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Well hello there, Week 2 of the A to Z Challenge! Are you ready? What’d you think of week 1?
For the letter E, I wanted to focus the spotlight on my paternal line and in particular the EBERLE family. It’s a somber story I share and yet one that is ever so applicable in today’s world of prejudice and hate.
My Tie to the Eberle Family
My paternal great-great-grandfather Jacob Eberle came from what was then Mannheim, Kutschurgan, South Russia. Mannheim was a small Catholic German village located near what is now present Odessa, Ukraine. Jacob and his family immigrated to the United States on 4 September 1892 and started a family in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon.
A Patriot AND Prejudice
When World War One started, his only son, Stephen Jacob Eberle (born and raised in the United States), enlisted and served from 1915 to 1918 as a private in the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division.
First reports received by telegram stated that he was “missing in action.”
Later in October 1918 he was reported “missing, but not dead.”
“The ‘missing but not dead’ report gave rise to the report that Eberle was a deserter. Acquaintances of the Eberles laughed wisely and made sly remarks.
‘Heard from the war department yet?’ a man asked Eberle one day.
Eberle, a shoemaker by trade, sadly nodded his head in the negative.
‘Aw, you’ll find him in Germany!’ was the retort that burned into Eberle’s heart.
Not only was young Eberle listed as a deserter, but a traitor and possible spy. Former friends and acquaintances spread the reports that he had fled from the American ranks to Germany, the former home of his father and mother.
The lonely father and mother took these rebuffs unwillingly and maintained at all times that in the end the honor of their boy would be upheld.
The mother [Elizabeth Eberle, nee Brossart], particularly maintained that Stephen had died on the field of battle, and as a result of her continued pleadings, secured the aid of Senator McNary, Congressman McArthur, President Wilson, General Pershing, Adjunct General Harris, and Captain James O Convill and others to trace his sudden and unaccounted for disappearance.
The [repeated] appeals of the sorrowing mother, who was suffering untold torture as a result of the reports in circulation dubbing her son a deserter, caused the war department to take the matter up directly with General Pershind who ordered a thoro[ugh] investigation.
[Six years later] Notification of Stephen J. Eberle’s heroic death came to the parents in a letter from the war department at Washington D.C.
To Mrs. Eberle, the mother, the vindication comes with heavy weight, for it relieves her in the eyes of her neighbors and friends who laughed…and shunned her because they believed her son was a deserter.
The official record now is cleared, have been corrected to read that Stephen J. Eberle was killed in action with the American troops in northern France on the afternoon of … under the banner of Company I, 18th Infantry, First Division.”
– The Portland News, October 22, 1924
Several years later, Mrs. Eberle proudly went overseas with other mothers of fallen heroes to honor her son, Private Stephen J. Eberle, at his final resting place in France.
Applicable Lesson Learned