Wednesday, December 26, 2018

WWI Papers Destroyed in Fire? The Christmas Gift

Merry Christmas to Me!
I have this newspaper photo of Great - Uncle George who served in WWI. He was the celebrated "colored man"from Rice County, Ks - George F. Strader "Our First Colored Hero of the World War."  I also found him listed in a picture with his troop Co D of the Pioneer Infantry 805 book .

I have information of his troop; and I have, in my arsenal of goodies, Great - Uncle George's WWI helmet that his mother turned into a chandelier. Yes, read about it at WWI Chandelier Helmet.   Who turns a WWI helmet into a chandelier?  Oh...I know! My Great-Grandmother.  The chandelier - helmet is a hit in my Sharing Your Ancestors presentation. But what more can I find about Great-Uncle George?

There's so much I don't know.  How was G-Uncle George injured in service?  When did he get promoted to Sargent.  By the end of his service years he was a Sargent as listed in the troop book, and in the Enrollment Book (V: 27, Reno Republic, Rice counties).

But, The Best Christmas Gift Ever!
Late Christmas Day, 2018,  I received an email from a man named Greg Stredder. Greg had obviously done his research and googled George Strader (not Stredder) and found me. So let's do this sequentially. 

1) Lesson one:  Expose Your Ancestors
I have blog posts and articles posted across the internet so other researchers can find me. I have written about G-Uncle George and his mother on this blog.

Back to Greg who found me and sent me an email.  Greg's message was short. " Thought this would be of interest to you." Greg had come across an article in the Lyons Republican paper, dated 14 Jan 1919, from Lyons, Rice County,  Kansas (the county seat) while researching his own "Stredder" family, I was delighted.  The editor titled the article A Letter From France and misspelled my great grandparents surnam as James Stredder, but the letter was clearly signed by George F. [Franklin] Strader. 

2) Lesson two: Prove kinship. Is this my George?
Stredder or Strader was proved by this write up:  "Corporal "George was the first colored boy from this county..." Yep, it's my Great-Uncle George. There were only two colored boys from Lyons Kansas, Uncle George and my grandfather (who did not serve due to a physical injury). Others from Sterling, who were also in Rice County "down the 2 lane highway a-piece," and from neighboring counties (Reno, Ellsworth, Stafford and Barton counties), worked at the Lyons salt mines or only lived in Lyons, KS temporarily for work. My "colored" Strader family arrived in Lyons Kansas in spring of 1897. My great-grandfather, James, a teamster in Kentucky was drafted to work in the salt mines. So, no question it was my Great-Uncle George. Oh, and by the way, Great-Grandma had told us about the letter, but we never found it in her belongings in 1968 when she passed away. Either way, in our family, and in Lyons, Uncle George was quite celebrated.  Plus the printed letter was signed by George F. Strader and addressed to his parents James Strader.

3) Lesson three: Collaborative Research
Be kind, when you find something this magnificent, this marvelous, in the paper about someone else's ancestor, be like Greg!  Share it.  I had experienced a bitter-sweet Christmas. Greg changed my negative narrative to a day of gratitude.  Thank you Greg! 

A Letter From France
The printed Lyons Republican letter of  14 Jan 1919 fills in quite a bit of detail about Uncle George's military service and his troop. The details take us to the place in time, the activities, and daily routines of Uncle George's WWI experience. It is a great replacement for his burned WWI personnel record that was not salvaged from the 1973 St Louis National Personal Record Center. (NPRC). 

10 New Details
1) Uncle George wrote the letter 10 Dec 1918, over a month before it was printed in the Lyons Republican. At the time he was a Corporal. By the time he came home he was a Sargent.  When was he promoted?
2) I need to review this newspaper one more time for the misspelling of the family surname of Strader.  Did it appear as Stredder in other articles?  
3) George was in Chatel France, surrounded by the Argonne Forest. 
4) George could read and write.  His mother was a school teacher during the Reconstruction era.  She was only fourteen when she started teaching, but we didn't know how well George wrote.  I did know all five of his sister were well educated.  One attended Emporia, Kansas State Normal School for teachers.  But it's good to know that George, the second child could also read and write. 
5) The family letters were reaching George while he was serving in France. 
6) George somehow got lost in the Argonne Forest alone. More information on this may be in the Morning Reports. 

7) George was in a quartet. He seemed quite proud of this.  Note:, my father was also a good singer. 
8) George saw up to 45,000 German prisoners at one time.  Was he at a POW camp?
9) George was involved in raids that included gas bombs.Yes, g-uncle George was injured in the war, but unlike the story G-Grandma like to tell, it was not from front line action!

10) The letter gave information about other local black soldiers.
  • Daniel Baugh was from Barton County, KS.  He worked for the railroad when he came home from the war and lived in Geneseo, KS.  
  • Arthur Stewart was from Sterling Kansas, and was a farm worker before and after the war. 
  • And as stated, Booker was from Great Bend. I knew him.  
G-Uncle George came home, but soon after he went to St. John, Stafford County, and lived with his oldest sister. Like my grandfather, g-uncle George was a car mechanic. 
Again, special thanks to Greg Stredder! 

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers.

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