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WACO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE EFFORTS GAINED RICH FIELD Mr. J. M. Penland Among Hardest Workers. By H. D. DRISCOLL In the summer of 1917, when it became apparent that the government would establish avation fields in various sections of the country where conditions were favorable, the military committee of the Waco Chamber of Commerce, composed of Messrs J. M. Penland, E. R. Bolton, W. W. Cameron, E. W. Marshall, John F. Wright, Will Edmond, J. B. Earle and E. F. Drake, got into communication with the Aviation Section of the War Department and made a preliminary statement of the conditions and facilities in Waco, and urged that an inspection be made of the site which was considered best suited for the purpose. On August 6, 1917, Lieut. Col. G. H. Crabtree, Major H. H. Arnold and Capt. C. G. Edgar arrived in Waco, where they were met by the committee and inspected the site where the field is not located, and other ground nearby. The committee, headed by Lieutenant Colonel Crabtree, decided that it would be advisable to close the asphaltic road leading south of the proposed site and extend the field 1500 feet to the south, which would give a total of 690 acres in a square. This was readily consented to and an agreement was reached with the County officials whereby all roads in the proposed site would be closed and new ones constructed around the camp. Our committee agreed when informed that it would be necessary, to remove all obstacles, such as trees, bushes, fences, houses, silos, etc., and to fill in all ravines, ditches, tanks, cisterns, etc., remove all growing crops, including the cotton stalks, and to sow the entire area with Bermuda grass. A railroad track existed along the eastern boundary of the field, having been built a few months previous in order to serve Camp MacArthur. This made it easy to dispose of that question. Extensions, however, were promised in the way of street car lines, electric power lines, water mains, telegraph, telephone and sewer lines to the boundary of the camp. Meteorological reports extending as far back as the existence of the Weather Bureau in this section of the country were requested and furnished, same being compiled by Isidor Block, F.R. Met. So. Copy of this report follows: On August 9, 1917, a telegram was received from the Construction Department in Washington. asking that a representative with authority come to Washington. immediately, prepared to close lease, and Mr. J. M. Penland, then president of the Chamber of Commerce, left for Washington on August 10 with leases from property owners, abstracts of title, and full authority to execute the instruments desired by the government, which included a lease for a term of three years, with options to buy the land at any time during that period, and a bond for faithful performance of the contract. In order to give possession of the land to the government, and to comply with their requirements, it was necessary on the part of the Waco Chamber of Commerce to purchase three hundred acres of this land, while the removal of buildings and vegetation, leveling and seeding of the ground called for an additional expenditure of about ten thousand dollars on the part of the Chamber of Commerce. Immediately after the lease was signed, the Jones Construction Company began work on the buildings, and several thousand men were employed to rush it to completion. Some months later, when the need of a swimming pool became apparent, Judge W. M. Sleeper, owner of the land immediately east of Rich Field, deeded the necessary land to the Chamber of Commerce to be held in trust, and to be occupied by the government and men of Rich Field free of charge, as long as a military post should be maintained on the adjoining property. All of this required a great deal of work on the part of the members of the Military Committee of the Waco Chamber of Commerce, most of whom gave all of their time for several months to the project. The Waco citizens responded liberally to a call for money to acquire the property and meet the expenses incident to fulfilling the obligations of the committee, and no citizen of Waco who contributed either time or money to the enterprise had the slightest cause for regret. While the officers and men of Rich Field have been given less opportunity to visit the city and to mingle with its citizens than the men from other branches of the service, yet the Waco citizens have welcomed them into their homes and hold a warm place in their hearts for the men who received their training in Rich Field. All requests for aeroplanes for exhibition purposes to stimulate interest in various campaigns conducted in the interest of the war were cheerfully furnished, and the very closest co-operation has always been given by those in command.
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