Lest We Forget

The Story of World War I and Yolo County

Mel Russell delivers her summary of the first year of the "Lest We Forget" Project to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors at the 04/03/2018 meeting.

(Video courtesy of Yolo County Board of Supervisors)

Special Event with Mel Russell

Food Will Win the War

This 50-minute visual presentation by Mel Russell tells the story of how vital agriculture was to the winning of the First World War and the part played by the people of Dunnigan, Zamora, and Yolo in the county’s all-out efforts to maximize agricultural output. 

Using early photographs of the area and powerful propaganda posters from the war, Mel will discuss the local efforts in food production and conservation during the “War to End All Wars.”

Special Exhibition at Gallery 625

Honoring the Dead of WWI


Plan a visit to Gallery 625 to celebrate and honor our veterans and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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“Honoring the Dead of WWI: A Photographic Exhibition Commemorating the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Yolo County Dead of WWI” was assembled by Mel Russell and is housed at Gallery 625 inside the Erwin Meier Administration Building at 625 Court Street, Woodland. The exhibition runs through November 29, 2022. The Administration Building is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM.


While you are visiting Gallery 625, make the trip up to the 2nd Floor to see "Stitched Together: Quilts from the Yolo County Historical Collection." 

Lest We Forget: Road To Peace


Talk Four: Road to Peace

The Yolo County Library and the Yolo County Archives invite the communities of Yolo County to attend the third presentation in the “LEST WE FORGET” series. This four part series, which began last year, reveals the story of Yolo County during World War I. Please plan to attend the talk in your community.

The "Lest We Forget Project" aims to tell the story of all those who served during World War I, both those on the home front and those who served in the military.


The Story of World War I and Yolo County

Mel Russell describes the "Lest We Forget" Project at the 11/08/2016 meeting of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. 

(Video courtesy of Yolo County Board of Supervisors)

News Article

In this photo, members of the Woodland National Guard stand in formation on an unknown date. When World War I began, these men made up Company F of the 2nd California Infantry Regiment; they did not fight together, but as replacements in other companies on the front. Yolo County Archives/Courtesy photo

‘Lest We Forget’ offers a local look at World War I

By  Isabel Montesanto  for Davis Enterprise | April 26, 2017

The idea came to Mel Russell in 2014. The retired Yolo County Archives coordinator was “back home” in England, caring for her parents, as the centennial of the start of World War I in Europe approached.

“I saw how they were beginning to commemorate, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s something we could do here in Yolo,’ ” Russell recalls.

In 1919, a year after the war’s end, the Yolo County librarian at the time had begun documenting the local men who’d fought. She never completed the list: Only 704 draft cards exist in the archives, although approximately 900 Yolo men served.

“It was a collection I had always been interested in finishing and developing,” Russell says. “I felt like that would be a good basis for doing some research.”

Upon returning to Davis, she took a project outline to the county librarian and got permission to begin exploring.

One fruit of the next several years of unpaid archive-picking is “Lest We Forget,” a four-part series of presentations honoring people from local communities who served in World War I, both in combat and on the home front.

The first installment comes to Davis on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. Titled “Now We Are At War,” it addresses the impact on Yolo communities of America’s declaration of war in April 1917, including information on the draft, locals who fought, and fundraising, liberty loans, food preservation and other efforts made by those at home to support the mobilizing troops.

“I say, ‘This is what the feds told us to do, this is how the county did it, and this how your little community did it,’ ” Russell explains, emphasizing that she includes city- or town-specific examples whenever possible.

In the 10 years she served as the archives’ coordinator, not one person asked Russell about World War I. Had she been in Europe, where the destruction of infrastructure and loss of lives were greater than even those of World War II, that would not have been the case.

Here, “it’s fading away,” she says. And wrongly so:

“Its social, economic and political impact is still being felt today — World War II was a direct response; the Middle East situation stems out of treaties coming out of it … there’s not a part of the world that hasn’t been affected,” Russell says.

She hopes that her presentations will revive a local appreciation of the war’s historical importance and of the sacrifices made by our communities’ ancestors.

The latter especially, she believes, is a universal obligation.

“You can’t ask people to go die for you and not really make an effort to preserve their lives,” Russell says. “We have to let veterans of today know that they won’t be forgotten.”

Russell will return to each library branch six, 12 and 18 months from now with parts two through four, which include information focusing on corresponding six-month segments of the conflict. Donations of photographs, stories and other information that could be included in the presentations are welcome.

For more information, contact Russell at 530-304-6154 or yolocountyWW1@gmail.com

Other Articles

Lest We Forget

'Lest We Forget’ offers a local look at World War I

"Mel Russell hopes that her presentations will revive a local appreciation of the war’s historical importance and of the sacrifices made by our communities’ ancestors."

Project to Collect World War I Materials

The Archives preserves the past. As part of that commitment, it desires to make historical records more complete. A current example of an individual's effort to expand a historical collection is: The World War I project, Lest We Forget. Mel Russell is the volunteer in charge of Yolo County Archives' endeavor to find as many original documents and pictures from that war as possible. Ms. Russell stated that "if you wish to donate or share a World War I item, you may contact me by e-mail at imeldarussell@googlemail.com or by calling 530-304-6154 to leave me a message." She will reply as soon as she can. Ms. Russell also said that the Archives can arrange to make digital copies of the materials if the owners do not wish to part with them. 

Ms. Russell also thanks the people who responded to her request for World War I material while they were visiting the Archives booth at our recent Yolo County Fair. She is particularly interested in material with a Yolo County connection.

(Article from The Archives Ledger--Fall, 2016)