The Mystery of the Yaeger School House Ghost

This ghost story was BIG news in the Mankato area at the turn of the 20th century. Although Maud Hart was only five years old when this happened, certainly her parents Tom and Stella Hart had heard the news. The Yaeger school was located just south of Mankato near Rapidan not far from the Orono Dam (Rapidan Dam) that Maud wrote about in Carney’s House Party. I’m sure the story continued to be told for years and I wouldn’t be surprised if Maud and the Crowd checked it out on a drive to the Dam.

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Yaeger School House, ca. 1900 (photo courtesy Cindy Slater)

Perched on a grassy green hill surrounded by a cluster of oak trees in Rapidan Township just east of Rapidan, is a brown brick school house. This school was established in 1867 as School District #91. The school became known as the Yaeger school, named after the Yaeger family who owned the land surrounding the building. This little schoolhouse has a very interesting history because at one time it was thought to be “haunted”! Stories of the Yaeger schoolhouse ghost have become a part of local folklore passed down through the years.

Eva Hower

Eva Hower, sketch by A. Anderson. (Mankato Daily Review, Nov. 11, 1897)

Newspaper accounts tell the story of what actually happened in 1897 when Eva Hower was the school teacher and the events began to unfold. The following is an account of the events as Eva may have told them if she were here today…

“I was the teacher at the Yaeger school house in 1897 when a series of strange events began to take place at the school and in the neighborhood. Several times when I arrived at the school house in the morning I found a window to the building was open. At first I didn’t pay too much attention to this. Then one Monday morning upon entering the school, I discovered men’s footprints on the floor and bits of paper scattered from one of the windows to the chimney. My students began to tell me stories about clothing that was missing from their mother’s clothesline, chickens were missing from their father’s chicken coop or that they woke in the morning to find their cow had been milked. People all around the neighborhood were talking about these strange events and they were getting nervous.

Leona Holberg came to school one day and told me this story: “Mother and I were out near the corncrib when we heard a noise from the other side of the crib. We knew there must be a tramp or thief in the neighborhood, because everybody was losing stuff, ourselves included. Mother said, We’ve caught the thief now! You run around one side of the crib and I’ll go around the other. We ran around the crib from different sides – to find a black calf nibbling corn out of the crib.”

Now that is how nervous people were. Every noise we heard, we thought a thief was on the place. Clothes for smaller persons, sheets, pillow cases and blankets were missing from clothes lines. Hams were missing from smokehouses and chickens and turkeys were taken from their roosts. Preserves and canned goods were missing from cellars with outside doorways.

The former state senator, William A. Just, owned a beautiful riding horse. One morning he found his horse coming down the road toward his home, tired and sweaty. The animal had been ridden hard. But there was no rider! Herman Miescke awoke to find his team, harness and wagon gone one morning. Later in the day the team came home, driverless, tired, and showing the signs of a hard, long trip.

These strange happenings kept on for months and months. At first people thought it was a very clever thief. But then stranger things began to happen. John Ballard, one of my students who built the fire for the schoolhouse during the winter, told me that many times when he reached the building he saw smoke coming from the chimney, but he always found the stove cold. Sometimes he found the kindling he had prepared the night before was gone in the morning.

Some people thought all of this was some kind of a prank or a twisted joke, but when it continued for so long, they thought the joke has passed. Carl Flo was the teacher here during the summer term. He told me that on the last day of the summer term he took a shortcut through the pasture leading by the schoolhouse. He saw smoke coming from the chimney. He knew there had not had a fire in the stove at school that day. So he went in to investigate and could find nothing wrong and the stove was COLD!

Of course the talk turned from a thief in the neighborhood to a ghost in the neighborhood! One day Lois Ballard, the youngest student in school, called down into the school basement, “Come out of there! We know you are in there!”

More and more things kept disappearing…tools, furniture, books from the school and pretty much anything you can think of. The newspapers reported clothing worth $1250 was stolen or missing from the Omaha freight house in Garden City and horse thieves broke into George Conklin’s barn at South Bend and stole a horse.

Who was this ghostly thief? Who was this who could burn fires yet never heat the stove? Who could vanish so quickly into thin air? Who could never be seen or heard? It must be a ghost!

Well, one day just as I was about to dismiss the students, Sheriff Dan Bowen arrived at the schoolhouse. I went to the door and saw Sheriff Bowen talking to Louis Yaeger, who had been plowing corn in front of the school. Then the sheriff came to the door, “Miss Hower,” he said, “I have some very important news to share with you.” “Let’s go inside and sit down.” He began to tell me how he had solved the mystery of the Yaeger schoolhouse ghost.

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Cyrus B. Miller, sketch by A. Anderson (Mankato Daily Review, Nov. 11, 1897)

His story began when he received a description of Cyrus B. Miller (alias Silas Gary), an escaped convict from the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. But weeks and months passed and the convict was not seen in Blue Earth County. “Then one day I saw a little man, smooth shaven, alert, answering the description of the escaped prisoner and I set out in pursuit.” said Bowen. The trail led southeast of Mankato into dense woods and ended. Deputies were put on watch, yet the convict did not appear. Many more weeks later, the man appeared near the Omaha railroad tracks and again the sheriff gave chase. This time Miller crawled into a moving boxcar and rode away on the train. “Now,” said the sheriff, “we all thought he was gone for good and forgot about him.” That is until Mankato merchants Perrin and Jensen reported the theft of a bright red bicycle.

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Sheriff Dan Bowen. (1895 Standard Atlas & Gazetteer)

A few days later, officers in Fairmont reported that a man had been seen riding a bright red bicycle. Guards were posted near the bridge where Miller had stashed his red bicycle and when he returned for it they arrested him. Once in the custody of Sheriff Bowen, he was questioned. Where did he live? “Under the Yaeger schoolhouse,” he said. What? How long? “Eighteen months,” he said calmly. “I was very comfortable there.”

Then the sheriff walked over to my desk and moved it aside. To my surprise he found a trap door and he led me down to see me the ghost’s den. I couldn’t believe my eyes! All these months there was an escaped convict living beneath the schoolhouse! Overhead unknowing children did their sums, nor ever a thought a ghost lurked quietly beneath their feet!

But there I was, standing right in the middle of the ghosts’ den. It must have been about six feet by nine. On the west side there was a table and a cot with a buffalo robe, blankets and a pillow. On the east side was an oil heating stove and a writing desk. Dishes and cooking utensils were neat and orderly on shelves on the walls. The oil stove was attached to the schoolroom chimney to carry off the gas. The desk contained newspapers and many books from our school library and from the Mankato public library. A reflecting lamp hung on the wall that gave excellent light. There were rugs on the floor, pictures on the walls and the room was spic and span. My, my Cyrus Miller was certainly a neat and orderly ghost!

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Diagram from the Mankato Daily Review, Nov. 11, 1897

Sheriff Bowen continued to tell me the story of how Miller became the schoolhouse ghost. Cyrus Miller, a small, dark complexioned 29 year-old man, came to the schoolhouse in the summer of 1896 when school was not in session. He used a skeleton key to open the door and went to work. He sawed a hole under the teacher’s desk at the south end of the room. Here a big oak sill, running the entire length of the room, was sawed through at three places to make his entrance. This weakened the floor but the ghost did not care, and the children did not know. The teacher’s desk stood on a platform raised about a foot from the floor and was not nailed down. Miller made a trap door along the seams of the boards and left no marks. Children often raised up the desk, but no one ever suspected a trapdoor. A three foot opening from the floor to the dirt beneath gave Miller plenty of room to work. Most of his work was done at night. The nearest house was the old Yaeger homestead about 60 rods away, so he was safe from interruption. He labored for days digging a slanting tunnel and a room, which was under the north end of the school room. The room he carved out was about six and a half feet deep, with doors on the north and south sides. It was boarded up tightly and covered with fancy wallpaper. The second entrance was made by removing the wainscoting around the chimneys at the north end of the room, and taking out the bricks. A weight attached to a pulley kept his improvised door tightly closed. The weight was two heavy chunks of wood in a gunny sack. These chunks of wood were imprinted with the name Eric Holberg, from whose farm they had been stolen.

Well, it didn’t take long and the word that the mystery of the schoolhouse ghost was solved and the ghost himself was laid by the heels. Crowds flocked to the school to see where he lived. Someone even asked for 10 cents admission. If anything, this swelled the crowds and in one day more than $10 was taken in. But, it developed that the revenue fell far short of covering the loss through the weakened floor, the broken chimney and the rest of the damage done by Cyrus Miller.

I was very curious about the man who had inhabited the school house unbeknown to me and felt compelled to speak to him. So I went on down to the Mankato jail to see this Cyrus Miller. He told me that on several occasions during school hours he watched the proceedings through a crack in the chimney entrance to his parlor below. He said only once did he get a good glimpse of my face. He told me that in the evenings when no one was around he would come up, make himself at home in the school and play the organ! He also told me he always had plenty to eat, and that he never stole anything he couldn’t use himself.

When the trial came, Miller solved a great many mysteries in concise confessions to this theft, that ride or that burglary. According to his testimony, he stole from people far and near. His father wrote to the judge in his son’s defense and stated that Cyrus had, at one time, been a school teacher and a dutiful son until a few years ago when he began to act peculiarly. His father thought he might be mentally deranged. However, the court did not take his father’s concerns into consideration and Judge Severance sentenced him to serve five years and six months in the state penitentiary at Stillwater and then finish his term in Nebraska. Sheriff Bowen told me that Cyrus made no attempt to escape when he and his deputies escorted him to prison. “He told me he’ll make no attempt to escape from prison and when he’s discharged he’ll try to make a man of himself,” the sheriff said. “You know what else? He’s planning to write a book while he’s in prison, a history of his life. And he promised to send me one of the first copies.”

Well, I don’t know if he ever wrote a book or just what became of Cyrus Miller. But I’ll never forget the year I taught at the Yaeger school.”

Note: Eva Hower later became the head bookkeeper for the Mankato Telephone Company. Carl Flo, who taught the summer term at the school in 1897, later he worked in the elevator and lumber business in Rapidan. This article was also published in MankatoLife.com and was revised from an article originally written for the Blue Earth County Historian, Fall 2004 issue.

The Tune is in the Tree

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Cover of the 2019 reprint edition

Those who have read and loved Mrs. Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy stories will also love this one, for it is, as Mrs. Lovelace says, “just the sort of a story Betsy used to tell Tacy”. (quote from 1950 dust jacket of The Tune is in the Tree)

The Tune is in the Tree by Maud Hart Lovelace was published March 25, 1950 by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, NY and has been out of print for many years. I’m excited to share the news that Minnesota Heritage Publishing will release a limited edition (softcover) reprint of this charming story!

Two of Maud’s books were published by the Thomas Y. Crowell Company in 1950, the other was Emily of Deep Valley. Five years later she would refer to The Tune is in the Tree in Betsy’s Wedding.

Running her carpet sweeper blithely up and down, Betsy watched s robin’s nest, the eggs, the fledglings. “I think I’ll write a story about a little girl going to live with the birds!”   (from Betsy’s Wedding)

As with all her books, Maud did extensive research. She incorporated 23 species of birds into this entertaining and imaginative story about a little girl named Annie Jo and her adventure living with the birds.

In a March 27, 1950 review of The Tune is in the Tree, Thomas Edwards (aka Willie Putt) wrote in the Mankato Free Press: It is the most imaginative fiction one can expect to encounter. We who have followed Maud for a long entertaining period, and have received the colorful description of places and people, will meet a very new type of reading in “The Tune is in the Tree.

Over the years Maud and Mr. Edwards became close friends and corresponded regularly. In a letter dated April 12, 1950, Maud wrote: I’m so glad to get the two nice letters, the fine review of “The Tune” and the clipping from Mr. Russell’s column. How good you are to me! The Tune was written for Merian many years ago when she was a very little girl. I got it out and prepared it for publication last winter because there is such a demand for more stories for younger children…Betsy, Tacy and their friends having gone to college. The Marguerite Marsh story was finished in March, six weeks late, after a terrific siege of work. Now Miss Neville is working on the pictures. 

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“The Tune is in the Tree” Illustration by Eloise Wilkin

Eloise Wilkin, award-winning American illustrator, best known as an illustrator of the Little Golden Books, is the illustrator of The Tune is in the Tree. Many of the picture books she illustrated have become classics of American children’s literature.

The reprint edition is in production and will be available in early July. Books can be ordered now and will be shipped as soon as received from the printer. Order online now.

A Year with Betsy-Tacy

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a new project that I’m excited to share. It’s a full color wall calendar featuring 13 months (January 2020-January 2021) of Betsy-Tacy books.

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Some day in her maple or on Uncle Keith’s trunk, she would write something good. (from Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown)

Maud did indeed write something good! Ten books in the Betsy-Tacy series and another three Deep Valley books were published between 1940 and 1955.

SamplePagesJanJulyThe calendar features one original cover each month along with a Lenski or Neville illustration and a book description.  Real life character birthday dates (and some anniversaries) are highlighted each month.  A side bar contains a quote or history related to the book.

Pre-orders are being taken through June 15, 2019. For more information and to order, click here.

 

Mankato Opera House

2. Harmonia Hall-Opera House

Harmonia Hall, later the Mankato Opera House

Outside, the Opera House was a large brick structure. It was a fine theatre for a town the size of Deep Valley. But Deep Valley was what is known as a good show town. It was a thriving county seat, and theatrical productions, passing from the Twin Cities to Omaha, found it a convenient and profitable one-night-stand.

Winona and Betsy and Tacy and Tib were the first ones inside the house. They did not go at once to their box. First they raced all over the auditorium. It was elegant beyond even Winona’s descriptions and Betsy’s wildest dreams. A giant chandelier hung with glittering crystal drops was suspended from the ceiling. The seats were upholstered in red velvet. The boxes were hung with red velvet tied back with golden cords.

The orchestra started to play. It played sad tunes. Old Kentucky Home, Swanee River, Massa’s in de Cold Cold Ground. All over the house the lights went low. There were rainbow colors in the crystals of the great chandelier as the lights faded away. Then…oh, magic moment!…the curtain started to rise. Slowly, slowly, while the music kept on playing and the rainbow in the chandelier flickered out, forgotten, the curtain lifted. Quote from Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

Maud’s wonderfully descriptive writing easily transports the reader of the Betsy-Tacy books to the 19th century cultural center of Deep Valley—the Opera House. It’s so easy to imagine what it looked like and how it felt for Betsy and Tacy when they first visited the Opera House.

This is a bit of history about the Opera House that Maud, her family and friends attended in Mankato. I imagine it must have looked just like Maud described it in the books.

Mankato (Deep Valley) owed its Opera House and its status as a regular stop on the theatrical circuits to the enthusiasm for culture of some of its German citizens. William and Jacob Bierbauer purchased land in the 200 block of South Second Street in 1870 and transferred it to the Mankato Harmonia Association, a German singing society. The association completed the building they named Harmonia Hall, in July 1872.

The structure cost $11,000, which was paid by donations and loans. It featured a grand stage, a balcony and a 30-foot ceiling adorned with a dome. The dining area was in the basement and was the same size as the main hall (62 by 70 feet). A grand opening was held on December 25, 1872 with speeches, music and tableaux. The following evening was celebrated with an inaugural ball and dinner.

During its first decade, it was used for performances by local musical and theatrical groups and occasional professional productions. The name was changed to the Mankato Opera House in 1878 when the building was remodeled as a playhouse. The Mankato Review reported “The Boston Ideal Company played Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the night of the 26th to a very large house. The hall was filled, even beyond the over-attendance at the Kellogg concert. Never before have we witnessed such a crowding assemblage” (Jan. 3, 1882)

Just a few weeks later, on January 23, 1882, disaster struck when a fire broke out, which destroyed all but the exterior walls of the building. That evening the temperature was -6 degrees with blowing snow when a policeman discovered the building on fire. Reports alluded to possible arson. Kerosene barrels were stored in the ticket office and had caught fire. Rebuilding began and the structure reopened as a theater, the Mankato Opera House in 1883 and was managed by A.G. Bierbauer (son of William).

Clarence Saulpaugh

Clarence Saulpaugh

Clarence Saulpaugh leased the Opera House in 1893, made extensive improvements and changed the name to Mankato Theatre. Townsfolk seemed to prefer “Opera House”, since this is the name many continued to use. The theater had a seating capacity of 1,000 and was of a horseshoe-type construction, designed so that the stage could be clearly seen from each seat in the house.

The Opera House was the center of both high culture and popular entertainment in Mankato. The early 20th century was the golden age of the theater in America. Opera companies and symphonic bands joined New York-based musical reviews and straight dramatic theatrical companies traveling by railroad from city to city. Everything that came out of New York also came to Mankato because the company would break here when traveling between Minneapolis and Omaha.

1. Andrews Opera Co program

Many stage stars, as well as boxers and wrestlers, appeared on the stage at the Opera House. The theatrical programs of the day reveal that almost all of the stage greats appeared at the Mankato Opera House, including Mary Pickford, John L. Sullivan (world-famous boxer), John Drew, Maude Adams, Anna Held, Charles Winnenger, Jos. Jefferson, Gertrude Coughlan, Sousa’s Band, and Mankato’s own Andrews Opera Company. Mankato vocalists also appeared on the theater stage, including Florence MacBeth, who went on to a career in opera and concert, as well as Lora Lulsdorff.

Chauncey Olcott came to Deep Valley in his play, Aileen Asthore. Mr. Ray took the family to hear him. Usually Betsy saw her rare plays at matinees with Winona who had passes because her father was editor of the Deep Valley Sun. But once a year when Chauncey Olcott came, she went to the Opera House in the evening with her parents. The Irish tenor was growing old and stout, but his swagger was as gallant as ever, his voice as honey sweet. Always in the course of the evening the audience made him sing a hit song of earlier years called, “My Wild Irish Rose.”   Quote from Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace

3. Chauncey Olcott Mankato Theatre ad 9.4.1906

Mankato Weekly Review (Sept. 4, 1906)

The Irish tenor Chauncey W. Olcott (1858-1932), was a Mankato favorite. On each of Olcott’s appearances in Mankato special trains were run to the city from towns as far away as Blue Earth and Tracy, Minnesota. Olcott combined the roles of tenor, actor, songwriter and composer in many productions. He is best-known and beloved for his songs; My Wild Irish Rose, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, and Mother Machree.

The motion pictures spelled the doom of live theatrical entertainment for Mankato and the country as a whole. Several movie theaters opened in Mankato, and by 1921 the Mankato Theater was renamed the Orpheum. It became a second-rate movie house where live performances — usually benefits or school theatricals —were given from time to time, the last of which was given in 1928. That year the building was marked for demolition, but it wasn’t actually taken down until 1931.

 

 

Lost Landmark

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Christian Strom’s General Store in Butternut, ca. 1896

Another historic Betsy-Tacy landmark will soon be gone. The Butternut general store in Butternut (Butternut Center) collapsed sometime in December 2018. Although the building had been abandoned for years, it stood up to the weather until high winds likely brought it down.

Located about 20 miles west of Mankato, the village of Butternut was established in 1894, the same year the Lake Shore Creamery and a general store was built. By 1897 Butternut had a railroad depot, feed mill, harness and shoemaker shop, blacksmith shop, meat shop, livery, hotel, and town hall. The bustling village would have been in its heyday when Maud (Betsy) visited in the early 1900s.

Maud’s fictional name for the Butternut General Store was Willard’s Emporium. It was here that Betsy met Joe Willard.

“The store reminded her that in the excitement of her unexpected return, she had forgotten to buy presents. No Ray ever came home from a trip without bringing presents for the rest. Willard’s Emporium, said the sign above the door. It was one of those stores, perfect for her purpose, where everything under the sun was for sale. A single glance revealed kitchen stoves, buggy whips, corset cover and crackers. Betsy browsed happily along the overflowing counters until a boy sitting in a corner, eating an apple and reading a book, threw away the apple and came forward.”       ~ Heaven to Betsy ~

These photos showing the remnants of the Butternut general store were taken January 8, 2019.

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West side of the building

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East side of the building

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East side of the building

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Home Over There: Marguerite Marsh and the YMCA in the Great War

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Marguerite Marsh (Emily Webster in Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace), ca. 1913 (photo from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley).

Firing on the First World War’s Western Front ended on Nov. 11, 1918 at the eleventh hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. As the world commemorates the centennial, there are hundreds of stories of men and women who served.

This is the story of Marguerite Marsh, a Mankato woman who answered the call when the United States branch of the YMCA took a bold step and opened its service to females for the first time in July 1917.  She was born in Mankato on Independence Day in 1890. Her mother died when she was only eleven years old and her father left her in the care of her elderly grandparents, John Q. and Sarah (Hanna) Marsh (early pioneer settlers). Sarah Marsh died two years later leaving Marguerite alone to care for her aging grandfather. Marsh graduated from Mankato High School in 1909, was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church working with the youth. After the death of her grandfather in 1915, she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and studied home economics.

When war was declared in 1917, the YMCA immediately volunteered its support at home and abroad. They organized canteens at the front lines in France, giving soldiers a place where they could get away from the harsh realities of the war. These canteens were huts or tents set up to provide coffee, writing materials, books, gramophone and records or moving picture shows several times a week for the soldiers. Nearly 1500 entertainers met with the troops in their off hours.

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Marguerite Marsh YMCA WWI service card

Some Americans thought that women would not hold up to the physical and mental strain of war work. However, many women stepped up to the challenge, including Marguerite Marsh. She enlisted with the 82nd Division in November 1917 and served with 13,00 YMCA workers in France. Marguerite was assigned to a YMCA café at Tours, France, and was later given the rank of Secretary in charge of a canteen at Gondrecourt, with the First Army school.

Back in Mankato, the First Presbyterian Church published a newsletter, Our Church Life. In addition to church news, it contained letters and news about servicemen and women from the church. This newsletter was gratefully anticipated by the soldiers and kept those at home informed of their fellow church members. Below are excerpts from news and letters written by Marguerite and published in Our Church Life.

A telegram Marsh sent to the Rev. Paden on Dec. 11, 1917, describes her hopes to depart for France on Dec. 19. Soon after arriving she first worked canteen service in the largest café at Tours, outside of Paris, serving three meals a day in addition to other duties. “Before leaving Paris, some of the group visited the American Hospital there. We could hardly get away. Though there was no one there from our part of the United States, we were welcomed like long lost friends. The boys were all eager to see anyone from America.”

April 16, 1918, she sent a letter from “Somewhere in France.” The weather cold and damp and she was rooming with a friend at the YWCA Hostess House. Marsh wrote that she was eager for “real canteen work” at one of the barracks.

May 17, 1918, she wrote about being “muchly excited” over the granting of their repeated request to be transferred nearer the front and their preparations for the approaching transfer—to what point she did not know.

Our Church Life published a report from her aunt, Mrs. John R. Beatty, about her receiving a letter from Marsh’s superior officer regarding her work: “She is doing really good work here and is a credit to her country and to her family.”

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Marguerite most likely dresses similar to the woman in this poster designed by Neysa Moran McMein in 1918, “One of the Thousand Y.M.C.A. Girls in France.”

Marsh wrote in July 1918 about the few weeks she had spent starting a canteen 28 miles from the front: “Starting a canteen means bushels of work…We furnish the boys stationery, envelopes, pens and ink—free. The writing tables are in use most of the day. A bunch of boys who came in recently from the South and can not read and write so we are arranging classes for them. Last Sunday afternoon I watched an air battle at some distance. We never know whether it is a practice fight or a real one.” Several weeks later she writes about the abandonment of the canteen and her transfer to a large canteen at the divisional headquarters.

Writing on August 23, 1918: “Back again and working harder than ever in a hut which serves thousands of men. I never saw so many hot, dusty boys in my life. They come in on trucks so white with dust that they bear no resemblance to human beings…There is a beautiful full moon and we are congratulating ourselves on our escape from the air raids. We have had bombs to the right of us and bombs to the left of us but so far have remained untouched.

I am writing to the accompaniment of a beautiful band which is playing on the shady side of the village street. There is something incongruous about that band. It has played each afternoon for a week. It gives me a queer feeling. Even as I write, the sound is drowned by the rumble of army trucks. Music gives war a stagy effect which it is far from having. It is quite too real.”

In her Oct. 21, 1918, letter she made an admission: “I am ashamed to tell you how comfortable I am. I have a room all to myself, with two other American women in the same house—‘Y’ workers also. The canteen work is very hard but with such comfortable living conditions, I don’t mind. I work every night until ten or half past. The cook from one of the Company messes made doughnuts for us yesterday afternoon and last night we were just swamped.”

“We had Billy Sunday’s trombonist at our hut Sunday evening. He gave such a straightforward talk which did us all good. We lead such double lives over here. Underneath, our hearts ache for the boys suffering in the hospitals or standing in the cold mud of the trenches; at the same time we must joke, play around with, and try to help keep up the spirits of the boys in the back areas who are waiting their turn.”

“The other day, on one of the few sunshiny afternoons which we have had, Miss Tyler and I went up on the hill back of the village. In the distance and outlined against the sky, was an apparently never-ending line of French artillery, appearing over the edge of the hill, passing across a long straight stretch of road where according to French custom, trees were set a regular intervals. I was fascinated with the picture which they presented, but Miss Tyler said that she had seen so much of the horrible side of war that she could see nothing picturesque about it. It seems as though it must be over by spring.”

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U.S. World War I transport ship, USS Sierra

Three weeks later, November 11, 1918, armistice was signed. Demobilization took time and Marguerite returned to the states with the 82nd Division. They departed Bordeaux, France aboard the troop transport ship USS Sierra on May 9th and arrived in New York on May 21, 1919.

During WWI, the YMCA had assumed military responsibilities on a scale that had never been attempted by a non-profit, community-based organization in the history of our nation and would never be matched again.

Marguerite enrolled in a hospital training course at the Presbyterian Hospital in connection with Columbia University in New York. She married Myron Wilcox in New York in May 1923. They moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where Marguerite gave birth to a son, John Marsh Wilcox, on January 31, 1925. Just two weeks later, Marguerite died in Iowa City, at the age of 35. She is buried near her grandparents in Glenwood Cemetery in Mankato.

From her obituary in the Mankato Free Press: “There are lives made stronger by adversity. For Marguerite Marsh, one after another the home ties of her girlhood were broken by death. Through it all, she preserved her brave faith, the sweet poise of character that carried her through to a fine womanhood in a happy home of her own.”

Armistice Day

Firing on the First World War’s Western Front ended on Nov. 11, 1918 at “the eleventh hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.” Thousands of Americans served in this war both at home and abroad and many lives were lost. As the centennial of Armistice Day is commemorated, I can’t help but remember the friends and family of Maud Hart Lovelace who were touched by this war.

Delos Lovelace (Joe Willard) was in First Officers Training Camp and stationed at Fort Snelling when he met Maud Hart (Betsy Ray) in 1917. Just six months later, on November 29, 1917, the couple was married while Delos was on a weekend pass from Camp Dodge, Iowa. Delos was sent to France as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 339th machine gun battalion. When the war ended, the Army sent him to Trinity College in Cambridge for four months of study while he waited for space on a troopship to come home.

Charles Harris WW1

Charles Harris (Jack Dunhill), husband of Marjorie Gerlach (Tib Muller) enlisted in the U.S. Army at the beginning of the war and served as a sergeant in Company C of the 212th Engineers.

Marguerite Marsh (Emily Webster) enlisted with the YMCA for canteen work in the fall of 1917. She went overseas with the 82nd Division to operate a YMCA Cafe at Tours, France, and later at Gondrecourt. She wrote home about the work she was doing in France.  “Starting a canteen means bushels of work,” she wrote. “We calcimated the ceiling a blue grey, stained the rafters brown, put burlap on the walls and curtains on the windows. We got a new Delco moving picture machine — with the same engine we have electric lights in the hut. We use a tar paper over the windows at night to prevent the light from being seen outside. We have shades over the lights. Everyone says it’s very pretty. There are millions of flowers on the hillside, so we can have fresh ones every day. We furnish the boys stationery, envelopes, pen and ink — free. The writing tables are in use most of the day. A bunch of boys who came in recently are from the South and cannot read and write, so we are arranging classes for them. The teachers are boys from their own companies who have had at least a high school education.”

Myron Wilcox (Jed Wakeman) served in Chaumont, Dordogne, and Aquitaine, France. He  was a 1st Lieutenant Infantry on General Pershing’s staff in Chaumont, France. It’s unknown if he and Marguerite knew each other at that time they were serving in France. Myron and Marguerite were married in 1923.

William Everett WW1

William Everett (Sam Hutchinson), husband of Marion Willard (Carney Sibley), was ordered to active duty as a first lieutenant in the Aviation Section in August 1917. After training, he was sent to France with an aero squadron in January 1918. He and Marion were married a month after he returned home in August 1919.

Tom Fox cemetery stone

Tom Fox (Tom Slade) attended West Point in 1915. His classmates were Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. Tom had a lifelong career in the military. He died in 1955 and is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA.

James Baker Jr. (E. Lloyd Harrington) was overseas serving in the Norton-Hordjes ambulance corps and he later became a lieutenant in the French military.

The war interrupted and changed the course of the lives of these young men and women as it did for thousands of others. 100 years later…we remember…and continue to pray for peace. Never forget.

Remembering Marguerite Marsh (Emily Webster) on Decoration Day

 

IMG_0884Memorial Day always brings to mind Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace. I love the story of the patriotic Decoration Day celebration (as it was known then) and the tradition of decorating the graves of soldiers and family. Over the years this tradition seems to have been lost to some. Even in 1912, the year this book was set, some of Emily’s friends do not understand the true meaning of the holiday. Don calls it “bunk” and asks Emily, “how many people are thinking about anything except the impression they are making, or the picnic they are heading for, or how their feet hurt?” Emily realizes the day means more to her than most people and explains, “It’s —part of growing up in America.” Don tells her she’s just a sentimentalist.

As Emily works to tidy up the family gravesites, she remembers the lives of those she loved and how her life might be different had they lived longer. Emily’s family mirrors that of her counterpart, Marguerite Marsh, who lost her mother at a young age and then her grandmother. She was left with only her grandfather, who she cared for until his death.

Marguerite had a deep sense of service to others and devotion for her country. She enlisted in the YMCA in November 1917 and served 16 months in France with the 82nd Division. She was assigned to a YMCA café at Tours, France and later was in charge of a canteen at Gondrecourt, with the First Army school.

When I visited Glenwood Cemetery in Mankato this Memorial Day weekend, I stopped by Marguerite’s grave, left a flower and placed an American flag. The family plot is located in the older part of the cemetery and is heavily shaded by a large tree where the grass no longer grows. Remember Marguerite…

YMCA Poster Gt. War Centenary 1914 - 1918 Fb Page

 

 

 

 

Happy 126th Birthday Maud Hart Lovelace!

MHL birthday 4.24.18

In honor of Maud Hart Lovelace’s 126th birthday, I’m offering a birthday sale! All Maud Hart Lovelace related books are on sale now through May 31, 2018. Click the title to take you to the description page.

The Black Angels by Maud Hart Lovelace

One Stayed at Welcome by Maud and Delos Lovelace

Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley by Julie Schrader

Discover Deep Valley by Julie Schrader

Collected Stories of Maud Hart Lovelace & Delos Lovelace, Vol. 1

Collected Stories of Maud Hart Lovelace & Delos Lovelace, Vol. 2

My Betsy-Tacy Miracle by Kathleen Baxter

Orange Blossoms Everywhere: The Story of Maud and Delos Lovelace in California, 1953-1980 is not on sale due to limited remaining quantities.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Your interest in Maud Hart Lovelace and her work help to promote her literary legacy. Minnesota Heritage Publishing is a small publishing company and all our titles are limited editions. Please help by sharing this with a friend, give a book as a gift or donate to your local library. Together we can keep Maud’s legacy alive!
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Trimming the Tree with Deep Valley Ornaments

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Since 2008, our Christmas tree has been adorned with a Maud Hart Lovelace/Betsy’s House ornament. While working as the Executive Director for the Betsy-Tacy Society, I had come across a collectible ornament for author Louisa May Alcott and the Orchard House. With a little research, I located the manufacturer, ChemArt from Providence, Rhode Island. This began the process of creating the Lovelace/Betsy’s House ornament that is sold exclusively by the BTS as a fundraiser.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the story on CBS News (Dec. 17, 2017), Trimming the tree with Presidential history and ChemArt was mentioned. Turns out that ChemArt makes the annual White House Christmas ornament for the White House Historical Association! ChemArt owner Richard Beaupre is interviewed and it ‘s interesting to learn more about the company and see the manufacturing process. Most of the ornaments are made piece by piece, one by one. The Deep Valley ornaments are made of brass and finished in 24 carat gold. It’s hard to see from the photograph, but the porch on each house is 3-dimensional.

The Frances “Bick” Kenney/Tacy’s House ornament was created in 2015 and hangs with the Lovelace ornament on our tree. “Hold Christmas in your hand” and decorate your tree with these Deep Valley collectible ornaments. They’re available online from the Betsy-Tacy Society Gift Shop.  Your purchase supports the preservation of these historic literary landmark houses. What could be better!

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