California Militia and National
Guard Unit Histories
Contra Costa County Home Guard
Protected the County in World War I
by Lisa Gorrell
On June 14, 1917, Congress passed the Home Guard Act of 1917,
which authorized states to have a defense force and the use of
weapons. The State of California created its own State Defense
Guard, known by most as the California Home Guard.
Sheriff R.R. Veale was Colonel of the Contra Costa Countys
Home Guards during World War I. The Home Guards in the county
were organized on July 31, 1917 and Veale was elected to lead
the twelve companies that were scattered about the county.
At that organizing meeting at the courthouse in Martinez, the
captains were selected for each of the twelve companies as listed
in the Martinez Standard:
Capt. O. H. Long, Richmond, El Cerrito, Rust, San Pablo and all
Capt. W.R. Wood, Walnut Creek, Alamo, Lafayette, Pacheco and
south half of Pleasant Hill.
Capt. E. H. Shibley, Port Costa, Nevada Docks, Eckley and immediate
Capt. E. W. Jensen, Martinez, Alhambra Valley, Franklin Canyon,
Vine Hill and north half of Pleasant Hill.
Capt. Ralph Harrison, Antioch and Oakley.
Capt. A. Burness, Brentwood, Knightsen and Byron.
Capt. A. M. Dupern, Crockett, Valona, Selby and Tormey.
Capt. J. N. Feeley, Hercules, Pinole, Rodeo, Oleum and immediate
Capt. Wm. Matheson, Cowell, Concord and Clayton and surrounding
Capt. C. B. Johnson, Bay Point and Nichols.
Recruits became deputy sheriffs. These
companies met often to drill and the newspapers kept track of
the companys meetings and reported on them. The Pleasant
Hill company met at the school house. The Danville company met
at the Oakland & Antioch Railroad station. In Martinez, H.J.
Curry donated the hall in his building for meetings. The Richmond
Home Guard had a benefit dance at the East Shore Park to raise
money for equipment and uniforms.
Colonel Veale led the grand march at the dance. The companies
also gathered together to have shooting competitions such as
the one on September 9, 1917 at the Cowell Lime and Cement plant.
The best find when researching this article was a rifle shooting
record found in the Veale & Bray Collection
News of the competition was in the next
issue of the Standard. Six companies competed, with Co. D Home
Guard of Martinez under Captain Edward Jensen winning first prize.
The prize was a silk flag presented by the Crockett Home guards.
Co. I of Cowell came in second. The gathering at Cowell consisted
of the guards from six locations. After marching to the fire
house, some then showed off their new uniforms. Colonel Veale
opened the program, followed by a prayer from E. D. Hale of Co.
D. The program ended with addresses by Constable E.B. Whelihan,
District Attorney T.D. Johnston, Prof. A. Van Der Naillen, and
Mayor W.R. Lane of Richmond. The Home Guards were responsible
for providing a presence for keeping the peace and to carry
out such tasks as directed by the governor, with the exception
that it couldn't be used in labor and industrial disputes.
They were mustered out in March 1920.
This article was a result of research conducted in the newspaper
Martinez Standard and in the Veale and Bray Collections at the
History Center in Martinez. It represents our on-going recognition
of Americas entry into WWI 100 years ago.
The following articles was published
in the Fall 2017 edition of the Contra Costa County Historical
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