JOHN W WEGMANN
Branch: U. S. Army
Status: Died of disease
Date of Service: WWI
Home Town: Lake Itasca
1. John Wegmann’s headstone in the Pioneer Cemetery at Itasca State Park. 2. Johanna and Theo Wegmann 3. Wegmann cabin and store in early 1900s 4. Theo Wegmann and “new friend.”
John (Johnny) W. Wegmann was the adopted son of Theodore and Johanna Wegmann of Lake Itasca, Minnesota. Theodore and Johanna Wegmann had immigrated in 1885 to the U.S. from Germany shortly after they were married. They came to Itasca Township in 1893 and tried to farm a large plot of land on the southern edge of Itasca Township adjacent to Itasca State Park. Farming was not profitable in northern Minnesota, so the first few years Theodore would hitch up a team to a hayrack and drive out to North Dakota to work the wheat harvest for extra money. Then the tourists started coming to the new state park next door and Theodore and Johanna opened up a store to serve the tourists. Theodore became postmaster of Lake Itasca and also became Itasca State Park’s first game warden.
A great-nephew (Bert Pfeifer) that came to work for him in the store in the Depression years said that the Wegmanns were good to some of the old timers there. In the wintertime, like at Christmas time, they would pack up big boxes of groceries and things to take to some of these poorer bachelors living in the area.
Theodore and Johanna had no children until John came to live with them in 1899 when he was three years old. John had been born in Iowa but his biological parents had also been born in Germany.
John lived with the Wegmanns and helped out in the store until he joined the Army. The date he joined is not known, but it is known that he was of Class I eligibility for the draft. He was between the ages of 21 and 30, and unmarried with no dependents. (More than half of the almost 4.8 million Americans who served in the armed forces were drafted.)
By January of 1918 John was already a sergeant in the Army. He was a member of the Quartermaster Corps, the supply arm of the U.S. Army, and more specifically a member of a Motor Truck Company. The Motor Transport Service carried supplies of all kind overland from base ports into the Advance Section. They carried cannons, tank, horses and mules, ammunition, and medical supplies. The fighting men in France benefited greatly from the efforts of the Motor Truck Companies and could not have done it without them.
On January 7, 1918 Sgt. Wegmann and his unit Motor Truck Company #315 boarded the S. S. Megantic out of Portland, Maine bound for France. John spent almost a year in the thick of things before succumbing to pneumonia on October 28, 1918 in France. It is likely that the pneumonia was a side effect of Spanish Influenza which annihilated U.S. troops that month, both overseas and stateside.
Sgt. Wegmann’s body was sent home to Theodore and Johanna who buried him in the Pioneer Cemetery on the grounds of Itasca State Park. He was 23 years old.