JOHN LEWIS SEAMSTER was not quite twenty years old when he enlisted in the U. S. Navy on April 9, 1917. War had been declared only three days earlier.
A clerk at Star Grocery, Seamster was a single man living with his parents on North Custer Street when he enlisted. Nothing in his experience to date had prepared him for life aboard the USS Cincinnati, sailing around the Pacific Ocean!
Two of Seamster's letters home were published; the first, mailed from Japan, appeared in The Sheridan Daily Enterprise on October 5, 1917. The second, mailed from Alongapo in The Philippines, was printed in the same newspaper on November 21, 1917.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy in April 1919, Seamster returned to Sheridan. He spent a short time farming in Powder River County, Montana, and later went to work for the railroad. He died in 1938.
Undated letter from Japan; published 5 October 1917
We arrived here last night about 8 o’clock from Kobe. I don’t know whether I will spell the name correctly or not, but it is something like Nanifama.
The scenery on the way up here was grand. We came through the Inland Seas, and they are more like a river than a sea. The islands were beautiful, too. Most of them were covered with pines, which sure made me think of home. Another thing rather odd to see was the farms on these islands.
These people cultivate clear to the top of some of them and almost half the way up on all of them. There was only one island I noticed that showed no signs of habitation, and that was a small one about the shape of half a huge ball. This one was rather odd, too, for all the way around it there was no sign of shrubbery for about ten feet from the water. Then from there on over the whole island there was nothing but pine trees.
Maybe you think I am not seeing some sights, eh? They are the most wonderful I ever beheld.
Another thing funny to see is two tides bucking each other. One tide leaving and the other trying to come in. They would remind you of an old Wyoming stream. There are ripples at one place and then in another part it seems quiet like some deep place.
11 October 1917, Alongapo, Philippines; published 21 November 1917
The Sheridan Press: Dear Sirs - We the undersigned are four well-known boys from Sheridan and vicinity. At present serving in the United States Navy on board the U. S. S. Cincinnati, on the Asiatic Station, which means any place between Australia and Japan, Honolulu and China.
There is something we would like to suggest to the people of Sheridan and vicinity, and especially The Enterprise, in fact, all patriotic citizens who wish to help us sailors in this cause. As you very likely understand, we are ten thousand miles from home and sometimes it is months that we don't hear from our loved ones, and even then we don't get much local news. So we would be very glad to get an occasional copy of The Enterprise or hear from anyone who wishes to write.
Meanwhile, we will anxiously await our chance to trim the whiskers off the Kaiser and return to the good old U. S. A. and Sheridan.
Yours very respectfully, Wilson R. Stevens, W. H. Schmitt, J. L. Seamster, B. E. Tardner
State Historic Site