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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Letter 28 ~ September 30, 1918

My cousin "Lew" Griffing in 1918

These photographs were taken by Lew Griffing as U.S. troops were being loaded for transport to France and while enroute on the high seas.

My mother writes me to let me know she was disappointed that I didn't make it home for a visit. She also tells me about the family and says she received a letter with pictures from my older cousin Lew Griffing in France.

Addressed to Private Ward C. Griffing, 25th Company, 164th D. P. Brg., Camp Funston, Kansas
Manhattan, Kansas
September 30, 1918

My dear Ward:

My! It’s cold tonight. I hope you will be able to keep warm. These days make one begin to think that winter will soon be upon us.

I wonder if yesterday was as full of hopes and disappointments for you as it was for me. When your letter came Saturday morning, I thot that likely you could be home. Then about 3 [o’clock], Miss [Alice] Bobeck [Bobek] phoned me that you boys could not get a pass to leave camp on account of the disease but that visitors cold still go there. So then I planned that we would go up to see you. Bertha [Scholer] had called me up & said Minnie had not come home but if I learned that you would be home that they would go after her. So when we thot we would go up I called them but Mrs. Frey thot that she had school work to do and had better not come this time. Well, Sunday morning I hustled and got a good lunch put up. I was going to try to get the chicken & gravy & sweet potatoes up there warm by putting them in the hot bean pot, &c. [Your brother] Willis went up & got Kate. We left home 10:25 [A. M.], got to town for Miss Alice and she said that you were going to have a pass. So we thot if you got the pass, you could come down on the interurban and we not make the trip.

We came back – Kate stayed – I did up the work I had gone off and left, then we had our picnic dinner and after the work was done up, Kate & I visited & waited for you. Willis took a nap. Kate went over to Munger’s, then to Sunday School. After Sunday School, George, Kate, Stella, & Brownie all came over [here] to see you. I had called up Alice & she said she had not expected you until after 5 [o’clock]. So I still hoped you would come & so the day went. Mr. [James] Sparks called about 7:30 [P. M.] and told why you had not come. I hope your head was alright this morning.

Aunt Mate & Uncle Lloyd [Fry] were here yesterday about night and Mr. & Mrs. Frey & Bertha [Scholer] came around on their way home after taking the milk last night to learn how we found you, etc. You may be sure that you have lots of friends around here. By the way, people are always asking us how you are getting along.

Minnie called up from Riley yesterday morning to know your address for she supposed you had been moved. I expect you will enjoy the box of candy that you will get. I started with a jar of strawberry jam & some jelly to leave for you yesterday. Willis thot I should not have bothered Mr. Sparkes to have taken that bundle. I suppose you understood that the mess of little rags were for cleaning your gun. Mate was here when I did them up. I felt that maybe it was making too large a bundle to put them in [but] she said, “Oh! he will get his share of them.” The wristlets Mrs. Frey knitted. She did not know that they make them to come up on the hand. I shall try to knit you some of them after I finish the helmet. Aunt Mate knitted one pair of socks & I the other. A good long letter came from [your cousin] Lew [Griffing] today.

Willis has finished the wheat, plowed out the potatoes and tomorrow expects to begin cutting the cafir & cane. Willis went down to spend the evening with that Mr. Fisher last week, then on Friday night they took some girls to the [picture] show and he stayed all night with the boys at the [fraternity] house. This afternoon they called up & asked him down for tonight. It is the last night before they go into the service &c. so they are having a “Big day tonight.” I hope they are the right sort of men for he seems quite taken up with them. I am glad for him to have someone that way if they are only the right kind. He thinks they are. If he goes there so much, we will have to have them out here some time. Carol [Cunningham] was much pleased with her letter you wrote her. She brot her book home tonight and “studied” tonight.

Willis received a letter from Ethel Arnold the other day. If there is anything you want that I can send you to make things any better, do let me know. I hope you will keep well. Things never seem so hard if one can only keep well. The interest on the bonds came a while ago. We have not cashed them yet – 75 cents each. I asked at the bank the other day about Fitzgerald – he had put in $20. Didn’t that surprise you? So that will make him straight now. I expect she will be asking for the papering, etc. soon.

Good night my dear. God bless you & keep you is mother’s prayer continuously. Very lovingly, -- Mother

  • Hattie doesn't say how cold it was but according to historical records kept between 1891 and 2006, September 1918 was the second coldest September in Manhattan, Kansas, coming in at 63.3 degrees Farenheit (on average). The nights must have been pretty chilly in tents out on the prairie.
  • Lewellen ["Lew"] Goodrich Griffing was the 29 year-old bachelor son of John Silas Griffing and a cousin of Ward's. Lew was inducted into the army during WWI and served in France. His draft registration card indicates that he was employed as a farmer on his father’s dairy farm near Tecumseh, Kansas prior to entering the service and that he was of medium height, stocky build, and had blue eyes and black hair.
  • Ethel Arnold was the 21 year-old daughter of 57 year-old Lewis D. Arnold and his 43 year-old wife Emma. In 1918, Ethel Arnold (like Minnie) also worked as a school teacher in Riley County. Ethel’s siblings included 15 year-old sister Leah, and four brothers: 19 year-old Ross, 17 year-old Alfred, 12 year-old Harold, and 5 year-old Ralph. Sometime after 1930, Ethel Arnold and Willis Griffing were engaged to be married several years later, but Ethel died prior to the wedding. Family tradition has it that she collapsed in a dental office and never regained consciousness. A local paper says the cause of death was a "weak heart." Willis was devastated and never married.


  1. Hello Ward:
    We have packed now and are ready to move In somewhere north on the Aisne line. Should be there in a day or two. Stop by for a read when you have the chance.


  2. I certainly will. Say Sam, I've posted a picture of Ward's tunic on the "Great War Comes to Kansas" blog. See the comments regarding the red chevron. Do you know anything about this? -- wg