One day I received a call from a cousin Ginny on my mother’s side of the family. She was cleaning out some boxes that belonged to her deceased mother and in one of them, contained a letter that was mailed in 1919. The letter was addressed and sent not to her mother, but to my grandmother, Rose Marie. My cousin thought I’d appreciate having it.
As a writer and teacher of American History, I was thrilled to not only have a World War I document, but one that related to my own family’s history. For over 90 years, the letter stayed hidden and seemingly never reached the addressee, my grandmother who passed away in 1972.
One day, my cousin Ginny was going through an old attic trunk. In her mother’s belongings, she discovered a letter that was written to her mother’s then 6 month old sister (my grandmother, Rose Marie) by her young but older brother who was fighting in France during World War I. The letter is dated April 8, 1919.
“Dear Little Sister,
Having not seen you yet but having heard so much about you I thought I would write you a few lines of course knowing that you will have to wait some time before you are able to read it, that you have a brother in France who is very anxious to see you and I am sure that you have another brother who is also over here that is anxious to see you, and we expect to be home and see our new sister soon. Hoping this finds you well and that I may soon be home with you.
I am your anxious brother, Bill.”
Her brother Bill did return home to see his new sister, but unfortunately died a few short months later after being exposed to mustard gas in Europe. Bill’s brother Peter, whom he spoke of, who also served in France had returned to the States after the war but also died as a result of exposure to chemicals at the German Front.
It is interesting to note that since it was found in my great-aunt’s belongings and not in my grandmothers, it is reasonable to assume the letter that remained hidden for over nine decades never reached the one who it was originally addresses to and meant for.
My great uncles, William and Peter Quinn, were buried with full military honors.
[ This article first appeared in the September 2015 Mifflin Township Historic Messenger newsletter. ]