My very dear Aunt Jane was a research librarian at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. With the help of a few other family members she compiled a family history that is full of stories and photos. In that history there is a woman named Jessie Dow. She married into the family September 14, 1890, but her husband Ernest Victor Booth died August 7, 1891, less than a year after they married. That was all we knew about her until a few months ago. After my great Aunt Inez passed away, the family found a packet of letters that was labeled "Aunt Jessie WWI". Apparently Aunt Jessie was part of a group that encouraged the men fighting "over there" by writing and sending packages to boost morale. I was allowed the privilege of looking at this packet and attempting to make sense of what I discovered. There were some poems typed on thin velum. One of the poems says, "By our office boy" which made me think that she was part of a letter writing USO type group. The which were letters addressed to "Mrs. Jessie Booth, Dear Teacher" told about the war and the men's experience in France. So she was a school teacher who loved her students. She wrote them letters because she was concerned about them. This all sounds so familiar. Instantly I felt a connection with Aunt Jessie. With the help of another history loving friend we are transposing the letters which are difficult to read. Below is one of the letters. I've copied the words down verbatim to accurately represent the author. I can't figure out his first name. Check out the close up of his signature and comment with what you think it is.
The longing for home and the misery he expresses is clear and connects me with this solider from 100 years ago. I don't know if he ever made it home to his "Dearest Little Mother," but I know that so many like him didn't. As you read I hope you connect with this brave solider who was not so different from you and me.
On Active Service
American Expeditionary Force
May 20, 1918
Mrs. Jessie Booth
I received your most welcome letter to day. And was sure surprised to hear from you but it was a glad surprise to me. Well I can never forget the hours that I spent in school a long time ago. I wish that I knew then what I do now. I think that my life would been different. I am glad that I am doing my bit over hear. You sure did have me guessing on the writing all right. Well Mrs. Booth I have one of the Dearest Little Mother living and I hope to come back to her but if I don’t well all I can do is to meet her up above where they don’t have war. We have been on the go since February 5 and the Lord only knows how much longer we will be on the road and we have seen and been through a lot more than I ever expected to or thought that I would go through. But I am alive and well and feeling fine and am looking for a nother chance to get at the [Book] a gain. We made a good record the last time all though some of the boys fell to the Huns paid [iofer] one of ours. We are just getting nice summer weather hear for we have been up to knees in Mud the most of the time since coming over hear and the change is good for us. I hope your garden will come out fine for any one likes to see tho first one in good shape. Yes I am in the Infantry or as we are called Mud splashers. This the branch of the service that gets all the hard work and plenty of scrape to. I have a lot of friends in the service and I run in to them not and then. I meet Sgt Pirley Wells of the old Leo H last night and and a few more of the Montpelier boys. They are all looking fine and feeling good and longing to get at the Huns and get it over with. That little boy you used to know is some boy 5 ft 11 in and weighs 155 lbs and is brown and hard as a rock with a small bush up on the upper lip. All most a man. And only 30 years old. Some boy. I often look back to my school days and wish that I could go back to them but they are passed forever. How I wished that I had learned to play the organ when you tried to learn me. I will close for this time. I remain one of your Old scholars and will always respect and love you as one that tried to learn me the many things I had ought to know. So will say goodbye with Love to my Teacher,
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."