Next week, America will mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the World War II invasion of Europe, and note with sadness the number of old soldiers who have simply faded away.
Just before that invasion 75 years ago, America was noting with sadness the disappearance of another generation of patriotic warriors, veterans of the Civil War.
Among them was Marion County pioneer W.F. “Will” Hoch, who in 1872 homesteaded a farm four miles north of Peabody and four years later moved to Marion and joined his brother, eventual Gov. E.W. Hoch, in running this newspaper.
Born Dec. 6, 1843, in Danville, Kentucky, Will Hoch enlisted in the Union Army at age 17 at the war’s start in 1861 and fought in 16 battles, including one of the bloodiest on the western front, the Battle of Chickamauga Creek in Georgia.
Rising through the ranks to captain in the mounted infantry, he was seriously wounded in the battle of Shoal Creek in Alabama and mustered out after the war’s end in August 1865.
A business college graduate, he married in 1867, moved to Kansas in 1872, and was brought on by his brother to collect debts owed to the Record.
“W.F. Hoch has arrived, acceding to promise, and is at work on our books preparatory to the collection work he will attempt to do for us,” E.W. Hoch wrote that year. “He will call upon all who owe us, either in person of by letter. It is necessary to do this in order to get the ‘wherewith’ to pay our debts.
“We have been easy on our patrons, we think, and shall continue to be, but hope they will respond in this case promptly and cheerfully.”
Only a few years passed before Will Hoch was encouraged to run for public office. He initially declined. As brother E.W. wrote in 1879:
“Various parties around town have suggested the name of W.F. Hoch for police judge. He respectfully but firmly declines, with thanks. Too many irons in the fire already.
“Besides, he believes with the editor that under ordinary circumstances the usefulness of a newspaper is impaired by its proprietors holding office, the duties of which call for frequent newspaper attention.
“The editor surrendered his mature convictions on this subject to serve the city as councilman the past year and has been sorry of it all the time — and so has the city, probably.”
Eventually, Will Hoch left the newspaper and became deputy county treasurer, an insurance salesman and a notary public — at the time, an occupation unto itself. He was admitted to the bar and elected to serve as probate judge for 15 years.
In 1909, he and his wife moved to Pasadena, California, to be near their daughter.
There, on this 100th birthday in 1943, he celebrated while decked out in Civil War regalia from the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans not unlike the current American Legion.
He died a month later.