Washtenaw CC Converts Land To Potato Farm In 1917

from Detroit Free Press, April 16, 1917

Washtenaw Country Club Converts Land To Potato Farm In 1917

In 1917, Washtenaw Country Club (now the Washtenaw Golf Club link) voted in to convert 100 acres of land to grow potatoes, corn and beans.

A notice in the April 16, 1917 Detroit Free Press says

Three months ago, the Washtenaw Country Golf Club purchased 100 acres of land adjourning the club house and planned to lay out an eighteen-hole course. At a meeting of the stockholders last night, it was voted unanimously to plow this up and grow potatoes, corn and beans.

The move likely was a response to the Wilson Administration’s call for Americans to grow victory gardens to support the war effort. Congress at the urging of the Wilson Administration had declared war on Imperial Germany April 6, 1917.

Increasing the acreage dedicated to growing food was part of the war plan. The thinking was that if families grew more of their own food and conserved through programs like “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” more food would be available for US soldiers and allies.

During the Great War, future president Herbert Hoover served as the director of the US Food Administration, which was charged with conservation and price stabilization. The agency was in operation from 1917 to 1920.

I have no doubt that other golf courses followed similar paths to Washtenaw. The Wilson Administration employed all the tools of propaganda and government — both Constitutional and un-Constitutional) to drum up a patriotic fervor. Under George Creel, a “Committee of Public Information” was formed to bombard mass media with pro-administration, pro-allies, anti-German sentiment. The frenzy became such that towns with German sounding names were renamed (Berlin, Michigan became Marne); orchestras stopped playing music by Beethoven and Mozart; the use of German was banned in many states.

A Sedition Act was passed by Congress that made it illegal to speak or write any “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the government, military, the Constitution or the flag.

Mobs attacked German-Americans for being of German descent.

Under such pressure, it is no wonder a proposal to plow under parts of a golf club passed unanimously. No one would want to be seen as being “pro German” or “anti war.”

But perhaps this is reading too much into a newspaper notice. It is also entirely possible that the gesture was made out of good will.

During the Second World War, no less a golf course than Augusta National was converted to a working farm. Cows and turkeys were herded there 1942 to 1946 and the farm was at one point by German POWs. Under the rules of war prisoners who are not Commissioned Offers could be forced to work.

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