Another story Esther told me in 1988 was also about her aunt Emma (Hanson) Carlson: “One of her sons who lived past childhood, Louis Alphonso, died in a drowning accident while in boot camp during World War I.”
As mentioned last time, Esther recalled that her Aunt Emma’s life was full of tragedy. Of her ten children, only three boys survived infancy. And one of these boys, Louis Alphonso, supposedly died tragically during his military service. Can we confirm Esther’s story and find any additional details?
Why, yes we can!
Here is the transcription from the April 25, 1918 edition of The Randolph Enterprise:
HE GAVE HIS ALL FOR HIS COUNTRY
Lewis A. Carlson, who was in Government service with the Aviation section, signal corps, Kelly Field, South San Antonio, Texas, died April 18. The body was brought to Randolph arriving here Monday in charge of Sergeant Simpson B. Smith.
Funeral service were held in the Methodist church yesterday afternoon, conducted by the pastor, Rev. R. Gano, assisted by Rev. Perry Cedarhold pastor of the Rose Hill church and Rev. Frank Carlson, now of Fairfield, Conn., a brother of the deceased. Special music was furnished by the High School chorus.
As Alfonso was the first Randolph boy to die in the service of his country, whose body was brought here for burial, there was a large attendance at the funeral, and most of the stores and business houses were closed during the funeral hour.
Interment was in the Rose Hill Cemetery.
Lewis Alfonso Carlson was born in Wahoo, Nebr., May 10, 1998.
At the early age of five years this young child was left fatherless. Mr. Carlson having met his death in a railway accident.
The next year, in company with his mother and brother, found him planting his feet upon Kansas soil claiming as his home the little farm north of Randolph.
Keeping closely in touch with the spirit of the times in which he lived, yearning for the advantages of a higher mental learning at the age of 19 years he entered a business college in Abilene, Kansas.
It was during his study in that city that he felt the higher calling to a better life. To this call he surrendered to his Heavenly Father and united with the Methodist Episcopal church of Abilene.
During these years he has proven himself true to his Master and to his church, being a member of the Ada Methodist Episcopal Church at the time of his death.
After leaving college he began a career in the business world having been in the employ of several different mercantile companies in Kansas and Nebraska. So well did he please his employers and so earnestly did he labor for the success of his firm as well as himself that during the last eight months of his business life he was made traveling salesman for one of the companies.
As time passed by and our country was plunged into this great struggle for freedom and justice, Alfonso again heard a call, coming this time from his country to which he responded Dec. 6, 1917.
He was first sent to Ft. Logan, Colo., then was transferred to the training camp at San Antonio, Texas, where he met his death, seemingly of heart disease while in bathing in the Medina river near the camp in the early evening of April 18, 1019.
He is survived by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Godfrey Carlson and his two brothers Frank and Waldon and numerous other relatives and very close friends.
Our loss is his coronation. God again has called. True to the spirit of his life again he responds. That true loving patriotic spirit God will honour.
The following special to the Enterprise from the publicity bureau Kelley Field, Texas, gives the official account of Mr. Carlson’s death.
Corporal Lewis A. Carlson, 30 years old, of Randolph, Kansas, stationed with the Aviation section, signal corps, Kelley Field, San Antonio, Texas, was accidentally drowned on Thursday afternoon, April 18 in Medina river, six miles from camp.
Accompanied by sixty other soldiers connected with Construction Detachment Headquarters, First Training Brigade to which he was attached Carlson went out to the river for a swim immediately after supper. They boarded several trucks and journeyed down as they had done on various other occasions.
Carlson was a very good swimmer and no one paid any particular attention to him until after the soldiers were ready to depart one of them spied a bundle of clothes near shore. Up to this time he had not been missed and inquiry and a search of the clothes established hi identity.
His body was found in six foot water lying on the bottom the position indicating that death was probably due to heart failure. As no one heard any cries, or saw him struggling in the water it is not believed by his companions that he suffered any cramp, but that natural causes led to his untimely end. For some time past, Carlson was apparently not in the best of health as he fainted a couple of times during the past few weeks.
The body was shipped home Friday evening in charge of Sergeant Simpson Smith, who was a personal friend of the deceased.
Lewis A. Carlson was born in Wahoo, Nebr., May 10, 1887. He resided in Randolph, Kansas an enlisted at Fort Logan, Colo., Dec. 11, 1917. He served as a clerk and his first assignment was with the 327th Aero Squadron, from which he was transferred to the Construction Detachment where he was stationed to the time of his death. He was promoted to the rank of Corporal March 1, 1918.
Carlson took out a war risk insurance of $10,000 which will be paid to his mother, Emma Caroline Carlson, of Randolph, Kansas.
A few reflections on this:
- Note that he was considered the first WW I casualty in Randolph, Kansas!
- He is indeed buried at Rose Hill Cemetery near Manhattan, Kansas. I was there in the fall of 2014 but did not see his tombstone. Here is the photo from findagrave.com.
- Supposedly Emma is buried there as well (per her obituary) but she is not listed in findagrave.com. Hmm, seems like I need to make another trip to the cemetery.
- Lewis’s brother Frank Carlson of Fairfield, Connecticut officiated at his funeral. Maybe I can follow up someday and find out his denominational affiliation.
- I have seen different spellings of his first and middle names – Louis/Lewis and Alphonso/Alfonso.
- Here is some interesting background information about Kelly Field near San Antonio, Texas.
Esther was absolutely correct on this story; she’s two for two so far.