Welcome to the “Voices of the Great War” section. The goal of this section is to bring alive written works during the period. The drop down link below each title provides the audio and a copy of the transcript. Enjoy!
A letter from a soldier during the Great War, which was published in a series at the conclusion of the war by the Franklin Journal.1 Read by Jonathan Delorme
Somewhere in France
This Tuesday evening, January Eighth, I am sitting in a new Y.M.C.A. building which has just been completed. I am going to tell you about us fellows over here. We are in a little old-fashioned French town. The buildings are made from stone. The people have no stoves, but use fireplaces to do their cooking in. There are no doors in the interior of the houses. Most of these villages have high stone walls around them. This was done a very long time ago so when the inhabitants were frightened by wild animals they could close the village gate and be comparatively safe. The people here live mostly on bread, wine, and cheese. They turn their cows and sheep out to feed during the day and have a shepherd and dog to watch them.
We have many interesting things happen every day. I have marched and drilled on one Roman road which Caesar marched his armies over. I have been places where I have met English, Scotch, Canadians, Australians, Russians, African, Chinese, and French soldiers. This will make an impression on a fellow all right, that he is up against something if he tries to talk much with them.
Just a word about the money. This affects us all over here. We are paid in French bank notes at the rate of five francs and seventy centimes to the dollar. Five centimes equal one cent. One hundred centimes equal one franc. So a franc is equal to about twenty cents.
I thank you very much for the photos you sent me. One of them is a dandy picture of my home, and I feel proud of a home in America. There is not a fellow here but who says he will appreciate his dear old home after this war is over. Oh, I tell you this is making real men of us fellows.
We are having the best of luck; no sickness and plenty to wear. The Red Cross has been a great help to us. We have received sweaters, stockings, and gloves from them.
We are not allowed to travel much. I mean to visit different places. I wish I might be able to write something more interesting, but that will come later.
Corp. Leon Emery
A letter from a soldier during the Great War, which was published in a series at the conclusion of the war by the Franklin Journal.2 Read by Carl Langbenh
Somewhere in France,
July 9, 1918
Got a letter from home today and you bet it was welcome. I got just enough mail to make me hungry for more.
As you know I have been working in an office for some time. Now I am assistant driver on a permanent detail and nearly every day have to go to a certain town with dead horses. Some of them are good for meat, some only for fertilizer. Today we had two which were good for meat. We took them to the slaughter-house. I was looking around and saw two horses all strung up and cut in halves like beef. The meat looked clean and good, but excuse me; the smell around the place was enough for me. A Frenchman told us that it sold in that town for 45 cents per pound.
What do you hear from old Co. K? I heard the other day that Lieutenant Newell is home as an instructor.
I suppose you have begun haying. I would give a month’s pay to be home and help. The farmers here, or rather their wives and children, are all busy haying. They use oxen mostly. A family near our mess kitchen are getting in their hay. The old woman rides the mowing machine, the little boy drives the oxen, and the young lady of the family rakes the hay up with a hand rake. Some of the people drive old cows. The other day I was in a part of the country where they do the hay up in bundles with sacking and lug it on their backs.
Yesterday I was on a mountain which reminded me of Mt. Bigelow. It was a beautiful trip up to the top; the road wound around like a snake, going up gradually all the time. We had to go around some turns so short that we had to stop and back up in order to get around. The top appeared to be as far above the surrounding country as the top of old Bigelow.
I went to church last Sunday evening. The service was held in the open by the Y.M.C.A. I wish you might see some of the churches over here. No matter how small the town, they have a good church. Of course they are all Catholic. France has three things to be especially proud of her churches, her cemeteries, and her roads. The roads for the most part are excellent. Nearly all like the State road between Farmington and Strong or better.
Did I ever write you about the strenuous time we had when we first arrived? Of course nobody had any money and we could buy no tobacco nor cigarettes. It got so that we would almost commit murder for a cigarette butt. We smoked tea, dried clover leaves and almost everything imaginable. One day we were lined up in the Company Street for some formation or other. Lieutenant White of my old platoon came out in front of us smoking a nice, big, fat, tailor-made cigarette and for some reason he dropped it. Instantly everyone made a leap for it, but just as their fingers got almost on it, it rolled into a nice puddle. Perhaps they were not a sore bunch!
I would like to see some of the pictures Over There taken of us boys Over Here. Well, I guess the censor will be tired of my hen tracks by this time, so will close.
Love to all, Corp. Rex W. Parsons
Co. C, 107th Supply Train
A written publication in the campus journal, the Farmington Normal.3 Read by Chelsy Biegon.
A Camp Fire Story
It was near the close of a day in late September. The slowly setting sun was plainly seen reflected in the waters of Clearwater Lake. Paddling leisurely down the lake in the quiet of the evening, I thought that there could be no scene as wonderful as that surrounding me.
Occasionally the call of some familiar bird would wake me from my reverie; otherwise, not a sound disturbed the quiet. I paddled on and on, unmindful of the late hour. Suddenly my attention was attracted by a clear musical call, rising from the forest, that sounded to me something like “Wohelo- Wohelo- Wohelo!”
I must confess that I was not a little frightened. My first thought was that a band of Indians must be camping nearby, for the call sounded like an Indian word. However, I determined to venture a bit further. I rounded the bend and was much surprised at the scene that confronted me. There, in a somewhat secluded spot, near the shore, I beheld a bonfire. Around this fire sat fifteen girls all dressed in the queerest costumes.
Unseen by them, I decided to watch them, to see if I could learn what this strange scene meant.
Presently, at a signal from one who appeared to be the leader, they arose and began to sing:
Wohelo for aye,
Wohelo for aye,
Wohelo for aye, wohelo, wohelo, wohelo for aye.”
Then came a moment of silence, followed by
Wohelo for work!”
From one side of the circle, and the opposite side answered back:
Then all together,
Wohelo,wohelo, wohelo for love!
Again they were seated, while the leader in a few, clear-cut words spoke of the camp fire symbolism of fire as the living, renewing, all-pervading element, as being the very heart of this new organization of girls, just as the hearth fire is the heart of the home.
One of the girls then stepped forward, and after a little ceremony which I could not understand, the leader slipped a silver ring on her left hand. As she did so she said:
“As fagots are brought from the forest
Firmly held by the sinews which bind them
So cleave to those others, your sisters,
Whenever, wherever you find them.
“Be strong as the fagots are sturdy;
Be pure in your deepest desire;
Be true to the truth that is in you;
And-follow the law of the fire.”
Following this was quiet talking, which I could not hear very plainly. Then the leader lifter her hand as if to invoke blessing, while the group sang softly. That part of the song which fell most distinctly on my ears was:
“Lay me to sleep in sheltering flame,
O Master of the Hidden Fire;
Wash pure my heart, and cleanse for me
My soul’s desire.”
It was over; the circle broke into laughing groups of girls.
I realized that I had been an unknown observer of a Camp Fire ceremonial meeting.
Now, I happen to live in the city and work in a dry goods store. Frequently, within the past few months, I had read and heard a great deal about Camp Fire Girls. It had always appealed to me as a wonderful organization for girls, especially for those who would like to make themselves more useful in the world.
After witnessing this scene, I realized more fully the deeper meaning of it all. The words of both leader and girls were so impressive that I decided then to go back from my two weeks’ vacation, learn more about the Camp Fire, and if possible to become connected with one.
A letter from a soldier during the Great War, which was published in a series at the conclusion of the war by the Franklin Journal.4 Read by Jonathan Delorme.
Somewhere in France
Aug. 1, 1918
My Dear Mother:
Will drop you a line to let you know that I am well and out of the hospital, but not back to my Company. They transferred me to Headquarters Troop, 1st army. It is a good job and I will not have to go back to the line. But still I’m going back if there is any chance. I was gassed and it affected my lungs, so they will not let me go back, but still I am all right.
There has been some very hard fighting going on here and my outfit was in it. You remember little Ralph Hosmer, well he was killed and a number of others, I cannot tell you how many. I tell you the 26th Division has done some hard fighting and a lot of it. You have probably heard Bernard (Sprague- his brother also in Co. K) was wounded, but do not worry; it was not a bad one. He was shell-shocked also, so they will not let him go back to the lines either.
I guess the war is about over and I will be some glad when it is. How are things in the U.S.A? Have not got any mail for a month on account of being in the hospital. Well dear mother do not worry about us, whatever you do; it will not do any good. Keep up courage and both of us will be back as soon as this old war is over.
Will close with love and many kisses.
Your loving son,
A poem published in the campus journal, the Farmington Normal.5 Read by Chelsy Biegon.
A Winter Song
By Pearl S. Hallworth
I come from a place where the northern lights race,
And the day and the night are one;
From the country of snow and the Eskimo,
The land of the midnight sun.
I come in the night, with a mantle of white
I cover the wold in a trice.
I whisper a dream to the sleeping stream
While I lock him away in the ice.
Above his retreat, with tracery neat,
I fashion a wonderful friese
Of turrets and towers of ferns and of flowers
That bend in a frozen breeze.
Then I bluster and blow, and I laugh ho! Ho!
As madly I sweep o’er the lea.
And the trees, how they lash, how they splinter, and crash!
‘Tis the merriest music to me.
For I know that I’m bold, and I’m glad that I’m cold,
And I’m glad that I’m mighty and strong!
Then here is to you if you’re glad of it, too,
And here’s to the end of my song!
1. “Letter from Corporal Leon Emery,” January 8, 1918, Company K Collection, Circa 1985, Farmington Historical Society.
2. “Letter from Corporal Rex parsons,” July 9, 1918, Company K Collection, Circa 1985, Farmington Historical Society.
3. “A Camp Fire Story,” Farmington Normal, Volume 4, no. 2, June 1917, Farmington State Normal School, Farmington, Maine, Mantor Library Archives, University of Maine at Farmington.
4. “Letter from Arthur Sprague,” August 1, 1918, Company K Collection, Circa 1985, Farmington Historical Society.
5. Pearl S. Hallworth, “A Winter Song,” Farmington Normal, Volume 4, no. 1, March 1917, Mantor Library Archives, University of Maine at Farmington.