Wednesday, May 9, 2018

World War II Letters - 18 Sep 1945 - Written by Stan Cooper

Parents Come for a Visit to Annapolis for the School's Centennial

Stan is proud as a peacock to share his happiness with his parents finally at the school he has dreamed about during his time serving in World War II. 

Stan in center of photo turning to his left behind flag 16.

Stan with his mother, Sophie Cooper. Oct. 1945

Stan with his father, Jack Cooper. Oct 1945

This is the last letter I will share here in this blog written by my father, Stanley G. Cooper, to his parents and other family members. I have many more of his letters written up to 1965. 

World War II Letters - 10 Aug 1945 - Written by Stan Cooper

Looking through my father's photo album/scrapbook covering his years at Annapolis; I find photos showing two dates of family visits.

Stan in his whites is in August 1945.

Bud Cooper, Jack Cooper and Stan Cooper August 1945

A friend of Stan's, Eileen, Pop, Stan and Martha, Bud's wife.

I will cover the family's second visit next in my last letter to cover here in my blog covering  10 October 1945.

World War II Letters - 1 Sept 1945 - Written by Stan Cooper


Stan has been busy with starting his classes in his Fourth Class or Pleab year at the United States Annapolis Naval Academy. All students are called Midshipman.

He loves going to the Army - Navy games and supporting his team. He even joined the Brigade football team in his Third Class year of 1946. He later played Lacrosse.

Stan Cooper, #12, front row, third in from left. 1946

Stan mentions his brother, Bud, hoping he is home soon. Stan also mentions the USS San Diego's involvement entering into Tokyo Bay at the surrender signings for Japan. 

He loves blowing his horn - trombone - again in a great little dance band on campus. Stan joins the Naval Academy Band also in his Third Class year.

Stan plays his trombone in the Annapolis US Naval Academy. He is seated second in on the far right side back row.

Stan also mentions that the Academy is preparing for the celebration of its Centennial week and that he "hears through the grapevine" that his family will be visiting the 10th of October.

Monday, May 7, 2018

John William "Billy" Oswald (1860-1932) Part 2

The Arrest

Billy Oswald is sitting in jail for his own protection from the “mob” after the shooting of Pat McWeeney. The following article from the Devils-Lake Inter-Ocean, 9 January, 1886. page 1, Col. 5 describes Billy's arrest.

It was the general belief, when it was known that Oswald, after the killing of McWeeney, had left the saloon hurriedly by a rear door, that he would never be captured alive; that he would soon get beyond the reach of the authorities and if overtaken would made a desperate fight. Sheriff Wagness after making a hurried search among the crooks and corners back of the saloon, came out on Kelly avenue where he ran upon Nightwatchman Pierce, who was also looking for the murderer.  The two officers held a brief consideration and then started on a run toward the house of ill fame where Oswald was making his home. Arriving at the house, which is located half a mile south of the business portion of the city, the sheriff rapped at the front door, which was locked. A female voice from within inquired, “Who’s there?” Wagness replied, “The sheriff.” There were several exclamations from as many female voices, and some imprecations which would not be considered appropriate in polite society. Finally the door being opened, the sheriff advanced and inquired if Oswald was in the house. One of the females answered in the affirmative, adding “He’s upstairs.” Officer Pierce was guarding the exits to prevent Oswald’s escaping, if he should attempt to do so. The sheriff started upstairs, and when about halfway to the top Oswald sang out:
“Who is that?”
“It is me, Billy,” replied the sheriff, “and I want you.”
“All right, Ever, I will surrender to you, but no other s-- of b---- could take me.”
Reaching the top of the stairs, the sheriff found Oswald and his partner, Taylor, standing near the bed in the room.
Oswald held in his right hand a huge pistol and in his left the weapon, which was empty, with which he had killed McWhinney.
         “Give me those pistols,” said the sheriff as he advanced.
“I will never give you this one,” replied Oswald exhibiting his loaded weapon and at the same time throwing the empty pistol on the bed.
“I will not take you out of this house with that pistol on you,” rejoined the sheriff.
“Then I won’t go,” was Oswald’s answer.
“Give it to Taylor then, and be quick about it, for the sooner you get in a place of safety the better for you.”
This brought to Oswald’s mind the fact that one or two of McWeeney’s friends had talked of lynching, and he asked, “Is McWeeney dead?”
“I think it is only a flesh wound,” replied the sheriff.
“Then I will go if you’ll protect me,” said Oswald handing the pistol to Taylor.
The sheriff assured him that he would protect him, and the three passed down the stairs and out the door, where Officer Pierce joined them and they all hastened to the jail, going in around about direction, the sheriff meanwhile advising the strictest caution against being discovered by the “mob.”  This was a very clever ruse, and served the purpose of preventing Oswald from making resistance. The fact is, there was not the slightest danger of mob violence.  The “flesh wound” story of the sheriff had the effect of lessening Oswald’s fear of punishment and the “mob story” hastened him toward the jail.  When the party reached the jail and while Sheriff Wagness was unlocking the cell, Mrs. McWeeney, who had been informed of the tragedy, passed the courthouse. Oswald heard her heartrending cries, “O, my poor Pat! my poor Pat!” and then realized that the case was serious.  The thought that McWeeney was dead seemed to seize possession of his mind and it is said he made a lunge for the pistol he had given Taylor at the bagnio where he was captured.  Taylor wore a heavy coat and the pistol hung so far back upon his waist that Oswald failed to secure it. In another moment he was safe behind the bars. Being told that he had killed McWeeney he sent forth the most terrific volley of invective against the officers for deceiving him, calling them the worst names his adept tongue could pronounce. When he had exhausted his vocabulary he broke down and wept like a child.
A large number of his associates, and others who knew him, have visited the jail. He is contained in cell No. 1 of the new steel vault, and a watch is kept over him day and night. Sheriff Wagness deserves great credit for the successful manner in which he managed to capture.”

The same page also covers the reactions of Billy’s parents, Henry and Theresa Oswald, who came to town as soon as they heard of the arrest.

Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, Ramsey Co., Dakota [N.D.]), 09 Jan. 1886. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

John William “Billy” Oswald (1860-1932) Part 1

This family photo was provided by a distant European Oswald cousin. The father, Henry, is standing behind seated Theresa. Henry, the son, is standing to the far left, with John “Billy” sitting with his mother & Anna Lena standing on the far right. This must have been taken around 1867 interpreting the ages of the children. 

J. W. Oswald married my 2nd great aunt, Jane "Jennie" Mauvillian Cooper in Montana in 1891. Here is Billy's story before he met Jennie.

Billy OSWALD was born in Oct 1860 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to the parents of Henry OSWALD & Theresa SIEBER. He had an older brother, Henry A. OSWALD, also born in Minnesota in May 1858. Their younger sister, Anna Lena OSWALD, born in 1863, lived a short life, died on 19 Feb 1871, & buried in a local cemetery in Minneapolis.

Henry Oswald immigrated to the United States from Switzerland in 1854 at the age of 22. He married Theresa Sieber in 1857. Theresa immigrated in 1849 from Germany. They settled in Minneapolis and stayed there for the rest of their lives as Henry succeeded in his businesses.

At age 20, Billy left home to travel west to the Dakota territory. The first evidence of him is in the small settlement of Devil’s Lake in the local newspaper, The Devil's Lake Inter-Ocean, on 2 Jan 1886 at the town’s 5th year anniversary. Oswald was one of the original settlers of this community. He first arrived in September 1881. In 1882, the US Territorial Land Office opened its doors to open six million acres for settlement. The community continued its growth with the railroad passing through and opening its first post office in 1883.

The first church in Devil’s Lake was Westminster Presbyterian Church, with the first service in the building occupied by the Townsite Office on 4th St. & 4th Ave. on the first Sunday in May 1883.

A disastrous fire spread through Devil’s Lake on 27 Dec 1884. John William Oswald is mentioned again in the local newspaper as one of the firemen who attempted to put out the fire that “devastated the entire business district, including the spacious Lakeview Hotel then only a few months old.”


“First Appearance of the Devils Lake Fire Department”

“The thermometer marked 8° below zero at 3 o’clock last Saturday morning, when the Devils Lake Fire department was called out for actual duty and made its first bow before the public. Rasmus Johnson’s saloon, corner of Fourth and Arnold, was on fire. The flames had spread to every part of the building within, had burned through the roof, and were leaping high into the sharp, crisp air when the alarm was given. Will Campbell, Dick Timmerman, Frank Combs and William Hall reached the engine house almost simultaneously, and with four minutes from the time the alarm was given they had drawn the machine a distance to two blocks to cistern No. 3. J. A. Burnett, W. N. Moore, Jas Eaton, O. W. Rawson and J. W. Oswald were neck and neck with the engine, drawing the hose cart. The first hose was laid and a stream gotten upon the flames in a remarkably short space of time; then a second attachment was made and a second stream turned on. Will Oswald, Billy Moore, J.A. Burnett and Arthur Leach handled the pipes. They had quit their rooms with but little clothing, about as much as would be comfortable for a cool summer evening, but they stood by the nozzles until every spark of fire had been quenched.”

“... Billy Oswald ran half a mile for exercise, and yet was among the first to reach the engine house.”

You can read the entire detailed account of the town's fire department on page 1 in column two titled, "A Great Hit. First Appearance of the Devil's Lake Fire Department."
Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, Ramsey Co., Dakota [N.D.]), 27 Dec. 1884. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

The following spring of 1885, Billy continues to grow as a businessman with the "transfer of his liquor license" to Rasmus Johnson (saloon owner mentioned above) 1 and "representing a wholesale cigar house of Minneapolis, distributed samples among his future customers...he will make a good salesman and ought to command a paying business here."2

Billy is mentioned in the local paper going on a bear hunting trip with four other friends [George Treat, Billy Doll, Mr. Taylor, R.R. Bratton]. They returned with two deer & several jack rabbits in December of 1885.3

On New Year’s Eve, Billy is out at the local saloon with friends. He becomes drunk which gets this well-known and liked citizen in trouble. He becomes cover news on the weekly Devils Lake Inter-Ocean, Saturday, 2 Jan 1886. 

Here is a transcription of the complete article:

Pat McWeeney Instantly Killed by Billy Oswald.
The Old, Old Story of Promiscuous Shooting.
The Murderer Taken to Jail Without Resistance.

Conflicting Statements-The Parties- The Inquest

Thursday evening, about 10:15 o’clock, while at least 200 of our citizens were laughing and dancing the old year old at the roller rink, the report came that Pat McWeeny had been shot dead by Billy Oswald. The INTER-OCEAN lost no time in getting upon the scene of the tragedy, which was not a difficult thing to do, as we simply had to follow the crowd that passed toward Fourth Street and Kelly Avenue. Four doors west from the corner of the latter thoroughfare is the saloon of Boeing & Doyle, in one of the front windows of which stands a fine piano; then comes the bar, and a little further on a lunch counter. A rear door leads through a brief hall-way to an ample room furnished snugly, but not lavishly, with two dozen chairs, three or four ash-stained tables and one semi-circular table covered with green cloth, the lair of the animal known as “stud-poker.” The premises afford a comfortable retreat for the gambling fraternity, being supplied with all the beguilements calculated to entice the devotees of chance games--the loud-toned piano, the elaborate bar with it exhilarating fluids, the succulent oyster, the appetizing mustard sandwich, and the quiet room where fickle luck is reported to abide. 

An excited crowd was gathered in front of the saloon, and the room itself was packed with men, Deputy Sheriff Flummerfelt and Coroner Zunich vainly attempting to keep the crowd back. McWeeney lay in the corner of the room, behind the front door, life being extinct. The body was lifted to a chair, and the clothing being partially removed the fatal wound was found. The bullet had entered between the fourth and fifth ribs, about three inches below and to the right of the left nipple.  Drs. O'Donnell, Camp, and Smith soon came in and pronounced life extinct. They were of the opinion that the ball had ranged upward to the heart. The room being partially cleared, the body was taken to the rear portion of the saloon proper and laid upon two tables. Further examination disclosed a flesh wound just over the left hip bone, a bullet having passed through the clothing at that point.

The painful duty of notifying the murdered man’s wife was now being performed by one of our citizens. McWeeney’s home is half a mile northeast of the city. The wife was of course almost frantic with grief and insisted upon seeing her dead husband. She came downtown, but was not permitted to enter the saloon, being taken to the house of a friend. At 12 o’clock the body was removed to the home of the deceased, and friends of the family watched with it until morning.
There were as many versions of the tragedy as there were witnesses of it. The first version we heard was that Oswald put his arm about McWeeney’s neck and said: “You Irish s-- of a b-----, take a drink.” It is proper to state here that Oswald and McWeeney have always been  on good terms, and there was not ill feeling between them. McWeeney replied: “Don’t call me that; I will drink with you.” Oswald, it is claimed, repeated the words and McWeeney drew back and squared off. Oswald, throwing himself into a pugilistic attitude, advanced toward McWeeney, and the latter struck him in the face knocking him down. Oswald turned upon his side and pulling his pistol, a large self-cocker commenced firing at McWeeny at close range. The first ball missed its mark and passed into the ceiling, but the second took effect. McWeeney then turned his back upon Oswald, who fired two more shots in rapid succession. One of these struck McWeeney on the left hip, as described above.
The wounded man then turned his face to Oswald and raising his hands, essayed to speak, but his words could not be understood. He moved slowly backward and fell. By this time Oswald was on his feet, his empty revolver in his hand. Someone said to him: 
“Billy, you killed Pat.” 
“I know it,” replied Oswald. “He had not business to strike me.”
Oswald then passed hurriedly to the back room, where there were several persons engaged at the games, and called for someone to give him “a gun.” No one responded to his request, and Oswald then left the premises by the side door.

Another version is that when McWeeney protested against being called an infamous name, Oswald flourished his revolver in McWeeney’s face, striking him a light blow with it. The face shows an abrasion of the skin on the left cheekbone. The same authority states that Oswald then put his pistol in his pocket, and McWeeney, riled by being hit with the pistol, retaliated by knocking Oswald down.

        Still another version is that Oswald had been swinging his revolver around for ten minutes before McWeeney came in. This person told the INTER-OCEAN that he was standing at the end of the bar and Oswald fired at him, the ball passing within three inches of his face. The bullet hole is in the wall in proof of this statement. Another witness corroborates this last statement and says further that Oswald kept his pistol in his hand and had it in his hand when McWeeney entered; that when McWeeney protested against being called a s-- of a b---- Oswald whipped McWeeney’s face with the pistol; that McWeeney pushed Oswald away, and the latter being intoxicated fell to the floor, and as he arose did the shooting. This witness also states that when he had emptied his pistol Oswald called to his partner for another gun.
         Sheriff Wagness and Night Watchman Pierce found Oswald, soon after the shooting, in a house of ill repute in the southern suburbs. He was taken into custody and placed in one of the steel cells in the county jail, where he now is. His preliminary examination will take place as soon as the inquest is finished. The coroner’s jury, consisting of John J. Cooks, Frank Converse and George Percival, viewed the remains yesterday afternoon and then adjourned to Noble Bros.’ office, where the testimony was taken. McWeeney’s funeral obsequies will be held tomorrow in the Catholic church Father Jerome officiating.

C. J. Kops, who was playing the piano when the shooting occurred, left on yesterday’s train, but Sheriff Wagness telegraphed to have him apprehended and held as a witness. About twenty subpoenas were served yesterday upon eyewitnesses of the affair, who were wanted to testify at the coroner’s inquest.
        Oswald has done much promiscuous shooting in this city, and is known to be a dangerous man when drinking. When sober he is very peaceable. Emmett Orr carries on his chin the scar of a bullet fired by Oswald over two years ago. Oswald was drinking, and went into a hall where there was a dance. He commenced shooting at random, and Orr, who was going upstairs, accidentally stopped one of the bullets. He has committed other acts of violence when drunk that place him in the category of dangerous characters.
McWeeney was married about a year ago to a Miss McGillicuddy of Grand Forks, and the marriage has a tinge of romance. McWeeney was one of the party indicted
for the Ward murder, and while in jail at the Forks Miss McGullicuddy, with a woman’s sympathy, sent choice food to his cell. Her sympathy soon ripened into love. Pat was a handsome boy. It was he who received a bullet from the pistol of one of the Ward brothers. His arm was broken, and when he cried out that he had been shot, his friends, or some of them, opened fire upon the Ward shack. The history of this tragedy is well known. It was the most unfortunate thing that ever befell this section, for the eastern enemies of Dakota and the Dakota enemies of the superlative Devils Lake region have ever since pointed scornfully to that occurrence, and the whole community has shared the burden of obloquy which attached to great crimes. And so it will be with this shooting of McWeeney. The law-abiding element must suffer the retarding consequences of that rash act, but the class of individuals who will seek to acquit the guilty perpetrator of it have nothing at stake.
         The saloon where the tragedy occurred has been a disgrace to the city ever since it started, and law-abiding citizens will rejoice to know that the city board has given orders to have it closed. The board will no doubt refuse to issue a license to its proprietors for the present year, and it must not be forgotten that the board has the power to revoke the license of any saloon where disorder is permitted. If there is any law that will prevent the recurrence of such outrages an have taken place in this city from time to time, it should be applied. People who have property here; men who value their lives and prefer dying natural deaths to being shot down by some irresponsible rough who may choose to make a shooting gallery of our streets, are the ones most deeply interested. Aside from the danger to the lives of innocent persons, and the disgrace that attaches to a town where such things are of frequent occurrence, the shock the business interests necessarily receive is a strong argument in favor of a tight rein in sturdy hands.” 4

I will continue to cover Billy's trial in the upcoming months by the Devils Lake Inter-Ocean newspaper in future blog posts.

1) Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, Ramsey Co., Dakota [N.D.]), 16 May 1885. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
2 )Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, Ramsey Co., Dakota [N.D.]), 13 June 1885. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
3) Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, Ramsey Co., Dakota [N.D.]), 19 Dec. 1885. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
4) Devils Lake inter-ocean. (Devils Lake, Ramsey Co., Dakota [N.D.]), 02 Jan. 1886. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Monday, April 30, 2018

World War II Letters - 24 June 1945 - Written by Stan Cooper

Stan continues to encourage his Queens Village family to visit him at the Annapolis Naval Academy stating that September would be the best time as by that time he would be accustomed to his new routine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

World War II Letters - 12 June 1945 - Written by Stan Cooper

Stan is now a midshipman plebe at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

He fills his parents in on the details of his first forty-eight hours of adjusting to his new lifestyle.

He informs the family that "Pathe News took pictures of us fleet men being sworn in. In one 'take.' I am on the extreme right of the first row (without any hair too!)"

I tried looking for an actual copy of the film Stan was referring to with no luck. 

Stan also encourages his family with Bud to come visit him on a Sunday afternoon. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

World War II Letters - 26 May 1945 - Written by Stan Cooper

Stan is extremely excited along with his family that he has passed his mental exams and is enthusiastic about his upcoming physical exam.

Both letters to and from his parents cross in the mail.

"Annapolis Naval Academy here I come!"

Tecumseh Statue in front of Bancroft Hall
taken from my father's photo album.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

World War II Letters - 10 Mar 1945 - Written by Stan Cooper

Stan, Bud and Steve

Stan writes his weekly letter to family filling them in with his "always persisting tension" lifestyle of serving in the military.

During preparation for his exams, he is persistent in going out one evening to attend theater at William and Mary College with 100 other "Naps." The program was enclosed with the letter as he does not mention the name of the play.

Stan hopes to hear soon from his older brother, Bud, who is serving in the European front in Germany. "I certainly hope he gets across the Rhine without getting his feet wet."

Bud Cooper, standing in back left with two war buddies. Bud sent
this photo (dated 15 May 1945) to Stan in a letter. 

During this time, Stan's future brother-in-law, Stephen J. Gabuzda, was also fighting in Germany along the west side of the Rhine. He was a radio-man with his fellow soldiers in the famous battle for the Remagen Bridge. He was rewarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service. 

"Freeland Radio Man Decorated." The Plain Speaker, (Hazleton, Pennsylvania), Monday, 13 August 1945, page 5, column 3. on : Accessed 22 Apr 2018. 

Back in 2004, my mother was watching television on the History channel. A series of programs airing all day about World War II caught her attention. She was immediately grabbed by a section covering the battle of Ramadan Bridge.  She saw a close up of her brother as he waved his arms just for a few seconds. She recalls, "He filled the whole screen of his torso and head,  a good close-up, full face, waving his arm in complete circles with his half smile on his handsome face with his beautiful eyes. He was vigorously waving either troops or vehicles (not shown) across the bridge. The clip was long enough for me to get a good look." 

The Color of War. The History Channel. 
Episode 4 - Battleground. 2001

Monday, April 16, 2018

World War II Letters - 27 February 1945 - Written by Stan Cooper

Stan returns to Camp Peary from another visit to his hometown in Queens Village, New York. He relates to his parents his travel back to his barracks. This time he returned on time and avoided AWOL.

It is "interesting" to read that Stan received nine letters from his father all at once the next Monday.