Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adams County Makes the News - Council Leader #23

World War I
[Here’s the conclusion of the World War I section of the Adams County Makes the News series]

August 30, 1918
This week Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Baird received a letter from L. K. Layton.  At the time of writing, the young man was in France.  We reproduce the letter herewith and our readers will find it of interest.

July 30, 1918, France
Dear Ma and Daddy:
It has been a long time since I wrote you, but I have not had a chance to write many letters so forgive me this time.  I am in a nice, big hospital.  Did not get wounded badly, but it hurts a good deal just the same.  A little hide is gone from my left arm just above the elbow.  We have the nicest little French nurses.  They just cannot be beat for nursing.  I have for roommates two Frenchmen, wounded while fighting in the same sector that I was in.  I am trying hard to learn French and they, in turn, are trying to learn English.

We are giving the Huns hell—and then some.  I got a few before I got wounded.  It just thrills you with a savage joy to get sight on one and then—bang!  He just goes to sleep, because the old Springfield is right there when it comes to shooting.  Daddy, we have to fight the Huns a good deal like you used to fight the Indians because they are so yellow that you can't see them in a batch of yellow flowers.  The only thing they are good at is retreating, and they make an awful mess of that.  There is only one time when they are good and that is when they are used for fertilizer.

Ma and Daddy, don't worry about me.  Am feeling fine.  Of course, I will be in the hospital for a few months, but I am getting along just fine and I hope this reaches you the same.

Your Boy, L. K. Layton.

October 25, 1918

Last Saturday the State Board of Health issued an order closing all public and private schools of the state.  Dr. Biwer, secretary of the State Board, stated in a telegram to county health officers and school officials that the action had become necessary because in various parts of the state, physicians had “unpatriotically refrained from reporting cases of epidemic influenza.”

The State Board has also suggested to District Court judges throughout the state that the prevention campaign would be aided if courts will voluntarily postpone hearings until the crest of the epidemic.

General reports show that the epidemic is subsiding in the military camps of the country, but is on the increase among the civilian population.  In Idaho the malady has continued to spread until nearly all parts of the state report contagion.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, cases reported from army camps total 283,331, with 14,153 deaths.  This shows that America has lost more soldiers because of this disease than is shown in the lost of those killed and dying from wounds.  Up to the last official report made public on the first of the week, the number killed was 9985, and those dead from wounds, 8460.
August 1, 1919


This week E. S. Clapp and Dale Donnelly each received a letter from Fred Cool who left here several months ago to take up Red Cross work overseas.  Mr. Cool is now stationed at Omsk, Siberia. 

June 13
“We are here at last after having been twenty-four days on the road; had a fairly pleasant trip—at least, we are all alive.  As an experience it was a success, although I can’t say that I would like to sign up to do this all the rest of my life.  We arrived here this forenoon and as the telegram announcing our arrival was not received, the people here were not ready for us and we will stay on the train tonight.  One of the men came on board this morning and told me to forget that I could run an auto, as I would probably be placed in charge of a warehouse, so will not have things as easy as I expected.  Hope they do not expect too much, as I do not want to disappoint them.  Have not been up town, but understand there are some 600,000 people there.  Before the war it was a city of 100,000 inhabitants and one of the best towns in Siberia.  The growth is probably due to war conditions and the fact that this is now the capital city.  As far as I can see from the train it looks like many western towns around the railroad yards.  Uptown it will no doubt be quite different.  There are but few papers in this country and they are only one-sheet affairs printed in Russian.  Those who can read the stuff tell me that the papers are of very little interest.  We will get our first mail from home in about two weeks.  It will be sixty days old by that time.”

June 18
“Several hundred wounded have just been brought in from the front, and as many as this hospital will hold were brought here.  Most of them are young men and it is a sad sight to see them being carried in on stretchers or blankets or being helped along by ambulance men.  We get no news, so have no idea how things are going at the front.  I have been directed to take charge of the warehouse here and am now on duty.  We are loading and unloading cars and loading trains for western hospitals.  Will send out three trains this week.  Have about twenty war prisoners to do the work and as we have nothing but our hands to work with we are all very busy.  There is not a truck to be had and the men carry everything on their backs.”

In our mind’s eye we have a picture of the energetic Mr. Cool making those German prisoners step along some and we wonder if he boils ‘em out in sign language or just points his finger and says: “Get a move on.”  The work that Mr. Cool has chosen is of the most practical humanitarian character, and he is to be congratulated upon the fact that his financial circumstances are such as will permit him to so devote his energies.  May good luck attend him.  

October 25, 1918
Families of men in service abroad are eager to make Christmas overseas as merry as conditions permit.  The War Department, realizing this, has decided that each man may receive from his family, a Christmas package of standard size and approximately standard contents. 

To avoid any duplication and to make sure that each parcel is correctly addressed, a “Christmas Parcel Label” is now being issued to every man abroad.  Every man abroad will mail his “Christmas Parcel Label” to some relative or friend who will be entitled to send him a parcel by complying with the conditions herein set forth. 

The relative or friend who receives a “Christmas Parcel Label” from a man in the service overseas will go to the nearest chapter of the Red Cross and upon showing the “Christmas Parcel Label” will receive one carton, 3 x 4 x 9 inches in size.  The carton may be filled with any combination of articles that fit in it and which are not barred from Christmas parcels by the Post Office Department.

November 29, 1918

Although messages of enquiry have been repeatedly sent to Washington during the week, no news throwing light upon the discrepancy between the message announcing the death of Edward Burtenshaw and the letters received from him under a later date has been obtained.  While little hope can be held out that there is error, except as to date, in the message from the War Department, the fact that Mr. Burtenshaw on Tuesday evening received another letter from Edward, under date of October 21, while the message gave date of death as October 6, gives the grave matter a slight degree of hopeful uncertainty.

Mr. Burtenshaw has permitted us to publish the following letter, received from Edward on Wednesday evening.  It will be noted that it bespeaks of mental and physical health and is strong in the spirit of hope and youth.

Army Candidate School, La Volbonne, France, October 21

Dear Mother and Dad:

Well, at last I will write and let you know I am still in the land of the living and will add right now that I am well and feel fine.  It has been about three weeks since I wrote and that was a letter to Alice with a request that she forward it on to you as I had only enough paper from the Red Cross the write one short letter and was lucky to get even that as we had to draw straws to see who'd be the lucky one.  At that time we had just come out of the front lines and expected to go back to rest billets for a few days.  Instead, our Brigade was shot back in the line and we didn't get relieved until several days later.  Finally, when we did come out, it was a continued move for several days as we had to walk back and it was raining all the time.  This and other circumstances made it impossible to get a letter written, and even if I could have had the time, there wasn't an opportunity to have a letter mailed so I've just had to wait until the time presented itself to send you word.

We had just been out from the front three days when the order came detailing Sgt. Schiess and I to attend this school and so I've been going all the time.  However, it is probable I am settled now from anywhere form one to three months, so probably will be able to write a little oftener.  I received several letters from you, including the typewritten one and the one with the addresses in it, but am sorry to say I lost them so wish you would send them again as I didn't remember same.

Oh yes, I saw Vollie Zink up at the front.  He is driving a motor truck; it was a pleasure to see him too.  My battalion relieved his; he looks fine—you can tell his mother that Lee has a "bomb-proof job," so she needn't worry about him.

No, Mother Dear, the censor doesn't bother your letters.  They are not opened from that side of the Atlantic.  I enjoy them so much, too: they are always full of news.  Just keep them up.

I am in a wonderful part of France.  It is very beautiful here and is by far the best part I've been in yet.  You can probably find it on the map and will say am near one of France's largest cities, Lyon, so I have a good place to visit.  The camp we are in was an old French artillery camp and the barracks are very comfortable.  It is all new yet but the prospects are fine.  In coming here we came through miles of vineyards, and they are beautiful at this time of year.  The country is not as devastated either and that helps the looks of things.  We came through the valley of the -----------  and it is very picturesque, old villas and chateaus, just like the old oil paintings you've seen.  There is the most wonderful moon shining out you ever heard of; doesn't look at all like it in the U.S.  It is a regular "harvest moon" and about three times as large as any I ever saw before—that is, it appears that way; you'd think so too.

What do you think of the Boche paper?  I thought I'd write on it as a kind of curio as it will make a good souvenir for you.  Each sheet is an envelope and also the paper upon which the letter is written.  I took it from a bunch of Boche junk and am glad now I did, as I didn’t get much of anything else.

Well, my dears, I must close for this time; the censor will cuss anyway but it's been so long I just had to spill.  I'll tell you all about it after the war.

Best love and kisses,
As ever,
Edward C. Burtenshaw, 14th Co., A.C.S., A.E.F., La Valbonne, France

compiled by Eberle Umbach


  1. Wow i love your blog its awesome nice colors you must have did hard work on your blog. Keep up the good work. Thanks

  2. Wow! That's interesting; it was considered unpatriotic not to report cases of the flu during the great pandemic of 1918. AND they closed the schools when it showed up. A far cry from today, when people drag themselves to work no matter how sick they are out of fear of losing their jobs.

  3. Hi Roy: Yes, that is a telling fact. As someone with a chronic respiratory condition myself, I hate the fact that people go out & beyond as if everything were normal with colds & flu. Especially with the flu, they are actually putting others lives' at risk, not to mention potentially having a bigger impact on office productivity by spreading the disease to their co-workers.

    Hope you are well & adjusting to your new surroundings.


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