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World War I Daybook Update!

Posted byLori Williamson on 19 Jan 2016 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

Hello! My name is Lisa Matson and I have been working as the World War I Daybook Research Assistant Intern this fall. I graduated in May from St. Olaf College with a History major and a Women’s and Gender Studies concentration. Over the last few months I have been continuing the research started by the first two World War I Daybook interns, Molly and Mary. I spent most of my time during the internship in the Gale Family Library reading through manuscript collections. These collections were largely in the form of letters, journals, and other accounts of the war written by men in military service, or men and women serving overseas with other organizations such as the Red Cross and YMCA. There were also a few collections relating to the role of Minnesotans at home during the war. Many of the manuscript collections that I researched will be included in the World War I Daybook blog.

One interesting source that I researched consisted of letters written by Willard W. Bixby, a Minnesota man who worked as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy beginning in June 1918. Bixby’s work driving ambulances as a Red Cross volunteer involved moving injured soldiers between hospitals and working on the front lines removing injured soldiers from the battlefields to hospitals where they would be treated. Bixby’s letters to his family describe Italy and his life as an ambulance driver. These letters provide an interesting and unique insight into the war as Bixby served in Italy, while most of the other collections I researched were written by people serving in France, and he was the only ambulance driver in the manuscript collection that I encountered.

In a letter from June 16, 1918, Bixby describes driving an ambulance in the midst of an attack that started the day before and (as he states in later letters) lasted for eight days. It was written from “somewhere on the Piave” in Italy. Here is a selection from Bixby’s letter:

“The anticipated attack started yesterday morning about 1 A.M. I have been on the go every minute and have had about 6 hrs. sleep in the last 48. I am well and safe but have certainly seen the thick of it. . . . I have a machine now so we all have to be on duty as it is a night and day affair. . . . I can see shrapnel bursting from my window and believe me it is not the most pleasant of sounds.”

In later letters, Bixby describes his work throughout the following months and his role in the “grand advance” at the end of the war. See more posts about Willard W. Bixby’s life as a Red Cross ambulance driver in the World War I Daybook blog!

These are two types of ambulances driven by the Red Cross ambulance men. This photo is captioned, “The Fiats carry twice as many wounded as do the Fords. The contrast in size is plainly to be seen here.”

Citation: Willard W. Bixby and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. [A/.B624]

Don’t forget to check out the World War I Daybook when the blog launches in April 2017 and keep up to date with the research process blog posts until then!

Lisa Matson, World War I Daybook Intern

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World War I Artifacts Digitized

Posted byLori Williamson on 06 Jan 2016 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook, What's New

For the past several years the Minnesota Historical Society’s staff have been digitizing our World War I related artifacts. This collection comprises approximately 1,800 objects including United States military uniforms, equipment and supplies, as well as foreign military items (most of which were brought home as souvenirs), trench art, Red Cross materials, and more. The project was undertaken in anticipation of the centennial of the Great War and two major World War I programs planned for spring of 2017: an exhibit focusing on the home front currently in development; and the World War I daybook blog launching in April, 2017.

With the digitization project now complete, all World War I artifacts in the MNHS Collection are available to view on the Collections Online database. Here are some highlights from this incredible collection:

Victory medal awarded to Tela B. Burt, an African-American from Minneapolis who served as a supply sergeant with the 809th Regiment of Pioneer Infantry in France, circa 1919. After the war ended, Burt returned to the Minneapolis and had a career with the post office, played music for several dance bands, and eventually became one of the first African Americans in the Twin Cities area to enter the real estate field.

A length of barbed wire from Verdun, France, found by Miss Frances Rogers of Minnesota, who was part of the American Fund for French Wounded.

German military field telephone inside oak case, circa 1915.

A United States Army Model 1917 steel helmet. This classic World War I “doughboy” helmet was worn by Private Clarence Ervin Ohmann of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

A ditty box owned by United States Navy Seaman Edward R. Stensrud of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It contained souvenirs relating to Stensrud’s WWI service, including postcards, German and Swedish matchboxes and an address book. Railway tags have been pasted on each end of the box.

Coat for an American Red Cross overseas uniform, worn by Margaret MacLaren of Saint Paul, Minnesota, while serving in France circa 1918.

British military issue gas mask and cloth case, circa. There were many types of gas masks used during the war, and this is known as a Small Box Respirator.

French Croix de Guerre medal awarded to Minnesotan John Bowe. When the war began Bowe was the mayor of Canby, Minnesota. He abandoned his position and went to Canada to join the military, where he was rejected due to age. He then went to England and tried to enlist, but was informed he would have to renounce his United States’ citizenship. He then went to France where he joined the French Foreign Legion in 1915.

Minnesota service flag created for the Victory Liberty Loan Campaign in April, 1919. The approximately 1,200 gold stars represent the servicemen from Minnesota who died during the war. It is 18 feet high, and 28 feet long.

Stephanie Olson, Collections Assistant

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Progress on the World War I Daybook!

Posted byLori Williamson on 11 Sep 2015 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

Hello everyone! My name is Mary Lesher. I’m a senior History major at Vassar College and I was this summer’s World War I Daybook Research Assistant Intern. I followed up on some of the great research the previous intern, Molly, did into the various kinds of World War I collections items the Minnesota Historical Society has acquired. I spent the majority of my internship in the Gale Family Library examining the Minnesota Gold Star Roll, which was compiled by the Minnesota Public Safety Commission in the years just after the close of the war. The Gold Star Roll is a record of every Minnesotan who died during the war from combat, plane, train and automobile accidents and influenza, which affected soldiers domestically and abroad. These records were filled out by close family members- mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and children- and include various details of these men and women’s lives, from their place of birth to their schooling, character, vocation and military service. Family members often sent in photos, letters they received during the war and newspaper clippings about their loved one who died to give a more complete understanding of who that person was. I combed through every single record to find stories, primary sources and photos to share with you in the World War I Daybook.

One of my favorite Gold Star Roll records is that of Miss Sabra R. Hardy, a nurse in the United States Army Nursing Corps. She was from Minneapolis and worked as a nurse in Minneapolis Hospitals before enlisting for service in WWI. Hardy trained at Camp Travis in Texas before shipping out to New York to finish her training and await her journey to Europe. When she reached England she wrote a brief note to her parents alerting them that she had arrived safely overseas, and told them she would write again once she was permanently located at a hospital near the French Front. This was the last her family ever heard from her, as Hardy contracted Influenza-pneumonia and died about a week after reaching France.

New York
Aug 23-18
Dearest Mother and Dave:

I am here at last and, I just can’t wait till I’ve got my gov’t. outfit together & my Red cross suit on. They are such a good looking blue serge suit [symbol] & U.S.A. emblems worn on lapels beside the Caducci [plural form  of caduceus] which stands for the medical dept. & a black sailor hat & heavy brown army shoes. The duty uniform is grey crepe & white (No. 2) aprons & bibs & caps…”

Citation: “Hardy, Sabra R.” Minnesota Publc Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota [114.D.4.3B]

Be sure to join us for more incredible stories from World War I when the blog launches in April, 2017!

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Stay Tuned for Another Daybook

Posted byLori Williamson on 16 Jun 2015 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

Research has begun for the forthcoming World War I Daybook blog!

My name is Molly Kamph, and through the Minnesota Historical Society’s internship program, I acted as the first World War I Daybook Research Intern. Over the past few months, I have surveyed the vast collections of the Minnesota Historical Society in order to lay the foundations for the World War I Daybook blog, scheduled to launch in April, 2017.

Much of my work involved reading through the huge collection of manuscripts and attempting to make connections to other collections like artifacts, photographs and posters, and even recorded pieces from the Oral History collections, through associated dates, events, or general themes. Many of the manuscripts I initially examined discussed the war efforts abroad, but I also found many sources that detailed the various examples of sociopolitical turmoil occurring in Minnesota and the United States.

One particularly interesting example from the MNHS manuscript collections was Walter E. Quigley’s reminiscence entitled “Out where the west begins”, which describes his time as an organizer for the Nonpartisan League (NPL), an organization advocating for state ownership of various farm-related industries. The League began in North Dakota and became fairly popular in Minnesota during World War I. Leading up to the election of 1918, the Nonpartisan League started the Farmer-Labor Party and endorsed candidates running for numerous positions locally, statewide, and nationally to further their left-leaning platform.

Nonpartisan League opponents immediately began to rally against the League. Many within the government were against the League and their aims. For example, Quigley mentions that on October 7, 1918, former president Theodore Roosevelt came to Minneapolis to endorse Governor J.A.A. Burnquist’s reelection and to denounce the NPL. Due to the mention of Roosevelt, I was able to make a connection between the Quigley manuscript and some photographs within the Audio/Visual collections. Two photographs from October 7, 1918 show former president Theodore Roosevelt speaking with Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company workers on behalf of Minnesota Governor J.A.A. Burnquist.

Some opponents of the Nonpartisan League were more violent. League supporters John Meintz and Nels Hokstad, were tarred and feathered by a mob of those opposing the NPL, who saw the League as “pro-German” and “yellow”. Meintz (top) and Hokstad (bottom) are shown in this photograph. Meintz’s ordeal is also mentioned in Quigley’s account. Quigley states, “Mob rule became the worse after the primary [of 1918]. W.W. Latta, editor of the paper at Luverne, and friend of the League, was deported into Iowa. John Meintz in western Minnesota was tarred and feathered… The homes of many League workers were painted yellow, organizers were chased out of dozens of cities and towns; and all in all, the campaign was intensified by the war spirit” (Quigley p.67, 73).

Overall, the collections at the Minnesota Historical Society demonstrate the varied aspects of this complex time in Minnesota and the United States. We hope that you all will join us in April of 2017 for the launch of the World War I Daybook.


  • Quigley, Walter Eli. “Out where the west begins”. Minnesota Historical Society. [P2302]
  • Men tarred and feathered in Minnesota during 1918 campaign by anti-Nonpartisan Leaguers. Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. [J1.4 p26]
  • Theodore Roosevelt speaking to workers at Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company. Minnesota Historical Society. St Paul, Minnesota. [E435.19 p10]
  • Theodore Roosevelt speaking to workers at Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. Minnesota Historical Society. St. Paul, Minnesota. [E435.19 p11]
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Civil War Daybook – Epilogue

Posted byLori Williamson on 01 May 2015 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

Thank you to all of the readers and subscribers of the Civil War Daybook blog. As the sesquicentennial of the Civil War comes to an end and soldiers begin returning home, this will be our final post. We at the Minnesota Historical Society are extremely grateful for your appreciation of Minnesota’s Civil War history, and hope you have enjoyed the collections featured in this blog.

For more information about Minnesota and the Civil War please see:

The conclusion of the American Civil War comes in a series of Confederate surrenders throughout the spring and summer of 1865. Some of the most notable events include:

  • April 9, 1865 General Lee surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox in VirginiaApril 15, 1865 US President Lincoln dies
  • April 26, 1865 General Johnston surrenders his armies at Bennett Place in North Carolina
  • May 9, 1865 US President Andrew Johnson declares the armed resistance “virtually” ended
  • May 10, 1865 Confederate President Jefferson Davis is captured at Washington, Georgia
  • June 23, 1865 the last Confederate general to surrender, Cherokee Brigadier General Stand Watie, surrenders at Fort Towson
  • August 20, 1866 US President Andrew Johnson signs a proclamation of peace – Proclamation 157 – Declaring that Peace, Order, Tranquility, and Civil Authority Now Exists in and Throughout the Whole of the United States of America, August 20, 1866.

Between July and September, 1865, the majority of Minnesota’s soldiers were discharged at Fort Snelling. To learn more about veterans’ homecoming experience, don’t miss Civil War Weekend at the Fort, August 15-16, 2015.

If you’re curious about what happened in the lives of some of the regular contributors to this blog after their discharge, check out the post-war biographies below.

James Madison Bowler (3rd Minnesota Regiment) remained in the army after the conclusion of the Civil War (much to the frustration of his wife, Elizabeth) until he was mustered out in April, 1866. When he returned to Minnesota he held a number of different jobs, including farming and railroad construction, eventually settling in Saint Paul. He served as a representative in the Minnesota Legislature in 1878, and was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 1896 and 1898. James Bowler died in 1916, and is buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Dr. Ebenezer Mattocks Brewer (2nd and 7th Minnesota Regiments) was mustered out of service in August, 1865, and returned to Saint Paul to establish a medical practice. He served as the Saint Paul city physician and health officer from 1867-1871 and 1874-1880, and was the Ramsey County deputy coroner in 1870 and physician from 1874-1882. He moved to Faribault, Minnesota, in 1882 where he continued his practice until his retirement in 1900. Ebenezer Brewer is buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Saint Paul.

Thomas Davidson Christie (1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery) was discharged in 1865 and surveyed land for the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company near Winona, Minnesota. He began attended Beloit College in Wisconsin in 1868, receiving a Master of Arts degree in 1874. He graduated from Andover Seminary in Massachusetts in 1877 and was ordained as a minister. In 1877 he and his family traveled to Turkey and did missionary work until 1920, when they returned to the United States. Thomas Christie died in 1921 in Pasadena, California.

Charles Goddard (1st Minnesota Regiment) was mustered out of service with his regiment in May, 1864, and returned to his hometown of Winona, Minnesota. He suffered from the pain of the wound he received at the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as mental trauma of what we might now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Goddard moved from job to job after his discharge and died of tuberculosis in 1868 at the age of 23. He is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona, where Mathew Marvin (also of the 1st Minnesota) was the caretaker.

Matthew Marvin (1st Minnesota Regiment) was officially mustered out of service with his regiment in 1864 while he was in Chicago, still recovering from the wound he received at Gettysburg. Marvin returned to his family home in St. Charles, Illinois, to complete his recovery. In 1871 he moved with his wife Angie to Winona, Minnesota, and in 1873 he was appointed as the caretaker of Woodlawn Cemetery. He died in 1903, and is buried in Woodlawn. His daughter, Mabel Marvin, gave a reading at the dedication of the First Minnesota monument at Gettysburg on the 50th anniversary of the battle.

Thomas Montgomery (7th Minnesota Regiment, 76th, 67th, and 65th U.S. Colored Regiments) was discharged from service in 1867 and settled in Saint Peter, Minnesota, with his wife Sarah. He was appointed to the state Board of Equalization in 1887 and moved to Saint Paul, where he served as alderman. He also served in numerous positions within the Masonic orders. Thomas Montgomery died in 1907 and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Saint Paul.

Finally, we invite you to join us in April, 2017 for the launch of the World War I Daybook blog, which will begin on the centennial of the United States’ declaration of war against Germany.

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“Surrender!” and “From Washington”, The Saint Paul Press – April 30, 1865

Posted byLori Williamson on 30 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

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Diary entry by Thomas Montgomery of the 7th Minnesota Regiment, Company K – April 29, 1865

Posted byLori Williamson on 29 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

Clear & warm. On duty as Regt. C Off. Of Day, and very busy in putting the boat in a good cleanly condition. Had it washed out. The fleet of Boats dropped down about six miles to M Culluns’s point to a higher spot of ground & disembarked. I remained up stationed Camp Guard & &.

Citation: April 29, 1865. Diary entry by Thomas Montgomery, Diary, 1865. Thomas Montgomery and family papers. Minnesota Historical Society. [P2812 box 1]

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“Andrew Johnson” and “The Draft”, The Saint Paul Pioneer and Democrat – April 28, 1865

Posted byLori Williamson on 28 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

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“Lee’s Surrender”, The Saint Cloud Democrat – April 27, 1865

Posted byLori Williamson on 27 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

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“President Johnson” and “Proclamation”, The Rochester Republican – April 26, 1865

Posted byLori Williamson on 26 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: Civil War Daybook

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