100 Years Ago This Week: Dominion Day and A July Fourth Fire

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November he sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday June 30, 1918– This is a Canadian holiday.  ‘Dominion Day’. We were invited to their celebration but due to rainy afternoon no games or other celebration took place.

Monday July 1– More mail today.  Some old Mary mail came that was lost.  3 from Marion, 3 from home, 1 from Ora.

Tuesday July 2– Very exciting indoor ball game in front of arena this night.  Non coms defeated in 17 innings by privates and wagoners. Loss-five Francs per man.  Many friends, spectators.

Wednesday July 3– Left this AM with Joe and Bill Hoback for Arengosse with load of men.  Slept in trucks at A-. 

 Thursday July 4th- Left early morning of fourth for Mont-de-Marsan.  Saw parade of French soldiers.  Town all decorated with French and American flags. Retd to Dax by noon. Baseball game in P.M. Fire broke out in sawmill.  All soldiers worked their heads off putting out the fire. Lucky for the owners our celebration was so handy or entire mill would have burned to the ground.  No fire Department no waterworks.  In evening Saw Douglas Fairbanks at casino.

Friday July 5th

Saturday July 6– Went swimming in river today. Rather dirty but wet and warm.  


Sunday June 30, 1918– This is a Canadian holiday.  ‘Dominion Day’.

Dominion Day is the former name for July 1, a national holiday observed in Canada to commemorate the formation of the Dominion in 1867.  Since 1982, it has been known as Canada Day.

Wednesday July 3– Left early morning of fourth for Mont-de-Marsan.

Mont-de-Marsan is a community that is the capital of the Landes department (or territory) in southwestern France.  Dax is also in Landes.  Mont-de-Marsan has a population of over 30,000 and is about 35 miles from Dax, where Poppa is stationed in 1918.  

Sawmill Fire

Thursday July 4th- Fire broke out in sawmill.  All soldiers worked their heads off putting out the fire.  Lucky for the owners our celebration was so handy or entire mill would have burned to the ground.  No fire Department no waterworks.

Michel Boquet is in possession of the diary of an American surgeon named E.C. Houle who served in Dax at the same time as Poppa.  In his diary for he wrote about the same event: “July 4th – A fire broke out in a big French sawmill in vicinity. I succeeded in dragging the mayor and all the men present, about 300, and helped materially to put out the blaze.”

Further research by Michel Boquet provided the following information related to the July 4th fire:  The fire threatened to destroy sawmill called “Maison Bernadet” which was one of the oldest and biggest operations in the area.  This  business was founded in 1801 and specialized in logging, and timber processing.  It was founded, owned and operated by the Bernadet family.   In appreciation of the efforts of the 20th Engineers the owners gave the battalion 1,000 francs.  At first the money was divided up among the various companies of the 20th Engineers that helped extinguish the fire.  However, eventually the men decided to donate the money to the French Red Cross to help their wounded soldiers.
Poppa did not mention this event in his journal.  However, this picture from the website 20th Engineers is labelled “Boxing 4 July, Dax, 1918.
Next Week:  First Battalion is Trying to Organize a Band.
Sources:
“20thEngineers.Com.” 20thEngineers.Com – World War 1 – 10th Battalion, www.20thengineers.com/. Accessed 19 June 2018
Boquet, Michel

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