Saturday, December 22, 2018

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Blog Mirror: Lex Anteinternet; Two Casualties of Belleau Wood, Taking a Closer Look. Part One. Frank O. Engstrom. Union Pacific Fireman

Two Casualties of Belleau Wood, Taking a Closer Look. Part One. Frank O. Engstrom.

Recently on our companion blog, Some Gave All, we posted a photo essay on Belleau Wood, France.  We linked that post in here the other day.

Like the poem In Flanders Fields related, in the photos you can see "row on row" of crosses marking the graves of the lost.  Each one of those combatants has his own story of a life that was cut short.  Here we look at just two such lives, however, and for particular reasons.

We start with Pvt. Frank O. Engstrom of Rawlins Wyoming.

Indeed, we posted a little on Pvt. Engstrom the other day on another of our companion blogs, Today In Wyoming's History. We'll start again with that entry.

Some Gave All: Belleau Wood, France. Frank O. Engstrom.

Some Gave All: Belleau Wood, France:

This is a selection of photographs from a much larger entry on our companion blog, Some Gave All.  These feature the chapel at Belleau Wood and are linked in here to note the listing of a Wyoming soldier, a member of the 1st Division, who lost his life at Belleau Wood.

Frank Engstrom entered the service from Rawlins.

Lest we forget.

So there we have a little more, but still not much.  Who was Pvt. Engstrom of Rawlins and what was his life like?

It's not all that easy to tell much about him, but we can tell a little. To start with, he was a 21 year old native of Rawlins Wyoming who was employed as a fireman for the Union Pacific Railroad when he entered the Army as a conscript.  And he'd lived a pretty hard life, by modern standards, up until that time.

Fireman. This photograph is from 1942 and isn't of Frank Engstrom, who had been dead for over twenty years. But the job was the same in 1942 on coal burning steam locomotives.  This fireman in 1942 appears to have been about the same age as Engstrom was when he entered the service in 1917.

According to his draft registration card, Frank Engstrom was born on April 15, 1896, in the town of Rawlins.  He was, according to that draft card, of medium height and medium build, with light brown eyes and brown hair.  He was a single man, but according to his draft card, attested to in Laramie County (not Carbon County) he was supporting his mother when registered for the draft.

In the twenty-one years that passed between his birth and death, Engstrom saw his share of tragedy.

By the time he was conscripted his father, August Engstrom, had died.  We can't easily tell from what, but he was still alive at the time of the 1910 census and was about 43 years old at that time, not all that old.  He didn't make it to 53.  While I can't tell for sure, given the names of the children and the last name, August was likely born in Sweden and had immigrated to the United States.  He died sometime between 1910 and 1917 leaving his wife, Mary, and four children.  The ages of the children at the time of his death are unknown, as the date of his death is unknown.

In the 1910 Census August and Mary reported their son Frank's name as "Franz", although that may be a handwriting glitch.  Both names are fairly Nordic and either could be correct.  In 1910 the August and Mary Engstrom family had two other children, Olga (1899) and Effie (1896).  A John and "Ostrend" would come later, with John being born in 1901 or 1902.  "Ostrend" was younger than that, and that odd name wasn't her name.  Her name was Astraid and she was born in 1906.*

The November 4, 1915 Rawlins Republican reported that Frank was at the wedding of his sister Effie, who married a Wyoming State Prison Guard, Alex Gordon just before then.  He was accompanied by his sister Olga, then 14 or 15 years old.  That prior July the Republican reported that Frank had been in Laramie as a "business visitor", at which time he would have been 19 years old.  His sister Effie was about 15 or 16 at the time of her marriage to Alex.

There were quite a number of Engstrom's in Carbon County Wyoming, and indeed there still are an appreciable number.  Chances are high that Frank is related to some of the Engstrom's still there, although none of them would be his direct descendants.  His sisters had strongly Scandinavian names and that suggests his parents, as noted, were from Sweden, given his last name.  Indeed, a John Engstrom, but not his younger brother, was a wine merchant in Rawlins at the time and did sufficiently well to return to Sweden for a year with his family after World War One. That Engstrom was still living in Rawlins at the time of the 1940 census, then age 63.

In 1915 Frank's sister Effie married Alex Gordon, a  guard at the penitentiary in Rawlins.  She was two years younger than he was, having been born in 1898.  She was a young bride at about 15 or 16 years of age (more likely 16).  While that seem shockingly young, its worth remembering that its quite likely that by 1915 Frank was supporting his mother, brother and three sisters.  One sister marrying at that time probably didn't seem unreasonable under the economic circumstances of the day.

By August 8, 1917, Frank was notified to report for a draft physical at the Carbon County Courthouse.

He was apparently found physically fit for service, but applied for an exemption on the basis that he was supporting his mother and younger siblings.  That request was granted by the local draft board.  Indeed, it seems only reasonable that this be done.

Frank Engstrom was notified that he was likely to be conscripted, however, by October 18, 1917.  Apparently his exemption has been waived or reconsidered in some fashion.  It's hard to know what, given that two of his siblings remained quite young.  Apparently he either reconsidered his circumstances himself, or perhaps other family members were deemed the proper parties to take up the economic burden of the young Frank.

He departed Rawlins on Saturday November 8, 1917 on a train owned by his employer ,the Union Pacific, with fourteen other men who were entering the service and who were bound for Camp Lewis, Washington.

The prior day the band from Hanna Wyoming traveled over to send them off after a banquet at which they played and which was held at the Ferris Hotel. The Elks Club served the men and their families.  That night they could view, if they wanted to, the movie The Slacker for free, as the theater owner had opened up attendance for them.  We don't know if Engstrom went or not.

The Strand Movie Theater in Rawlins.  It was the theater in 1917.

On September 28, 1918, Pvt. Engstrom was reported Missing In Action, with that news released to the public after the war was over, on December 7, 1918.

Frustratingly, only a few days later he was reported as only "slightly wounded".

The May 8, 1919, Rawlins Republican reported the sad news that Frank was confirmed killed in action.  It would later be determined that he was the first man in Rawlins to have died in action, with his death coming on July 19, 1918.  The slowness of confirming news of battlefield casualties, which was already a topic of controversy late in the war, is shown by the fact that Engstrom died on July 19, but was reported as missing in action as late as September, with his death not confirmed until after the war.

It must have been awful for his sisters.

By that time, his mother and his sister Olga had already died before him. We don't know of what, but we do know that it occurred after he left for service in France.  His mother Mary was likely in her 40s.  Olga was three years younger than Frank.  Chances are high that they both died of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.  Their ages and circumstances would have been right for that.

In November 1919, the newly formed VFW post was named after him.  Sometime prior to 1926 another Rawlins serviceman by the last name of Duncan had his name named to the post.

Effie Gordon continued to live in Rawlins after the war.  She and her husband had a son in 1919. They named him Frank.  Alex became the County Coroner for Carbon County.  Effie became active in Democratic politics and still was as late as 1960.

A John Engstrom was reported in the 1940 census still living in Rawlins at age 63, but that was certainly not Frank's brother and more likely the (former?) wine merchant who had returned to Sweden for a year after the passage of the Volstead Act in which to tour it. Was he related.  He may well have been, given the propensity for immigrants and immigrant families to settle near their fellow expatriates and family. But there were a lot of Engstroms in Carbon County and its not easy to tell.  Another John Engstrom was reported living there as well who was 33 years of old,  having been born in 1910.  That was likely Frank's brother.

Today the VFW Post in Rawlins is the Independence Rock Post.

It seems they forgot him after all.

So is this a sad story?

Well, maybe, maybe not.  Maybe its the story of how life was at the time.  This seems to be how veterans of the war viewed it themselves.


*There's some slack in the details as to John and Astraid (Ostrend) Engstrom, and more slack as to Astraid/Ostrend.  Ostrend would be a very unlikely name and is more like a place name, when naming people after locations would have been highly unusual.  Astraid, on the other hand, was a name then in use and which sounds somewhat similar.  There was an Astraid Engstrom of the right age living in Rawlins at the time and she was young enough to have been in 8th Grade in 1921.  She wasn't, we'd note, the only Astraid living in Rawlins at the time as an Astraid Peterson also was.

In the 1920 census both John and Astraid are simply listed without parents, which would have been common for orphaned children.

Capping it off, however, the social notes of the Wyoming Times of Evanston reported that Mrs. Alex Gordon and her sister "Miss Astraid Austin", both of Rawlins, were reported visiting her brother, "Alex Engstrum" of Evanston.  We are totally unaware of there being an "Alex Engstrum" in this picture and we suspect that Alex Engstrum was John Engstrom, and that the first name was a typographical error.  If it was, we also suspect that John moved back to Rawlins. Alternatively, there could have been an unreported male relative in this scenario.  It's pretty clear, however, that "Mrs. Alex Gordon" of Rawlins was Effie Gordon who had one sister, and therefore its pretty clear that the sister's name was Astraid.  The new last name would suggest that she was adopted into a family named Austin in light of her still being a minor.  The degree to which that might have been informal would be reflected by school notes from the following year reporting her name once again as Astraid Engstrom.  On the other hand, the reporter might not have been great and may have confused Engstrom with Austin.

Regarding John, there were a number of John Engstrom's living in Rawlins at the time and therefore there are additionally a number of possible birth dates, although we are certain that this was his name.

All of these individuals trails are ultimately lost. There are enough Engstroms left in Carbon County to make us suspect that the descendants of these folks are still there, but we can't tell from the slim resources we had to make this post.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Denver Tramway Power Company Building.

This very large structure was built by the Denver Tramway Power Company, a subsidiary of the Denver Tramway, to supply electricity to its network of electric trams in Denver. The giant building was constructed in 1901.

We don't often think of the physical plant that trolley cars of any kid require, but this structure gives us a pretty good example. The building was used as a power generating facility for fifty years, at which time the railway stopped operating (it has since been replaced by a new rail system operated by Denver's RTC).

After the Denver Tramway quit using it, it was used by International Harvester for a time.  Today, however, the giant open building is occupied by the Denver outlet for the recreational equipment co-op REI, replacing a smaller store that occupied a former grocery store in Aurora.

The rail lines still exist and are still in operating condition.  There's presently an effort to secure train service locally near REI, adding to Denver's extensive rail network.

 Storm drain outlet which a graffiti artist had made resemble a cat's head.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lex Anteinternet: Company B, 27th Infantry, at Khabarofsk. November 15, 1918.

Company B, 27th Infantry, at Khabarofsk. November 15, 1918.

Soldiers of Company B of the Twenty-seventh Infantry waiting to unload supplies from Russian box cars at the railroad yards at Khabarovsk, Siberia, during the Allied Siberian Expedition on November 15, 1918.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Blog Mirror: Lost Rail

I honestly thought I had posted a link on the side bar here to Lost Rail.

I hadn't.

My failure to do so is absolutely inexcusable.  Lost Rail is art, both visually and in terms of the beautiful writing that it features.

Well, I corrected my oversight, but it's an inexcusable omission.

If you are going to check out one railroad blog, check out Lost Rail.  If its a contest between this one, and that one, it's no contest.  Lost Rail is great.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Stop at Powder River.

The Burlington Northern stops frequently near Powder River Wyoming. 

Not at a station. There isn't a station anymore, but just before the small town.  This long coal train was resting there when we went by the other day.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Abandoned Chicago & Northwestern line, Powder River, Wyoming

This is an unusual picture if you know what you are looking at.  In the distance, you can see an abandoned Chicago & Northwestern rail bed.  The line provided rail service from Casper to Lander starting in 1906, but its fortunes declined when it lost the U.S. Mail freight in 1943.   Shortly after that the Chicago & North Western began to run on the Burlington Northern line between Casper and Shoshoni, which still exists and most of the rail pulled.  In 1972 the portion of the rail between Lander and Shoshoni was abandoned for the most part, although a small local line still runs in the Shoshoni area.

This photograph not only shows the 1906 to 1943 rail bed, but also part of the original state highway that has been moved here and there in favor of a better road grade, as well as the current highway.   The old highway is to the right, the new one to the left.  The Burlington Northern is just a few miles to the north, but of course can't be seen in this south facing photograph.

This photo has made me realize how many rail locations I pass by all the time and haven't posted here.  This entire line is one I frequently encounter and could have posted long ago, and its not the only one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Lex Anteinternet: Mid Week At Work: "The personnel of General Pershing's special train, which is under the direction of the Q.M.C. / Signal Corps U.S.A. August 22, 1918."

Mid Week At Work: "The personnel of General Pershing's special train,  which is under the direction of the Q.M.C. / Signal Corps U.S.A. August  22, 1918."

"Left to right: Rear row: Pvt. l/c H.C. Cullars, Pvts. J.S. Banks, E.A. Smith, T.J. Cooksey, Sgt. Paul Ackwith, Adjt. R.P. Fenelon, (French Army) Sgt. 1/c Roy Wilson, Pvt. C.C. Guiral, Bugler H.C. Trobee. Front row: Sgt. C.C. Crosby, Pvt. l/c S.V. Wiley, Pvt. J.P. Bascou, Cook C.W. Brissett, Cpl. T.A. Johns, Pvt. l/c C.F. Atz, Civilian Cook G. Parrand, Pvt. A. Reed, Captain Earl L. Thornton, Q.M.C. in charge."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

Holscher's Hub: Echos of Parco. Sinclair Wyoming.

From our companion blog; Holscher's Hub: Echos of Parco. Sinclair Wyoming.:

This is linked over here as it fits in quite well with the theme of the blog.  Parco was a company town, as noted below, built by a refining company in 1924-25.  The luxury hotel  was built by the company on the then fairly new Lincoln Highway, and the town no doubt benefited as it was also a stop on the Union Pacific.  Only seven miles away from the larger and older town of Rawlins, the Interstate Highway bypasses it and its a remnant of its former self.

Not too many people stop at Sinclair who are just passing through.  But at one time that wasn't true.  And that's why the town has what was once a luxury hotel (now a Baptist church), a spacious park, really nice tennis courts, and the like.  Only the sign on the hotel remains, as well as a historical monument, to remind us that Sinclair is the town's second name.  It was originally Parco, a company town founded by the founder of what is now the Sinclair Refinery, the Producers & Refiners Corporation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Burlington Northern, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.

These are photographs of the Burlington Northern as it runs through the Wind River Canyon, or rather at the head of the canyon.   The canyon is fairly long and the rail line, and the State highway, run throughout its length.