POW camps to be included in tour

When Peabody Historical Society hosts its Heritage Trail tour around the community on Memorial Day, participants will be able to see the sites of two German prisoner of war camps.

The first was the former creamery site which now is part of the rural home of Francis and Marilyn Payne. Eventually the prisoners were moved to the former Eyestone Garage on Second Street, currently the location of Heckendorn Industries.

Peabody POW camps once housed nearly 200 German prisoners of war. Area farmers badly needed farm workers and the county agent, F.A. Hagans petitioned the War Manpower Commission for a POW camp.

Opinion on using the German prisoners to work on local farms varied; many owners of the farms were of German origin and came as a part of the Mennonite migration in the late 1880s. They had fled Europe to avoid fighting and it was thought sympathies might be questioned.

The original camp south of town was very primitive. Prisoners lived in tents and there was no water or plumbing. Latrines had to be dug.

The living conditions led to a plan to close the camp in November 1943.

However, the camp commander from the main camp at Concordia visited the Eyestone building and decided this big brick building would offer an ideal living situation for the prisoners.

The building was converted into living quarters and the prisoners were moved from the original camp.