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Chester Merle Tooley, World War I soldier

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BIOGRAPHY. Chester merle Tooley was born February 5, 1899 in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois and is the only son of Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Tooley of Wellington, Kansas. He moved from Illinois to Wellington with his parents when he was only three years old and has lived there ever since. He graduated from the grade schools there and was attending the Sumner County High School when he answered his countrys call and was one of the fist Wellington boys to volunteer and enlist in “L” Company, which was organized in Wellington. Was mustered into the Service in August, 1917 and entrained for Camp Doniphan, Ft. Sil, Oklahoma September 25, 1917 where they were  trained un-til the following April when they entrained for Camp Mills, New York. They sailed on the British ship “Adriaic” and arrived in France May 7, 1918. Chester was a very prominent in athletics, especially foot ball and basket ball and made first team in both. Up to the time of his enlistment he managed an Eagle route in Wellington and attended school He was in the Agonne Forest drive five days and five night and was slightly gassed. Was taken to Base Hospital no. 58 at Rimaucourt, France for treatment where he remained for about three months. His address while in France was Private Chester M. Tooley, “L” Co., 139 U.S. Infantry, 35 Div., A. E. F.


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Rom Estelle Tooley, 616 North “C” Str., Wellington, Kans. WELLINGTON, KANS. OCT 21 12-30 P 1919 Wiliam E. Connelley, Sec’y. Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.


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On board ship. May_____1918. Dear Mother & Folks:- Well, here I am nearly at the end of my trip. I guess we will land either tomorrow or the next day. I don’t know where we will land and I couldn’t say if I knew, as the censors do not allow us to mention any names or dates. We certainly had a fine voyage. I didn’t get a bit sea sick. The first two days out the sea was as smooth as could be, then it was pretty rough for three days, but since then it has been fine. There were twelve ships in the fleet, including a cruiser. I waited tables in the midship dining room. We have been on the ship ten days al-ready. For the last three days we have been compelled to stay on deck from 4 o’clock A.M. until 8 o’clock P.M. with our life belts on in case any-thing should happen. We were joined this morning by ten destroyers, which are escorting us on our way. When we left Camp Mils I had no idea we would leave for at least a week, but they put us right on a ship and sailed. I wouldn’t take anything for this experience and the sights I am seeing. The eats didn’t taste just right the first few days we were on the ship, as the English don’t season their food the same as we do. Oville Spahr and I have a room together. Several of the boys have mandolin and guitars, which pass the time away. Well, I must close, but will write as soon as I land. With love to all. Your son, Chester. MOTHER’S DAY LETTER. May 12, 1918. My dear Mother and All:- This is Mother’s Day and as I have a little spare time I will write you a few words. I am well and ‘rarin to go. We received our barrack bags this morning and tuned in everything but what we can carry in our packs. (Depleted) baseball team and they beat us 5 to 4 in twelve innings. I pitched and Delbert McCabe from Riverdale caught.  We received new riles and bayonets this morning. I think I have seen troops from every nation there is. We saw a great number of German prisoners when we got off of the boat and they looked like animals to me. I feel satisfied and am glad I am over here. We are on English rations but I guess we will get American rations as soon as we get to our perma-nent camp. Tell all of the boys to write to me, as I would sure like to hear from them. I have mastered a few words in French already and will be able to talk it good when I come back, as it is almost like Latin. I was talking to some English Tommies last night and they said this division was the huskiest and best disciplined American troops that had come over here. Of course, I am just taking their word for it. Well, this is about all for this time. With love to all. Your son, Chester.


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EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS. May 18,, 1918. Dear Dad and All:- Well, Dad, how is everything in old Wellington by now? I am OK and getting along just fine. We are stationed in a small village and have our sleeping quarters in barns. We havn’t had a pay day yet, but I guess we will have one before long. I had an awful time when we first got here, trying to make the people understand what I wanted. Now, I have mastered enough French to make them understand me.  They put a British Canteen here yesterday and we can buy cigarettes, cigars, candy, cake and toilet articles Two other boys and I sleep out in an orchard, as the nights are warm. We drill in our shirt sleeves, as the days are sure hot. We went swimming yesterday afternoon in a little creek about 21/2 miles from town. The water was as cold as ice, but I sure did feel good when I got out. We had an in-spection of rifles this afternoon. I don’t guess I will go to Church here, as they have only a Catholic Church. I havn’t received any mail for 26 days, but I guess we will get some mail in a day or two, as they cleaned out a building this morning to put the post office in. It sure looks odd to see the houses and barns built together and a high brick wall around them. The crops around here look as fine as can be, but the soil looks like it wouldn’t raise a thing, as it is clay and very rocky, but the climate is such that they have fine crops. I was on detail all morning digging a target pit out to the rifle range. With love to all. Your son, Chester. July 12, 1918. Dear Mother and All:- We have been working pretty hard lately, but we have been getting good feeds, so have nothing to kick about. I was marked light duty today on account of a sore foot, but will go out to drill in the morning. You wanted to know how much a litre was. It is about the same as a quart. I drew my-self a brand new out-fit today, so I am ‘rarin to step now. Huckleberries just cover the mountain sides and they are sure good eating. I run across a fellow this afternoon that I used to lay basket ball against. He knew me when he first saw me. He used to play with Tonkawa. With love, Chester. Sept. 20, 1918. We have been on the move ever since I received your letters so I did not get to write you until this morning. We hiked all one morning, ode in tucks all afternoon and that night, and hiked yesterday until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Of course it had to rain nearly all the time we were moving. We are camped in our shelter tents in some woods, but I do not think we will stay here long though. We did not have a bite to eat yesterday until nearly 8 o’ clock last night. Everyone was worn out, wet and hungry when we arrived here, but not a fellow growled about anything. As soon as we got here every-one pitched their tents and got a little sleep, then after supper the quartet sang. All of the fellows know the war cannot be won without some hardships, so they just take things as they come. No matter whether it is pouring down rain, or the sun is shining, they are always smiling. Not even Kaiser Bill can make this bunch hesitate one minute. Your Loving son, Chester. Somewhere in France, Aug. 11, 1918 Dear Sister:- Tell Dad that I have seen a few “Fritzies”, but have not had a chance to get close enough to give them his congratulations as yet, but hope to soon though, although I send t hem a greeting once in awhile to let them know I have not forgotten them. Sept. 8, 1918. We just arrived at our present location. This is a pretty good town. It is the best place we have stopped in since we have been across. It has a


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Aug. 11, 1918 continued. Population of about 15,000 and the people seem to be better educated. There are some factories and large smelters here. We are only 15 kilometres from a city of over 500,000. This is a very level country around here with only a few hills scattered around. The water here is not as good as it was in the hills, but the beer is sue keen. Oral McFarland and I sure struck it lucky yesterday evening. We run across a Frenchman, who could talk a little English, and he invited us to go home to supper with him. Of course we did and certainly had a fine time. We had the finest feed I have had since I have been across and were ar a real table. This is Sunday and we are going down to theit house or supper tonight and spend the evening. I was on detail loading the battalion supplies the night and day before we started on our trip and I was so sleepy when we started on our hike that I went along about half asleep. There is a large canal here. There are about 8000 girls working in the factories here besides the men and boys. We have a fine place to stay here. It is a three story building and has nice rooms in it. The bees over here are certainly ill-mannered. Any time that we have jam for mess the bees swarm around just like they were going to hive. Your Bud, Chester.


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November 12, 1918. My dear Sister and All: I thought I would write you a few lines to make up for the time when I did not write to you. I am feeling pretty good today and am sitting up in bed for the first time. Am feeling fine and dandy, but I am taking no chances on catching more cold. The Red Cross issued us a box of cigarettes apiece this morning. I am busy from morning till night writing letters and reading books and magazines. I am so far behine in my correspondence that I do not think I will ever catch up with it. The outcome of the war certainly does look favorable doesn’t it? I guess the poor old Kaiser is finished forever. One of the divisions of Americans, which is stationed close to the hospital, put on a big parade last night. The band played and they had a great time I guess. We have all kinds of books here and I am in paradise for I would rather read a good book than to eat. They took all of my clothes away from me when I came to the hospital and I have all of my possessions in a little bag which the Red Cross gave to me. With love to all. Your bud, Chester.


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November 15, 1918. My dear Dad and All:- Well Dad how are you getting along by now? All right I suppose. I am feeling better every day. The only trouble with me is that my appetite is so enormous that I cannot get enough to eat. When I first came to the hospital I would not eat hardly anything, but now I eat just as long as they will bring me anything to eat. I suppose it is getting pretty cold in the states by now, isn’t it? It is getting so the days are quite a bit cooler here than they were a couple weeks ago. I smoked yesterday for the first time in a little over two weeks. It sure did taste bitter. Guess I will have to learn to smoke all over again. I is certainly pretty out today. The sun is shining and it is quite a bit warmer than usual. I read from morning till night. At first I slept some in the day time, but when I did that I could not sleep very good at night for I would wake up four or five times during the night, so I cut out the day time sleeping. Do you ever attend any of the High School foot ball games? Write and keep me posted on all the news, especially the High School dope. Gee, I am counting the days until I will be home again eating some of Mother’s good hot biscuits. I expect it will be quite a few days yet though until I will have that chance. I saw in the paper last night where the drafted men who were enroute to camp were to be called back. I bet they were sure a happy bunch. Write me soon and tell me all the news. Your son, Chester.


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FATHER’S DAY LETTER. Rimaucourt, France. November 24th, 1918. My dear Dad:- Well, Dad, how are you making it by this time? I am writing you your Christmas letter, which every boy in France is to write to his Father today. I am enclosing you some clippings in your letter out of “The Stars and Stripes”. I also have some more news o you. We are now allowed to tell in our letters where we are at the present time, where we have been, and what we have done. In fact we can tell all about our experiences since we have reached France. I will tell you all about it later in my letter. I am still in the hospital, but am far enough along towards recovery that I am able to sit out in the sun every afternoon. I am feeling fine and dandy, but the doctor will not let us go back to duty for awhile yet, as we might catch some more cold and be sick again. Say, talk about an appetite, if you could see me eat now you would be in despair for fear I would eat you out of house and home when I get back. I guess the reason that I have such an enormous appetite is because of the fact that I am just regaining some of my weight. I lost a whole lot of my weight while I was sick and when I first got out of bed I was cer-tainly weak. It will not be very long though before I will be as husky as I ever was. Gee, I think they have spoiled all of we fellows while we have been in the hospital for they have been so good to us. When we were not strong enough to get out of bed they washed us and did everything in their power that they could for us. Besides, we have beefsteak smothered in onions, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread and jam every day for dinner. Gee, it will be a little had to go back to slum after becoming used to such good eats in the hospital. I guess every organization is getting good feeds with lots of fresh meat now that the drive is over, or as the Frenchmen say “Finis La Guerre”. Well, now to get down to my ex-periences since I have been in France. By the way, isn’t it the 89th Division that Harry McConnell is in? I have been real close to them several times, but have never had the good fortune to run across them. As you already know, Ted Marshall was left in England and is now driving a truck. Well, when we were coming across on the ship we were together all o the time and Ted took the mumps, but it was nix for me, so I had to leave him in England By the way, we came over on the Adriatic, and English boat. We stayed in England for nearly four days and then we came over to France. We came over at night and sure were packed on the boat. It was certainly a very fast boat. On our way across from the states we were met about three days before the end of our journey by a whole lot of sub-chasers who escorted us on in to the landing place. We unloaded on the dock at La Havre, France, and walked about three miles to a rest camp where we stayed for about two days. It was at this place that I had my first drink of French beer. We bought it at a British canteen which was located only about fifty yards from where we were camped. Well, I guess it is not of any use to tell all about every place I was in be-fore I went to the trenches. We moved from place to place quite frequently and did some hard work in preparation to clean up on the Boche. We received two pay days before we went into the trenches. We went into the trenches the middle of July and stayed for a month. There was not very much excite-ment in the trenches, as we were in a quiet sector. Of course nearly every day the Germans would shell us for an hour or so, but it was not very often that they did much damage. We had to stand a four hours guard every night. We would sleep the rest of the night and play “Black Jack” all day. We had three hot meals every day and the men who were on post at midnight received hot coffee. We also had a good place to sleep, so we were in very good circumstances. I have not received any pay for almost four months, but I kept quite a bit of money on hand all of the time, so it has not bothered me so very much. When we let the trenches we went to a French


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rest camp where we rested up for nearly a week. After we had rested up good we were sent in reserve behind the troops who were making the drive towards Metz. They had such slight resistance and so few men were lost that we were not needed so were rushed up to the Verdun front. On the night of September 25th, just on year from the time that we left Well-ington for the training camp we started for the trenches to start a drive on the Germans. We started the drive at 5 o’clock on the morning of the 26th and for six straight days business certainly did pick up considerably. We were relieved on the morning of the seventh day. Gee whiz, the machine gun bullets used to come so fast that a man had to hustle to keep out of the way of them. HaHa. Some of the fellows got some souvenirs, but I was too busy taking care of myself to think very much about souvenirs. I did have a German pistol and a pair o field glasses but I lost them during the drive. We drove across the Meuse river and through the Agonne Woods. The first three days of the drive there was fair weather, but on the morning of the fourth day it started to rain and kept it up steady for two days. We would not have made a very good appearance at the dress parade when we came out of the lines for we were covered with mud from head to foot. My outfit was just naturally covered with mud where I had slept in the mud, but that did not worry us for a single moment for you know nothing can daunt a “Yank”. The Germans threw a lot of gas over on us the night before we were relieved. The first gas shell that they shot over on us lit very near to me and I got some of it in my lungs before I had gotten my mask on. I stayed with the company for over a week after they had left the lines and then they sent me to the hospital. I saw in the paper night before last where the Germans had surrendered their fleet. This certainly does sound good to me. At this present time I am at a Base Hospital at Rimaucourt, France. It is just a small town, but there is quite a large hospital here. We are about 220 kilometers south-east of Paris. Lots of people have come over from the States and seen France. Some of them are Paris, Toul, Verdun, Nancy, and Epinal. We just passed through the edge of Paris on the train, but I visited the rest of the cities. When we were in the trenches the first time we were right along the German frontier. From one of our observation centers, by the use of very strong glasses, we were able to see the Rhine. That was the closest I ever got to it though. I do not think I will draw any more pay until I get back home and then draw it all at once. By this means I will have quite a bit of money to spend while I am resting up before going to work. Well, I guess you will get tired before you get through read-ing this, so I will close. Write real often. With love to all. Your son, Chester.


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L.L. WEBSTER REAL ESTATE EXCHANGE AND FARM LOANS In Business in Sumner County Twenty-Nine Years Office, 109 East Harvey Avenue. Office, Bell Phone 830 Residence, Bell Phone 297 WELLINGTON, KANSAS February 10 1919. William E. Connelley, Sec’y. State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas. Memorial Bldg. Dear Sir:- Am enclosing herewith a picture of my brother, who was a member of the 35 Division, and was in the Argonne Drive. Also enclosing a short biography of his life, and copies of a few letters written since he went across. If you think it would be better I could copy some of his letters written while at Camp Doniphan. Am enclosing a stamped envelope and would like an answer from you upon receipt of this, telling me if what I have sent you is OK and whether or not it would be better to have some of his letter while in camp. Yours truly, Estelle Tooley


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June 9, 1919 Miss Esther Tooley, Wellington, Kansas. Dear Madam-We are just now opening the soldier mail received last winter. The delay was caused by a lack of clerical help in the office to care for this mail. I find your favor of the 10th of February and thank you for the same. Please go through the letters of your brother written from Camp Doniphan and if you can do so, please send us copies of them. Sincerely yours, Secretary


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L.L. WEBSTER REAL ESTATE EXCHANGE AND FARM LOANS In Business in Sumner County Twenty-Nine Years Office, 109 East Harvey Avenue. Office, Bell Phone 830 Residence, Bell Phone 297 WELLINGTON, KANSAS October 21, 1919. William E. Connelley, Sec’y. Historical Society. Topeka, Kans. Dear Sir:- I sent you material for your history of the 35th Division and was wondering if it was ready yet. My brother served with that Division in the Agonne and we are quite anxious to have a history of same, especially since you have his picture, copies of his letters, biography, etc. Let me hear from you by return mail and oblige. Yours truly, Estelle Tooley T.


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October 25, 1919 Estelle Tooley, Wellington, Kansas. Dear Madam- There has been a history of the 35th Division published but it was not published by this Society. The material which you sent has been filed here to be used when the state begins the publication of the record of Kansas soldiers. I am not sure whether the new history has any mention of your brother but I rather think now as it is general in its nature and not a very large volume. The writers of it had access to that part of our material which we have been able to classify and file. If you desire a copy of the book addess Charles B. Lyon, 515 Kansas Avenue, Topeka. The state will undoubtedly publish the material we have gathered but just when is uncertain. Sincerely yours, Secretary


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Mrs. C. B. Tooley Wellington Kans McConnelley 35th Div. William E. Connelley, Secretary, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas. Memorial Bldg.


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