New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Dear Hattie: A Letter Home from France, 1918

A letter home from the front lines in France, March 1918.

This week I received four small fragile sheets of paper in a tiny envelope, a letter written in pencil from a brother to his older sister, dated March 20, 1918. A kind person gave me the old letter this week, along with many photographs, and other items from Kerr County’s history. It’s a real treasure trove of historical items.

“My dear Hattie,” the letter begins. “I had a bath today. I am sure you would pardon the pride of this statement if you knew all the facts in the case. As a matter of fact it is the first bath I have had in nearly three weeks. I will continue to brag about this bath for about ten days and then I’ll avoid the subject until I get another.”

Hattie is a nickname for Harriet. Harriet Garrett was a teacher in Kerrville’s public schools, and was also a published poet.

Victor Earl Garrett
The letter was written to her by her younger brother, Victor Earl Garrett, and mailed to her from France, where he was part of the 28th Infantry during World War I.

After telling Hattie about the letters he’d recently received, about “a month’s mail in the last ten days,” Earl Garrett asks Hattie to send him some things.

“There are several things I would like to have which I cannot get over here. I have written about the Saturday Evening Post. In addition, I would like about 2 jars of Pompeian Cream (‘Don’t enjoy a good complexion, use Pompeiian Cream and have one’), a good flashlight with about three extra batteries, and a pocket knife.

“Maybe Dede will attend to the flashlight, batteries, and knife. Also about a dozen Keen Kutter razor blades. As a crowning act to all this, you might put in a box of Pampell’s chocolates, and several boxes of Nabiscoes…

“Of course all of this is to be paid for out of money which I sent Papa through the Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co. I’m sort of a nuisance, am I not Hat?”

After a brief description of the weather in France, he asks “Are they making plans for a big Encampment this year?” I’m guessing he was asking about plans at Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, which was held each summer on what is now part of the Schreiner University campus.

“What are your plans for the summer, Hattie? El Paso, Alabama, or Chile?”

It’s an ordinary letter between siblings, about very little other than reassuring her (and the rest of his family) that he was ok and safe. 

There is no mention, of course, of the battle for which his regiment is preparing, the Battle of Cantigny, which occurred about a week after this letter was written. It was the first significant American offensive operation in World War I.

“Not much of a letter, but there is not much to write about. Please excuse pencil. Yours, Earl.”

That autumn, on October 4, 1918, Victor Earl Garrett died near Exermont, France. He was only 24.

Garrett was a 2nd Lieutenant, a member of the 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, U. S. Army, and died during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. For his heroism that day, and for an incident the previous July, Garrett was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Kerrville honored Garrett’s heroism, as well as the heroism of Francisco Lemos and Sidney Baker, by naming downtown streets in their honor.

Harriet Garrett, “Hattie,” his big sister, died in 1975, at the age of 88. She was active in our community until the very end, writing poetry, singing at events, participating at her church.

I’m thankful for the kindness of the person who gave our community these items this week.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects items from Kerr County’s history. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him very happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 31, 2021.

Yep -- you can help produce this free newsletter by sharing it with someone.  Sharing is certainly caring. (Buying one of my books helps, too!)


  1. A great read Joe. Enjoyed his request for Pampell’s Chocolate! I’m guessing in wasn’t Russell Stovers which they sold a ton of back in the day.

  2. Great read Joe. Enjoyed request for Pampells Chocolates. Wonder if it was Russel Stovers. They were known for being one of the largest seller in the state.

  3. I believe the Earl Garrett home was on the corner of Jefferson and what is now Earl Garrett street, across from the Presbyterian Church. After WW2, the house was moved out Junction Hwy to where Ox Drive is now (Popeye's Chicken), then up the hill to a couple of blocks from Starkey Elementary. There it was remodeled by the Bushell family. My parents bought it in 1956 and it was remodeled again in the late 60's. My brother now owns it, and it has been remodeled a third time, so probably Earl nor Hattie would recognize it. But we have always been proud of our link to Kerrville's famous citizens.


Please remember this is a rated "family" blog. Anything worse than a "PG" rated comment will not be posted. Grandmas and their grandkids read this, so please, be considerate.



Related Posts with Thumbnails