Archive for the ‘World War 1’ Category


July 21, 2019

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. 


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

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!


October 5, 2014

trenchWhat:  Fighting in the Trenches: Schaumburg Township Veterans of World War I.  [An exhibit]

When:  The month of October 2014

Where:  The second floor of the Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg

Over 100 years ago, on July 28, 1914, the Great War began when Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and Russia.  For the next three years all of Europe was entangled in a messy land war that involved huge losses of life and little progression by either the Allied or Central powers.

By 1917 it had become obvious to the Allied countries that they desperately needed both the financial and manpower assistance of the United States if they were going to succeed. Up to this point, the United States had resisted joining the Allies in their fight despite the loss of 159 American lives in the 1915 incident of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.  This attitude changed when the Germans sent the Zimmerman telegram to Mexico in early 1917, promising them parts of the United States in exchange for their assistance.  Thus the die was cast for America joining the war on April 6, 1917.

A draft was soon organized on June 5, 1917 and young men across the United States from the ages of 21-31 were required to register.  Another draft followed on June 5, 1918 and included any men who had turned 21 since the prior year.  An even more comprehensive draft was held three months later on September 12, 1918 and called for any men between the ages of 18 and 45.

During these registration periods, approximately 75 men in Schaumburg Township dutifully filed their cards with the draft board.  The majority registered in the first draft on June 5, 1917 and more followed at various times in 1918.  Of this number, 26 men served and they are as follows:

  • Henry Bartels
  • Albert Fasse*
  • John Freise
  • Albert Gathman
  • Henry Harke
  • Louis Hattendorf
  • Arthur Heide
  • Ernest Heim
  • Thomas Ford Hislop
  • Herman Knake
  • Herman Kruse
  • Elmer Nerge
  • George Nerge
  • Louis Henry Nerge
  • Harley Ottman
  • Alfred Quindel
  • Justin Rose
  • Ernest Schultz
  • Emil Sporleder
  • August Stein
  • Charles Stein
  • William Stein
  • Herman Thies
  • William Thies
  • Robert Voightmann
  • William Wede

*Albert Fasse was the only soldier who did not return home.  He served as a private in the Army’s 131st Infantry Regiment of the 33rd Infantry Division and died on October 10, 1918 in the Battle of the Argonne Forest. He is buried in Romagne, France at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.

On Sunday, October 5, 1919, a welcome home celebration for the returning men was held at the Schween Oak Grove Pavilion which was located in today’s Timbercrest subdivision.  Festivities included a parade, speakers, baseball game, wrestling match, dinner and dance.

This month, October 2014, we too honor the men of Schaumburg Township who served our country so well.  It should be noted that many of the families of these men had been in this country for a mere 60 or 70 years.  Their willingness to send their sons to fight in the “war to end all wars” was a testament to their patriotism and pride in the adopted country that this close-knit community now called home.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


July 31, 2011

In August, 1918 William Thies from Schaumburg Township received a letter from the President of the United States. The letter informed him that he should report to the Village Hall in Des Plaines for induction into the military service of the United States.  World War I was raging and the Allied Forces were successfully advancing.  To finish the effort, the United States was still enforcing the draft and Mr. Thies was one of a number of men from Schaumburg Township asked to serve.

After reporting on September 4, 1918, Mr. Thies and the other inductees boarded a train for Camp Grant in Rockford.  After a short stay there, the troops made their way to Camp Hancock, GA which was near the town of Augusta.

While William was enthusiastically experiencing life outside of Schaumburg Township for the first time, his family was at home sorely missing him.  Yes, they missed his strength and his extra pair of hands but it was his warm, outgoing personality and ready conversation that was lacking in the family circle of his mother, brother and three sisters.

This letter from his brother, Henry, after victory was declared, details the family’s activities in William’s absence:

Monday December 23d 1918  8 P.M.

Dear Brother! 

[Page 1]
Received your letter of Thur. the 19th in which you think that you won’t be home for a while.  Which we don’t believe.  As we read a statement from Baker in the Tribune the other day.  In which it says that they are going to bring the number of men to be discharged from every camp up to 1000 a day.  And we can’t understand why they would not do the same with your Camp.  Am also sending you that letter from Wash. D.C. back again.  And I hope that it will do you a lot of good.  Could hardly eat dinner when I read your letter.  But we still live in hopes of seeing you soon.  It is snowing here tonight so that the ground is white already and freezing too.  And I have got only one horse sharp.  Frank/have got Prins sharp too.  But can not use him for going to Church. He might drop.  So will have to call up Troyke tomorrow morning.  If he can shoe Tom for me.  So that if something should happen to me.  The girls can go to Church.  As you know there always something on the Farm that might keep a fellow from going to Church.  And as you know they can’t drive the Kicker.  Say we are striking it lucky this year.  We don’t have to haul milk on the holidays.  Did not haul on Thanksgiving either.

[Page 2]
Will have to haul milk tomorrow.  But if Troyke has time to take the milk to Rosselle.  We have some awful roads to Meacham.  Fred was down to Melrose with Potatoes.  Which he sold in the fall.  Was always waiting for good roads.  So he could take the Truck.  But now he went with the milk wagon.  Frank Quindel had a sale today.  He is moving to Ontarioville.  Richard Gerchefsky has rented the place.  Our Engine went wild the other day.  One of the Governor brackets came loose.  And one of springs was hitting the ground so hard it threw earth right against cow barn window.  This is about all I can think of tonight.  Probably I will know more Wed night.  Say You better take a picture of Your tree when You have it fixed up.  Well as this letter will reach You after Christmas I wish that You had a merry Christmas.  Hoping that good luck will come through this paper to You.  I Remain as ever

Your loving brother

O God of love, in mercy look Now on thy chastened world,
And let the gory battle flags lie at thy Altars furled!
On all the nations far and wide Thy blessings rich increase
And make the message of the Cross
The Warden of Sweet Peace!

With that prayer at the end, the relief of having the war over and peace declared  is palpable.  The minutiae of everyday life, however, also fills the letter and certainly conveys how much he is missed—especially at this time of the year.  Considering how important Christmas church services were for these good German Lutherans, this must have been particularly tough for the Thies family.

His family’s Christmas prayers were answered, though, on January 15, 1919.  On that day William Thies Jr. was honorably discharged from the United States Army.  But, that brief, five-month period had changed him.   From that time forward, his journey from his little corner of Schaumburg Township profoundly influenced the way he farmed, raised his family and thought about the world.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library