Monday, August 20, 2018

Grandma's First Husband - "I know how very much a letter from me will be appreciated by you."

James Calhoun last wrote to his wife, Anna Bell Barnhart Calhoun on July 11, 1918. It was over three weeks before James wrote his next letter to Anna. Dated August 4, it wasn't received until August 23.  The letter is typewritten.

August 4, 1918

My dear Anna;

You will thank me very neglectful in not writing you for some time but I am taking my first opportunity to send you a letter.  For more than 2 weeks I have been in a position, where it was impossible to send out mail.

Since returning I have had several most interesting letters from you and others at home and I feel very guilty indeed that I have not been able to do my part in return.  I have had letters from Geo Storie, Bryson, Pearl G. and several others of our acquaintances and friends.  I was more than glad to get the letter from Rev. Forbes.  The date of your latest letter rec. was that of July 12.  During the period of my inability to write you I also was unable to get mail and you can imagine how anxious I was to hear from you.

Personally I have been feeling fine and was glad to know that you have all been quite well at home.  I naturally worry at times as to your welfare and am glad in one way that I am kept busy so I do not have the time to permit my mind to dwell on those things and conditions over there that I would gladly prevent if I were permitted.  It does me good to hear of all the happenings at home.  Wilfords letter came to me in the late mail and I have enjoyed it so much.  Tell him that his letters mean very much to me and wish that many more of my friends and relatives at home could be made to realize the same.

It was fine that you could go to Delancey and thus get to visit Mae.  You remember what you told me about helping out on that occasion.  No I do not blame you in the least for doing so when the opportunity presents itself.  I know the young folks will appreciate your help in such a case. 

Many of the boys are here or ready to come to this side but I have not been fortunate enough to meet any of them.  If you learn the branch of service of any of the boys at home I wish you might include same in your letter and perchance I might be able to meet some of them if I happen to learn the where abouts of their outfits.

There are many things that I should write you and know I should answer your letters more fully but as I am working in the office and have much work I must close and get at my duties.  I will at least send you a short note each day or two so you will know I am OK. 

Please do not think me neglectful or ungrateful because if I could I would gladly sit down and pour out to in a nice long letter all that my heart contains.  At times this is almost unbearable to me and I know it is to you but there is nothing to do but endure it all with patience and hope in our hearts.  The only means of keeping up is my trust in God and the love that I have for you at home. 

I will close now.  May God bless and keep you.  Write and tell me all your perplexities and troubles - keep nothing back.  I feel I can endure all for your sake. 

Your most loving Husband, James

James wrote again two days letter.  James’ next three letters, written between August 6 and 10, were received September 9, after letters James wrote in mid-August. 

Somewhere in France

Aug 6, 1918

My dear Anna;

At the close of another days work I am sending you a few lines so you may know that all is well with me.

I have been so glad to get your most excellent letters and it does me so much good to know that you were getting along good when the last letter which I have from you was written (July 12).  It would be impossible for me to comment on all the news that I have gotten from home but I know how things are going back there.

Things look better now and perhaps things may change for us.  I hope so at least.  It seems like an age since I saw you. 

Frank and Hazel must have had an up to date wedding.  Should have liked to have been with you.  They are fortunate indeed.  Their pictures looked natural and Frank evidently wore a happier look then he did when leaving Walton last Nov and I think he had a reason to feel happier. [Frank Munson had been drafted with James back in November 1917 but was discharged for medical reasons early in 1918.]

I read with interest all the little happenings at home.  Am sorry uncle John is not so well.  He no doubt worries about the construction of his new barn.  It surely is going to be large.  Wilford gave me a fine description of it.  It is too dark to write.  Hope to hear from you tomorrow. 

Your most loving husband, James

The next letter is typewritten.

Somewhere in France

Aug 7, 1918

My dear Anna;

Another day is fast drawing to a close and I feel that you will be expecting at least a note from me date to-day.  I have had no letters from you for a few days but expect that I shall receive word from you soon and that there will be more than one letter when my mail comes; my mail usually arrives in a collected form.

We have been having rather rainy weather for some time past but there has been nearly enough sunshine intermixed to keep one from getting overblue.

I am wondering as I write this note what you are doing at home.  As there is such a great difference in time between here and there it will be only about midday with you.  I can imagine nearly the way that the new mown fields appear and the smell of the newly cut grass lingers in my nostrils as I write these words.

I am very glad to know that you receive the money that I send O.K.  From your letters I gather that up to July 12 you had received two orders of $15 each.  There is an order of $10 that you should receive soon if you have not gotten it already.  I hope to be able to forward another small amount soon. 

This note leaves me all O.K. and it is my sincere hope that you are as well.  I will close this now as I wish to get it censored.  I must write often even if my letters are brief.  Please drop mother a note telling her of my welfare. 

Your most loving husband, James 

The August 10 letter also was typewritten.

Somewhere in France

August 10, 1918

My dear Anna;

Well here I am again to send you another Hooverized note.  I am yet awaiting a letter from you and feel certain that tomorrows mail will bring me the desired message.  I am going to take time to answer your next letter in full even if I must steal the time to do so, which I hope will not prove necessary. 

This is another rather dark day but have had no rain.  Am hoping that we may be fortunate enough to enjoy a few clear days.  We have had but very little truly warm weather this summer I know from reports that the good old U.S.A. has been blessed with her usual time of hot weather. 

Crops must be very good there this year.  I gather that the hay crop is rather under the average but that other crops are fine.  I know several boys whose people wrote them that crops this year are better than the average.  I should like to have some of the fruit that is ripening over there or will ripen ver[y] soon.

I expect you watch the papers closely these days and do a good bit of hoping.  I have been in a good bit of it all myself and was very fortunate.  I am watching the news these days with a good bit of interest.  How I would enjoy seeing you and then I could tell you so many things that have happened since I left you that morning in Kingston.  No doubt there have been many items of interest that you would have enjoyed talking over with your hub. 

Tell Edith for me that I enjoyed the poetry that she enclosed and did as that instructed as far as capability goes but I hope it will not necessary for her to perform all that particular piece of poetry advocated.  You remember the piece of poetry I used to read last autumn.  Those are happy memories with me.  When I saw the last picture, in fact both of the last ones you sent made me recall many of the good times we enjoyed together.

Well I will close this little note hoping that in the near future I will have a nice newsy letter to answer.

Your most loving husband.  James 

James next three letters arrived in Bovina two days before the previous three letters of August, on September 7.

Co. “D” 7th Inf
Somewhere in France
Aug. 11, 1918

My dear Anna;

I am having a real half holiday today and a beautiful day it is.  I am writing a few letters today to make a start on catching up with my correspondence.  I have written Cora a note and hope to have ambition enough to write to Archie’s after I get this penned. 

Have had a slight sickness but am feeling much better today and think I shall be quite O.K.  I am yet awaiting a letter or rather several letters from you.  As I said in a previous note, I get my mail in collections of from one to five letters at a time. 

Lunch is over and I will complete this letter and then go down to the office and see what work awaits me there.  I feel so free today.  I cannot tell you why but I do feel as though I had been chained to a post and just released.  I think it is because I have not been feeling well the past week and now feel better. 

Our kitchen put out a very nice dinner today which I enjoyed very much.  You spoke of the difficulty of using the new kinds of flour.  Am I correct in believing that orders are such in the states that people there must use a certain per cent of other cereals for each pound of wheat flour consumed.  It is no doubt to an extent difficult to become accustomed to making bread with other flours than wheat but I believe that the coarser flours are much more healthy than so much refined wheat flour.  The French people use a coarse flour for bread and bread made from such is very wholesome, especially when fresh baked.

I wish I might write you a real interesting letter but as usual since I cannot write all I would like my letter must be confined to telling you I am O.K.; to discussing affairs at home.  When I get your next letter than I can write more in return.  The hardest work I have to do is letter writing which is easy to me under normal conditions.  I am glad however to be able to write and tell you I am well.

I think at this date that you will be attending services in the good old home town.  My mind is filled with fond memories of the past.  Please write as often as possible and give my fondest regards to those at home.

Your most loving husband, James

The next letter is written in very faint pencil.

Somewhere in France

Aug 14, 1918

My dear Anna;

I have received your three most interesting and welcome letters of July 14-18-21.  I am going to try and write you a nice letter in return for them.  I feel that I cannot write you a letter that will fully make you understand how much I appreciate these three messages and how much they mean to me.

I was glad to hear all about services at the Center and how I wished I could attend them myself.  I can appreciate as never before what a blessing such religious privileges are.  I am glad you can enjoy them and it does me good to have you tell me the texts of the sermons.  You said you took the text - the thorn in the flesh home to yourself.  I can not think for one minute that you needed such a sermon at all and it is not because of any vanity on your part that you are made to suffer.  I feel that I am made to endure some very hard things because of some sin on my part but I cannot be made to believe that such is the case with you.

I am glad to hear that Uncle John is getting on so nicely with his barn and hope the responsibility of the undertaking does not undermine his already delicate health. 

I must confess that my letter are far from as satisfactory as a face to face talk and I am also glad that you understand so well how I am handicapped in my correspondence.  I am grateful to have these three letters to answer.  I can see no reason why you should feel that your letters should be destroyed because they are of great account to me.

The picture of Wilford is the best ever.  I am indeed glad to get these home pictures.  Please send me more of them.  Pictures are the only means of seeing you people now.  You want to keep right at work building air castles and perhaps we can make some of them come real some fine day.  I for one am going to keep up hope until the last and feel that God’s blessing will be ours.  I am so glad that our belief is so similar and so strong.

I am quite willing to take all that motherly advice of which you spoke and feel that I need such.  I may be good at giving advice but I do not feel competent to give such.

You are becoming a real financier and your investments are good indeed.  I know of no better.  You are fortunate indeed to receive your money from the government so promptly each month and am indeed glad you have the insurance policy.  I see by the clippings you sent that Clark Miller’s people had gotten $1000 from the Travelers Insurance Co which proves that my policies there are good as gold in war times as well as in times of peace.

In mother C’s last letter she spoke about the family trip on July 14th.  I wonder that mother would go but I am convinced from her letter that she thoroughly enjoyed the trip.  Huckleberries must be plentiful there this year.

You wrote me a letter tino(?) to a day since a certain very memorable event occurred and further more it is just nine months today since that memorable event.  It seems most an age but it would seem longer than that perhaps if my dull memory could but recall all the happenings of that period. 

I know you must have watched the most interesting news of the past six weeks and now it does seem as though the news have been good ones for all concerned.  You no doubt wonder how I have fared.  In answer I will say I am O.K. to date and thank God for it all. 

Please do not wear the blue silk out entirely. If I am so permitted I want to see it once more.  I always liked it so much. 

I sincerely wish the milk tester might come and help you milk but not as a milk tester this time.  No I do not mean the tester who is there now but the one of old see(?). 

Uncle John can use those shingles very nicely now since he is building a barn.  A good way to get rid of the disease.

Do not send telegrams unless you can send something else than Jessie’s yarn such as that get stale in such long voyages but are better administered direct what do you think about it. 

I am not wrought up at all over the affair with Uncle John.  Just sorry that was all and I am glad that there is a change there now and feel that all will be so much nicer for you and them too. 

Wear the H.M.H.S. and get all the joy from it you can.  I can remember just how it looks.  Has the brass begun to show through on the ring?  I hope and trust not. 

You spoke of the kitten.  Cats(?) are scarce over here.  I have seen one or two cats.  See plenty of dogs.

Give my kindest regards to all of our relatives and friends.  I am pleased you sent word from me to mother.  Write very often. 

Your most loving husband, James.

Somewhere in France

Aug 18, 1918

My dear Anna;

Sabbath is here again and I know or at least think I know what you are doing today.  I am waiting now on some business matters so I will fill in the time by getting this note written.

I have had no letters since I wrote you Aug 14 so have no letters to answer.  News are scarce as usual and it is indeed difficult to write a letter that will prove at all satisfactory to the person receiving same.  I think you must become tired of the excuse I always make regarding the unsatisfactory make up of my letters.

I am getting very heathenish indeed and scarcely ever get to religious services.  I hear the church bills ringing and should love to attend if only I could understand the minister who delivers the sermon.  I think I could pick up the meaning of French words if only I would give my attention to learning the language.  However I have more than I can perform to keep up in making use of the English language as I must.  Returning to the subject of religion will say that I am glad that you can enjoy such privileges even if I cannot.  I am yet hoping that the day may soon come when I can enjoy those privileges myself. 

Harvesting is in progress here and I have seen many fields of as fine wheat as I ever have seen.  A few of the farmers have reapers and binders(?) but many of them are using the old fashioned grain cradle for gathering the grain.  Most agricultural are very primitive in this part of the globe and much too slow for American people who believe in the more up-to-date methods.  If the people here were among the hills and rocks with such means of cultivation as they have at hand they would indeed starve to death.  

I am anxiously awaiting more letters from you.  I cannot receive them fast enough to satisfy my desire to hear from you.  Give my best regards to all of our people and tell them one and all to write.

Your most loving husband, James

James’s letter of August 22 was not received until September 26, after two later letters were written.  The August 22 letter is typewritten.

Somewhere in France

Aug. 22nd 1918


I know how very much a letter from me will be appreciated by you thus I am very glad to write.  You guess by the manner in which this is written, the work in which I am engaged.  I must confess that it has kept me very busy and am glad that I have been able to stand the work.

I know you will wonder about the many things that I have experienced since I came from you and wish as usual that I might have a good heart to heart talk with you but must content myself for the present with a miserable note.  I am hoping the day will come speedily when I can talk to you.

We are having very fine weather, but warm.  I know you have had some very warm weather in the states.  It is hard to realize that the summer is passing so rapidly away - (time seems long when I consider all that has taken place in the past).

I have had access to a Y.M.C.A. most all the time over here.  In fact the people keep in touch with us practically at all times.  The Salvation Army people have huts at various points.

Hay harvest will be almost over in the good old county.  Harvesting is well under way here.  It is almost comical to see the primitive methods used by farmers in all farm operations.  There methods are very conservative and far to slow for us.  How are the calves growing this year?  Have the worms bothered them as they did last season.

If I remember correctly, you wrote me that a party came very nearly purchasing the Strangeway farm.  All that prevented was a slight disagreement on price.  I hope that it is not sold to soon.  I should like to see if we could not buy it for a reasonable price.  What do you think.  I would not be willing to give a small fortune for it at that would you?

Have not had mail from any of you for some time but know I shall get several letters soon.  How often do you get letters from me?  I will number several in succession then you can tell if you receive each one that I write.  I believe I am getting nearly all of yours.  Is the mail service good as usual at Bovina Center?  Where is Mr. Case and does he help Uncle John now?

I expect that the new barn up the street is all ready for the hay by now and probably has been for some time past.  It will take some no doubt to get the entire structure complete.  It is a great undertaking to build a barn.  I hope I may not have to do that but sometimes such is necessary as in the case just stated.  I think I could do so if necessity called.  We are sometimes called upon to do some things that we feel are very hard and difficult but there is always a way provided so we can get on somehow.  I hope that the task is not so great that it undermines the already delicate health of Uncle John.  I think him very fortunate to get such good help as Walter Coulter-

I must write mother a letter soon so that she will know that I am well and prospering.  I know you will have sent word to her since the last letter she received from me.  Cora no doubt expects a letter from me and in trut[h] I owe her a letter in return for those that she and Pearl and Herbert have written.

James wrote one more letter in August. His August 25th letter, though recorded as received by his wife on September 20, was not in her papers I received after her death. Recently, however, as my cousin was clearing out my late aunt's house, she found this long missing letter. It was with some other Calhoun materials. I think it was set aside because it is the only letter from France where James can provide some information about what he was doing there. He makes a couple of references to the Dutch, but I suspect it is a term for the Germans. The Netherlands was neutral in World War One, so it is highly unlikely he was fighting the Dutch. 

Somewhere in France, August 25, 1918 (top corner torn off)

My dear Anna;

            This is Sabbath P.M. and I am in the office. Most all the clerks are out and as I have my work caught up I feel I must drop you a line. You no doubt feel that I should drop my work and write you anyway but here I must get my work up in good shape before taking anytime to myself. As you no doubt guessed from the typewritten sheets that I have sent you will know that I am at the clerking job once again. Neither of the former clerks and with the company at present so I am trying to fill the place. One of the boys who has been with us steady is helping me.

            Now that it is all past, I have been given permission to write a few of the things that have happened to me since landing in France in Apr. I cannot give you any facts as to our whereabouts or what we are doing at present except that we are not on the firing line.

            After reaching France Apr. 15 we went in land considerable distance and trained until the 1st of June when we moved up to the front. I was attending gas instruction when the boys came to the front so consequently came a different route than they. I was at school Decoration Day when I wrote you that letter. I soon rejoined the boys however. We moved about near the front line fro about June 2-15 during which time we were within shelling distance of the enemy, who wounded a very few of the boys. On June 15 we went into Bellou Wood where the U.S. marines had such a hard fight and drove the Germans back when they made their desperate drive to reach Paris on that date. Here we spent several days fighting most of the time. There was a good bit of shelling at all times and snipers and machine guns surrounded us. We were located in a point running into the enemy line and the Dutch were on three sides of us. Our men did fine work, causing the enemy much damage succeeded in taking prisoners and held the line against the enemy. We were relieved by Marines who succeeded in driving the Dutch still farther back. After coming from the front line in June we were near the line in reserve for a time and were transferred to the Marne section near Chateau Thiery, and were in the front line trenches on July 15th when the Germans put over the most notable barrage of shell fire known in history, covering a front of 60 miles. The enemy started a drive then but it turned against them and as a result have fallen back along a long front and we had the pleasure of chasing them back from the Marne River. They commenced falling back July 18th and were still going when we were relieved on July 29th. Since that time the Allies have had good success and the Boche (Dutch) has fallen much farther back then where we left them.

            Well I am glad to write you that I am well and strong and am indeed glad to be alive. I only wish I might tell you all the experiences I have had. This is surely a strange world isn’t it. One little knows as a youngster what lies a headin life’s pathway. I had never expected to cross the ocean and would probably not have had Fritz not became so unruly. I think he is getting plenty to keep him interested these days. The Yanks are right there when it comes to pure grit.

            I am expecting another bunch of those dandy letters from you soon as I have had none for some time. And I am going to enjoy them too if they bring me good news as I trusty they will. We are have (sic) nice weather. Yesterday and the day previous was very warm but outside of those days it has been extremely pleasant.

            Have just been paid and think I shall soon send some money home. I expect to buy a watch and fountain pen because I feel the need of both so much in this work. This is the first pay since May 31 and so money came quite handy just now. I must also get me a new jackknife and some paper and pencils.

            I have been issued a Gillette Safety Razor one of the $5.00 kind. I think they are good ones. Just received it last night so have not used it yet. I lost the razor previously issued ot me while we [were] in action on the front. Our packs were traded and the pack I got had no razo but it contained good blankets, underwear, shoes and a general equipment so I found just as good as the follow who received mine. I have been lousy a couple of times but had no difficulty in ridding myself of the pests. They surely do refuse to let a chap rest. I am letting my hair grow again. It is short on top but it is growing as thick as a mat and will need considerable training as it grows longer.

            I am wondering how you are. Ho much I should like to see you. I cannot tell but we must still endure as better days are coming. We can think God that we are both alive and well.

            Give my kindest regards to all of our relatives and friend and may God bless you.

            Your most loving husband James. 

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