Letters Home: James Francis Smith, 1893-1918

Francis Smith wrote home to his mother in October 1918.  He wrote a casual, friendly letter and mentioned his desire to come home to see her.  He couldn’t come, he said, because of a restriction on train travel due to concerns over influenza.

The Skidmore News printed that letter, and the October 24, 1918 edition printed the heartbreaking follow-up:  James Francis Smith’s obituary.  One of Skidmore’s boys was taken by the war – in this case, by influenza in Camp Funston where he waited for orders to deploy.  It isn’t a letter home, strictly speaking, but we offer the obituary here in his memory.  From the October 24, 1918 Skidmore News, page 1:

James Francis Smith.

Last Thursday afternoon a message came over the wires telling of the first death in the number of soldier boys who have gone out from our midst to fight the country’s battles.  This message conveyed the sad intelligence to Mr. and Mrs. Sterling P. Smith that their son, James Francis, had passed away at one o’clock that day in the hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, of pneumonia which followed an attack of Spanish influenza.

Francis was born on the farm now owned by Oren Masters, February 21, 1893 and had reached the age of 25 years, 7 months and 28 days when he answered the final summons.

He spent his early boyhood near Skidmore, later going with the family to Broken Bow, Nebraska, where he resided on a farm until about three years ago when the family returned to this vicinity and resided on the Mrs. B. F. Bagby farm until the call of his country came and he enlisted in the service leaving Maryville April 2 of this year.  A greater part of the time since going to camp he has served as mounted police.

The body arrived in Skidmore on the Sunday afternoon train, accompanied by June Blagg, and was immediately taken to the family home where it remained until Monday morning at 10 o’clock, when it was taken to Maryville and laid away in St. Mary’s cemetery under military rites conducted by the following members of the Maryville Home Guard:  Sergt. I. E. Tullock, Solon Clark, Ellwood Barrett, Frank Schumacher, Edgar Rhodes, L. B. Tracy, W. F. Donahue, A. D. Strong, Harold Stafford and Lawrence Shanks.

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