Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Milo H. Main: July 9-15, 1918

July 9th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, this is the second series in which we follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-five year old Milo H. Main, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry featuring selected letters from Milo to his family from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Milo Hugh Main was born in or near Pittsfield, Illinois, on November 21, 1892 to William and Rose Ella Henry Main. The family moved to Argonia, Sumner County, Kansas, in 1901. After his mother died in 1906, Milo remained in Argonia with his father and his two sisters Gladys (b. 1890) and June (b. 1899). His youngest sister Fern (b. 1905) was sent to live with relatives in Illinois.

As Milo reported to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1919, after graduating from high school he worked as a store clerk. He resigned in July 1917 and took a position at Standard Oil Company, possibly co-managing a gas station in Argonia.

Milo entered into military service on September 21, 1917. He served as a wagoner – a person who drives a wagon or transports goods by wagon – in Battery F, 130th Field Artillery. He was stationed at Camp Funston (September-October 1917) and Camp Doniphan (October 1917-May 1918). On May 19, 1918, he boarded the ship Ceramic in New York City and departed for Europe.

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 15, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 15, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 15, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 15, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 15, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 15, 1918

July 15th 1918.

Somewhere in France.

Dear Father and Sisters:-

This finds us (the Argonia bunch at a new training camp. We all are well and located nearer to each other than ever before.

I hated to leave the O.M. at the other camp for, we the O.M. force sure had a fine time during our stay. But (the O.M. bunch) we are together on same detail here. The night before we left, the lady of the café gave us, two cooks, a waiter and my self a seven course dinner, French style to be sure and some feed I want you to know with plenty of wine. I was carrying her pocket book before I left. Don’t misconstrue that. I carried it at meal time. She wants me to spend my furloughs at her home, but latest dope [inside information] out will have us in the States before I get a leave.

Am enclosing a letter which Ray Flory* sent me at Doniphan and it was then forwarded over here again. I have not heard directly from him over here, but am expecting a letter daily. Don’t know whether he is in England or here.

Received four letter from you last Thurs. dated 5/31, 5/28, 6/14, and 6/17. We get mail about twice each week.

You spoke of the French girls. Yes, some very beautiful but taken as a bunch, they are no comparison to the Kansas girls.

Sure a bunch of Sumner Co. boys answering the call to the colors, but they are to late to see any active service.

Sure looks good to see a real American girl in the Y.M.C.A.s and the boys who have been in the hospitals say that the Red Cross (American) nurses treat a Sammie** as a big brother from home.

Pardon me for writing with a pencil, but my time is limited this Monday evening as I spent the afternoon pressing a pair of O.D. [olive drab] pants. I am getting very neglectful about writing but enjoy a few lines from home as never before and it is real interesting to watch we boys from Argonia exchange letters to try and find some thing of interest our folks failed to mention. But this way we get it all.

Glad Bernice received the allotment at last. Tell them all “hello” for me.

Wheat and oats are ripe here. The grain crop is fine and talk about golden fields of grain. I saw them here. The grain is dead ripe before they commence cutting with their arm strong binders known as cradles in the U.S.A. years ago. The largest field I have seen was a 10 acre oat field. They farm every square foot down here in southern France, but am told that in northern France it is much more like the U.S. method.

Yes, June [Milo’s sister], would be glad to receive some of your kodak pictures, any time, but thanks for the cigarettes as I never use them, only smoke a cigar now and then. And can get them at the Y’s’.

About my F. & B. Life Ins. just pay the quarterly premiums and extend the war risk loans if any. There will be no Masonic dues for you to pay.

Will close for to nite.

Trusting all are well and prosperous at home

I am your son & bro.,
Milo H. Main

*Milo mentioned Ray Flory in his June 2nd letter. Biographical information about him can be found in that blog post.

**“Sammie” or “Sammy” was British slang for a U.S. soldier in World War I; it was a reference to Uncle Sam.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Milo H. Main: July 2-8, 1918

July 2nd, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, this is the second series in which we follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-five year old Milo H. Main, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry featuring selected letters from Milo to his family from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Milo Hugh Main was born in or near Pittsfield, Illinois, on November 21, 1892 to William and Rose Ella Henry Main. The family moved to Argonia, Sumner County, Kansas, in 1901. After his mother died in 1906, Milo remained in Argonia with his father and his two sisters Gladys (b. 1890) and June (b. 1899). His youngest sister Fern (b. 1905) was sent to live with relatives in Illinois.

As Milo reported to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1919, after graduating from high school he worked as a store clerk. He resigned in July 1917 and took a position at Standard Oil Company, possibly co-managing a gas station in Argonia.

Milo entered into military service on September 21, 1917. He served as a wagoner – a person who drives a wagon or transports goods by wagon – in Battery F, 130th Field Artillery. He was stationed at Camp Funston (September-October 1917) and Camp Doniphan (October 1917-May 1918). On May 19, 1918, he boarded the ship Ceramic in New York City and departed for Europe.

In this week’s letter, Milo describes French women and expresses his desire to visit Spain before leaving Europe and returning home to Kansas.

 

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 7, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 7, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 7, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, July 7, 1918

July 7th 1918

Dear Father and Sisters:-

This is a beautiful Sunday afternoon, warm enough for a June day in the States.

We served lunch at 1:P.M. to-day and nothing more doing until 6:30 dinner. After dinner I am going to ride a bicycle down to see Warlow and the bunch. The distance being about 5 kilometers from here.

Sure have the best of roads here, but their course is a winding one, no section cross roads; but find signs at every turn.

Fishing and bicycling are the sports of the season here. But the bunch from Camp Doniphan take more to “promenading” or walking with the many fair mademoiselles. We being the first American Soldiers in this section of France, we seem very attractive to them.

Well, the Allies are romping on the Dutch [Germans] now and the dope [inside information] is, “we will be back in the States within 6 months.” But I hope to have the pleasure of visiting Spain before my return. It is not every year that we have the opportunity to see these foreign lands and I want to go around the “globe” and take them all in if possible.

We had Regimental Sunday School just across the street this A.M. Arthur Knox and Bugler Hess* from South Haven [Sumner County, Kansas] were over. Most all natives are Catholics that I have seen and the church bells ring almost constantly.

The boys have been powdering the girls up here this afternoon. They don’t “compra” (understand) the art of using war paint [makeup] like the American girls. They also wonder why we “Yanks” shave and manicure our nails every day. We are entirely to “Sissy” in their estimation.

Will close for this afternoon as I don’t want to miss my “beauty sleep” before dinner.

Hoping all are well, which we are. I am

yours most truly
your son and bro.
Wag. Milo H. Main

Bat. F. 130 F. A.
American E. F.
France.

*These two soldiers appear to have been Milo’s neighbors. According to his World War I draft registration card, Arthur Miller Knox was born in Nardin, Oklahoma, on September 19, 1895. Bugler Hess was likely Claude Homer Hess. According to his World War I draft registration card, he was born in Mannington, West Virginia, on October 3, 1895. In 1917, Knox and Hess were farming in Sumner County, Kansas.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Milo H. Main: June 11-17, 1918

June 11th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, this is the second series in which we follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-five year old Milo H. Main, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry featuring selected letters from Milo to his family from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Milo Hugh Main was born in or near Pittsfield, Illinois, on November 21, 1892 to William and Rose Ella Henry Main. The family moved to Argonia, Sumner County, Kansas, in 1901. After his mother died in 1906, Milo remained in Argonia with his father and his two sisters Gladys (b. 1890) and June (b. 1899). His youngest sister Fern (b. 1905) was sent to live with relatives in Illinois.

As Milo reported to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1919, after graduating from high school he worked as a store clerk. He resigned in July 1917 and took a position at Standard Oil Company, possibly co-managing a gas station in Argonia.

Milo entered into military service on September 21, 1917. He served as a wagoner – a person who drives a wagon or transports goods by wagon – in Battery F, 130th Field Artillery. He was stationed at Camp Funston (September-October 1917) and Camp Doniphan (October 1917-May 1918). On May 19, 1918, he boarded the ship Ceramic in New York City and departed for Europe.

Milo wrote this week’s letter from “somewhere in France.” He describes the “country and customs,” especially comparing them with his previous observations of England and contrasting conditions on farms and in cities. “The home boys like all the others in our Battery are enjoying themselves as if they were on their annual vacation,” Milo says. “No reason to be dissatisfied, for we are in the best of health, plenty of good wholesome food, good climate (just a little cooler than Kans), and going thru an experience of a life time.”

 

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 14, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 14, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 14, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 14, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Somewhere in France.
June 14th, 1918.

Dear Father and Sisters: – We (including all the Argonians) are located in a beautiful old village in France.

The country and customs here are some different from England. Not so many beautiful lawns and parks here for most all tillable land is under extensive cultivation. Arthur Knox, my bunkmate and I helped an old French man and daughter make hay one afternoon. And will say we “Yanks” cannot handle any more hay with their three tine forks than the French girls. I, also operated a hay rake, it was hand power driven and cleaned a three ft. swath. Mowing machines are few and are small one horse mowers, but, most of the hay is cut with scythes.

To see these big open wells with a bucket on a pole, big stone houses with a barn in one end and hog pen in the other, one horse carts hauling heavy loads, small milk wagons drawn by a pair of dogs, guided by a French maid in wooden shoes or the milk maid milking at noon reminds me of my school days at Argonia when we studied of this foreign land and its people.

But in the cities you find the people living in a more progressive age than these pheasants who farm small plots with one horse, or if farming on a large scale use two and most generally a man or girl leading each horse. Altho I saw an old man cultivating his vineyard with an old horse educated to work by “gee and haw,” (or something similar) instead of being led or driven.

Tell J.W. the quality of the drinking water is not the best in the world, but, the substitute used by the French and more especially we Yanks is fine wines and plenty of them. Carry Nation died too soon.

The home boys like all the others in our Battery are enjoying themselves as if they were on their annual vacation. No reason to be dissatisfied, for we are in the best of health, plenty of good wholesome food, good climate (just a little cooler than Kans), and going thru an experience of a life time. One Sammie* stated to-nite he would not take a $1000. for his experience to-date.

Only regret that I cannot speak French as well as I do Spanish for a solider speaking French is jake** in this part of France.

Give my regards to all, I am

Yours respectfully.
Your son and brother.
Milo H. Main

Address
Battery F. 130 F.A.
American Expeditionary
Forces in France.

*”Sammie” or “Sammy” was British slang for a U.S. soldier in World War I; it was a reference to Uncle Sam.

**”Jake” was slang meaning “excellent, fine.” From 1914, American English, of unknown origin.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Milo H. Main: June 2-10, 1918

June 4th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, this is the second series in which we follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-five year old Milo H. Main, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry featuring selected letters from Milo to his family from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Milo Hugh Main was born in or near Pittsfield, Illinois, on November 21, 1892 to William and Rose Ella Henry Main. The family moved to Argonia, Sumner County, Kansas, in 1901. After his mother died in 1906, Milo remained in Argonia with his father and his two sisters Gladys (b. 1890) and June (b. 1899). His youngest sister Fern (b. 1905) was sent to live with relatives in Illinois.

As Milo reported to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1919, after graduating from high school he worked as a store clerk. He resigned in July 1917 and took a position at Standard Oil Company, possibly co-managing a gas station in Argonia.

Milo entered into military service on September 21, 1917. He served as a wagoner – a person who drives a wagon or transports goods by wagon – in Battery F, 130th Field Artillery. He was stationed at Camp Funston (September-October 1917) and Camp Doniphan (October 1917-May 1918). On May 19, 1918, he boarded the ship Ceramic in New York City and departed for Europe.

In this week’s letters, Milo summarizes his journey to England and provides some observations about the country, especially how he perceived it to be different than the United States. “Many things of interest of our voyage and this country I would like to write about,” he says, “but owing to the censor will have to wait until I return to tell you.”

 

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 2, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 2, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 2, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 2, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Somewhere in England.
6/2/1918

Dear Father and Sisters:-

I arrived safely overseas. Must say I enjoyed the trip from the time we left our Camp in Okla. until we landed at our present camp. And more too, I never got sea-sick, sick of the sea or fed the fish on our trip across the salt-water pond.

What short time I have been here I have had the pleasure of seeing much of this beautiful country. Was out walking this evening and I strolled over to one of the big estates near by. It is just as Raymond Flory* stated, “very well kept up and one of the very beautiful countries.” Every thing is kept “up-to-now” in the way of farms and highways but, the railroads with little toy like engines and coaches divided into sections seem so much different from the R.R. in the U.S.A. The heavy truck horses are generally driven tandom instead of abreast and on the left of the streets. In fact every think is a bit different here, even, the ladies are not as they are in the U.S.A. But the change of scenery and customs makes quite a novelty for we “Bloody Yanks” as the English call us. (The word “Bloody” being used over here instead of the familiar “Dam” as in the States.

To date I have not received any mail from the States. But by the time you receive this, I possibly will have.

When writing, please mention all the latest scandal “from me home town” and all news of interest.

Tell Mrs. Dyer I have not been able to visit with her sister yet, but hope to be able to before I return. Ray F. [probably Raymond Flory] is another “Yank” I have not seen, but tell his “Mary” not to fear him leaving her behind.

Many things of interest of our voyage and this country I would like to write about, but owing to the censor will have to wait until I return to tell you.

Above all, I have the best of health an a good appetite and hope this find all well at home.

Give my regards to all.

With love to all
I close
Your son and bro.

Milo H. Main.

Bat. F. 130 F. A.
American E. F. [Expeditionary Forces]
Via New York.

P. S. The Argonia Bunch is the same old gang and send best wishes to all.

OK

Julian Sher[illegible]

1st Lieut FA

*Raymond Henry Flory and Milo were likely childhood neighbors and may have been friends. The two had very similar histories: Raymond was born in Iowa on February 28, 1892. By 1900 his family was living in Sumner County, Kansas. Raymond’s mother died in 1906, and by 1910 he was living with his aunt and uncle in Wichita. Raymond’s father and brother, both named Benjamin, continued to live in Argonia, and area newspapers reported that he periodically visited them. Raymond enlisted in December 1917, reporting that he was living in Wichita and working as a truckman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He served in the 137th Aero Squadron, Aviation Section, Signal Corps – leaving New York on March 6, 1918, presumably bound for England.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: Epilogue

May 29th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

 

Photograph of Forrest Bassett in The Beloiter yearbook, 1916

Forrest Bassett’s senior picture in the
Beloit Memorial High School yearbook, The Beloiter, 1916.
The quotation accompanying his picture is “without my camera, I would be lost.”
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

We have reached the last of Forrest’s letters from Fort Leavenworth. By May 31, 1918, he had reached Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina. Forrest’s experiences there are documented in a collection of his letters at the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. According to Army Transport Service passenger lists, Forrest and the other members of Co. A left New York City, heading for Europe, on July 7, 1918, aboard the Darro. He returned to the United States almost a year later: on June 3, 1919, he set sail from Brest, France, on board the USS Mount Vernon. This was almost eight months after the armistice but only a week after the Treaty of Versailles formally ended World War I.

Forrest and Marie were married on March 6, 1920, in Beloit, Wisconsin. They had two children: Sally Ann Bassett (1930- ) and Terrence Shaw Bassett (1932-1996).

Photograph of Forrest and Marie Bassett on their twenty-fifth anniversary, March 6, 1945

Forrest and Marie Bassett on their twenty-fifth anniversary, March 6, 1945.
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Sally Ann Bassett's twentieth birthday, March 22, 1950

Forrest, Marie, and Terrence Bassett celebrating Sally’s twentieth birthday, March 22, 1950.
A note on the back of the photograph says “Ethel [Marie’s sister?] came down and took this for us.
(The cake is a chocolate ice box cake made with ladyfingers. It was good. You’d have liked it, I know.)”
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

According to Forrest’s obituary in the Janesville (Wisconsin) Gazette, he was employed for forty years at Yates-American Machine Co. After retiring, he worked for ten years in the credit department at Dane Aluminum Co. Forrest was a member of numerous community organizations, including American Legion Post No. 48, William J. Huemphner World War I Barracks, the Second Congregational Church, and the Men’s Garden and Beloit Camera clubs.

According to Marie’s obituary in the Janesville Gazette, she was a teacher of speech and oral interpretation for many years. She also worked as a secretary for the Freeman Shoe Company, Yates-American Machine Co., Fairbanks Morse, and the Second Congregational Church, and she served as coordinator of volunteers at the Beloit Senior Center. An “accomplished actress, singer, and solo dramatist,” Marie was a founding member of Beloit Civic Theatre and served on its board of directors. She was also a member and former president of the group Treble Clef.

Photograph of the Bassett family, undated

Forrest and Marie Bassett with their children Sally and Terrence, undated.
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

Forrest died on August 3, 1985; Marie died October 8, 1992. They are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Special thanks to the staff at the Beloit Historical Society for locating and scanning the images included in this post.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant