World War I

“Somewhere in France”

WWI letters home from Woodburn soldiers

The handwritten "Somewhere in France" are from their letters.

Part 1 of 2 – Frank Cecil Davenport
 son of William and Emma (Adamson) Davenport

Letters and photograph offered by  grandchildren of Lee Roy Davenport, Frank’s brother. 
Letter excerpts were not edited.

Frank was 28 years old when he enlisted on Feb 22, 1918 at Camp Dodge.   In April, he sailed from Long Island, and trained in England before arriving in France with the 139th Iowa Infantry, 35th division.

April 19, 1918.   Camp Mills, Hampstead, Long Island.
We certainly had quite a trip out here.  I saw Lake Erie which was quite a sight to me then I saw New York City that is a little of it.   I was vaccinated again yesterday makes four times that I have been vaccinated since I have been in the Army they give me a good one this time so I expect I will have a sore arm some of these days.   Say John I wish you would pay my lodge dues for me I have forgotten all about it and Art may not pay it up.  I have a little money in the bank and you can see Miss Childers (Woodburn bank teller) and tell her to pay them as long as it lasts I took $10,000 of U.S. war risk insurance so I am worth more dead than alive.   I figured if I got out I would not miss it and if I got hurt I would have something to keep me.  I am all right and have plenty to eat but have to eat out of doors and that is not quite as nice as it was at Dodge. 

Somewhere in France, July and Sept, 1918.
I seen a letter in the other paper I got from Marion Harrison about Isaac Davis being killed it was to bad but what is to be will be I guess.  I want to live and get one that got Ike (Isaac) any if I don’t do anything else.

Have just been relieved from the trenches.  Were there about a month.  I want it to end for I sure want to be home by Christmas.   I can hear the noise of the big guns but they are not very close to me. 

On October 29, 1918, word was received that Frank was reported lost or taken prisoner at the Battle of Argonne.  His family did not know until weeks later that he had survived and was a prisoner.  Frank’s platoon had become separated from the company during the battle. He and 22 others were captured while trying to hold the line.  They were marched towards the Rhine and arrived in Rastatt on October 18.  The “Bull Pen” only held about 500 prisoners.  Other than poor food, carrot or turnip soup twice a day and a fifth of a loaf of dark bread, they were not treated badly.  

October 28, 1918 from German prison camp  
I am in good health.  When you write you might send me two cartons of Camel cigarettes and about five pounds of Hershey bar chocolates.   Put them in a good box and they will come through all right.    I can write one card every Sunday and every other Sunday one card and a letter as well.  Hoping that this will find you as well as it leaves me.

Armistice was signed Nov 11, but the prisoners didn’t find out until a few days later. They had Frank working at a gas plant.

Vichy, France, Dec 14

We left Germany the 8th traveled through Switzerland.  The Red Cross had a nice feed for us.  We are in the Base Hospital.  I do not know where we go from here but I hope it is for the good old USA.

Dec 25th - I think what a wonderful Christmas it is.    

By March, 1919 he was still in France, and arrived in the states before May, 1919, when he was discharged at Camp Dodge.  Frank married Margaret Fox, a 1911 Woodburn graduate, on February 8, 1920.    They lived in Des Moines where she was a college teacher and he owned a grocery store at one time.  They later separated.  Frank passed away on April 16, 1966.

Frank's letter from the German prison. 

Frank is pictured below in the soldiers' gallery.   

Part 2 of 2 – Isaac Davis
 youngest son of Daniel and [Laura] Ann (Wayman) Davis

Isaac Davis was 37 when he enlisted on May 28, 1917 in Company B, Iowa Infantry, later 168th Infantry, famed Rainbow Division.  He had previously served in the Spanish-American War.  His family had moved to the Woodburn area in 1901, where they engaged in farming and stock raising under the firm name Daniel Davis and Sons.

Sept and Oct, Camp Mills.   I got some Kodak pictures today and will send them in this letter.  May (sister) seems to think we’ve got a big job ahead of us but I do not believe we’ll see the front line trenches.   We have all wool clothing now and are fully equipped.

Somewhere in France
December, 1917.
   Was out on rifle range one afternoon and made the best score of any one in our platoon.   These rifles do not kick as bad as the old springfields.   Rec’d a letter from Fred (brother) today asking about my insurance.   The 2000 policy is to be paid in Feb.   Keep it paid up till I get home.   My war risk is paid out of my wages each month. 

Undated fragment.   We got our gas masks two of them and a steel helmet this week.   I am in a hand grenade squad now but will try to get into a rifle squad. 

Jan 6, 1918.  I got 48 hrs of Military Police duty i.e. we are on a post 6 hrs and off 18 hrs.  Several of our men are in the hospital with the mumps.  All of our boys seem to think that Ia is the best country they have seen yet.

Jan 28.   Most of the Xmas packages sent to our boys come here.   I got a piece of cake and some gum from my Sammy backer.  Unless the war ends soon we may get closer to the front pretty soon.  That does not worry us here we sleep just as good as in the states.

Isaac died in battle in Lorraine, France on March 6, 1918.  His duty was to stand where he could warn them of the enemy’s approach and could give the signal when seeing the dread cloud of poison gas.    He was called to leave his post of danger several times and seek shelter but refused.  Isaac was killed by a high powered shell.   He was buried in Baccarat, France with the service read by Chaplain Robb, the fighting chaplain. Three years later his body was returned to Woodburn for burial. Services were held in the Woodburn school yard, honored again by Chaplain Robb.  The American Legion Post in Osceola was originally named Isaac Davis Post Number 69 in his honor, as the first WWI Clarke County casualty.  

The family farming partnership was dissolved shortly after Isaac’s death.   His father, a Civil War Veteran, and mother rest beside Isaac in the Davis plot at the Woodburn cemetery. 

Isaac is also pictured below in the soldiers' gallery. 

Isaac in 1898 when he served in the Spanish-American War, with a cousin.
courtesy of Clare Keeney

Isaac Davis, WWI 

Frank Cecil Davenport
b. July 17, 1899   d. April 1966
WWI, Army
Son of William and Emma (Adamson) Davenport

World War II

Josie, Glenn and Ode Mason

Korean Conflict

Letters home

Letters from Isaac Davis, first Clarke County casualty of WWI