State Historic Site

Trail End

A 1911 GRADUATE of Northwestern University holding a degree in pharmacy, Donald Gratton Harden was employed at Sheridan's Brown Drug when he enlisted for military service in July 1917. Instead of joining the medical corps - as might have been expected considering his pharmacological background - Harden signed up as a musician with the 148th Field Artillery (formerly the Wyoming National Guard). 

As a member of the 148th Field Artillery's headquarters company band, Harden was kept busy with his musical duties; he and his mates sometimes complained about having to play a concert every other night, on top of their other duties "such as [doing] our own washing." But in the following undated letter, published in The Sheridan Post in May 1918, Harden joyfully describes the band's recent, unofficial concert tour of several small French villages. 

After his discharge in 1919, Harden returned to Sheridan where he worked for a number of pharmacies - including Brown Drug and the Capital Drug Store - for several decades. He died in Sheridan in 1974.

This has been a week of exceptional pleasure to me ... but yesterday was the best day yet. The band was given a holiday and we had the use of the big Riker truck with ample seating capacity for 29. At six o'clock in the morning, with beautiful weather, we started.

The roads here are far superior to our own in America, and there is a profusion of wild flowers. There is much more timber than one would imagine, mostly tall pines, with a thick, almost tropical undergrowth of ferns. There is also a sprout which grows from two to three feet high and is literally covered with bright yellow blossoms. These form a striking contrast with the brown and rich maroon of last year's fern leaves and the green of this season.

Early in the forenoon we passed through several small hamlets, but about 9 o'clock came to a larger town and gave a concert in the public square. School was dismissed by the mayor so that the kids could be there, and we were soon decorated with bouquets. After the concert the mayor gave us an invitation to a place where numerous and sundry toasts were drunk. 

Later we went to another town, much larger, where we had a genuine French dinner. Evidently the people there had seen few Americans and were at first inclined to avoid us, but when about 1:30 we got our instruments and proceeded to the square for a concert, they flocked in from all directions. School was dismissed there also, and even a mill at the edge of town was stopped so that the girls employed there could come. We were simply overwhelmed with flowers there, and many of the little tots even wanted to kiss us. After the concert, which concluded with the French national anthem, and our own by request, the high clergyman of the village invited us to his own parlor - a magnificent place where in his long black robe he officiated at a genuine champagne banquet, served by the belles of the town.

At the conclusion of that affair, we adjourned to another place where the mayor of the town was host. Many good toasts were responded to, and by the time we were loaded (in the truck, I mean) for the return trip, we were unanimously of the opinion that our picnic had been a grand success. ‚Äč

Letters Home - Donald Gratton Harden

(From "In the World War")