As I chose to walk across Stratton Street in hopes of catching former U.S. Marine and present Logan attorney Edward Eiland in his office the day before Veterans Day, I was pleasantly surprised as his longtime secretary, Nancy Kirkendoll, directed me to his office where the loud radio sounds of “Still the Same” by renowned rock ‘n roll artist Bob Seger bounced off the walls of a very relaxed looking Eddie Eiland as he peered up from behind his paper-filled desk.
Finishing off a few cheese crackers for his lunch, Mr. Eiland, who was not expecting my appearance, pointed to a chair for me to sit in. I quickly related my reason for being there: a newspaper article from March 1939 in which Mr. Eiland’s father, a member of Logan City Council at the time, had written a letter in regard to why he was proud to be an American citizen. I acknowledged that I felt the letter and Eddie Eiland’s distinguished World War II service were very appropriate for Veterans Day.
“My father immigrated from Hungary to the United States in about 1902,” Eiland explained. “He and a Jewish friend of his, Sigmund Kohn, left New York in 1908 and was headed to Oregon, but wound up in Pocahontas, Va.”
Documents show that after working there for five years, he and Kohn opened a store in Northfork, West Virginia under the name of “Kohn and Eiland” in 1913. In 1914 Eiland opened a branch store in Logan, where he remained the rest of his life.
“He first had a store at what is called Billy Goat Junction at Mt. Gay,” Eiland recalled, “and he lived at Monitor. But the big flood of 1918 washed him out at the store and the house. That’s when he moved to Logan. He opened a store on the block where the Logan Bank and Trust is now located and where the old Guyan Valley Bank used to be. Later on, he moved his store to Stratton Hollow and closed about 1931 when the depression hit.”
Rudolph Ruben Eiland, who was born in 1880 and died in 1974, met Gizella Wilcsek, a fellow Hungarian, in New York. They were married in Logan and produced seven children, two of which died young. Edward Eiland, who will be 96 Feb. 3, is one of two remaining children. A sister, 13 months younger than himself, resides in Memphis, Tn. R.R. Eiland, Eddie’s father, became a naturalized citizen in 1912 and his wife became an American citizen through marriage in 1914.
Edward Eiland, who began law practice in 1946, graduated from Logan High School in 1937 and was in his second year of law school at West Virginia University, when the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, caused him to leave school and join the United States Marines. Eiland, who obtained his law degree after the Great War ended, was one of many Logan Countians who joined the armed services almost immediately after their fellow Americans were attacked. And, like numerous other fellow Loganites, Eiland came home a war hero — the recipient of the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry of June 15, 1944; the Purple Heart for wounds received the same date; Combat Ribbon for service; the Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star awarded to the 4th Marine Division for service in Taipan and Tinian; Assault Troops, the Amphibious Corps medal for service during Feb. 19 thru Feb. 28, 1945; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars; and the World War II Victory Medal. Eiland returned from service and has remained in Logan for all of his life.
At a time when veterans are to be honored across America, perhaps the letter from R.R. Eiland dated March 29, 1939 — a few years before our country became engaged in its second world war — can help explain how diversity in the United States, played an important role in the strengthening of our country.
The following is an edited version of the letter written by R.R. Eiland:
It is still vividly inscribed in my memory the beautiful phrase which was our motto in Hungary, way back in the days when I was in my youth. ‘It is not the number of square miles that makes a country great, but the number of square men.’
“I am speaking as a naturalized citizen, and as an American. I glory in the tradition of our American democracy. I glory in my American rights and my American privileges. I glory in the breadth of the tolerance taught by our constitution. My citizenship and my faith in my beloved land imposes on me certain loyalties; loyalty to brotherly love, loyalty to all the great principles that are basic in both Americanism and Christianity.
“Ordinarily, we are inclined to take these loyalties for granted and we are inclined to forget the great gifts of freedom that is in our possession. But these are not ordinary times. These are times of unrest in many parts of the world. In too many instances we see governments that dig their foundations in the swampy sub-soil of hatred. We see nations that once produced great contributions to the cause of civilization suddenly gone mad in an orgy of terror. We see men suffering the lash of persecution because of their loyalty to the faith of their fathers, simply because of their insistence upon religious liberty. We read the harrowing reports of old men and little children whipped down in the streets because they happen to have been born into one faith rather than another.
“We in America are fortunate we can still feel free to speak our minds, to read whatever newspaper we prefer, to vote for whatever candidates we choose, and to worship God as we feel fit. For 150 years the American nation has been unswerving in its faith in democracy. We know how good it is to live in a democracy and we want to keep it so we can continue to live in peace and freedom. We should ever be mindful, however, that enemies of our present form of government are working to overthrow the liberty and the security which we all now enjoy under our present form of government. Let us all, therefore, be good and reliable patriotic citizens of our country; let us justify our citizenship in the good old USA.”
“Yours, very truly,
Perhaps the above 1939 letter written by a proud Logan County and naturalized American citizen defines as well as anything why we continue to honor our military servicemen and women for both their past and present services. For without them, this great country simply could not be.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.