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Thomas J. Quayle

Submitted by: Tish Wells {Distant cousin}

no photo 300

Thomas J. Quayle born around 1886. Thomas Quayle served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The enlistment was in 1917 and the service was completed in 1918.

Story of Service


Some stories aren't about the soldier but who they leave behind. Lieutenant Thomas Quayle married 23 year old Sarah Webster in July 1917, and they moved from base to base as the U.S. went to war. Then he was sent to fight in Europe.

Sarah Webster, widow of World War I

By Tish Wells

On July 3, 1917, a tall brunette of 23 married a military officer named Thomas J. Quayle, 31, a 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army.

Three months before, on April 6, the U. S. had declared war on Germany.

Out of a mass of family owned, dimly-penciled letters and stationary inscribed with sputtering ink, yellowing telegrams, worn scrapbooks of photos, and official documents, came her story told in letters to her close friend, Mildred Chapman, who had kept the correspondence, most in their original envelopes, for a century.

Sarah and Mildred had sung in the choir at Hiram College in Ohio. After Sarah graduated, she went to work at fashionable Halle Brothers department store in Cleveland. A year later, in 1914, she helped Mildred get her first job there as a telephone orders clerk.

Then, Sarah’s life went a different way. Her father died, and she went home.

Three years later, Sarah wrote a letter to Mildred saying that she had made up her mind. She was getting married eight days in Oberlin, Ohio, and she wanted Mildred to be there because Sarah remembered the nights when they would sit on their beds and discuss “our futures, and it seems to always come out differently than we thought.”

Thomas Quayle had worked for the Hudson Lumber Co. of Akron, according to the Hardwood Record, before enlisting in the Army. Born in 1886, he was 31. Sarah was 23.

Mildred first impression of him was negative, an impression garnered from Sarah’s earlier (not-kept) letters, but she changed her mind when she saw how much Sarah was in love.

Quayle had a “fine heavily built figure, not fat. He’s had too much training for that,” Mildred wrote to her mother, Ella, from the wedding on July 11th. “I should say he was playing Yankee with perhaps a little Scotch (Scots) mixed in.” His mother and brother attended as well as “about 60 of Sarah’s relatives.”

The Webster house in Oberlin had a “mammoth” dining room that held a long table dressed with tall candlesticks with “taller pink candles and a solid silver coffee urn.” It was trimmed in roses with “pink and the red ramblers…and she had just great huge bunches of them everywhere – pink in the room and red in the others.”

“Sarah was an adorable bride. She wore a short dress as was her veil. The dress had soft creamy net with lace little ruffles here and there. The altar was decorated with palms and lilies, and “The Lohengrin March was played.” Sarah’s only attendant was a “little cousin who carried a basket.”

After the wedding, the roses were plundered of their petals by Mildred and one of Sarah’s teenage cousins to throw over the newlyweds as they left.

It would be months before Mildred again heard from Sarah, a new Army wife, who was moving from base to base with her husband.


In January of 1918, Sarah Webster Quayle was blissfully married, living in Montgomery, Alabama, in a house in town with a “cozy grate fire,” but she assured Mildred in a letter, “I am not going to feel so far away from my friends either as some of married friends have taken themselves.”

Her husband Tom, now senior first lieutenant was very busy with the new troops. “He gets in just once a week from camp now. It used to be twice. I go once in a while to camp but he is so busy there that I try not to bother.” She had made some friends but was still lonely.

“Tell me more about your work,” she urged Mildred who was employed by the Rochester (NY) Parks and Planning. “What a big little ambitious girl you are. I would love to see you and talk over our days that we spent together.”

“I am just as happy as I can be and my only hope is someday you will meet as kind and as good a prince as you saw me take for my very won, amid roses and pretty things.”

Sarah concluded, “Write soon.”


In July, Sarah went to Chicago to see her brother, Frederick get married. The ceremony reminded her of the past. “I could see my own wedding (a year ago) so plainly and how one does remember such things,” she wrote Mildred.

She had joined her husband in Petersburg, Virginia, in May and was unhappy there partly because she caught malaria. She wrote, “We hardly ever saw one another, but especially in these times we learn to be thankful for very small things, do we not?”

When in Chicago Sarah wrote Mildred. She had finally received a letter from her husband.

“How good it seemed to know he was really some place. Before I felt as if I was writing letters to heaven, and wondered if they ever reach him.” Quayle shipped out June 15th from Hoboken, N.J. on the U. S.S. Leviathan, once a German-owned liner, the S.S. Vaterland.

It said, “Saying I am so glad for everything that has happened, and most of all for the months I spent with one with whom one can be themselves absolutely.”

“I am so proud to give, but it is hard, for it means, separation during the best years of our lives. I sometimes tremble for him for I so want him, Mildred, to come back to me well and whole.”

“I long for a home, a dear cozy one, where just we two can live and learn to know one another better and you can visit us. What would we do, if it were not for dreams, and hopes.”

“I just hope your brother and Tom and our American boys will come home safe. Aren’t they just splendid?”


In August 1918, Sarah was still suffering from the malaria she caught in Petersburg. The war was omnipresent in her thoughts. She had gotten a letter from her husband and wrote to Mildred.

“Received the sweetest letter from Tom last p.m. He wanted to say so much to me and couldn’t. They were packing up to leave, finally for the firing line. I am proud that he is there, but just the same, my heart sinks at times, for there are times for all of us, are they not.”

She wrote about what she felt the Army would need after the war ended. “A department, I think would be interesting later on, to teach disabled soldiers - for before long, we will have them being brought back and many of them will have to begin life anew, take up arts and crafts or interesting works.”

Mostly, she thought of her future. “I amuse myself after retiring, picturing that lovely little scene you spoke of; the crackling, roaring fire place. You and Tom would quite agree as to the entire coziness of it for Tom loves a fireplace and he always longed for one of our own. There really ought to be a Thomas Jr. Maybe if I hadn’t been so sick.”

Then reality bit hard.

Quayle was killed in action on the 29th, during the Meuse-Argonne drive according to the U.S. Adjutant Generals Military Records, He was buried in a military cemetery 1055, in France.

The death notice was sent to his wife at her home in Oberlin, Ohio. It took a month to arrive.

On October 24th, Sarah sent a short letter to Mildred.

"This is to tell you the sad news that my husband was killed in action on September 26. Just received word yesterday.”

“It was such a shock. I cannot think it through and you, dear Mildred, were so near to me that evening, July 11, (Sarah’s wedding) and only Tom knows how I love him and how he loved me. "

She ended, “Love as ever, Sarah.”

Thomas Quayle’s death came just over six weeks before the Armistice to end the war was signed on November 11th.


What happened next?

Sarah Webster Quayle remarried in 1920 to a Kenneth Green. She appeared under her married name, Green, in the 1930 census but not the 1940. She sent a gift and note card to Mildred at the time of her marriage, in 1921, but no more correspondence seem to exist between them.

Mildred Chapman went to work as a storyteller librarian at the New York Public Library’s Harlem branch, and as a salesgirl at the now-defunct Wanamaker’s department store. She served in the Red Cross in New York. She married William Wells and had children.

1st Lieutenant Thomas Quayle’s remains were repatriated from France to Oberlin, Ohio. He was buried in Westwood Cemetery in 1921, according to findagrave.com.

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