Postmarked: 1 January 1918; Hous[ton, Tex.] Log[an Branch]
To: Miss Anna Gragol [Gragd?]
R4 Box 18 c/o Ras Kopple
Message: Houston, Texas
Jan 23rd 1918
Well how are you getting alone by this time I am fine and dandy how is the weather in Ill hear its warm an nice did you get the letter i send you we might have to move pretty but its hard telling when or where they might take us across pretty soon Ill have to close as the lights are going out from W. J. write soon
Although the postmark is truncated on this postcard, comparison with an intact Logan Branch postmark proves that it was posted in the camp.
Although the identity of WJ cannot be established based on this postcard, he seems to be a little homesick and naturally worried about his future in the war trenches. He seems lonesome, and no doubt hungering for some female companionship. There were about 20,000 National Guard soldiers in the camp, the last arriving in late October three months earlier. Although WJ worried that they might soon leave for the trenches, the first soldiers didn't depart for another 6 weeks.
Anna’s identity is also unknown. WJ’s handwriting was hard to decipher, and since WJ’s spelling seems to be more phonetic than standardized, Anna’s last name could actually be quite different. He directs his postcard c/o Ras Kopple, and although no person by this name can be found in Geneseo, Henry county, there was a Rus Kepple who lived about 20 miles west in Coal Valley, Rock Island County, IL in 1920. Russell was the son of Peter William Kepple (1856-1911) and Susan Caroline Cobart (1862-1935), farmers in various areas not far from Geneseo. The family moved from Andover, Henry County, IL in 1900 to Minnesota about 1910, but returned to the area after Peter died in 1911, settling in Coal Valley. Samuel Russell Kepple was was born in 1896, so at the time of the postcard he was 22 years old and it is most likely WJ was about that same age, soldiering age, so to speak. Whoever WJ was, he was friendly enough with Russ Kepple to ask him to courier a letter to a friend.
What the future held for Anna and WJ in 1918 is not specifically known, but can be sketched out in general. The Swine Flu epidemic began to sweep across America in March of 1918, striking hard at the young people in the 20-40 age group which they represented. Officials undertook preventative measures, such as closing public gathering places, which severely disrupted the normal pace of life. Wearing masks was encouraged, and those caught spitting were arrested, a public health measure that fortunately changed behavior forever after. Soldiers fell sick in disproportionate numbers due to their communal life style, and at its peak late in the year, up to 40% of soldiers were sickened and many died. WJ almost certainly had left Camp Logan before the worst of the epidemic in September 1918 when there were about 700 cases of influenza and 110 deaths. For civilians in the Quad-Cities area around Illinois and Iowa casualties were high despite social distancing: Davenport, IA (270 deaths) and Rock Island (114) were likely underestimates. Modern medicine was challenged by the epidemic, and many public health measures now considered standard date from this period. Advances in warfare were unfortunately just as great, throwing armies of millions into deadly stalemate, shocking the world with deadly industrial killing power. Whether Anna survived the Swine Flu Pandemic and whether WJ survived that and World War I are uncertain.