100 Years ago this Week: Made THE purchase!

Background:  WWI  has been over for almost 4 months and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’,  has been stationed with the United States Army’s 20th Engineers at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  He is anxiously awaiting his orders to head home.   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday  March 2, 1919– Had inspection of packs and equipment in park outside of arena today.  Reminds one of days when we were getting ready to come over. Hope to hear some definite date this week.

Monday March 3– Medical inspection at the companies today.  Drove all A.M. Band practice in the P.M. is every days routine.  Forgot to mention on Feb 28th Major Brookings left for Paris there to start for Finland to work for the Hurd (?)  commission.

Tuesday March 4– French holiday this.  Lieut. Ward leaves tomorrow to join the major for his work in Finland.  Captain Wilson transferred to one of the later battalions. Capt Elam C.O. of this district as he will not go home with us.  Tom Coleman has gone to Poland..

Wednesday March 5– Rec’d a letter from Marion today which made me very very happy.  My truck was sent to Arengosse today so now I am out of a job in the A.M.s .  Band concert at 2nd CO. tonight.

Thursday march 6– Started on 3 day leave today.  Went to Pau in the A.M. Saw the sights of Pau in the rain all P.M. Visited the Chateau of Henry IV which was very interesting.  Slept in nice warm room in good soft bed.

Friday March 7– Made the purchase this A.M. Hope it pleases you Marion and that when you accept it you will never have cause to regret it.  I shall do my best. Visited Lourdes this P.M. A beautiful spot in the mountains. My thoughts are also with you today my mother, your birthday.  May you have many more to come.

Saturday March 8– Spent the A.M. in Lourdes most of the time hunting for entrance to the old castle which we never found.  Went back to Pau in the P.M. Again it rained the remainder of the day so at 5 o’clock departed for Dax.  Found some nice mail waiting for me there.

Romance is in the air!

Poppa’s job changed again when the truck he had been using to make deliveries all over southern France was assigned to another unit.  The next day he went to Pau, which is a town in southern France, about 55 miles from Dax,  for a three day leave.  It seems like was romance was on his mind and he made a big decision about his future!

Wednesday March 5– “Rec’d a letter from Marion today which made me very very happy…”

Marion Clarkson Brown in 1916

Friday March 7– “Made the purchase this A.M. Hope it pleases you Marion and that when you accept it you will never have cause to regret it.”  

Poppa never mentions exactly what he purchased in France but the context suggests that it is an engagement ring.  Don’t you agree?

This is a picture of Marion Brown Jamieson’s ring resting on a rose petal.  We don’t know for sure that Poppa purchased this in Pau, France but a jeweler who recently appraised it said that it is made in the 1920’s style and that the diamond is of the “European cut”.

Pau is a city in The south of France near the Pyrenees Mountains.   Records indicate that Pau has existed at least as far back as the middle ages.  It has been a  resort center since at least the 1800’s and during WWI it was a very popular destination for American soldiers on leave.

A post card view of Pau, France in the early 20th century.

In 1909 the Wright brothers set up a pilot training school near Pau.  During the year that Poppa was stationed in Dax he saw ‘aeroplanes’ fly over and even land.  Is it possible that those planes were from the pilot training school in Pau?

This is said to be a picture of Wilbur Wright flying his airplane over Pau France in 1909.

Poppa wrote that while on leave he also visited the Chateau of Henry IV and Lourdes.  

Lourdes is a small town at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France and about 20 miles south of Pau.   According to Poppa it was a popular location to visit for soldiers on leave in 1919.

The castle and river in Lourdes

Soldiers assignments change

Walter DuBois Brookings was Poppa’s commander.  On February 27th, 1919  Poppa wrote that Brookings was leaving camp to work on the (illegible) commission.   Although Poppa initially said Brookings was going to Paris, this week he wrote that Brookings was headed to Finland.  That makes mores sense because  Brookings obituary says that after leaving France, “as a representative of Herbert Hoover he took the first shipload of relief food to the Baltic Region, landing in Libau Latvia” in March of 1919.  Ten years before he was president of the United States, Herbert Hoover led the commission for Relief in Belgium.  According the Wikipedia the commission’s purpose was to supply food to German occupied France and Belgium during WWI.

Eliza Duff Jamieson

On March 7th Poppa wrote “My thoughts are also with you today my mother , your birthday.  May you have many more to come.” 

March 7th, 1919 was the 55th birthday of Poppa’s mother, Eliza Duff Jamieson

 Next Week:  My bag is packed!


Note:  In the first version of this week’s blog post I wrote that Poppa went to Paris to make THE purchase.  Thanks to Michel Boquet for pointing out that it was more likely Poppa made his purchase in Pau, France, as it is much closer to Dax.  I checked the journal entry more closely and clearly Poppa wrote ‘Pau’ not ‘Paris’.  This makes much more since since it is near Lourdes and the Chateau of Henry IV.

Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Jan. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pau,_Pyr%C3%A9n%C3%A9es-Atlantiques. Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.

“Aviation History Wing/Aviation’s Attic/Charles Fint Remembers From the Memoirs of Charles Flint,  the American Tycoon Who Backed the Wright Brothers.” History of the Airplane, www.wright-brothers.org/History_Wing/Aviations_Attic/Charles_Flint/Charles_Flint.htm. Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.

100 Years ago This Week: Spending Mother’s Day in France

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the United States Army.  He was assigned to the 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 now based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  Poppa has just celebrated his 27th birthday.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday May 12, 1918– River very high yet.  This is Mother’s Day. All have written to their mothers.  Co A played 6th Bn team today. Winning 1 to 0.

Monday May 13– The water was so high on Sat and Sun that the pigs were isolated on an island.  We made a raft and took food to them in Thoms hat.

Tuesday May 14– Weather is again warm and very delightful.  Many French girls “Prommanade” in park every evening.

Wednesday May 15– With Lloyd today repairing telephone to Mees.  Eleven letters today. About time some were coming.  

Thursday May 16– Received check/ draft for fifty from home yesterday.  It came at a very welcome time.

Friday May 17 – Eight sailors came here today with six trucks to haul gravel from pit to depot for (?) station somewhere near Bordeaux

 Saturday May 18– Made some purchases today including socks, handkerchief, etc. to take place of laundry washwoman  did not return


Week of May 12-18, 1918

Based on Poppa’s journal entries it was a quiet week in his camp in Dax, France.  Soldiers, aware that Mothers Day was being observed back in the states, were likely longing to be home with their families.

A formal picture of Poppa’s mother, Eliza Duff Jamieson (1864-1943)

Other than high water and improving weather it appears that he had little to report on.  However, two things of interest did happen back in the states during this week.

On May 15th, 1918 the United States post office implemented a new type of delivery called Airmail.  The first Airmail delivery route was between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York.  An Airmail stamp cost 24 cents.

On May 16th the Sedition Act was enacted by the United States Congress.  It forbade the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt. 

 Next Week: Not much work to do for me

“Sedition Act of 1918.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2018. Web. 11 May 2018.