FROM STRATFORD FARMS TO THE FRONT IN WORLD WAR I

The letter is addressed to “Doc” Bell, the cashier at the Stratford Hotel in Chicago. It is dated April 16, 1919 and it is from Corporal Harley Paris Ottman.

Before his service in the war, Harley was employed on Stratford Farms in Schaumburg Township which was located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Roselle and Wise (Wiese) Road. Stratford Farms was owned by Edwin F. Meyer and served as a source of fresh dairy, meat and produce for the Stratford Hotel in Chicago. (Read more about the farm here.)

When the United States entered World War I, Harley Ottman and Thomas Ford Hislop, another employee of the farm, were drafted to serve. Harley’s World War I draft registration card states that he was a farm laborer for E. F. Meyer in Schaumburg. He was born in 1893 to William and Estella Ottman in Wisconsin and would have been 24 years old at the time of his registration.

Thomas Ford Hislop is also listed as a farmer for E. F. Meyer on his draft registration card. He was born in 1888 in Manistee, Michigan to Thomas G. and Nettie Ford and would have been 29 at the time of his enlistment. It is stated in the December 14, 1917 issue of the Cook County Herald that “Tom F. Hislop and Harley Ottman from the Stratford Farms have enlisted in the U.S. aerial service.”

Mr. Hislop made his way to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and was formally enlisted on December 15, 1917 as part of the 270th Aero Squadron. He was then sent for training to Gerstner Field at Lake Charles, Louisiana. Having gained the rank of sergeant, he departed for France on the Matsonia on August 14, 1918 from Hoboken, NJ. According to Wikipedia, the 270th Aero Squadron served at the Colombey-les-Belles Aerodrome in northeastern France.

On the other hand, Mr. Ottman, served as a private in the 55th Infantry and left for France from Hoboken, NJ on the Leviathan on August 3, 1918. While there, Harley wrote a letter to Dr. “Doc” Bell at the Stratford Hotel.

[It is from the Bell family’s archives that we are fortunate enough to share this letter. “Doc” Bell was James Austin Bell who served at the hotel as cashier prior to his relocation to Stratford Farms. It is thought by the Bell family that he was given the nickname “Doc” because of his skill with numbers in managing the hotel. He was eventually sent to the farm with his wife Florence and their young daughter, Florence Catherine, where he served as farm manager until 1934. It is Florence Catherine Bell Randall who, fortunately, saved all of these materials that we are able to share!]

Harley sent this letter via Captain Fred W. Charles, Q.M.R.C., who was clearly a mutual friend of Harley Ottman and James Austin Bell. We can make this assumption because, written on the envelope, is a notation that says, “Greetings ‘Doc,’ I’ll be sure to talk French when I get back. Have one on me–Remember me to all my friends! F.W. Charles.” Maybe it is because Fred was a Captain or because he served with the Quartermaster Reserve Corps that he could more easily move the letter along the postal chain for Harley.

Harley’s letter is written on Salvation Army stationery and is sent from France on April 19, 1919 after the war had ended. It is written thus:

Leiseberg and Allman,
Roselle, Ill. 

Gentlemen,

When drafted, May 3, 1918, I was sorry to have to leave behind a debt of $55 on the acct. of Tom Hislop and myself, which I had wished to assume. It was for accessories and labor on our Ford car.

Now, to save time will you please correspond with my mother about this–Mrs. Wm. B. Ottman, 5659 Maryland Ave, Care of Miss F. G. Knight, Chicago, Ill. Tell her whether all or part of this bill has been paid, and if this is not the case, state in your letter that the amount you mention will pay in full the account of Tom Hislop and myself. Also please send a receipt for any money she may send you.

I got thru the war in good shape, was up at the front South of Metz for one month. Am in the 7th Division, regular army, in a Trench Mortar platoon. Am now in French Lorraine. France may be all right, but I surely would never stay over here from choice.

By the way, I met Leroy Wertz over here–came over long before I did.

I’m raring to come home, and will probably be out to Roselle in 4 or 5 months.

As ever,

Harley Ottman

This debt of $55 was either weighing on Harley and, possibly Tom, or Harley knew he was soon coming back to the states and thought he may like to seek employment at the farm. It would have been a good idea to clear up any outstanding bills with a nearby garage where he did business. He had the name of the garage slightly wrong because it was known as the Leiseberg and Ohlman Garage. But his heart was certainly in the right place.

(According to the draft registration card for Leroy Wertz, he listed Roselle as his residence when he registered on June 5, 1917. Clearly, everyone knew everyone in the Roselle/Schaumburg area.)

It was less than a couple of months later that Harley departed from Brest, France on June 12 aboard the Imperator, bound for Hoboken, NJ. He had achieved the rank of corporal during his time in Europe.

Tom Hislop had preceded him and left on April 10, also from Brest, aboard the Charleston. He had achieved the rank of Sergeant First Class.

To my knowledge, neither Tom nor Harley returned to Stratford Farms for employment. In a check of the 1920 census, two other hired men were living on the farm–which is no surprise. It would have been impossible for James Austin Bell to hold the positions open through the war.

We do know, through a bit of genealogical research, that Tom eventually married and moved to Twin Falls, Idaho where he married Mildred Boone in 1927 and had a son. Tom lived there until he passed away in 1965. Harley married his wife, Carolyn, and died in Pinellas, Florida in 1956.

Both men dutifully served their country and Schaumburg Township. Despite their brief stay on Stratford Farms, they were included in the celebration that was held on Sunday, October 5, 1919 at the Schween Oak Grove on Schaumburg Road. They, along with 22 other men from Schaumburg Township, were hailed as “Our Heroes.”

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

My thanks, once again, to the family of Florence Catherine Bell Randall in sharing a part of Schaumburg Township history that would have gone missing without these local documents. In this day and age of downsizing, we are so fortunate that Florence and her family have chosen to contribute, what I like to think of as the Bell Family archives, with both the library and those interested in our history. Never underestimate what you might have to contribute!

2 Responses to “FROM STRATFORD FARMS TO THE FRONT IN WORLD WAR I”

  1. doublegenealogytheadoptionwitness Says:

    I read his attention to small debt as a most refreshing tale of integrity

  2. Fred Luft Says:

    This is such great information to learn about these 2 guys. Doing my own Family Genealogy, it is amazing what you can learn on the WWI and WW2 draft registration cards. Just about every male in both wars had to register. There was also an old mans draft cards for those who were above the ages of those drafted. Some of the info you will learn, is the persons height, weight, hair color and eye color.

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