Letters from World War I donated to MSU
During World War I, Lester Hartnett wrote many letters to his sisters, detailing a variety of things from the mundane day to day activities to what occurred during the war.
Mary Murphy, the who was the great niece of Lester and Eva Hartnett, said “What was interesting was he never signed the letters with ‘love, Lester’, just ‘Lester.’ He was always very matter of fact. And he talked about these things that were very traumatic and he was just ‘oh we did this and we did that’ and makes you wonder what kind of person he was that he didn’t seem traumatized by the whole thing. I think he sort of thought the whole thing was an adventure.”
Murphy received the letters from her mother when she passed away in 1979. They sat in a chest until recently. She felt like they shouldn’t be in her possession for a variety of reasons, mostly to help preserve the letters, keeping them as undamaged as possible and because Lester Hartnett being a professor at Minot State University was a big deal for the family.
“I was always impressed that he was this teacher at a college and it was very important in our family. He was well regarded for that achievement. And I thought, I can keep them and they can degrade or I can take them to where he spent his life and they can be kept and people can have access to them. It was almost a relief to take them to where they will last instead of being passed from family member to family member,” Murphy said about why she donated them.
The college was his home and Murphy felt that it is really important that the letters came back to where he lived.
The college will digitally copy the letters and then work to store them in acid-free paper.
“At this point we aren’t sure when or where they will be displayed,” Joseph Jastrembski, a history professor at Minot State, said.
“These letters are a real piece of history and since this is the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering the first World War, this is a big time for WWI themed events and memorabilia. These letters are part of a larger story of MSU,” Jastrembski said.
Minot State students and faculty had been very involved in the war and even had two casualties, Otis Cooper and Henry Finn, who the World War I memorial will be re-dedicated to later this year.
Hartnett Hall on the campus was dedicated to Lester and Eva Hartnett on December 30, 1976, two years after the building had been opened. Both of them had been instructors for 34 years and had helped build the Fine Arts program at the college.