A note on the locations and relationships here. These are excerpts from a letter written by my grandmother, Mary Louise Newcomer (later Moore) from the family home on the campus of Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Va. Daniel was her younger brother. The letter is written to “Uncle Will” (who was Mary Louise’s great-uncle) who was George Willard Wood, the younger brother of Louise Wood Brackett, Mary Louise’s grandmother. Uncle Will, who had no children, was a successful businessman in Maine and financed my grandmother’s education both at Bates College in Maine and later in New York for graduate school. “Mother” and “Father” are Daniel and Mary Louise’s parents: John C. Newcomer and Celeste Brackett Newcomer, daughter of Louise Wood Brackett and Nathan Cook Brackett (deceased in 1910.) The letter refers to Aunt Mary—this is Mary Brackett Robertson, sister to Celeste and eldest daughter of Louise and Nathan. The letter refers to Aunt Lue and Uncle Scott. Aunt Lue was Nathan Cook Brackett’s younger sister who came to West Virginia from Maine and taught at Storer College for her entire life. Her husband was Scott Lightener, hence Aunt Lue and Uncle Scott. The letter also refers to Cousin Sadie. This is Sarah Bracket (b. 1874), the daughter of James Brackett, Nathan’s younger brother. Thus she was actually the first cousin of Daniel’s mother, Celeste, and would have been first cousin, once removed, from Daniel. The photograph associated with this post is of Mary Louise Newcomer.
Dear Uncle Will,
I got here about 10 o’clock Saturday night [February 2, 1918]. I did not send word to anyone that I was coming until I got to the B. and O. station in Jersey City, because I had no idea what time I would get in, and did not want them to worry. Then I sent a telegram to Gladys, my chum, and she went right down to the house to tell Mother. Gladys, Jack Shirley and Jesse Dailey, two of the boys from home here, met me with a carriage. I am very, very glad I came.
I wired Cousin Sadie that the funeral would be Tuesday. Trouble west of St. Louis caused a delay in connections and the body did not get here until nearly 6 o’clock that night. The funeral was at ten o’clock Wednesday morning.
Aunt Mary came up Sunday afternoon [from her home in Chevy Chase, MD] and stayed until Wednsday evening. Father’s brother, from Illinois, left Chicago Saturday, arriving Sunday night. He stayed until Thursday morning. We are all profoundly grateful to him for coming-I hardly know how my father would have stood it without him.
Never, in the history of the town, has a death caused the shock that this one did. The night after the news came both the Harper’s Ferry and the Boliver town councils passed resolutions that all places of business in the two towns should be closed during the service, and the two mayors personally went around over the towns notifying every business house. The school adjourned Monday night until Thursday morning. Storer was closed during the service. Even some of the railroad men from other towns came. The service was held in the High School auditorium, and took the form of a patriotic meeting, to which everyone came, both white and colored. This was the first death among the Jefferson County soldiers. It was the largest crowd ever gathered together for any purpose since we have been here. The big room was so packed that after every seat was taken and many chairs filled, one whole side aisle and the entrance round the door was packed. It was a wonderful service, just thrilling with patriotism and the spirit of sacrifice for a great cause. The casket came hermetically sealed so we could not open it at all. It was put into the lower hall, opposite the main door, of the school building, and the flowers were arranged on either side. The town, with a few of the young men leading, raised money for a wonderful floral flag, made of red and white carnations, blue immortelles, and tiny white flowers which looked exactly like stars. The flag itself was four by three feet, but on the standard, with its gilt staff, it stood full six feet. Everybody here said that it was without doubt the most beautiful floral piece they had ever seen. One man from Washington said that once he had seen something like it at Arlington, but not so large or so perfect. Bates College Assembly sent a beautiful wreath, and his class also sent one. Almost every man in the community came to the funeral. Everybody says that the towns have never before been so completely broken up. He was loved by everybody, from little children to the oldest men and women of the community. We are so proud of him that it somewhat tempers our grief. Mr. MacDonald, of the College, gave a personal tribute at the service when he read the last letter that Daniel wrote before he left Bates. I had never seen it until I got home, but I don’t wonder Father and Mother gave their permission for him to go. It showed that he had looked at the question carefully, from every side, even including the danger of never coming back, and that he sincerely believed it was his duty to go.
We are sure that Daniel had good care after he was taken to the hospital, and that gives us much comfort. We do not know, however, whether he ever got all the mail we sent him-he had not had but one letter for the two weeks before he went in. He was taken to the hospital on the twenty second, and died on the thirty first. They had been receiving telegrams that he was improving up until the twenty-ninth. Then they thought the danger of pneumonia must be passed (sic) for the last report said “Surgeon advises improving.” Then after Mother and Father had gone to bed Wednesday night came the message “Private Daniel Newcomer seriously ill in base hospital with pneumonia.” Father left at midnight, with orders to the surgeon to keep him posted at the chief cities and also to keep Mother posted. The next one reported “condition unchanged” one Thursday said “recovery doubtful” and at midnight they reached Father at Greenville N.C. saying that it was too late. He got home at 5 o’clock Saturday morning.
We have not had any letter from anybody at the camp except a note of sympathy yesterday from his squad, signed by all the boys, in which they say that they too miss him terribly “because everything was always lively when Dan was around.” He had only been in the squad about a week when he was taken sick. We know that he was sent to the hospital at the first symptom of measles, and juding (sic) from the way the surgeon kept us informed, we think he must have had good care. The pneumonia was a kind known as septic pneumonia, which seems to be the thing called in the papers now septicemia. It develops only after all symptoms of the measles have disappeared, and therefore finds the patient in a very weak condition. You see Daniel died less than three days after the first symptoms developed.
I plan to leave here a week from Saturday, arriving in Lewiston Sunday evening, the seventeenth, if Mother and Father no longer need me. They are both very brave, but I am always afraid of nervous breakdowns with them both.
With lots of love to you all,
Incredible detail, heartbreaking but for me fascinating in family history. I am grateful and proud you have become the “keeper of the keys” in this effort. It does remind me of Nana’s and Johnny’s extensive knowledge of our proud family. I read these posts with great interest and emotion. Nan’s letter brought her memory back to me vividly. She was one great lady. Thanks Lisa
Thanks! Next I’ll be posting Grandmother’s letter to the army and some of the letters from his fellow soldiers.