The Irene and J. R. Godwin Collection

The Irene and J. R. Godwin Collection at The Wiregrass Archives, Troy University Dothan (AL) Campus (Record Group 090) consists of photographs, postcards, and letters about World War I. Originals remain with the donor, but the digital images are online.  See the collection at

Irene Pierce was seventeen years old when America entered World War I. She had worked in the Tallassee, Alabama, cotton mill — a good job at the time — since she was twelve.

Irene Pierce
Tallassee Mill (Burned May 5, 2016)

From the Alabama Historic Commission “Places in Peril Report,” July-August, 2010, pg 6 (link to PDF)

By early 1918, many of Tallassee’s young men had volunteered or were drafted into the US Army, and a number served in the American Expeditionary Force in France until mid-1919.

Two of 34 leaves in Irene Pierce Godwin’s Photo Album

Some of the local boys were close to Irene. They sent her sentimental postcards that barely hid their intentions . . .

But two soldiers were more serious: Chester Schrum (hometown unknown), 328th IR, courted Irene by mail until April 15, 1919 . We don’t know if she answered, but the tone of his last letter to her is self-explanatory.

Chester Schrum to Irene Pierce, April 15, 1918

John R. Godwin of Tallassee was luckier. Wanting to see more of the world than Central Alabama after finishing school (Tallassee schools only went through 8th grade), Godwin went to New Orleans, where he worked aboard ship and made the trip to China at least twice.

He worked in the Tallassee mill until May 24, 1918, when he enlisted in the 81st Infantry Division. He was immediately sent to Signal Corps school (Co. C, 306 Field Signal Battalion, 81st Infantry Division). His official enrollment declaration lists his occupation as a “Telephone Lineman” at which he worked seven years for weekly wages of $21 .

He also had a number of tattoos (of which his grandson, our donor and informant, was unaware).

John R. Godwin

Godwin embarked to France on August 1, 1918, was hospitalized in Camp Hospital 64 for influenza, April 5-10, 1919, then served in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on the last two days of the war, November 9-11, 1918.

He shipped back to the States on the USS Roanoke, arriving in Charleston, SC, on June 21, 1919. He mustered out from Camp Gordon, GA, June 30, 1919. He and Irene married in May 1920 .

Godwin’s return ticket

See the promotional video on YouTube, and research the collection at



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