Category Archives: Military Monday

Two Brothers from Sondersdorf

When immigrant Joseph Lutz died in 1887 the age of forty-two, only one line in a Minnesota newspaper made note of his death. His brother Paul, however, survived him by more than fifty years, and when he died in 1939 he was ninety-three years old. A lengthy obituary in a Minnesota newspaper documented his death, but what is more, his birthday several years prior had warranted an informative and colorful tribute to his life both in his native Sondersdorf, a village in eastern France, and in southern Minnesota. As Joseph and Paul, only two years apart in age, both served in the Franco-Prussian War and then immigrated to America, many of Paul’s recollections relate what must have been shared experiences.

The brothers were born to François Joseph Lutz (1801-1881) and Marguerite Meister (1801-1876), Joseph on 31 May 1844 and Paul on 07 August 1846, both in what is now Sondersdorf, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. Their father was a farmer, and this was his second marriage; their mother was a native of the nearby border village of Roggenburg, Switzerland. Joseph and Paul were raised to work hard, although they also had the opportunity to attend school, as related in the Blue Earth County Enterprise in 1935:

“Alsace Lorraine at that time belonged to France, as it does now, although for many years between it was Germany’s. And so young Paul was born a French citizen. His father was a farmer and when Paul was still very young he was put to work. How young? Well, he says, laughing, that he thinks he began to work before he was born. He worked in the field, in the town, anywhere where there was work to be had.

“French was taught in the schools, but his family, like many others in Alsace, spoke German at home. So he grew up with a knowledge of both tongues. However, today and for many years since, it is German that he speaks fluently. There are, he says, no Frenchmen around to give him practice in that language.”

In 1866, Joseph and Paul, by then twenty-two and twenty years of age, appeared in a census in a household in Sondersdorf with their parents and younger sister, Philomene. Just a few years later, the brothers served in the Franco-Prussian War, which broke out in the summer of 1870:

“Like every other French citizen, [Paul] entered military training when old enough. His memories of that period are clear and vivid, for while he was still in the army, the Franco-Prussian war broke out. That was in 1870 and one of the causes of the bitter enmity between France and Prussia was that same Alsace Lorraine where he was born, a strip of territory at the eastern edge of France coveted by both nations and snatched first by one, then the other. When Prussia whipped France in that war of 1870, she took Alsace Lorraine as one of the indemnities and from then on France never rested until the World War brought it back again to the French.

“There wasn’t so much to the war so far as he was concerned, says Mr. Lutz, except horse meat to eat and being taken prisoner at the battle of Metz. Asked how that happened, he drolly repied [sic] that the Germans took the whole army prisoner so of course he went along. Speaking of horse meat, Mr. Lutz remarked that it wouldn’t have been so bad had they been given some beer, or at least enough water to wash it down with. But there was none of the first and little enough of the second. To make it worse he says it was tough meat with no pepper or salt. You stuck two sticks up on each side of a fire and hung the meat on a third stick laid across. After it had toasted a bit, you ate it – if possible.

“Because Germany considered Alsace her own, and to gain the good will of its people, she released the French prisoners from Alsace earlier than others. That was in 1871. Between horse meat, fighting and being a prisoner, Mr. Lutz says he’d had enough […] and straightaway came to America.”

Although comparatively little is known about Joseph Lutz’s experiences, his grandson once related that after serving in the Franco-Prussian War and coming out on the losing side, Joseph immigrated to America because he wouldn’t live under Prussian rule. It seems the brothers were allied in their feelings after having fought and been imprisoned by the Prussians—and having been forced to survive on horse meat during the Siege of Metz, which has been documented. A passenger list has been located that may indicate that the brothers immigrated together, arriving in New York aboard the Nevada in May 1871, mere months after the war’s end.


Joseph Lutz (1844-1887), circa 1875-1885; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

Although the Blue Earth County Enterprise recorded in 1935 that Paul and his wife Josephine Lutz married in Sondersdorf and immigrated together, settling first near Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa before making the move to Minnesota, records indicate that the couple actually married in Des Moines County, Iowa, in 1872. “Asked if they came by train to Burlington, Mr. Lutz chuckled and said, ‘Well, you needn’t think I walked.'” Perhaps the plan all along had been that Paul and Josephine would reunite and marry once in America and free of the strife of their homeland. Joseph, it seems, had not made any such promises to any young women from their home village; he instead married a Silesian immigrant, Hedwig Cichos, in Faribault County, Minnesota, in 1875. 

The brothers’ paths diverged to a degree in Minnesota; Paul farmed, as their father had before him, whereas Joseph lived in town, making a living first as a butcher and then as a saloon keeper. Of farm life, the Blue Earth County Enterprise shared that Paul owned one hundred and twenty acres “two miles west of Bass Lake,” and noted, “Memories of early days in southern Minnesota come to [Paul] as he talks. He tells of hauling grain to Delavan and Easton in the winter, using oxen-drawn sleds. Many a time, he says, blizzards would spring up and there was nothing for it but to give the oxen their heads and trust them to find the way home. They never failed.” Of Joseph, the newspaper shared, “Joe Lutz, early Mapleton butcher, was [Paul’s] brother. His shop was on Second Street just back of where the Wiedman drug store stands today. The frame building that housed it is the same one that stands there still, says Mr. Lutz.”

Joseph was indeed known to have been a butcher in Mapleton in the early 1880s; in the 1870s, however, he had operated a one-story frame butcher shop in Minnesota Lake, behind which were rooms where his family lived. After his stint as a butcher in Mapleton, he returned to Minnesota Lake but this time kept a saloon. Family lore notes that Joseph was a generous-hearted man who was known to give away cuts of meat to new immigrants in his community—to the occasional dismay of his wife, who chided him that these newcomers would not even have a pot with which to cook the meat!

Joseph would succumb to tuberculosis not quite sixteen years after his arrival in America; it seems especially tragic that he was stricken with this disease as he might otherwise have enjoyed as many years as his brother. At the time of Paul’s eighty-ninth birthday, the Blue Earth County Enterprise wrote, “Paul Lutz feels much younger than his years. His mind is far keener toward what is going on in this world than that of many a younger man. Age has as yet brought little failing to his senses. His speech is filled with humor that indicates his cheery optimism and enjoyment of life. His hearing is good. He walks up town every day. He administrates for himself the affairs of the farm he owns near Bass Lake. Paul Lutz has enjoyed and is still enjoying a full life with a clear memory that is truly remarkable.”

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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An Iowa National Guardsman

Henry Joseph Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, was twenty-six years old when he enlisted in the Iowa National Guard in December 1907. He enlisted for a term of three years with Company L of the 56th Infantry, and received an honorable discharge when his term was complete. His character was noted to be “excellent” and his service “honest and faithful.”

Iowa National Guard Certificate for Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, 1911; digital image 2021, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

In December 1917, ten years after he had first enlisted with the Iowa National Guard, Henry enlisted once again, this time with Company D of the 4th Infantry. The United States had entered the “Great War” in April of that year, and by June the first draft registration was underway. Henry, now thirty-six, was not included in this first draft (which was limited to men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one), but perhaps he saw the writing on the wall and considered that service with the National Guard might put him in a better position than if he were to wait to be eventually drafted. In July 1918, he was appointed corporal, but soon thereafter his trajectory was altered.

Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, ca. 1918; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

Henry, a carpenter, relocated to Portsmouth, Virginia, where he became an employee of the George Leary Construction Company at the Norfolk Navy Yard. He commenced work on 01 September 1918, and on 12 September, when the third draft registration, for men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, was initiated, he dutifully completed his registration. He was called home to Iowa in late September when, tragically, his five-year-old son succumbed to extensive burns received when he fell into a fire. It could not have been easy for Henry to bid farewell to his wife and surviving son, who was ten years old, to return to the shipyards once again.

In late October, Henry became an employee of the United States government, assisting in the construction of a power plant at the Norfolk Navy Yard. It was on these grounds, as a skilled laborer in a necessary industrial occupation, that he completed a questionnaire claiming deferred classification of military duties. His work entailed building concrete forms; he stated that he had four years of specific experience, and six years of additional general experience. His daily wages amounted to eight dollars and twenty-five cents, and he was the sole supporter of his wife and child.

The questionnaire was signed and dated on 05 November 1918—less than one week before armistice would occur, marking the conclusion of the war on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Perhaps Henry’s questionnaire was never even submitted, or was returned to him in short order, which might explain how it ended up among other assorted family papers and survived for more than a century.

I have no record of when Henry’s employment at the Norfolk Navy Yard nor his service with the Iowa National Guard formally concluded. However, Henry would continue to apply his carpentry skills in the service of the government periodically throughout the rest of his life. During the Great Depression, he found employment with the Works Progress Administration, and during World War II, he was employed at a United States Air Force base near Sioux City before temporarily relocating to Portland, Oregon, where he once again became an essential worker in the shipyards.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.


Iowa National Guard Certificate, Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, 06 January 1911; Adam Family; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

Military Deferment Questionnaire, Form 1001, Office of the Provost Marshall General, for Henry Joseph Adam, Portsmouth, Virginia, 05 November 1918; Adam Family; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

“World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” digital images, ( : accessed 25 April 2021), card for Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, National Archives microfilm publication M1509; imaged from Family History Library film roll 1,643,352.

“Henry J. Adam” in Lasher, Louis G., Report of the Adjutant General of Iowa: For the Biennial Period Ended June 30, 1920 (Des Moines: The State of Iowa, 1920), 125; from “U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976,” ( : accessed 25 April 2021).

Military Monday: A Duty to His Family

Today marks the World War I centenary, although it would be a few more years before Ole James Nelson, a young farmer from rural Yankton County, South Dakota, would make his way overseas as a mechanic with the U.S. Navy Aviation Section.

Ole enlisted on 3 May 1917 at the age of twenty-two, within a month of the United States entering the war.1 According to a county history, he served in Eastleigh, Hampshire, England.2 His journey to Eastleigh, however, may have been a roundabout one; in fact, he may not have left American soil for at least a year after his enlistment. One photograph suggests that he completed his training in Buffalo, New York;3 another photograph was sent to his family from Charleston, South Carolina, in May of 1918.4 That October, his sister wrote to him, commenting, “Wonder if you are still at Quebec.”5


Ole Nelson, Charleston, South Carolina, 1918; digital image 2013, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2014.

Ole’s time in Eastleigh was likely brief. The United States Navy established a naval air station in Eastleigh in July of 1918 to assemble and repair aircraft, including Caproni Ca.5 and Airco DH.4 and DH.9 bombers.6 This, almost certainly, is how Ole made use of his time as a mechanic. The base was in operation, however, for only a matter of months, as it closed following the armistice later that year.7

As it turned out, Ole’s days in the service were numbered, although not because the “war to end all wars” was winding down. After receiving notification of his father’s unexpected death, which had taken place a matter of days before the armistice,8 Ole applied for an honorable discharge, which was granted on 29 January 1919.9 As the eldest son, Ole was to return home to manage his family’s farm and to care for his mother and younger siblings; what he did not learn until his return, however, was that one of his sisters had also passed away in his absence, having succumbed to what was said to be a combination of Spanish Influenza and shock at the death of her father.10

A return to the farm, following what must have been an exciting time in this young man’s life, was perhaps not what Ole had initially had in mind for his future, but after duty to his country, he had a duty to his family.

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Military Monday: “Although he was on his Dieing Bed”

Compiled service record, John Fenton, Pvt. Co. M, 3 Illinois Inf.; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Color edited for clarity.

Compiled service record, John Fenton, Pvt. Co. M, 3 Illinois Inf.; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Image color edited for clarity.

As spring turned to summer in the year 1862, John Fenton of Company M of the 3rd Illinois U.S. Cavalry lay dying in a hospital bed in Lebanon, Laclede County, Missouri. He had enlisted the previous autumn, eager to do his part for the Union, but in April, following the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas, he was hospitalized with typhoid pneumonia.1

At the time of his enlistment, John, a native of Bole, Nottinghamshire, England, was a widower with four children at home in Pana, Christian County, Illinois.2 After his death on 7 June 1862, A. W. Bingham, a hospital steward, penned a sympathetic but hurried letter to John’s eldest daughter, Sarah Alice Fenton, informing her of her father’s passing:3

“Lebanon, MO
June 7th 1862

Miss Fenton

You will be of course Serprised in Receiving a letter from one that never beheld your face or eaven had the honor of knowing your nam but through one that is or has been Dear to you your Father, he was admitted in this Hospital on the 22d day of April Sinse then he has been leaberin under Tyford Pneumonia which at last terminated in his death, which was at 7 Oclock this evening June the 7th he was a long time dieing and told me he wished me to write to you and all for him to put your confidence in christ and he hoped to meet you in the world to come he talked of and would of liked very much to see you but when god comes there is no alternative but to resign our will so he done so and diese in piece, you must not take it hard for we as soldiers have no limited time for our lives and when we enlist in our Countrys call we make up our mind to meet death when god thinks proper to call us away, your Father requests me to tell you also to collect what money was due him and put it to as good use as you thought people he wished you to see to the small children and bring them up in his fear and love of God which no doubt you will and he felt satisfyed you would do so, remembering he was your Father although he was on his dieing bed.

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Military Monday: A Civil War Compiled Service Record

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I thought I would share the Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) of my one and only direct ancestor who served in the Civil War, namely John Fenton of Company M of the 3rd Illinois U.S. Cavalry.1

John Fenton, of Bole, Nottinghamshire, England,2 came to America with his wife and children before 1850.3 They settled first in Summit County, Ohio,4 and later lived in Montgomery County, Illinois. By the time the Civil War rolled around, John was a widower with four children between the ages of nine and eighteen: Sarah Alice, Harriet, John, and George W. Fenton.5

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On 14 September 1861, John enlisted as a Private in Company M of the 3rd Illinois U.S. Cavalry in Pana, Christian, Illinois, for a term of three years. He was now forty-six years old – no longer a young man, he would have been nearly fifty before his term of service was complete. John stood at 5 feet 9 inches tall, and had a dark complexion, black hair, and hazel eyes.6

As of 1860, John had made his living as a farm laborer, boarding with three of his children in the household of another family.7 One of his daughters boarded with a family in the next county.8 Perhaps, being that John was apparently a horseman, a three-year stint in the cavalry seemed to be as good of an option as any in terms of bringing in steady pay. John’s daughters were old enough to look after their younger brothers, and perhaps – hopefully – there were friends or relatives willing to take them in while he served. The pension file submitted by his minor son, decades later, may answer some of these lingering questions.9

John’s service was relatively short lived. Soon after his enlistment, the Regiment made its way to Missouri; John spent time on prisoners’ guard in Rolla, and may have seen action at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas. In late April of 1862, John left the site of Pea Ridge with the train of wounded, arriving in the hospital in Lebanon, Laclede, Missouri. After a lingering illness, it was there that he died of typhoid fever on 7 July 1862 at the age of forty-seven.10 Although John was initially buried at Lebanon, his grave was likely unmarked and his body may since have been exhumed and reburied the National Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri.11

How can you obtain your ancestor’s Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR)? I acquired John Fenton’s CMSR in person at the National Archives in 2011, when I still lived near Washington, D.C. It was a definitely an experience to be able to view and photograph the original document at my leisure; although the National Archives can seem intimidating, I was able to place my request without any problems and there were plenty of staff members and volunteers willing to point me in the right direction as needed. If you don’t find yourself there anytime soon, and if the CMSR that you seek isn’t available online or on microfilm at a local branch of the National Archives, you can still request a copy for a fee, using information located in indexes online. The online ordering system is easy to use – just be prepared to wait for your record to arrive in the mail!

1 Compiled service record, John Fenton, Pvt. Co. M, 3 Illinois Inf.; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
2 Compiled military service record, John Fenton, Pvt. Co. M, 3 Ill. Inf., Civil War, RG 94, NA-Washington.
3 1850 U.S. census, Summit County, Ohio, population schedule, Stow, p. 931 (penned), dwelling 33, family 52, John Fenton; digital image, ( : accessed 11 November 2013), citing National Archives microfilm M432, roll 732.
4 1850 U.S. census, Summit Co., Oh., pop. sch., Stow, p. 931 (penned), dwell. 33, fam. 52, John Fenton.
5 1860 U.S. census, Montgomery County, Illinois, population schedule, Audubon Post Office, p. 319 (penned), dwelling 2284, family 2287, John Fenton; digital image, ( : accessed 11 November 2013), citing National Archives microfilm M653, roll 214.
6 Compiled military service record, John Fenton, Pvt. Co. M, 3 Ill. Inf., Civil War, RG 94, NA-Washington.
7 1860 U.S. census, Montgomery Co., Ill., pop. sch., Audubon P.O., p. 319 (penned), dwell. 2284, fam. 2287, John Fenton.
8 1860 U.S. census, Christian County, Illinois, population schedule, Pana, p. 319 (penned), dwelling 574, family 5114, Harriet Fenton; digital image, ( : accessed 11 November 2013), citing National Archives microfilm M653, roll 161.
9 “U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934,” digital images, ( : accessed 11 November 2013); John Fenton (Co. M, 3rd Ill. Inf.) index card; imaged from General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934, T288 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives [n.d.]), roll 150.
10 Compiled military service record, John Fenton, Pvt. Co. M, 3 Ill. Inf., Civil War, RG 94, NA-Washington.
11 “Union Soldiers Buried at Lebanon, Missouri 1862-1865,” Judy’s Stuff ( : accessed 11 November 2013).