Dakota Datebook

The Fighting Chaplain


When the North Dakota Second Regiment was organized for the Great War in the early summer of 1917, they found a champion in the form of Herbert G. Markley of Hamilton, North Dakota.  Gov. Lynn Frazier appointed Markley as the Chaplain for the Smashing Second on July 5th.  Known as the “Fighting Chaplain,” he made it his mission to travel across the state collecting money for a chaplain’s fund, to be used for the personal needs of the men in the Second Regiment, both in camp or later when they were sent to France.  The fund was money that could be accessed immediately without a lot of red tape.  Markley was determined to build up the fund before the troops left North Dakota.  Although he was the Chaplain for the Second Regiment, he was not an ordained minister at the time of his appointment.  That was resolved in early October, when Lieutenant Markley was ordained during the Methodist Church conference in Dickinson.

Lt. Markley traveled across North Dakota speaking in churches, schools, patriotic gatherings –  anyplace where he could get his point across.  He also carried a book in which he recorded the names of young ladies willing to be contacted if a soldier did not receive mail from home and needed some cheering.

Lt. Markley was a gifted speaker and an extreme patriot.  He admonished any anti-war talk and stated that for those who uttered treasonable comments, telephone poles could be used for more than just stringing wires.  When approached by a man who stated he was a German-American, Markley called him a liar and replied, “You’re either an American or not an American, there are no hyphenated men in this country at this time.”  Early in his career, Markley had run on the socialist ticket for a state senate seat in Pennsylvania, for which he hoped he had been forgiven.  In a bold move, in the Nonpartisan League stronghold of Crosby, Markley “scathingly denounced the socialists, the IWW, Townley, Senator Gronna, and other antiwar activists, summing them all up as traitors, saying, “I have no use for anyone who will either sanction or lend their aid or assistance to such traitorous or seditious utterances…” He called for the impeachment of US Senators Robert La Follette of Illinois and A. J. Gronna from North Dakota.

The Reverend Markley was very successful in his fund raising, perhaps too successful, having accumulated over forty-five hundred dollars for the regiment, just as the “Smashing Second” was smashed, scattered upon arrival at Camp Greene. Markley, now assigned to the 116th Engineers, suddenly had to disperse the gathered funds!

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


The Bismarck Tribune, October 9, 1917

The Washburn Leader, September 28, 1917

The Grand Forks Herald, July 5, 1917

Ibid, November 26, 1817

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