California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Contra Costa County Home Guard Regiment

Home Guards 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 County’s 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:
Recruits became deputy sheriffs. These companies met often to drill and the newspapers kept track of the company’s 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 America’s entry into WWI 100 years ago.
The following articles was published in the Fall 2017 edition of the Contra Costa County Historical Society Journal
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Posted 30 November 2017