PREDICTABLY KNOWN AS "Frenchy," Earl Ray French was born in Tulare, South Dakota, in 1886. He moved to Sheridan in the early 1910s and worked for Campbell's livery barn on East Brundage Street. He was later employed as a tieman for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.
French was inducted into the United States Army in November 1917. He served overseas with the 32nd Engineers, where he attained the position of Master Engineer Junior Grade. Upon his honorable discharge in June 1919, French returned to Sheridan and went back to work on the CB&Q - this time as a brakeman. He later moved to the railroad towns of Sterling, Colorado, and Alliance, Nebraska, and finally to Calumet City, Illinois, where he died in 1978.
French got his training at Camp Grant, Illinois, and headed overseas in June 1918. His first letter from France, dated June 23, 1918, was printed in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise a month later. Another letter, published in The Sheridan Post in August 1918, was sent from Bordeaux, France.
23 June 1918, Somewhere in France
Well friends - Here we are and raring to go.
We came over fine and dandy. The sea was as smooth as could be; no one got sea sick to amount to anything and got to camp and all the people here seemed to be glad to see us coming along. The boys were singing and laughing all the way. The country looks nice. The people are quaint and old-fashioned as can be. They remind you of the old pictures that were painted years and years ago.
All the boys want to be on their way to do their bit. Most every man you meet has the little gold bars on their sleeves, showing they have seen service at the front.
All the children salute you when they meet you.
Tell everybody hello and good luck from Frenchy when you see them, and I will try and drop a few lines once in a while.
Undated, sent from Bordeaux, France
You folks are surely doing your part back there as we are trying to do ours over here. Reports that come to us daily are most encouraging. It looks like the boys had the Huns on the run proper and before they are through they will find out that they have tackled a hornet's nest full of the toughest kind of fighting men they have ever met, and when the curtain comes down on the last act they will be about the sickest bunch of sour kraut eaters that ever deceived themselves into thinking that they could stand up before the two-fisted, hard hitting boys of the old U. S. A. These boys go over the top with a smile and a song, just as they do when they get mixed up with the mean bronc in the sage brush. It is all in the game.
They talk a great deal about the fine looking French girls over here, but let me tell you that if those I have seen are fair samples, I would not trade one U. S. A. girl for the whole kaboodle. They can talk all day but we cannot understand a word they say.
(From "In the World War")
State Historic Site