Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Grandma's First Husband - “Do not let what I have written make you feel bad or worried”

This continues the sharing of the letters my grandmother's first husband, James Calhoun, wrote to her during World War I. February was a challenging month for James in terms of his health. He spent almost half of the month in the Base Hospital. His letters continue to report on aspects of camp life, how he misses home and rumors about peace. He also tells about one of his fellow soldiers, a married man, who is seeing a woman on the side.

This month’s entry will be excerpts of the letters James wrote from Camp Greene in February.

February 1, 1918
My dear Anna;
I was more than glad to get your letters of Jan. 26 & 27 combined.  You surely do get my letters by starts and jerks but I mail one from here almost without exception every day.  Some days I get two from you and some days I do not get one at all.…There is but three of us in the Orderly room night and sleep one in a bunk.  This is a more pleasant place to live than in tents with eight fellows.  It is always quiet here evenings and I can write and work and get something out of my work.
I am gaining a little on the work here and I have not gotten “balled” out as the expression goes here.  I am trying to give as good as I possibly can and hope to keep in right all around.
Many of the companies have a good many men of foreign birth but not so many in this company.  Many of our boys are from New York and the northern states.  Some of the men who are unable to speak English or are worthless are getting discharge[d].  I am dum[b] but I cannot see my way clear for discharge yet.  I think the company is taking me a long for the “goat.”
The outlook for peace is better now.  We may have to cross the pond but this thing certainly cannot last very much longer.  O “Joy” just think of the happy day when this fight closes up.  Then we will all be glad that we were soldiers and did what we could for our country.  Those who help at home and keep the “home” fires burning are just as much soldiers as those who serve in trench and field.
…Your most loving husband James

February 3, 1918
…It still continues muddy and foggy.  More rain came last night and the roads are nearly as muddy as any time before.  I feel sorry for those who must get out in duty but I do not need to do much tramping so personally I cannot complain.  As hauling has been almost impossible we are without fire wood or coal today but we do not mind.  I just put on more clothes and go on just the same.  I think we can keep enough for kitchen so can get our meals.
Another case of mumps this morning which means one more man in the Base Hospital and six more men held in quarantine here in the company street.  We had three men report for duty from Base Hospital yesterday and our hospital list is in truth growing smaller now.  Most of the hospital boys have gotten along good.  Two fellows have died there from this company since I came to camp.  When measles and mumps first broke out here all contacts were sent to our Detention Camp but that became filled eventually and then contacts of contagious diseases were quarantined in our company street and obliged to keep separate from the boys unexposed as much as possible, were made to eat separate at different time etc.  The Dentention Camp fellows are mostly back to the company again. 
I have a light cold again but do not think it will amount to much.  I used Sloan’s Liniment freely last evening and it has tended to loosed the phlegm and take out the soreness from my throat.
…I have done no washing for a week and think I must get busy tomorrow night.  Have a lot of dirty handkerchiefs, two or three towels, and a set of underwear to wash.  I hope we may soon get some fuel so we can get such cleaning jobs attended too.
…Time seems to go slow at times and I am only too glad to keep busy so I can keep my mind from going over our affairs so much.  I would be one happy lad if the war closes.  I am willing and want to do my part but I prefer civilian life and feel that most of the boys feel the same way.  …

February 5, 1918
…The company commander has just left and he says we are going to move.  When (exactly) or where no one knows.  I am ready to leave this mud and you should just hear the other boys rave about conditions.  We are out of wood again tonight but hope to get some in soon and then we can have a fire.
This has been a beautiful day.  The Earth was frozen this morning so one could walk dry shod but the sun soon melted up the mud and this PM it has been fine.  We will soon have a change.  The worst part of the moving is the confusion it always causes.  I have helped to move several times and it gets to be kind of an old story.  I am going to send home all the surplus clothes and things that I cannot use.  Underwear is one item you may expect. 
Papers daily speak of trouble in Germany and hope they know of what they speak.  As a rule I do not bank very much upon what they say.  However there are more indications of peace than at any time since the war started. 
I have been working on the war risk insurance papers most of today.  Many of the boys are just taking up insurance.  Had I known I would not have taken out mine until Feb. 1 and thus saved my insurance premiums for Jan and Dec approximately $13.60 which is worth while.  All enlisted men were automatically insured by the government to Feb 12 for $4500.00.  I am glad you have your money for Dec.  Do just as you wish with it.  I know you will dispense with it wisely.  I lent a fellow ten dollars last Sat to go home and see his sick father.  I think he will repay OK and I did not have the heart to refuse when he came and asked me for it although I think he is rather a hard luck chap or always pleads hard luck at any rate. 
…Remember me as your deficient, faulty but loving and well meaning husband, James.

February 6, 1918
I received two fine letters from my good little ‘frau’ today and I want you to know that I appreciated them.  I cannot get letters too often.  If you get my Sunday and Monday’s letters together I can just as well put them together as you do your Saturday’s and Sabbath’s. 

February 7, 1918
…Corporal Charles Emmey of whom I have spoken before (clerk in orderly room) is a married man.  He has been corresponding with a girl at Chatanooga, who of course thinks he is single and as Emmey is real clever with words the aforesaid Miss has become, as appearances show very much infatuated with him and has sent him boxes of dainties, her photo, a scarf, sweater and etc.  Emmey I suppose thinking that he had gone far enough had not written to her for a week or two so today a letter came from her asking him if the was sick and stating that she would come to his side if he were sick and if she might.  Emmey feels badly over the affair himself as he only intended to get her to write and did not think she would learn to love him.  If she is a nice girl I think it is a shame and when she know the truth as surely she will she will feel heartbroken.  It is very wrong for a man to play with the sincere feelings of a good woman.
I am only to[o] glad that I am married to the only woman in the world for me and thank God that I do not care for any other.  It is my earnest prayer that we are long may be permitted to meet and live life’s pathway in the light of each others love so dear and pure to each of us. 

February 8, 1918
This has been another beautiful day and the mud is drying up very rapidly.  Another day or two of this weather and travel about camp will be much better.  The weather is quite warm so we have been about camp today in our shirt sleeves and have had the doors and windows open.
… I have been in helping the supply sergeant Albert Zetterlund check up supplies and probably will help him tomorrow.  We are very busy now and you can scarcely imagine the business handled in the offices of a single company of 250 men or the cost of maintaining a single company of soldiers.  War is certainly an expensive business….  Consider the food for the men.  The money to feed a soldier is on an average not over $40 per day and besides feeding the men of Co “D” three hearty meals per day the company has been able to lay up a fund of several hundred dollars out of the allowance for food.  Uncle Sam’s cooks surely know how to get the most for a dollar and how to use the food without waste.
…  Do not let what I have written make you feel bad or worried because we have much to be thankful for as we are both in good health and surely God will spare us the affliction of years of separation when we long for the company of each other.  Feb 22 will mark the end of three months since I last saw you and many things have transpired since that time which seems like a much longer time.  Tell nothing to your people of how I long for the quiet home life as even those so near and dear sometimes fail to fully understand and I have too much pride to let anyone think I am a white livered coward but as I said before I am not afraid to fight but only long for the affair to finish. 
James Boggs poor boy is surely having his troubles (James’ wife had died in January).  I do not see how he can possible keep his rooms as they are but possibly he can.  He always was so attached to his home and worked so hard to make home life pleasant for Lizzie who was indeed a person who had many well-deserved friends.  I should write him a sympathetic letter but I can scarcely pluck courage to commence the task which you know is not an easy one. 

February 10, 1918
…To day the tents were all loosened about the sides of the side (wooden) and allowed to fall in against the center pole.  The floors and sides looked like a long row of platforms one each side of the street.  The sides of boards are up to the eaves of each tent.  It really does seem fine to have summer like weather and if the good weather will only continue, think I shall be able to get a little southern tan.  We have experienced some cold weather but nothing so real as Delaware Co can tell of.
I have been acting as sole clerk in the office today as the girl of whom I wrote you that Clerk Emmy was writing to came to see him and he went to Charlotte to meet her and stayed in town most of the day.  They were out long enough for dinner.  She and her mother came to Charlotte this morning.  She said she wished to come down and see him before he left Camp Greene.  I think he wanted to see her and wrote her to come in he would soon leave because no one knows that we shall leave.  We might be here a year or more.  She as I said does not know Emmy is a married man and if I am a good judge of appearances feels badly because Emmy she thinks will soon leave.  It is a shame for him to do as he is but I can say little as I have made girls’ hearts bleed but I did nothing of that style since I was married.  Please do not blame me for it because I could not marry a girl I did not love when I knew one I did love so well.  There is but one girl for each fellow and although he should admire other charming ladies yet he should think and know that his own wife is the nicest of them all.  I speak from experience.  If I were only permitted to live with and provide for her. 
…We have all turned in our long overcoats and instead have been issued overcoats of knee length.  They are a comfortable, handy coat but so short they make a fellow look like a genuine scarecrow.  And those who look that way already as yours truly are made to appear more so by the pesky short things.  My coat is much shorter than my wedding coat but I guess I can get used to it. 

February 12, 1918
My dear Anna;
…Yesterday I was fortunate in getting three letters and two packages in the mail and today I received the box of candy from Edith.  …  I must write and thank Edith for the box of candy and not only that but thank her for me for the many kindnesses she has shown me since the beginning of our acquaintance.  The mail to me yesterday consisted in a letter from you, one from Archie and Florence and one from Harold Campbell, a package of cookies from Anna and a package of good things from the Red Cross.  The package from there contained two khaki handkerchiefs, two or three kinds of candy, writing material, cookies and other things to eat.  Anna’s box of cookies are sure good.  I have so many eats on hand that I have not opened Edith’s box of candy yet tonight but I shall soon.  I know it will be best of all and I shall save that and eat it when I feel hungry for something extra good.
…No Anna I do not blame you for feeling rather worried at times and sort of worked up because I get that way myself and the tone of my letters must tell you that I also feel worked up at times and seem as though I can scarcely stand it that I must go on day after day and not see or be near my better half and all the ones I love and the home-i-ness for which I long.  I think we get sort of hardened to the constant routine of never ending duties but I for one never can get used to living without those I hold so near and dear. 
We had regimental inspection and all companies of the 7th marched out to the parade ground and were inspected with full field pack on by the reviewing officers.  The band was out and the music made marching much easier.  I got through without many mistakes of which I was fortunate because I have not drilled with the boys for a month now and they have had many new drills since I was out besides the benefit of constant practice.  In one way I should like to get out and drill every day because if am called on to drill later I shall certainly have a hard job.
…You should have the pictures of Company “D” before this.  I hope you may be able to pick out my scowling face.  I could not look at all pleasant because the sun was straight in my eyes.  Some of the boys pictures were fine especially those at the right hand side.  I am very glad to get a picture of the boys with whom I trained.…

Here's the picture James is mentioning in his letter. It was taken in January. James is marked with the blue line.

Here's the full version of the picture of James' company.
February 14, 1918
…Your letters are looked and longed for very much and yesterday I missed them very much.  It seemed to do no good to write each day as I get two letters at one time anyway and you do too.  I thought it nice to write every day so you could hear often and I could too but our plans even in that seem to fail.  I should like to write you pages and pages each day if circumstances only permitted as I love to think of you and ours.  No matter how affairs turn I looking forward to that time when we shall meet again and feel that it will surely come.  I shall come home on the first opportunity that offers.  I love my home ones and long for peace and pray that all mankind might be at peace.  There must be some great purpose disguised in this enormous struggle but to save me I cannot see clearly how the world is going to be made better by this terrible sacrifice.  Has Davison’s heard much from Fletcher since he has been in France.  As Russia has made peace the Germans are pouring troops from the Russian frontier to meet the British and French on the West and the chances are ten to one for a voilent battle there in a few weeks.  Germany will try to “Oust” the allies before the Americans get there with strong forces and equipment to aid the Allies. 
…I am glad you went to Ormistons and am sure you had a good time.  They as you say are so musical and such good people.  I do think it nice to hold family worship and believe the world throughout would be a much better place in which to live and perhaps would be peaceful if every family were to hold such in sincerity.  I must halt here as I am swinging back to war subjects again.  The twins are two bright children [twins likely are Marion and Marjorie Ormiston, who were 10 in 1918].  You said it seemed motherly to have one on either side but you failed to say if you liked the sensation.  I can not imagine what the “special” is that you are going to send me.  It will be just as well that I do not then I shall be surprised when I hear.  I hope it may be a happy surprise.…

There is an unusual gap in James’ letters of three days. When he writes again, Anna learns why this happened. 

February 17, 1918
Your most welcome letters of Feb. 12 came to me tonight and it has found me in a rather unexpected place.  I am taking a little vacation in the Base Hospital.  Came here Fri. night this 15th; have tonsillitis and had acute indigestion when I came here but that is better now.  My sickness is not at all serious although I may have to stay here a few days.  My throat and head has bothered me at times since I came into this climate.  I think if my tonsils were removed my trouble would be relieved, but I may not need that.  I have had no writing paper until tonight when two of the boys came and brought your letter and got me paper, envelops and stamps and as a fellow in the bed next to mine lent me his pen and the fellow on the other side gave me his writing board so I have no excuse for not writing to you.
… By coming to the hospital, I was excused from going to the rifle range Sat morning through the mud and rain with a full pack on my back.  I sure feel sorry for the boys who had to make the trip because it was indeed a hardship.  There is some talk of this place being abandoned as a camp and it surely should be if drainage and sanitation conditions are always as bad as they are this year.  The boys who are able to come through a winter spent in this place can pass through anything with a whole skin. 
…The boys came over today and the office clerk Emmey was over yesterday so you see they are real good to me.  The clerk is real anxious to have me in the office tomorrow as he wishes to go away but I cannot go until I am given permission to go here.  I am afraid Emmey is going to be disappointed as I am billed to stay here for a few days at least.  I do not mind staying here a few days as I am getting a little holiday and can get away from the responsibility for a short time.  As long as I was in the office there was not a moment I could call my own and had considerable responsibility besides.  This is the first Sunday in the past month that I have not had to work just as hard as on week days. …While John [Anna’s uncle John Miller] was kind to let you water your cattle at his spring and I think all would be well with us and them if it were not for the Mrs. Bertha and the girls don’t you?…

Feb. 18, 1918
Monday is here and finds me on the gain.  My head and throat feel much better; the doctor said today that they were better and I was placed on solid diet at dinner.  I shall be out of here in a few days if all continues to go well and will feel I have had quite a vacation from the never ending army mill.
…My stomach feel[s] much better and my head does not ache very much but yet at noon I did not care much for the beefsteak, potatoes, white bread and beans given and although it tasted quite good yet it took very little to satisfy me.  Previous to this noon I have had toast, malted milk and soft boiled rice.  In a day or two I shall be alright at my stomach. 
I knew Mrs. Archibald as she was at Scotts once or twice while I did testing there. [This is Carrie May Scott Archibald, wife of Russell Archibald. She was 40 at her death.]  Such deaths are always very sad and much worse it seems to a person just in the prime of life.  She was not a strong looking person.  Life is surely a frail thing at its best….

February 19, 1918
Will send you a letter today.  I am still on the gain I think.  Had some solid food to eat and my throat feel[s] much better.  I must stay her for a few days yet however. 
We had a nice little shower last night and today is damp and cloudy.
I think there is probably a letter from you over at Co “D” but it may be a couple of days before they get it over to me.  I know they will be very busy over there and do not expect them to get over to see me every day.  I scarcely know how they will get along if their clerk left them today.  I am sorry I cannot be there to help.  Sergeant Schneider will be jumping about very quickly today I think looking after affairs and Captain Russell will be just as bad.  They will get along someway so I am not going to worry.
…Since I came to the hospital I have had more time to think and dream of our own personal affairs and my mind has wandered back and lived again the happy times we have had together and some events that bear a sadder tinge but which have only served to bring our love out more fully.  How well I remember the day we went to the fair at O and many other happy times.  We had lots of fun the night that Edith and Wilford, you and I went out riding in the little tin Ford the first time; the night we drove to Doig’s gate and return.
I am afraid Willie and Vera will not have been able to get much use from the Ford (Jerusha) this winter but they will have a nice time when the snow leaves the state road and they surely will feel well repaid for having stored it during the long winter months. [This was the car that James and Anna sold to the Stories.]
Ralph will probably be back from New York by the time this letter reaches you.  I am sorry he and Ruth have failed to see alike well enough to become husband and wife but they know best.  I believe in letting people choose their own mates.  People tried to get me married more than once and talked as you know but I paid no attention to their hints and did my own choosing and am sincerely thankful I did.…

February 20, 1918
I will send out my daily message to let you know how I am faring.
This is quite a nice day but more rain came last night and this morning.  I think mud must be pretty deep outside although I am not in position to see for myself.
I am feeling quite good today and think that I am improving.  My throat and head are not entirely well.  I am going to see a throat and head doctor tomorrow to see if there is anything wrong there.  I hope to get out of this air a few days.  I am back on regular diet now. 
…The people who must work in the hospitals have long hours and the work must be very strenuous and trying to the patience.  Some of the patients are disagreeable enough and whine and complain if they are not attended to the minute they call.; Others are here who are just as patient as others are impatient.  The hospital corp hire[?] for their ward consists of one doctor 3 day and one night nurse, one ward master, one night orderly and two day orderlies.
…There are many nations represented here.  There are Syrians, Greeks, French, English and several other nationalities represented in this ward beside the Americans.  There is an English lad in the bed next to mine and he is very good.…

February 21, 1918
 I am back on my feet once more and feeling quite good.  Have been up nearly all day.  Was over and had my nose and throat examined by a specialist.  He failed to locate any trouble in my nostrils.  He said any trouble that was there came from the cold I had just had.  I think I shall be back with my company about tomorrow or next day.  I had not walked any since Fri. last and the first few steps this morning caused my legs to wobble.  I wonder how those people get along at first after remaining in bed for more than a month.
This is a beautiful day.  The sky is so clear and blue it will surely bring rain for tomorrow.  I am anxious to get back to C “D” and work again.  I would pity anyone who was compelled to lay idle all the time.  I have gotten along fine here though, since I could write, read and sleep.  The first two days were harder.
            …I am dreaming very much of New York now.  It always seems much nicer to be alive and look ahead at springtime than at any other season of the year.  Now comes the time when we can feel that the cold winter has passed away and plants will spring forth again…How glad I would be to be proprietor of a nice New York farm, how interesting to work out plans and live the ideal farm life.  Such has long been my ambition and though I must not for a while yet I feel that finally I shall realize my ambition don’t you?  I like to hear the boys tell where they are going after the war.  I just listen and say nothing regarding myself but I have plans for all of that.…
February 22, 1918
Will drop a few lines to you this P.M.  I thought I should get back to my company today but the doctor decided to keep me here another day as there is plenty of sleeping room here and the source of help is none to plentiful.  Consequently, they have been using me for dishwashing and to help wait on patients today.
…I do not mind helping do the work here, someone must do it.  I am wondering if I shall have my office work when I get back to my company or if someone-else will be doing the work I did.  I probably will have to go out and drill when I get back.  I am not particular and furthermore it would do me no good if I were.  We have to do as we are told in the army.
…There is a barber in this ward.  He is able to cut a head or tow of hear each day.  He isn’t very strong yet but he seems to know how to cut hair.  Most of the patients in this ward (B-I) are getting well.  No real bad cases at all.  Most of them are stomach, rheumatism, tonsolitis or those getting well from pneumonia.  Archie Saunders the boy from Co “D” and New York was up in a chair for the first time today.  He will get along nicely now unless he gets a setback.  He came to the Base Hospital on the 22nd day of January just a month ago today.
…I am very anxious to get those letters that I know you have written me and which await me at “D” Co. office.  Maybe some of the boys will be over from there tonight and will bring over the mail for the hospital boys.  Mail is looked for eagerly every day by the lads and it does me good as well as themselves when they get their letters….

February 23, 1918
 I am yet in the hospital but am not very sick.  I am going out tomorrow so the doctor said.  They kept me here as I have said before to help do the work.  I told the Doctor this morning that I ought to get back to duty and so he said I could go tomorrow.  I hope I may as I am getting restless here and anxious to get back to work.  I would not like to have my regiment depart and leave me in the hospital.
…  There is a number of southern lads in this ward and actually they haven’t ambition enough to move at all.  Two or three of them are nearly able to leave the hospital and though one of the hospital orderlies is sick yet those lads hate to make a move towards helping in any way.   May of the people of the warm states seem to lack the snap and perseverance of some northern people of my acquaintance.…

February 23, 1918
…I rec’d 5 letters from you from the office.  The first one was written Feb 13 and the last one the 18th.  They certainly did me good.  I am going to read them all over again but I will write this letter first and what I miss answering this time I will answer next.
I am glad to hear that Frank Munson is home.  He has had a hard time but has been really very fortunate in getting home so soon and having a furlough at Christmas also.  I bet Hazel and all of his people were only too glad to have him back.  He is certainly a nice fellow if I am a good judge. [Frank was discharged due to medical reasons and would marry Hazel Russell. He was killed by a falling tree in 1920.]
…You surely are getting your share of winter.  I can imagine just how the roads are up there now.  The tracks of the road get so high when the snow gets deep and then trouble comes when a thaw out comes.  It is fortunate Ralph returned before the worst weather came and traveling became so bad.  I hope his cold does not prove anything serious.  He no doubt had a good time and hope he did enjoy himself.  Ralph does not look upon farm life just as you and I do Anna and for that reason you should not blame.  We cannot all see things alike you know and if the things of the city appeals to our brother we ought not to care.  I am sorry he does not care for Ruth more than for Miss Lifgren but we must hope that he will change his mind yet…
The Doctor came around and said my temperature had risen a little tonight so I may be unable to get to my company tomorrow.  I had been working all day and he told me to stop and go to bed but I am going to finish this letter if the Doctor doesn’t come in too soon.
…Your milking will be getting quite heavy now if you have so much milk.  I expect you can have the privilege of drawing every other day...

[February 24, 1918] 

My dear Anna;
…I have had visitors today and there has been a good many visitors in the ward today.  Smith Bilby[?] one of New York’s first lads has been here.  He brought me some reading matter and indeed has been very good to me having come over every three or four days since I came here.  He came over with Wilford Wheatley’s from Charlotte the people who brought me the socks from the Andes Red Cross.  He has invited Beilby and I into Charlotte to dinner next Sabbath.  I think we will go if I am able to get out of the hospital previous to that time.
You know I had planned to get out of the hospital today but I overworked in the kitchen yesterday so the ward Doctor made [me] go to bed again.  I feel quite well today but I suppose I shall be unable to get out of here for a few days.
…I can imagine you were somewhat alarmed when you received my letter stating that I was in the hospital but you need not worry.  I have stated the facts of the case just as they were.  I am not worse than I have stated to you in my letters.  If I had not worked so much yesterday I could not doubt have gone back to my company today and feel that I shall be able to get back there some day soon.  I am getting along good here.  The Ward (B-1) Doctor is very good. He spends a great portion of his time with his patients, is skilled in his profession and I have never heard him say a cross word to anyone.  Some of the patients complain that they do not get as much to eat as they need but I cannot imagine the quantity that would be necessary to satisfy the hunger of some people.  All some people can do is to whine and growl anyway.
…Part of the nurses here have signed up for service oversea and part for home service only.  Those for oversea service are anxious to get started for Europe but I trust some of them will get enough foreign service to satisfy their longings for such before they get back to the good old U.S.A.  I for one am sorry it has become necessary for anyone to go oversea.…

February 25, 1918
Another day has nearly passed so I must get busy or my poor but well meaning letter will not go to you in the morning.  I have been taken cough mixture since yesterday which does not sit well with my stomach so I have not been feeling very much like writing as I am sick to my stomach and have the headache.  I wish I might get well enough to get out of here before many days and surely will.
As nearly all of my personal belongings were left at the company when I came here I am wondering how they are all faring.  I shall be very fortunate if they are taken care of for me.  Very little attention is given the belongings of the soldier if he is not there to care for them himself.  There value is not so great but some of the articles I should rather hate to lose as they are of value in my eyes.
…The hospital has been kept very warm since I came here, too warm an close for the good of those accustomed to sleeping in tents.  When I go back to my company I doubt if I go into the office again unless ordered to do so.  I doubt if I should have been sick had [I] never gone to the office.  I have just taken a dose of that terrible cough liquid.  I don’t wonder that it makes my head ache and my stomach feel a though it would turn over because it has a most nauseating taste.  Maybe it does me lots of good though…

February 27, 1918 (Wed)
I am feeling better today so I can sit up in bed and write you once again.  I did not write yesterday but succeeded in getting one of the boys to secure me some paper and envelopes today.  My stomach feels better today and I ate good at dinner and breakfast.  My bronchitis is not cleared up yet.  The doctor finally discovered bronchial trouble to be my chief sickness.  He thinks it will soon go away though but I myself think perhaps some good warm weather or a change of climate would be of more aid than anything else.  I hope to get out of here soon.
Your letter written on your way to Mae’s came to me last night late.  I can imagine how high the water would get at Delancey and at R. Mable’s.  I was testing at Delancey during high water one spring and the road was covered for several rods with water between the bridge and the railroad track.  It will be good to get rid of so much snow as must have gone during such a thaw.  I have been wondering when you received my letter stating that I was placed in the hospital.  I wrote to mother C the same time I wrote to you and I think she would get my letter when you were there.  I am surprised how long mail takes to reach you after I mail it.  Mail from you generally comes in three or four days and it takes most a week for my letters to get to you. 
…I am truly very glad that Ralph is in Class 4 - which means he will not be called for a long time at least…Mr. And Mrs. Wheatley were up again Mon night and brought a nice lot of magazines, books and papers.  Also two glasses of gelatine and newly baked cake.  I enjoyed the gelatine very much but could not eat the cake so the other boys enjoyed that.

Feb 28, 1918
I am still in the hospital but feeling the best for some time.  I feel I shall get out in a very few days now and can get back to my company and to duty.  Time at least will go faster when I am back at work.
The afternoon mail has just been given out but no mail for me.  Ray Stubbebine brought over the co “D” payroll so all boys from there in the hospital could sign it.  He brought me the postal card stating you had just gotten my first letter stating that I had been put into the hospital.  I know how worried you have been over this but I have gotten along good and surely will get out now in a very short time.
I am anxious to get a letter from you telling all about your Delancey visit.  I know how much mother and Mae have appreciated your visit.  I am sorry there was no one at the Depot to meet you.  They probably thought you would not come since the weather was so bad.  They do not know the Bovina grit do they if they thought that.
This is another beautiful day and if I can see right through the windows I believe the buds on some of the trees are getting quite large.  There seems to be no beautiful coming of spring like we have in New York.  The days just seem to grow gradually warmer day by day without the beauty of the spring days we get up in Del Co. 
It is now time for supper or chow as the soldiers call all meals.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

February 1918 - 100 Years Ago "In That Thriving Town"

February 1, 1918
G.D. Miller shipped two tons of hides last week.
A daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. John Burns last week. [This was Agnes Burns, born January 21.]
Town Clerk Gordon has issued 16 hunting licenses so far this year.
Thomas A. Archibald, an up-town farmer, is installing a milking machine.
Samuel Heller is recovering from the measles.  Three other members of the family now have the disease.
Miss Louise Dennis expects to leave Saturday for Virginia to live with her brother, John P. Dennis. She will pack up her household goods, with a view of remaining permanently in the south.

W.H. Maynard Will Run Big Dairy

William H. Maynard has stocked his farm in the upper part of the town of Bovina, with 90 cows.  They arrived Saturday night.

Bovina Center Co-Op Creamery – Annual meeting held Tuesday and Directors elected

“During the year there were received 5,485,226 pounds of Milk and 64,542 pounds Cream and this milk and cream produced 268,537 pounds of butter fat.  The total receipts were $167,160.38.”

February 8, 1918
William H. Maynard will install a milking machine at his farm up-town.
The estate of the late John A. Irvine is estimated at $15,000 personal and $15,000 real.
Thomas Ormiston was injured last Tuesday while he was returning from Delhi with a load of feed. Near Wm. C. Russell’s the load upset and Mr. Ormiston landed on his head on a frozen mass.  He was so painfully hurt that it was necessary to take him to his home in Mr. Russell’s cutter.

February 15, 1918
Henry Hennings has moved his family to the Thos Hoy farm, which he recently purchased.
On account of the illness of Miss Kathryn Reynolds the primary department of the village school is closed for two weeks.
James Hoy, son of Wm. A. Hoy, was taken to Oneonta to consult Dr. Sweet for supposed injury to the spine. The doctor could not help him, but recommended that he be taken to Binghamton to consult a specialist. [James would suffer from spinal issues the rest of his life. He died in 1956 at the age of 47.]

February 22, 1918
Benjamin Mead has purchased Harry Robson’s Metz car and also a new phonograph.
The Red Cross will give an entertainment in the town hall on Friday evening, February 22.
W.B. Gladstone and son, Walter, of Andes, were here Monday and purchased a number of yearling heifers from F.W. Hyatt.
For the month of January patrons of the Bovina Center Co-Operative Creamery company received 69 cents a pound for butter fat.
The receipts of a social held in the town hall Friday evening amounted to $10. After the expenses were paid the balance was divided between six of the schools to be used in purchasing pencil pointers.

Bovina Man Cut his Leg

Monday while Howard McPherson was cutting wood for Wm. J. Archibald he cut his right leg just at the knee joint. Two stitches had to be taken to close the wound.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Who is E. Thomson?

Gary Manning recently shared with me a picture that was found by his wife (and my cousin) Joyce Manning. It was found behind a framed print that was in Joyce's family. The small signature in the corner says E. Thomson.

Behind the picture was this information:
"To My Sister
"Tis not the value of the gift,
That friendship's hand may tender,
Tis not a thing's intrinsic worth,
Though gems of rarest splendor;
That call the heart's best gratitude
Or wakes a deep emotion."

It is signed "E. Thomson."

Also on the back it says "Bovina, Apr 8th 1858, Del. Co. NY"

I have not succeeded yet in determining who this is. The first name probably is Elizabeth, but that doesn't help much, since there are several Elizabeths. I looked in the 1860 census for any Elizabeth Thompsons/Thomsons and there were five in Bovina. I looked to see if any of these Elizabeths had sisters alive in 1858 and all five did. And on top of that I found two Elizas and an Ellen. 

The Elizabeths range from 63 year old Elizabeth Thomson, born Elizabeth Scott to an Elizabeth who was 17, the daughter of William Thompson and Amelia Lyle. This Elizabeth had a sister Mary. If the artist is this Elizabeth, she would have been 15 years old. She was married in 1873 to Adam Scott and died in 1922 when she was 80.

The second Elizabeth in the 1860 census was Elizabeth J. Thompson. She was the daughter of John R. Thomson and Mary McFarland and had a sister Eleanor. In 1860, she and her parents were living with her grandfather, Andrew Thompson. This Elizabeth died in 1862. 

There's a third Elizabeth who shows up but information about her is harder to find. She appears to be the daughter of James and Elizabeth Scott Thomson. And she had at least two sisters. 

There's an Elizabeth Thomson who was born in 1806, the daughter of James Thompson. She married George Thomson. 

There also was an Eliza Thompson, who was born Eliza Murray in 1829. She married David Lowe Thompson in 1854 and had several sisters. She was the daughter of John Murray and Jennet Scott.

If anyone recognizes anything about this picture or the handwriting, please contact me. I'd love to figure out the identify of "E. Thomson."

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

This Day in Bovina for January 2018

Seventy-six years ago today, the Bovina column of the January 1, 1942 Delaware Republican reported that two students were home for the holidays: "Miss Rae Storie, student at Muskingum College is spending the holiday season with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Storie." Her cousin, Ed Davidson, "a student at Elmira Aviation School" spent Christmas with his parents, Fletcher and Lois Davidson. The same column also reported that two teachers were home. "Miss Marjorie Russell, teacher at Madison, Ohio, is spending the holidays with her parents…" A teacher from East Orange, N.J., Miss Jane A. Hilson, "is at her home here for the holidays."

Bovina lost a Civil War veteran, Frank Gowanlock, 100 years ago on January 2, 1918 at his home on the outskirts of Bovina Center. He was 76 years old.  He had been in poor health for several years and a few days earlier had had a heart attack (or possibly a stroke), or, in the parlance of the time, "suffered a shock."  Born in Bovina, he spent most of his life there and was a stone mason by trade.  In 1862, Frank enlisted in Co E, 144th Regt and served until the end of the war.  He married Jane Liddle in 1875 - she predeceased him in 1916.

One hundred and five years ago today, January 3, 1913, a heavy wind blew over John Irvine’s smoke house at his farm on Coulter Brook.

103 years ago today, on January 4, 1915, Mrs. George Hewitt, of Margaretville, died at the home of Stephen R. Seacord in southern Bovina. She had arrived a few days earlier to attend the January 1 marriage of Stephen Seacord's daughter Rosanna to John Sweet. On December 28 she became ill with paralysis and never recovered. Mrs. Hewitt was born Cornelia Adee in Bovina 64 years earlier. She first married John Hewitt in 1876. He died in 1887. About eight years later, she married her late husband’s brother, George. She was the second of George’s four wives.  Cornelia’s funeral was held in the Methodist church (where Gert Hall’s home now stands) and she was buried in the Bovina cemetery.

116 years ago, on January 5, 1902, William Wilson Hoy and his wife were guests of his mother, Mrs. John R. Hoy, in Bovina.  Three days later, on January 8, William sailed from New York for London, where he had accepted a position as chief engineer of the Burmah Oil Company of London.  As later reported in the Andes Recorder, “From London he will proceed to India, where he will remain until surveys are completed, and has to report again at London in September. He receives $500 a month and expenses.”

119 years ago today on January 6, 1899, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, "Anna, little daughter of Edwin C. Burgin died…. Her death was a particularly sad one, as she die[d] under the influence of ether, which had been given her to perform an operation on her leg." Anna was seven years old. She was a sister of Edwin 'Ted' Burgin (1904-1993), the father of Cliff Burgin. Obviously, Ted never knew this sister, given she died five years before he was born.

121 years ago today, on January 7, 1897, Mrs. Thomas Gordon died.  The Andes Recorder reported that "This community was shocked to learn of the death of Mrs. Thomas Gordon.."  She was 46 years old and had just lost her daughter, Maggie, six weeks earlier.  The Recorder noted that "It is seldom that so sad an event is recorded.  The husband and son have the sincere sympathy of the entire community."   Mrs. Gordon was Mary Jane Oliver.  She married Thomas Gordon in 1871 and had two children.  In June 1899, Thomas Gordon would marry as his second wife Mary Richardson Scott and would have two more children, including daughter Margaret, who taught Social Studies at Delaware Academy for many years from the 1940s to the 1970s.

129 years ago today, the Bovina column in the January 8, 1889 Stamford Mirror reported that "J.N. Laing, Andrew Doig, and Jennet E. Hoy are going to California." James Nevin Laing was 29 when he made his trip, but he came back and settled in the area, dying in Delhi in 1943. The Andrew Doig who went with him probably was Andrew Archibald Doig, who als was 29 when this trip took place. He settled in Kansas. And Jennett probably was Jennette Ellen Hoy, who had just turned 30 when this item appeared. She too came back to the area and later in life married Sloan Archibald. She died in 1942.

117 years ago today, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, " The annual meeting of the Bovina Center Telephone company was held Monday [January 9, 1911] and directors elected are as follows: Thomas Ormiston, O.W. Hill, A.T. Archibald for three years; John W. Blair, M. Every, Fred W. Thomson, for two years. At a meeting of the board of directors Thomas Ormiston was chosen president and general manager, and Walter G. Coulter, secretary and treasurer."

115 years ago, on January 10, 1903, Jacob Cook died at the home of F.C. Armstrong.  Little is known about him. He was single and had come to the United States from Switzerland about 30 years previously.  The report of his death in the Andes Recorder had his first name wrong, calling him "Joseph Cooke."  The paper went on to note that he died "with pneumonia" and that "the doctor was called Friday and saw that death must be the result."  He was about 55 years old and was working, as the Recorder noted "At different times … in Bovina."  He was "buried in the County House burying ground."

Sixty-seven years ago today, on January 11, 1951, Frederica Muller died in Delhi. She was born in Bovina in 1875, the youngest of 15 children. Her parents, Urban and Eloise Muller emigrated from Switzerland in 1870. Frederica was survived by one sister, Mrs. Jennie McCumber. Frederica was buried in the Bovina Cemetery. More on the Muller family can be found on the Bovina NY History blog at http://bovinanyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/01/stories-from-bovina-cemeteries-muller.html

Ninety-six years ago today, on January 12, 1922, James Ackerley fell down the cellar stairs at his home in the lower part of the village fracturing two ribs.

The Andes Recorder reported ninety years ago today, on January 13, 1928, that “Hilson Brothers will remodel their general store building. A cellar will be dug under it in order to install a furnace and changes will be made to modernize the store. Part of the present structure has housed the mercantile business of three generations of Hilsons.”

122 years ago today, on January 14, 1896, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, Robert C. Scott was seriously ill with erysipelas of the head.  The paper reported that on the 14th his condition was unchanged but that “slight hopes are entertained for his recovery.” Scott died the following Sunday, January 19.  He was 84 years old. Erysipelas is a strep infection of the skin and includes a high fever, chills and vomiting. Robert was the son of Robert Scott and Mary (Miller) Scott. He married Janetta Hamilton and would have seven children with her. Janetta died in 1883.

111 years ago today, January 15, 1907, while returning from the funeral of Frank Coulter in their horse and wagon, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Irvine, met Fine Hunt in the area where Coulter Brook Road comes onto present day County Route 6.  Irvine's horse became frightened at some logs that Hunt was dragging behind his wagon. The horse went off the bank and over a stone wall, taking the wagon and occupants with it.  Mrs. Irvine sustained slight injury and Mr. Irvine escaped uninjured.  The harness was broken and the dash-board smashed. The Irvines lived on Coulter Brook Road and were the parents of Isabell Russell.

110 years ago today, on Thursday, January 16, 1908, as later reported by the Andes Recorder, “a pretty wedding took place at the home of Mr. and Mrs. James B. Thomson, when their dauter, Pheba Mae, became the wife of Robert Tweedie.”  The Recorder went on to note that “This was the first marriage in town under the new law.”  This new state law required that all persons wishing to marry had to obtain a marriage license from the clerk in the village, town or city in which the marriage took place and present it to the clergyman or other official carrying out the marriage. Robert and Phoebe May had six children. Unfortunately, Robert and Phoebe had been married only 18 years when Robert died in 1926.  Phoebe died 20 years later.

Ninety-nine years ago today, on January 17, 1919, the Andes Recorder reported that Bovina's "Dr. Whitcomb has increased his charge for calls in the village to $1.50 and other calls accordingly."

121 years ago today, on January 18, 1897, Homer C. Burgin died in Binghamton at the age of 78. He was in Binghamton being treated for cancer, which had plagued him for several years. He was married and widowed twice and left a son and two daughters. Burgin is buried in Bovina.

Eighty-nine years ago today, on January 19, 1929, as later reported in the Delaware Republican, "Mrs. Grace Dickson, wife of Delbert H. Dickson, died at her home in Bovina Center…aged 28 years. Mrs. Dickson underwent a serious operation at the Delhi hospital last year and had since been gradually failing, a recent attack of measles followed by pneumonia proving more than her frail constitution could withstand. Her death occurred on the anniversary of her marriage to Mr. Dickson."

Fifty one years ago today, on January 20, 1967, Mr. and Mrs. James P. Cairns of Bovina Center were honored with an Open House to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. James Cairns was married to Mae Fisher on January 10, 1917 in Deposit, New York. The couple moved to Bovina in 1940. James worked on the Gerry Estate for many years, retiring in 1962. They had five children, including son Leonard. Mrs. Cairns died at the end of the year in December 1967. James passed away in 1972.

120 years ago, in the January 21, 1898 Bovina Column in the Andes Recorder reported the following:  "Politics are quiet in town. We do not have such spiteful people here as do some of our neighboring towns. The only candidate we hear mentioned for supervisor is W.L. White.  Thomas Gordon is mentioned for town clerk; John M. Miller and F.C. Armstrong are up for road commissioner.  The other offices are as yet in the dark."

Seventy-six years ago today, the January 22, 1942 issue of the Delaware Republican had in its Bovina column this item: "Miss Jane Davidson returned from Schenectady where she spent the past week with Miss Kate Birdsall."

113 years ago today, on January 23, 1905, Mrs. Isabella Hoy died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Douglas Davidson of pneumonia.  She was 73. The Andes Recorder reported that she had just returned a few days earlier from visiting her son at Oil City, Pennsylvania with a severe cold, a cold that "grew rapidly worse."  The Recorder noted that "Her maiden name was Isabella Miller and she was born in Bovina, in September, 1831. About 1855 she was united in marriage with John R. Hoy, and he died September 30, 1901. She is survived by three sons and two daughters……"

116 years ago, on January 24, 1902, an entertainment of the Bovina Centre Lecture Course was scheduled.  The Andes Recorder reported that "Among the promised features will be instrumental and vocal music, recitations and a debate, Resolved, 'that in civil affairs women should be allowed to vote on the same conditions on which men exercise the franchise.'” Unfortunately, the result of the debate was not reported.

157 years ago today, on January 25, 1861, Mary Margaret Archibald was born, the daughter of William Archibald and Margaret McDonald. She married Charles Oscar Boggs in 1881 and would have two children before she was widowed in 1891. Mary Boggs died in Bovina in 1945.

119 years ago today, on January 26, 1899, Norton Forrest was born, the son of William L. and Mary Lunn Forrest. The age of the mother made some impact on the Andes Recorder:  "Born to Mr. and Mrs. William L. Forrest, January 26, a son. Think of Abraham and Sarah." The reference to Abraham and Sarah does not so much relate to the age of the parents (William was 43 and Mary was 42) but the fact that when their son was born, their only other child, a daughter Irene, was 19 years old. Ironically, Norton would predecease his older sister, dying in 1957 (she died in 1970).

115 years ago, on January 27, 1903, as later reported in the Andes Recorder, "Miss Jennie E. Miller started Tuesday for Norfolk, Virginia, where she will be connected with the United Presbyterian college for the education of the Freedmen.  She has charge of the buying for the boarding department." The Jennie referred to here likely is Jennette Elliott Miller (1841-1925), the daughter of David and Isabella Miller.

110 years ago today, on January 28, 1908, farmers in the Pink Street area of Bovina held a meeting concerning telephone service. As later reported in the Andes Recorder, "The Rose line of which they are patrons, does not give satisfactory service and for some time there has been no central office in Bovina. Unless some other arrangements can be made the farmers propose to build a line of their own. Another meeting will be held Wednesday afternoon, February 5."

134 years ago today, January 29, 1884, this order was signed altering the road districts in Brushland (now Bovina Center). Rev. Kennedy's house was the open land next to Walker Pond's home. The Methodist parsonage was where Chuck and Betty McIntosh live. 

187 years ago today, on January 30, 1831, Loruhannah Henderson was born in New Kingston, the daughter of James Henderson and Hannah Sprague. She married Francis Coulter in Bovina in 1857 and would have five children. She was predeceased by at least two children. Her sons Walter and James died 11 days apart in March 1900. Loruhannah died in 1909. Her husband died less than six months later. Both are buried in Bovina.

138 years ago today, the "Bovina Locals" column in the Delaware Republican for January 31, 1880 reported that "The weather is very 'child-like and bland,' and how we are to tell when Spring commences, if this style of winter continues, is a question that perplexes the strongest minds, and all the reliable old weather sages, who in vain have prophesied the commencement of a hard winter at each change of moon for the past three months, have at least agreed that 'we will catch it sometime,' which remarkable conclusion is probably correct."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Death of John A. Irvine as Reported in the Walton Reporter

I've previously reported in my 100 years ago in Bovina blog entry about the death of John Irvine on New Year's Day 1918. John was the father of Isabell Russell. The Walton Reporter has kindly given me permission to present the article of John's death that was published in that paper in January 1918. It is the longest report I have seen on his death, with details I had not seen before.


Former Bovina Supervisor Had Been Melancholy - Hanged Himself in Barn.

(Special to the Reporter.)

Residents of Bovina were shocked to learn that John A. Irvine had taken his life by hanging himself on New Year’s Day. He had been melancholy for some days, and on Monday was in Delhi village; while there he complained to friends of having a pain at the base of his brain.

Tuesday afternoon at about four o’clock he went to his safe to get a paper, and while bending over seemed to fall backwards. His relatives thought nothing of the matter, but noticed that he took a paper from the safe and going to the stove threw it into the fire. He then proceeded to the barn; after he had been there about an hour his son-in-law Cecil Russell, thought he would go out and see what Mr. Irvine was doing. Going into the barn he did not find him. Russell surmised something was wrong and went at once to look for a coil of new rope that hung against the wall. He did not find the rope. He then felt that Mr. Irvine had taken it and feared to search, but proceeded to the next floor when a most horrible sight presented itself. There, resting on his knees was the form of the unfortunate man with the rope about his neck partly hanging from a beam above. Russell at once cut the rope and rushed to the house.

Dr. Whitcomb was hastily summoned and arrived in a few minutes. He found that life was extinct. Coroner Woods of Delhi was sent for and after investigating ordered the body removed to the house. It was found that suicide was most strangely arranged. Mr. Irvine had removed about twenty feet of the rope from the coil without cutting the cords that held it together. He then placed a barrel beside the steps that led to the upper lift, and standing about half way up the stairs, threw the rope over the beam. He then placed his arm through the coil of rope and drawing it tightly tied the end around his neck. Then he stepped off the barrel. He had not calculated properly for when the rope became taut his knees rested on the floor. He must have hugged the coil close to his body while he slowly strangled to death. Had he thrown his arm out the coil would have slipped from his arm.

John Irvine was about fifty years of age and highly respected by everyone. He was supervisor for years and was an able representative of his town. Three of his sons, Lloyd, William and Dr. Lester, were home spending the New Year. Another son, Clifton, is in the west. He is also survived by his wife and daughter, Mrs. Russell, who lived with them.

I was particularly interested in the description of his health issue and that it was a pain at the base of his brain. His son William died of a brain tumor in 1929 in Seattle, Washington at the age of 41. His other children all survived into old age. Isabell was the last surviving child of John Irvine, dying in 1985 at the age of 88. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Grandma's First Husband - "I am well and my hopes are rising."

The start of 1918 saw my grandmother, Anna Bell Barnhart Calhoun, and her first husband James Calhoun, several states apart – she at home in Bovina and he in North Carolina. He wrote her a long letter on New Year’s Day:

Jan 1, 1918

My dear Anna;
This is the first day of the new year.  It is a holiday all day with us at Camp Greene and I am trying to make it such in the true sense of the word as nearly as I possibly can.  I came into Charlotte early this morning on the trolley with one of the others from squad 13 who is an accomplished organist.  We went directly to the YMCA and took a good refreshing wash up which was free as we furnished our own soap and towel.  I then went out and found a haircut and went from there out about town a little and am now back at the YMCA at 11 o’clock AM writing in a nice cosy room God bless the YMCA.  They are the haven of rest for the soldier boys.  The friend who I am with picks up a good bit of money playing the pipe organs at different churches here Sabbath days and evenings.  He often is able to get $2 a day for playing outside of drill hours.  I felt I must not eat lunch in town today as it would be to[o] expensive but that I should go back to camp and eat Uncle Sam’s fare but my friend is going to stay in all day and urges me to stay and lunch at his expense and I have consented to do so explaining the circumstances of course.  I have plenty of money here.  Have nearly $10.00 left from the $20.00 I left home with and will get $6.00 more probably when pay day comes in about 10 days.  I hope not only to be able to save enough out of my monthly pay here but to lay a little aside. 
I looked at the thermometer as I came from breakfast this morning and it registered 6 degrees above zero.  I am told this is the coldest weather this place has experienced in 28 years.  My cold is much better today but some of the others in my squad have hard colds this morning.  My bed fellow from Shinhopple, NY has a severe cold and I am afraid by the sound of his cough that it is affecting his lungs.  I got some lemons last evening and made some real sour hot lemonade just before going to bed.  It seemed to do wonders in loosening up the phlegm and taking the soreness from my throat.  The sun is shining brightly today and as there is but little wind.  I think the weather shall begin to warm again today.  I know from reports that a cold wave has extended throughout the U.S.  It has been quite cold throughout the southern states even down on the gulf coast. 
The chances for real cold of great length is not great here and as we will probably stay here until nearly spring we will probably escape much of the real cold weather this year.  If we should go to France or abroad it will be in summer which will make it much more pleasant.  It isn’t nearly so hard to drill hard when we are comfortable and not frozen to death. 
My friend has finished his letters and wishes to go so I will not keep him waiting.  This will let you know I am well and my hopes are rising.  I am willing to be more patient in waiting for a better day if I feel it is really coming.  As ever your most loving husband

January saw no major events in James’ life, but he saw a couple of changes of duty. There are no letters that survive from Anna to James in this period, but James commented on several things going on in Bovina, including some deaths and the start of a family squabble in Anna’s family. 

On January 2, he wrote that “I enjoy your letters so much because you write all about what takes place with you and that is where my heart’s interests are.  I am so glad to hear all about what takes place up there.  You said by your last letter that you thought you had better close as you had written enough trash.  Now dear Anna it is not trash to me but every word of it is precious to me.  Write me whenever you can and anything you think would be of interest to me.  I think your letters are the best ever and I wish I could write such interesting letters as you do.”

In a letter written January 4, he explains why we have so few of Anna’s letters available to us today: “I do not know how many letters you have written me as I destroy them after I have read them thoroughly because it is unwise to carry them about because someone would find them and read them but I have gotten a nice big bunch of them.  Yes they are our love letters which we did not need to write when we were courting.  No lover ever enjoyed his sweetheart’s letter more than I have enjoyed yours to me.”

James was rather self-effacing about himself, as evidenced by this passage: “It does not seem possible that so many Bovina boys have gone to the army but their names tell the story.  I knew you would prove patriotic, but I am not worthy of the star for you know Rev. Graham said I was a slacker and you better have my name taken from the honor roll.”

James and Elizabeth Boggs

On January 5, James comments on Anna’s sister Edith helping at the home of James and Elizabeth Boggs. “I am glad Edith likes her place and I always liked Boggs people very much.  James was always especially jolly and good natured.  So, they are expecting something to happen next summer are they?”  The assumption here is that Elizabeth was pregnant. Sadly, it appears that complications set in. On January 12, he comments that “I am sorry for Boggs’ people if Mrs. Boggs has the fever and the trouble of which you spoke. She has almost too much for her physical ability and scarlet fever will make it hard for the entire family.” The scarlet fever led not just to the Boggs family being quarantined but Edith had to join them. A few days later, Anna reported that it wasn’t scarlet fever, which let Edith out of quarantine. But worries about Mrs. Boggs continued. On January 14, he wrote “I am so glad that Mrs. Boggs doesn’t have scarlet fever.  It means so much to you all.  I am extremely sorry for Boggs people and may God grant the sparing of Mrs. Boggs.  Should she be taken away it would almost kill James.  They have had hard luck with their family indeed.” 
Mrs. Boggs’ illness worsened, turning into blood poisoning. Elizabeth died on January 17. James learned of her death on January 21: “I cannot tell you how sorry I feel for James Boggs and all of his and her friends.  It is very hard indeed and all have my sincere sympathy who have to pass through such an experience.  You know it is only those who have suffered who can full sympathy with suffering.  This will prove a terrible blow to all of their people.” James continued to mourn for his friend. On January 24, he wrote “I cannot help but think of poor James Boggs and God only knows how I pity him.  I suppose I should be very thankful that you are spared to me and realize that we are really blessed and spared in comparison to what some of our fellows must endure.” 

In February, he still was struggling over writing a letter of sympathy to James Boggs “but really I feel I can hardly do it.  I think sympathy letters are hard to write.  Give me a few pointers on the subject please.” 

Other deaths

On January 12, James wrote about two deaths in Bovina. His aunt, Jane McNair Doig, died on January 5. “I was sorry but not at all surprised to learn of Aunt Jane’s death.  She is surely better now and she was a good woman and lived a life of supreme Christian character.”

The other death in early January was a shock to all. John Irvine, former Bovina supervisor, committed suicide on New Year’s Day. Irvine was the father of Isabell Russell. It was his son-in-law Cecil who found him. James wrote “Mr. Irving’s death was especially sad.  The way it happened made the entire affair much more sad.  It seemed as though he had very much to want to live for, but he had lost his health and he couldn’t not see life in a way to really enjoy it.  Money is a good thing to have but good health and a true love works for more to make truly happy lives, doesn’t it?” In a later letter, he speculated whether or not the suicide was caused by Irvine’s fear for his sons going off to war. Clifton already had gone off to camp (Clifton did serve in the war in Europe, coming home in 1919). 

Family issues and Life at home

James had been commenting on the relationship his brother-in-law Ralph had with Ruth Ormiston. He learned in early January that they had a falling out and hoped “it proves to be only temporary.” He went on to note that “No we have never had any smashes in our love affairs and I trust and feel that we never shall…. We surely are getting the chance to write our love letters now but I think our letters are more confidential than those of any two unmarried lovers possibly could be and as man and wife our letters should be perfectly confidential. [Ruth would marry Henry Monroe in 1920.]

Later that month, he became concerned about another issue concerning Ralph. This was the draft. On January 14, he wrote that “I am not fully informed with regard to the new draft papers that are served on the young men but I am glad to know that Ralph is attending to his promptly and feel he should get exempted from service on excellent reasons.  It is a grave mistake for the U.S. to call any of the boys from the farms because the worlds people are short of food stuffs now and next years will be much worse than this has been.” 

In his letter of January 24, James makes the first reference to a family squabble that developed with Anna Bell’s mother and her uncle John Miller. His letters do not provide any detail to the squabble, but occasional references show up for some time. John Miller lived next door to Anna Bell’s family farm [this is the farm that later became Suits-Us farm]. James writes “I was not injured in the least by the way Uncle John’s have treated us and I am not afraid that I shall ever be injured by anything they may do or say are you?  I sometimes think it is only jealousy and not us.  We will heap coals of fire on their heads by returning good for evil.  Am I right in so saying?”

James commented on things related to the family farm: “You are having hard luck with the dairy but do not feel discouraged because there are losses in every business.  Feed is terribly high and milk not high enough in proportion.  You have a nice bunch of calves and the cows must be milking well.”

Anna’s letters from home delighted James and occasionally made him homesick. “When I read in your letters of the work you people are doing up there it makes me wish all the more to be there and take part and just for a chance to be with you. The preparations for the future surely sound good to me and I shall try to wait as patiently as possible for that time to come.” 

He also delighted in the food sent from home, as apparently did some others: “Your box of delicious cookies came today and those who have sampled them proclaimed them excellent and they surely were worthy of the credit they received.” One gentleman named Charles told James “Your wife’s cookies are so good I must have another.” 

Life at Camp Greene

Some of James’ time at Camp Greene was spent on kitchen duty. “I do not think kitchen work calls for as steady work as camp orderly job.  This morning we came in and waited on tables at breakfast, then ate our own breakfast.  After breakfast we cleared the tables and washed the dishes, carried up the kitchen slop and cleaned up the floor.  We then peeled 3 or 4 bu[shels] of potatoes and are through work until we serve dinner.  I do not know the hour of the day but I think it is about 10:30 o’clock.  Our cook said after dinner was served and the dishes washed we would not need to work again until time to serve supper…Our regular eats here consists of lots of soup (vegetable and meat) and stews.  We get plenty of potatoes, bread, butter and roast meat.  The waste cuts of meat and the bones are boiled up to make stew and soup.  We also use up lots of onions and beans.  For breakfast we usually have milk (solution of evaporated milk) and cereal, usually boiled rice or wheat and corn flakes.  Occasionally we have hot cakes and syrup or hot soda biscuits.” 

The second week in January sees a sudden job change for James. On January 8, he writes that “We are due to go out to the rifle range early tomorrow morning, so I can write but a note tonight to let you know that I am fairly well.” James didn’t write again for three days, an unusual occurrence during his time in Camp Greene. When he wrote again, he reported his duty change:

Jan 11, 1918
My dear Anna;
After I reached camp today the first thing I did was get some eats and then I sneaked out of sight and got a haircut and washed up.  I had just gotten my toilet completed when I was called to the orderly room and told to move my baggage to the orderly room and prepare to become broken in there as clerk.  I will have to do a little drilling but will work here most of the time and think I shall like the work and will see and learn a good bit that will be useful to me when I come back to civilian. 

James wrote again two days later, noting that he was “back at the orderly room.  When I came back I found the sergeant and his company had gone and the clerk was having a clearing out of papers and etc of his desk.  He immediately gave me a job and I have been busy since except when eating supper.” He went on to note that he was unable to go to church because of all the work he was given. He assured Anna that “I am not turning heathen for all of that and will not if I am in the army for years.  The teaching I received at my mother’s knee has to firm a hold on me for that.  There are many men who did not have religion at all but what they believe and do doesn’t affect me at all.” 

He commented again on the lack of Sabbath observance a week later. He is working in the Orderly Room of the Army.  “All the way I see the day differs from week days is that the officers are not here nearly so much.  I of course do as I am told but it goes against the grain for me to do unnecessary work on Sabbath.  I have worked all day and have not even taken a moment to read.  I shall not let that affect me if I have to work every Sabbath for years.  The men here are very good to me and I get many favors in here I would not get if I was doing straight drill.  I am going to do my best without complaint here and when I am out of the army I shall keep my Sundays as I believe they should be kept.”

In another letter, he notes that he “shall not permit my duties here to keep me away from church entirely.” He also hopes to get some of the men he is with to come with him. These two men “both are careless people in more ways than one but they are good to me and I am not blaming them but rather I do pity them. The clerk had $3 pay day, he lost it all in about as many minutes gambling.  I do not believe in gambling so let it strictly alone besides I have no money to throw.”

James made several comments about the gambling he saw. His preference for playing cards was pinochle (misspelled in his letters): “Do you play pewinkle now.  I have not played a game since I came from home.  They play cards down here and shoot dice in place of playing pewinkle.  I do not though.  I do not believe in gambling and have no money to throw away anyway.” [Pinochle was a game my grandmother continued to play into old age.] 

Working as a clerk gave him access to a typewriter. He used this to write some of his letters to Anna: “I hope you do not mind getting a typewritten letter.  I am going to write my letters to you on the machine, so I can learn to typewrite.… I have never written on one before so excuse all mistakes.  This has been a beautiful day.  The nights are cold[cold] but not bad.” He found the experience too laborious and a day letter went back to his pen. But he continued to try to use the typewriter and a number of the letters he wrote were typed over the next few months.

In mid-January, James reported that “Measles and mumps have broken out in this regiment and many of our men have been placed in the detention camp.  I think there are 60 men there now out of a Co. of 250 men.” James noted that he was lucky that he already had had both diseases. He also was glad he was in the orderly room, where there was only “the clerk and the first sergeant and they are not likely to get sick as they are old army men.” The reason he was glad was that when someone in a squad “is taken with measles or mumps he is sent to the hospital and the others of the squad are sent to the detention camp.”  Word around was that the food at the detention camp was poor.

James did face quarantine around January 20 “because a man of the company who was sent from here to the Detention Camp Jan 11 came down yesterday with spinal meningitis.  There was really no use in quarantining the company as there has no one from here been with him since Jan 11 except those already in Detention Camp with him.  So don’t let that worry you.  Quarantine will probably last but a few days.”

A few days later, the City of Charlotte was quarantined “because spinal meningitis has broken out there.  We cannot go there except on official business and then must get a special pass.  I for one shall not go very often because I go very little when I am not quarantined.  It is a hardship on many of the however because they feel they are very much misused if they cannot get to town nearly every night.”

He related some little human incidents from camp. One morning he report that “Our first sergeant did not hear the bugle call for reveille soon enough to dress and get out this morning so he pulled on his rubber boots, hat and overcoat and went without pants.  No one could tell but he was dressed.”

James generally did not like the army and two months after going into service, comments on some of the men he encountered. “I do not see how some of the fellows can be so thoughtless and careless of home ties.  Some of the boys do not even take the trouble to write home occasionally to let their people know how they are.  As much as I see the necessity for helping win the war for U.S., yet I shall never forget the loved ones at home.  I am willing to do all I can but there are many things in army life that are really distasteful to me and I shall be that happiest boy in the whole bunch when the glad tidings came that peace has been declared.”

James found being in the south a different experience. He noted in a letter that “I picked up a few bolls of cotton yesterday on my way back from the hospital and will mail them so you can see how cotton really is in the raw state.  These are only bolls that were left from last falls picking and are not good ones but will give you an idea and sometime in the future we can look back and remember where they came from.” [The cotton bolls were not in the letters I got from my grandmother’s estate.] 

The irony of Camp Greene was that it was established to give a better chance of good weather for drilling and other training. It turned out to be one of the wettest and coldest winters the area had experienced in years. In one letter, James writes that “This has been a rainy day and the mud grows deeper and deeper but nevertheless we keep on top.  I don’t mind the mud so much for the simple reason that I do not have to get out and wallow in it continually.  I feel some of the boys are in it pretty bad down on the lower part of this street where the mud is so deep.”

James sometimes wrote about the mundane, right down to dealing with his clothes: “I told you I would send my underwear home but have neglected to mail same.  I shall do so before we move from here I think as extra baggage is only a nuisance to a soldier or a man who is trying to get to be a soldier.  I have a good place to hang up clothing here and our supply sergeant issued me a locker tonight, so I can place what I do not wish to hang up within that and keep them neat and clean.”

Keeping clean was certainly a challenge. Working as a clerk gave James a chance for “a dandy bath here.  I put a part of water to heat and took my dip in the tin wash tub we have.  How good it seemed to be able to get a good bath at my own shack.  A tent is a poor place to bathe especially when the tent is crowded with beds and other junk.” 

The Wheatleys

On January 19, James makes the first reference to a couple living in Charlotte who contacted him. “I have a post card here from Prof. C.A. Wheatley of Charlotte, N.C. stating that he and Mrs. Wheatley have a package of socks sent to them by the Andes Red Cross for me and for me to call and get them.  Mrs. Wheatley was formerly Laura Ballantine of Andes, and a daughter of Geo. Ballantyne of the same place and a sister of Mrs. John A. Gladstone of Albany.  Mr. Wheatley used to be principal of Andes High School and it was there he met Mrs. Wheatley.  I did not know they were down here and was much surprised to know there were people I had known living in Charlotte and I shall assuredly make them a call when I can find it convenient to get to town.”

Within a couple of days of this letter, “Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley…came out today and called me to the head of the company street as they were not allowed to come into the company.  They brought me the two pair of home knit woolen socks from the Andes Red Cross and they surely are fine.” 

Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley gave James a taste of home for the rest of his time in camp.

Going Overseas

James writes several times about the possibility of his going overseas: “I know nothing about when we go to France but I surely count on getting home for a few days.  We may not go to France at all.  I do not believe it is known where we shall go.” James notes that he’s not supposed to write anything about “movement or intended movement of troops but I know you will not say a word outside of our family.” There is no evidence that letters he wrote while in the United States were read or censored, unlike those he would late write from France.

Toward the end of January, James also commented on rumors about peace. “I am watching the peace talk of the dailies.  I hear the officers and men commenting daily on the war situation.  They feel that Austria and Germany are tiring of war but that the Allies will not give up until the world is made safe for democracy and I am afraid the only perfect solution of the problem is to fight it out to a finish unless Germany and Austria give way which I trust they soon must do and hope they may.”  In another letter, he noted that “Austria is getting very short of food and there is but little fighting over there.  I have strong hopes that the war will soon be settled.  I hope it closes before we get across because it would take a long time to get home again should it close shortly after we went across.” In another letter, he wrote that “I for one am ready to have peace but I don’t want it unless it can be permanent.  If we must fight again in a few years we may as well fight it out now.  America would be a poor place to live if the Kaiser rules here which he never will do.”

At the end of the month, James notes that if he does go overseas, his lack of drill experience might mean that “they probably will not put me in the trenches until I get some training.” He hoped that if he made “good as clerk” he probably would not see “much fighting on the firing line. I do not wish you to worry any more about this war business. I am sure it will soon close and if not we will get out alright.” 

January 24, 1918

My heart is very full tonight and though you are miles away I can realize the your full true love so good and sweet to me and if I had to go through again what we have gone through I should not want our relation to be otherwise than it is now.  My God I cannot tell you how glad I am that you are my wife.  You do so much to help me be faithful and true and contented in every way.

January 27, 1918

I was over across the street to the company C this morning and found or inquired about the boys I knew from Del or who came from Dix with me who are in that company.  I found Bilby(?) And George Votie of South Kortright.  Mitchell from East Meredith of C. Co. I find has been sent to the hospital.  Leonard from French Woods NY is in the Detention Camp as also is Charles Houck of Grand Gorge.  I think I shall make a visit to the hospital this PM and see if I may see Mitchell.  I am not going if he has a contagious disease but I can find out about that at Co C orderly room. 

James last letter to Anna in January was written on the 30:

…Dear girl it is difficult to tell when the war will finish but if the time is not very far distant.  There is talk, yes lots of peace talk now and there has never been before since the war commenced.  I feel as you do that we had better not buy many of our supplies now but simply wait until we need them.  Everything is very high now and many articles will eventually become lower in price after peace comes.  We are not making rich now but have a good provision from Uncle Sam and am sure we can make ends meet.

….I am glad to see that you are called upon for church work and are not omitted since you have taken such a disreputable name upon yourself.  I know you can make that name reputable or rather make me live such a good life that I shall be able to look my fellows straight in the eye.

There is nothing more tonight I think.  I shall get ready to help Sgt Schneider do some work. 

Your most loving husband James