previous arrow
next arrow

John "Jack" Thomas Nilles

Submitted by: Patti Jacobsen {great-niece}

John Jack Thomas Nilles

John "Jack" Thomas Nilles born around 1889. John "Jack" Nilles served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The enlistment was in 1918 and the service was completed in 1918.

Story of Service


My great-uncle, John Thomas “Jack” Nilles was born 24 March 1889 in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, the eighth and youngest child of Peter Hubert Nilles and Anna Margaret (Beth) Nilles. He attended St. Luke’s Catholic School through the eighth grade.

By 1909, Jack decided to learn the lumbering and building material business and he started at the bottom in order to gain practical knowledge in his field. He worked at Schmitt Lumber in Two Rivers and later at Farrell Lumber in Algoma, Wisconsin.

He was socially active, a member of the Columbus Club and served as club secretary for a number of years. As a musician, he played cornet with the local band and attended local dances.

Jack registered for the draft in the first registration on 5 June 1917: for all men between ages 21 and 30. His registration states that no one was dependent on him for support.

One month later, on 3 July 1917, Jack married Regina Fenske in Algoma in a Catholic ceremony. The couple set up housekeeping in Algoma while Jack continued to work at Farrell Lumber.

On 28 May 1918, Jack was drafted into the Army in order to fight in World War I. He trained at Camp Custer (now Fort Custer) in Michigan and was assigned to a replacement unit that left for France on 1 July and arrived ten days later. Jack next trained behind the lines for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive/Battle before he was assigned to Company G, 28th Infantry, 2nd Division. As a Private, he went to the front lines around 30 September and was killed in action around 12 October 1918. He was 29 years old.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was a major part of the final Allied Offensive of World War I. The final battle was fought from 26 September 1918 until the Armistice of 11 November 1918, a total of 47 days.

In an obituary/tribute written in January 1919, Jack is described as being “of a somewhat reserved disposition, attentive to business, clean cut in every way…he laid a foundation of friendship and confidence within the hearts of everyone with whom he became acquainted…His absence will be sorely missed by all his friends, which he could number by scores and scores.” (Algoma Record-Herald and reprinted in the Two Rivers Chronicle) His sister-in-law and my grandmother, Nellie Nilles, described him as “the nicest fellow and very good-natured.”

Jack was buried three times: 1) where he was killed; 2) disinterred and reburied in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in France; and finally, 3) his remains were disinterred yet again and were brought home to Two Rivers, Wisconsin on 10 September 1921 and he was buried on 13 September 1921 in Calvary Cemetery in Two Rivers, with the American Legion giving him a military funeral.

After his reburial in Two Rivers, his five remaining siblings commissioned an altar in his memory that was installed at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in 1925. The altar stayed there until the church was decommissioned in 2004, then was reinstalled at St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church in Two Rivers where it is today.

Jack’s death devastated not only his young wife, but his mother (who died less than a year later) and especially one of his sisters.

In researching this story, I have discovered much about him through notes I’ve taken during conversations with relatives, old newspaper articles and family photos. It has given me a better understanding of my Great-Uncle Jack.

5bb55ea22cab2 John T. Nilles WW1 draft registration

5bb55ea22c195 Jack Nilles photo