In the past few months, I have written about the box of letters that my Grandmother Katie Hill Kohler received from her various swains from 1919-1920. Years ago, I had taken the box when we …
In the past few months, I have written about the box of letters that my Grandmother Katie Hill Kohler received from her various swains from 1919-1920. Years ago, I had taken the box when we cleaned out her house, but only recently had I looked inside.
Katie Hill got these letters when she was a young woman of 17 or 18. She received over 30 letters from Sgt. Harry Tiemann, a local young man who was a member of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe in World War I. America entered the war in April 1917 and Harry arrived in Paris in September 1918.
Luckily for Harry, the war ended in November of 1918. Harry’s arrival in France was announced in an article in the September 19, 1918, issue of the Sullivan County Record, a now-defunct newspaper published in Jeffersonville. After several enjoyable months in the City of Light (there were weekly dances held by the Red Cross), he went on to Verdun in March.
He spent most of May 1919 in Montabaur, Germany. By July, Harry’s unit had traveled to Koblenz, Germany, and then to Brest, France, where he wrote Katie that he would soon be back home.
Harry’s letters were sweet and convey his homesickness and desire to hear about the folks back in Sullivan County. He seemed to enjoy seeing the sights in Paris and sent Katie loads of postcards.
He also sent her some photos of himself and his fellow soldiers. Sergeant Tiemann saw a good deal of France and Germany, though he expressed his disappointment at not being able to go to Italy.
He was a faithful correspondent, and Katie wrote to him often, though delivery was a bit spotty as he moved through Europe. He often told her how much her letters were appreciated and asked to be remembered to all the folks in White Sulphur Springs, especially to Mabel Hanofee.
In July 1919, Harry was waiting to get his orders that he was headed back to the good old U.S.A., but in true Army fashion, there was a lot of “hurry up and wait.” On July 20, 1919, he wrote, “Just a line to let you know that I am on my way to good old America.
Just at present, I am in Brest, France, waiting for our sailing orders which may come in at any minute. There are four ships leaving here Monday (July 21). I sure do hope we get our orders to go aboard one of them as it gets tiresome waiting to go home. I sure will be glad to get back to good old Jeff.”
According to an item in the August 14, 1919, issue of the Record, Harry returned home after his discharge from the Army. The paper goes on to note that “Harry spent some time overseas and got fat on corned beef and beans.” Local papers liked to supply all the juicy details back then.
Harry went on to marry and raise a family in the area, serving as an officer in the Emmett Turner Post 276 of the American Legion.
These letters, which are over a century old, give a glimpse into a world very different from ours. They are a treasure, and I am so glad that Grandma Kohler saved them.
KATHY WERNER is a three-time National Newspaper Association Award winner for the Democrat, and a true member of the family.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here