From Great War Society Members
Gerry and Helen Devereux

Helen's Uncle Jake Liesmann

Helen's uncle Jake was the first and only man from Dixon, Missouri to die in the First World War.. Above is the telegram notifying the family of his death. The pencil marks on the telegram have faded over the years, so the main section is enhanced for the reader.

Jake with his Mother

Jake at Camp MacArthur
Jake's regiment was attached to the 7th Division of the American Expeditionary Force. In the final weeks of the war, they were deployed at the base of the former St. Mihiel Salient just south of Metz. At the time of his illness the 7th division had begun preliminary attacks in preparation for a major US offensive which was to begin on November 14th had not the war concluded. Jake is shown below with some of his mates from Company L and is the top right soldier in the photo. His obituary from the local newspaper follows.

Jacob Andrew Liesmann - First Soldier from Dixon, Missouri to Die in France

From the Dixon Pilot, November 1918

Just as he had closed the United War Work Campaign and put Dixon over the top, Fred J. Liesmann, who has been home with his mother and invalid brother, Louis the last few months, received a telegram Saturday evening, Nov. 23, stating that his brother, Jake, had died in France Sunday, November 10.

Jacob Andrew Liesmann was born in Dixon Aug. 18,1886, and was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Liesmann, who were pioneers and among the very best members of this community. Jake's father, who for many years was Mayor of Dixon, preceded him to yonder's shore, however, some six years.

Jake was a graduate of the Dixon high school, being a member of the first class to graduate in our schools... February 22, 1902.

Mr. Liesmann's ancestors were driven out of Saxony by French imperialists; fled to Brunswick, Prussia and left there on account of imperialism. Naturally the Liesmanns have a very strong dislike for autocracy. Jake was a survivor of the San Francisco earthquake, and had close calls in connection with catastrophes at other distant places. Before he enlisted in the Army, Jake was connected with the D.C. Remotely Grocery Co., St. Louis. He was an esteemed member of Dixon Homestead, No. 1159, B.A.Y.

He tried to enlist in the regulars for service against Germany, but was refused -- failed to pass. Later he went from the 25th ward, St. Louis, to Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas, and was sent to Company "L" 34th regular infantry. He arrived in France in August; was at Argentemie, thence, evidently, at St. Dizier.
He spoke in his letters of being under shell-fire, and was made a Corporal. The report of his death was that he died from pneumonia Nov. 10, the day before the cessation of hostilities.

In a letter from Jake to the folks here, dated Oct. 18 and received last Tuesday, Nov. 26, he spoke of being well and in good spirits, spoke of the prospects for early peace being very bright; and in mentioning the shells, wrote:

"We have all learned to have a great but, wholesome respect for them, and when we hear one coming we do a 'nose-dive' into a trench or dugout, or if we can't do that, we scatter out and make ourselves as thin as possible."

"Diving as we do, into a dug out," the letters says, "makes on feel like a prairie dog, and we have learned to dive into our holes with just as much speed and agility as any prairie dog; and a dugout, after all, is not a bad place in which to live when you take into consideration the fact that they offer vastly more protection then the open country."

In an effort to prevent his good old mother from worrying about him, he said to her in the same letter, "I trust you will not be worried by false rumors; I know you have great faith in the Almighty, mother, as I also have, and I believe you let that faith and trust keep your spirits up."...

Jake Liesmann, as most of us know, was a dutiful and loving son, an affectionate brother, a model young man [and] died while some four thousand miles from home in the defense of his country. He died that you and I may have continuous liberty and live in peace.

Sadly, Gerry Devereux passed away on November 13, 1999 as we were preparing this article. He was a good friend and a very active member of the Great War Society. We shall miss him.

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