In preparation for the Centennial of the Doughboy in Howard Elmer Park I have been researching the twelve World War I soldiers of Sayre who are named on the monument on the memorial plaque. Jim Nobles gave me a copy of an Elmira Star Gazette article published December 10, 1918 that tells the story of the death of Ransome Bardwell Grumme in France.
The report of the death in France of Ransome B. Grumme of Sayre formerly of Elmira, has caused deep sorrow among the many friends of the family. The decedent was the son of Joseph and Hattie Bardwell Grumme, and a grandson of the late Mr. and Mrs. Henry Grumme, who conducted a furniture business in Elmira many years. The decedent was born in Elmira September 30, 1895, after which the family removed to Sayre when the father opened a furniture store (This building is now the home of Yanuzzi’s Restaurant). The son was educated in the Sayre Schools and when the United States entered the world war, he tried several times to enlist. Finally, he was accepted on March 15, 1918 and he was sent to Kelly field. On June 28th he left for overseas duty with the 264th aerial squadron. On Thanksgiving Day, the parents received a letter from the matron of a hospital at Touilaville, W. Cherbourg, France, saying that Private Grumme was “dangerously ill”. His father at once cabled to France but received no reply. He telegraphed the adjutant general at Washington and received no reply.
Days passed in great suspense as it was not until a week and a day after the first letter was received that the second one arrived. The letter announcing the death of influenza and pneumonia, was sent by the matron of the hospital under date of November 15 and reads as follows. “I am sorry to have to tell you that your son, Private R. Grumme, died in the hospital yesterday in spite of all our efforts to save him. He will be buried in the little French cemetery here at Touilaville, W. Cherbourg, near many other brave American lads who have given their lives for right and justice. It is such a peaceful spot. I often think it is indeed’ God’s Garden.’ Please accept my sympathy. The sister (Nurse) tells me he died quite peacefully, his hand in hers and his last conscious words were to give my love to my mother.” The dead soldier was known to practically every resident of Sayre as “Buster.” He was highly esteemed by all who knew him and was a great big-hearted boy, kind to everyone, with a harsh word for no one and just an ideal lad. Quiet and unassuming he was, and in spite of this fact there was no young man in Sayre who was more widely known and more highly beloved. He is survived by his parents, two sisters, Miss Harriet Grumme and Miss Sybil Grumme, of Sayre and a brother, Joseph Grumme of Elmira.
Ransome’s father Joseph Grumme decided to open a furniture store in Sayre, PA and on January 25,1900 it was announced in the Athens Gazette that Joseph Grumme of Elmira would be opening a new furniture store in Sayre.
Joseph Grumme started his furniture and undertaking business at 217 Desmond Street and according to a Sayre Evening Times article dated September 23, 1936 when Joseph Wolf took over the Grumme store, Henry Grumme built the present furniture store building in 1904.
Joseph W. Grumme married Harriett Bardwell of Elmira. Harriett was the daughter of Ransom and Sophia Pratt Bardwell. Joseph and Harriett had four children Harriett, Sibyl, Joseph Jr., and Ransome. They first resided over the furniture store on Desmond Street then they moved to 210 West Packer Avenue in Sayre the house known to many of us as the Shedden house. After several years they purchased the Henry Spalding house at 204 West Packer Avenue (now the Port home) this became their permanent home.
Joseph Grumme continued in the furniture and undertaking business in Sayre until 1931 when he sold his undertaking business to the Powers Funeral Home of Athens, PA. Powers operated the Funeral Home in the Stevens house on the corner of Packer Avenue and South Wilbur Avenue for about 15 years when they consolidated the Sayre Funeral Home with their Athens business. Today we know this funeral business in Athens as the Lowery Funeral Home. Joseph continued in the furniture business until his death January 31, 1934. His daughters Harriett and Sibyl operated the furniture store until Joseph Wolf of Sunbury took possession of the business in 1936. Harriett Bardwell Grumme died June 14, 1954 in Sayre.
Joseph and Harriett Grumme’s son Joseph was educated at Cornell University as an electrical engineer. He married Nina B. Lawrence daughter of Orville and Laura Utz Lawrence October 27, 1915 in Waverly, NY they lived in Elmira, NY. They both died in 1972 with no survivors. Harriett and her sister Sibyl never married and became associated with the Family business they are listed on census records as non-paid employees of the family business. The youngest child Ransom B. Grumme.
During World War I Harriett Grumme and her daughter Harriett set up a canteen for the wartime service men in a temporary building south of the Lehigh Valley Railroad passenger station. When World War I came to a close the canteen service was closed down in September 1919 after serving 120,000 men. When World War II came Harriett, the daughter served as chairperson of the canteen with the help of her sister Sibyl. During these times, she maintained a “hotline” with railroad officials through which she was notified of troops coming through so that accommodations could be made for them. When the canteen closed May 1, 1946, 831,799 men and women were served. Miss Grumme served 8,779 hours on Canteen duty during this time. As a result of her dedication and service, Miss Grumme received many letters of appreciation from those with whom she came into contact.
After World War II, Harriett Grumme served as chairperson of the Bloodmobile Canteen Service in the Valley. She was honored by them for her service in 1965 and in 1974 she was the recipient of an award from the American Red Cross stating its appreciation for 57 years of service. Harriett served over 9,000 hours as a volunteer for the American Red Cross.
Sibyl Grumme died February 6, 1973 her sister Harriett died September 25, 1975. They resided at 204 West Packer Avenue until the end of their lives. The entire family is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, NY. The only Grumme survivors were a few cousins.
The Grumme Furniture and Undertaking business was sold to Joseph Wolf and then to H. L. Stephens Furniture. The building is now the home of Yanuzzi’s Restaurant.
Henry Farley is a founding member and a current board member of the Sayre Historical Society; He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.