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Friday, February 6, 2009

Letter 40 ~ October 7, 1918

Minnie writes me about the tragic deaths of Seaton family members, expresses regret for not having studied nursing, and hopes the quarantine will be lifted soon.

Addressed to Mr. Ward C. Griffing, 25th Company, 164th Depot Brigade, Camp Funston, Kansas
Sherman, Kansas
Monday Evening, October 7, 1918

My Dear Ward:

I am writing this letter sitting in porch swing on front porch. It’s lots nicer down here than up there in my room. It seems so warm tonight and up there I feel so off by myself and lonely. It’s clouding over in the north and west so I wouldn’t be surprised if we would have a rain soon. Everybody needs it but the boys in camp.

Sunday was rather a sad day at home. [My sister] Bertha had a letter from [her husband] Charlie [Scholer] Saturday and it was written on Tuesday. In it he said Mr. [Roy] Seaton and the little boy had influenza and Mr. Seaton said he was taking it that night when he left the office. But Charlie said Mrs. Seaton was getting better. Saturday morning the telegram came to Manhattan that Mrs. Seaton and one of the twin babies died Friday evening. Bertha feels awfully bad about it. That was the happiest family and Mr. Seaton nearly worshipped her. She was the only woman Bertha knew in Washington [D. C.]. We’ve known Perry Seaton ever since we came to Manhattan, and Charlie [Scholer] and Capt. Seaton are the best of friends. Rev. Jacobsen said it was one of the saddest things he ever knew of. I suppose Mrs. Perry will take little Jimmie and the twin if it lives. Mr. Seaton has been planning on going to France soon. Charlie has thought some of going. They would just go to look around [and] see the shells they are using, etc. I don’t really know exactly. Charlie said he couldn’t write us very much about his work. They have to be careful [what they say]. He says he sure likes his work there.

Did I tell you that Charlie has applied for his commission? Capt. Seaton told Charlie as soon as he got there he thought he would get it in a month or two. I’m sure glad for Charlie. (Too dark – must go to my room.)

I read in today’s [Topeka] Capitol that they were greatly in need of Red Cross nurses in France. I’m so mad at myself. I wish I had gone into the Charlotte Swift Hospital when I finished the two year high school on College Hill. Bertha and I were talking to one of Bertha’s friends Saturday. She has been in the hospital up there and Saturday she sent her papers to Washington [D.C.]. She says she expects to go across [to Europe] soon. I would give anything to be in her place. She has been training for about three years.

What are you doing, Ward, with all these letters I’m sending you? Surely you are not trying to keep them. You would be loaded down with them.

I wish I knew some interesting news from College Hill, but I don’t. I tried to call Kate but I didn’t get her. I expected to go over to see Stella [Munger] but didn’t so I haven’t talked to anyone except your mother from over there. All I know is that Mr. Hays is going to have a sale – and the Red Cross is going to serve dinners – they are expecting about 300 people [and are] going to charge 50 cents a plate. The folks are all going over.

The teacher at Blue Bottom seems like a real nice girl. She’s young but [my brother] Wayne thinks they have a fine school. She and I are the same age. She’ll be twenty in November but she’s lots taller than I and has more sense, I guess.

School is going fine as far as I know. I know we seem to be getting along up here alright and Mrs. Parkerson told me last night that James (her grandson) likes his teacher awfully well. And she said she hadn’t heard anyone in district complain. They all seem to be satisfied. I hope they will continue to be.

Mama said Stella was liked real well out at Deep Creek [where she teaches]. I’m sure glad. I hope we girls can be successful all three of our terms. Everybody laughed so at “Those Kids” trying to teach.

I believe I can have a two week vacation at Christmas but don’t know yet whether I’ll want it or not. If I go to College spring term I won’t because my school will let out just in time if I have one week vacation. We are going to have a social of some kind between Thanksgiving and Xmas. If we make enough money, we are going to buy a school Edison.

I thought by what you said in a letter a couple of weeks ago that you wouldn’t be able to send letters if you were put under quarantine. Then the last letter was written after you were under quarantine. So I decided you could. Then today I didn’t get a letter from you, so I believe now you can’t. I believe so many things now days that I’m not quite sure what I do think anymore.

I have it all fixed up now, that if the quarantine is lifted toward last of this week, you’ll get a weekend pass. If lifted the first of a week, you will probably be moved before the last of the week. If you don’t get home some weekend before you are moved, and if they take you away from Camp Funston to a camp in some other state, I wish you could come home some evening during the week. And the folks come up for me at 4 o’clock and bring me back next morning. But I don’t suppose they would let you go if you were likely to be moved soon. I have time to hatch up all kinds of schemes, but they are all fakes. I do hope and pray tho that you will get to spend a weekend at home soon.

Why boy, just think when I go home this next Friday evening – only four days away – your mother may have a letter from you saying you are coming home. Or Saturday sometime you may call home saying you sure have a pass from 6 o’clock Sunday morning till 6 o’clock Monday morning. Oh Glory, boy, you would never, never know how happy I would be. That day, Ward, I believe will be the happiest one I’ve ever experienced. But there’s one day that will be far happier [and] that will be the day you come back to stay. There’s never a night but what I lie awake thinking of that time. It seems like a far off dream, but doesn’t it seem grand, darling, to think that that time is really coming some time. This war can’t last always. In some ways it seems that being with you the way I used to be is just a dream. It seems so long ago.

It’s lightning and thundering real hard in the west. I hope we get the rain here and not you boys over there.

Keep well and happy, Ward. I know that under camp conditions that disease is dangerous and I won’t rest till I know there isn’t any chance of your contracting it. You can’t be too careful. With lots of love, -- Minnie

  • Roy A. Seaton was a professor of Mechanical Engineering at KSAC . He resided at 722 Humboldt Street in Manhattan. Roy’s wife and both of his twin infants died in the influenza epidemic in 1918 while staying with his brother, Perry Seaton, in Washington D. C. The bodies of Mrs. Seaton and the two infant twins were returned to Manhattan for burial (see Minnie’s letter of October 11, 1918 to follow). By 1920, Roy’s parents, Oren and Sadie Seaton, had relocated to Manhattan from the East to help Roy raise “little Jimmy” Seaton. Seaton Hall on the KSU campus is named in honor of Roy Seaton.
  • Dr. B. Belle Little was born in Manhattan and after finishing the public school course at Manhattan entered the Kansas State Agricultural College, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1891. In 1906 she obtained her M. D. degree from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. In September, 1907, after a year spent as intern in the New England Hospital for Women and Children at Boston, she began her active practice at Manhattan associated with her father, a pioneer practitioner in Kansas. In honor of her mother, Charlotte Swift, Dr. Little founded the Charlotte Swift Memorial Hospital at Manhattan, which was opened March 2, 1915.
  • Charley Scholer, an engineering graduate of KSAC, worked for the War Department late in 1918. Though his actvities were considered top secret at the time, it is believed by family members that he and other engineers were expected to study the heavy artilley and munitions of the French in order to ramp up production of the same in the U.S.


  1. The tragedy of death seems somehow academic until experienced by a loved one or acquaintence. Then it becomes all too real.

  2. Bingo. Up to this point in time, neither Ward nor Minnie had known anybody personally who had fallen victim to the influenza. From this date forward, they both appear to be more anxious about the flu and their concerns for each others safety increases. Ward had lost his father years earlier due to pneumonia and it is clear that he fears a bout of influenza that may lead to pneumonia and death. --wg