Oct 20

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb (part 2)

Continuing on with the letters my dad wrote home during his induction and basic training.

My dad, Herbert Miller, was 18 years old in 1944 when he volunteered for the draft. He had just graduated from Willshire High School when he spent 2 days at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio, for his pre-induction physical. He arrived at the Reception Center at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana, on or about 29 June 1944, where he was inducted into the U.S. Army. He left for basic training at Fort McClennan, Alabama, on 8 July 1944.

Herbert M. Miller, WWII.

Below are two more letters that he sent home while he was at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis.

Reception Center
Fort Benjamin Harrison
Indianapolis 16, Indiana
July 7, 1944
Dear Mom & all,

It is Friday morning here and not much to do if you know how to work it.

I’ve had K.P. for one night and two special details so far, the rest of the time I’ve been doing nothing to speak of.

Yesterday they shipped out around 800 men. They went on a troop transport. They don’t tell you until the morning when you leave and you don’t know where you are going until you arrive at the station. As I was saying this bunch that left. The train had a wreck around Chattanooga, Tennessee, close to the Kentucky border. Two cars or coaches were upset in the river and two coaches upset and caught fire. There about 20-30 Mercer Co. boys on it. We haven’t heard anymore about it except around 200 were injured and 7 or 8 killed. The ones from Mercer Co. that went that I know were Bob Andress, Floyd Brehm, Joe Solerno [?], Edson Smalley, and Luther Case. And some more I can’t think.

I got a letter from Johnnie & Clara awhile back, a card from Howards. The only reason I’m not going to write to them now is because I might be shipped out anytime. Will write to Bernice and all of them when I get stationed.

Friday-G.I. Day- the day when you get on your hands and knees and scrub out the barracks floors and latrine.

I got Helen’s letter yesterday and am sure glad that she is getting along ok with my car. Gee wizz. A Grade 1 tire! How is the Gasoline holding up?

If I’m still here Saturday I’m eligible for a pass to town maybe a 12 hr, maybe a 24 hr.

I’m writing this from the Recreation Hall here from camp. It’s crowded with G.I.s. They have a G.I. band playing now.

Must close,

P.S. You say Helen hasn’t heard from Red yet. Sure hope none of the Mercer Co. boys were hurt.

The following was the last letter he sent from Fort Benjamin Harrison, the day he shipped out to Fort McClellan, Alabama:

July 8, 1944
Dear Mom & all,
Just a line, can’t write very much. We are shipping out today. Floyd Brehm, Bob Andress, and some guys left day before yesterday. About all of the rest of the Mercer Co. guys ship out today except Hoblet.

It’s about 6:15 Sat. morning and we don’t know where we are going. I’ll write as soon as I get to the next camp.

Must close.

The train wreck my dad referred to in the first letter was one of the most deadly, if not the most deadly non-combat U.S. military accident. The Louisville & Nashville passenger train was heading south, transporting 1,006 new recruits to their first Army unit assignment at Fort Benning, Georgia. The speeding train could not make a sharp curve over the deep Clearfork River gorge near the town of Jellico, in Campbell County, Tennessee, on the Kentucky-Tennessee line. The engine and several cars plunged down the 50+ foot gorge where 44 soldiers were killed and several hundred injured. At least one Mercer County native was on-board, Clarence L. Eckstein of Celina. He was not injured and went on to serve in Europe during WWII. You can read about this disaster on-line: WWII Troop Train Wreck of July 6, 1944.

Scary to think my dad could have been on that passenger train that night.

I will continue with my dad’s letters from Fort McClennan, Alabama, next week.

Oct 17

Tombstone Tuesday–Infant Sons of J & M Bollenbacher

These are the tombstones of two infant sons of J. & M. Bollenbacher, located in row 10 of Kessler Cemetery, Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio.

Infant Sons of J & M Bollenbacher, Kessler Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio (2017 photo by Karen)

The markers are inscribed:

Son of
J. & M.
Born Nov.
24, 1888
Died Nov.
24, 1888

Infant son of J & M Bollenbacher, Kessler Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio (2017 photo by Karen)

Son of
J. & M.
Born Oct.
1, 1893
Died Oct. 2

Infant son of J & M Bollenbacher, Kessler Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio (2017 photo by Karen)

Although I cannot be certain, these are likely two sons of Jacob (1848-1929) and Margaret (Huffman) Bollenbacher (1855-1921), of Adams County, Indiana.

The boys were very likely brothers and the tombstones are nearly identical. Their births would have occurred during Margaret’s childbearing years.

According to both the 1900 and 1910 censuses Margaret had given birth to eight children. Five of their children were living in 1900 and four were living in 1910. [Their daughter Dora C. died in 1902.] These two infant boys could account for two of their three unknown deceased children. Their five living children were named in the 1900 census as August William, Dora C, Jesse Charles, Abraham, and Rosa C. [1] [2]

If these two boys were Jacob and Margaret’s children, one of their children would still be unaccounted for.

Margaret (Huffman) Bollenbacher died in 1921 and Jacob Bollenbacher died in 1929. They share a tombstone and are buried nearby, in row 8 of Kessler Cemetery. Their daughter Dora C. (Bollenbacher) Anspaugh is also buried there and her tombstone is in row 9, the next row east of her infant brother’s markers.

Infant sons of J & M Bollenbacher, 2 markers in front; their Dora C (Bollenbacher) Anspaugh’s marker behind and to the far right. (2017 photo by Karen)


[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams, Indiana, ED 4, p.6A, dwelling 104, household 104, Jacob Bullenbacher; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1240357, NARA microfilm T623, roll 357.

[2] 1910 U.S. Census, Jefferson, Adams, Indiana, ED 4, p.2A, dwelling & family 29, Jacob Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1374351, NARA microfilm T624, roll 338.

Oct 13

Dear Mom & All–WWII Letters from Herb

A few weeks ago I purchased a book, Home Front to Battlefront, An Ohio Teenager in World War II, by Frank Lavin. Frank’s father Carl Lavin was from Canton, Ohio, and was a high school senior when Pearl Harbor was attacked. When Carl turned 18 he enlisted in the Army and eventually was part of the 84th Infantry Division, the Railspliters, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The book is based on Carl’s personal letters, his recollections and those of the people he served with, official military history, and private papers.

This book is of special interest to me because that is almost the same WWII experience that my dad, Herbert Miller, had during the war.

My dad volunteered for the draft in 1944, when he was 18 years old, and was drafted in May 1944. After his basic training he sailed to England and from there went to the Replacement Depot in France, where he was put in the 84th Division, 333rd Company, Infantry, on 23 December 1944.

Herb Miller, U.S. Army veteran, WWII.

My dad and Carl Lavin would have had very similar experiences during the war. As I read through the book I recognized the names of European towns and places that my dad had also mentioned.

A large portion of the book contains transcriptions of the letters Carl wrote and sent home during the war.  Likewise, my grandparents saved many of the letters my dad wrote and sent home during that same time. We found a large stack of those letters among my dad’s papers last year. I was thrilled and thankful that they had saved them after all this time.

I have sorted through the letters, put them in chronological order, and inserted them in sheet protectors. They fill at least 3 3-ring binders. The Lavin book has given me the inspiration to do something similar—to transcribe my dad’s letters and put some of them in blog posts.

With Veterans Day less than a month away I thought this would be a good time to start the project.

My dad said he volunteered for the draft mainly because he wanted to go into the Army with his friend Donald Hoblet.

The Willshire Herald, 25 May 1944.

From The Willshire Herald, 25 May 1944:

Mercer county young men called for their pre-induction physical examination include Herbert Melvin Miller, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Miller, south of Willshire, who reported Monday at Fort Hayes, Columbus, O., for that purpose; Dale Caffee, son of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Caffee, and Blaine High, son of Mrs. Hershel White, both of south of Willshire, who left Wednesday for their first appearance before the medical examiners. Homer Alan Koontz, son of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Koontz, of Rockford, and husband of the former Miss Martha Byer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L.O. Byer of near Willshire, is another Mercer countian called for pre-induction examination. 

My dad spent 2 days at Fort Hays in Columbus.

He then spent a week at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana. These two letters are from his time spent there. The first letter indicates that he was inducted with some other friends from the area.

30 June 1944, from Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana

Letter postmarked 30 June 1944, 9:00 a.m., Indianapolis, Indiana. There was no postage stamp. Instead FREE was written in place of a stamp.

Addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR #1, Willshire, Ohio
From: Pvt Herbert Miller 35845400
Company A, Reception Center
Fort Benjamin Harrison
Indianapolis 16, Indiana

Stationery letterhead: Company A, Reception Center
Fort Benjamin Harrison
Indianapolis, 16, Indiana

Dear Mom & all,

It is now 3 o’clock in the afternoon and we are off for awhile. We were held over at Greenville for 3 hours 48 minutes and hold over at Indianapolis for 15 minutes. We had another phys exam last night and today were sworn in and inducted today. We are waiting to get our uniforms. We will get 2 winter uniforms, 2 sun tan uniforms, 1 fatigue, 1 helmet, and 2 or 3 overseas hats. Tonight Betzel and me are going to a show. Do not write as we are only being held here while we are processing and will be sent somewhere else, so don’t write until I get situated at another camp. It may be anywhere from 10-20 days before we leave here. The eats are good and this is a swell [?] place. We got separated, Hoblet, Case, Brehm, Betzel, and me. Hoblet and Case and Brehm are together in Roster 1176, Betzel and me are in 1177. Each day there is a new group of recruits coming in and they keep saying to them “you’ll be sorry.” They just say it for fun. Roster 1176 has their uniforms already. Betzel is writing to his folks, too. We haven’t had any work to do yet.

Now about processing, it is something [?] so you can get acquainted with military terms and things. Must hurry. Our number was just read to get uniforms, so will close.


Pvt. Herbert M. Miller
Company A Barracks 2
Reception Center
Ft. Benjamin Harrison
Indianapolis 16, Ind.

5 July 1944

Letter postmarked 5 July 1944, Indianapolis, Indiana. Addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Miller, RR #1, Willshire, Ohio.

Return address:

Herbert Miller 35845400
Company A, Barrack 2
Reception Center
Ft. Bej. Harrison,
Indianapolis, IN

4 July 1944

Dear Mom & all,

This is the fourth of July. I’m not on K.P. today or any detail today so I am staying in my bunk in case they call for me to “dive-bomb.” That means to walk around looking for cigarette butts and matches. You see we have a loud speaker system in every barrack and they call over it “all men not processing or on Detail work fall out between A-2 & A-3,” and that includes me if there is any odds or ends. This kind of work is trimming hedges, watering the grass with garden hose, or mowing the lawn. It doesn’t take over 2 hrs in the morning and about 2 in the afternoon and [?]. What are you all doing over the fourth of July?

Well they gave the call and it took 15 minutes as I was off for the rest of the morning.

Me and pvt[?] Knapke went to the recreation hall and listened to the music. He is from Minster, Ohio, and went the same day we did. The boy from Pittsburgh, Pa I was telling you about shipped out today.

I have some clothes to wash today. A towel, 2 sets of underwear, & handkerchiefs.

General Summerville[?] is coming out here at camp today so everything is being scrubbed and cleaned. We have plenty of ice cream, pop, candy, and [?] to eat. It cost quite a lot, but it is cheaper than back home. Now I don’t mean I’m running out of money because I‘ve only spent a couple of $.

They brought a bunch of men in from camp Atterbury last night around 3 o’clock.

Well it is about time for chow.

I wrote to Em & Norval this morning and also Johnnies. I’m not going to write very many letters until I get situated because the mail I would receive might get lost.

Got my pictures today from the photo shop so am sending them to you. You can send Ruth & Bob one if you wish. They aren’t very good.

Has it rained out there lately? How are the crops coming along?

Johnnies wrote and said you got my tire for the Chevy. Was it a first grade tire?

Have you had any trouble with the car? Well must close or miss dinner.

P.S. Don’t forget to check the water in the car.

More letters next week.

Oct 10

Tombstone Tuesday–Mildred B. Bollenbacher

Mildred B. Bollenbacher, Kessler Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio. (2017 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Mildred B. Bollenbacher, located in row 9 of Kessler Cemetery, Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Mildred B.
Dau of
Abe & Amanda
Died Dec. 7, 1914
6y, 6m, 3d
Our Darling

Mildred B. Bollenbacher was born 4 June 1908, as calculated from her tombstone and according to her death certificate. She was the daughter of Abraham and Amanda (Brush) Bollenbacher. Her death certificate indicates that she was born in Ohio. [1]

The 1910 census, the only census Mildred was enumerated in, reports that she was born in Indiana. In 1910 her parents Abraham and Amanda had been married 3 years and lived in Hopewell Township, Mercer County, Ohio. Their household in 1910: Abraham, 26; Amanda, 21; and Mildred, 1 year and 11 months. This enumeration indicates that Abraham was born in Indiana and that Amanda was born in Ohio. Abraham farmed and they rented their home. Mildred was the couple’s only child at this time. [2]

I found very few records about Mildred Bollenbacher during her short lifetime. The family did not attend Zion Lutheran at Chatt and I was unable to locate her birth record on-line.

Mildred Bollenbacher died at 10:00 p.m. on 7 December 1914 in Hopewell Township, likely at the family home. She died from pressure on brain due to spina bifida. She was buried on the 9th and Ketcham Funeral Home, Rockford, Ohio, was in charge of the arrangements.

Mildred is buried one row west of where her parents are buried.

Mildred had one sister, Isabel B (1919-2000), who was born several years after Mildred’s death. Isabel eventually married Gerald L Lautzenheiser.


[1] “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch.org, Mildred B Boolenbaucher, 7 Dec 1914; Hopewell, Mercer County, FHL microfilm 1983288.

[2] 1910 U.S. Census, Hopewell, Mercer, Ohio, ED 115, p.8A, dwelling & family 156, Abrams Bollenbacher; Ancestry.com; FHL microfilm 1375227, NARA microfilm T624, roll 1214.

Oct 06

Schumm Elevator Burned, 1972

The year was 1972 and there was a big fire in the little village of Schumm, Ohio.

Recently I wrote a couple blog posts about the Willshire Grain & Supply elevators that were located in Willshire, Wren, and Schumm for several decades, from the1940s to the early 1980s.

My mom worked as a bookkeeper at the elevator in Willshire for 33 years. The owner, Tom Burk, closed the Schumm elevator in the mid-late 1960s and sold the other two elevators in 1981. The Wren elevator closed not long after the sale and was eventually torn down.

The Willshire elevator is still standing but the one in Schumm was burned down in 1972.

It should come as no surprise that my parents were there that day, taking photos as they burned the Schumm elevator.

Here are some photos from that day:

Schumm Elevator, 1972, looking southeast.

The Schumm elevator was located near the railroad tracks that once ran east and west on the north edge of town. My mom said there was a railroad spur going to the elevator.

Schumm Elevator, 1972.

Does someone know if that is the Schumm sawmill off to the right, back a distance?

It was a controlled burn and practice for both the Willshire and Wren Fire Departments.

Schumm Elevator burn, 1972.


Schumm Elevator, 1972.

Schumm Elevator, 1972.

Schumm Elevator, 1972.

A crowd, young and old, gathered to watch the burning.

Schumm Elevator, 1972.

The railroad tracks are no longer there either.

These photos may bring back some memories of the Schumm elevator.


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