I previously wrote about the 14th U.S. Engineers, a railway operating unit that trained at Salem, New Hampshire and served in Europe during World War I. A number of local soldiers served in that unit including Denny McLaughlin who took a local hop-toad with him on his journey. I’ll let the newspaper article speak for itself in this case.
From: The Tuscaloosa News (Tuscaloosa, Alabama) 23 April 1919, with the headline: HOME TIES BIND THE HOPTOAD, but Originally from “The Homing Instinct in Animals and Birds: by F.H. Sidney:” Private Denny McLaughlin of Company A., 14th U.S. Engineers, a railway operating unit that trained at Salem, New Hampshire, captured a hoptoad just before leaving the camp, and placed it in a box. He managed to smuggle it about ship and carried it to France. “The toad is still here,” Denny writes me that “he is obliged to the tie the toad with a long string, for every time the toad gets an opportunity he invariably heads for the seacoast, a hundred miles away. The toad wants to get back home.”
“Some one cut the string and allowed the toad to hop quite a distance away before they notified Denny. He caught up with the toad hopping in the direction of the United States, as a poilu, thinking he was a frog, was about to split the toad on his bayonet in order to enjoy a supper of frog’s legs.” Denny’s mascot toad has been the source of a great deal of amusement among the poilus.
Dr. Paul Pitman, a dentist in the United States Reserves, tells me of a toad that lived under the back steps of his home in Intervale, N.H. for the past twenty-five years. This toad answers to the name of Pete. He often followed Dr. Pitnam to the railroad station when Dr. Pitman was night operator there. The toad would sit on the platform and catch files for a while, then hop back home alone...”
We don’t know what ever was the final disposition of the New Hampshire hoptoad, but I do know a bit more about the man, Corporal Dennis E. McLaughlin of Company A., 14th Regiment (Railway). He was born in 14 July 1884 in Boston, Suffolk Co. MA to Patrick & Bridget McLaughlin. On 29 Jul 1917 he sailed in the ship Adriatic with other members of his Regiment to Europe. Upon his return to the United States after the war ended, he continued to work as a brakeman and later a trainman for the local railroads.
This was not the only story in the World War I newspapers about the lowly hop-toad. Apparently a sort of cocktail drink was created and named after the warty creature too, as evidenced by the following story [found in several United States papers]: “Sept 16, 1918 Kalamazoo Gazette, Kalamazoo Michigan, page 5. MORGAN HOPTOAD NEWEST YANK DRINK. PARIS, Sept 16.–The newest drink in France is the “Morgan Hoptoad”– “hoptoad” because its harmless and “Morgan” became Herbert W. Morgan of Wichita, Kas., a Y.M.C.A. secretary over there, invented it. Back in Wichita he used to run a candy factory, so he concocted a drink that looks like raspberry phosphate. Ingredients for the first tubful included 10 gallons of water, four bottles of concentrated strawberry juice and one bottle of lime juice.” Though the Waldorf-Astoria would like to claim the creation of the hoptoad cocktail, I give credit instead to a World War I veteran, Herbert W. Morgan, and of course a hop toad.
There’s an old joke that goes: What do toads drink? Some would answer with the quirkly comback of “Croaka-cola!” Now we know better–its the Hop Toad Cocktail.
[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I. Look here for the entire listing].