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Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday's News: WWI and Family Letters

This poster and the two at the bottom of this post are recruiting posters found at the North Carolina Digital Collections and provided courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

A few months ago, I researched the Baylor County Banner, a newspaper in Baylor County Texas, for news of WWI casualties for their local museum. I learned much about The Great War, known today as World War I. 

The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917; joining the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and Japan) who were at war with the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey).   United States troops in the war were only in actual combat for just over seven months and there were over 50,000 causalities. Half of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, died as a result of the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. 

The information that I found about the WWI casualties is being posted for Memorial Day on the Facebook Group, Baylor County Museum. You may need to join the group to see it. 

Oscar Edward Noah and Mamie Lou Allen Noah Family
Joseph "Joe" Noah is standing on the far left. 
Below are two family letters that were written in Europe during WWI and found in the Baylor County Banner. The letters were sent to Millard Ray Latta from Joseph O. Noah. Both Millard Ray and Joseph were born in Erath County and just prior to the war, they were living in Baylor County where both were teachers.  Millard Ray was my grandfather's niece; the daughter of Hollen Bryan and Alzono "Lon" Latta.  Joseph "Joe" Noah was the son of Oscar Edward Noah, first cousin to my grandmother, Myrtie Hairston Bryan. 

Dear Millard Ray,
          Though I have had no word from you as yet I will write again.  We are now in France and I must say the place is worth seeing.  All is different from the United States. In parts of the country it is very rough and hilly.  Here we see little stone houses surrounded by patches of garden sticking in all positions about the hills.  All the patches are set off by stone walls and are so well kept that the country resembles a big lawn or garden as one might see in a park or home. 
          In other parts of the country was level and great vineyards and orchards are found – though here the patches are small, but close together.
          At present we are billeted in a barn loft above a flock of sheep.  We can look down the stairs and see the sheep gazing up at us.  Our quarters are reached by means of a ladder leading to a window.  Just across a narrow street is a big stone church, and all about us are the homes and shops of the people living in the villages.  All the buildings look alike – shops and residences are under the same roof.  All are of stone or tile and all are covered with some hundred years growth of moss.  In fact moss seems to be part of the French house just as much as paint is in Texas.  One can easily see that the houses are built to last for many generations and become permanent features of the land scape just like the hills.
          French forests are very beautiful the trees being very straight and tall and of types new to me.  Many large bodies of trees are planted in rows as regular as an orchard and the trees are hundred of years old.  Everywhere we see narrow, but finely built gravel roads running through the trees.
          Yesterday was Sunday and I visited an old French Chateau which was built in the 13th century.  There were pictures of nearly all the kings of Europe all hand painted.  There was a wood carving of the beheading of John the Baptist so old that it was worm eaten.  There was an old chapel built in the 13th century but torn down now. 
Inclosed {sic}some leaves from trees in the park about the chateau.  The place is now the home of a French nobleman. 
          We hear now that the war is over about and I hope it is.  I now hope to get back by spring, but can’t be sure.
          I am feeling fine and in good spirits and am getting all I need to eat, but I would be glad to come home at anytime.
          I must close for this time.
                   As ever yours,
                      Joe Noah
P. S. I am at last assigned to a company so you ought to try to get a letter to me. 
                                             Baylor County Banner - November 21, 1918

Millard Ray Latta
My Dear Friend
          I have not been in the same place long enough to get a letter from anyone since I left the States but I will keep up my end of the line anyway.
          You will note where we are by the character of the paper, etc, about though we are not allowed to state the city where we are stationed.  We traveled all night last night in the smallest R.R. carriage I ever expect to ride in.  We are now in a rest camp, but may move anytime and we will be at our destination, France next.
          Our last month has surely seen some movement. We were at College Station a month ago.  It hardly seems possible that we are so far from home.
          I was very glad to leave the boat.  There is too much of  that ocean to suit me.  The hard soil is a fine substance to walk on and it is where I belong.  I can afford to scratch some of it out of my eyes, as in Baylor, so long as it don’t roll around like the ocean waves.  Also I am now acquainted with  a new scent, a “boaty scent,” I can’t describe it for you, but it is somewhat like spoiled tar.  It makes one happy by it’s absence.
          In spite of a bit of seasickness the last day in the water, I feel fine now, and have no complaint to offer.  We are as well treated as anyone could ask.  However, I find nothing to compare with the U. S.  One food is good and substantial and I like it, but when I get back to old Texas, I will soon forget it, you can bet. 
          War talk here is almost too favorable to take at face value, but I am sure it won’t be long until the thing will clear up.  Maybe I will see you again before you are 23 years old and maybe a lot sooner.  I think it will be no longer at least, - if I am fortunate to get back at all, and I feel sure I will be.
          The country here is very pretty though we can’t see much of it. The houses are all red brick peaks and are all square corners and peaks.   Stores and houses of the best class are right over the sidewalk.  Curious carts, one horse wagons, and bycicles {sic} roll by.  Nothing looks like America. Even the trees seem to be heavy with age and a different kind to ours. 
          We have some time off and I must stir around and wash a lot, also see what I can find. 
          Let me hear from you at earliest possible time, with all news. 
                             As ever yours,
                          Pr’vt. Joseph O. Noah
                             63 Radio Causals
          American Expeditionary Forces
P. S. Find inclosed {sic} sample of English Candy. I paid for two small pieces with two copper coins that were bigger than the candy.  You will understand when you taste as to why I gave it nearly all to an English sailor.  The cigarette wrapper will perhaps help the flavor.       
                                               Baylor County Banner -November 28, 1918 

           Courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

               Courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources


© 2012, copyright Diana Quinn

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