100 Years ago this Week: Sleeping on a shelf in the Supply House

Background:  A train load of soldiers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson arrived in Washington, D. C. on October 4th, 1917.  They have been staying in tents on the campus of American University ever since.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Oct 21st– Half a day off.  Am uptown? now to get filled up.  Went to Church.  Presbyterian Church

Monday Oct 22nd– Was transferred to sleep in supply house.  Sleeping on shelves and all over floor.

Tuesday Oct. 23rd– Slept well on shelf last night.  Big day with supplies, everyone nearly equipped.  No one allowed to leave camp.

Wednesday Oct 24th– Did not get out last night as was expected.  Everything quiet today.  Two packages of candy today.

Thursday Oct 25th– Very little to do today.  Loafing around stove.  Two more packages of candy today

Friday Oct 26th– Still loafing and eating candy.  Hope they will put ? me to work soon.  Good news from Tampa ?

Saturday Oct. 27th– Feeling rather ‘indisposed” today.  Have a good cold and sore throat.  Good hot shower at Y.M. tonight.

Is sleeping on a shelf in the supply house more desirable than a tent?

It appears that my grandfather was busy with supplies this week.  Mobilizing an army to send overseas must have been an enormous job. Here is a picture of a US solider typically equipped for WWI.

Typically equipped WWI soldier
John Rodney Jamieson in uniform


Here is a picture of the equipment that would have been assigned to a British soldier in 1916. Although it’s not American I like the picture.

Equipment of a British soldier circa 1916


Although Poppa appeared bored with the soldier’s life stateside the war was becoming real to America as on October 21st, 1917  American soldiers entered combat for the first time on the Western front under French command.

Next Week: Prohibition Begins in Washington, D.C.


100 Years ago this week: Figuring out the job

Background:  A train load of soldiers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson arrived in Washington, D. C. on October 4th, 1917.  They have been staying in tents on the campus of American University ever since.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Oct 14th, 1917– Spent all day waiting for a little equipment at headquarters.  Spent evening at Y.M.C.A. in Washington

Monday Oct 15th– Everything going well.  Worked in storehouse most of day.  Y.M.C.A. gives farewell reception.  I had to work did not go.  

Tuesday Oct 16th– Working in supply room all day and night.  Very busy

Wednesday Oct 17th-Acting as supply clerk for Hq. co  Still busy am at Washington Y.MCA tonight.  Have had a good bath.

Thursday Oct 18th– Working on supplies today. and late tonight.  This job might be easier.

Friday Oct 19th– Jefferson O. Barracks placed under quarantine for Diphtheria.  Glad I was transferred before.

Saturday Oct 20th– Am getting my job better in hand and straightened out.  Met Roy Thomas today.  He is assigned to Co. F


Monday, Oct. 15– Poppa recorded in his journal that the YMCA gave a farewell reception.  During WWI the YMCA was a different organization than we think of today.  According to The History of the YMCA in WWI the ‘Y’ provided 90% of the welfare services available to the military both at home and overseas.  The Red Cross and USO were not yet the organizations we think of today and when American needed to quickly build an army to fight overseas the YMCA also mobilized.  During the ‘Great War’ 35,000 YMCA volunteers worked to meet the welfare of our forces overseas.  Of the men and women working with the YMCA there were 286 casualties during the war.








The YMCA building in Washington, D.C.











Friday October 19th- Just days after leaving Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. Poppa learned that that camp had been quarantined because of an outbreak of diphtheria.  Diphtheria was a stubborn disease to control and by the 1920s there were between 100,000 and 200,000 cases reported in the US.  Although a vaccine was developed in 1924 thousands of cases were reported in Europe during WWII.  There were zero cases reported in the US in 2015.

Next Week:  Sleeping on a Shelf in the Supply House



The History of the YMCA in World War I. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2017.

“Diphtheria.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Sept. 2017. Web. 01 Oct. 2017.

100 Years ago this week: A Rainy Week in Washington, D.C.

Background: Two weeks after leaving home in Poynette, Wisconsin and joining the army my grandfather finds himself living in an army camp on the grounds of the American University in Washington, D.C.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Oct 7th, 1917- Have day off today,  Arm still sore.  Visited Washington including White House, Capital, Wash. Monument, etc.

Monday Oct 8th–  Am on guard tonight.  Weather dank and wet.  This is what you get for joining the army. ? ? today.

Tuesday Oct 9thStill on guard until 4:30 P.M.  Weather wet? still ? today.  Feet wet tonight with no change of shoes.  

Wednesday Oct 10th– Rec’d pack equipment today.  Getting ready to go.  Transferred to Headquarters today.

Thursday Oct 11thInspection or false start today.  First drill with packs on back.  

Friday Oct 12th– Not much doing as it is raining.  Drill this A.M. but started raining at noon.

Saturday Oct 13th- Worked in supply storehouse today.  Inspection of barracks at 1:00 P.M. Went to vaudeville show at night.


Sunday Oct. 7th- At the time that Poppa visited the White House in 1917 women did not yet have the right to vote.  It’s possible that there were women protesting in front of the famous building at the time he was there.  Although brought there by their desire to vote, some also protested America’s involvement in the ‘Great War’.   Voting rights for women was not an issue that President Wilson supported but apparently the women protesting for the vote in front of the White House helped change his mind.  After some of the women were arrested and sent to jail they went on a hunger strike.  Fearing negative publicity President Wilson agreed to support the movement and on August 18th 1920 the 19th amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote.

Saturday night Oct. 13th-  Poppa  went to the Vaudeville show, likely with some other soldiers.

Vaudeville sheet music from 1917



Note:  My grandfather wrote in a small day calendar.  At places it is hard to read his writing.  When I was unable to decipher what was written I substituted a ‘?’.  Here is the journal page for the first part of October 2017.  Remember he didn’t have a pocket calendar for 2017 so he used one from 2013 and wrote in the correct day of the week. What do you think he wrote on Monday, October 8th and on Tuesday the 9th?


Copy of Journal from October, 1917
























Next Week:  Figuring Out the Job


“President Woodrow Wilson Picketed by Women Suffragists.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2017.

http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/19th-amendment”The American Vaudeville Museum Archive.”

The American Vaudeville Archive Special Collections. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2017.

100 Years Ago This Week: Working in the Mess Hall

Background:  On  September 24th, 1917 my grandfather traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and joined the US army.  Less than 24 hours later he was on a train to Jefferson Barracks in Missouri.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday, Sept. 30th, 1917- Still in the Mess House from 5:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. with but 2 hours off.  Amy Thomas called today caught me in ? ? clothes.

Monday Oct 1st- Relieved from Mess House today at 2:30 P.M.  Glad to get out.  Orders to pack up today and leave for Washington D.C. Wed.

Tuesday Oct. 2nd– Received equipment for trip east today.   Busy day taking examinations, getting instructions, & equipment.

Wednesday Oct. 3rd– Started in train for Washington.  Spent 2 hrs in St.Louis, left at noon on  Penn. train good sleep in sleeper.

Thursday Oct 4th– On board train, 1 ½ hrs. late.  Arrived in Washington at 8:00 P.M.  Direct to American University grounds.  

Friday Oct 5th– Started training with 20th Engineers.  Looks as though they will leave here soon.

Saturday Oct 6th– On kitchen police today also received “shot in the arm”. Like mess house-not- Nearly sick tonight account of arm.

It appears that Poppa spent much of his first week in the army working in the mess hall.  He did apparently have a visit from Amy Thomas.  Thomas was his grandmother’s maiden name so presumable Amy was a relative.

However, less than one week after arriving at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri Poppa was on the move again when he boarded another train for Washington, D.C.  The trip lasted from about noon on October 3rd until 8:00 PM the next day, a span of about 32 hours.  Sounds like he was able to sleep on the train and presumably arrived well rested.

Although his handwriting can be difficult to read it appears that he rode on the ‘Penn. train’.  The Pennsylvania railroad had grown rapidly by acquiring smaller railroad companies and by the late 1890s had established a route from St. Louis to New York.  Therefore it is possible that Poppa was indicating that he travelled on the Pennsylvania railroad.

Upon arriving in nation’s capital the soldiers went directly to the campus of American University.

During WWI The Army set up camp on the grounds of the American University in Washington, D.C.

American University opened in 1914.  Less than three years later and only 24 days after the United States declared war in 1917 American University offered it’s property to the war effort. Apparently the university only had 28 students enrolled at the time so the president of the university contacted Woodrow Wilson and offered the university property to the government to use as they saw fit.  During the the first world war (as well as during WWII) soldiers lived and trained on the campus of American University.  The army also used the property as a laboratory for developing and testing chemical weapons.  Apparently at the end of the WWI excess munitions were buried in one corner of the university property.  Some of these were accidentally uncovered by workers in the 1990s.  Imagine how dangerous it would have been if poisonous gas were to be accidentally released in an urban area such as Washington DC.  Wikipedia reported that it took until 2009 and cost $170 million for all of these chemicals to be found and cleaned up.  A book on this topic has recently been published.

At any rate it appears that once he settled in to the new camp he went back to working in the mess hall.

Next Week:  A rainy week in Washington, D.C.


“Camp American University.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Aug. 2017. Web. 12 Sept. 2017.

“American University Once Had A Chemical Warfare Center.” Architect of the Capital. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2017.

100 Years Ago This Week: Poppa Joins the Army

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Monday, Sept. 24th, 1917 –Enlisted at Milwaukee in the 20th Engineers. Rode all night in car of rough necks to St. Louis.

Tuesday, Sept. 25th –Arrived at Jefferson Barracks.  Took shower bath. Spent day rather quietly.  No sleep last night.

Wednesday, Sept. 26th –Took medical exam and got “shot in the arm”  Mighty sore tonight.  Barracks beds are fine.

Thursday, Sept. 27th –Got our uniforms today, assigned to 16th Recruit Co.  Arm still sore.

Friday, Sept. 28th –First day of drill.  Feet sore by noon.  First mail from home today.

Saturday, Sept. 29th –First day of work in the Mess House.  Stringing beans and waiting on table.



A Red Cross worker hands out care packages to soldiers departing from Milwaukee. This picture is from the book by Kevin J. Abing called “The Crowded Hour Milwaukee During the Great War 1917-1018. The author of the book used the picture with permission of the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

My grandfather was 28 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army on Sept 24th, 1917.  According to his diary he travelled to Milwaukee to enlist.  He lived about 100 miles away in Poynette at the time but he doesn’t say how he got to Milwaukee.  By the next day he had arrived by train at Jefferson Barracks in Lemay, Missouri which is located on the Mississippi River just south of St. Louis.  The Jefferson Barracks Military Post was built in 1826 and was used in the Mexican American War and the Civil War (by both sides) prior to becoming a training sight for WWI soldiers.

In the entry for September 24th he indicated that he enlisted in the 20th Engineers.  This was a regiment of forestry engineers.  The government realized that going to war in Europe would require the building and maintenance of great deal of infrastructure from docks to bridges to barracks to outhouses.  Lumber was needed for all of these and that was the job of the 20th engineers.  Poppa was the third generation of his family to own a lumberyard in Poynette, WI so choosing to join a regiment of lumbermen makes sense.

On September 26th he indicated that he got a shot in the arm.  According to a book entitled World War I by Jennifer D. Keene soldiers enlisting in the Army in 1917 received a vaccine for tetanus, typhoid and small pox.  For many soldiers this may have been the first vaccination they had ever received.


Soldiers receiving vaccinations in WWI




A picture of Jefferson Barracks from Wikipedia

Next Week: Working in the Mess Hall



“Jefferson Barracks Military Post.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Aug. 2017. Web. 29 Aug. 2017.

“20th Engineer Brigade (United States).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Aug. 2017. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

Davies, Alfred H. “Twentieth Engineers, France, 1917-1918-1919 : Davies, Alfred H : Free Download & Streaming.” Internet Archive. Portland, Ore., Twentieth Engineers Publishing Assn, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

“World War I.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

Imgur. “American Troops Receiving Typhoid Vaccinations during World War 1.”Imgur. N.p., 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

Abing, Kevin J. “A Crowded Hour: Milwaukee During the Great War 1917-1918.  America Through Time 2017


The Diaries

This is a picture of Poppa’s three diaries.  The first was a calendar from from 1913 which he modified and used to record his experiences from 1917.  The middle one is for his 1918 notes.  The third is labelled “Agenda 1919” and has dates written in french.  According to Google Translate “Agenda” is French for “Diary”.

April 20, 1917

In April of 1917 president Woodrow Wilson ordered that all private radio stations be shut down because of the declaration of war.  My hometown newspaper, the Poynette Press reported that the two local wireless operators, Willie Forrest and Leslie Drake had been ordered by government officials to ‘discontinue and take down their apparatus.’  In the opinion of the newspaper ‘This is disappointing to the boys as they were becoming apt in operating and receiving, communicating with each other ad picking up many messages…’.  Willie Forrest became a pioneer of broadcasting.  In 1925 he formed radio station WIBU in Poynette which operated until 2001.

My Grandfather’s World War I Diary

Picture courtesy of Poynette Area Historical Society

At the time it was called the great war or the war to end all wars.  Today we know it as World War I.  It started on June 28, 1914 when  the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated.  

Under the administration of president Woodrow Wilson America resisted entering the  war until April 6, 1917 when Congress declared war on Germany and  joined allies Britain, France and Russia in the war.

Young men signed up for the armed forces in record numbers for patriotic reasons or because they were lured by the adventure of war.  My grandfather was one of them.

John Rodney Jamieson was a young man with a degree in engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1917 when he made the decision to join the United States army.  He would serve for three years in the  20th Engineers regiment of the US army.  He kept a record of his experiences.  He wrote a sentence or 2 nearly everyday in a pocket calendar.  

It has been a century since my grandfather Rodney made the decision to go to war for America.  This is intended to be an account based on his journal of  experiences published exactly 100 years after he wrote of them.