Chief and Paul had mutual disappointments in their attempt to serve
their country in the time of war. Father Gordon regretted that he
had not been called as chaplain in World War I, when he offered
his services. In World War II he was too old and Paul was rejected
because of ulcers.
The Chief was proud of the fact that 20,000 of the 320,000 Indians
in the United States served in the armed forces and that one of
the soldiers who raised the flag at Iwo Jima was an Indian.
They both did what they could to help the war effort at home. Paul
had been on the personal staff of Governor Stassen before the war
and worked with the Red Cross during the war.
Father Gordon did his bit when German prisoners of war were brought
to a camp established for them at the Milltown Cannery. There were
about 400 prisoners in the camp. The priest made an impression on
them when they found he could speak German.
Like all Germans they liked their songfests and he often led them
in singing, as well as conducting religious services, for a large
number of them were Catholics.
The war changed many things, Father Gordon missed the trips to the
reservations and other places to see his friends. He missed Paul
but the kept up a steady correspondence all during the war years.
The Chief's letters to Paul, some of which he has kept all these
years, reveal much of what went on during the war.
On March 2, 1942, he wrote: "It is only 24 below this morning. Nice
weather for the 2nd of March
I have been planning to run down
to Madison but the weather up here has been so severe that even
driving is not pleasant. I had two funerals right in the midst of
the big blizzard and below zero weather but my old body is still
equal to the occasion even if I puff a little when I walk fast.
I bet you could still ride a camel."
I am an old man but I have never really seen a winter like the present
one. It got cold during hunting season and never a thaw until last
week when it thawed for two days a little and today 24 below and
Spring just around the corner."
the way, I hope that opportunist Wendell W. doesn't run again. He
would not get to first base, I think, old Chief Blow Hard. I am
almost in favor of another term for FDR. Let him die in office and
Eleanor can take over, nes't pas? Infant terrible! Sepra gemon!
(My French spelling is awful.)"
with old Doc Meilicke last week. He is not in such good health but
still carries on. Old Walter Lantz was taken to Madison General
last week. Looks like cancer. Thus things go on sweetly and we await
spring with anxiety. My C cards expire tomorrow, but I expect another
batch. Got 96 coupons last time
Paul was busy with his Red Cross duties. Gas and tires were rationed
and the priest felt more than ever the isolation of the parsonage
at Long Lake. His aged father had gone back to Gordon and he was
all alone. To get to Chicago, where Paul was stationed at the time,
he had to drive to St. Paul and take a train. If he had a sick call
at night, he had to put chains on his tires or have the county plow
come in or get a team of horses to come in because the roads were
either filled with snow or washed out, be he had to get there.
He wrote Ke-wah-din (he always addressed Paul by his Indian name),
"I am certainly alone here for the first time in year. I am getting
used to cooking my own meals as I did years ago when I first hit
this ranch. My dad is perfectly fine. I was up to see him last week.
He is sitting pretty and contented. You might mail him a pipe if
you happen to find one lying around loose and unclaimed. Just address
Wm. Gordon, Gordon, Wisconsin." Later that year 1943, William Daniel
Gordon died at the age of ninety-three.
Father Gordon was in Pittsburgh at the time and arrived home on
the day of the funeral to hear of the death. He hurried to Gordon
and arrived one hour before the time for the funeral. He then officiated
at the Requiem High Mass in the pioneer church erected by Anton
Gordon, Philip Gordon's grandfather.
On May 16, 1942, Father Gordon wrote:
Paul, I too was a little heart-sick when
you wrote of so many things of the days gone by
Sunday I leave for Merrill. Father Rice has invited me down for
two or three days. A new $100,000 school will be dedicated. This
week; I was quite busy. On Monday, Bishop O'Connor dedicated the
school at reserve and I preached: Tuesday at Odanah, another school
dedicated and preached again. That evening we all went to Bayfield
for the closing of 40 hours. The Bishop preached. Had a fine visit
with him. He is as different from Bishop Reverman as I am from Shung
Kai Check. He is a real good mixer, plain, common and friendly."
heard a week or two ago from John Daggett's mother that John is
now in Newfoundland with a bunch of contractors, building air bases.
So that leaves St. Paul empty as far as I am concerned
my visits to St. Paul are always very hurried ones and back the
course there is always this consolation-this situation will not
be forever. This war is going to end sometime and I have a lousy
idea that it will end this year - at least I am hoping so
Paul time is fleeting, eternity long. It does seem only a few months
ago since your good mother use to great me
" (The priest read
the Mass at her funeral).
suppose you have lost all interest in politics for the duration;
Stassen, Wilkie, Heil, and the rest of the guys; same here since
Floyd Olson died. Very little going on, Paul, the roads are not
any good yet; besides Heil is not sending state aid up here and
people are complaining bitterly. But I always say, that what you
get for voting for a damn Republican."
Another unusual event happened in that year. Anyone reading the
Congressional Record for June 11, 1943, will find Father Gordon
offered the following opening prayer in the House of Representatives
"Father Almighty, we lift our minds and hearts to Thee in sacred
communion for these brief moments. We praise and adore Thee. We
thank Thee for the evidence of Thy good will and love towards our
people and our Nation. The black chimneys of industry and the glittering
temples of commerce that dot our vast land all to well bespeak Thy
favors and the afforded opportunities given to our great Nation
to advance the welfare of its people. Let us, O good Lord, not forget
that we need faith in Thee reared like the giant cathedral deep
and solid in the bosom of the earth. Grant us, we beseech Thee,
a firm belief in Thy power and majesty, Thy justice and charity."
"Grant, we pray, that this legislative body be guided by true Christian
principles, so that in the twilight of the lives of its individual
Members well be it said of them in the words of the ancient Latin
hymn. - "
'Vexilla Regis prodeunt'
'Fulget Crucis mysterium.'
"Bless, O Great Spirit, the Kitchi Manito of our forefathers, Our
Great White Father, our President and our Commander in Chief. Bless
the Members of this Congress. Bless us all dear Lord. We beg these
favors of Thee in the name of the Most Holy Trinity - Father, Thee
and the Holy Ghost. Amen."
The Chief visited Paul whenever he could in Madison and in 1943
he mad a trip to Camp Grant where Paul was then Field Director of
the Red Cross in charge of the camp office. The commanding general
assembled Indians from all the different tribes to meet the Indian
will win for the great chief in Washington." Father Gordon said.
"More that 20,000 of the 320,000 Indians in the United States are
serving in the nation's fighting forces."
An example of Indians' spirit and participation, he cited was the
town of Odanah on the Bad River Reservation, which had a population
of 700 and has sent 140 braves to the army and one young woman to
people are indeed proud to fight for Uncle Sam against the axis
aggressors," Father Gordon was pleased to announce.
Whenever his ration cards would allow it, the Indian priest went
back to keep up the old traditions - ricing, maple syrup making,
hunting, and fishing. He was now fifty-eight and he believed he
had completely recovered from his malignancy. In 1943 he wrote,
"Just a line or two as I wait to start out on my second day's hunt
for the fleeting deer. I was to the Doc Olson cottage north of Grantsburg
yesterday. Saw 23 does but not a single buck, so I came home without
the bacon. Going out west of here today on the St. Croix; lots of
deer out there are reported."
everything is going well with thee. I have been unable to make the
cities the past week. My gas was running low until the end of the
week when our local board came through for almost 300 coupons. I
am pretty well fixed and will try to make use of some of them to
get to the cities next week
Dan wrote about a month ago. I
sent the manuscript of the book to them two months ago. Nothing
about it from either of them
The reference was to the book Dan Wallace was to have helped him
with. The book apparently was never written but the 'Outline for
Biography of a Chippewa Indian Who Became a Catholic Priest' was
published by the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, Wisconsin. This
is probably the manuscript referred to by Father Gordon.
Father Gordon seemed to be concerned about Paul's future, as the
Red Cross was only for the duration. Many of his letters contained
references to his future and advice about work, girls, etc. He seemed
to think Paul deserved a promotion he never received. On April 20,
1944, he wrote:
One does not always like to be doing good work but never
moved to a better paying or higher or more responsible job. Just
like in the army. First private, then corporal, sergeant, lieutenant,
captain, major, colonel, general, etc., up and up and up, and more
pay and more pay and more pay. Of course, you understand my case
all we priests get the same salary. The difference between a small
parish and a big one is that there are more baptisms and more funerals
and more marriages and as you know a priest gets a little fee for
each performance. To state my case, last year (1943) I had two funerals
and one marriage and perhaps 12 baptisms
have the satisfaction that you did and are doing a very good and
even extraordinary work
But as you wrote the work is only
for the duration. Thereafter, you will take up other fields. Politics?
Rather an uncertain and not always a successful field. Witness poor
Wendell Wilkie. Lot of headaches and lots of enemies and some friends.
The Church? Well, lots of heartaches and requires too much advance
preparation and you don't get much reward in this life. I really
do have the time of my life. There is not a day I do not laugh out
loud to myself. The lumber business? It's a business career and
mostly routine deskwork and very few contacts except the office
force and the meager social life of St. Paul. Your delight is to
meet people and make contacts and visit places. You probably be
a little unhappy although your Uncle Charley always seemed jovial
and got a lot out of life and I imagine had many a good party, not
great satisfaction out of doing good to Sisters and poor people.
And he lead a clean life
with me, I am now too old too look a long time ahead. Most of my
life is behind me and your suggestion that I should rush the work
on my biography is a sensible one. That is what I ought to do but
you know how lazy one gets. Hardly any ambition, nothing pushing
you, hence you delay and postpone and procrastinate ($64 word) and
in the end do nothing but plan."
July 5, 1944, he wrote:
"Did you get my acceptance of the Bastille Day invite? I mailed
a letter and the card from St. Joe's Hospital where I had my tonsil
taken out which was almost as bad as the disease."
the old war seems to be coming to an end fast. What a blessing it
will be for the whole world. I think we ought to plan a trip about
1946. By that time steamships will be back or maybe we will be able
to fly over for about the same price."
Father Gordon spoke more and more of loneliness. On May 17, 1943
"Do you know, Ke-wah-din, as I grow older, I find it harder and
harder to find people to associate with. Old friends die, go away.
I am all alone again, Father Tabenicki who was with me (but miserable
company) is now on his farm near Chetek, Wisconsin, and my winter
housekeeper is back near Hayward. Of course one gets use to anything."
now I am trying to write my biography. SO many have suggested it
and Dan Wallace said he would edit and publish such a volume, but
I worked five hours yesterday and dashed off about 15 typewritten
pages and have not yet reached my 12th year in age. How many pages
will it take when I reach my twenties and thirties and forties?
It would take one book alone to tell of our Mediterranean trip and
another of my trip to Ireland and another of my schooling in Rome,
in Innsbruck, in Washington, D.C. in St. Thomas, etc.,
winter came he apparently was glad he did not have to eat his own
cooking any longer. On November 20 he wrote"
I have my winter housekeeper and janitor now with me and
I can get a mouthful of wild rice properly cooked with rabbit, squirrel,
venison or wild duck
March 19, 1945, he wrote:
"I promised to help Father Fagan out in River Falls on Good Friday.
He is not well, so between us two old men we ought to go through
the ritual without too many mistakes. I was in town last week but
made no calls . Had forgotten my glasses at Father Guinney's, so
drove down to pick them u, the called at Seven Corners for some
Ginger ale and then home. No place to go, Paul, and nobody to talk
to there. It is a hell of a life for an old rounder like myself.
But the war is bound to end someday and we can resume our old schedule
I bet you, Paul, we will do a lot of running around when once the
show is over. Just think of getting new cars, all the gas we need,
all the tires we can us! And then cash in our bonds. Drop us a line
soon Paul. I had to give up my plans to go south. Tried three places
to get a substitute priest but noting doing. The manpower shortage
has struck the clergy ranks and it is simply impossible to get help
over a Sunday."
May 15, 1945"
"Arrived home safely and found things here O.K. Must have been a
lot of love making during my absence as I will have three marriages
within the next week
I'll take a couple of days off to visit
around. Want to visit Dan and Ceil too. With all my fees coming
from the marriages, I'll be in velvet
Sad news today. One
of my boys reported missing in action in Germany. Date May 1st.
That is our first casualty and I feel bad, as I baptized the kid
20 years ago. He was Gene Murphy. Family all broken up. War is hell
June 19, 1945"
Dan Wallace and Ceil have moved back to Ryan. We visited
every night during my last weeks stay there
Before I was released
from the hospital (June 7), had a steak dinner over at your aunt
George is a nice old fellow. He came with his car to
pick me up at the hospital and later brought me back
like to go over to Reserve and Post. In fact I have half a notion
to run over their today and get a taste of venison
I got a
big kick out of your visit to the hospital while I was prisoner
there and especially that Mark Clark story about my Mass. I read
Mass every Sunday for the soldiers and Mark Clark is a soldier.
for the time being, Feeling fine since my release, but am taking
it very easy. No more lawn mowing or wood chopping. POSEYEMO AND
CHAPLAIN BASTILLE DAY VETERANS."