August 15, 2022

Young Finnish physician was first Jasper County death in Great War

It is most appropriate on Veterans Day 2018 we remember the first Jasper County fatality of World War I, “the war to end all wars,” 100 years ago.

On Feb. 28, 1918, The Colfax Clipper reported that Dr. Otto Yelt, formerly of Colfax, died in France while in the foreign service. This “talented young Finlander” was a practicing physician doing special laboratory work with Dr. C. M. Porter at the Colfax General Hospital and Rest Home when war broke out in Europe.

Dr. Yelt came to Colfax intending to make the Spring City his permanent home. He had applied for membership in the Jasper County Medical Association but was not a member on account of his having been in the county for only a few months.

He was reported to be “well known in medical circles in the United States” for a prize-winning paper he presented to the American Medical Association on “Tuberculosis.” He was a graduate of the University of Helsingfors, Finland.

At the outbreak of the war he immediately enlisted for foreign war service and joined the French medical corps. He served continuously until his death Jan. 4, 1918.

While in France, Dr. Yelt met and married a beautiful young French woman, like himself, highly educated, and an accomplished artist. Mme. Yelt sent this affecting account in French of her husband’s death to the Victoria Sanatorium in Colfax, as follows:

“Touloune, January 31, 1918

“Seventh Street, Demouilles.


“I am writing to tell you that my husband, Dr. Otto Yelt, is dead. He was active until the last and working among his patients. His death was caused by congestion of the brain.

“It was Dr. Yelt’s request that his wife write you. His request was that you publish his death and communicate with Colfax friends. He died on January 4 and was Chief of Service a la Psychotherapeutics, Hospital 38 in Touloune. He was doing his duty and consecrating his time and life to his work for the victims of the war. He died in service for France and humanity. He was glad when America joined the Allies and was proud of his adopted country.

“I want to thank you in advance for the trouble I am giving you in doing this for me. I pray you will accept my best sentiments.