A book written by an early commander of Colorado Springs’ American Legion Post 5 has returned home, nearly a century after its publication.
A copy of “I Shall Fare Forth,” a collection of poems authored by World War I veteran and locally renowned attorney Eugene D. Preston, was recently discovered in an online bookshop — in Ireland, of all places — and ordered by the post’s historian, Keith LaMee.
It’s the second copy LaMee been able to get his hands on in recent years and one of only a handful known to exist, including two at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, one in the Pikes Peak Library District’s special collections and two in the Library of Congress.
LaMee donated the first copy he got his hands on to the museum. But considering the surprise that came in the second, he just might keep it.
“I’m not so sure about letting the one with the notes out of my possession,” LaMee said of the volume, which came with two letters addressed to fellow post member Landell Bartlett. One was postmarked 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 8, 1921, the other 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, 1926 — both from Colorado Springs.
“That’s the thing that really floored me — the 1926 one still had the 2-cent stamp attached,” he said, adding that both letters discuss post finances, specifically bills and membership dues.
The poem collection was compiled by Preston’s mother after his death in 1926 at age 37, from pneumonia — and published by the post the same year, with only 100 copies printed.
Preston was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1888, and became a lawyer after attending the University of Denver and Columbia University. He served as an Army officer during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France, which helped bring an end to the war, and was a member of the El Paso County Bar Association, according to a 1926 Associated Press obituary and a list of bar members from Colorado in 1917.
Preston was elected as the post’s commander adjutant in 1923, and commander in 1924. He served as the deputy district attorney of the Colorado Springs-based 4th Judicial District from 1913-1914, and a public trustee of El Paso County in 1923, LaMee said.
His pallbearers, according to a 1926 Gazette article, include William S. Jackson, a founding father of Colorado Springs and railroad executive, and Willis Strachan, then district attorney of the 4th Judicial District.
He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.
Preston’s poems span everything from wartime experiences to automobile races in the Pikes Peak region. “The Poppies’ Muster” — a reference to the red flowers symbolic of blood shed by Allied soldiers during World War I and made famous by the 1915 John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields” — declares every poppy, every ruddy, silken poppy, has a name.”
“When the May winds blow assembly, listen closely, you will hear. Every poppy, at attention, answer roll call, low but clear. There’s no slacking with the poppies on the 30th of May. Each one speaks of a fallen hero, proudly, on Memorial Day.”
Another poem, “Semper Fidelis,” reflects on “lips of lassies, escapades and sparkling glasses, all the doughboy fun that passes.”
“Civil life will be brighter, for we know no bond is tighter, than the love for brother fighter, Buddy mine.”
Just how the book got to Ireland is a mystery to LaMee, though he speculates it was sold at a local estate sale and shipped overseas with other books that failed to sell stateside.
“To have something come back into the fold like this, to me, is unbelievable,” he said.