100 Years Ago This Week: What a glorious life.

Background:   WWI is over and the soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force are being sent home from France.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers and in November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based 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 February 16, 1919– Wrote a few letters, cleaned up and am going out to Cafe St. Pierre for supper.  We are all getting fine treatment at that place now. Tough piece of luck this P.M. when I broke my pipe.  Can get it repaired soon in U.S.A.

Monday February 17 – Old Co  E of 2nd Bn now fifth company arrived today.  They have been up quite close to the front all the time since they left us at ST. Nazaire.  The band started practicing today. Our schedule is for every afternoon 1:30 to 4:30. I drive the bunch out from headquarters in my Dodge to 2nd CO Y.M.C.A.

Tuesday February 18 – Driving all A.M.  Band practice all P.M. and show practice in the evening.  What a glorious life.

Wednesday February 19– Had a nice ride to Arengosse this A.M. The band practices playing and marching this P.M.  I am a sick woman tonight don’t know what is the trouble. Haven’t had a drink and feel as drunk or seasick as I had a good one.

Thursday February 20– (No entry)

Friday February 21– Feel much better today still not good enough to go to band practice this P.M. Full rehearsal of show at casino tonight.  I’ll be there to pound the bass drum. Relieved from further work today. Left out the 20th

Saturday February 22– Drove Dodge on various trips to Cos most of the day.  Trucks are moving 1st co from Pontex back to their old camp.  Officers dance at the casino is the principal event of the day.  Jazz orchestra played for the dance. Much champaign put the orchestra in best of form.  The dance a great success and orchestra wonderful (!)

Units of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) continue to be moved around France in preparation for being sent home.  The soldiers of the fifth company had traveled to France on the same ship as Poppa but were stationed closer to the front.   On February 16th Poppa wrote that the Fifth CO.  has now rejoined him in Dax.

Poppa was sick for several days during the week of February 16, 1919.  He doesn’t report the cause of his illness.  However, in early 1919 the world was still experiencing what is thought to be the second biggest epidemic in world history:  the Spanish flu outbreak.  In the month of October, 1918 alone 195,000 Americans died from the disease.  Because of improvements in transportation and because of the mobility of soldiers the flu spread rapidly around the world.  Some experts say that more America soldiers were lost during WWI to the flu than to the fighting.

In previous journal entries Poppa wrote that some of his colleagues were hospitalized because of the flu but it doesn’t appear that Poppa’s illness was severe enough to require hospitalization.

Michel Boquet is a retired French engineer who is an expert on the history of forestry in France in WWI.   He has acquired the journal of a US army physician who was  treating soldiers in the area of Poppa’ camp.  Michel noticed the following entry:  “Saw Pvt (possibly Lt) Jamison from St avit for acute appendicitis”.

However,  this entry was labelled January 19, 1919, almost a month before Poppa’s illness.

On February 22nd Poppa wrote that “Officers dance at the casino is the principal event of the day.  Jazz orchestra played for the dance. Much champaign put the orchestra in best of form.  The dance a great success and orchestra wonderful (!)”

A WWI era picture of the casino in Dax, France. This was just a short distance from Poppa’s camp.

Poppa did not write whether his band was part of the entertainment but his enthusiastic description suggests that they might have been.  The same physician who treated private Jamison for appendicitis attended the officers’ dance and made this journal entry:

“Washington’s birthday. We engaged Casino and gave a party. Band music and invited all our friends. Enormous success. Nobody wanted to go home. Dancing and songs.”

Next Week: The show was a big success!


Michel Boquet

100 Years Ago This Week: I Guess I Got it Too.

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 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.  Many of the soldiers around him have come down with the Spanish flu.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

Sunday July 28, 1918 – I guess I got it too.  Feel very “bum” today. Woolie  also in bed with the fever.  Hope I don’t have to stay in bed tomorrow.

Monday July 29 – Took a trip in side car today with Munday nearly to coast looking for forest fire. Fire was out when we got there but had a very good trip.

Tuesday July 30 “Oui-Oui” has been gone for nearly two weeks we now have “Chick” a little puppy about six inches round.  Full of pup life.

Wednesday July 31– Another fire in “C” cos woods today.  Everybody out fighting the fire which was defeated after a couple of hours fight.

Thursday August 1– The Americans are doing some neat work up the line.  The allies are advancing every day.

Friday August 2– We have moved our offices from the arena uptown to a building formerly used as a hotel.  Much better place for offices but not so handy as before.

Saturday August 3– Payday and Saturday combined.  Enough said. Shorty put on a party with Joe and  Schroeder.

The Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-1920

Last week on July 26, 1918 Poppa wrote that ” at least half of the fellows are sick with the Spanish Fever. ”  He described the effects of the disease this way:  “Makes one quite sick for a couple of days and for several days before strong again. ”  At the time Poppa and the rest of the world had not yet grasped the severity of this disease.  The Spanish flu eventually killed over 20 million people around the world and was one of the greatest disasters in history.   Not all people react to the disease in the same way.  Fortunately for Poppa he was apparently able to return to work on Monday July 29th after feeling “bum” the day before.

Patients lie in an influenza ward at a U.S. Army camp hospital in Aix-les-Baines, France, during World War I. PHOTOGRAPH BY CORBIS

Tuesday July 30 “Oui-Oui” has been gone for nearly two weeks we now have “Chick” a little puppy about six inches round.  Full of pup life.

Here Poppa was referring to a pet mascot that was being kept by their company.  Poppa referred to Oui-Oui earlier but now it appears that he has gone missing.  However, the company has a new pet named chick.

This article from the battalion newspaper contains more detail about the new dog adopted by A company and named “Chick”. Credit Michel Boquet for this article

Next Week: “Hell, Heaven or Hoboken before Christmas”



“1918 Flu Pandemic That Killed 50 Million Originated in China, Historians Say.”National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 08 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 July 2018.


100 Years Ago This Week: An Easter Tragedy

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.  

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Mar 31, 1918– Not a very pleasant Easter as today at 3:25 Pm Major Hartwick died.  There will never be another major after service under this man. Body shipped to Bordeaux tonight. Hq Dept. bought nice wreath of flowers.

Monday April 1– Funeral at  B ———- today.  Several of the boys were allowed to go, I could not go.  Rained nearly all day here.

Tuesday April 2– Major Weisel has taken over command of our battalion.  Rec’d notice to go to B— tomorrow for examination for Corps of Engineers U.S. Army.

Wednesday April 3– Did not go to B—— for exam, postponed.  Some real nice mail today.

Thursday April 4 –Working each day at building garage and machine shop.  Building in all 36×60. Have had 8 men each day on the job.

Friday April 5– Took exam for Corp of Engineers today.  Two Colonels gave it. Not very much encouraged over outcome.  Going to B—- this PM for physical examination.

Saturday April 6– Spent day at B——. Took physical exam at base hospital (?) 6 , saw many interesting things.  “Skin clear except for recent ? Bites. 3 of us took exam. Brundage an (?) Johnson were the others.

Death of a Commanding Officer

Major Edward E. Hartwick

Sunday Mar 31– “Not a very pleasant Easter as today at 3:25 Pm Major Hartwick died.  There will never be another major after service under this man. Body shipped to Bordeaux tonight. Hq Dept. bought nice wreath of flowers.”

Edward E. Hartwick had graduated from West Point and served in the Spanish American war.  He retired from the army and went into the lumber business in Grayling and Detroit Michigan until he rejoined the army in 1917 to work as an officer in the 20th Engineers.  It appears that Poppa worked closely with him and for a time was his orderly.

According to the book A Biographical Study of Major Edward E Hartwick” by Gordon K.Miller the Major died of meningitis Sunday March 31,  1918 at 3:25 Pm French time and he was buried at 3 PM Monday in Bordeaux, France.

It appears that Poppa and his mates had great respect for the Major.  One of his soldier friends that Poppa mentions frequently in his journal is M.Malone who wrote this letter to the Major’s widow:

“I am only a private but having been in the office with and around the Major since the organization of his battalion in Washington I naturally came to know him and I consider it not only an honor but a revelation to have been associated with and commanded by a man of his character and ability.  He was never tiring in his labors never weakening in his undertakings, and always looking out for the comfort and welfare of his men.  He was faithful to his country, he was faithful to his family, and thus he came to the end of a perfect day on this earth And now I would write across his records here was a MAN and a SOLDIER to the end.”

(Apparently private M. Malone was later promoted to sergeant.   According to Poppa’s address book Sgt. Malone was later involved in the lumber business in Beaumont Texas.)

Two years after Hartwick’s death his body was removed and buried in Detroit Michigan.   In 1927, his widow purchased more than 8,000 acres  of land in  Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and donated the parcel to the state of Michigan in her husband’s name. This became the  Hartwick Pines State Park, the largest state park in the lower Peninsula.

“Monday April 1– Funeral at  B ———- today.  Several of the boys were allowed to go, I could not go.  Rained nearly all day here.”

Was Poppa disappointed that he was not allowed to attend the Major’s funeral?   Bordeaux is about 90 miles from Dax.

Tuesday April 2– “Major Weisel has taken over command of our battalion.”

In this screen shot of officers of the 20th Engineers Captain F.R. Weisel is number 6.

The only other reference I could find to Major Weisel was in this article from the 1918 edition of the American Lumberman.



In his journal entries this week Poppa referred to Bordeaux or B—- almost every day.  He reported that Major Hartwick was buried there and later in the week Poppa received his physical exam there at Base Hospital 6.

Bordeaux , a French city about 90 miles from Dax, where Poppa was stationed is the world’s major wine industry capital and in 1918 had a population of over 250,000 people.

Base hospital 6 was located near Bordeaux.  It was organized at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and traveled to France a a unit.  They left New York on July 9, 1917 and were treating patients in Bordeaux by August 21st.

According to Michel Boquet:  “Foreign soldiers who died there were buried at the Talence Communal Cemetery extension. The Americans were later exhumed and buried or in their country or at the Suresnes American Cemetery. Mainly, the Canadians stayed there.”

A drawing of Base Hospital 6
This picture of a portion of Base Hospital 6 was taken in April of 1918.

I wonder how long it took to travel from Dax to Bordeaux in 1918?  Did they drive a military vehicle or did they take a train?

Next Week:  We all Hope That the French and English Will Hold Them


“A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2018.

“Edward Hartwick.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Mar. 2018. Web. 22 Mar. 2018.

“American Forestry.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2018.

“American Lumberman.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2018.

“Bordeaux.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Mar. 2018. Web. 07 Apr. 2018.
“OnViewCurated Content from the Center for the History of Medicine’s Extraordinary Collections.” Omeka RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2018.

100 Years ago This Week: Quarantined in France

Background:  The 20th Engineers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, travelled across the Atlantic Ocean on the USS Madawaska, They recently docked in St. Nazaire, France.  They are staying in a nearby camp but are now under quarantine.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Dec 2, 1917– Working in supply room issuing rations.  Would not know it was Sunday.  Another death (no. 2) last night at hospital.  

Monday Dec 3The weather is rather cool but very good.  We sleep on the ground , have very good mess.  Will be glad to be allowed a little freedom.   

Tuesday Dec 4– The spirit in this camp is very good considering the quarantine. Another death reported (3).

Wednesday Dec 5– A big shipment of Red Cross sweaters, etc were received today.  The Red Cross deserves a lot of praise & credit.

Thursday Dec 6– We are all getting tired of this quarantine and hope to be able to get out soon.

Friday Dec 7Every evening we sing, play cards and have a jolly good time while we are shut in.

Saturday Dec 8I am still working every day in supply room.  We are getting everything to the companies.


Soldiers dying in quarantine.  

It appears that my grandfather kept count of the soldiers in his unit that passed away by putting a number inside ().  So far he is aware of three.


The Red Cross

Poppa was complimentary of the Red Cross because the soldiers received “a big shipment of sweaters, etc” on December 5th.

In the summer of 1917 the Read Cross urgently requested knitted goods and hospital supplies and thousands of Americans responded.  The boots worn by the soldiers had seams that tore out easily and metal studs on the bottom so wet and cold feet were a big problem.  The socks knitted by the Red Cross volunteers were highly valued by the soldiers on the front, many of whom were in trenches.





Getting Organized

The 20th Engineers are in St. Nazaire, France, getting organized before moving on to their unknown destination.  Edward E. Hartwick was a major in the 20th engineers and my grandfather’s commanding officer.  His biography includes entries in his diary and letters home to his wife.  Here is some of what Major Hartwick wrote after they arrived at St. Nazaire:

Major Edward E. Hartwick

This is a very quaint old town (St. Nazaire), most substantially built. As you may imagine, the streets are very narrow, but kept thoroughly clean (only the main streets). Also bought some picture postcards, but the censor regulations will not permit me to send them by mail. I am dictating this while I have a little time after breakfast, waiting for the office of the transportation officer to open, as I want to get an automobile and look over our camp before we go to it.


Type of truck used by the military in WWI

The sick were taken off the ship yesterday, … Have been unable to get permission to cable and everyone on the ship is very much disappointed that we cannot cable our safe arrival. I find that people here are more in the dark as to news of the war than are the folks at home, as it seems that what news they receive here comes from New York, Washington, London and Paris, and of course it is all censored. At this writing do not know where we are to go, except that we are to go by train; the little dinky cars and engines would certainly make Robert laugh if he could see them. For example, we moved our entire command and baggage on the American train in thirty-six cars, but will have to have seventy-two cars on this French rail road. The locomotive looks like a model of the first engine ever built.

Here is a fuzzy picture of a trainload of U.S. soldiers near St. Nazaire France
Here is a fuzzy picture of a trainload of U.S. soldiers near St. Nazaire France.


We … are quartered in buildings similar to the buildings at Camp American University, except that there are no floors in the buildings and the men are all sleeping on straw in their bedsocks, spread on the ground. Almost hustled my legs off that day getting rations, fuel and ovens, etc., so the men could have hot coffee and a warm supper. Our lunch we brought with us off the boat. The men were a happy lot, to get their feet on solid ground. Everything is very scarce here and we are striving to economize. I should not say everything, as food seems to be plentiful. But wood, coal, paper, milk and clothing are scarce. We had no heat for warming until today, when I managed to secure one stove for each barracks, heated by a “slack” coal and only heated evenings. We are in quarantine and have most stringent regulations to keep all officers and men in camp, except when I give permission for them to leave on duty — or with me. We are in a camp commanded by an officer of marines — and several other organizations are here. Our sick list is improving and we hope to be out of quarantine by December 10th. Winter weather here; seems to be about like late October in Detroit, only more dampness or fog in the morning.

 Based on the journals of both my grandfather and major Hartwick it appears that supplies of most things are in short supply.  The soldiers are sleeping on the ground and can only heat their quarters at night.  The term ‘slack coal’ refers to small pieces of coal or even coal dust.

Sunday December 2nd, 1917

Poppa reported in his journal that on Sunday, Dec. 2nd he was working in the supply room.  Major Hartwick also made an entry for that day:  Here is some of what he recorded:

Sunday Morning,December 2nd: This is a beautiful Sunday morning and I have come down to the town near the dock, as we have our impedimenta in a warehouse and are moving it by motor trucks, so as to divide it up among the detachments that I am to send to their stations. Our boat is still at the dock unloading cargo, and I took the opportunity to get one more good fresh-water shower bath. Am now writing this in the “salon” of the Hotel Bretagne — a room about ten by fourteen, containing a writing table and piano, which, with a few chairs and fireplace, completely fill it. … It was so cold my toothpaste was frozen or at least so cold it would not squeeze out till I warmed it at the cook-fire. … Last Thursday — Thanksgiving day — Major Greeley arrived at camp and surprised me, as I had talked with him from Paris on the telephone the day before. He is on the staff of the general officer at the head of the forestry department. The general officer was stationed in Detroit a year ago. You have heard me speak of him as my former instructor at West Point, General M. M. Patrick.

General Mason Mathews Patrick (16 Dec 1863- 29 Jan. 1942) A US transport ship was named after him and launched in June 1944.

He was so glad to learn that these two battalions had arrived that he sent Major Greeley to learn all about us, our equipment, etc. Our army is really in desperate need of lumber, fuel (wood), poles, railroad ties, bridge timber, etc. One campaign here was stopped for lack of certain wooden products. Well, he gave me my orders; so as soon as we are out of quarantine I am to send the various detachments out and will be in charge of a “district” as district commander. We will begin work at once getting out logs, building camps, roads, cutting up the limbs for fuel — even the twigs are saved here. Thanksgiving day was not much of a celebration here.  Worked all day, but that evening was invited to a 7:00 p. m. dinner with Major Greeley and Major Johnson, given by the “casual officers” on board our ship to us and to Captain Watson and Lieutenant McCauley of the navy. We had a good time, but it was a poor substitute for the table with you and the boys. Thanksgiving afternoon our men and officers were addressed briefly by Chaplain Talbott of the 17th Engineers, an Episcopalian. After his talk I took the opportunity to say a few words to our men and for once in my life must have made a good one, as both the officers and men afterwards spoke of it. We are forbidden to talk among ourselves or with civilians as to events of the war, our station, our moves, our numbers, etc., so there is very little I can write about such… Our men are feeling better and we have several ball games every afternoon — baseball and football. The sick are improving, though we lost another soldier last night of pneumonia. 



Next week:  Some Soldiers Move Toward the Front 


“HistoryLink.org.” Knitting for Victory — World War I – HistoryLink.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2017.

“A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2017.


“Mason Patrick.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Nov. 2017. Web. 30 Nov. 2017.


100 Years ago this Week. Our Destination is Finally Revealed

Background:  November 1917:  The 20th Engineers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, are traveling across the Atlantic Ocean on the Madawaska, a passenger ship originally built by Germans but confiscated by americans when the war started. They haven’t been told yet where the ship is going.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Nov 25, 1917 – Rough weather today made us feel rather safe.  We expect to land tomorrow but know one knows where.

Monday Nov 26th– A pleasant day Pretty scenery accompanied first view of land.  Arrived at Saint Nazaire France at 4:30.  No one allowed to leave boat.

Tuesday Nov 27– All day spent on board ship.  Due to 7 cases of spinal Meningitis (?) and measles.  We are having trouble in landing.

Wednesday Nov 28This A.M we unloaded and sent to a camp 2 miles from boat.  We are quarantined and assigned to a certain section.  

Thursday Nov 29Spent Thanksgiving under quarantine working in supply room.

Friday Nov 30– Our barracks are fairly comfortable except we have no floor or cots.  Sleeping close to nature.

Saturday Dec 1– This is a large camp but we have only a very small part of it and closely guarded.  Weather is fine.


The soldiers and crew of the USS Madawaska must have felt relieved to finally reach the relative safety of a harbor after many days of traveling under the constant danger of attack from German submarines.  But soldiers continue to get sick and for the third time in as many months my grandfather and his comrades are placed in quarantine.

Major Edward E. Hartwick was the commander of the 20th engineers and was onboard the Madawaska with his soldiers.  Here is what he wrote in his journal on November 26th, 1917:

“Land sighted at 6 :35 a.m. Sea smooth and weather clear. We were met by three yachts flying the American flag all mounting guns forward and aft. Also two French biplanes came out and hovered over us having the tricolor and stripes on the lower plane and on the tail also. At each end of the lower plane a tri colored target circle and we could see mounted forward a large machine gun pointed downward Also a dirigible balloon was flying over the harbor. Our fleet formation was changed to column formation our escort of destroyers falling in behind us and we were piloted in by one yacht the other two sailing along on our starboard.”

A french bi-plane circa 1917. Note the forward mounted machine gun pointing down as described by Major Hartwick

St. Nazaire, France

St. Nazaire is a community where the Loire river flows into the Atlantic.

St. Nazaire indicated by the red pin on this map


In 1917 St. Nazaire was a small town but has grown considerably due to industrialization and ship building.

Here is a Youtube video of what St. Naizaire appears in modern times.


This picture, from the 1917-1919 photo album of Donald R. Cochran, shows the Madawaska in port at St. Nazaire in 1919.

The caption under this picture says U.S.S. “Madawaska” at St Nazaire May 1919.


This picture was reportedly taken on June 25th, 1917 and shows the first group of soldiers to arrive in St. Nazaire, France.  This would be five months before Poppa’s arrival but the photo likely reflects conditions similar to what he experienced.

Picture of the first contingent of American ‘Doughboys’ to arrive in France in 1917. They are assembled on a pier in St. Nazaire before marching to their camps.

Wednesday, November 28, 1917

Poppa reported that they left the ship and went to a camp two miles away.   He had spent his whole life in Wisconsin and now, three months after joining the army, he set foot on foreign soil, just in time for Thanksgiving.  What must he have been feeling?

Here is a picture of the U. S. army camp near St. Nazaire in 1919.  This was 2 years after Poppa arrived.  Maybe it was smaller and less efficient in 1917?

The caption says “The big mess and the headquarters St. Nazaire, France 1919.’


According to his biography, the commander of the 20th engineers, Major Hartwick, received this  letter from the captain of the Madawaska:

“So noteworthy has been the conduct discipline and bearing of the troops under your command while embarked in this vessel that it calls for some expression from me as Commanding Officer of the ship. Your men have distinguished themselves by orderly quietness and promptness at abandon ship drill and at all other times by keeping their quarters washrooms and latrines scrupulously clean and by standing an earnest interested and excellent lookout.  They have won the admiration and liking of the officers and men of this ship who have been proud and glad to be associated with them and feel sure that in the future they will render an excellent account of themselves.

Edward Watson”


A monument commemorating the US troops in St. Nazaire was unveiled on the 10th anniversary of their arrival in 1927.  The monument was destroyed in 1941 by the German army but was rebuilt in 1989.  Here is a picture of the monument.



Next Week: Quarantined in France


“Saint-Nazaire.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Nov. 2017. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.
“Where Is Saint Nazaire on Map France.” World Easy Guides. N.p., 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.
Donald R. Cochran’s Photo Album, 1917-1919 — Pages 9-16. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.
“”Lafayette, We Are Here” – WW I American Soldiers Arrive in France on June 25, 1917.” TeeJaw Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick By Gordon K. Miller


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