Henry Ward Colebank was born on a farm in
Crescent Township, Iroquois County, Illinois on
November 24, 1889 to parents L S and Martha McIndoo
Colebank. Henry was not quite 2 when his parents
moved from Illinois to a farm near Madelia, Minnesota.
Henry attended elementary school in district #4 in
Riverdale Township, Watonwan County, Minnesota.
When Henry was about 20, he and his brother Lester
worked in Iowa constructing water and sewer lines in
towns that had none.
Henry’s uncle John Milton McIndoo was
superintendant of a school for delinquent boys in
Farmington, Michigan called the “Ford Republic”. John
wrote to his sister Martha (Henry’s mother) about an
opening at the school, which resulted in Henry getting a
job there as manual training instructor. Henry worked at
the school until World War I.
Henry served in the Army Corps of Engineers in World
War I and returned home in May of 1918. He then
painted houses in Madelia until he and his brother John
bought a farm in Woodside Township, Polk County,
Minnesota in 1920. There was no house on the farm so
Henry built a new one while his brother John operated
In 1922 Henry got a letter from Mr. Jones, head of Ford
Republic, saying there was a job opening at the school
for boys and the job was his if he wanted it. Henry
returned to work at the school and this is where he met his wife to be, Ruth Jones, who was teaching
elementary grades at the same school. A romance developed and Ruth and Henry were married August
15, 1925 in Farmington, Michigan. Henry was 36 and Ruth 33. Ruth was born November 6, 1892 in
Boston, Massachusetts. Both of their children were born in Detroit, Michigan where Henry worked until he
retired in 1952 with 30 years of service. Uncle Henry visited us in Madelia that year. I was amazed at his
physical condition – the gymnastics he could perform at age 63 – like cartwheels and push-ups.
Henry and Ruth moved to Florida for their retirement years. Henry was building a boat prior to his death.
He thought he was experiencing a slow extended recovery from the flu, but it proved to be cancer from
which he died on May 1, 1958 in Boca Raton, Florida at the age of 68.
The children of Henry and Ruth were:
Henry Ward Colebank Jr. – born June 11, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan. He married Norma Tressler, then
Beverly Martyn. They resided in Coleman, Michigan.
Doris Annette Colebank – born October 19, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan. She married Peter Ratcliffe and they
resided in Remus, Michigan.
|Henry was a member of the 1911 Concordia
Band in Winthrop, Minnesota. He is in the
front row third from right wearing glasses.
(click to enlarge)
L to R: Henry Jr., Henry, Ruth, Doris
Henry was inducted into the service in 1917 at
Camp Custer, MI as a private in the infantry
section of the National Guard. He was assigned
to Co. B, 107th U.S. 32nd Division. He trained at
Camp McArthur, Texas, until Dec. 22, 1917, then
embarked from Camp Merritt on January 29,
1918 and arrived in France on February 20,
1918. He saw action at the Alsace front (May
18-July 21), Fismes front (July 30 - August 7)
(Advanced from the Ourcq to the Vesle); Soisson
front, (August 28 - Sept) (2 battles of Juvigny);
Argonne-Meuse Offensive (Sept. 30 - Oct. 20)
(operations against Kriemhilde Stelling); front
east of the Meuse, Dun-Sur-Meuse (Nov. 8 - 11);
Army of Occupation in Germany from Nov. 17
until brought home and discharged.
Henry and Ruth's daughter Doris
|Henry Ward Colebank Jr., an accomplished poet,
wrote the poem below about this picture of him with
his little cousin June Colebank Blanshan.
|TWO CHILDREN, WE
As if more fragile than a book-pressed leaf,
I hold the fading yellowed photograph
My father took most sixty years ago.
Two children, we, a little more than three,
Stand hand in hand and cheek to cheek beside
The weather-streaked umbrella tent that housed
My family in that long-flown summertime
We camped in your side yard, My Juni-June.
This fragment of those Minnesota days
Awake the children's comradeship that I
Remember as a warm week-long embrace.
So when tonight you promised on the phone,
"I'll see you soon!" my thoughts distilled until
They formed one longing, "We are children still!"
|Henry wrote the above letter to his brother
Lester while stationed in Germany as part of
the Army of Occupation in 1919. Click on
each individual page to enlarge it.
|PETER COLEBANK, father of
JAMES COALBANK, father of
JAMES D COLEBANK, father of
L S COLEBANK, father of
HENRY WARD COLEBANK