Sunday, May 21, 2017

World War I Letters of Russell County, August 9, 1918

The following letter appeared in the August 9th, 1918 issue of the Lebanon News.

"Somewhere in France,"
July 2.

My dear Kitty:

Perhaps since I have gone so far away, it is not as active as the heading reads, but it is army life in its true meaning. You have no doubt been wondering why you have not heard from me before now, and I have also wondered why I have not written you.

Many times I have collected my pen and paper to write, when I begin to realize the face, that my vocabulary is very limited, as you well know, and that my mind is so absorbed that I cannot get my thoughts together enough to find words in which to express them on paper. Anyway you know I am very good at making excuses, especially when it comes to writing letters. We landed in France June 8th, all the way across no one could not help but enjoy every hour of the time spend on board the ship, even the boys who were very sick and "lost their beans overboard." We landed safely without any mishap or excitement throughout the voyage, at times the weather was cool and windy, the waves rolling high. We were all comfortable, cheerful and happy, as though we had nothing to fear, while our good ship moved on and on over the dark blue sea at a great pace. Still land was welcomed by all, and you should have heard the loud shouts and cheers from the brave "Sammies" as we neared the port. The port city (which I shall not name) was a good sized place, and if ever I had my "mouth" open looking it was while we were marching through the city after we had got off the ship.

Thought it was the greatest sight of my life to march through the streets and look at the people watching us pass by, most all would wave their hand and smile, but behind that smile there seemed to be sorrow written so deep in their faces that one could not overlook it. Even to the little children who cannot realize what it all means by woring have the same sad expression, because they seem to have been deprived of lifes essentials. We hiked out a little way from this town to what is called a rest camp. Here we remained for a few days rest, then continued our journey by rail, which has been a pleasant and very interesting trip since, we have been able to see a great deal of the country of sunny France, which is a real beauty. Much more beautiful than I can describe. The land through the country seems to be very fertile and productive. Its nice to see the pretty grass farms, the fine fat horses and milch cows. Through the cities and towns, there are many things to see very interesting. The women take the place of men in many ways such as running street cars, auto, etc. Yet everything seems to be of a very old fashion. Nothing up to date. The substantial structure of the buildings consists only of stone, concrete or brick, very seldom ever see a porch to any house. There are many, many other things to see of great interest, also instructive as well. War seems to be ever present to all who are paying the prices of it.

We could not see these things without having a determination to do our bit in this great conflict. Of course, to us who wear the uniform there is some degree of uncertanty as to what the future holds for us. But as we stand up with strong hearts, as brave soldiers should have, with a full determination to do our very best in this great war, we lay aside every obstacle in view and take up the required work of fighting men, to put an end to "old Fritz," and his wonderful gang go there shall again be peace and prosperity restored to the world when we shall be permitted to return to our homes in the dear old U. S. A. and live in peace, and enjoy the comforts of home life. To me, everything looks very bright. I think America is here in time to save this beautiful country of France, and I am sure we are going to do our utmost to do it. But however should fate decree a different course rest assured we shall acquit ourselves as men, reflecting honor upon our country, making more sacred the stars and stripes in "old Glory" which has become to have a deeper meaning than I am able to describe. I feel sure the dear ones back home are immensely interested in our behalf and faithfully watch our course as to the time when we may return. You speak in your letter of the Red Cross workers, I must say that the Red Cross is playing a great game in helping to win the war, and I trust they will continue the good work, and try to get more people interested in doing their share. I am sure if everybody would be willing to do their bit the war would end much quicker.

Kitty, I have been able to see a few good looking French girls since I have been in France. The hardest thing for me to understand is their language, about all I can say to them, is, "Jer ner parl pah Fraunsay." Jer swee ah mery cang." I am an American. that's going some isn't it? Perhaps if I stay over here long enough I will be quite a Frenchman when I return.

We are having some good times over here, and I don't think our folks back home should worry, while it does no good. It is very interesting to see the boys so eagerly watching for a letter from someone back home. It is a great pleasure to get a letter from someone in "dear old Virginia." I will be pleased to hear from all my friends who wish to write me just a line. I have recently received one letter from you, which was appreciated. Hope to hear again soon.

Well, as my letter is getting rather lengthy, and I have told you about all I can think about, I will soon close this letter. Guess I have written more already than you care to read unless 'twas more interesting.

How's the weather at home now? Very warm I guess. A sweater worn at times, and sleeping under four or five wollen blankets has been very comfortable here.

Wishing you much success in all the undertakings you may wise to accomplish in the future, I remain,

Your friend,
Med. Detach. 317th Infantry
American Expeditionary Forces.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

T. H. Blizzard Walks Out... and Wanders the World

Thomas Henry Blizzard was born in 1871, the son of John and Mary Blizzard. In 1893 he married Susan Crabtree. By the time of the 1900 Federal Census, Tom and Susan had four sons: Beecher, Reed, Rawls, and Rouss. Tom was working as a farmer, but apparently he wanted more.

In 1904 The Clinch Valley News reported the founding of a newspaper in Dickenson County, at Clintwood, called the Clintwood Times; T. H. Blizzard as the "Editor Manager". The newspaper was reported to be Democratic in politics. The paper ran until at least 1908, when it was purchased by James W. Bausell, formerly the editor of the Lebanon News.

In 1905 and 1906 Tom is mentioned in the Clinch Valley News as a real estate man, after buying a lot and building a house in St. Paul. Unfortunately, the house, and two neighboring houses, were burned to the ground in a fire on April 21st, 1907.

At this point, Tom's life becomes strange. Apparently in 1909 he abandons his wife and children to run off with another woman. Sometime around 1910 he wrote a letter to his parents from Norfolk, so angering his father that Tom was disowned. The picture below appears, dated April, 1910:

At this point Tom disappears from the historical record. The only evidence of his life after 1910 comes from letters he periodically wrote to the Lebanon News and its editor, Henry F. Bausell, the son of James W. Bausell.

The first mention of Tom is in 1915, when he sends two photos to Henry Bausell. Unable to locate Tom's mother, the Editor puts a small notice in the News asking for her address.

A few years later, in 1919 he sends the following letter to Editor Bausell:

Chicago, Ill., May 5, 1919
H. F. Bausell
Lebanon, Va.

Dear Editor:

Some one might care to know and might even be news to a few to say that I am still alive and in good health. I am living a correct life and getting on o.k., under an assumed name of course.

Yours with regards,

Sadly, for the Blizzard family, Tom's mother, Mary, dies in November of 1924, still praying and longing for her prodigal son.

The next mention of Tom is in 1925, when Bausell mentions the receipt of a letter dated March 28th, from Winnipeg, Canada. Tom reports "that he was on his way to Alaska on a mining deal."

A few weeks later, editor Bausell writes a longer article about Tom's disappearance. He states that Tom was "prominent in school and politics" and calls him "a brilliant young man". Bausell goes on to state "We have reasons to believe that Tom is receiving this paper under an assumed name". Having complete access to the Lebanon News subscriber rolls, it is likely that Bausell knew the assumed name and location that Tom was using at that time.

The last mentions of Tom occur in November of 1927, when he writes a longer letter. Editor Bausell writes:

Written on the back side of a small bill of fare of a Mexican restaurant, Mexico Moderno, Zaragoza 511, Piedgras Negras, on which the menu is printed in both English and Spanish, and mailed in an envelope secured from the Hotel Eagle, Eagle Pass, Texas, the letter in brief saying:

"H. F. Bausell,
Editor Lebanon News,
Lebanon, Va,
"Dear Henry:

"Still I live. Had quail and toast, beer and a Scotch highball for supper at Piedgras Negras, old Mexico, this P. M. Go to Laredo tomorrow and down in the interior of the state to Tameleping, Mexico, this week. Somebody might care.
"Best wishes to you.
"T. H. Blizzard and aliases.
"P. S. Have seen lots of the earth since I saw you. Send your orders down, all kinds of wine with meals."

A few weeks later Tom's father, John Blizzard, died. Tom was never heard from again.