Wednesday, July 18, 2007

3. Bryan and Marie - A World War One Romance

See the "Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918" here

In establishing some more of the characters that will be appearing in the documents and letters of William Bryan ROBBINS, Sr.--my great-grandfather--during his service in the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces at the end of World War I, I have posted some photographs of him and his sweetheart, Marie LEWIS, which I recently received from my aunt, as well as a photo of her parents. According to my grandfather, his parents Bryan and Marie met while Bryan was chauffeuring during the funeral of Marie's maternal grandfather, John WILKINSON, Sr. John's burial occurred 14 September 1917 at Oakhurst Cemetery in Whitehall Township, Muskegon County, Michigan.

George Emmett Lewis and Mary J. Wilkinson, c. 1917

His daughter, Mary J. WILKINSON, her husband George Emmett LEWIS, and their 10 children were living in nearby Muskegon Heights at that time. This was around the same time period that Angelo and Lula ROBBINS and their four sons moved to Muskegon Heights from Ensley Township, Newaygo County, Michigan.

William Bryan Robbins, Sr., 1916, posing with ship prop & background

William Bryan Robbins, Sr., c. 1917

Marie Lewis, c. Winter 1916 - 1917

Marie Lewis, c. 1917

Bryan was 21 in 1917, and Marie was only 15. But apparently their romance was in full bloom by the time he was inducted on 23 June 1918. This is further verified by the following note Bryan carried on his person in North Russia, presumably at all times:

if found on my body please send to the address below

Pvt Bryan Robbins
Co I 339th Inf

Nov 3 1918 Archangle [sic] Russia

Miss Marie Lewis
Hoyt St
Muskegon Hts Mich USA

Good bye, Marie
My last thoughts are of you and my people
Love to all

This just leaves a lump in my throat! Thankfully, Bryan made it safely home, or else I--and all their many other descendants--would not be here today!

Other posts in this series:
1. A Polar Bear in North Russia
The Family of Angelo and Lula Robbins
4. Bryan Gets Drafted
5. Basic Training at Camp Custer
6. Getting "Over There"
7. Bryan and King George V
8. To Russia, With Influenza
9. A Letter from Mother - 25 Sep 1918
10. A Letter from Father - 7 Oct 1918


footnoteMaven said...


I've heard about the notes on a soldier's body, but I've never seen one.

I teared up. So glad he didn't have to use it.


Miriam Robbins said...

Being the country music lover that I am, Maven, when I first saw this, I immediately thought about Tim McGraw's latest hit, "If You're Reading This (I'm Already Home)." It makes me think of all the young men and women over in Iraq and the other Middle Eastern countries that are carrying similar items.

Janice said...


A lovely story. I teared up at the soldier's note too! It makes me wonder if my father carried one of those. He never talked about the war.

Also, a question. How tall was Marie? She looks so short next to her husband.


Miriam Robbins said...

Hi, Janice!

Marie was 4' 11", and my dad, his siblings and cousins all competed to see who was taller than Grandma! When my generation came along, we did the same thing!

Actually the picture of the couple in this post are Marie's parents, George Emmmett and Mary J. (WILKINSON) LEWIS. Neither one was very tall either.

At 5' 1/4", I seem to have inherited all the short genes from both of my parents' lines!