Posts Tagged ‘Melrose Family History’

I finally tackled the Christmas tree. It’s always a huge project because I am, among other things, a bit OCD about how things get packaged, marked, and stored. I have pared down my decorations, but it is still a process. We also live in a house that is a little under 1100SF with very little extra storage room so I have to be creative about how I store things.

Fortunately, we lived in much tighter spaces when the children were growing up and I’ve learned how to be very creative with storage.

Unfortunately, we have amassed more possessions since the children moved away (and some of what we store is theirs, as yet unclaimed).

I got the Christmas things all put away and tucked neatly into the stairwell closet (formerly the Harry Potter Room when our grandchildren were littler)). I was sweaty and dirty by then, but on a roll.

I climbed the stairs to the loft and looked at the space we call the attic (really more of a crawl space that is about 10×6′ and 4′ tall in the center). Out came everything and I pushed all of my husband’s model railroad boxes into the very back. I’ve left those boxes out for the past seventeen-plus years even though I had room in the attic – maybe one day, he’ll build that N-scale model railroad.

Or maybe not. I decided to go with “not anytime soon” and cleared the loft of all those cluttery boxes (is “cluttery” a word?). Knee pads are essential when working in the attic as the entrance is an old window frame from before the house was added onto and you have to crawl over the sill. My knees aren’t what they were when I was twenty. Neither is my back. Or my shoulders.

I got that done and everything else put back into the attic as well. Now I have more space for books in the loft (I promise I am going to thin those out this year – I already have a large bag in the back of my car to take to the paperback exchange store).

The last thing I did was to haul the Fairy box into my studio. I knew what was in it: cassettes of 1980’s Country music. I haven’t looked at it since I brought it home in 2011, after Dad died. It’s a little cobwebby. And it is full of cassettes, but not exactly the genre of music I thought.

There are Country albums, some Western, some Tex Ritter, and some ‘mix’ tapes, but there are a lot of duplicate Clancy Brothers collections, Reader’s Digest Christmas collections, Henry Mancini, marches, and other dubious entertainment collections.

Also tucked inside was a cassette inside a white envelope with my mother’s name on it, written in my Aunt Donna’s handwriting: Mary Lou.

Now, I happen to have this fancy cassette-to-mpv converter my father bought in March of 2011. He bought it for me, so I could convert a cassette interview of my Gramps (his father) to a digital format. I’ve never done it. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

I got the mini cassette player out and dropped in Mom’s tape (after removing the cassette of Gramps that I have never converted) and hit the play button. It’s a recording of my mother’s mother’s Memorial Service. Grandma Em, as she is affectionately known by her descendants, passed in 1991.

Actually, it is only half the Memorial Service as someone forgot to flip the cassette over mid-scripture, but half a service is more than I had before. And half a service prompted me to see if I could figure out how this converter worked.

Let’s see: Dad bought it in 2011… That was several versions of Microsoft ago…Hmmm. Well, what the heck? I put the CD-Rom into my drive and waited. And I’ll be darned if the thing isn’t compatible with Windows 10 all these years later!

Guess what I will be doing? Finally converting that interview with Fritz Wilcox (Gramps) to a digital format. And figuring out how to pass some lovely Reader’s Digest music compilations on… Barbara Mandrell, anyone?



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27 years have passed since that awful December of 1917. A lot of things have changed in the little Melrose family: Dale’s father, Philip G. Melrose, died in 1934. Little brother John grew up and got married to Emma Ada Robinson, and together they have three little girls: Phyllis, Donna, and Mary Lou (my mother). There are no letters relating back to Dale between 1918 and 1944 – and then…

004The script is large and precise, with a flair for the artistic. A photograph is tucked into the envelope, carefully wrapped in the stationery.

It is a letter from Norma Harvey, that girl from Newberg oh-so-long ago. It is this letter that makes me sit up and say, “oh!” Dale’s death broke more than the hearts of his immediate family – it forever changed Norma’s life.

Newberg, Oreg.

Sept. 24, 1944

My dear dear Mrs. Melrose,

     I can not begin to tell you how moved I was at the sight of your writing or how touched that you remembered after all these years. I can not forget your beautiful script; – an 005envelope that you addressed to me early in 1918 is here in my dresser with a lock of Dale’s hair and his baby picture.

    As you see, I never married. Twice I almost decided to, but thoughts of Dale’s ways:- his cleverness, ambition, kindness, and devotion made other men dull and uninteresting, – yet, was I wise?

    We still live in Newberg but since 1925 ( have taught in Portland coming home for holidays and week-ends.

    One Friday evening <on the bus to Newberg> some years ago, I fell into conversation with a man who used to know you in Perryville.* He had lost touch, he said, 006but he believed that you had moved to Eau Claire. I do not know the man’s name.

    Newberg has not altered greatly with the years. Many of the Presbyterians who were active in the church while you were there, are still functioning.

    Miss Jessie Britt – you remember her? – is as active and indispensible as a person can be.

    Mrs. Maggie Patterson, (very deaf, even in 1912) celebrated her eighty-ninth birthday yesterday and taught her Sunday School class today.

    Mr. and Mrs. Craw <and Violet> are both dead, but the younger daughter Nellie teaches in Newberg.

007    The Sandermans continue active or were until this spring when Mrs. S. broke her hip.

    Ethel Andrews is working in Portland, – has a civil services job and her own apartment. She will be glad to hear of you.

    My parents are living, but Dad aged 87 is not well. He, until last year, was brisk and hearty in every way but early in June he had a slight stroke and hasn’t been like himself since. His memory is so poor. Right now I am greatly worried over the problem of finding a woman to help Mother.

    I am very sorry about Mr. Melrose. Was he ill for long?

    How strange to think that little John has a family!

    Write me again, won’t you? A week from Tuesday is Dale’s birthday**, isn’t it?

    Very lovingly, Norma

*Perryville? I think she means Caryville. ** Not a question – Norma knew Dale’s birthday: October 3.


July 1944       This is Ella Best (white hair) and I, taken at Jessie Britt’s Home. Ella was in the group to which Dale and I belonged. She now teaches in Winnipeg, Manitoba.



The following is a long thank you list to all who helped me put these letters together:

My brother, Terry, who researched Whitman College, Dale’s theater professor, and more. He also hunted down information on Norma Harvey:

Her photo upon graduation from Pacific College (now George Fox University) and upon being crowned May Queen in 1917.

The Coronation News. Remember that she asked Dale not to congratulate her at the time.

Location of her grave in the Friend’s Cemetery in Newberg. She died on November 9, 1970. I snatched a photo of her headstone from Find A Grave. 1893-1970.


Terry also found the military photo on Ancestry.com. It was attached to a ‘steenth cousin’s family tree – I need to go back and email the gentleman who posted it to let him know we are related. He has a more comprehensive tree than I do.

Thank you to my Aunt Donna, the middle daughter of Grandpa John Melrose. She pointed out to me that photos were not common “in those days” and it was “unlikely” that there were any of Dale. I didn’t think about that. We forget so much of how our ancestors lived just a century ago!

A shout out to my cousin, Wendy, one of Aunt Donna’s six children. Wendy shared her online photo  albums with me and I was able to find the same photos in my collection (unnamed) to match hers (named). Because of Wendy, I know I have a photo of Dale as a baby, quite possibly the same photo that Norma Harvey alluded to as kept in her dresser with a lock of his hair.


I am going to take a short break from the blog in order to answer another pressing genealogy question. A gentleman emailed me from Ancestry.com regarding the Palmer side (up my father’s grandmother’s side) and I need to answer his questions – and ask him some!


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I believe that one of the hardest things to do is to write a letter of condolence. What do you say? What if the death happened a month ago and you just now heard? What do you write?

There are snippets of letters in Great Grandmother’s collection, but I have chosen to share only two of them.  The other items are almost irrelevant in nature, or clipped to omit much of the rest of the letter. What follows below are the most complete letters, and the ones that somehow resonate more deeply as to his character and person.


The Western Union Telegram came from the President of the University of Oregon immediately upon the news. It is incorrectly addressed to D.G. Melrose (Philip G. Melrose was Dale’s father). It is dated Dec 20- 1917.






Newberg Oreg. Jan Dec 27 – 1917

Dear Mrs. Melrose

      It was with great surprise and the deepest sorrow that we learned of Dale’s death last week and I am writing this to convey the most heartfelt sympathy both from myself and the young people of the church and Sunday school. I was proud to count Dale as one of my friends and as I was for some time his Sunday school teacher, I felt a particular attachment and interest in him. I thought possibly it might be some consolation to your in your great sorrow and gried to know how much Dale was loved and respected here in Newberg. I have heard so many tributes to his splendid character, and his unusually high standard as a student both here and at Eugene. You, as his mother, can certainly feel proud of his record, And especially of his last service as a volunteer when he gave his life for his country. –With deepest sympathy to your self and Mr. Melrose. I am Very sincerely yours – Jessie E Britt.


Penciled on the back of the envelope of this letter are these words: Mildred Brown’s letter after hearing of Dale’s letter.

Mildred was the daughter of “Uncle Harry”, one of Mary Brown Melrose’s four brothers (“Aunt Anne” was Mary’s sister)

Mildred, as you may recall, was attending the University of Oregon with Dale.

The letter is postmarked January 10, 1918:

Dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Phil,

Please forgive my long delay in writing to you. I have been so shaken that it has taken me a long time to regain a normal composure.

But I want you to know a little of how much Dale was admired and respected here on the campus. He won for himself a place in the hearts of his comrades and fellows much to be envied by those less fortunate. His instructors held him in highest esteem. It is no small matter to have gained the marks in one’s work that Dale won. He was a shark in everything and was taking honors in four different subjects. After having had six weeks of French he was teaching it at Camp Lewis.

You should be very proud of having been able to give such a sou. That he should have been compelled to make the greatest sacrifice but adds to the splendor of what he has achieved. Had he been unwilling to make the sacrifice, had he hesitated an instant (?) his duty, then you might feel differently. But he was ready, eager to do his best and give his all if need be. I think that nothing has ever shown us what splendour there is in the soulds of men as this war has done. Had it never been we should have missed one of the finestspectacles it has ever been the privilege of mankind to see. I do not say that it isn’t awful and full of the most heartrending pain as well – but never before have men revealed the heights to which their sould can attain. In the manner in which men are giving up their lives for an ideal, there could be nothing more magnificent. One English boy who died in the eastern campaign phrased his feeling thus:

“If I should die think only this of we

That there’s some corner in a foreign field

That is forever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed-

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware.

Gave once her ways to roam flowers to love, her ways to roam

A body of England’s breathing English air,

Washed by rivers, blessed by — of home.”

There is more to it but I don’t remember it.


She ends her letter there, unsigned.

The full poem follows this last image of Dale’s headstone.


The Soldier

Rupert Brooke, 18871915

If I should die, think only this of me:
   That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.  There shall be
   In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
   Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
   Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
   A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
     Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
   And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
     In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.




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My brother found an interesting item when doing research on Dale. It is page 928 of an eBook: “History of Oregon” by Charles Henry Carey, pub. 1922  According to this record, Dale died of “Anaphylactic shock”. It is the only record I can find that lists that as the cause of cause of death.

What I do have is a very long letter (posted below – apologies for the length of the post). The letter is unsigned, and they didn’t keep the envelope, but it is clearly from Dale’s friend (and former teacher) J.H. Pruitt. There are more than enough clues in the body of the letter to point to the author. It is nearly 8 pages long in very fine, neat, precise cursive (five, typewritten). What follows is the letter and then the response from the Chairman from the Committee on Military Affairs, George E. Chamberlain.

361st Ambulance Co.

Camp Lewis, Wash.

Dec. 26, 1917

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Melrose;

       I received your letter yesterday. The day after Dale’s death I went to our 1st sergeant and got your address with the intention of writing to you when I got home for Xmas vacation. I felt that if I mailed the letter here and told you the whole truth about the matter that you might not get it as good deal of our mail from here is censored and is not sent on. This is done when they think the soldiers are complaining about conditions or are saying anything against the management of affairs in camp. But I am going to risk it. I shall ask you, as soon as you get this, to write to me, telling me just how many pages you receive and if any of it is blotted out. If you don’t get it at all, I’ll write again when I get home. We are still under quarantine but as this is the 8th day since Dale’s death and no new cases have developed, I think it will be lifted in two or three days.

     I met Mr. Melrose once when I was teaching in Newberg High School. I taught there three years, and Dale was in school all that time. I learned very soon to admire him very much both for his personal qualities and mental ability. he could learn anything very easily and seemed never to forget what he learned. The last year I taught there which was the year Dale graduated, I used him for my assistant in laboratory work. He was splendid in this capacity and could always be relied upon to do the work exactly as I wanted it done. I came to love the boy and we became very close friends.

      The next year he went to Whitman College as a Scholarship Student and I was very pleased to know that he kept up his splendid record there. The next year I went to school at Chicago University and lost sight of Dale. I heard after I returned to Oregon next year that he had fone to the University of Oregon and had appeared in a play at Portland. I heard nothing more of him for some time.

      I was drafted into the National Army from Forest Grove, Ore. Sept 18, 1917. I had been Principal of the High School there the year before and was to have been there again this year. When I arrived in this camp I was put into an infantry company and was there for over a month. One day I met Dale.

      I did not know that he was here. he told me where he was and asked if I would like to get into his company. As I greatly preferred to save life than to take it, I told him I would be delighted. He and I went to work at once to get my transfer. In about three weeks I obtained my release from the infantry and was sent to 361st Ambulance Company.

     Dale at once took charge of me and helped me get acquainted with the fellows. I found them a fine lot of men. The sergeant told me that I could put my bed beside Dale’s. From the first we were special friends. We took walks together, sat together during lectures, tried to be together when we marched, in fact we liked each other better than anyone else in the company. So often after the the lights were turned off for the night, we would talk for an hour or more in low tones. I always enjoyed these talks very, very much.

     I am sending you a clipping from the Eugene paper. They have things stated there as the camp doctors reported them. I have marked the places that are not correct. Here are the facts and any of the boys will tell you the same thing.

     About 8 days before his death, Dale told me he was not feeling well. The next day he looked flushed but attended drill and lectures as usual. He remarked to me, “I am not able to be out here,” when we were drilling. I asked him why he didn’t report to the sergeant that he was sick. “Would do no good,” he replied. “They won’t let a fellow off for anything as long as he can walk.” I think he reported the next morning at the 7 o’clock sick call. If not the next, it was the second morning. The sergeant tho’t he had a sore throat and told him to return to duty. That day he said to me, “I have had a fever and feel pretty bad. I really feel sorry for myself I feel so weak.” The next day (which I know was Thursday) he did not appear for lectures or drill but stayed in bed without permission from anyone. He said, “They can put me in the Guard House if they want to but I am so miserable I can hardly stand to be up.” He wore his overcoat all the time and was so hoarse he could hardly talk and his face was terribly flushed.

      I failed to mention that about two weeks before this he and about twenty others had their beds moved into a barrack across the road so that we would all have more room. I thus did not see him excepting during the day, at lectures, drill and meals and did not sleep by him as I had up to this time.

      On Friday morning the captain called us together and gave us a talk on behavior. He read a list of ten names who had violated rules recently and who were going to have their standing lowered. Dale’s name was among them. I was sitting beside him and I saw he felt greatly hurt because if the announcement. All the fellows in the company are graded, A, B, or C according to their behavior and how well they obey orders. A grade means a fellow is a splendid soldier. Dale held an A card. The Captain’s announcement meant he was to be reduced to B. I asked Dale what he had done. He said, “I stayed in bed without permission yesterday but I just couldn’t stand to be up. My fever seems to be worse all the time.” As soon as we were dismissed Dale said he was going to see the captain. The captain likely knew noting about his sickness before. I went to the office door with him, saw him go in, and thru the office door saw him salutethe saptain and in a very distressed manner say a few words to him. When he came out I asked what he said to the captain. He replied, “I told him I was all in and not able to do anything.” I wanted to know what captain said and if he spoke about being reduced from A. to B. “He did not say much of anything and I did not say anything about the reduction.”

      I don’t think they made him work that afternoon yer I am not sure. But I do know they had him out to drill again Sat. morning. He coughed all the time nearly. He said his fever seemed to be a little lower that it was. He really tho’t that he had nothing more than a very bad case or Grippe. Sat. P.M. and all day Sun. we don’t have any work so he was able to rest during that time. I didn’t see him from Sat. noon until Mon. morning. Mon. morning he reported again for sick call and our sergeant got a little alarmed about him and took him over to the base hospital for examination. they gave him their usual hurried examination which only takes about half a minute and told him to go back and work but to come over again right after noon and they would examine the lining of his throat more carefully. Before he left, however, they painted his throat with silver nitrate.

      At ten o’clock Mon. morning our Company officers gave us the usual physical examination which we all get about once every three or four weeks. The men undress and stand by their beds and the officers walk along and look us over to see that we are in good condition, are clean, that our feet are not blistered and that we have contracted no diseases. They look over our company of 120 men in about 30 or 40 minutes. On this occasion the fellows in the barracks across the road all came over to the main building, so the company would all be in a group. I told Dale to come and stand by my bed. First they called the roll. When they came to Dale’s name he answered, “Here,” as loudly as he could, but his voice was so weak I was sure they did not hear him. (That afternoon they posted his name with a few others as not being present at inspection.)

     After the roll call, we were told to undress. When Dale got his shirt off I noticed that his back was all covered as thick as could be with tiny red specks about the size of a pin head. I tho’t at once, “He looks as though he had scarlet fever,” but I did not say it to him or any one else at the time. The officer looked a moment at his back in a rather surprised manner as he came along our part of the room, yet did not seem to consider anything much wrong. After we dressed I told Dale to lie on my bed for a while and cover up if he wanted to. He said he would go back to his own bed across the road he thought.

      Afternoon he went back to the hospital and waited for nearly two hours for the doctors to come and re-examine his throat but they didn’t come, and he left, telling the attendant he would be back Tuesday morning. I sat by him during the lecture at 3:30 Mon afternoon and he told me about going to the hospital. That was the last time I saw him.

      The next morning he walked over to the hospital again. I think our sergeant went with him but I don’t know for sure about this. The doctors examined his throat again and decided that it was likely diphtheria  that ailed him.

     There is an antitoxin which is injected into the blood that greatly relieves diphtheria but which is dangerous to one whose body is weakened by some other disease. So they decided to inject the blood with some of this. They injected it and in two minutes Dale was dead. Our own Company Officers say that he had scarlet fever and was killed by the diphtheria antitoxin.

     All the above is thoroughly true and I am sure you will believe me. Any fellow in the company will tell you the same thing as far as he knows it. I likely know as much about it as any of the fellows as I was his special friend. If anything ever happens to me of this kind I want someone to write to my wife, mother and sister and tell them all about it. I felt it my duty to do the same for Dale’s folks.

    A sense of gloom settled over our compar when we heard the news. I especially felt that a true friend and brother had been taken away from me. I have felt so alone here without him. There are so many nice fellows here but none can ever take Dale’s place with me. We also feel a deep disgust with the doctors who made the awful mistake and gave him the wrong thing. If he had been allowed to stay in bed when he got sick we feel that he would be all right now. He had a very strong constitution and it was hard for a disease to get hm down. Many fellows would have been too weak to walk long before Dale’s death. If he had been given consideration when he kept telling them he was sick and given treatment I don’t think the sickness would have been very severe with him.

    Please know that you have my fullest sympathy for I believe that I feel the loss more keenly than anyone besides his parents. I’ll see that his things are sent to you. I don’t know just what he left but will speak to the officers about them and get them. If I don’t hear from you in due time I’ll take for granted that this never reached you and will repeat the whole letter when I get home for a few days.

<J. H. Pruitt’s signature has been cut off here>

The clipping states that he died at 5PM. It was 10A.M. instead. It also says he had been sick only one day. the fact is, he was sick 8 or 9 days.


The above letter was transcribed and mailed to the United States Senate Committee on Military Affairs, chaired by George E. Chamberlain (Ore. Dem.)

Mr. and Mrs. P.G. Melrose,

Caryville, Wisconsin

My dear friends:

I am in receipt of your favor of the 5th instant, with enclosed copy of a letter, from which you erase the name. I am returning it to you here-with, and beg to suggest that unless I have authority to use the name of the writer it cannot be of any assistance to me. I can readily appreciate that young men in the Service do not like to complain because it might work to their disconfiture and discredit with their Superior Officers, but I am only explaining to you that unless I can use the letter it does not help me in the situation which confronts me.

Yours very sincerely


001IMG_0448*I’d post the entire hand-written letter, but it takes up too much room!*

Photo credit for the headstone: Me. I took it in June of 2008 while visiting the cemetery in Rock Falls, WI.

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030This one page in my great grandmother’s scrapbook tells a story of one veteran’s short service.


Former University Student Dies Suddenly; Complication of Diseases Thought Cause.

Dale D. Melrose, a junior at the University last year, died very suddenly at American Lake, where he is a member of the 361st ambulance corps. The cause of death is thought to be due to scarlet fever and a throat trouble, probably diphtheria, which must have developed very quickly, for the 028boy was here on a visit two weeks ago, and seemed well then.

Dr. William Kuykendall, who returned Thursday noon from American Lake where he visited his sons, Lieutenant Robert and Captain John E., of the corps of which young Melrose was a member, believes death was caused from a complication of diseases, as he died the next day after being taken ill. He reported on the sick list Monday morning, but did not 027seem to be especially ill and was reported back for duty. He was sent to the hospital again Tuesday morning, and walked to the building, a distance of two or three blocks. He died about five o’clock in the afternoon. An examination was made after death but the result had not been given out when Dr. and Mrs. Kuykendall left.

The camp was quarantined early in the week. “It is believed,” said Dr. Kuykendall, “that none of the boys were seriously exposed to the disease, and , although they are at present in quarantine as a means of safety, they will likely be released next Monday if no further cases result.”

Young Melrose was born at Careyville (sic) Wisconsin, October 3, 1895. His parents were for some time residents of Newberg, and the boy 026attended the University of Oregon and the Eugene Bible University. Mr. and Mrs. D.G. Melrose*, the parents, have moved back to Careyville. While in the University, Dale was quite prominent in dramatic productions.

~~~~~~*P.G. Melrose – not the only error in reporting in the three obituaries saved.

Word was recieved this morning by Superintendent Stanbrough from J. H. Pruitt, formerly a teacher in the Newberg high school, but now in the service at American Lake, that Dale Melrose, a former newberg high school boy in the service, died there of a complication of scarlet fever and diphtheria. Young Melrose graduated in the class of 1914 and at that time his parents lived here Subsequently, they moved to Wisconsin 025and the son became a student in the state university at Eugene. He enlisted from Eugene. He was a very popular student of great promise and his many friends here will regret to learn of his untimely death.

~~~~~The Melroses moved back to Wisconsin prior to 1911

Funeral of Dale Melrose.

            The body of the late Dale Melrose of Rock Falls was laid to rest in the Rock Falls cemetery Wednesday afternoon. The funeral was held at the Rock Falls church, the Rev. William T. Angus of this city officiating.

Dale Melrose was born at Rock Falls October 3, 1895. In August 1910 he went to Newberg, 024Oregon, where he has since resided. He was awarded a scholarship at Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash., upon graduation from high school at Newberg. After finishing the freshman year at Whitman, he entered the university (sic) of Oregon at Olympia*, where he won many honors for scholarship, and from which institution he would have been graduated from this year, had he not answered his country’s call last August. He enlisted in the Ambulance Corps, and was stationed at Camp Lewis, near Tacoma, Wash. His ability was recognized and he was appointed by officers to teach French to the officers, which he answered the call of his supreme commander and went to his 023heavenly reward, Dec. 18. He was a member of the Presbyterian church at Newberg, Ore.

Card of Thanks

    Mere words cannot express our gratitude to the many friends and neighbors for the comfort and aid they have rendered us during our berevement (sic), the loss of our beloved son and brother, Dale Melrose. Out of your hearts came your motives to aid and comfort, and from the depths of our hearts we give you thanks. We thank the Rev. Wm. T. Angus for his words of comfort, the choir, and the many others who did what they could for us in our time of sorrow. We thank the members of the company back in Camp Lewis, Washington to which Dale belonged, 022for their floral tribute they sent as a token of their respect, and a symbol of their love for their departed comrade. We thank you all.

Philip Melrose

Mary Melrose

John Felrose**

~~~~~*University of Oregon is in Eugene, Oregon, not Olympia, Washington. **Felrose? Really? Apparently, the newspaper in Eau Claire did not employ type readers.

The story does not end here. There are more letters to my great grandparents, questions, and an official inquiry into the cause of death. I will post those things in the next few days, 021but for now, I want to leave the Reader with the bits of poetry Mary Brown Melrose put in her scrapbook on this one page dedicated to her oldest son.

Oregana obit

Crossing The Bar

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the Bar

When I put out to sea.


For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

020I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crost the bar.



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I will give my great uncle this: he had ambition. He was also very intelligent and a quick study, and it frustrated him no end to be commanded by people who were not on the same level.

Camp Lewis, Oct. 28, ’17

Dear Mother & Dad,

     Well, it is beginning to be sort of wintry out here too. We had a heavy frost last night and it is always cold in the morning. The wind blows the dust around a lot in the day time. It hasn’t rained much though and we can stand the wind and cold better than rain while we are drilling.

     The company went to Tacoma yesterday to see the football game between the Ambulance Cos and the 91st division teams. neither side scored but it would have been was a fine game anyway.

     I came back this morning but some of them are not back yet. This will be about the last time off I guess for most of us. We have orders to issue no more passes and I guess that means a closed camp.

     The base hospital force is to leave here about the 15th of December. That means that we go soon too, because as soon as the hospital is established the ambulances and field hospitals come before the main body of Troops. The draft comes in February and we must be out of here before then anyway.

    I haven’t seen either of those fellows from Montana but there are so many here that no one could be found with a fine tooth comb unless you go through headquarters and that is too much trouble. I’ll send you a picture of part of the camp soon to give you some idea of its size.

    I had some pictures taken but they did not suit me and I made the photographer refund my money. I intend to get some soon though and I’ll send you a half dozen or so.

    I just left off writing to watch an aeroplane fly over. I bet I won’t leave off writing to watch a little thing like that in a year from now.

    French keeps on as usual and I intend to start a German class this coming week at one of the Y.M.C.A. buildings (you know there are about 8 buildings in camp).

    There is to be an officer’s training camp opened here and I am going to try and apply on the strength of my French and German as well as my other experience. I don’t expect to make it but I’ll give myself all the exposure possible. I don’t figure on anything anymore, but will just keep on bulling along and it won’t hurt me any to work when there is nothing else to do in the Army but work, eat and sleep.

    After Nov. 1st it will cost us poor soldiers a cent more on all our letters. The soldiers get the bad end of it all the time. The business men prey on them, they are pestered to buy Liberty Bonds, and I don’t know what all. Above all, they are expected <to be> and are, for the most part, a bunch of rough necks.

    Well, that is enough for this time, I guess. It is the same old round here only a bit fiercer than it was a while ago.

    I have some ties and a civilian hat that I’ll send to John if he wants them. The ties need a little pressing but are all right.

Your son


~~~~Dale is correct about the postage being a burden on soldiers. After the war, in 1919, the rates dropped back down to two cents.

For some reason, there are no more letters in October and none at all in November. Dale’s next missive is dated in December:

Camp Lewis, Dec 2, 1917

Dear Mother and Dad,

     The winter has begun I guess. It snowed some last night and has been raining hard ever since Thanksgiving. We are in for it from now on.

     I inquired about my application for Officer’s Training Camp and found that it has gone on above this company. I don’t know what they said about it but to know that it has gone on is some consolation. If it gets high enough it may go through because it will strike the place where they have been told of my knowledge of French and German. I want to get out of here somewhere into the regular line. All the stuff they are teaching us here is so simple that I could learn it all in two weeks of study. In fact I knew most of it before. I don’t want to stay under command of men who know so little about commanding us as our officers do. Our new captain is the only man of them that knows anything about military things and he doesn’t have much to do with us.

    Some of our company had been moved into a different building because we were crowded in to much in the regular building. I like the new place pretty well because I have a corner and more room on the shelves, etc. I am still teaching French to the sergeants and to the class at the Y.M.C.A. Ww are getting along pretty well now. I use a lot of French in the class and make them answer in French. They know how to ask for food and handle money, ask their way and a few simple tings like that already.

    Well, there is not much to tell this time. I’ll close now. The real address is the one on the outside of this envelope but anything will get me.

Your son



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001American Lake Camp

The photo is from a news clipping in my great-grandmother’s scrap book.

Eugene,Ore. Sept. 4, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

      We got orders yesterday to report at Eugene immediately and so we came down last night. We found that we are to leave here about Thursday morning for some training camp. We don’t  know where but we think it is American Lake, Wash. which is just a little distance from Tacoma.

     I didn’t get to see anyone in Portland while I was there except a few fellows I met on the street.

     I sent my blanket and the comfort to you this morning by Parcel Post. I would not be allowed to take any baggage with me except a few things like towels and soap etc. so I couldn’t take the blanket.

    I paid the premium on the Insurance and will send it to you to take care of for me. The amount of the premium is stamped on the outside of the policy and is due in February and August. I you send my February premium, send it to Eugene. You won’t have to do that is I am in this country, but if I am not, I wish you would keep it up, because it may be hard to get money to this country.

      I will write more next time when I am in Camp and can tell you about conditions there.

Your son

Dale D.


That insurance policy was the smartest thing Dale did in his short life!


Camp Lewis, Wash. Sept 6, ’17

Dear Mother and Dad,

      We left Eugene at 4:30 this morning. We ate breakfast in Portland and got up here about 2:30 this afternoon. We have got one meal and have signed a receipt for one cot, one canvas and two blankets.

      We are quartered in large two story buildings, the lower floor is used for mess and assemblies and the upper one is for sleeping. About a hundred men are on single cots in ours. We haven’t had our uniforms issued yet but probably will have them in a few days.

     This camp is over nine miles long. There will be 15000 men here before Sunday for the drafted Army.

     I don’t think conditions will be half bad. We have a fine bunch of fellows. The grub is not as bad as it was in lots of camps I have been in. The sleeping quarters are airy and are roomy enough. But thn I’ll tell you more about it later on. The only bad thing about the place is the black dust and that will soon be taken care of because it is raining tonight a little.

    You write soon and let me know how you all are coming

Your son

Dale Melrose

Camp Lewis Wash

c/o Ambulance Corps #14


Because those are such short missives, I have opted to transcribe a third one which describes life at Camp Lewis a little. In this one, Dale mentions a “housewife”. I knew what he meant, but did a little search on the internet to see if I could find a good definition for the reader, and came across a little blog on the subject by The Costume Historian. I can only assume the young lady mentioned is Norma – but that is an assumption based on the letters I possess. I do not know for certain who he means (but when I get to the letter of 1944, I think the Reader will agree with me).

Camp Lewis, Oct 20 ’17

Dear Mother and Dad

       I am sorry that you didn’t get the letter that week because I know what it is like not to hear from people <from whom> you are in the habit of getting word regularly. I am not doing anything now but teaching French. The study of French was made compulsory in this company last week. That makes me teacher of over 100 men here besdie about 30 at the Y.M.C.A. The Director of Ambulances, a Major Southmayde asked me a few days ago if I would teach a class for officers. I told him that I would do so. It seems that I ought to be able to get something better than the job of a common “buck” private. I may use that as a card later on to draw a transfer with.

     Pruett has been sent over here and has his bed right beside me. He is in Tacoma tonight seeing his wife who has come this far with him. This draft does work a good many hardships in cases like that. Pruett doesn’t look forward to our leaving with a great deal of enthusiasm.

     I dont know whether we have had all of our shots yet or not, but I think we may have for the present. We may get more before we leave for the front.

    I wish I were a sergeant or something so that I could afford to take a trip down to Eugene and around before we leave, but it would cost me two thirds of a month’s wages to make it. “Scotty” has gone down to Eugene on a 72 hour pass.

    I was surprised to get a housewife in the mail the other day. I still have the one you made for me when I came out here, but this new one wraps up and has a fine pair of scissors, pins needles, buttons, and a lot of junk. It was from the one that wanted me to marry her a while ago. She sends me magazines all the time too. She is a valuable possession.

   Have you had any snow yet? I hope you dont have as hard a winter as you had last winter.

   I had some pictures taken yesterday and as soon as I get them I’ll send you some. They ,ay mot be very good, but they are cheap.

   I’ll quit writing for this time and go to bed.

Your son



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