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Wartime Letters

Before the convenience of e-mail and satellite telephones, couples stayed in contact during times of war by writing letters. They came to terms with being separated and got to know each other better while sharing news of home and military life.  

[These letters] remind us that greatness is borne on the shoulders of the ordinary men and women who love their country and each other.
- Tom Brokaw

 Separated by War, Together in Thought and Spirit

Robert Coleman (1748-1825) emigrated from Ireland in 1764 and later became one of Pennsylvania's first millionaires. Through friends, he was connected with powerful men in Philadelphia. He found employment first as a scrivener and clerk, and then became a bookkeeper for the Grubbs at Hopewell Furnace and learned the iron business.  In 1770, Robert took a position with James Old at Quittapohila Forge. Three years later he began his career as an ironmaster by marrying Mr. Old's daughter, Ann (1756-1844). When he leased Elizabeth Furnace in northern Lancaster County in 1776, the Revolutionary War had started and Robert provided munitions and war supplies to the Continental Army.  The success of Elizabeth Furnace encouraged the growth of an empire. Robert purchased shares in Elizabeth and other furnaces, expanding his wealth and power. By 1783, he was active in politics and later became an associate judge in Lancaster County. His descendants continued his iron empire into the twentieth century. Elizabeth Furnace is still owned by the Coleman family.

I shall take every particular care of in your absence wich I pray god may not be long I conclude with my Love to you & I remane your ever loving wife...I waite impationt for your return Ann was managing operations at one of the family's iron furnaces while her husband was in New Jersey on business.

Letter from Ann (Nancy) Coleman to Robert Coleman
September 1776



Robert Zartman (1922-2000) grew up in Lititz, graduated from Lititz High School in 1940, and helped run his parents' dry goods
and grocery store. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII and was stationed at Camp Mackall, NC for some of his basic training. It was in Abemarle, NC that Robert met Louise Upchurch. Robert served in the Army 1943-1945; he was stationed in England, France, and Germany. A survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, he returned home to Lititz after the war.  Louise Upchurch (1923-2002) was born in Mt. Gilead, NC and was a graduate of Appalachian State College in Boone, NC. She corresponded with Robert while he served overseas. She later became a physical education teacher at ELCO and Warwick High Schools.  Robert and Louise married in June 1947 and raised two sons in northern Lancaster County. They owned and operated the Spring Lake Resort and Pretzel Hut, both in Elizabeth Twp.  Louise wrote about her college classes and that her girlfriends were still talking about  meeting Robert's friends. She knew him well enough to tease him about being so attractive.  In this letter, Louise wrote at length about her "favorites" and preferences for clothing, music, jewelry, and other subjects. She had very strong opinions, but also wanted Robert's input. They got to know each other through letters, as they were unable to spend much time together in North Carolina.

Received your most wonderful letter to-day, and it was the best I had ever had...Good night my love and dream pleasant dreams. I shall be thinking of you always and loving you more every day.

Letter to Robert Zartman from Louise Upchurch
No date




 Robert Everts Miller (1891-1974) was the son of Blanche Lichty and Charles F. Miller, president of Hamilton Watch Co. Robert Graduated from Haverford College in 1912 and became the advertising manager at Hamilton Watch in 1915.  He enlisted in the U.S. Army Aviation Signal Corps in 1918 and served during World War I.  Elizabeth Keller Miller (1894-1987) was the daughter of Anna Dickey and William H. Keller, deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania. She attended Vassar College and was active in social Organizations in the communities in which she lived.  Robert and Elizabeth married in December 1916 and honeymooned in China.
They raised five sons; four served in World War II. The eldest son, Charles, was born in January 1918 and is mentioned in his father's letter.  When Robert returned home in 1919, he anonymously penned the first eighty-seven columns of "The Scribbler" in the Lancaster New Era. He was employed by Hamilton Watch Co. until 1928, when he moved his family to Springfield, Illinois, to become president and general manager of the Illinois Watch Factory. During World War II, he left the corporate world a second time to join the Army Air Corps in 1942. He retired in 1961 as president of National Airlines Terminal Corporation.  Elizabeth began a long distance conversation by telling Robert about the Liberty Loan parade and the local gossip.

Good evening sir! It's a nasty raw windy night and I wish that you were here. We'd have a big blazing fire in the living room, and you'd throw yourself down on the davenport, and I'd curl up beside you with my "head tucked under your wing."

Letter from Elizabeth Miller to Robert Miller
20 April 1918
(letter is incomplete)











Love Letters

Before the telephone, e-mail, and text messages, people relied on letters to carry sentiments and information to loved ones..

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