Protecting the homeland
A gathering of men
Some of the remaining men intended to enlist in the weeks or months ahead and wanted to get a jump on training. Others were unable to serve in the military because of a range of obligations or limitations, but they nonetheless wanted to do their part for the cause.
The volunteer organization resolved to call itself the Jefferson County Home Guard and it went on to define its two primary purposes:
To train in military tactics in order to be prepared for later military service.
To provide an organized body of men under definite leadership to assist local or state officials in any emergency that could arise as an outgrowth of war.
All of the members signed an agreement to subject themselves to the call of the Oregon governor or the Jefferson County sheriff for service in any part of the state. They then elected a captain, first lieutenant, and second lieutenant to serve as the command structure for the organization.
Outfitting, drilling, and duty
The captain organized weekly drills focused on honing basic military skills. Over time, its members gained proficiency in such duties as marching in formation, handling weapons, and elementary tactics. By June 1918 a platoon of the home guards was formed in Opal City and weekly drills began there. Some members of the organization were sworn in as deputy sheriffs. As home guard efforts elsewhere in Oregon developed, the Jefferson County Home Guard became part of the larger statewide Oregon Volunteer Guard in June 1918.
The Jefferson County sheriff asked the home guards for help in August 1918. At his request, the organization placed a night guard on four grain warehouses in Jefferson County. The sheriff apparently was concerned with "the danger of disloyal prowlers." The men rotated duty and guarded the warehouses until the signing of the Armistice ending hostilities with Germany in November.
The end of the home guards
The organization remained popular throughout its existence in Jefferson County. By the end of the war, its ranks had swelled to 161 men. This represented a significant portion of the adult men in the county. Moreover, numerous members resigned from the home guard over the months to enlist in the military where many saw service overseas. For example, its founding captain, Walter M. Eaton, enlisted in the Ordnance Department of the Army in May 1918. He died later in the year while still in the military. His legacy included the organization of the Jefferson County Home Guard, which played a role in keeping the homeland safe during World War I.