15 December 1918 A Letter From Roy




Many thanks to Coralee for providing me with artifacts throughout the years and especially for the stack of WWI-era letters that were delivered to me on 31 May 2019. They have provided countless hours of family history entertainment.

– Denise

Roy, the oldest of the Phillips brothers, penned a letter to his brother Floyd who was still serving in France. Roy was wintering on the farm in Fannystelle, Manitoba, Canada with his pregnant wife and two kids. The letter was postmarked 18 December 1918 but, according to Floyd’s marking on the envelope, didn’t get to Floyd until 5 January 1919. News didn’t travel fast.

Roy Selam Phillips letter to Floyd, 15 December 1918.

Roy pondered on what things were like for Floyd and shared a lot of farming news, with a few sprinkles of gossip mixed in.

Sunday eve

Dear Floyd

I don’t expect you will ever get this as it takes a month to reach you and in a month you will I hope be on the way home, tho if I were you I’d surely see the country if possible. No need for suggestions I guess a you have thot of this & know whether or not you can stay a little longer. It surely is a chance in a life time & soldiers will be respected now as civilians will not be in the future. “Comprámpa.” Can you tell the French girls how nice they are yet? I suppose it felt good to be over an engine in a 7 ½ ton truck must have been a lunker what make was it. How do American truck & transports compare with the ones made over there? I don’t know whether the censorship is off yet or not. We got the paper last week which we will mail home at once. Quite a paper for an army paper. I don’t suppose you got within hearing distance of any of the big guns. Ask them to let strip with me so you can see it. It is too bad Albert could not have gotten across but he has one consolation that his honey is waiting for him.

1st-Series Standardized Liberty truck

Throughout our journey following Floyd through his year in the army, there has been a common theme. Men wanted to get to Europe to fight. Those who didn’t get to enlist, wished they could have. Those who didn’t get shipped overseas, felt bad for not getting there. Those who were in France, but didn’t see action felt bad for not getting to be a part of the “big guns” action. There was also a desire to get to see the “Old Country.” These Phillips boys did not come from recent immigrants. They had ancestors who had been here for nearly 300 years, yet, there was still a desire to get across the Atlantic.

Roy Selam Phillips letter to Floyd, 15 December 1918.

I expect there are a lot of dissapointed fellows. I know Chas. Is. Do you ever see any of the 129th. Say what regiment are you hitched to anyway if the whole thing blew up we could not tell by the papers. Has anyone the Flu over there. Something fierce here. People dying in Winnipeg right along.

Boys left her[e] Nov. 21. Surely were glad to get started south.

Roy Selam Phillips

Boys left her Nov. 21. Surely were glad to get started south. As usual we have not heard from home since they lit. All is going well here. I had a cracked rib falling down had the work around here but it was something fierce, the feeling I mean. Still have the pigs they are doing great. Oldest are just past 7 mo. & will weigh 250#. How is that. We tore down the old separater shed south of the barn & built a hog house 26 ft. wide – 40 ft long same as the barn. The studding on the south end are 6 ½ ft. It has a rather flat roof. Does not freeze in there.

Roy Selam Phillips letter to Floyd, 15 December 1918.

Even with severe flu outbreaks in recent years, it can be hard for us to understand how much the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic affected people. Roy couldn’t even make, what would otherwise be, a routine trip to Winnipeg.

Progress of “Flu” Among Civilians, Winnipeg Tribune, 6 Nov 1918.

I guess there is no chance of sending our horses to the bush they have no wood cutters. We have 6 ready if there is any chance. Flu is so bad I can’t go to the Peg to see about it. Hope we don’t get it. So many die. You never see horses go into springs work looking better than ours do now. We killed Bell, she was so stiff she could hardly take a step.

Freda feels miserable & says she will kick your pants if you don’t write her a letter.

Roy Selam Phillips

Did anyone write we finished fall plowing except about 25 acres – have 150 acres this plowed for summer fallow. This will be from the north edge of 60 east of the house, north about 80 acres. We will have to disc or cultivate our summer fallow in the spring for crop. Freda feels miserable & says she will kick your pants if you don’t write her a letter. To go on with the ground will say that the crop was almost clean of wild oats and most of the thistles froze out last winter. I don’t know just what to put on the S. Fallow & what in the fall plowing. If we don’t have much snow will put wheat on all S. fallow. Had been dreadfully dry this fall. No rain during threshing. I had to allow Alf. 300 bu of oats & 310 bu barley & 47 bu of rye all from over weight last year $67.00 his bill was about $4700.00 all told we took in about $3200.00 threshing outside our own.

Roy Selam Phillips letter to Floyd, 15 December 1918.

We are not going to make any Christmas but give $10.00 to the Red Cross.

Roy Selam Phillips

I took the old little grinder out & sold it for $20.00 providing it proves satisfactory. Pretty good price. Everything is fiercely high here. Maybe they will let you drive a truck home. Tell them you want it to haul wheat out. I don’t know as there is any scandal around here except that Lyman B. got married last June or July & by the looks of things she will loose it soon. Numerous kids hatched around abouts this year. I guess they are trying to make up for the war. Do they need a real good man over there? Does anyone take the Breeders Gazette? We have about 4 inches of snow but it has not been very cold yet. Must git a thermometer so I can tell whether to do much work or not. Darn kid beat it befor hardly any of the work around here was done. We are not going to make any Christmas but give $10.00 to the Red Cross. Of course we will have a good dinner as usual. Had Minards here for Thanksgiving.

Lots of love from Alf. All are well.


Someone other than Roy added a note to the bottom of the letter. Maybe it was Freda who was far along with her pregnancy and perhaps feeling feisty?

Rather undignified don’t you think so? Hope the censor isn’t a woman.


A Wedding for Arthur and Florence

Who is Who?

Guy and Gertrude Phillips Family

Floyd was the middle of the five sons of Gertrude Lovin Boyce and Guy Allison Phillips.

Family group sheet, Guy Allison Phillips and Gertrude Lovin Boyce.


“Roy” [Roy Selam Phillips] (Fannystelle, Manitoba, Canada) to “Floyd” [Floyd Boyce Phillips], letter, 15 December 1918; privately held by Denise Krueger, Rochester, MN, 2019.

“Progress of ‘Flu’ Among Civilians,” The Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), 6 November 1918, page 5 ( https://www.newspapers.com/image/44205026/ : accessed 13 Jun 2019).

WWI Interactive Timeline, The National WWI Museum and Memorial ( https://www.theworldwar.org/explore/interactive-wwi-timeline : accessed 3 Jun 2019)

1st-Series Standardized Liberty Truck, Wikimedia Commons ( https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1st-Series_Standardized_Liberty_truck.jpg : accessed 14 Jun 2019).

The Phillips Family

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