Why It Matters: His Voice Echoes Still Across America by Mary Jane Phillips Koenig

Mary Jane Phillips Koenig, Great-Niece of Private Russell Archie Harvey, WWI Army Veteran: Voice of War Echoes at the Fenton – Jamestown Post-Journal (May 11, 2017): The words of a World War I veteran echoed at the Fenton History Center Wednesday.

Mary Jane Phillips Koenig speaking about her great-uncle’s letters he sent to his mother during World War I. Koenig’s great-uncle was Private Russell Archie Harvey who served in the Army’s 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division. The letters are part of a Fenton History Center’s World War I exhibit Over There: World War I and Jamestown. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

During the Brown Bag Lecture series, Mary Jane Phillips Koenig presented her presentation, “Why It Matters: His Voice Echoes Still Across America,” about letters her great-uncle, Private Russell Archie Harvey, wrote to his mother while serving in the U.S. Army’s 357 Infantry Regiment, 90th Division during World War I.

Koenig, a retired school teacher, said she has spent a “lifetime” researching her great-uncle’s 20 letters that were saved by Harvey’s sister, May.

Koenig said Harvey was born in in Corry, Pa., in 1888. She said Harvey’s family sold the family farm and moved to Jamestown around 1900. She added that Harvey spent around 14 years in Jamestown before the war. In an edition of the Jamestown Evening Journal from 1913, Harvey participated in a play as a member of the Knights of Pythias. The play included several other notable Jamestown residents of the time, which included Mayor Samuel Carlson and future Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Koenig said Harvey was drafted into the Army in 1918 while he was living in Iowa. After Iowa, he went to Texas for basic training and then to New York City to make his way to the fighting in Europe. Harvey’s letters discuss several topics, including the steamship trip on the Delta to France. Harvey said he didn’t get seasick on the journey, but other troops on the ocean voyage weren’t so lucky.

Other topics discussed in letters included a 120-mile march by foot in France between posts; seeing an old castle that must have been built when “knights still wore armor;” about Harvey being a company scout; and about digging battlefield trenches.

In a letter dated Nov. 16, 1918, five days after the armistice that ended World War I, Harvey wrote a letter expressing that he is sincerely thankful to his mother and wants to live near her once he returns back to the United States.

Another letter expressed how, at one point, Harvey didn’t think he would see Christmas, which is why he didn’t request a gift package coupon for his family. Harvey wrote that he thought he would be “pushing up daisies” by Christmas.

In another letter not written by Harvey, a Robert Marx wrote Harvey to thank him for pulling him off the battle field while he was injured. Koenig said that during her research she discovered that Marx later went on to create the Disabled American Veterans organization.

Before returning home to Jamestown, even after serving on the front lines in France, Harvey’s regiment served as guards in Germany after the war.

Koenig said that Harvey died in 1924. He is buried in Soldier’s Circle at Lake View Cemetery.

Copies of Harvey’s letters are on display at the Fenton History Center, located at 67 Washington St., as part of the exhibit, Over There: Life in Jamestown During WWI. The exhibit tells the story of what it was like in Jamestown during The Great War.

Interested in joining Vets Finding Vets visit: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/vets-finding-vets/ to learn more.

Join us the second Saturday of every month for the Fenton Canteen: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/fenton-canteen/

Learn more about the Vets Finding Vets Upcoming Talks and Outings: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/upcoming-talks-and-outings/ 

Discover stories featuring some of our Vets Finding Vets members: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/veterans-in-the-news/

Learn more about Project 22: A Message of Hope: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/project-22/