On 21 February 1893, a large number of friends and family gathered at a residence on Huron Street in Indianapolis to say farewell to Mr & Mrs John G Wishard who, the following week, left for Tehran, which in those days was part of Persia (now Iran.) John, a doctor from Danville, had accepted the position of medical director at the American Presbyterian Mission Hospital. Two children were born in ‘Persia’, Frederick and Bertha, with ‘Fred’, as he was more commonly known, born on 24 August 1894. John’s wife, Annabette, died suddenly during May 1899, and consequently, John was given a period of leave back to the United States.
Along with his two children, John temporarily took up residence in Indianapolis, where he lived until the summer of 1903 when he returned to Tehran. Shortly before he left John remarried to his first cousin, Harriet Jane Wishard, whose father was Dr William Henry Wishard. Fred appears to have been a bright, confident young man from quite an early age, and in August 1904, when he was ten, had a letter giving details of his life in Persia published in the Indianapolis News. He wrote:
When I left Indianapolis, now nearly a year ago, I was wondering what fun an American boy and girl could have in Persia. On Thanksgiving, we had a turkey, on Christmas we had a tree and Santa Claus, but for the Fourth, they told us that we could not fly the American flag unless we got special permission to do so. I thought the Fourth would not be much good without ‘Old Glory.’
In June the weather became so hot in Tehran that we moved out to a village six miles away. This village is called Gulhek, which means little flower. It looks like a flower because it has so many trees and is stuck in between the mountains like a bouquet in a vase. Some years ago the Shah gave it to the British legation for their summer home and so the government of the village is English. We are the only Americans living here, all the other people being English and Persian. The union jack flies on a high flagstaff all the time.
Now the question of the Fourth seemed harder than ever because to celebrate with fireworks and Old Glory without permission, when all our neighbours were English, might get a fellow in trouble. Well, I thought about the question a great deal, and finally, my sister and I decided to send a petition to the British minister and tell him our difficulties. It happened just at this time that we were invited to a tea party at which the minister was to be present. We wrote the following petition, and in the presence of our hostess and her guests, my sister presented it to the minister on June 25, 1904.
To His Excellency, Sir Arthur Hardinge, H. B. M. Minister: “Sir – We are an American boy and girl living in your village, and desire to celebrate the Fourth of July by flying our American flag and having fireworks. We think Gulhek a nice place, and like to live here very much. We think all it lacks is a Fourth of July. We are, therefore asking to fly the Stars and Stripes on that day. This seems fair, because your proud flag flies all the time here in the village. Do you not think it would be nice to have both flags on that day? So, we are asking to fly our flag in our garden, as we did in America. We are sure you will grant this petition. Your American friends, Fred B Wishard & Bertha Alice Wishard”
When the minister read the petition he looked very solemn and said it was a very important matter, but he would telegraph to London and later would send us the answer. He said there would be no objection to the fireworks, but the question of the flag was different. Late in the evening a messenger came with a large envelope with the word “urgent” on it. It also said:
“Sir and Madam – With reference to your petition, dated to-day, I had the honour to explain to you at Mrs Olding’s tea party that there would be no difficulty about the proposed fireworks, but that I was not so sure about the flag. I now find that an act of Parliament is necessary and that a British minister who gave similar permission without authority in the reign of Queen Anne was condemned on his return to England to be beheaded for high treason and to have his own head stuck on a flagstaff.
We can not, I fear, pass an act through Parliament between now and the Fourth of July, but in order to oblige you and show my sympathy for America, I am willing to take this serious risk and sanction the flying of the Star-spangled Banner as proposed by you. I hope, under these circumstances, you will invite me to witness the fireworks. I am, sir and madam, your obedient servant. Arthur Hardinge.”
I can not tell you how happy we were when this permission came, for we had bought in Indianapolis before starting to Persia a large, fine flag. Now that we had permission to fly it, we hung it to one of the great trees in our garden. How beautiful it looked in the bright Persian sunshine. We also sent to Tehran for a lot of fireworks, and as all the roofs in Persia are flat and made of earth, and there is no danger from fire, we took them up on the housetop and made them ready to shoot off in the evening.
At 9 pm Sir Arthur, with nearly all the ladies and gentlemen of the legation, and a number of other English friends, came to our garden, and we had a real Fourth of July celebration. The Persians make fine fireworks, and these were splendid. After the fireworks, we had some funny songs, and then all sang “America” and “God Save the King” and ate ice cream. I hope the minister will not have his head put on a flagstaff when he returns to England, for I think he is a pretty good man. Don’t you?
Fred B Wishard
In 1908 Fred’s family briefly journeyed back to the United States for the summer and in 1910 returned for good, eventually settling in Wooster, Ohio where his father took over a large practice. Fred became a student at the University of Wooster (known as The College of Wooster from 1915) where he studied to become a doctor. A keen tennis player, he also took an interest in the military, and on 1 February 1916 joined Company D of the 8th Regiment, Ohio National Guard which that year was reorganised into the 146th Infantry Regiment. In May 1918, while based at Camp Stanley in Texas and having attained the rank of sergeant, Fred was honourably discharged so that he could take up an officer’s commission with the 136th Machine Gun Battalion, which like his old infantry unit, formed part of the 37th Division. He was sent to join Company B and spent time at Camp Sheridan in Alabama and Camp Lee in Virginia before shipping overseas with the AEF. By then, 2nd Lieutenant Wishard had transferred into Company A and left for France on 22 June 1918 from Newport News onboard the SS Caserta.
Fred disembarked with his unit in Brest on 5 July and made his way in a boxcar to Bourmont where the battalion underwent an intensive period of training. In early August the 136th marched to the Baccarat Sector and were based near the village of Merviller, which at that time was a relatively quiet section of the front. Fred, who commanded the 2nd Platoon in Company A, was also assigned the role of radiotelegraph operator. On the morning of 8 September, while bivouacked in woodland between the towns of Migneville and Reherrey in the second line of defence, Fred gained his first introduction to the horrors of war. At 10 am the German artillery subjected the platoon’s position to a severe bombardment which caught them off-guard and horribly exposed to enemy fire as they sat among the trees enjoying the morning sunshine. Many men were wounded, and several lost their lives, which proved to be a decidedly sobering experience for the entire Company.
Fred’s platoon went ‘over the top’ for the first time on 26 September when they took part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and saw action for the next week before moving to St. Mihiel in the Pannes Sector. At the end of October, and leading up to the Armistice, Fred was likely present at the Ypres-Lys Offensive in Belgium. At some point after the cessation of hostilities, he was attached to the 296th Company, Military Police Corps and left France exactly a year after he arrived on board the Prinz Friederich Wilhelm – a German liner that was being used by the Allies as a troopship. Arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey on 14 July Fred made his way to Camp Merritt, where he was honourably discharged from service on 24 July.
After he left the army, Fred returned to medical school in Indianapolis and became a member of the Rho Gamma Delta and Phi Rho Sigma fraternities. On 26 November 1920, he married a Batesville High School teacher named Helen Aleathe Goff, who he likely met while at university. A son was born the following year; however, the marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce, and in 1924 Fred remarried to Ruth Beatrice Clawson. Four daughters were born to the second marriage between 1925 and 1937 and Fred set up a surgery in the town of Anderson where he practised for many years. By 1942 he had also taken up the position as medical director of the Delco-Remy Division of General Motors and on 23 September 1948 was called away to Canada to attend to the vice-president of General Motors who had suffered a heart attack while on his way to a conference at Murray Bay. On the day he was due to fly to Montreal, Fred also suffered a heart attack, at Muncie Airport, and was taken to the Ball Hospital where he died at 10 am. At the time of his death, he was resident in Pendleton and active in the Masonic bodies and the Shrine.