Lehi Larson Smith1, son of Emma Larson and Jesse N. Smith, died in the Argonne Forest in France on October 28, 1918, while fighting as a soldier in World War I. His mother Emma later said that she knew she had lost her son from the moment it happened, and that there was no surprise when the official word came.
While transcribing a letter Emma wrote to her granddaughter Dorothy 23 years later, I received additional insight into Emma’s feelings about losing a son to war. Written in 1941, against the backdrop of an escalating war in Europe and North Africa, the letter reveals the loss Emma still felt about her son Lehi, and her admission that her desire to protect her family was greater than any loyalty she felt toward her country.
…our children are our most precious jewels, the more we have the richer we are. I am not willing to raise boys for cannon fodder. I have furnished one but not any more. I am not looking for war in this country should it come to us I have grand children but am not willing for any of them to go. I may not be very loyal to my country. I am not converted to wars.
While we may have the names and dates that history provides, nothing compares to one’s own words to reveal what we cannot ascertain by mere historical facts. These small insights give me greater understanding of Emma, who is my 2nd great grandmother. History must not be names and dates alone, but must be enhanced with the truths and stories that only these sources can give.
Here is a full transcription of the letter. Original spelling intact. Punctuation added for clarity. 2
Feb 26 1941
How much I have appreciated the Christmas card and the photos of the three lovely children. I hop you will pardon my for neglecting to write to you and thank you for remembering me. I have felt like I wasn’t worth remembering. Your mother sent me one of your letters you had writen to her in Heber. It was very interesting to me you seem to be a very busy woman. I think you must have a wonderful good man to help. You couldn’t do so many things and care for your little flock too. Cleona is like you & good helper in the Joseph City ward. But our children are our most precious jewels, the more we have the richer we are. I am not willing to raise boys for cannon fodder I have furnished one but not any more. I am not looking for war in this country. Should it come to us I have grand children but am not willing for any of them to go. I may not be very loyal to my country. I am not converted to wars. Hitler may think he is an angel, I think headquarters is in Germany for the devil.
I can’t help but that Ellsworth could get a school down here in Arizona they pay more here and then I could see more of you. I thot this winter in Price I wouldn’t be here very long myself I cannot brag much myself yet but I am gaining any some I am not loafing quite as much as I did. Your mother done a good part by me in Snowflake which I have appreciated very much. We have been rained on so much down here that it is getting tiresome today it is trying to quit I hope it will, the citris show is on this week they are having a great time some of the men is growing beards they all expect the prize. If I was to be judge not any of them would get it that I have seen the fruit is nice and cheap too. I would like to send you a sackfull but they may hold it up on the line.
We have all kinds of flowers here so it isn’t very cold. I have geraniums blooming all winter growing outdoors on the north side of the house. I hope you young folks can keep well when you are well you can work. I would love to run in and see you all.
I have felt so proud over the way you made the letters on the envelope. I put it where it could be seen & callers pick it up & ask who done that. My granddaughter. And too I could show the great grands.
Love to all
Rear: Lorana, Lehi, Caroline, George. Seated: Don, Emma, Hyrum. Front: Myrtle, Aikens
- While serving a Mormon mission in the Northwester States, Lehi received a call from Montana Draft Board to serve in World War I as a soldier in the United States Army. Before departing for his military duties he asked Drucilla McKay, a young lady acquaintance in the mission field, to marry him. She accepted and the pair were married in the Salt Lake Temple on March 20, 1918. They had only a few days to share their marital bliss before he reported to Camp Funston for military training. Lehi Smith was soon shipped overseas where he served with the 89th Division for several months in the St. Mihiel Campaign. On Oct. 28, 1918 he suffered a direct hit from an artillery shell. He was not yet 28 years of age when he was killed in the Argonne Forest in France.
From “Life Sketch” written by Lehi T. Smith, a nephew to Lehi Larson Smith. Material obtained from sketches by Hyrum Smith, Lorana Smith Broadbent, and Seraphine Smith Frost in The Kinsman, Vol. XVIII No.2, March 1964.
- Letter from the Dorothy Smith Clark Archive.