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May 01, 2021

Dear "Susie", From "Your loving friend, Henry"

During World War I, letters were the main form and in most cases the only form of communication between soldiers and their loved ones, helping to somewhat ease the pain of separation. Soldiers wrote letters in rare spare moments whether it be from the trenches of the front lines to more calmer surroundings.  Letters written during this time period are unique pieces of history giving us a glimpse of a soldier’s life as well as the anguish felt by a loved one left at home.  Recently, a small collection of World War I letters written by Private Henry Harbour to his sweetie, Mattie Susan “Susie” Shively, were shared with the Center by one of Susie’s grandsons, Dr. Greg Foley.

John Henry Harbour was born on 19 December 1893 in Patrick County, Virginia to Samuel James Harbour and Mary Keziah “Kizzie” Foley Harbour.  After enlisting in the United States Army, Henry wrote letters to his sweetie back home.  Mattie Susan “Susie” Shively was one of the many children born to Peter David Shively and Louanna Jane Hancock Shively.  Sharing the same birth day just five years apart, “Susie” was born on 19 December 1898 and was head over heels in love with Henry.  Sadly, Private Harbour was killed on 11 May 1919 in France never seeing the love of his life again.  His body was brought back to the United States to be buried in the Foley Cemetery located in Elamsville, Patrick County,Virginia.  “Susie” married Homer George Foley, son of Charlie Pinkard Foley and Lucinda Rosabelle “Belle” Hundley Foley, on 25 December 1921 at her parents’ home in Patrick County.  Homer and “Susie” llived a long happy life together making a home and raising their family in the Sanville area.  They had five sons:  Alvis William, Elmer Ernest, Vinton Algie, Douglas Ralph, and Bobby Wayne.

Below is the first and last letter found that Henry wrote to Susie during his time in the service.

 

                                                                                                                May 30th, 1918,

Dear Susie,

I will drop a few lines to let you know I am living and well.  I guess you are having a good time up there.  We are having a time down here.  They are giving us double time.

Susie I wish I could see you.  Well I will see you some day if I live.  Well until then tell people up on pole bridge that I am just as (sorry) as ever.

Well I got to go to bed.  Well I don’t get any time to do anything.

So I will close and write soon and write me a long letter.

                                                                                                                From your loving friend,

                                                                                                                John H. Harbour

 

                                                                                                                March 27th, 1919

Dear Susie,

I will answer your kind letter I got yesterday and was glad to hear from you.  This leaves me well and hope when these four friends (promise) to __________ it will find you well and enjoying life.

Well Susie I was thinking that you had forgotten me.  This is the first letter I have gotten from you since August.  You said I had forgotten you but I have not.  I would like to see you and talk with you.  I have a lot to tell you.  Susie you don’t know how bad I want to see you.  I am thinking about you all the time.

I have gotten a good place to stay.  I am staying with a Dutchman sleeping in the parlor but there is no time for me over here.  I am getting the Army blues.  Well I guess my lady will be married by the time I get back.  I don’t know when I will get home.  I guess Tony has gotten back by this time.  I think if they don’t send me home pretty soon I will go wild.  Well I am getting sleepy for I have not been sleeping any for 3 nights.

So I’ll close.  Answer soon.

                                                                                                                From your loving friend,

                                                                                                                PJHH

 

Unfortunately, there are no letters in this collection that “Susie” wrote to her Henry.  However, we are very appreciative that Greg shared this collection with us!  What great historical find!

 

Fran Snead