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Turning plow shares into swords

By Staff | Jul 21, 2016

PHOTO PROVIDED Harry Wilbur Snyder - WWI Army Private

MUNCY – Harry Wilbur Snyder was following behind a horse and plow about the time President Wilson announced America would enter the war.

The President’s message came in April 1917, just as spring and planting season arrived in Wolf Township in the eastern portion of Lycoming County.

It had also been during springtime 27 years earlier when Harry was born. Nelson and Sarah (Doctor) Snyder’s seventh child made his entrance into the world on March 30, 1890.

For education, Harry and his siblings made their way down the farm’s western slope to attend Clay Hole School, a one-room schoolhouse. The red brick clad building remains some distance west of Clarkstown and still exists today as a private residence.

In time, this man of the soil would travel further than he’d ever dreamed. On the other side of the globe, war was raging. Known as the Great War, so vast was its reach, it was later renamed World War I.

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Alice Snyder Hilkert of Muncy, daughter of WWI Army Pvt. Harry W. Snyder, has gathered a large amount of family research including her father's military memorabilia.

At the Snyder farm, harvests were being gathered when in September a notification arrived for Harry. The young man was to report for duty, his induction papers signed by Fred Waldron of Muncy.

By October 5, 1917, Harry had arrived at Camp Meade, Maryland, where the following March, reassignment took the soldier to Camp Hancock, Georgia.

On May 8, 1918, Harry sailed across the ocean, where he’d place his feet on French soil. Eventually he’d march to the battlefields of the Meuse-Argonne Region helping to penetrate the fortified stronghold held by the Germans. Known as the Hindenburg Line, statistics would later reveal one of every ten men were killed or wounded during this infamous drive.

Harry’s group, the 103rd Engineers of the 28th Division, sailed home on the SS Finland arriving at Newport, News. Discharged at Fort Dix, New Jersey on May 16, 1919, the Private was accompanied home by other Muncy men. They would included: Harry’s cousin and Muncy Borough resident/postman, Brady R. Snyder; and from Muncy R. D. #1, Hobart F. Hopkins and Ralph F. Houseknecht.

A huge homecoming for the soldiers of the district was hosted by the townspeople of Muncy. The gala affair included a meal for the soldiers, a parade, dancing and an outdoor evening concert.

In contrast, the mood was bitter-sweet when later a large family reunion was held at the Snyder farm. Absent from the festivities was cousin Harris Snyder who’d been killed in the war.

And so, Harry abandoned his military uniform for bib overalls, his marching boots exchanged for work shoes, and his sword replaced by a plow.

After resettling into the familiar farming routine, in 1937, Harry wedded Emily Snyder at the Baptist Church in Hughesville. The couple parented three daughters – Angel, Alice and Amelia.

By the 1940’s the veteran owned and operated a 53-acre farm. He also aided a nearby neighbor on a 203 acre spread owned by Senator C. W. Sones.

Snyder died June 20, 1964 and was interred at Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Hughesville.

An update on land Harry crossed as boy to attend Clay Hole School, was shared by daughter Alice Hilkert. She sends him a message, “Hay daddy, if you’re peeking, there are sunbeams . . . that largest field is now yielding beautiful homes in a development on Beeber Drive, Wolf Township.”

Snyder’s military possessions included a poignant writing composed by Pvt. Ransom Gurganus. It reads . . . . .

“I have been inducted into the Army. No, I don’t want to go to war; I am a young man just getting a start in life. I have a lovely wife and wonderful baby. I don’t want to go to war because I like to come home at night, put on soft shoes, light up my pipe, and sit peacefully by the fireside with my family.

I don’t want to go to war because I’m living a good life, in a good American home. I like to have my evenings free to read the newspaper and listen to the radio. I like to have time to take a drink, if I like, and blow smoke rings. I’d rather get up at the sound of an alarm clock than the sound of a bugle.

I don’t want to go to war because I like to stand on the corner and argue with my neighbors about whatever my fancy desires. I like to be able to go to church on Sunday or sleep late.

No, I don’t want to go to war. But neither do 10,000,000 other men. And the reasons why I do not want to go are the very reasons why it is necessary that I go. This home, this wife, this baby – this quiet, peaceful life of freedom – must be saved.”