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Back Bay Wildfowl Guild Memories: de Witt Children

Back Bay Wildfowl Guild Memories

The de witt children made regular journal entries.

On Saturday February 5, 2022 we were pleasantly surprised when Margaret deWitt paid us a visit here at the deWitt Cottage. She came with a boatload of information about her grandparents and their 10 children. She shared with Martha Davenport and I photographs and journals the deWitt children had written while they were growing up in the oceanfront cottage. 

The photograph on the right is Margaret and Martha discussing the material she is loaning the museum. The first item we will explore is Julia C. deWitt’s journal. This book was written in 1918 when she was 15 years old. Julia was the third child born to Cornelius and Cecile deWitt and would later help her older sister Elizabeth raise their seven younger brothers and sisters after their parents passed away. 

Tuesday, January 1, 1918 

New Year’s Day. Still rather cold. A cook came and is going to stay on. Frances Baker came to spend a few nights. We went out skating on the ice. An awful thing happened, several hateful, dirty German spies set some of the most import buildings of Norfolk on fire. The Monticello Hotel and others, 17 in all. It all started on the 6th floor of the Monticello then explosions in the buildings were started, The fire started at 4 o’clock in the morning and lasted all day. Mama and I went to Norfolk to see it, but everything was roped off and guarded by sailors, policemen, homeguards. We went to see Mrs. Pannill for a while. We heard good news, school will open on Monday and not tomorrow. 

Wednesday, January 2, 1918 

The fire has been subdued, 17 people arrested who are supposed to be spies. Damage amounted to $1,500,000. Three firemen killed by burning roof falling. Frances is still here as we didn’t go to school. It is snowing hard. Eleven degrees below zero in N.Y. Amelie is in Oklahoma on her way to Texas with Aunt Carrie. I read some and went to the post office. 

Wednesday, April 24, 1918 

We saw a big French airplane flying over school. At fifth Bell a very noted speaker, Dr. Wise, came to speak to the whole school about why we are fighting and the third Liberty Loan. The talk was very interesting. After school I went to a K. P. Meeting and went downtown as I was finished my shopping. I met Miss Baker who took Page | 2 

me to Howard’s where we got a strawberry shortcake which was very good. Our car was very late. After supper some visitors arrived. I finished my lessons rather late. 

Thursday, May 30, 1918 

Today was set apart by President Wilson for fasting and praying for the success of our allies. We had a little talk and prayer by Dr. Metlow. This was our last day with regular lessons this year. We all came home early. I studied history real hard for the exam. A man came and sheared our lambs. 

Saturday, July 20, 1918 

Uncle Jack has been taken prisoner by the Germans. Sarah Graham and Ellen Souglas Moore came to see Amelie. While all the children were out bathing, Peter went in and the tide took him into 10 ft of water. A sailor heard him cry and ran and saved him. We were so thankful. He was real purple in his face at first, but in a half an hour he was alright. Mama gave the sailor, Mr Tynes, two pretty war souvenirs. I wrote to Aunt Lillie and Aunt Carrie. After supper Amelie, Elizabeth, Harriet, Cornelius, John, Caroline, Sarah, and Ellen went to the Casino. Fine war news, the Americans and Allies are pushing the Germans steadily back. 

Wednesday, October 2, 1918 

We went to school on the seven twenty-three. Nine teachers and about 750 pupils were absent on account of influenza. So at second bell we received notice that school would be closed until further notice. There have been many deaths at the naval base. After school I went downtown and did some shopping and caught the 4:35 car home. We are glad not to have to go to school tomorrow, but, we are sorry there is such a terrible epidemic of influenza, 971 cases. There are 450,000 in Norfolk + Naval Base. The children studied after supper I wrote to Louise. The war news is splendid, it seems the war will be over soon. Katrine went out walking, Momma made some apple jelly and Elizabeth pasted in one of her picture books. 

Monday, October 7, 1918 

The epidemic is still going on so our school is still closed. Elizabeth fixed breakfast this morning. I went on the beach several times for wood. It is very windy today. Elizabeth helped Mr. Miner write up his account of the church. Momma and Katrine went to see Anna Lee Gray who is a little sick, After lunch Elizabeth went to help Mrs. Ackiss with some Red Cross work. I went to the post office. Momma and I went down to the station and picked lots of black grapes, then we made jelly. I studied and fixed supper. After supper I crocheted. Katrine read to some of the children. Harriet and Amelie spent the day with Jean Tait in the Baltimore mow 

Monday, October 14, 1918 

After breakfast, Elizabeth went to help Mr. Minor and brought him some breakfast. I went to buy some bread and to the post office. We made jelly but didn’t have enough sugar at the beach, so I will buy some in Norfolk tomorrow. There was a great forest fire in Minnesota and a 1,000 people were burned. It was set by those dirty Germans. Caroline went over to see Mary Louise who is much better. Hity went for the mail. We got a letter from Amelie and she is working for the Red Cross in the slums in Baltimore so she says she begins to talk like them. After supper, Momma, Elizabeth and I went to see Mrs Ackiss a while and bought a paper. 


I wish to thank Julie Spivey for her splendid research and her help in putting this article together. 

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