Thursday, September 20, 2018

Grandma's First Husband - "I shall endeavor to write more at the first opportunity."

The letters that James Calhoun wrote to his wife, Anna Bell Barnhart from France in September 1918 would be the last he ever wrote. The month started out with a modest announcement in a PS at the top his September 1 letter concerning a change in rank.  He was promoted from Corporal to Sergeant.  The letter was received on September 21. 

(PS - You note a slight change in my rank).  JDC

Somewhere in France
Sept 1- 1918

My dear Anna;
I must drop you a little note this morning regardless of the amount of work demanding my attention for I know my good wife is or will be anxiously awaiting word from me about the time that this note will reach her.  I get over anxious at time about my work and then must get down hard on myself and stop and pen my loved ones at home at note because I know how anxious you are through these long days of waiting.  I am so grateful this Sabbath morning that my life is still spared and that I am well and full of vim.  This is a most wonderful world after all isn’t it.  Things are extremely hard at times but dear Anna just think of the joy that will be ours if I can come safely home again and I trust I will by God’s constant care and guidance. 
 This is rather a dark gloomy morning but not stormy but we have been having some wonderful weather.  Just such weather as we have in the States during September. 
I bought me a fountain pen from one of the boys just newly here who needed the money.  It is nearly if not just as good as the one I lost [next word crossed out] just after we came; you remember the pen I used when on cow test work; that was the one I lost I also have bought a leather cover folding note book with a place for a picture in the fly leaf.  The picture of you and I was just right size to fit the frame so you can imagine where said picture is carried.
I have appreciated those pictures all so much and wish you might send any extra pictures you may have and care to dispose of.  They help to keep me in touch with home.  The picture of Wilford was excellent.  The last picture I received was the one of the wedding party on the lawn. 
I have had no letters from you for about 10 days so I trust that I shall soon get another installment of messages.
I am letting my hair grow long on top now and do not think I shall get it cut short again this autumn.  I looked a worse fright than usual with my head shaved so you can imagine how the Dutch ran when they caught sight of me.  It was hard to be so frightful in appearance but then what was the difference when such does benefit the good old U.S.A. as in case stated.  I think had I kept going I could have walked right into Berlin.
Please write often and pray for your poor miserable excuse for a husband.  May God bles and keep you.  Your most loving husband, James
PS - Am enclosing a little souvenir

The souvenir probably was a handkerchief, as noted in Anna’s log of letters received.

James wrote again 2 days letter, though the letter was received the day before the September 1 letter.  This letter is typewritten.

Somewhere in France
Sept. 3, 1918

My dear Anna;
The noon hour has just closed and I shall soon commence work for the P.M. but not until I send a line of love to a certain little girl, who is anxiously awaiting to hear from me.  I am at present anxiously awaiting to receive a letter from that same lady.  Autumn is at hand and I am not in a position to come to you as I hoped that I might be or at least be planning to come.  I am not disheartened in the least just the same, because where there is love hope cannot die.
I owe many letters to friends and relatives at home and I seem to be unable to secure the time to get them answered.  I should write to James Boggs, Bryson George, Will Storie and a number of others besides my relatives who have so kindly written.  I think that Aunt Margaret must be very lonely and I know that she feels that I should write to her more often than I have.  If you are able to get to Andes at anytime just drop in and pay her a visit.  She will be more than pleased I feel certain.
I know that articles have increased greatly in price in the states since my departure and think that they will be still higher if this trouble continues.  Everything we buy here is very high in price.  In fact these French people think the American soldier is made of money and so they charge double price for their goods.  The French people can buy much cheaper than the American pays for the same article. 
I had a letter from Archie, Florence and Peter a short time past.  They feel that I am very tardy in writing to them as indeed I have been.  I was very glad to get a letter from them and to know that they were well.  Perhaps you will be able to get to see them this autumn and that will have to be visit for both of us.
George Votee is with me in this work just now.  He is the only one the fellows from near home that I see real often.  We have been rooming together for a short time past.  It does seem very good to have someone with me that knows some of the people and places at home. [George Votee was from South Kortright and sailed to France with James. He would survive the war and stay in France on occupation duty until June 1919.]
I have had another installment of lice since I last wrote you and had to take vigorous methods to rid myself of the living little fellows.  I should like to send you a few in a letter if only I could find an envelope strong enough to keep them prisoner during the long trip across the ocean.  I am certain they would live through the journey all O.K. if I could keep them from walking away with the letter.
My helper has just come in so I will close this and get to work.  Surely you will get some of my letter and if you get this one you may know that I am safe and provided the cooties or lice do not overwhelm me.  Give my best re- to all of our people and write real often.
May God’s blessing be with you all,
Your most loving husband, James

James wrote again two days later on September 5, received by Anna on September 28.

Somewhere in France
Sept 5, 1918

My dear Anna;
It is time for me to pen you a few lines as to my welfare.  I am glad to say that at this date that I am quite well and O.K.  I am tired tonight and am hoping I can get a real nights sleep and then I expect I shall be able to perform another days duty.  I have a real bed ready for to occupy tonight.  I have not received mail yet but surely shall soon.
There has been a little thunder storm this evening but do not think it will amount to much.  There has been but little thunder and lightning here this summer. Perhaps there is not so much thunder and lightning here any year as in the U.S. but for all that I prefer the U.S. don’t you.  Be it ever so humble there’s no place like home.
I am letting my hair grow on top now and will soon become as I used too to appear.  It is now about 3/4 of an inch in length on top of my head and thicker than hasty pudding.  I am still chasing lice but think I have them nearly all chased out now.  They surely do make a person feel uncomfortable but we must endure them when we can not get rid of them and keep rid of them.  I never had to endure them in civil life and will not if I am permitted to return to civil life again.
It is getting dark so I will close.  May God bless and keep you.  With fond regards to all.  Your most loving husband, James.

James wrote again on September 8.  The letter was received the same day as that of September 5. It is another of the typed letters James sent.

Company “D” 7th Infantry
American E.F.
8th Sept., 1918.

My dear Anna;
I like to get short letters and I love to get real long letters especially from you and I know that you shall be glad to get even a short letter from me.  I shall proceed to send you a few lines of ragged type.
Yesterday’s mail brought me your three excellent letters of July 28, Aug. 4 and Aug. 6, 1918.  I must say that I spent a good time last evening by the candle light reading them.  I also enjoyed the clippings very much.  I must say that if it was not for you I should hear very little from home but the others all know that you are faithful in writing to me and of course they do not write as often as otherwise.  It is hard work to write letters except to those we love very dearly.  It has been exceptionally hard for me to keep up with my correspondence at all and I must confess that I have not written to many of those that have remembered me with a letter, and I have not written home a soften as I should have because I know that they hear from me even if I do not write.
This is a beautiful Sabbath morning and the sun is shining brightly.  It is just such a morning as I should love to be getting ready to go to church with you.  Wouldn’t that be fine.  It is nice that you can have even a substitute as partner at church and I think it just fine of Ruth to be so considerate of you.  I think she realizes how you are feeling these days.  You must have had many very warm days in the states: here it has not been so warm as to be oppressive much of the time.  It is well that it has not been as it would have been terrible at times.  The hail must have been very heavy: Archie and Florence wrote me that they gathered enough to make ice cream twice and that the small hollows in the earth had filled in in places. 
A nice little bundle of correspondence came in to me as I was writing the above paragraph and I have just finished answering letters and other work called for.  You will think your poor excuse of a husband is engaged in fine work for the God Given day of rest.  Please do not hold this against me.  Remember that I am in the army now.  I wonder what Mother C. would think if she knew.  She never wanted me to write even a friendly letter and I never dated my letters written to her on Sabbath when I was away from home.  I guess I was tough and mean to play such tricks on my mother but I did not do that very much.  It is now 2: P.M. according to my new watch.
I must tell you about my watch.  I bought it of one of the boys who was broke of funds as we say in the army.  I paid forty francs or about $7.50 American money but it would have cost me much more had I bought direct from a French store.  It is a very neat 0 size wrist affair with a face shield and a gray wrist strap.  I hated to spend the money but I needed a watch so much in my work that I felt it to be a necessity.  I would have bought one sooner had watches not been so costly in all the French shops where I inquired.  I think this one cost the first purchaser about seventy five francs.  One dollar of American paper money is worth 5.55 francs at this date.
You would like to challenge me one penny for my thoughts would you.  I think that you could guess my thoughts much of the time.  My thoughts are very valuable at such times and I assure you they are worth much more to me than a penny.  I should be glad to let you have them for the asking but they are very sacred to me.  I shall not forget the night you did challenge me and it gave me much courage.  I am ever glad that affairs turned out as they did and I should do exactly the same if I had the choice to make again.  I have wonderful confidence in you and I know that you will never disappoint me and may God grant and help me to ever be true to you.  The day cannot come to soon when I can return to you.  May God grant that I may be permitted to return to you sound in health and strength.  There is so much that I owe you and our people in the way of service.
Everyone has been so good and considerate of us and I think they all have a deep interest in us.  I should be only to glad to repay them and prove to them by good works that we are trying to be worthy of their confidence and faith in us.  You have provide to them by a life of service and good works that you are worthy of their deep trust and respect.  I have that to prove and only hope that it is my privilege to try and do so.  
I enjoyed the bit of news that Ralph and Edith sent in your letter.  I hope they enjoyed the onion.  Those on the parlor door was fine.  Give them a bit of army news for me.  Tell them that I am eating bread, corned beef, army slum, and boiled spuds with an occasional onion these days.  Also beans boiled, baked or roasted.  I had forgotten them.
You surely have a nice lot of berries and do not be to sure that the Barnhart family will have to eat them all.  I am hoping to be there whether I help eat the berries or not.  I know about the little patch across the creek.  Have you made any combination trips for berries and earth this summer?
You have surely gotten on fine with the hay.  It is good that you do not have to cut the lower flat.  You have all worked very hard indeed and it will be a relief that the harvest is over as it must be at this date.  It is hard that you lost the calves because it costs heavily to raise them.
I will write more very soon.
Lovingly yours, James     

James did not write again until September 21.  It is a brief letter, using only one side of the four sides of the writing sheet he used.  Anna received the letter on October 23.  It was the last letter she would receive, though it was not the last one written.

On Active Service with the American Expeditionary Forces
Sept 21, 1918

My dear Anna;
Today, I received four most excellent letters from you, one from mother, one from Cora, one from James B and one from Harold C.  I am so glad to hear so many good news.  I should answer your letters in full and hope to soon but my heart is too full tonight I dare not trust myself.  Perhaps tomorrow I shall be able to write if I can find the time and paper. 
Your most loving husband, James
PS - I am well, J.C.

The last letter James wrote to Anna (or at least the last one she received) was written on September 23, received on October 21. 

Somewhere in France
Sept 23, 1918

My dear Anna;
I was so grateful to receive your 4 fine letters written between July 3 and 19.  They surely did put new life into me.  You have no doubt received several letters from me sent since those you sent those of the above mentioned date; in those letters I have sent you will learn a few of the doings over here and will be enabled to form a vague idea of the situation at the time.
I am glad to know that you had good weather for hay harvest and that you all kept quite well.  You have all worked very hard and know that the exceptionally warm weather has made it very hard for you all.  It was hard for Ralph and Wilford to be so sick.  It seemed strange that they should both be taken so suddenly and at nearly the same time; their sickness must have been caused by something they had eaten. 
As I told you in the note that I sent a few days ago of the second letter from James B.  He surely is a prince and so thoughtful of others.  Indeed, I believe as you do that he is about perfect.  I do not wonder that you sympathize with him.  He said that since his harvest help had gone that he is lonesome.  I must try soon and write him as cheering a letter as possible.  In his letter he told me the results of his dairy for the past year.  His herd averaged nearly $100.00 per head profit per year.  He indeed has my sincere sympathy in his recent bereavment.
We are not enjoying the nice weather of the forepart of the season.  I understand that we may expect considerable rain from now till sometime to come. 
You had better take good care of yourself and not expose yourself too much to the weather.  I know how anxious you are to help and I am glad that you can do for our people but you must also remember that health comes first and that when you are sick others have to suffer for it. 
I am sorry that you read the article in McCall’s.  Do not believe for a single moment that you did me a wrong because you did not.  I did you the wrong and not you me.  I only wanted the privilege to do for you and give all that I can for your welfare and comfort and I am afraid instead that I have only added to your troubles and responsibility.  I cannot but feel that there are better days coming and we shall both be more than glad for the trials of this time.
Do not mind about my missionary money at this time as you have enough at this time without that and we can attend to that later besides I feel that we have an excellent reason for passing it up at this time.  I am glad the money reached you safely and that the allotment for June reached you O.K.  I hope to be able to send you more cash a little later.
Your garden must be fine this year.  At this time of high prices homegrown foodstuffs are very precious indeed.  Cora writes me that she is making preserves and etc but that she has to be saving of sugar because of the scarcity. 
Do not worry about my health as I am well and am rooming with a medical man so you see I am all O.K.
It is fine that the young people enjoy themselves so thoroughly and I know frm experience just how they enjoy themselves when they get together. 
The new draft is calling away many more men and I am glad that Wilford is not old enough to come within the age.  It seems tough to see the boys leave home before they reach the age of manhood.  Cora writes that Herbert will go.  Poor, faithful boy.  I wish I might serve in his place as well as my own.
Outdoor bathing has been plentiful here this year; possibly even more so than over there.  It is a great privilege indeed and one that I would like to enjoy right now.  I have not been cast into disgrace yet because I still have a supply of cooties (body lice) and expect I shall heave a few at all times unless conditions change.  I like the honor of having them but must say they are a pest to have around.
I shall endeavor to write more at the first opportunity. 
Your most loving husband, James

If James wrote any more letters, they were not received by Anna. On November 15, she received the telegram announcing that James had been killed the previous month.        

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