency and Morality”.

In closing, the selection committee made this statement. ” It’s selection will be best the US Army. the Nation and Best For The Boys.”

This decision put into motion the largest single construction project in Louisville’s history. The camp would house an entire Division of men numbering 47,000, and cost over $7.2 million to construct (approx 200 million in today’s currency).

The construction firm of Mason and Hanger from Lexington KY was selected as the general contractor. Within three days of Louisville being selected, representatives of Mason and Hanger were in Washington to meet with the War Department to discuss the project. The plans were drawn on the train while they were in transit for the meeting.

Material was purchased and delivered to the site the following week by rail car and the first building was started on June 21st. 1917, exactly 10 days after the decision was made to build the camp in Louisville.

Construction continued at a blinding pace. 1787 buildings were built between June 21st and August 28th (when the project was considered to be substantially complete), or 69 calendar days. This also includes 16.3 miles of new roads, 30.8 miles of new sewer lines, 38.7 miles of new water lines, all new electric and telegraph lines, extension of the street car line into the camp, and 6.75 miles of railroad track and spurs.

The photo above was taken three days after construction began. Four (200 man) barracks were under roof and five other buildings were well underway 72 hours after they drove the first nail.The pace increased each day until a 60′ x 200′ two story barrack could be built and under roof in just 1 1/2 hours.

The construction crew numbered in the thousands, with the maximum number of workers peaking on August 19th, 1917, at 10,000 employees. The largest trade employed were the carpenters at 4280 men. Next were the Laborers at 3490 employed then electricians and plumbers at 942. The balance were miscellaneous trades such as truck drivers and water boys. The highest paid employees were the Carpentry Foremen and .75 cents per hour down to the Messenger’s and Water Boys at .15 cents per hour.

The construction of the camp by Mason and Hanger was completed on November 23rd, and officially turned over to the US Army on December 1, 1917. The first troops arrived on September 8th, 1917, and occupied the buildings while the finishing touches were being completed by the contractor.

The camp stayed open for three years until the US Army announced on July 20, 1920, that Camp Zachary Taylor would be closed, which was almost three years to the day when the first building was begun. The camp officially closed for good September 1, 1920. All of the land was sold off at auction the next year, along with a few of the buildings. Some of the original land owners bought back the land they sold to the army just three years earlier for a fraction of what they were paid for it. Of the 7 million dollars spent to build the camp, the army only recouped a little over 1 million at auction.

Copyright 2015, Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society, Louisville KY.

May 7, 2015 – The 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Lusitania

The Sinking of the Lusitania, May 7, 1915

The Lusitania was built in 1903, and made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York in September 1907. She was the fastest liner afloat. The engines produced 68,000-horse power at a speed over 25 knots. The Lusitania was known as the “Greyhound of the Seas” and she soon captured the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing.

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, The United States originally pursued a policy of Isolationism. President Wilson was avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace. This resulted in increased tensions with Berlin and London. When a German U-boat sank the British liner Lusitania in 1915, with 128 Americans aboard, U.S. President Wilson vowed, “America was too proud to fight” and demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships. Germany complied.
On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool. Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort. As the fastest ship afloat, the luxurious liner felt secure in the belief she could easily outdistance any submarine.
On May 7, the ship neared the coast of Ireland. At 2:10 in the afternoon a torpedo fired by the German submarine U 20 slammed into her side. A mysterious second explosion ripped the liner apart. The ship listed so badly and quickly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck, or dumped their loads into the water. Most passengers never had a chance. Within 18 minutes the giant ship slipped beneath the sea. One thousand one hundred nineteen of the 1,924 aboard died. The dead included 114 Americans.