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SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
MANUSCRIPTS DIVISION 2001
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Barron Family Papers, 1897, 1917-1945 and undated
Ninety-three manuscripts, 1897, 1917-1945 and undated, of the Barron family of Rock Hill represent the family's participation in the two World Wars of the twentieth century. Several Barron families emigrated from Ireland to this country in the eighteenth century and made their way from Pennsylvania and Virginia before settling along the Broad River in York District prior to 1770. Some family members eventually departed South Carolina for points south and west, but others remained in the area of their initial settlement in South Carolina.

The bulk of these letters concern the World War I service of Lt. James Roy Barron (1890-1964), the son of John R. and Cynthia L. Barron. Correspondence with his parents and fiancee, Mildred Koonce, whom he married in October 1919, spans the period of his training, combat experiences in Europe, and garrison duty there for approximately six months after the armistice. James Barron joined the army shortly after the United States declared war and in August 1917 was in training at Pine Bluff, Ark. By October he had been shipped overseas and was in training at trench mortar school. He requested that his parents send him The State and Columbia Record and urged them to "Be as good to [Mildred]...as you can for my sake, for I am coming home one of these days and we are going to be married." In a letter of 30 October he thanked his mother for knitting a sweater and informed her that he was learning "to speak French a little."

Many of Barron's letters contain descriptions of the French countryside and customs of the people. In a letter of 3 November he describes for his father the houses in a "small country village." Later that month (25 November) he commented on the excellent roads in France and on the French custom of locating railroads beside narrow canals, along which, he observed, "it is a common sight to see a horse or a couple of little mules pulling a large canal boat loaded with 30 or 40 and sometimes 50 tons of stone, wood or cattle." He recounted for Mildred a walking expedition to a village where they ate and mingled with the villagers-"as we were probably the first Americans ever in the town we were quite curiosities and had a great time."

Barron spent a great deal of time in training during the first few months after his arrival in France. In January he was assigned to the British First Army Mortar School and the next month he wrote his mother from the French Artillery Tractor School. He "enjoyed...very much" a visit to the front-"that was the first time I had been up and saw many interesting things and found it very instructive."

By May 1918 Barron was predicting that the Germans were preparing to make their last "big push." He was assigned to the First Battalion Trench Artillery and was performing duty as billeting officer. This assign-ment pleased him immensely, for the job included "a fine passenger automobile, chauffeur, interpreter and orde[r]ly which will be some class then I will also have a stenographer." The Allied armies were advancing by the late summer for in a letter of 28 September he described his spacious new quarters which he was the first to occupy as the Germans had just completed construction. A day later continuous German shelling was making life miserable, as were the cooties-"They are fierce. I have not had a bath for a month, wash & shave once every three days, change socks when a pair wears out." The cooties were not a constant source of irritation, but "they worry you a good deal at night by promenading around over your body and taking a bite now and then."

The armistice in November prompted a long celebratory letter (15 November) to Mildred. He gave her a vivid description of the sad appear-ance of the section of France where they were located-"all the towns for a radius of fifty miles shot up and not an inhabitant any-where." The armistice had caused the soldiers to renew their interest in time-"up till the time that the news of the armistice came out we never paid any attention to time...now we count every day and are impatient to be on the way." But it would be many months before Lieutenant Barron boarded ship to return home.

The months spent at Tonnerre, France, did allow him an opportunity to travel and see more of the country. By mid-March rumors were circulating that the troops would depart for home in another six weeks. Barron eagerly anticipated this event-"The statue of liberty sure will look good to me, too when I get in sight of New York and believe me it's going to be a long time before I look at her face again unless they turn the statue around."

Roy Barron and Mildred Koonce were married within months of his return to the United States. Their three sons, James Roy, John Randolph, and William Brown, served their country in the Second World War. The collection includes letters that Mrs. Barron sent to her son John Randolph, who was killed on 14 April 1945, and one v-mail from William to his mother in August 1945.


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