The park on Columbia Street was rededicated in 2002.
ADAMS, Mass. — World War I looms heavy in Adams, where there are more monuments honoring veterans of that war than all other wars combined.
Of the numerous monuments, honor rolls and other memorials, eight are dedicated to World War I. The largest monument, the Mount Greylock War Memorial, looms above the town from the state's highest peak.
"They called it the Great War and they didn't know there was going to be a second one. ... They thought this was going to be it," local historian Eugene Michalenko said. "They knew they were doing something big and they wanted to remember it."
Approximately 140 Northern Berkshire residents were mustered into federal service as part of the 26th Yankee Division, 104th Infantry, many in Company M,and sent overseas in July 1917
Sixteen Adams boys were killed in the war – many from influenza.
The first memorial was dedicated on Nov. 27 in 1922 on Columbia Street. Seventeen elm trees were planted at the World War I Memorial Park representing the 15 men and 1 woman who died during the war. The 17th tree was dedicated to all surviving veterans.
Michalenko said all these trees died by the 1960s when Dutch elm disease ran rampant through the region.
"Unfortunately, I think Dutch elm killed them all," he said. "I think there was talk about planting new ones, but they never did it."
Granite plaques list the names of those who died.
That same day, three street intersections were dedicated to fallen soldiers.
According to Michalenko the intersection of Columbia and Hoosac Streets was dedicated to William Douglas, a boy from the Renfrew section of Adams who died Oct. 20, 1918.
The intersection of Summer, North Summer, Hoosac, and East Hoosac Streets was dedicated to Edward Wlodyka who died July 20, 1918, at the 2nd Battle of the Marne.
The intersection of Center, Commercial and Myrtle Streets was dedicated to Henry Caron, who died on April 10, 1918, at the Battle of Apremont.
The street signs still stand.
The Renfrew Manufacturing Co. also erected a memorial in front of the Renfrew School on Columbia Street listing the names of its employees who served.
An Adams Historical Newsletter also stated that the company was very supportive of the war and encouraged employees to plant victory gardens on its property - now Renfrew Field.
The tower on top of Mount Greylock was erected in the early 1930s by the state and, in 1935, the American Legion Post 160 installed a granite tower on Columbia Memorial Park that now sits in front of the former middle school.
Company M also placed a bronze plaque listing the names of all its members who served in the entrance of the now-closed Armory. It now hangs in Town Hall.
Michalenko said the French government after the Battle of Apremont honored the 104th Infantry with the Croix de Guerre for their perseverance and bravery under fire. This was the first time the French had honored a foreign military unit in this way.
Every year after, the men who served in the 104th held a reunion, two of which were held in Adams. In 1937, town meeting changed the name of a street in the Zylonite section of town to Apremont Street to memorialize the battle.
Michalenko said there has always been an active veterans community in town not afraid to "wave the bloody shirt" to get things done. He said this passion may have been the drive behind many of the memorials.
"There always was a strong veteran group in this town and they were very proud," he said. "During World War II, there were like 1,100 men in this town that were sent over. It was close to 9 percent of the population in the service."
But for World War II, the only dedications Michalenko could recollect were Victory Street, Memorial School, a bridge near Maple Grove, and various honor rolls – many of which have just disappeared.
Michalenko said there was actually a second Civil War monument, a cannon, on the library front lawn, however, this was given to the war effort during World War II.
"There used to be a Civil War cannon, but it went towards a metal drive for World War II," he said. "They weren't going to use it, so they gave it to the war effort."
Michalenko could not pinpoint why World War I was so important to Adams but guessed it may have moved a community that still had strong ties to Europe.
"I think it had a big impact it was a brutal war and if you think about what it did in Poland – they consider their Independence Day Nov. 11, 1918," he said. "The end of the war destroyed all of those autocratic dynasties ... it changed the face of Europe to it meant a lot to the Germans and the Polish over here."
Michalenko added that money was not only collected in Adams for the war effort but for Polish War Relief.
"They took charge to find all the Polish people in Adams so they could hit them all up for money to send over to Poland," he said. "So here these people are paying for American war bonds and Polish war bonds plus supporting the churches and the schools – I still don't know where they got all of the money."