Postcard Story: In Which A Civil War Veteran Becomes A Citizen

A postcard to Henry C. Squire from his son, Charles H. Squire

My interest in this postcard was initially the painterly depiction of the Laguna Pueblo on the front. One of my great-uncles was the parish priest of the mission church there, 1930-1931, and on my first visit to New Mexico as a kid, my brother, Mike, and I were taken to see it as the very first stop after being picked up at the airport in Albuquerque.

This postcard was sent from Charles H. Squire of Courtland, Kansas to his parents, Henry C. and Sarah Squire, also of Courtland. Charles H. was a 39-year-old last-remaining son on the Squire’s farm in Courtland. He was likely visiting his younger sister, Myrtle Thompson, who was living in Flagstaff during this time. She was married to Walter Henry Thompson, who was the local weather observer for the city. The lived in the region’s only weather station, at 602 N. Leroux.

dear father and mother I am at flag staff to day noon leave here at 1:50 and get in phoenix at 9:50.
C. H. Squire.
Postmarked DEC 23 1915

Charles mentions taking the train from Flagstaff to Phoenix. It’s very likely the whole of his trip from Courtland was aboard the famed Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.

The forested region surrounding Flagstaff and the burgeoning timber industry, as well as mining operations, ignited railroad development. The arrival of the train through northern Arizona is what allowed towns such as Flagstaff to flourish, once the rush for gold ended. Watering stations along the rails allowed the creation of new towns entirely. By 1895, a spur of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, opened up between the lumber mills at Ash Fork and the rapidly growing city of Phoenix. A northern spur would begin bringing increased tourists to the Grand Canyon. The postmark on the postcard is from the Ash Fork-Los Angeles Railway Post Office, where Charles would have boarded the train to Phoenix, just west of Flagstaff.

Not much is known of Charles, why he never moved away from home nor why he never married, but he died early, about a year after this postcard was sent, on January 5th, 1917.

Charles H. Squire’s Obituary – 1917

His father, on the other hand, was recognized as one of the more upstanding citizens of Courtland, working not only one of the largest farms in the area, but serving in various civic roles as well. He was a veteran of the Civil War, having enlisted on August 7th, 1861, and mustering out on August 3rd, 1865. He was injured numerous times, including taking a musket shot clear through the knee, his final injury that lead to his honorable discharge.

Henry’s most noble act (to me) was the time he helped a neighbor become a US citizen. Henry Hoffman, an 81 year-old native of Germany who had homesteaded in the region as far back as 1871, had previously enlisted for the Union at the start of the US Civil war He served in Company I, 47th Regiment, Illinois Infantry. Some confusion surrounding his honorable discharge from that service lead him to believe that he had gained the rights of a full citizen. There is much to be said about that. The military laws as well as the United States Revised Statues, at the time, make it clear,

Military Laws of the United States
Section 1064. Aliens honorably discharged from military service.
Any alien of the age of twenty-one years and upward, who has enlisted, or may enlist, in the armies of the United States, either the regular or volunteer forces, and has been or may be hereafter, honorably discharged, shall be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, upon his petition, without any previous declaration of his intention to become such; and he shall not be required to prove more than one year’s residence within the United States previous to his application to become such citizen; and the court admitting such alien shall, in addition to such proof of residence and good moral character, as now provided by law, be satisfied by competent proof of such person’s having been honorably discharged from the service of the United States. Sec. 2166 R.S.

The sticking point in all that being that the alien seeking to become a citizen must petition to do so. This, Henry Hoffman learned in early January 1920, was something he overlooked all those year ago. So one fine day, Henry Hoffman and two good witnesses as to his character – both neighbors and both Civil war veterans, including Henry Squire – headed off to court to set things right.

Henry Squire helps a neighbor become a citizen

The Belleville Telescope
Thursday, Jan 22, 1920

Applications for Citizenship
Henry Hoffman, 81, a native of Germany, and a veteran of the Civil war, filed his petition for citizenship in the office of the Clerk of the District Court at Belleville recently. Mr. Hoffman arrived in the United States September 30, 1856, at the age of 17 years, and has been a continuous resident of this country ever since, coming to Kansas in June 1871. He took a homestead in White Rock township, Republic County, on which he resided many years. Some years ago he moved to the town of Courtland where he is spending his declining years as a retired farmer. A few days ago, his citizenship being questioned, he investigated the situation and found that while at the time of his being honorably discharged, he was given the impression that his army service of three years gave him full citizenship. It did not in fact. On being thus informed, he lost no time in filing his petition upon exhibiting his honorable discharge certificate as is provided under Section 2166 of the United States Revised Statutes.
Two Civil war veterans, E. D. Haney and Henry Squire, lifetime neighbors of Mr. Hoffman, acted as his witnesses and will appear in court to establish his residence and admissibility to citizenship. Mr. Hoffman has an interesting war history. Volunteering and enlisting in Co. I, 47th Reg., Illinois Inf., he was in action at New Madrid, Island No. 10, Farmington, before Corinth, Jackson; Assault of Vicksburg, Mechanicsburg, Satartia, Miss., Ft. Du Russey, Henderson Hill, Pleasant Hill, Clouterville, skirmishes on Movars Plantation, La. and at Abbeyville and Supelo, Miss.

Keep in mind that this was just under two years following the end of World War I and sentiments towards Germany were rather mixed across the country. I imagine, however, given the vast number of German homesteaders present in the country, as well as the large number who served the US in various military campaigns, that this played no role in the small farming community of Courtland, Kansas. Historically, during the 1800s, roughly half of all military recruits were foreign born (1840). 20 percent of the Union Army during the Civil war, some 300,000 soldiers, were foreign born, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Still, it makes me wonder how different the situation is for many of our immigrant veterans today.

The petition was successful for Mr. Hoffman. He lived out the rest of his retirement as planned, in the town of Courtland, along with his wife, Sophie. In March of 1929 the two celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with their three daughters and a town full of friends. Henry Hoffman passed away a month later, on April 10, 1929, at the age of 90.

The Belleville Telescope
Thursday, April 25, 1929, p9
Henry Hoffman
Henry Hoffman was born July 4, 1838, in Alsasse, Germany, and died at his home in Courtland, Kans., April 10, 1929, at the age of 90 years, 9 months, and 6 days.
He came to the United States at the age of 14 years, locating at Peoria, Ill. When the civil war was declared, in 1860, he answered the call for volunteers, enlisting on Spet. 6, 1860 – serving under Captain Chester Andrews, Company I, 47th regiment of Illinois Infantry. He was in action in the battles of New Madrid Island, Number 10, Farmington, Miss.; Before Corinth, Miss., May 28, 1[8]61; Iukee, Miss., Sept. 19, 1862; Corinth, Miss., Oct. 3, 1862; Jackson, Miss., May 14, 1863; assault of Vicksburg, May 24, 1863; Mechanicsburg, and Sartartia, Miss.; Fort Du Russey, Henderson Hill, Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, April 4, 1863; Cloutersville, skirmishes on Moore’s Plantation Marksville, La.; Suppelo, Miss., July 14-15, 1864, and Abbeyville, Miss., Aug. 23, 1864. He was discharged from the United States army on Oct. 11, 1864, at Springfield, Ill., by reason of expiration of service.
He was united in marriage to Sophia Kurfiss at Yorktown, Ill., March 11, 1869, moving to Kansas in 1871, where he homesteaded in White Rock township; enduring, with others, the hardships of the early pioneers.
He united with the Methodist church of Lincoln, in 1885, transferring his membership to the Methodist church at Courtland in 1907, to which church he remained a faithful member.
He was a charter member of the Courtland G.A.R. post No. 344, of which only two members now survive.
In December, 1907, Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman left the farm, moving to Courtland, where he resided until his death.
To this union were born four children: one son, Charles, preceeding him in death on Dec. 15, 1899; surviving him are his wife, three daughters and four grandchildren; Mrs. W.S. Weir, Mrs. T.S. Russell, Courtland, Kans.; Mrs. A.J. Freed, Clyde, Kans.
Mr. Hoffmanwas a devoted husband and a loving father.
Funeral services were conducted at the opera house, Tuesday, April 16, at 2 p.m., by Rev. C.W. Cowman and Rev. J.A. Greene; the American Legion in charge.
Burial in Mt. Pleasant cemetery.

Henry Hoffman’s Grave Marker
Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Courtland, Kansas


Amateur photographer, cyclist, and beer brewer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

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