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Burt County Nebraska World War I Family Letters

Karl Braun
Hildreth Ellis
Conrad Johnson
Lee Johnson
A.F. Parker (x2)
Orville Ward
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Tekamah Journal

On board the Kansas
August 17, 1917

Dear Folks at home:

     I am finally on board the battleship Kansas. It is great and I like it fine. We arrived yesterday having received notice Saturday on which ship we were to be stationed.

     The "feed" is fine on board and everything is so clean. I will try and tell you something about the ship, the one we are on. It has four 12 inch guns, twelve 8 inch, the largest be 22 feet or more in length and they are all controlled by electricity, and obey the slightest touch of the controller.

     The band consists of 22 men but to hear us you would think there were 40 for every man has a fine lip and can blow the tar out of things. Our band is sure enough a bunch of fine fellows and our leader is a dandy. We play the first thing in the morning about eight o'clock, at noon and in the evening.

     We had chicken for dinner yesterday; it was sure good. There is a piano next our our compartment and every time we hear it play it sounds so good as it reminds us of the dear ones at home. They keep us busy at drilling. Also we have our watches to stand along with the rest of the crew. My watch is from eight to twelve p.m. one night and from 12 o'clock midnight to 4 o'clock AM the next night. Then from 7 to 8 p.m. our watch is to pass ammunition to the big guns at the above hours and at any other time we are Red Cross attendants. Westand (sic) our watch in the magazines room and have sandwiches and coffee also can sleep at times. I am getting so I can sleep on a pile of rocks and get a good sleep. I am now used to getting up at all times of the night though they give us plenty of sleep.

     We get one bucket of fresh water a day in which we wash ourselves; one half bucket is issued at 6:30 A.m. and another at 6:30 p.m. We always have to say "Sir" to all gold stripes of officers every time you address them on board ship and when on land you have to salute every time you meet one. There is a moving picture on board ship and after supper you can do as you like.

     Inside our ship everything is painted white. All brass shines like gold; it sure is clean. All rooms are sterilized. Great attention is paid to cleanliness. There are fans everywhere which blows fresh air in and old air out.

     I have seen all kinds of flying fish, sharks, see weeds (sic), and jelly fish, also big porpoises. Life on a ship like this is great and I have never been sick This morning a wave broke over the forcastle (sic) and soaked us all. When the ship is in port we go swimming and it is great to be rocked by the waves. I sure would like to see you all and the rest if Tekamah folks but the "darn Germans have to be licked. I would like to tell you more about the ship but I know it wouldn't get by the censor so will not write.

     The Kansas has been around the world once and has fourteen silver cups won the her men in all branches of athletics and naval training

With love to you all
Karl Braun
on board the U.S.S. Kansas

Tekamah Journal
Sept. 13, 1917


     The Journal takes pleasure this week in publishing the following letter from Orville Ward, a Tekamah young man with Company F, of the Fourth Nebraska at Camp Cody, Deming, N.M. Corporal Ward's note will give us a personal touch with the new camp.

     We received your much welcomed papers in very prompt order on Sunday morning. Although gone from near home but a few days all of the boys at Camp Cody are anxious to get the home papers. Nothing sounded so good as to hear the newsboys calling the Bee and World-Herald but a short time after our arrival at Deming.

     Company F and the other companies in the train, a train of twenty- seven cars, arrived in Deming at ten a.m. last Wednesday. We were soon taken in the same train close to our camp. Everything was ready for us. In less than an hour the entire train with its baggage was unloaded and at our camp. The camp ground was all laid out, a large kitchen at the head of each company had everything ready for the kitchen utensils to be placed in order and in a short time we had our tents up and the cooks had things arranged in the kitchen so that we had our dinner quite as prompt as usual.

     There seems to be nothing that we do not have at this camp. Places of amusement, stores where we can buy light refreshments and the Y.M.C.A. are located near each division so that we have to walk hardly a block to any one of them. It is a camp and a large camp town all in one.

     As to the health the government has certainly done everything sanitary. Every bit of waste is burned, water is of a good quality and is supplied from four hydrants at the head of each company street. At the rear of each company street is a fine shower bath. You may be sure that in the heat of the day those shower baths feel good down here.

     Deming is located in about the center of a sandy desert basin between to mountain ranges. To the boys who know such fine soil and vegetation as eastern Nebraska it seems very bleak. At five o'clock in the afternoon of our arrival we were given a little touch of what a wind on such a desert can do. It came very quickly and caught some of the boys just about half through staking their tents. Rain soon followed the wind and dsand (sic) and it turned off very cool for the evening. As to the weather other than the winds which take spells for an hour or so each day, is not much warmer than at home except for the dryness. The nights have been cool and everyone shows appreciation of that by the way they sleep. So far all of the Company F boys have stood the change of altitude and climate very well.

     We wish to thank the Old Settlers for their kind telegram to us last Friday. It makes us feel that we are not so very far away from home as yet. The boys all send regards.

Very truly yours,
Orville Ward
Co. F 4th Neb. Camp Cody, Deming, N. Mex.

A Letter from Their Son - Hildreth Ellis
Tekamah Journal
September 20, 1917

Deming, N. Mexico

Well, I received my camera alright but no letter. Why don't you write once in a while. Dennis and I were over to the mountains yesterday. One range of mountains is just fourteen miles from camp. We took water and stuff with us and walked over and back. We killed rabbits and cooked them in an empty house. There was a stove and everything in it. They just pull up and leave, it looks like for they leave everything they have. In every place we came to they had a well about 65 or 70 feet deep but no water in them. They had gasoline engines to the pumps, but they never even took the engines. Stoves and everything was left in the houses. Nearly all the houses were made of dried mud and rock made up to form like a cement block. We came across quite a few that were old and had tumbled down. They are sure funny looking places. Say, the jack rabbits look as big as coyotes and they only run a short ways and then set up and look at you. The country is all sand and not a drop of water in the country. There are all kinds of dead cattle scattered around the counter that have died from the lack of water. We never saw a man all the time we were out. But we did see a lot of centipedes. They look just like a caterpiller (sic) but they have a thousand legs and a shell. Where every one of those touch you your flesh begins rotting just like leprousy (sic) and it is awfully hard to cure. Well, when we reached the mountains there was not a tree on them but the cacti was sure thick. The mountain itself is all granite. We saw a little shack up on the side and we started to climb. We sure did climb before we got there. We started looking around and under the floor we found all kinds of shoves, pumps, sledges, and all kinds of mining tools. We looked them all over and then started out. Again we followed up a little pathway, up the side of the mountain a ways and then we found a wooden platform with a square hole in the bottom just about big enough for a man to go through. Under it was a shaft of a mine. We could not get down that way so we went on up higher and came to a shaft going back in the mountain. We followed this up away and then came to a big hole going down. Now this was all cut right out of solid rock. We started down and came to another tunnel. We followed it aways and then we came to theend (sic) we found picks, drill and all just like the miner had just left there. It had not been used for a long time. In the vein he was following was a rock that contained gold. It looks just like a green rock, some being yellow, green and pink. We kept going down and the end of each tunnel we found this same kind of work. We went down one, for three hundred feet, and was not to the bottom yet but we started out. Say, it sure looked funny down in there. It is all rock, all around and just a big holegoing (sic) straight down in the rock. When we got to the tunnel we started up and found another shaft with tracks coming out and a pump. They had hauled a lots of it away for we saw a road leading away from the dump with deeps ruts like lots of wagons had gone over it. We got some of the rock and it sure is heavy. We reached the top of the mountain about eleven o'clock and it is pretty scenery from up there. Our camp is right out in the mile of a prairie. We got back to camp half past nine.

I saw Buddie today and he is feeling fine. We are getting four hours of drilling each day. We had a little shower here tonight. Our company was on guard last Friday night but I got an easy post. I was inside guarding a safe with about $1,500 in it and all I had to do was sit in a big office chair and keep from going to sleep. I had lots of ice water and had it easy. I only had to do it four hours, from 10 to 12 and from 4 to 6 in the morning. And then the boss came and started to work and so I did not need to stay any longer. He opened the safe and showed me what I had been guarding. Say, it sure was some sight of money before me.

Your loving son,
Hildreth Ellis

Tekamah Journal

Camp Funston, Kan.,
October 2, 1917

The Journal:

     All preparing for the arrival of the new recruits, which nearly double the population of Camp Funston. Co. K of which the Burt County men are a part will move again about the 5th to new quarters. We have been moved all over camp since coming here. All of the fellows are doing fine. Many have non-com jobs and are taking to drill like ducks to water. Nebraska men are the best looking men here. Am at present detailed to the Fire Department. Don't know how long I shall stay. The fire equipment is all of the very best and must be since all buildings here are wooden. I went to Ft. Riley yesterday to visit the machine shops. It is a beautiful place nothing like Funston.

     We have just been issued our overcoats and they are of some asset. Had only one blanket until last week and the weather has been cold and damp.

     The new Enfield rifles are coming in now and they are certainly murderous looking affairs outside of being a high class of workmanship. Received several copies of the Journal and were very much appreciated. All Omaha papers we get a day late. Barbers are very much in demand here and very scarce. We have quite a few in the making however. Tell the young ladies that most of the fellows like candy. Everyone is getting adept at washing his own clothes dishes and mopping. Many tadesmen (sic) will be transferred to other departments within a few days, very complete census taken with regard to occupations.

     Well, I must close as I am due for a shot in the arm at the hospital soon. Give my regards to the fellows.

A. F. Parker
355 Inf.

NOTE: The following is an interesting letter from A. F. Parker, more familiarly known as "Spike" to the boys around town. It is interesting because it is some descriptive of the manner in which the boys of Camp Funston spent Christmas day.

Tekamah Journal
January 10, 1918
Letter from A. F. Parker

Camp Funston, Kan
December 26, 1917

To the Journal:

     Christmas was ushered in by Reville (sic) at 6:45 with delightful weather, clear and cold but no snow. Breakfast then the general policy policing up the camp, was followed by company formation at 8'oclock (sic) and the day was on.

We marched to the arena about a mile from the barracks to witness and take part in the stunts, whcih (sic) were started off in a series of handicap races. These were mingled freely with music from the 355 Infranty (sic) band and about a dozen other. These were followed by a number of races and funny stunts peculiar to the army with more music. Then were had a wild west show by the enlisted men. There was plenty of real live broncho (sic) busting, most of it by Arizona and Colorado men. Then came the tug of war by the men of the 355 and the 354 Infrantry (sic) which was won in jig time by the men of the 355 Nebraska in which Lije Carpenter was especially noticeable for his height and pulling power which seemed to be equal to a Missouri mule. The winners were presented with $40 silver and Carpenter with a white flag. The next event was some fancy roping and steer bulldogging which lasted until the conclusion at noon.

     From 12 to 1 o'clock came the distribution of letters and Christmas boxes from home. At one o'clock sharp we filed to the mess and and "stood to". Our menu was Oyster soup, olives, turkey with dressing and brown gravy, mashed potatoes. sweet potatoes, bread and real butter, cranberry sauce, mince, cherry and pumkin (sic) pie, several kinds of cake, assorted fruits, candy, cigars, cigarettes and coffee...also sweet cider. After a little shakedown we "fell in" at two O'clock rescued the wagon train laden with Christmas presents and hauled by Missouri mules they having been attacked by Indian braves from the ranks. There was a hard battle and after the smoke had all died down we had out Christmas presents donated by the Red Cross and the various societies from all the states. There were many feminine addresses which appear to be unencumbered. The gifts were largely of a useful nature, such as toilet articles, comfort kits and tobacco. We washed up and stood retreat at five o'clock. Ate the leavings and smoked and lounged until seven O'clock and then the big fireworks were on. We marched to the neighborhood of Gen'l Wood's residence and witnessed a very elaborate display of fireworks on the rimrocks above Funston. Don't think Carpenter was the only one who distinguished himself as there was plenty of eats and turkey for all.

     Burt county men were there in good health and spirits. We have been under quarantine about six weeks for measles but expect to be out on Dec. 29. Company K and Burt county men hope you all fared as well as we did and sent best wishes to all. The American Bible Society also presented each soldier of the Division with a Kahki (sic) bound copy of the New Testament

A. F. Parker

Co K 355 Inf Camp Funston, Kan.

Craig News October 20, 1918

LEE JOHNSON Writes from a German Prison Hospital

Below we print a card and letter received by Joe Johnson from their son Lee, which messages are self-explanatory. We find that the prison at whcih Lee is confined is located on the extreme east border of German; therefore he was taken at least 500 miles from the place of his capture.

Camp of Strzalkonwo, bel Posen.
(Am. Pr. of War, in Germany.)

Sunday, Aug. 11, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

     How are you folks getting along? I am getting along all right. My hand is starting to heal up although it is pretty sore yet. This has been a nice day. It rains here quite frequently. You might as well tell Mr. Smith to discontinue sending the Craign newspaper as we cannot get them here. Tell my friends there it is impossible for me to write to them as we are limited to a card every Sunday and and a letter the 1st and 15th of each month, and of course you will get them.

     Say mother, if you can and I think you can send me something to eat such as hardtack or crackers and candy and canned stuff, prepared breakfast food or oatmeal; for we are allowed to use the stove for a little cooking. But you will have to send this through the American Red Cross. Hoping this finds you both well and happy.

     From you loving son,

(Card written same date)

Dear Mother:

How are you folks getting along? I am getting along allright. My hand is beginning to heal nicely. It seems rather lonesome in the hospital; something new for me, but there are 16 of us all together so that helps - but I dream of home every night.


Johnson Family Letter 1918 (Origionally in Swedish)

September 7, 1918
Somewhere in France
Mr. Conrad Johnson
Box 427
Lyons, NE, USA
Dear Brother,
Received your most welcome letter the other day and was sure glad to hear from you as I hadn't heard from you for a long time, I got one letter from Chas. Green too the same day.
Received Gustav's letter today also two letters from Jeannette. The pictures of baby were cute, I think. Jeannette sent me one picture to of herself. It sure makes a person feel good to get letters and when you get pictures it makes you feel that much better.
We are in the trenches again now. Have been here over a week and don't know just how long we have to stay here, as there is no relief in sight. It has been raining here lately. The trenches were half full of water last night, but today it is nice again, the sun is shining bright but it is cool. It is awful cold here at night.
We do not have to go out much when it rains, only for our eats. We have our gun mounted right here where we sleep. We are in a pillbox. You have probably seen pictures of these pillboxes. It is a sort of a round dugout and one place of it is open so you can put the muzzle of the gun through.
The Huns send over a barrage every once in a while, and of course our artillery does the same thing. We captured a few Hun again last night, also killed a few.
Well I suppose Gus will soon be in France too now. I don't think they train them more than a week before they send them over. There is certainly a bunch of our boys over here, and more coming over every day.
Jeannette sent me Ralph W. address today so I guess I'll write to him when I get this letter finished.
I am glad the folks get my money alright. They will soon get it for two more months. We haven't been paid for August yet, but we signed the pay roll last Thursday so I think we will soon get it.
Gus said that you got put in class one too. Well, I don't see what Dad is going to do when they take you out too, but maybe we will all be back home before the spring work opens up, at least we hope that the dirty Huns will be licked before winter is over. I think we got them on the run right now. There are a few Hun planes flying around us again this morning, trying to find out what we are doing, but don't think they will see much, because we work at night and just before daylight we quit and put camouflage over it until the next night. We sure do a lot of camouflaging.
Well, Conrad, I don't know what to write about only that I'm feeling fine and hope you folks all the same. I'll answer Gustav's letter as soon as I find time. It's awful hard to write letters here because we haven't much room and besides I'm running short on writing paper. I'll have to get to a YMCA or Salvation hut pretty soon.
Well, I must close, write again soon, tell everybody "Hello".
Your Brother,
Pvt. Carl A. Johnson
Co. A, 341st M_g. Bn,
AEF via NY
Censored by G.M. Jackson
1st St. Def. USA

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