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Flash From The Past - 1920

Green Bay (Wisconsin) Press Gazette,
22 Jan 1920
contributed by : Linda ARKENS Kincade

Separated by War Couple Is Reunited Here 
Mr. and Mrs William DECLERC 
Now Living in Green Bay; 5 Years Apart 
Husband Captured by Boches in 1914 

Wife and Mother Driven From Home in Belgium by German Invasion

     Driven from her home in Belgium by the first invasion of that country by the German armies in 1914, Mrs. William DE CLERC found refuge in France and England and then succeeded in coming to America, where she waited until this week to become reuntied with her husband who was held a prisoner in Holland for four years and was only able this month to come to this country.

     Mr. DE CLERC was not released until Sept. 10, 1919, ten months after the signing of the armistice. He could not secure passage for this country until Jan. 5, when he sailed from Antwerp, landing in New York Jan. 14, and coming to this city from the eastern port.

     "The United States will be our home for all time" said Mrs. DE CLERC, in speaking for herself and husband, who does not speak English. "I found this country a haven when my own home was taken possesion of by the Germans, and I have lived for over five years in the hope that my husband would some day join me here. That hope has at last been realised an we are happier than 
I can express in words."

     Mr. DE CLERC fought in four battles of the great war, and was wounded once. He was taken prisoner by the Germans and kept in Holland for four years.

     Almost as happy as the meeting between the husband and wife was the meeting between father and his baby son, which occurred at Abrams yesterday. The baby was a year old when the father went to war. Mrs DE CLERC fled from her home with the baby in her arms and through the hardships of traveling by various means to France then England and finally to the United States, she managed to keep the baby healthy and he is now an attractive child. The little fellow, Henry, by name, lived for the last few years, with his uncle Peter COOPMAN in Abrams. It was at the COOPMAN's farm that the father caught the first glimpse of the boy since 1914.

     "Belgium is sorely in need of materials of all kind for building up the country," said Mrs. DE CLERC in translating what her husband remarked. "The lack of coal is retarding industries and the railroads. My husband tells me eggs are so scarce that one egg costs as high as 42 cents. Butter commands a price far above $1 a pound. The people are eager to reconstruct Belgium and will do so as rapidly as material is available. The job is a big one. In Louvain 1165 homes were destroyed. The food shortages were felt by the prisoners in Holland but the treatment of the prisoners was good."

Green Bay Press-Gazette
July, 1920
Contributed by Jim Schneider


James Bell    Mrs. M.A. Schultz    Mrs. James Bell



Hard Work and Minding Their Business Bring Reward of Peaceful Old Age

by a staff correspondent

Abrams, Wis. -- This little village , nestling in the southeast corner of Oconto County, claims the distinction of having the oldest couple in the United States. Mr. and Mrs. James Bell, Sr., who live with their son, James, Jr., in a small cottage near the outskirts of the town have each passed the century mark.

Mr. Bell in 104 years old. He was born in Belfast, Ireland, in May, 1815. His mate, English by birth, was born in 1819. 

Despite their advanced age the couple take a wholesome interest in life and are keen observers of all that is going on around them. They know all the gossip of the village and are generally referred to as the township biographers. They have a certain number of choirs which they perform diligently each day, and count that day lost when they do not finish some odd job around their home.

Mr. Bell walks down to the postoffice, about a quarter of a mile away, daily. He gets the mail and chats with friends and then returns home, where his wife, whose sight is just a trifle better than his, reads him the daily papers, preferably the Green Bay-Press Gazette.

Mrs. Bell keeps informed on all the world's happenings. Her mind is remarkably clear and she can discuss the early history of Wisconsin with all the knowledge and fineness of a historian, Despite her frail build, up to two years ago she milked 7 cows twice daily, never missing a milking for any reason.

At present Mrs. Bell is sewing a patchwork quilt. 

"What do you think of those seems," asked her 64 year old son as he proudly showed samples of her work to a Press-Gazette correspondent. The seems were nigh perfect. "I expect to finish this quilt in a few days and start another," chimed in Mrs. Bell. "My little girl tells me I work too much, but I like to be always doing something and my needle is seldom idle," she added .The "little girl" she referred to is Mrs. M. A. Schultz, a 76 year old daughter, and the oldest of 7 children living. The baby of the family is william, of Mason, Wis. 53 years of age.

Mr. Bell is a woodsman of the old school. He knows every foot of timberland in Oconto county and when he was a bit younger, spent most of his time among the tall trees and tiny birches. While on one of his jaunts through the forests a few years ago he discovered a real White Pine.

"I decided right then and there that I wanted that tree," he said. "I cut it down, hauled it to town, and hewed it into the flagstaff that you see standing near the village depot." The staff is 96 feet high and was erected a few years ago by Abrams residents.  During the war Old Glory snapped form this mast, being raised each morning and taken down in the evening by residents.

The centenarians had no particular recipe for their longevity. "We just minded our own business, didn't worry and worked hard," said Mr. Bell. "Sure, I smoke and I drank as little liquor, too, before prohibition. No, I don't think much of prohibition. I drank moderately for many years and no one can say that it has injured my health. I have never been sick a day in my life and I don't know what a doctor looks like.

"No I don't need any help," said Mr. Bell indignantly when the correspondent offered to help him down the porch steps into the yard where he and his wife posed for a picture. "With this old stick I can get anywhere. "Mr and Mrs. Bell have lived in their present home 45 years, being among the first settlers in this section of the country. Prior to coming to Abrams, they lived at Pensaukee for a number of years, going there from Sheboygan county. The came to Sheboygan from Canada, where Mr. Bell met his wife.

The couple have been married for 81 years having celebrated a silver, golden and diamond wedding anniversary. "We might celebrate our 100th anniversary, too, you never can tell," remarked Mr. Bell. "We both feel pretty pert."

Mr. and Mrs. Bell are the parents of 10 children, 7 of whom are living. "How many grandchildren have we got?" he queried. "Lets see." after thinking a while Mr. Bell gave it up. "I can't tell you; ask my daughter." Mrs. Schultz said that there were 31 grandchildren and several score great grandchildren living.

{Editor's note: James Bell lived until September 29, 1922.  He died at home in Abrams and is buried at Brookside Cemetery, 107 years, 4 months and 9 days of age.

Louisa Lock(e) Brazier Bell lived until April 4, 1925. Her marriage to James Bell was her second at age 19. She was married at age 14 in Canada to Ben Brazier and had two daughters with that marriage, Ann (Ed Schultz) and Liz (Joe Tool) before her first husband died. She died at the home of her daughter and is buried at Brookside Cemetery, Oconto County, WI., aged 105 years 8 months and 23 days.}