FROM FARMER TO SOLDIER TO FARMER
Harriett’s older brother Clifford Cate was a handsome young farmer—living at home in McMinn County with his parents, sister Della and young brother Jack—when he was drafted into military service in World War I. His draft registration card was dated June 5, 1917. He probably was drafted at age 28 in 1918. I don’t think he went overseas. I recall conversations about so many of the soldiers getting the Spanish flu. I’m not sure but he may have had the flu.
There were 130,000 soldiers and sailors from Tennessee during World War I. Sgt. Alvin York of Pall Mall, Tennessee, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions when he single handedly killed over two dozen German soldiers (leading them to surrender) after his patrol suffered heavy losses and captured 132 prisoners. After the war, the state of Tennessee gave him a farm and a popular 1941 movie Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper told his story.
I’ve always really liked this photograph. Uncle Clifford is the one on the far right. I don’t know who the other two soldiers are but can just imagine they may all be from rural communities or small towns. Surely they were proud to be decked out in their military gear and go to a photogaphy studio for a picture to send home to family or girlfriends. Note the numeral 15 at the lower left. I think the pose is interesting—obviously very staged. Uncle Clifford simply has his hands in his coat pockets but the other two soldiers seem to be all arms! And all four arms of the two soldiers are on Uncle Clifford.
I know his family was thankful to have him back home after the war ended in November, 1918. In the 1920 U.S. Census he is back home working with his father on their farm on Blue Springs Road. On September 1, 1920, he married Abbie Hutsell and they began establishing their own successful farming ventures in McMinn County. In World War II, they had three sons who served in the military—and all returned home safely.