|1980 – 1987|
|This is a true story about an incredible series of events involving a few determined women and a box of personal letters. The letters made a round trip between Kansas and Maine, a bit of magic requiring 100 years. The first letter from Frances Williamson of Dexter, Kansas to Nellie Hill in Lyman, Maine was written February 4, 1884; the final one in discovered correspondence January, 1900. The seventeen letters returned to Kansas in June of 1988.|
|We begin with Marcia McLaughlin who lives in Deering, New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, daughter Sara, now eleven and son Liam, ten. Marcia has worked as a teachers’ aide and in an orchard store. Joe is an electrician. Marcia grew up on her family’s dairy farm near Arundel, Maine. Down the road near Lyman, was the Elwell farm, said to have been a model of beauty in the early 1900’s.|
|By 1980 the property had been neglected by the last of the Elwells until children hurried past it, according to Marcia. Windows had been boarded over vines and overgrowth of all kinds had created a spooky look. When the last of the family died, leaving no heirs, the property was placed in trust, with Marcia’s brother Ralph one of two trustees.|
|During a major clean up of structures on the place, Marcia was looking through old books and magazines, curiosities by reason of age, when she discovered in the stacks a box of personal letters. She says the Kansas postmarks were the first thing to intrigue her. She read one letter (written January, 1888) and recognized a mischievous streak in the writer as well as a keen sense of humor. Because of her own fascination with such relics and their historical value to her children, she salvaged the letters from clean-up trash and took them home with her. She found them difficult to read, fragile and slightly damaged but she continued the tedious diversion. She says “They were lively, sad, and full of love and pride. There is no better way to learn history. Many times I had to look up more information when Frances made comments like ‘That foreign element in New York’. I found in this case she referred to the Irish immigrants.”|
|Knowing she would wish to re-read them, Marcia began transcribing the letters; first in longhand, then in typed form. It became her winter hobby over several years. Midway through the process she realized there could be living grandchildren of the writer who would prize this find.|
|In January, 1985, she wrote to the Postmaster of Dexter, Kansas, asking if any known Day descendants lived in the area (Frances had written of her daughter Jessie’s marriage to Elmer Day). It was two years later, in 1987 that the City Clerk of Dexter found Marcia’s written inquiry deep in a desk drawer. The clerk knew Bonnie Day Henery, in Cedarvale, and passed the letter on to her. Bonnie then wrote Marcia, explaining that she was not a descendant of the right Day, but was beginning a search for a Day who was.
Bonnie enlisted the help of Gwen Day Fox and Veryl Day Moon, both of Winfield, and from two other branches of the Days. Among these three women the only surviving Day Grand-daughter of Frances Williamson was located, after a few false starts and more than a few weeks.
Norma Day Eaton, Topeka, notified her three cousins, Louise Hannah Kohr, Olympia, Washington; Marianne Berry Garland, Wellington, Kansas; and Jean Berry Swartz, Great Bend, Kansas. Thus the four remaining grand-daughters of Frances are treasuring the find of Marcia McLaughlin and are grateful for the resolute search by Henery, Fox and Moon in their go-between roles.
Without Marcia there would have been no known letters. Without the Dexter City Clerk there would have been no go-betweens, and without those three ladies the letters would never have reached the writer’s descendants. Correspondence among all these women, amounts of typing, photo-copying and mailing have been enormous.
Deep gratitude goes to each of them and to Marjorie Carlson Eaton, Norma’s daughter-in-law. Her much earlier assembly of statistics of the Williamson family, gathered from a number of depositories of old records dovetails neatly and embellishes the letters.
The most pleasing ending to the story is that the McLaughlin family visited Kansas in June, 1988. They met all of the women who had worked on the project and spent time with the three Kansas granddaughters. Geography combined with illness of her husband prevented Louise Hannah Kohr from making the trip from Washington. The Kansas visit was Marcia’s first trip out of her native New England except for one when she had visited her sister, Joan, in South Carolina. Marcia brought back to Kansas the original letters.
McLaughlins were taken to the town of Dexter and the site of Frances’ home there, and to the cemetery on the hilltop above. There Frances and her husband, their two sons and daughter, Mildred, lie.
|1880 – 1989|
|Essential to the visit by Marcia and her family was a trip to the farm from which the first letters were written. Abstract No.1 on the land is a plat and description. Abstract No 2, dated October 23, 1880:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
TO WALTER S. WILLIAMSON
RECEIPTS IN FULL THE
FIRST INSTALLMENT FOR
THE E. 1/2 OF S.E. 1/4 SEC. 31,
TWP. 33 SOUTH OF RANGE 6
EAST CONTAINING 80 ACRES
Frances has signed the Abstract “Frank Williamson,” her nickname most often used, and the name signed on many of her letters. In later Abstracts she has properly signed Frances.
Following the second Abstract, three show the remaining installments paid. Abstract six is the patent, signed by Grover Cleveland, President. Then six show three mortgages and releases. The next shows sale of the land, February 1891, seven years after the family had moved into the town of Dexter.
Various owners during the ensuing years added a few acres to the original farm. Then in 1935 it was again for sale. Edward Sanford Berry, a son-in-law of Frances and Walter bought the land and began adding adjacent area to it whenever such area was available for purchase. It now comprises the odd figure of 673 acres. In straight roads country, 640 acres is a section, but this is rolling, hilly foothills of the Flint Hills. Creeks, bluffs, timber, ravines make natural boundaries accounting for the odd 33 acres. Only 110 acres are tillable, and although there is much pasture land for stock-raising it is easy to see that a major feature of the land is its recreational use. Fishing, hunting, exploring, wild food, flower and fossil gathering, and simple relaxation – all are parts of its allure.
Certainly sentiment was a factor in the Berry purchase. The farm was the birthplace of his wife, Mildred, who had died in 1919 after less than eleven years of marriage.
To reach the farm, go south down the main street of Dexter and follow the hard top road about 7 miles. The road connects Highways 160 and 166 and you may see signs “scenic road.” The farm lies on both sides of the road, with tenant house and barns on the right, a tilled field bordered irregularly by timber and Grouse Creek on the left. Go on past the house and barns a very short distance to a culvert. Here Pecan Creek, dry in some seasons, goes under the road and after awhile empties into
|Grouse Creek at the edge of timber. Stop at the culvert and look directly at the low rise along the far side of Pecan Creek where it enters the culvert on the right. This is the site of the Williamson cabin. There are nearby remnants of a cave. On around the curve to a Y in the road gives a view of the small plot of tilled land where the orchard had to be.
The land is presently owned by the four heirs of E. S. and Icel M Berry, two of whom are Williamson grand-daughters.
|NELLIE HILL ELWELL|
|The impetus for the correspondence between Nellie and Frances will never he known. Since Frances mentions several publications throughout her letters, it is most likely that a pen pal column introduced them. Maybe “Eastern woman would like to correspond with Western.” Maybe vice versa. The earliest existing letter is obviously written to a stranger.
Much can be assumed about Ellen Orissa Hill, who married Fred Elwell in June, 1889, according to research by Marcia McLaughlin.
Frances’ replies to Nellie’s letters and packages give more information. Born in 1849, Nellie was 35 at the time the correspondence began and Frances 34. Frances has mentioned old maids twice in the letters, hastening to add in the second instance that she admires old maids, as if suddenly realizing she is writing to one. Nellie married at forty.
Nellie Elwell died in 1930, outliving Frances by fifteen years. Her epitaph should be
|SHE SAVED LETTERS IN A BOX.|
|FRANCES HOWE WILLIAMSON|
|1850 – 1915|
|The essentials of Frances’ life may be found in her letters but a few details should be added. She lost her two sons and reared three daughters. Ironically, one daughter lost her two sons, another lost her one. The bloodline for two generations was female, three daughters and six grand-daughters.
Her mother was Fannie Foster Cayton of Kentucky, a widow with a son, Joe, and a daughter, Eliza Ann, when she married Ira Howe of Indiana. They had Frances, 1850; Samuel, 1854; and Emma, 1860. The family lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, moved to Ottumwa, Kansas, then after a time returned to Terre Haute for better education for the children. Concerning the return to Terre Haute, Frances writes crisply “there we lost our mother.” In all the letters this is the single reference to Fannie.
The marriage had ended in divorce in February 1866, with custody of his three children awarded to Ira. The defendant had been absent from Ira’s home more than one year, had committed adultery, had borne an illegitimate child. Ira had returned from the Army in 1864 to find his three children alone, their mother having deserted them.
Family stories have consistently had Ira guiding wagon trains from St. Joe, Missouri to the Rockies necessitating long absences from home at the time of Fannie’s departure. Perhaps it was part of his Kansas 5th Cavalry routine but he was still on muster rolls of 1864 according to records.
His petition for divorce cites adultery during 1863, the child born June 22,1864. Frances was 14, Sam 10 and Emma 4 when their mother left. They never saw her again.
In July, 1866, Ira married Mary Frances Wilson of Indiana, another widow with small sons Sylvester & Sylvanus. Then to Ira and Marv were born Willie and Olive. There is mere mention of her older half brother in Frances’ letters and none whatever of her older half-sister or Mary Wilson’s four. She showed deep attachment for her own brother and sister, and there she seems fulfilled.
|WALTER SCOTT WILLIAMSON|
|1833 – 1905|
|Frances’ husband was born in Michigan, the fifth child of ten born to Jeremiah and Desire, of Welsh descent. The entire family relocated in Kansas according to census records. From the ‘single clue of the children’s names it is easy to imagine the atmosphere of their home, names of English authors and Greek and Roman personages prevailing. Jeremiah had, among his nephews, Virgil, Dryden, Asbury and Marcus. His own children were Addison, Marcellus, Sheridan, Leonidas, Walter Scott, Lamartine, Mandane, Pericles, Cyrene and Adrian.
The facts of Walter’s life can be found in his obituary but perhaps two items from records of his siblings should be mentioned. The records are not lacking in humor. Walter’s brother Sheridan married Cinderella, no surname recorded, and the occupation of one of their grown sons is soberly recorded as dancer.
Then one Sylvia married Walter’s brother Adrian in 1874. After Adrian’s death, Sylvia married and divorced twice, resumed the name of Williamson, was granted a pension of $30.00 per month from Adrian’s military service, and went to Hollywood, where she died some years later at the age of 72 in 1929.
|1884 – 1900|
|It is reasonable to believe that not all of the letters of these years were preserved. Lapses in time strengthen the thought. It is also probable that the correspondence continued far past the date of the final letter in the chronology, since Frances lived another fifteen years. As Marcia faithfully completed her task, she found some words illegible. Ink had faded, damages of time had left their marks. One letter still in its envelope had corners torn off with the apparent removal of a stamp. Nevertheless, it is included.
Now they are reproduced with no changes in Frances’ spelling or grammar. In some instances punctuation has been altered to make clear he meaning.
Notes on words perhaps unfamiliar today follow the letters, along with explanations which seem useful. A few blank pages for the readers’ own notes and perhaps corrections of compiled material– will be found beyond the long list of descendants to 1989.
|Nellie Hill My dear friend|
| I rec’d a roll of reading matter from you last week and I truly thank you for your kindness. The Democrat has improved so much since I last saw it, the reading now is first class and we found much to interest us. I sent you a box of berries and seeds last autumn that my children gather in our woods and wanted to send to you. Did you rec it? and was there anything new to you in it? I think of you often and thank you for the Everlastings you sent me they are greatly admired by everyone that sees them. I should have written to you sooner and oftener but I have a great many correspondents and little time to write besides postage stamps have been scarce for a while. We live 7 miles from the P.O. and the roads have been bad so I haven’t had a chance to send for stamps.
We have had some cold days, mercury reached 10 degrees below zero for a few hours one week but now it is warm and cloudy, such gloomy weather. We have had very little snow; we never have much. I have had a “spell” of my sick-headache today. (I am a great sufferer with it about once a week) and have been laying down, but these little feet tramp, tramp so I have no rest. I suppose I have told you I have three little girls aged 8, 5, and 2, and they must keep busy, even if Mamma’s head does ache. Now I hope to hear from you again, I have never found out if you were a Miss or Mrs. yet, and if at any time I can do anything for you, or have anything you want please let me know and I will do what I can for you. I am a very busy woman, have to work very hard at all times and poverty to contend with. I haven’t much time for letter writing but will try to answer you when I can. With well wishes,
|Mrs. F. Williamson|
|April 3rd, 1884|
|My dear friend Nellie Hill,|
|Your letter arrived in due time and glad I was to hear from you. I have so often wondered how you were situated and who you were, now I feel acquainted with you. I was sorry to hear of your early affliction I can sympathize with you in parting with the one you loved most of all on earth. A year ago last Aug. I lost the dearest, best child. I had a dear boy 12 yrs old. But to begin at the beginning (if it does not tire you) We came to Kans from Terre Haute Ind. in July 1856. I was then seven yrs. old. We had all kinds of misfortunes in way of losses by fire and cyclones. Our house was blown down in 59 & caught fire & we lost all we possessed. In 61 Pa entered the army as did nearly all the Kans. men. In 63 we went back to Terre Haute so I could go to a good school.|
|There we lost our mother & Pa came home in 64 bringing us to Kansas where all our property was. Pa was a cabinet maker & one of the best men I ever knew. I kept house with his help. I had a bro three yrs younger that was a great care to one so young as I. At the age of 16 1/2 I was married to a man I had known all my life. A good man & Pa’s partner, in 15 months our first child Lester was born. Then when he was three yrs old our Claude, the pet of all the family was born. Mr. Williamson’s business failed. Pa moved to this Southern Co. & in a few years we followed him where we have been trying to make a living on a new farm in a newer country & find it up hill work. Our first daughter Myrtle was born in 76. Jessie in 79 & Mildred in 82. A month before Mildred was born Claude was taken sick with Inflammation of the Brain. We had a physician from Dexter 7 miles. He called counsel from Winfield 15 miles, then our Dexter Dr. was taken sick, & our Winfield Dr. was called to his home Portland Me. then we employed another Dr. from Dexter & he called counsel from Winfield. Poor little Claude was suffering all this time. We shaved and blistered his head, cupped & tortured him in all ways. All to no avail. By this time I was expecting to come down any minute & the 30th of J an when Claude was at his very worst my baby was born. I was so excited I could not sleep for a long time then the Dr. dosed me trying to get me to sleep but nothing had any effect on me. When baby was a week old I got up & went to work again. Claude got better & the 24th of Feb. sat up to the table. He was very poor & weak & his eyes were crossed or one was immovable. He was soon able to get around, his eyes natural but his head ached continually. Then I had neuralgia or rheumatism in my neck & shoulder, till I had no peace day or night. We were a very helpless “set” here were five of us unable to draw a pail of water & not able to keep help. Mr. Williamson was so behind with work & Dr. bills coming on. Lester & he had to both be at work early & late, but we were happy & contented & how we did enjoy that summer we felt like rejoicing all the time. Claude restored to us & the Drs said he would out grow his head aches & soon be sound again. He arranged me a nice scrap book, cut rags & sewed & crocheted two nice rugs & tended baby. Our baby was so good & perfect with blue eyes & curly hair. Claude would say so often “Mamma, I don’t see how I would ever put in this summer if it wasn’t for this baby”. Mr. Williamson was building some houses. He is a carpenter by trade & was gone much of the time. Lester farmed & Claude & I and the other children read & worked a little. Done all we could & enjoyed ourselves. I thinking he was getting better till the 11th of Aug. we were alone & he took a vomiting spell (he vomited every day) & went into a spasm which lasted about 20 min. The little girls ran for a neighbor but he was over it & bright & better & the neighbor thought I was frightened & only staid a little while. I sent Lester after his Pappa. The little girls staid away. Claude had another spasm & died when there was only baby (then 7 months old) & I here. I do not know how long I waited for someone to come.|
|No one passed, we live on a public road & someone is passing nearly all the time till then. I just put my arms around him & waited till the neighbor came back. 0 it is so hard to sit by & see your loved ones go & you unable to help them. I loved that child as I did my own life. In all our children none came up with him. He would have been 12 in March & he was taken sick the 27th of Dec. He only lacked two or three pages being through Reys 3rd part arithmetic & so forward in all his studies. This we were so proud of. But know now it was too much for one so young. He could write rhymes ever since he was 5 yrs old & wrote two or three poems pretty good ones too after he was sick. Mr. Williamson reached home after he had been dead about 3 hours. O it was so sad our poor dear boy that we had thought was getting well was gone from us. Our home has all been broken up since he is gone. He was such a sweet little singer & I learned him the notes. He learned so readily & could read so well. But we never sing now since his dear voice is hushed. O death is so terrible when it comes to the young. Why is it we must lose our loved one thus?|
|We live very secluded here near a small stream with Grouse creek a half mile away. Bluffs rise to the north & west of us broken by great ravines or “canons” as they are called here. We have about 40 acres of tillable land in the bottom. We plant to corn and sow millet & wheat. Wheat turns out from 20 to 50 bu per acre. We harvest in May & June. We raise millet for our cattle through the winter. We have 80 acres on a hill side we took a claim for an orchard & buildings. We do not like to live in the ‘bottoms, on account of malaria. We have fine peach trees & about 50 young apple trees. Our peaches do well nearly every year. The borers work on our apple trees it is almost impossible to get them to live. Our plowing is nearly done someone planting. Lester is our farmer & he is just recovering from a spell of pneumonia & Mr. W— has had so much to do. The ground is very dry now. We had a slight sprinkle today. The peach trees are nearly in bloom. The wild flowers are blooming in abundance. I sent you a small pkg ten days ago. The little roots that look like parsnips are a fine wild flower. It spreads over the ground & is a hardy perrennial, has crimson flowers. The little white flower with bulbous root is our first flower of spring. Now the anemone are coming. I want to send you a cactus or seed. The seeds I sent you are of a wild flower. Grows 2 ft high has lavender colored thimble shaped flower, the leaves remain green all winter here. They may not in your climate. I am busy transplanting & resetting shrubs & briars & with spring work in general these little girls make much work and are a great comfort too. Myrtle was 8 in Feb. & she has learned to knit & crochet this winter. Jessie learned her letters & to put up stitches. She can dry the knives & forks. Myrtle wipes the dishes & is real neat & I am so glad then. They bring in wood. Mildred 2 in Jan is fun for us with her quaint ways & little prattle. She can sing “Swanee River” & “Sweet Bye & Bye” with a few other tunes very correctly. We think this grand in one so young.|
|I wish I could tell you what one of our prairie fires were like here. We have just witnessed one & Oh how we had to fight. The wind was blowing a gale & here came a fire. Our prairies are covered with long dry grass. Several houses were burned. One couple I feel so sorry for they are just married took them a claim & spent all they had in building & furnishing their house. Now it is all gone & they have nothing. We fought fire for several hours. Mr. W – was almost tired out & thought he could not work any longer when the wind changed, and here it came on our cribs & stable then we worked nearly all night putting out “back fires” Mr. W wears a long beard & it was singed & he looks so odd.|
|Now Miss Hill I have not answered your letter at all. I am such a poor correspondent at best & cannot ans letters to my own satisfaction. I was so glad you told me of your family & situation & if I am tedious please excuse me. You know now I am western. Indeed I would be glad to visit the east & see the many sights new to me, the factories, the cemeteries & the big cities. But I never expect to see these sights. We are poor & cannot travel. We have just made our last payment on our farm & now want to build & try to live a little differently from what we do. We are so cramped for room & my work is hard to do. I have gingham dresses to make for myself & children & no patterns & I do not know what to do. I make everything plain on account of ironing. Then my machine is old & does poor work & I sew a great deal by hand. I have 16 hens sitting now & you see I am expecting to work soon. Then my garden & soap making comes on. We are fortunate in having wood which is an item here, so I make soap. I like soft soap for cleaning & washing ever dirty clothes. Eggs have been quite an item with us. We have been getting three or four dozen per day but our market is 15 miles away and the roads rough, so we do not go often. I have sown some of the seed you sent me & hope I can raise some everlastings. I have always wanted them. You once asked me for some of My everlastings I have none except “Gomphrena” or clover you call it. I will send a pkg in this as I will have to put two stamps on this anyway. I will send you two or three little flowers, Jessie begs me to send you the blue flowers we cut & have had in water for four days & nights & are yet fresh. The white are our first flowers & the pink, I suppose you know is a peach bud. I think them handsome.|
|I wish you had some of my nice dried peaches. I have about 5 bu. yet. We like them better than we do the canned ones. And now if nothing happens we will have plenty more peaches this year. Our first ones ripen in June our last ones in Oct. There has been much sickness in our neighborhood lately and I have been from home so much. I am behind in my work. Yesterday I walked to my sisters 1 1/2 miles across the burned prairie. With the wind blowing so hard I could scarcely keep my course. Today a neighbor sent for me to come see her sick baby & I tried a new pony Lester had just traded for of the Indians.|
|I found it real safe & riding is much better than walking. I seldom go from home unless in sickness. I pity those that must go from home to find pleasure. Although our home is very humble we find no other place so dear to us. Mr. W… is often away at work & when he comes home he says I find my best coffee, or bread, at home. My sister comes real often to see me, she has two children, Frank & Bertha 6 & 3 years old. My brother Sam (& he is a darling) lives in or near Parsons, this state, 120 from us. He has a splendid wife. No children. Have been married only 4 years. Pa, the man we thought most perfect of all men, was killed by the accidental discharge of a gun, in the hands of an awkward boy, 6 years old. O I thought then my best friend was gone & life was not worth living. Poor dear Pa so good & kind. He went from home to the Indian Territory on a deer hunt & the last words he said to me were “Frank, if you have packed my mess box, nothing is forgotten.” Everything I done for him suited him, but space warns. I have tired you already. Would you like more colored grasses? I could send you more or your sisters. I made boquets & did not sell all of them during the Holidays. I shall ever be glad to hear from you, when it is convenient for you to write.|
|Mrs. F. Williamson|
|Dear Nellie Hill,|
|I had long looked for a letter in answer to mine written in April but waited patiently knowing you would write when you could conveniently. I know your time must be occupied with your many cares and do not expect you to write very often, knowing others have greater claims on you than I have.|
|The 10th of Sept I went to Labette Co to visit my brother & stayed 4 weeks & on arriving home I found your letter awaiting me. How glad I was to receive it & your photo. How I thank you for it & the patterns. Yes I have used all of them but the double breasted sacque pattern. The wrapper just fitted me & this is the way I make nearly all my dresses as they are easier made & laundered. I like everything very plain. I could not help laughing at your idea of me that I was “small & dark”. I am just the reverse very large (weigh 149 lbs) & fair or light. I have a big wisp of dark brown hair, large or “pop eyes, grey, & a big mouth & pug nose. My head is set on my shoulders or at least not enough of my neck shows to make it seem otherwise. I am all out of proportion as all this weight is stuck up on No 4 feet & I do get so tired sometimes, treading around.|
|I had such a nice visit with my dear brother Sam & his wife. They have been married 5 years (& are lovers yet) have no children which grieves them sorely. Hattie is a frail body not long for this world.|
|Last July a year ago she lost her brother 16 months younger than herself & she will never get over it. This blow has crushed her & hurt her health. She grieves continually for the dear brother. I told her your grief & hers were similar & in the last letter to me she expresses a wish to correspond with you but I will send part of her letter & if you can & will write her one of your good letters, her address is Mrs. Hattie Howe, Parsons, Labette Co. Kans. She feels acquainted with you through me. O dear friend my heart aches for you in your loss. Home can never be what it was before death entered it. When I see boys near the age of my Claude or what he would have been now I cannot help but yearn for a look from his dear eyes. He was such a noble fine looking child. Everyone noticed him & a great many warned us not to let him study too hard, but he took everything so easily & did not seem to apply himself & we were so proud of him. Myrtle & Lester are not precocious but I know these other two are. Jessie is an old woman & visits the old ladies in preference to children. Mildred is a” street singer” she sings for candy or apples +c. One of our merchants comes over after her to sing for a crowd. This she does as easily as when at home alone. She sings “Swanee River”, “Sweet Bye and Bye”, “Beulah Land”, all the words with the exception of the two verses of the latter. It is strange she can commit so much to memory.|
|Mr. Williamson came to Dexter last March to work at his trade (carpenter) leaving Lester and I to tend to the farm. A merchant here wanted Lester and put in for him so we let him go to clerk (in hardware and grocery store). I tried to run the farm alone, Mr. W. begging me to move to Dexter. I found watering and feeding hogs, milking cows and feeding calves and horses was too much to mix with my housekeeping so in June I moved to Dexter, loading the wagon, hitching up the horses and driving +c. Mr. W. was too busy to come after me and I thought it would save hiring. Now our children are in school. Our school house was 2 miles from us in the country and the girls could not go so far and I could hardly leave the farm. My sister is there now and it is not like strangers on the place. We had an abundance of peaches again this year. I dried about 6 bu. and canned 60 qts. then jammed and spiced a good many. I think I will start an orphans’ home now. One of our neighbors brought their girl, 13, here for me to keep and have go to school and learn to knit, sew, +c. And tonight I have a letter from an old lady 67 years old that lives in N.Y. Her husband wants to change her for a new wife and she wants to come stay with us until she can get her just dues by law. She is very intelligent and refined and I will be glad to have her come if we can make it comfortable for her, we have so little to do with but as far as welcome goes she can have plenty of that but in this new country it is hard to make a good living for a large family.|
|— — — — — — — —|
|I have just slipped away from a room full to finish the letter begun to you so long ago. It has been cook and work and scrub and clean for a month without cessation. The old lady I spoke of came and I have had to go to Winfield with her to see lawyers and we have her case started. Her husband is worth eighteen to twenty thousand dollars and last Feb he sent her to her people in New York promising to come to her as soon as he sold his cattle which he thought would be three weeks. In Oct he wrote her if she would give him a divorce he would give her $600 or $150 a year while she lives. She had no idea he thought of leaving her and is so hurt over it. She says “He has crushed me to the earth.” She was 37 when she married him (an old maid) & lived with him 30 years and I know one so good could be nothing but a true wife to him & now he serves her this way. How much trouble one man can cause.|
|Two weeks ago some old friends from Coffey Co. came to visit and such a time as we have had. We have been up late at night and so busy, besides visiting and cooking I have done nothing but knit but I have made my fingers fly and now Christmas is coming and what can I do for my little folk? I never buy my children many toys as they are content with very little & I get them substantial presents and don’t you think it best? Children going to school need so many collars and ribbons and bows with mittens & hoods +c. They can get such things and appreciate them too.|
|We have only had a few cold days with one freezing night. The leaves are nearly all off the trees now and “Jack Frost” made sad havoc with my little patch of green. We done some butchering last week; killed one cow and two hogs but I am uneasy about it this warm weather, such warm days now.|
|I wanted to send you some more grasses but my pampas plumes have not come yet so I haven’t sent them. Last week I walked up to the cemetery 2 mi. O it is such a lonely desolate place all overrun with bunch grass with no ornaments not even shade trees. The soil is so poor nothing will grow there. It is too bad my dear boy who loved the beautiful so much should have to be lain there. We have put out a great many things on our lot there but the dry weather has killed some of them. There are a few fine wild flowers that Claude loved so I shall get them and put near his grave. This is all we can do for our darling but how his memory remains and I long to see him again. O my dear lovely boy.|
|Dear Nellie, write to me when you can, I feel so well acquainted with you and your sisters. Remember me to them & your mother & believe me ever your true friend.|
|I send you the girls pictures, you can see how they look, but I do not feel they will in any way pay you for your Photo but if you do not want this you – – – (illegible) – – – Myrtle you know is the larger, then Jessie and Mildred, Little Miss Independence do you see how she sits there! Jessie is a nervous child, & the artist was having some words with a man when we went to his rooms & Jessie got frightened and cried so her picture is not real good. Sam and Hattie think these children about right, they stop everything and visit with us. Sam is a real boy although he is 30 years old. If he could slip Mildred out to a neighbor’s of a morning before she was washed and combed he was just suited, he liked to see her curls all in a tumble, he said he never would wash or comb her if she was his. He would say to the neighbors who came to see us “This (meaning Mildred) is the only one that looks like me.” She is so careful with her clothes and toys, it just suited Sam and Hattie.|
|While I was there we went to church and one dedication, something I haven’t had a chance to do in years as we had no church services nearer than 7 miles & only the farm team to go with. Sam sings splendid tenor, Hattie played the organ & I scraped up my old alto and helped them. This is the first singing I have done for several years. I used to sing so much but since we have had our great loss I could not make a sound even when I tried but I must make the best of it when other hearts are tom as well as mine and I will try to be pleasant for these children left me. Lester plays the comet and violin, I am now giving him lessons on an organ. It has been so long since I touched an organ until the last few weeks.|
|The last patterns you sent just fitted Mildred. Thanks for them.|
|I think I will get the children some nice ribbons for their hair. One can’t have too many & something serviceable for Christmas. Forgive my long letter and write whenever you can.|
|We have sleighing now, the first we have had for several years, four, I believe. It is still cold. This old lady I told you was here (Mrs. Seaman) was going to Winfield to attend court and I am going with her to stay a few days. We have a young man and his wife (old friends of ours from Coffey C.) boarding here and she will keep house for me. We do not keep boarders, yet we might as well. We always have a house full. I do not know how it happens, but people follow us up. You asked if Mrs. Seaman lived in Kansas. She only lived here two years. She came here from Wisconsin. She married Mr. S. 30 years ago in N.Y. He was a widower with two children, a daughter 8 years old and a baby boy 8 months old. She was 37 when she married him 2 years younger. She never had a child. They went to Wis. and lived there till 18 years ago a medium (woman) came along and Mr. S. being in very poor health he had this medium come to stay with them. She staid several months and Mr. S. told Mrs. S. it would be a good time for her to visit her home and people in N.Y. while she had a housekeeper. She had not been gone but a few weeks when he sent her a proposal for a separation, agreeing to give her $100.00 a year while she lived.|
|This she would not agree to and back to find him here in Kansas buying a new home and making arrangements to bring his new woman here. Of course she upset all that by her coming back. Then after living here two years he sold out everything, even household goods and things that were her mothers years ago, and sent her back to N. Y., promising to come in a few weeks. Then when she was expecting him and making plans for the future, he sent her word he could not come and if she would give him a divorce he would give her $600 or $150 a year while she lived. She would not agree to this, she has helped make all he owns, about 15 or 20 thousand, and if it can be found in his possession she can get half in Kansas but he is sharp enough for her and I am afraid has put all out of his hands. Mrs. S. is one of the best persons I ever knew. She seems to have a pleasant word for all and wishes all well. Even though she has been so wronged she says “Maybe it will all come outright.” She borrowed the money to come here on and if she does not gain I do not know what she can do. I know this is tiresome to you but my sympathies are all worked up for this dear old lady, is why I write so long on this subject.|
|And you are taking a Chautauqua course and will you like it? It must be very nice and so instructive but one must work to keep up with it. I expect you are having very severe winter in the east, but you are fixed for storms and I would really like it better than living with so many drawbacks as we have in this new country, even if the weather is warmer sometimes. We feel the cold more when it comes. But here I am to the bottom of the sheet and will bid you good night, hoping you will not forget to write me when you can.|
|Now the little ones are all in bed, and I will just take the time from my knitting to write to you. I shouldn’t delayed so long, but my house has been full & I have been too busy to even think of writing, much less doing so. We are having our coldest weather, colder than it has been for years. It is very inconvenient for us living in such cold houses. We are in a rented house. It is unfinished, the walls are only ceiled & “Jack Frost” finds his way in very easily. We own three acres of ground here in town & want to build in the spring, if we can possibly raise the means. We have not sold our farm, nor do not want to. We own 160 acres or better, & could get $3000. for it, but its grain and fruit crops are such a help to us. We raise so many nice peaches, but our apple trees are too young to bear. We have a fine young orchard, however, and live in hope. Apples do nicely here but we have had such hard times to contend with, we could not get an orchard started early. Our corn Yielded 70 bu. per acre this year, we had about 1800 bu. but it is so cheap, only 18 cts per bu. Hogs, of course, are low and taxes high. My sister lives on our farm but is going away in the spring. Her husband has a crazy notion to try Oklahoma. I am so sorry to have Emma go, although it is only about 40 miles from us, it is on the Frontier, and she has never known anything else but pioneer life and she is fitted for something better.|
|Now how shall I begin to thank you for your kindness to us? Your presents came so nicely & were appreciated by all. Walt (Mr. W.) said he must claim the boquet as I had the “stocking bag.” He is a regular old grandmother for flowers. Lester never saw such nice shells. While the “little folks” are overjoyed “just what I wanted most” each exclaimed, but if the presents had been given differently, it would been all the same. One of my neighbors said “I never saw children as you have, they are satisfied with so little. I believe they would be content with one present for their share from Christmas tree & I know they would want to divide it.” I am truly glad they are so, that box of paint is a source of pleasure to them, and those doll babies bear the names of “Nellie” & “Millie.” Don’t you feel honored? Jessie is an odd child, so quaint and old womanish. She says “Bless Nellie Hill’s good soul for making us so happy.” Emma (sister) says “Frank, it would do Nellie Hill good to see what care your children take of things.” I cannot bear to see things destroyed or wasted & I guess the children come by it natural. I often wish I wasn’t so particular about little things.|
|Myrtle was rejoiced with the papers & read them till I made her quit. She is injuring her eyes reading so much. I never knew a child to commit everything she reads, as Myrtle does, any little easy rhyme she reads over once she will say Mamma listen & she can repeat four or five verses of it right off. She reads everything, all the patterns you sent on newspaper she had to read.|
|I was much interested with your letter & have read portions of it to my neighbors and all enjoyed. I was so glad you wrote of your visit to N.Y. I can only imagine what such a city is like. I always thought I would like to see some of the large cities and hear those great speakers, Tallmadge especially. I, too, have lost all faith in Beecher. How I used to enjoy reading his sermons and his “Lecture room talks” but he killed himself long ago in my eyes. It is such a pity that such men, men that could do so much good in this world, will throw themselves away. Yet Beecher has his worshippers with all his vices. And now we have another customer to deal with, one whose record is not quite as good as Beecher’s, and worse for us that he must make our rules and occupy that most prominent place, the Presidential chair. Isn’t it too bad that such a man shall rule. Blaine is such a perfect man, he ought to reached the office of Pres- – – – but I suppose Kans was to blame for warming the Serpent St. John in their bosom six years ago. St. John did make a good Gov. – — but how foolish it was in him trying to reach the Presidential chair. But loyal Kans did her best as did staunch old Maine for Blaine, but that “Foreign element” of N. Y. is what done the mischief. The Democrats are very quiet since their victory. The hard times coming so close makes them have little to say or glory over. It is too bad they rule again, times were better than they had ever been, till now they have shut down tight, & money is so scarce, and it is too bad we have to “scratch” so, anyhow here, to make things come out even. Our land to pay for & all improvements to make in this new country, it is hard at the best.|
|I sent you a Pampas plume and some other grass soon after I red the Stocking bag. Did it arrive all right & was it much broken? My S-bag is the admiration of all who see it & so complete & I could appreciate nothing you might send more than that, but how can I repay you for it. I consider your letters a great treasure that I can in no way repay you for the time you spend in writing to unworthy I.|
|And now these presents that have made so many happy hearts already and to add to that the reading matter you have sent & promise to send I can never repay you. Indeed we will be only too glad to receive “Dem–” and if I have anything you want and it is in my power to send you, you shall have it.|
|You were right about my sister in law’s name, it is Howe but I make double W and U just alike you see, & n about the same. Sam always tells me about it. I cannot help being a little fearful that if you and Hattie get to corresponding I will be forgotten. Hattie writes such interesting complete letters, Dear Sister Hattie.|
|(Note: There is no more of this letter)|
|(Apparently started in Jan. 1886)|
|Dear Nellie Hill,|
|Having neglected you so long I am almost ashamed to begin a letter to you, but I am so anxious to have one of your good, long letters again that I must write. Now you see how selfish I am.|
|This past year has been one of many peculiarities, being unlike any year we have seen before in Kansas.|
|First, in the spring it rained continually, raising streams and sweeping off everything. The com crops on the bottom land were nearly all in by the middle of Apr. when the rains came, sweeping off soil, crops, fences, stock, everything before it. Our rains came so suddenly, and the bluffs being so high, every ditch, road or stream rises and runs like a mighty river. Many families had to move out of the bottoms and lost all they possessed. The water did not come over our farm, but the corn was just planted & the rows out at least 8 inches deep, down to hard ground.|
|We lost all the soil off of 4 acres where the creek cut through. Our renter plowed and planted it over, & got a good stand of corn and plowed it once again, when the green worms came, and took it clean, not leaving 20 stalks on the 40 acres. No road could have been cleaner. Then it had to be furrowed out and planted the third time. Mr. W. sent a force of hands & got the com in in good shape when the hot days of August killed the young corn. It was just beginning to tassel when the hot dry weather came. Corn is generally matured here by the middle of August so the consequences were, we raised nothing last year, not enough to pay our taxes, which were high of course. There were so many lives lost in this Co. & Chautauqua (the Co. on the east) by drowning. Dexter and vicinity have been swept by a war of calamities in the past year. There have been, so many accidental deaths, by prairie fires, & runaway teams, & in less than one year seven women have died within a radius of four miles leaving 31 orphan children, also 3 men leaving 20 orphans, all in our neighborhood. I never heard of such a thing before. Since last February my time has not been my own at all, and I do not know how I have gotten through. I was nearly the only one that went among the sick in that neighborhood, and when any of the friends get dangerously ill, they send for me yet (Pa always said I was a natural born nurse) & some way or other people have got it in their heads I can help them. I am willing to do all I can, and therein lies the secret, I think, but it is so hard on me. I go & work sitting up of nights, & lifting & doing, then the sympathetic part of it makes me sick & down I go with sick head-ache. I have had a siege of it today, & feel so weak and shaky now at 10 o’clock. Mr. W-sits near reading “A Family Affair” & thanking you in his heart, for encouraging his weakness, “Novel reading”. O we thank you for your thoughtful kindness in remembering us at Christmas. Myrtle read her book aloud to Jessie and can repeat the most of it now. I never saw such a child to commit every lesson she says as readily off of the book as on. Jessie does not learn very readily. She is the only one of our children that ever wore a book out. They went through them so easily they were in good shape for another, but Jessie thumbs them well. I think Myrtle reads too much. She is already a little near-sighted. But how can I help it? I always have such fat hearty babies and when they start to school they get so slender. They are all such dainty eaters, bread & milk & butter is all they ever want till they get to be ten or twelve then they want tea instead of milk. Lester never eats meat although he is a man in size, he sticks to his baby food, oatmeal, rice, bread, butter, tea, and peaches. We always have peaches, canned, dried, or jammed. This year they were perfection and about 200 bu. rotted in our orchard. We could get all we wanted nearer home if we would pick them. Great peaches as large as teacups.|
|We have had some very cold weather since Jan’y began, the ground never froze a particle till the 17th of Dec. & Christmas was like a Mayday. I dressed “Nellie” and “Millie” in new suits for Christmas and the children set their table with your little dishes, & your ears must have burned that day. The children talked of you and blessed you forty times, saying “Mamma, isn’t Nellie Hill good?” The dolls have lasted so well. “Nellie” wore the toe of one shoe out, while “Millie” clapped one hand off. Mildred broke one teacup by putting her “two thumbs in it” she said, & o how she did cry. My children never do wear their playthings out and they are always new to them. I think it is because they have so few. Mildred plays upstairs where it is warm a half day at a time all alone, fixing her dolls and cat. She uses a needle quite well. She will be four years tomorrow Jan. 30, she reads every word of the book you sent her. Mr. W–laughs at me now, I have always been so particular never to learn my children simple rhymes, but I expect I have made them too old & they all enjoy “Mother Goose” and “Jack the Giant Killer” so I will let them read them. I read everything when I was young & believed in Santa Clause +c but I try not to deceive my children in anything. Neither will I do or say a thing I would not allow them to. I have never had any use for “by words” and I am thankful my children do not use them, not even Lester. How do you like Chautauqua by this time? It must be very nice. You spoke of your mother’s maiden name being Lunt. Have you a relative in Maine by the name of Ella M. Lunt? I used to read such nice poems from her pen (in “The WorIds Crisis” a Second Advent paper published at Boston). I had a dear friend, Susie Smith, who was well acquainted with Ella Lunt & told me so much about her. You say you have relatives from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Did I ever tell you of my relatives? You know I have one bro and one sister. My father had a sister that had one child, my mother had two sisters, one has one child and the other two, that is all, three Aunts and four cousins. I never had an uncle.|
|We bought a good building not all finished here last spring with an acre of ground, good well, barn +c. Good water Is an item in Dexter. The upper end of the town is built on a side hill & the water is salt or mineral. Some wells are fit for nothing. The water is all hard in the streams and wells in Kans. Our streams are very cold being fed by springs.|
|Did the wild flower seeds I sent you grow and bloom? I have no seed of the Pampas grass, it is not hardy here. Did you save seed of your coleus & can you spare me a very few? I only intend to try to raise a bed of coleus and everlastings with verbenas and pansies if I can get the seed. Mr. W. said we must have a large flower garden this year, but as nothing matured its seed last year & we have all seeds to buy, even garden seeds, I will look to the useful first. We do not eat early vegetables, like peas, so I put in late garden, beans, sweet corn and tomatoes. We did not even raise potatoes for seed last year. We often plant potatoes in Feb. and hope we can this year. We liked the Demorest’s, we take so few papers now, and are such readers. I suppose you read novels occasionally. I used to be a great lover of Dickens but it is too tedious for me now with my many cares, & I have the biggest basket of mending every week, six in family and no hand to help but mine. Speaking of authors I dote on J. G. Holland for poems. I have his “Mistress of the Manse” & “Katrina” & want “Bittersweet.” Have you ever read them? Now I have a house, I want some nice books. My. choice Will be Holland’s works and Benj. F. Taylors, (I have read “Between the Gates” and it is fine.) and Mrs. Richardsons “Garnered Sheaves.” Now what do you think of my taste? & who are your favorite authors? For novels I like Mrs. Southworth & Holmes & Miss Evans and all the rest I guess. I began this letter last month and this is “Ground Hog” Day, being Ground Hog Walt calls it “Sausage Day” & I am afraid the said hog saw his shadow, I did mine at least. I was called away from home last week to the sick bed of an old neighbor. She is very low, she is dying a slow death from a tumor. Her husband seems so indifferent and she has such a helpless family. All boys but one. It is so sad for a mother to be taken from her family. I sat up last night with a sick baby. It does not hurt me very much to lose sleep, in fact I am never sleepy while I am up. One of my friends calls me a “Night Hawk” because I can lose so much sleep, & it is strange how little sleep I require & my sister cannot stay up after it is dark. She must have her work done before it is dark, or go to bed and leave it & when her family is sick she sleeps just the same. If any of my family are sick I do not pretend to lie down. We heard sad news from Colo. last week. Mr. Wm Son’s favorite brother is dead. One of the finest men I ever knew, a fine scholar, & good man, he was a great friend of my dear Father’s, and just the same age, being 60 Yrs. old. There are only four left out of Mr. W.’s family of eleven.|
|You have no idea how useful my stocking bag is to me, I always have so many stockings to mend and knit. Do you knit the fancy mittens? & what do you give for the knitting silk 1/2 oz.? I prefer Leonards, but could only get Beldings at 45 cts per spool (1/2 oz) while a friend of mine got it at Lawrence for 15 cts 1/2 oz. We give two prices for everything here, Mr. W.- got me a cashmere cotton warp, double fold not real good & had to give 50 cts for it. I made it up with velveteen & it is real nice. I have a black cashmere very nice to make and now is the question, I am large, measure 37 bust and 31 waist & it is hard to get a pattern that just suits me. I made my children some lovely hoods this winter. I got yarn enough for 50 cts to make all three hoods and crocheted one in an evening. I do my house work in the day time (& it keeps me whooping) & sew, knit or crochet after night, but my eyes are failing and I do not know what I am going to do. Mildred had the whooping cough this winter and it keeps me close at home. We were all delighted with Lester’s present from you. You have been on Old Orchard Beach I presume. Do you suppose you will ever get out to Kans.? Do come in the summertime and we will go to the Territory and gather plums and see the Indians & visit the Mission school. If I could afford to travel, I would come to see you. I never have seen anything but frontier. The old states would seem very odd to me, raised on these broad prairies as I have been. I almost envy you your grand old evergreens. Now I am anxious to hear about sisters Fred and Ruth and all those little folks. Are you snowed in this winter? We have had a greater fall of snow than normal. Our Dem. P. M. don’t know enough to get stamps and I do not know when I can send this letter off. I think though our P. M. is a fair sample of a Dem. how they do writhe and hold in about the hard times. But Cleveland is doing better than I thought he would, but wait till the last year.|
|Feb. 4th. I must hurry this letter for the office. The girls are waiting on me. Tomorrow is Myrtle’s birthday, 10 yrs. old. She is a real help to me. Today I was called across the street to see a sick child & Mildred staid alone three hours. I was over twice to make a fire and speak to her to keep her from getting too lonesome. She is the best child to stay alone, if you just ask her to keep house for you it pleases her. The sick child will die I think tonight, & the poor parents are nearly crazy.|
|Write when you can. Ever your friend,|
|12 – 10 . 86|
|Dear friend Nellie Hill,|
|While watching by the bedside of my sick child Myrtle I will endeavor to answer your letter read so long ago, if I can get my scattered thoughts on paper. I have been so excited about Myrtle’s condition for so many days and nights. I am all in a tremor and not fit to write. Now that the crisis is past & I can see my child is better, I want to do something to take my mind away from that sick bed.|
|Well to begin, when your letter arrived I was making preparations for a visit to my old house and friends whom I had not seen for ten years. On Sept. 21st I started and went to Burlington, Kans one hundred & fifty miles north of Cowley. Twenty nine years ago last July I “landed” at the little town of Ottumwa, Coffey Co. Kans. (No, it was 30 years, it was ’56.) I was then a little girl, very few families were in the Co. before us. Seventeen years I lived in the little town & we were always expecting a railroad and the R. R. came running three miles from Ottumwa and “killing” it completely. People that had land there and had built could not sell without a great sacrifice and many have remained there, living as they always did, & no one knows how. I enjoyed my visit. The trees have grown wonderfully, the ones we “set” in our yard when we were first married are so large they seemed to wave a welcome to me. They have made many “boughs” anyway. Some of the old buildings have fallen to decay & are dilapidated. So many old friends were there to greet me, and how I did talk almost day and night for five weeks. I told Mr. W. when I came home that I had been kissed & hugged & shaken & pounded & pinched of course because I have grown so fleshy till I was completely tired out, besides I had been fed and carried around and exhibited, then the children had to go through the same performance, & such a variety of opinions one would say that one is a Wmson & another a Howe, this one like its Mamma and another one would say no, it looks like its Pappa or Aunt or Grandma or some one else & so it went.|
|I took Mr. W.’s Niece’s buggy & ponies and drove from Burlington (the R. R. point) eight miles to Ottumwa and every place was familiar to me that I passed & I would tell the children this is Otter Creek, here Mr. Fox used to live. This is Uncle Charlie’s old place, here is the spot where the first house stood in O —- , that house is the first one I ever went to “meeting” in, it was then a log pen with boughs over it to keep out the sun. Myrtle says “Why, Mamma, you know everything.” I was glad things were so unchanged. I wanted my girls to see my old home as near like it was when I lived there as possible. Myrtle said before we started “Mamma, money is so scarce, if you can go, I will stay with Aunt Emma.” I told her all I was going for was to show my girls, and show them I did.|
|I must tell you a cute remark Mildred made. She was watching Mattie Truesdell giving a lesson to a dull scholar when Mrs. T. asked “Mildred, are you going to take music when you get big?” She answered “No, I am going to teach music.” I suppose she thought Mattie’s place better than the scholar’s. Mildred wanted to know why we didn’t call her David, it was so much nicer than Mildred, so I said why, we can call you that yet, & she is quite proud of it.|
|Today the fires are all down allover the house and I am writing in a room without fire. Dec. 10. Christmas is nearly here & what can we do? Times are too hard to think about it.|
|None of the neighbors with the exception of Mrs. Kelley (she came to visit me once & met me two years ago at Brothers) had ever seen my girls. I had two boys when I left Coffey, & now to go there with a quarter of a dozen girls after twelve years away. When I visited there ten years ago, Myrtle was a baby & of course she looks very different now. All congratulated me on having such good children. My children are no trouble to me, as a great many mothers children are. They all think so much of one another. Myrtle thinks Mildred the cutest child that ever lived, anything she does is all right. Now if I had anyone else to write to you about my girls I would not, but please excuse my bragging on them. I wish you could hear Mildred declaim. She spoke at Lyceum a few weeks ago, a long piece of seven verses, eight lines to the verse. She learns so easily. Myrtle declaims well, & learns Mildred, but poor little Jessie, it is so very hard for her to memorize anything, but she is all right at the Organ playing any tune and making her little fingers fly. She sings alto to anything I sing, it seems natural for her, she can make an alto to any tune.|
|“Nellie and Millie” are all right yet, they are both somewhat grey but whole, with the exception of Millie’s foot. I do not know how they can keep these dolls so long, and the dishes are yet in use. Mildred never goes anywhere without one of those dolls & she would keep me busy working for them. Millie (the little doll) is the best of all. She says it is the smartest and sweetest of all the dolls and really growed some, while we were away. Mrs. Kelley gave them two large wax dolls but they are not liked so well by the children as the old ones. Isn’t it strange how they will cling to the old doll. Mildred enjoys the book you sent her and knows every word of it. I am glad she has a “Mother Goose” she enjoys it so much. I have made (and am still making) them two large scrap books, one of wood cuts and common pictures, the other of cards and finer pictures. They enjoy the pictures, but want the reading to them. I am glad you saved flower seeds for me. I must have a few flowers each year. No one else in the town tries to raise flowers but me. Mr. W. is such a lover of flowers and is so good to help with them. When I came home he had the house plastered (it had been ceiled) and had taken up Pansies, Phlox, Petunias & Chrysanthemums +c eleven pots and boxes full and they were all blooming in the house. He had come home every day to water and tend them.|
|We have had very few cold days, perhaps six freezing days. Today I have no fire in my kitchen and have the door open. Of course I haven’t written all I wanted to tell you. I’ll think of the rest when the letter is gone. W rite to me when you can. Your letters are so good to me. I began your letter a week ago, & here it is unfinished yet, but Myrtle has required so much care. I could not spend much time away from her. She is better now, yet not able to sit up.|
|Isn’t it strange that I even knew of Ella Lunt and that she should be your cousin & I should hear more particularly of her? I admired her poems, and have some of them in my scrap book. I read of her lover cutting his throat at the time it occurred. It must have been 13 years ago, was it not?|
|I used to read the “World’s Crisis” but haven’t seen a copy of it for years. You ask if I am an Advent. I cannot tell what I am but if the Bible be true I am a whole souled Advent. That doctrine is all I can see in the Bible.|
|I had a dear friend, I haven’t heard from her for years, only that she is in Washington Territory, by the name of Susie Smith. I wouldn’t wonder if you knew her, she lived near Kennebunkport & Biddeford & Boston for years, and married Johnnie. Smith and came to Kans. as a missionary for the State. Smith lived near us for years before his marriage. They were splendid people, and Adventists. I wish I could remember Susie’s name before she was married. You must have known her. We used to sing together at church, and people thought we looked enough alike to be sisters. She was acquainted with Ella Lunt, I think. If you can find any of Ella’s recent poems, and it is not too much trouble, send me some occasionally. I wish you could have told me of your visit to Old Orchard. Thanks for the paper. That Maine Farmer is a good agricultural paper. There seems to be so few good papers published now or else my taste for reading has changed.|
|I do like a good book, even a novel. But don’t you think I never read enough of Virginia Townsend’s books to know them, but for novels, Eliz. Stuart Phelps, Augusta Evans and even Mrs. Holmes books all have a fascination about them for me, although Mrs. Holmes books are so very near alike. Did you ever notice the similarity of them? Do you like Holland’s poems? I have “Kathrina”, “The Mistress of the Manse” and while I was gone Mr. Kelley gave me “Bitter Sweet.” He knew how I used to read it, and I like it best of all yet. Good books are everything to me and Myrtle is such a reader. I want good literature before her.|
|But O, these Democrat times, don’t they grind? Well, wasn’t that the sickest wedding you ever heard of, “Frankie” stepped over all bounds of etiquette & went to him to marry in the “White House” even that was enough to disgust. O, I long for ’88 to roll around. I wish we women could all vote. Then, wouldn’t we “oust” him. And poor Arthur is dead! I always thought so much of Arthur, although he did no great thing while he was President. Blaine is all that is left of the grand trio, Garfield, Arthur and Blaine. He (Blaine) is such a grand good man, why couldn’t he have been President? We blame St. John for it in making a split. Prohibition is the right thing, but it elected Cleveland sure.|
|I do not know how some people here are to get through the winter. Many cannot clothe their children so they can go to school. It keeps us busy all the time to keep our children in clothes. These little restless feet wear out shoes so fast, I often think if people that have plenty & to spare would send their cast off clothes here to this new world, they would do great good. Did I tell you I had baked bread for the two hotels & a few families for fifteen months? I made enough to get some clothes & take me on my trip north. Since my return, sickness has prevented me working at it. And I am afraid I have lost the job. I like to bake bread & nearly always have good success. In the summer I bake both salt rising and yeast.|
|Lester is out in a western Co. He learned the druggist’s trade & went there with a stock of goods for his employer. He was so young to go into business but he is very steady & it suits him, but how lonely it is at home. He is quite a good musician & plays the cornet, violin, viol, +c.|
|I have a pair of mittens nearly ready for you, but is is the poorest silk I ever knit. I tried for more than a year to get Leonard silk for you a nice pair. Please excuse these as it is the very best I could do. I am almost ashamed to send you anything so poor. I have knit and sold eleven pairs of saxony, nearly all black. It is very hard on my eyes to knit them but I am so anxious to earn some pin money. I pieced a quilt for a woman in Nebraska. Got $2.00 for it and it was so tedious. I used to be so particular with my piecing and she knew it and wanted me to piece for her. I will get me some new book with my money. She wants me to crochet her ten tidies so that will be something more. I haven’t had a house before for so long I cared nothing for books. Now I have a comfortable house with large kitchen, bedroom and front room, down stairs and two rooms upstairs. Plenty room for us for awhile and I tell you I am proud of it. We keep our farm and crops have failed so long we do not make taxes off of it and we will sell it and go in to furniture business more extensively if we get a R.R. of which we have some doubts now. They are surveying all around us and “through us” as people say and Dexter is promised a road but we have our fears yet.|
|March 11, 1887|
|My dear friend Nellie Hill:|
|I ought to have written to you long ago in answer to your Christmas letter but with Myrtle’s sickness and so much work I have neglected everything I could and now I am overrun with letters to answer. Myrtle was so very low for so many weeks and I was so excited I thought of nothing but her so I am hardly fit yet to write an intelligent letter.|
|I slept so little and was wrought up with her illness getting so wide awake that I scarcely sleep now. The Dr. said there was no virtue in medicine as it did not seem to affect her in the least and her recovery ALL depended on my nursing. Myrtle was reduced to a skeleton; her hair all came out but she is all right now, being fleshier than she ever was.|
|She goes to school. Jessie learns mathematics so easily but she cannot commit “a piece”. Mildred speaks everywhere at public entertainments, at festivals, at G.A.R. Encampments +c. and speaks as plainly and unconcerned before an audience composed of hundreds as she does at home alone with me. Everywhere she goes they have her speak. She is a perfect mimic, changing her voice in a half dozen different tones while declaiming one piece. Dolly pieces suit her best. Did you ever hear the DEAD DOLLY? It begins, “You needn’t be trying to comfort me, I tell you my Dolly is dead” +c. She gets that off so well. It is hard to find new pieces for her. So if you run across any and it will not trouble you too much please send them on. Your “novel” arrived all right many thanks. I haven’t read it yet. I have never read one of Roe’s books.|
|We have had a delightful winter with only a few cold days and now we make no fires anytime in the day only in the kitchen in the morning and I have the doors and windows open. The blue birds are nesting, the frogs are croaking, the yellow headed blackbirds have come, the peach trees are nearly in bloom and spring is upon us. Although the “Ground Hog” saw his shadow the 2nd of February.|
|You spoke of saving seeds from your flower beds for me. I can use them now just send them along but what can I do in return for you? I wish I had something real nice to send you.|
|Walt (Mr. W.) has our early potatoes planted and lettuce and peas in. We have such nice soil and four large lots here in town. We have our own team and fanning implements (and Mr. W. is so lucky to have everything grow) so we put in garden at any time. He makes the beds (I sow the seeds) and does all the hoeing and hard work. Of course I call it my garden and sell the vegetables and pocket the money. I am no account to hoe or do heavy work and I am ashamed of it too, such a Dutch looking thing as I, one would think could endure everything. Walt says, “This year we will have a nice flower bed in the garden” and so we, will if HE is willing. But my dough is light. I am still in the bread making business. I only bake three times a week now.|
|Dexter has quite a “boom” they are working on the R.R. within a half mile of town and everyone rejoices we have lived so long without a R.R. it is hailed with joy. Did I tell you I never lived near a R.R. since I came to Kansas or since I was a child. Dexter is a nice little place and good people are in it. Good societies are organized here and nice churches, but the Methodists are all that have a building in town. The Methodists have been unfortunate in the last few years and have had such poor ministers. The Presbyterians have a large class so too have the Christians. The Baptists have an organization here but no regular services. We have a fine new school house and I suppose you noticed the teachers names in the paper I sent you with the wages each received. How does it compare with your teachers wages? Cowley is a large Co. but new of course.|
|Mr. WmSon is in the furniture business. We do not make very much at it yet. I help him a good deal staining, varnishing +c. or I can fit up a coffin and do when he is a way. I have always been used to it as my father was in the undertaking business ever since I knew anything. I think no more of fitting up a coffin than I do a bedstead.|
|Mildred tells me not to forget to tell you I thank you for the Bible Forget-me-nots. I do dear friend and am reminded of you every day. Our presents you sent were all so nice and highly appreciated by us. Nellie and Milly are living (?) yet. Milly lost her other foot a few weeks ago. A baby came in and threw it across the room. Mildred was perfectly indignant that it should use her dolly thus. She loves her dollies so. She went to school a day or two, but said she wanted her dollies so bad she would rather play with them. I am not particular about her going to school, easily as she learns there is plenty of time yet for her.|
|I have been in the quilt business lately having quilted three. I thought I would never piece any more but these girls must be occupied and they piece them with my help and we are always out of scraps. I never do have any. I cut every thing so close.|
|I wish you could come to Kansas this spring. To see Kansas in the spring is worth a trip here and it would do you good. Can I expect you some time? Is your health better this spring? I have the headache so much of the time in the spring and I’m glad when ’tis over.|
|We have been having some grand looking but very destructive prairie fires. The Indians in the territory (Oklahoma) set the fires and by the time the fire gets this far it is under such headway (and the wind always rises when a fire is sweeping along) that it is very hard to subdue. One man lost barn, horses, hay, grain, every thing but his house. His wife was very sick and he couldn’t leave her to go for help and the fire runs a mile a minute and even more than that with a gale. Here I am at the bottom of the page and have said nothing. Say nothing about those mittens. I was ashamed to send such poor silk but could do no better.|
|December 11, 1887|
|Your letter was hailed with joy some weeks ago and now to answer.|
|Ware very well and having delightful weather, warm and balmy as spring, we hardly ever have fires all day. We have had one little “flurry” of snow and a freeze or two. The streams haven’t frozen yet nor are the leaves all off the trees. I notice by the papers they have had some severe cold weather in Western Kansas and I suppose we will catch it yet.|
|What a difference there is in our states. It is a pity our rains and drought couldn’t be divided to make each of us an average season. Last summer while you were having such wet weather, we were scorching here and crops failed for want of rain. Com did not amount to anything only in the valleys. Grouse Valley had 2/3 crop of corn and a good 3/4 crop of wheat. Oats do not do well here. The ground is so rich in the valleys it grows so rank it falls before ripening and on the uplands it is too dry. Wheat made 30 bushels per acre this year where it often made 50. Our com yielded 45 bushels this year where we have gathered SO bushels all over the field (some portions of our field yields more than others). Potatoes do not do very well here and are nearly always $1.00 per bushel while sweet potatoes are 25 cts per bushel. Six wagonloads were brought to Dexter last week from the Indian territory and they could hardly sell them: I told Mr. W -, “I wish Nellie Hill had a wagon load of them they are very nice”. We can buy them cheaper than raise them as there is much hard work about them. Apples are $1.25 per bushel and scarce. We raised a nice garden and I put up “lots” of fruit and vegetables. We raised four nice hogs here in town so have plenty meat.|
|We are about the only ones in town that keep hogs. Mr. W – keeps the pen clean and no one says anything about it being a nuisance. My flowers through the summer were lovely, they grew so thrifty and nice although the seed did not come up well. My gladioli were the only ones in town and were magnificent. Thanks to you. But “Jack Frost” has his work in now. Mr. WmSon’s sweet scented honeysuckle was a mass of bloom when our first frost came. It grows by the shop. Mr. W -made such a pretty rack for it. He felt so badly about giving it up so wrapped it in straw to protect it. Just there I was called to help practice singing for Christmas. We are to have exercises at the church. Mildred has a cute piece to speak. The other girls have declamations too, but are larger and do not declaim as well as Mildred. Mildred will not be cute-many more years. Children are like kittens they are cute only a little while. Mildred has gone to school seven weeks and reads very well now. I am afraid she will injure her eyes. Jessie plays the organ nicely but does not read well. She is quite a mathematician. I know I will never have a girl steadier and better to work than Myrtle but she dislikes the practice on the organ. Jessie sings alto naturally but I always did. She sings so well I am sorry she is not a soprano. I hope Mildred will be. Claude sang alto naturally.|
|December 14, 1887|
|I expected to finish your letter several days ago, but after I came home from the singing a lady sent for me to come sit up with her sick child. I went and stayed till 4 A.M. Came home and slept two hours, washed the next forenoon and rested by crocheting Jessie a toboggan in the afternoon. A lady living seven miles from us sent for us to come sing at the funeral of her little child. Mrs. L- dell my neighbor and I went in the morning and it was 4 P.M. before we got home from the cemetery. We drove to the house all this time without dinner. Of course I came home with sick headache as I always do after such a siege. It always makes me sick to see such grief and to try to speak comforting words or sing at such a time is so very hard to do. About 5 P.M. some one called at the shop and I dragged out there and sold $14.00 worth of furniture (I did not mind this) and before I got back to the house a lady with three children came on the train from Winfield to stay all night and then go to the country. Then a young lady came from the country to get me to learn her the “star” stitch for toboggans and my sister sent by het for me to write instructions how to make the loop on the toboggans and to see if I could come down (7 mi.) to sit up with a sick lady. I just turned my house over to my company and children and went to bed. The next day I was so weak and sick and I think I never had so many calls. Sold lots of furniture. Today I feel better only nearly “broken in two”. I think the vomiting makes me feel so.|
|Mr. W- is working on the church trying to get the pulpit in for Christmas. Today is cloudy and dismal but not very cold. My fire has been out for two hours but I must stir it up. I do not know how to burn coal. We never used it before and now only in the sitting room. Coal here is very poor; all soft and is so dirty I dislike it.|
|Now you will see how I put in my days. I sit up at least one night of each week with some sick body. The Presbyterian minister’s wife was sick five weeks and so few went to wait on her I went to call there and found her husband a man 76 years old had sat up alone every night till 3 A.M. Of course I couldn’t help but volunteer to rest him. But I got an “Elephant on my hands”. I stayed there ten nights in succession. I laid on a couch closely the bed but gave medicine every two or three hours and warmed irons and made tea 3 or 4 times each night. Then I packed all their household goods with his help. A man cannot do much at packing. All this was a “thank you” job and my work ran behind and I have not caught up yet.|
|Did you get to keep Fleta? I hope you did. It is such a pity your sister must live in N.Y. City; it must be a fearful place to live with children. And you have a fir pillow. Do you have pleasant dreams now with never an ache or pain? No we do not have fir trees here and I have never seen a pillow of it. Does it rattle like hops? I am such a wakeful mortal and tried to sleep on a hop pillow but its rattling would awake me. So you see the good it did. I read so much of the fir pillows.|
|Tell me some good household paper to take. I take the Housekeeper published at Minneapolis, Minn., but it is not real good. I do not like the Ladies Household Journal very well, but it is cheap. The fashionable magazines have no attraction for me anymore and I am afraid I am hard to suit.|
|Yes I have read Virginia Townsend’s work and like her. I want her works also Mrs. Holmes and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. I have Holland’s work and O how I do like “Bitter Sweet”, do you? I have read it many times. I have sent for Arthur Bonnicastle for Mr. W – a Christmas present. And Myrtle sent for Edna Browning for him. He cannot get too many books; he reads all his evenings. Well wasn’t “In Love With His Wife” odd? And well gotten up too. I do not know if I like it or not. I am afraid it wasn’t so. If it had been it is pretty good. That man was perfection. I never read any of Roe’s works before. Have heard that “Opening a Chestnut Burr” was very good. I like books better than anything but can’t have many as it takes to much to live on. Do you crochet fancy articles? I got seventy five cts. worth of nice yam and crocheted each of the girls a toboggan and they are so nice as any I have seen. Mildred’s is blue and buff, Myrtle’s brown and pink, Jessie’s brown and wine. I will send you samples. I have so much for one pair of hands to do before Christmas. Nellie and Millie are nearly three years old now and are still in good repair. Millie has lost both feet and arms. Nellie has her arms yet but are both getting grey. Well if ever dolls were handled and loved they are. I saw such lovely bisque dolls at Winfield last week and did wish I had a pocketful of money. I would make many little hearts glad.|
|The children thank you for the Youth’s Companions. It is such a nice paper for young or old.|
|Dexter is improving nicely; carpenters are busy and lots are high, too high for so small a place. Our two R.R.s, one running through the valley to Arkansas City and the other over hills and through valleys to Winfield. It is so nice to go so easy and fast and we can appreciate it traveling in a slow, rough wagon.|
|My brother and his wife did not get to come see us this fall. They are disgusted with trying to farm since having so many failures. Brother is such a thorough farmer or anything he works at so very neat and saving, he ought to prosper if anyone would. Two years in succession they have raised comparatively nothing and for a livelihood he depends on his horses and hogs raising the very best stock of each. But you know he can do little if he don’t raise corn to feed them. The county he lives in is not as good as Cowley; there being so much alkali there. Tell me about Ella Lunt; is she married yet? Isn’t it strange I even knew of her? I never see anything from her pen any more.|
|Susie Smith I wrote you about was Ed Cunningham’s daughter of Newton Upper Falls, Mass.|
|I suppose the forest fires haven’t reached you or never trouble you. There has been some very destructive prairie fires here. There will be many needy families in this county this year as so little was raised on the highlands. Would like to show you the bed spread I am knitting. I want to try to have it finished for Mildred a wedding present and think I will get it done if she doesn’t marry till she’s 30.|
|A deaf and dumb girl called just now with articles for sale. I was sorry I didn’t need lots of things she had. I bought a few things I hardly needed. She was so pleased to have me talk to her with my fingers and asked if I had any relatives that were mutes. I told Mr. W I told her we were just the other way from mute. We were afflicted with too much tongue. I pity the afflicted but pity none so much as the blind. (End?)|
|My Dear Friend Nellie:|
|I have thought of writing you every day for a month, but I am so neglectful about writing to my correspondents and I am ashamed of it too.|
|Your NICE, NICE presents came to hand a week before Christmas and to say we were pleased with them would not half express our heartfelt thanks for them. Myrtle and Jessie were not at home when they arrived. Mr. W – man-like brought them in (never thinking of Mildred who is all eyes and ears) with “Here’s your Xmas presents from the east.” I gave Mildred her book and told her to say nothing to the girls of theirs till Xmas.|
|That night she showed her book and my bag to the girls when Jessie, the selfish little body said, “Well where’s MY present.” I thought this would upset Mildred’s promise but without change of countenance she said, “O you got a nice scrap book last Christmas from Nellie Hill.” This settled it and all was contented. Myrtle said, “Well I would rather it would be Mamma and Mildred than anyone else to get the presents.” But how surprised they were at Christmas. They kissed and hugged and pounded Mildred and I for keeping it from them so well. Mildred is so odd. She is very slow of motion or speech, yet always has an answer for everything and sees fun in everything and just bubbles over with laughter. Her eyes sparkle and dance when she goes to tell anything or speak a funny piece. The first day she had her book she read of the birth of Christ and I wish you could have heard her tell Myrtle and Jessie and two neighbor girls of it. She likes to tell anything she reads. I saw the girls were all interested and I listened. She said, “You know there wasn’t room at the Hotel (Inn) for Christ to be born so He had to go to a stable. Wasn’t that ridiculous?” But this is the way she understood it and her audience was all so interested as she told them of Moses, Sampson and Christ. I like Mrs. Alcott’s work so well for children. They are not so foolish as many are I was so glad you told me about Virginia F. Townsend. It is so strange your sister boarded with her but isn’t there strange things in this world? Now to think I would ask you of Ella Lunt? I expect it was the very day and perhaps hour she was married and wrote to you inquiring of her.|
|So many funny things happen and how is it. I am afraid you will think me tiresome, but I must tell you what strange things happened when I went to my brothers four Yrs. ago. When I left home I expected to go through in a few hours without a change, but a wreck a few hours ahead of us caused a delay and we were left at Cherryvale at midnight. An old gentleman at the depot offered to show me a hotel near by. The landlord said they were full but if I would go to No. 10, I could stay. As it was all I could do I ventured and went with a guide down an alley and across a street to No. 10 which proved to be a nice double room but away from the hotel and over a large store. Not expecting to stop I had nothing to sleep in, but I won’t tell you how I put the children’s aprons on for night dresses or how I used my drawer’s legs for gown sleeves, tying my handkerchief around my neck. In the morning there were 4 of us with shoes to button and not a button hook in the crowd and me clean away from the hotel. So leaving the children, I started to find a shoe store but on reaching the pavement the first thing I saw was a button hook. Well that was so strange but after we were at my brother’s we went to the fair and soon after reaching the ground 3 miles from town, Hattie was taken with a bad toothache and we could find nothing on the grounds to relieve her. She wouldn’t hear to us leaving the grounds on her account but suffered till it became almost unbearable. Her mother Mrs. Wilson, of whom I was well acquainted, asked permission of a man to sit in his buggy and watch the races, but I wanted to go to a wagon I saw under a tree some distance away. So the crowd followed me reluctantly. Mrs. W-declaring we couldn’t see from there and if we could the owner of the wagon might object to our being in it. Of course this was all true, but I felt as if I must go to that wagon. After sitting in the wagon a few minutes and wanting to say or do something. I noticed a lunch basket with a large comfort spread over it. I said, “Let’s see what these folks had for dinner.” I did not intend to open the basket, only to shock Mrs. Wilson by my rude speech. Then when she seemed so shocked and said so many things about it, I said, “Yes do let’s see in the basket maybe we will find something for Hattie’s toothache.” At that I lifted the lid on the top was a three ounce bottle wrapped in white paper just as it had come from the drug store. I unwrapped it and don’t you think it was labeled Laudanum. We were all so astonished no one could speak for a minute, then I ripped the corner of the comfort taking some cotton out saturating it in the Laudanum, which Hattie put in her tooth and soon she had relief. Whatever prompted me to go to that certain spot or to do so mean a thing as to open that basket I do not know. I can see Hattie now as she said, “Look Ma, Look what Frank has found” as I held up the bottle and Mrs. W- said, “Yes, you think it is a Godsend. But what if the owner is near?” Hattie said, “I should thank him most heartily for patronizing the drug store before coming to the fair grounds.” Hattie had no more toothache for a week and we often laugh over it. But it is a long story to put on paper and excuse my many blunders. I expect I would make a good Spiritualist, but I am far from believing any of their trash.|
|How do you put in your time these days housed up. as you must be? We have. been having some cold weather two days mercury ran below zero two degrees. Now that is cold for Kansas, for five days the weather has been unsettled and cloudy. This morning the sun is shining. There was a light fall of snow last night. I have been piecing quilts this week finishing up two the girls begun last winter. Mr. W- has been suffering with rheumatism and can not work so is in the house with me and has read “Edna Browning” and “Arthur Bonnicastle” to me and is now in the depths of “Opening a Chestnut Burr”.
I have used my eyes so much this winter I cannot read long at a time without straining them and this is why you did not get your cape before Christmas. I began it in November for you. Its being black I could scarcely see how to crochet after night; my best time for work. My house work takes up so much of my time through the day.
I couldn’t get the yarn to suit me and had to take Saxony. I expect you make capes much nicer, but if you do not want this one, you can give it to some one that has none. I made me an elegant hood of black Saxony. I told sisters, Emma and Hattie, I would make each of them a hood and cape apiece but their eyes were YOUNGER and they each have more time than I to do such work. Yet neither of them do fancy work. I can knit or crochet so many kinds of trimming, tidies, rick rack, feather edge +c. But my eyes give out and I haven’t much time for such work. If I only had, well – I expect I would put my eyes out.
I almost envy your Mamma her nice blankets she has woven. What will she weave me a pair for? Or does she ever do work for anyone outside of the family? It is so hard to get hold of good blankets now at any price.
Jessie has a skirt made out of an old one of Mrs. Seamans (the old lady I told you of that was here three years ago) that she wove when she was sixteen and she is now 71 years old and the skirt is nice and white yet.
You do not know how I appreciate my shopping bag. It is so much nicer than the leather ones and not so common. That and a half dozen fine napkins sent me by one of the merchants wives, a tablecloth from Mr. W- and cards from the children was what I received for Xmas.
I think I will have to do like a cousin of mine in Nebraska – begin this week to make things for next Xmas. This cousin sent me a nice roll of worsted pieces for my quilt. I was glad to get them as it takes so long to save enough bright worsteds for a quilt. In fact her roll was the beginning of my quilt.
Do you sleep more soundly now on your pine pillow? What do you read now your Chautauqua course is ended? We can’t get a news paper to suit us anymore. I have taken the Housekeeper (Minn.) but it doesn’t fill the bill anymore. I think I will try the Household this year.
|I believe I told you in my last letter that I had been running a hospital here at home? A friend, Mrs. Robinson, from the country was here three weeks before Christmas then came back and stayed two weeks after Xmas and while she was here my sister came up with a very sore throat and the Dr. would not let her leave for some days as her throat needed treatment twice a day so she stayed a week. I had a good time making beds, cooking (or getting something to cook, is the main part), tending babies, and trotting to the Drs. office with my patients and tending furniture shop between times, I got so behind with my work. Then I made two of my sisters dresses all over and I am so slow about all my work; I haven’t caught up yet.|
|Last night I finished my last quilt and am trying to make some rugs now. It is hard work as I haven’t much material to work with.|
|But here I am to the bottom of the page and have said so little, but you’ll excuse me and write one of your good letters telling all about your family and friends of whom I am much interested. Love to all, and remember me as your friend.|
|December 29th, 1888|
|My Dear Miss Hill:|
| I am all alone to night and have a nice book to read, but my conscience troubles me so it will not let me get interested in it. Yes I know I owe you and try to answer your letter received last Autumn. But my dear friend you do not expect me to answer such a letter as you wrote. O I never can. I was interested in its every detail and enjoyed every line as I always do your letters and one reason I answer no sooner is I know I am incapable; not competent to answer your good letters. I can talk but cannot write and am never satisfied with my letters.
The summer was full of cares for me and I do not know how I ever got through it. In March Lester’s health failed more rapidly than usual. I believe I told you in January that he was ailing. He had his left shoulder fractured from being thrown out of a buggy (he had a felon on his hand and could not manage the horse) and the bone was not properly “set” and he suffered from it. Then a cough set in and he chilled two or three times during 24 hours he raised much blood and real symptoms of consumption made their appearance. He grew worse and the Drs. had us send him to Colorado but he suffered with cold there. The nights were so cool he ran down to 112 lbs. in weight. In September he went to Texas to San Antonio a great resort for consumptives and in eleven weeks he has
|gained 8 lbs and does not chill and can be up all day now. He went out on a “Ranch” outdoor life agrees with him. He rides horse back everyday and is gaining in strength. I am so glad, I have been so uneasy about him.
Last April I went one night where a family of nine in one small room were down with the measles. The night was stormy and the house open, the baby died that night and I had much to do. I took a severe cold which resulted in pleurisy and before I was over its suffering, neuralgia of the heart set in and I suffered all summer with it. I had a cough; I never knew anyone to cough more continually or harder than I did for four months.
My aunt and husband came from Indianapolis in June full of enthusiasm for “our President elect”. I know they were disappointed in me being so indifferent about the glad tidings. I could not do anything to make their visit pleasant and coughed so they could not rest of nights.
They visited Geuda Springs, 30 miles from Dexter and took me along to see if the water would do me any good. But I had lost my sense of taste, smell and hearing and I was so sick I chilled every little while and my side pained me so I could not tell if the water helped me or not. I wanted to come home and only stayed 5 days. “There’s no place like home”. This I have always realized but never more so than then. The children wrote to me every day and I grew so homesick to see them. I did not gain in health till September. I only lost 14 lbs in weight but felt badly enough to have lost 100 lbs. I did no work only a little mending I HAD to do and lost my ambition which I do not suppose I will ever recover. It seems as if I have little life for anything. I cough yet but it doesn’t hurt me. My side pains me when I take my corset off. I can’t sit up at all but must lie down else I suffer with a “catch” in my side.
It is so strange what ails me. O the many afflicted ones I saw at the Springs. I came to the conclusion nothing ailed me when I saw those carried there suffering with all kind of ills. Some drawn out of shape with rheumatism. Some with great ulcers that looked as if incurable. But O how I did want a drink of WATER. There was “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”.
How much I would liked to been with you on your trip to Fryeburg. I have never seen the grand sights you describe always living on the Frontier. I know nothing but pioneer life and change only what I read and hear from others. O the grand music – wouldn’t I have enjoyed that? Something I have always longed for was to hear music; my soul is in it. I suppose we have some fine singing at our entertainments, but I always help so never hear it as others do. I think I told you once of the funeral I “enjoyed” at Winfield. A “Restaurant man” without friends there was accidently killed (shot). He being an “old soldier”, the G.A.R. took him to
The Baptist Church and had a fine funeral. O the music was grand; just a quartet sang, “Lay Him Low”, “Shall We Know” and “Passing Away”. It was grand, grand and there being no mourners; no one weeping to take
|my sympathy, I almost forgot the occasion that called us there and “enjoyed” it. There, do you think I am heartless? Not so, none can sympathize with those that mourn more than I can and do and my voice will tremble and I can hardly sing a note over the dead. Yet to me there is consolation in music; a consoling power we feel yet cannot speak.
When I read that portion of your letter to Jessie when you spoke of your sister’s baby being a Leap Year Baby and explained it would only have a birthday every 4 years, Jessie said, “Poor baby, how much it will miss”. I couldn’t help laughing at her solemn looks.
Another Christmas is gone and I must thank you for the nice book Mildred received she has read it all through and can repeat much of it off the book. She is a great little thing to tell what she reads and she tells it so correctly too. I never knew a child to read so well at her age. Professor Rice says in all his teaching he never knew one to do better. I think she reads too much for her eyes if not her brain, but I do not know how to avoid it. She reads in spite of us; books, newspapers, anything.
The children write for our paper. I will send you Mildred’s letter. She wrote it without anyone’s help; punctuated it and all. You may return it as I want to keep it for her till she’s grown. That story of Enoch Arden delighted her so she wanted to write it from memory for the paper.
“Letters from our little friends” Dexter, Kansas Nov. 28, ’88 Dear Editor – I thought I would write to your paper. I am a little girl six years old. I go to school everyday and have only been tardy once and absent once. I go to Miss Merydith. Once when I was at school she read us a splendid story; it was about Enoch Arden. I wish every body had heard it because it was so good. When I am at school of course I have to study and when I am at home I play with my kitty. I have two kitties; one’s name is Tillie and one is Tabby. I will close for this time. Pansy Blossom
I suppose you think we never think about anything for Xmas only something to wear. We can’t get anything nice in this little village even if we had the money. I sent you the mittens and cape thing thinking perhaps you did not do that work on account of your eyes. This year I made myself a nice fascinator of black saxony. I wanted to send you one but I thought you would have something better than I could make. So had nothing to send you but the apron which one cannot have too many of and you can wear it in the dairy arid kitchen and if you are like the most of housekeepers, you are there the most of the time. It will do you more good than anything else. I expect though you do this work and do it better and have prettier patterns. I made mine for Xmas 8 patterns. The children are now making them big aprons. They do not use a needle much yet. l have been helping one of our dress makers here. I work button holes, put in stays and put on braid, blind stitch and such hand work. I make $2.00 a week besides tending to all my work. I make more butter than we can use.
|We keep one cow – by the way, Dexter has a fine creamery turning out 100 lbs. butter per day which they find ready sale for in Col. at 40 cts. per lb. They pay $1.25 per … (illegible) … for milk and separate the cream from the new milk. The buttermilk is rich and nice and after the cream is taken out there is not oil enough left in a barrel of sweet milk to show on a sheet of paper; not even one drop. Isn’t that a wonderful invention? They are now talking sugar and canning factories for Dexter. Our corn crop was very fair averaging 40 bushel per acre. We had about 61 bushels per acre on our bottom land; large yellow ears nearly a foot long. Only 18 cts. per bushel delivered. Our roads are rough but hardly ever muddy many days at a time. We had a dreary Xmas it rained all day and thundered just like a summer shower and then turned off warm. We have had very little cold weather. Some nights ice would form in the water trough. My bed of pansies, ivy and honeysuckles are green as ever yet. The petunias and mallows have only just “given up the ghost”. It seems as if we are not to have any winter.
There is very little sickness this winter. I went to Winfield the week before Christmas to pay taxes which was so high this year. I paid out nearly $75.00 on our farm and town lots.
I went to Mrs. Aldrich’s. She is from Mass. They live so very nice; just her and her two “old maid” daughters. Nell clerks in a large drygoods store. Alice stays at home and “nurses” her flowers. The girls used to teach but are both in poor health. Now I admire “old maids” and they are “old maids” from choice. They have consumption in the family; having lost two sisters with that dread disease. And Nell said, “We would not bring families into this world to suffer and die with an incurable disease”. Very sensible, I think. But here I am at the bottom of the page. I’ll not trouble you with anymore tonight.
Will send you a pamphlet I got at Geuda and a map of Cowley County.
Please excuse my scrawling and send me one of your nice letters when you can conveniently. Remember me kindly to your parents and sisters. With love to yourself. I am your friend.
|February 3, 1890|
|My Dear Friend:|
|I suppose you have looked for some word from me long before this, but dear friend I have been in such trouble of mind and body and now I can’t write one cheerful word to you. Lester is dead! my last son, my noble true hearted boy, he that was always such a comfort to us, so manly, good natured, polite, educated and all that went to make a noble man is gone and we are left desolate. How can we be reconciled? Our second boy to be taken, our first born of whom we were always so proud. You will please pardon a mother’s blindness – a mother’s love – when I tell you he was always so noble. He never would disobey me but always asked my advice before doing anything. He said, “I don’t care if I am tied to Mamma’s apron strings, I rather enjoy it” +c. He never used bad language, tobacco or whiskey and I, wasn’t I proud of such a son in this fast age? But my idol is shattered. Yet I try to be comforted that his life has been a credit to himself and those around him. To know and witness so brave a death should make us rejoice that his sufferings are ended. But in the loss I feel I cannot realize my loss is his gain. Two years the ninth of last September he was thrown from a buggy and his shoulder and collar bone broken. He never got over that. About November he took a severe cold with cough that hurt him terribly. Got better in spring then worse still. He did not give up his business; drug clerk and studying for an M.D. We took all the care of him we could or knew how. He grew worse. The Drs. said a change of climate necessary. We were not able to send him yet did; first to Trinidad, Colorado. The climate did not agree with him and he went from there to Texas; grew better fast. He went to Kerrville 72 miles northwest of San Antonio to a druggist. Got good employment but the dust on the goods set him to coughing. Mr. Stewart the proprietor saw he couldn’t stand it so sent him to a relative of his 30 miles in the mountains to a sheep ranch. They all liked Lester and took him in as one of the family. He was so energetic and willing to do anything, he paid his board very easily. He stayed in camp or rode from one herd to another to see if all was well or what the herders needed. They employed Mexicans at $6.00 to $9.00 per month with board which consisted of poor flour and bacon, with permission to kill a “mutton” once in two weeks or a month. At first he could only ride a mile or two but got so he could ride 30 miles in one day. He began to take some interest in life; learned to speak Spanish very well indeed. Got him a teacher +c +c. His cough was so severe. They lacked a hand at sheep shearing. He couldn’t lift ten pounds hardly but thought he could tie wool. Sat on a low seat; sitting so low or the stooping position the dust or the exertion it took brought on hemorrhage of lungs and he failed gradually. His Pappa went after him in June but he did not want to leave Texas. In December the 20th I had a letter to come at once if I wanted to see him alive as the Drs. said he could only live a few days at least. His feet were swelling and he was in the last stages of consumption.
|What to do I did not know. We had money due us but could not collect but $5.00. I telegraphed brother Sam at Ft. Worth, Texas and he said, “Come at once. I will furnish you money”. The 21st at 10 o’clock A.M. I started.
I always try to keep everything in repair but with these romping girls it is hard to keep them just right so I washed aprons, stockings, underwear +c to have them all clean and sewed on buttons, mended stockings till 2 A.M. so you see I worked nearly all night. I did not get word from Sam till 4 P.M. so you know how I worked. I started at 10 A.M., reached Arkansas City 25 miles south, got to the Santa Fe depot just in time to see my train pull out and leave me. I had hardly hoped to reach it as it leaves there about the time ours leaves here. Our conductor was very kind he gave me 20 (i.e. hurried our train 20 minutes) hoping the Santa Fe would be behind as it had been for ten days but of course that day it was ahead too. So I was left within 25 miles of home for 23 hours. To save a hotel bill and avoid spending the time among strangers, I walked 1 1/2 miles to a dear friend of mine. They were glad to see me. They had a very sick baby 10 months old and were all worn out. To rest them I took charge of the baby for the night sitting and holding it the greater part of the night. I awakened them at daylight, slept for one hour, walked two miles to depot and started at 10:30 A.M. the 22nd. Went through the famous Oklahoma country. Saw the towns built up like old cities with electric lights, water works, bridges and St. Railways and saw the country with huts; many of them 8 x 10 with board roof slanting one way with cracks in the sides where you could put your hand through. A few furrows of land turned up red as brick dust. The soil is so peculiar. I thought we were in a brick yard half of the time. We went through the Indian territory, through the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations; delightful countries with heavy timber and lovely streams and mountains covered with cedar. Here I saw my first mistletoe and live oaks. The day was balmy as spring. We rode with our car windows open. All my fellow passengers of the day had left me but one. But new ones had come on and such a “salt” (?) girls with their first beaux, half breed young men, older men with families, women with snuff sticks in their mouths. The first I ever saw and women chewing tobacco and spitting four feet I know. They were taking advantage of Holiday excursion rates which began that day (you see I missed it till I got to Ft. Worth). At dark we crossed the Red River and we were in Texas; 8 miles more brought us to Gainsville where we ran back on a switch and waited FIVE hours. What for, no one seemed to know. The conductor and train men all left the cars and there we were. The men coming from the territory where they cannot get whiskey took advantage of this stop and went to the saloons near by and got drunk; coming back to the cars, some sleepy. some sick, others swearing +c. These beaux brought their girls “hard shell” (I called them) pies, nuts, candy. gum +c. Then a crowd on the street near my car window got to fighting. One struck the other a blow on the neck and he fell over a barrel
|killing him instantly, breaking his neck. They did not know if it was the blow or the fall that broke his neck. I felt a little nervous but thought this will never do. I must be brave. At 6 A.M. before it was light the cars stopped at Ft. Worth. There stood that great big brother of mine, all the one I have with goodness enough about him for six common men, watching each end of the train to see where I would get off. I hadn’t had a line from Lester’s hand then for 12 days. I said, “O Sam I’m trying to get to my boy”. He said, “Cheer up Frank. I just had a letter from Lester yesterday”. This gave me heart. Hattie, Sam’s wife, was here in Kansas visiting her Ma about one hundred miles from us. I went to a restaurant with Sam for breakfast and at 8 O’clock A.M. started on. Sam went at 9 another direction. He is an “oil drummer” working for the Vaccum Co. of Rochester, N.Y. and just happened to be at home and got my telegram. “Fortune favors the brave” you know. He said he would get in all the work he could and meet Hattie as far north as he could go on his route and be home to receive me when I came with Lester.
I traveled all that day going down, down into that southern clime; We went through dense forests where the moss hung from the trees like heavy curtains. Although it was midday warm and bright when we entered the swamp, it now looked like evening so weird and strange looking to me. At Taylor I changed cars and bought ticket for San Antonio. I am always lucky. I made my own change, got a ticket, ran and caught the car that was moving at a rapid rate. I caught to the hand hold and fell on the steps on my knees and got on safe. Now laugh if you want to at one of MY build running but I CAN run and am a good walker. I heard afterwards there were fifty-two left at the ticket windows. The cars were packed to their utmost then. We reached San Antonio at midnight.
There was a man aboard that had sat with me, showing me a great deal of care. He wanted me to take supper with him at Austin which I refused. He offered to buy my ticket for me to San Antonio. Talked to me and his talk was nothing only, “Don’t you think that young lady pretty?” and “Don’t you suppose that woman is proud of her baby?” and “See that girl powder her face” +c. I said as few words to him as possible. He says you are all worn out, when we get to San Antonio, we will have some wine. I thanked him very coolly. I did not drink wine. He wanted me to go to a certain hotel that HE stopped at. I did not know where to go. I did not want to seem rude to that man, but I was actually afraid. I went to the conductor and asked him to tell me of some good hotel. He spoke very haughtily, “I’m not running for any hotel in San Antonio”, I spoke as pleasantly as I could, “Excuse me conductor. I’m aware of that fact, but I’m a stranger in a strange land”. You ought to have seen him. He took off his cap holding it in his hand, bowing he said, “Lady I beg your pardon. I would advise you to go to Mrs. Porter’s”. The “bus”, the largest one I ever saw, was full of men and the men all seemed to be “full” too. I found good lodging at a good price (2.00) at Mrs. Porter’s. This was Christmas Eve; so sultry and
|warm. The busses and St. cars are all open; only canopy top with seats to run crosswise and you enter the car at any seat along the sides. The city looked so weird and strange. Some streets were lighted; others were dark. Perhaps a block would be left vacant. They call these “Plazas”. And the Mexicans and Chinese had a light; a torch built up on pile of stones and had their dishes hot for sale. They call them “Chili Coe Carni” stands with this Chili Coe Carni which is prepared of meat and pepper mostly. You will hear them call out, “Hot Tamallis”. This is meat and pepper and corn meal rolled in rolls as big as two fingers and pressed in corn husks. The shops or stores were all open in fact they stand out on the street with nothing but a back to their stores. They do not close them day or night, winter or summer. I had to leave my door and windows wide open. I was so very warm. There were shutters to door and windows which I closed. I went to bed soon (this was my 4th night out and I had not slept) and the mosquitoes came. Each bed was provided with a bar. I pulled it down and with a sheet over me I laid and stifled under it. Next morning I awoke and arose early as I always do. I lay my good health to my regular habits and here I was Christmas morning surrounded by green trees, blooming flowers, grass flats; everything like summer. Great rose trees 12 to 18 feet high in FULL bloom, pink, white and red climbing vines covered with bloom. Figs, lemons and bananas. The Magnolias with such lovely leaves; large and leathery but not blooming. San Antonio is built on the old Mexican plan with narrow crooked streets with irrigating ditches on either side and the lovely San Antonio River winding through the town. I went out to San Pedro Springs where great cat fish as large as I would come wallowing up and eat from your hand. Some of them had been there for 40 years. Guards were stationed every few feet. It seemed as if no one could talk “white folk”. My landlady I could not see at all and everyone I would inquire anything about would either say, “No comprenza” and I don’t suppose I spell it right, or touch their lips and let me know they did not speak my language. Nearly the whole town are Spanish, German or Chinese. I couldn’t leave before 4 P.M. I started out in the morning and walked and walked taking in the sights and if I had been there on any other errand I should have enjoyed this strange country. I could only see my sick boy before me and couldn’t enjoy the grand sights. I went to the old Alamo; an adobe building over 200 years old. Saw where “Davy Crockett” lost his life. I thought of the Catholic Church and went with the crowd. I hadn’t been to Catholic Church since I was a little girl. O the cathedral was grand so was the performance for “performance” it is. The cathedral is 300 years old. Of course it was finely decorated for Xmas and real lilacs and. other flowers were in abundance besides the waxen ones. The music just carried me away. I am so passionately fond of music anyway. Such fine voices; one alto and tenor was grand. Three of the singers were very young men; merely boys but such voices are worth a fortune to them. I was sorry when it was all ended. Went back to the hotel.|
|I just couldn’t eat any dinner. I didn’t relish my breakfast as everything was flavored with bacon grease and onions. I do not eat either of them. I thought of these dear ones at home without dinner perhaps. No “Mamma” to fix it for them at least, and then of my dear boy so near and yet so far; 72 miles off and yet I couldn’t get to him till midnight. At 2 P.M. I took a St. car for the” Aransas Pass” depot two miles off. I would have walked but had a heavy “grip”. I was a little timid as there were so many saloons and drunken men all along. In the crowded part of the city where the streets were so narrow two wagons could scarcely pass, a colored man rushed out and shot another “darky” killing him instantly. The driver stopped the car and we “took it all in”. So you see in three days I had seen TWO men killed. I thought this is Texas. We drove by the loveliest water falls and springs and crossed that lovely San Antonio again. The water is green as grass and daisies, lilies and moss grow on its banks. The depot was way out in the woods; two miles from the main part of town although there was one hotel and a dozen saloons nearby. The waiting room was packed with foreigners. Mexican, negro and Italian men and women sitting on the floor smoking cigarettes. The train was two hours behind that day so here I was for three hours and a half. So I left my luggage and walked back to the suburbs. Here then were modern buildings and looked like “white folks”. I saw no sign of Christmas; no display on the streets. Ladies were promenading or riding dressed in light summer dresses, sun hats, parasols +c. I nearly smothered with a flannel dress on. When I went back to the depot, a nice little lady was there. She lived in town but was going to her father’s home 10 miles. She was afraid in the depot with so many strangers so we went into the cars which stood on the track. She was very intelligent. She had brought “Les Miserables” along to read but said she had no use for it after getting with me. I never do lack for a subject to talk on. Talking is one of my failings. At midnight I reached Kerrville, a little town of about 1000 at the terminus of the road. Here I found my poor boy. The gentleman that was nursing him said, “Lester, here’s your Mom” then putting his arms around him he said, “Don’t get excited my boy”. O how he had changed so wasted and thin with a beard covering his face. I hadn’t seen him for 22 months and he never wore a beard then. He was not able now to bother with shaving. He said, “O Mamma how GOOD of you to come after me.” I was excited and couldn’t keep the tears back, but I had to go get a drink to get away from him awhile. He insisted on waiting on me. He was able to be up part of the time, in fact he could scarcely lie on account of bed sores. His right ear was sore and to protect it he had almost paralyzed his hand lying on it. I made padded rings for his ear and hips and used tannic acid and glycerine on his sores and they healed in a few days. He had a room over the Drug Store away from the house. They had a room for me there too; just a mattress, one sheet and one quilt with a cotton pillow but they, Mr. Stewart the druggist, would not let me go to a hotel. They were so|
|hospitable and kind as people could be. Mrs. S- mother had died six yrs. ago leaving 5 boys; one a babe 2 weeks old and Mrs. S- had a babe 2 months old so she took her father and five boys then her five children with prospects. Mr. S- sister died four yrs. ago and he took two of his nieces 17 and 19 so Lester made 16 in family all in two rooms, with those 5 sleeping rooms over the store. The children ran barefoot ALL the time and play out doors. In the front room they have a bed and child’s bed, table with two or three books on a bureau, two awkward wooden rockers and three or four other chairs. No carpets, rugs, foot stools, nothing, muslin curtains, no shades and the sun streams in all day. In the kitchen they have a long home made table with oil cloth tacked on and a long bench behind it; no tablecloth or napkins. Cracked dishes and tin pans to eat out of; broken knives and forks and their bill of fare is turnip greens boiled for dinner and supper and cold for breakfast, if there are any leftover, bacon, corn bread, Louisiana molasses which they give the whole name when they ask for it, with “birds” (quail) fried in tallow, fried eggs, bread mixed with water, tallow and salt. Sweet potatoes all the time. They say “potatoes and Irish potatoes” while we say “potatoes and sweet potatoes”. Now these people have plenty of money, plenty cows; no milk or butter. They got a “glass tumbler” as they called it full of milk for Lester each day. He said he didn’t enjoy it because he felt he was robbing the children of it.
I took the stage and went one day to see Mrs. Morris. These are the people who owned the sheep ranch 10,000 sheep and 660,800 (?) acres of land. I started before day in an old fashioned “hack” up the mountain road; up UP all the way. Went 16 miles up the Guadaloupe valley. Some places the wall of rocks hundreds of feet high would run to the water edge and we would drive up the stream for a half mile or more coming out on the same side. The bottom was solid rock, the water clear and about 8 inches deep; beautiful streams. I got to Mr. Morris’ at 9:20 A.M. They had breakfast over, but the work wasn’t done. There are FIVE women there too. My I am always “settled down” to my days work at 9 A.M. They seemed very glad to see “Mr. Lester’s Mother”, and regretted they could not see him. I felt too sad to talk much. They never tired of telling how kind, patient and interesting Lester was to them. Mrs. Morris is a perfect Christian lady with a pleasant face and mild ways. I’d give anything for such qualities, but they knew nothing and were content to have the little they did. Their house was boarded up and down cracks everywhere. There is no cold to keep out. The houses are all set up on “stilts”, I call them blocks, at the four corners and the air passes under and the fleas do not trouble so. When they “scour” the floor (& they keep it clean) the water runs through and soon dries up and every house as a “gallery” (porch, piazza, verandah or stoop we call it) all around it where the family sit. And each gallery has a hook and chain to hang the pail of
|water to to let it cool. It is brought from the creek up a hill. They fixed me ”’some coffee as soon as I got there. I noticed they invited every one to stay or come in and have some coffee. My “coffee” consisted of three cold. “Texas biscuit” made with water, soda and tallow on a saucer, two pieces of fried chicken on a saucer, a cup of coffee without cream and three doughnuts made without milk and fried in tallow. I hardly ever eat the best of biscuit. I drink very little coffee but want it with CREAM and good. I made the best of it and thanked them for their kindness. Lester had been with them all the time he hadn’t been in the Drug Store in Kerrville. Much of the time he wasn’t able to do anything at the ranch and would come to the house where Mrs. Morris would make mustard plasters and cough syrup and wait on him like a mother he said and she said she “loved to”. When I spoke of paying his board and their nursing him and extra trouble he had been, Mr. & Mrs. Morris, the three grown boys and two young ladies all spoke at once, “Don’t say a thing about it; he and you are welcome to it all. I wish we could have done more. He more than paid his way when he was able & we all loved him as one of our own. He was so mild and gentle always”. Mrs. M-especially wanted to tell me what a good example he had set before her boys +c. Now just think what I have lost.
O it seems as if I never can get over it. I loved him so. The night he died he seemed no worse only his breath came quicker. The Dr. came at 10 said he would only last an hour or two. We sent for Mr. & Mrs. Riggs. Lester said, “Good evening Mrs. Riggs. I’m glad this happened in the evening. I hope you will comfort Mamma. She is so distressed. I think I’ll soon be better. I still have hopes. I wish Mamma wouldn’t give up so easy but if I die it will be resting from this suffering. You must all meet me there. Tell all the friends I have only gone on before and Pappa you must. be there we want an unbroken bond there. Tell the girls to do right always and meet me on the other shore. Mamma raise them right, but you will. They are smart and I loved them especially dear little Jessie.” And so on through the night till 5 O’clock A.M. Jan. 21st. He would bid Mrs. Riggs to go to the fire, Mamma and Pappa lie down to rest; “Dr. are you not cold? Don’t expose yourself for me”. We had him in a cold room. He couldn’t stand the least fire. The night was very cold. He would not let us awaken the girls because it was too cold and they would be so excited they couldn’t sleep any more and there’ll be plenty time tomorrow. I know I am tiring you out, but dear friend my heart is full. O I am so glad I got him home safely, but I wanted to keep him. It is hard to say, “Thy will O Lord”. I am poor and weak. Mr. W – is broken hearted. He was so proud of our noble boy. He seems to have become quite grey in the past few weeks. He will never mention his name while I like to talk of my boy’s noble traits and look at his work. He was so neat and kept acct. of every little thing; kept every letter he ever rec’d +c.
|I thought I wouldn’t write another word to you only to thank you for your kind remembrance to us Xmas. But you will want to know how and when we got home. We left Kerrville the 31st of December before day light. The trip to San Antonio was hard on Lester. We reached that place at noon. We had had no breakfast and Lester could eat no dinner. He chilled each fore noon. His fever came up and about 4 O’clock P.M. he could eat. We took a Sleeper at 3:40 P.M. I got L- a dish of soup and glass of milk which he relished. We reached Ft. Worth at 6 O’clock A.M. and was met by Sam and Hattie. She had come two days before. They never could do enough for me and mine and no person could be more kind and thoughtful than they are. We went to their pleasant boarding house and stayed 39 hours taking a Sleeper and arriving at Arkansas City 24 hours later. We could have gone home the next morn at 4 A.M. but it was very cold and Lester had been in Texas too long to endure the cold. Then his horrid chill was on so we stayed at the hotel till 5 P.M. reaching home an hour later. I telegraphed to Mr. W- that we would be there on night train. Half of the town were there to meet us. So glad to see Lester and to think I got him home. They brought a “hack” with spring bed mattress and feather bed, blankets and pillows which the men drew to the depot then others came in buggies for Lester. He could not lie down and although he appreciated their kindness and thoughtfulness in fixing him an easy conveyance, he rode in a buggy and sat up. And wasn’t I glad to get home after such a journey of 15 days. The girls had the house fixed up in Holiday attire and such a nice supper and the beds looked so nice with their spreads and “shams” on. Lester said, “What nice sheets you have and so many white rags”. Poor boy he had done with few such things. He spit on paper and I could hardly get him to use a rag. He liked the hemmed ones best. He was always so precise so I hemmed them and washed some each day and kept him clean and nice. This he enjoyed so much and I always was glad he did appreciate nice things.
We do not have things very nice but “strictly clean” is my motto. I am not at all orderly but I can wash. I don’t care if things are only half ironed unless it is starched, clothes, table cloths, napkins, towels, sheets and pillow slips +c. Of course come to think of it I do “run over” everything but I can slip into my underwear or night dresses if they are not half ironed. I want my girls to look all right however because they are all I have to be proud of and I am repaid by them every day by their loving acts. Dear Friend what can I do for you to repay you for your kindness to me? Can’t I make you some nice gingham aprons? I make so much of this cross-stitch and your eyes must trouble you in doing such close work. You know I do not do any extra fine work therefore mention gingham work. I owe you so much your presents are just right always. Nothing could have been more appreciated than your FIR pillow. Lester said he knew it helped him. Now if I can help you don’t hesitate to say so. I congratulate you on your marriage. Remember me to Mr. Elwell. Think of
|the trouble I have had in my life and what you have missed. I believe we are the same age. I will be 40 the 28th of Apr. Last June Lester was so sick away from home and I grieved so. Jessie in her thoughtful ways says, “Mamma it is a pity you were married so young”. The first part of my life seems to have been thrown away. My boys if they had lived would have been 20 & 23 in Mar. & Apr. Now I am desolate.
Myrtle said she wrote of another lady than the one you inquired of. Mrs. Seaman is in Southwick, Mass. keeping house for a crippled lady trying to earn something; poor old lady. I put her case in a trusty lawyer’s hands here and I hope she may get her $1,000 back with interest. But here are the girls. I am going to write more another time but do excuse me now. I do not expect you to answer such a jumble of a letter. Will be glad to hear from you at any time.
|NOTE: Nellie Hill is now Mrs. Elwell.|
|Dexter, Kans. Jan 16, 1894|
|My dear Friend|
|I hardly know how to begin a letter to you for I have neglected you for so long a time, I just couldn’t help it, I have had so little time to call my own for the last eighteen months, and now another year is upon us & 93 is gone with its disasters and death surely 94 cannot be worse. We were beseiged on every hand – first by cyclones, then flood, followed by drowth, failure of crops, and now it is sudden & fatal sickness. So many are dying especially old people & children. I am kept very busy in our town looking after the babies, have spent so many nights with them lately. I pity these young. mothers that know so little about caring for their little ones. These mothers are kept in perfect torture for fear something will happen to their children.
We never had so lovely a winter as we have had so far, only slight snow that stayed with us part of a day only, yet it is so dry many of the wells have failed here in town. We are fortunate in having an abundance for our own & many neighbors. The creeks are so low, the wheat is doing very well, there is a large acreage sown. A rain would help it yet it is nice & green & growing.
Today I have had no fire only as I got dinner, I had a wood fire in the stove but kept the South door open. My clothes dried on the line yesterday as nicely as if it was a summer day. I wash on Mon. & haven’t had a freezing wash day this winter, sometimes it is windy & whips the starch out of the calicoes, we have had more wind than usual the past year. I cannot think where I should begin a letter to you. If l should begin with June I couldn’t tell you all since then.
|I have told you of my half brother that lives on a farm 7 miles below? He is a good man, honest, upright, & industrious, but he is one of the unfortunates, he married a 14 yr. old girl when he was 19. She never amounted to anything, she died seven years ago leaving him a helpless family of untrained girls, one a baby 8 months old, the older girls married very good men & make nice wifes & mothers, one a 15 yr old with the baby now seven, keeps house for him or stays there; they don’t keep the house. He has a nice farm, good orchard & house well furnished, he buys everything to lighten labor & does all he does nice & orderly, and tasty. He always wants me to go home with him, when he comes, he is 10 yrs older than I & very hard of hearing, he is as unlike me as day is night, being tall, spare built & trim as an Indian, he is like his father while I am like mine, being large, yet I walk & move fast, while he is slow. It is such a sacrifice for me to go there, for I do clean up & work so hard & put things in order (never to see them clean if I go there again). I help him butcher 15 or 20 hogs, render the lard, make his soap & all this hard work to save him, then when I go down maybe the dogs have carried off a nice ham or a mouse got in a can of lard +c but all this is nothing to you, but you know how it does worry a person of careful habits. I, that never waste even the crumbs of my bread, or a scrap of meat. There was to be a birthday party, a surprise on one of our old neighbors, the 3rd of June, brother came after me the 2nd & I put in the PM made a kettle of soap for him. Mildred was with me & we walked to Vinton down the RR track two miles & a half to be at the station when the train came in at 9 AM next day & escort those coming from Dexter to my neices close by, to wait till the crowd got together before going to the house for a surprise at 8 AM. Myrtle & Jessie drove down & reported all well at home. When the train came an hour later Mr. W- jumped off & came running with a telegram in his hand that he had rec’d just as the train was starting. He happened to be at the Depot & boarded the train & came to me ten miles away. It was from my sister in OK saying she was very sick & to come on first train. The Cond said he would hold the train five minutes for me, but I wasn’t two getting there & went to OK in a hurry. When I reached Mulhall station, a man was waiting for me, it was raining hard when I left Arkansas City & as I passed through the Strip, but it was a lovely PM that we drove the 14 miles over that rough red Oklahoma dirt. There are no rocks but the country is hilly & the land sandy & it washes & makes the roads rough. We passed huts, shanties of slabs, of boards, houses with holes for doors & windows without shutters, houses with roofs all one way, houses made of hay, houses made of logs, of sails, of stone, some fine houses built in style, painted & plastered with porches & ells & Ls & big barns in the rear like old farms, but more than all the dugout & sod houses predominated, sods cut & piled like brick & as red as any brick you ever saw. When I reached my sister she was some better but very sick. She had inflammation of the stomach & bowels & was in a dangerous condition. She never was sick before without my care & the Dr. here had been the|
|only one she ever had. She said “O Frank you darling mother & sister both in one, I couldn’t be so sick without you.” I have cared for her since she was three years old & she is certainly the sweetest dispositioned woman I ever knew. It hurt me to see her so sick & I did not like the Dr, he seemed to know so little, Emma said “I wanted to see you anyhow & Walt & the girls, I wish they all had come, I am better.” She did not get better fast, I stayed three weeks, they sent me word from home to come as soon as I could as the 4th of July music all rested on me (I had made selections before I left). I told the girls to take the other singers to our house & practice with them, I told Emma’s husband I believed I would have to come home & would take Emma & the children with me. She has two little girls Bessie 7 & Floy three. I sewed & fixed things working day & night almost and brought them home with me. Emma was so sick when we reached Ark City. I stayed at our nieces (the half bros daughter) for the day & saw she was better so came on home to prepare for her. Mr. WmSon & the girls all began, why didn’t you bring Aunt Emma. I never keep. a thing from Mr. W – so told him she was at the city & when she came on in two days I said “lets all go up & see the trains come in” the girls thought that so queer for me to say they all agreed. So Mr. WmSon & all went & there was Emma, after all the worry, she had come. Our good old Dr. was called & we attended her like a baby & she got well & strong before she left us in Aug. the first week. The last week in Aug. I went to Mrs. Brooks near Burden 14 miles from home, nursed her through her confinement, came home the 9th of Sept & went to work in earnest. I brought 72 qt cans of Emmas home when I came from OK filled them & as many for myself. “The girls” can’t plan & manage as I can, but they keep the house in good order while I am away can bake yeast bread, make lovely cake do all kinds of plain cooking & chum & keep the milk nice too, but they cannot or do not make their Pappa an occasional salt rising loaf or brown bread +c as I do. They never cut a garment & make it but can mend hose to perfection & right here let me say I can too & if you want my stocking foot pattern do send for it, it is the nicest I ever used. I sent to the Delineator for it, I have given away dozens of them. The girls can sweep & dust & mop. Papa says they manage as well without me & they say Papa is such a help to us & gets us anything we ask for. I can trust them to stay. They never think of running around the town & never go only on business. The great Cherokee Strip opening came, Mr. W– in order to be on time to register left home. the 11th day of Sept, that day & the next I had a coffin to trim, a young lady to lay out had to sing at the funeral. The other was a man died, services at the church. Jessie played, I helped sing, but more than the choir sang & it wasn’t so hard on us few. That day Mildred got her right arm broken above the elbow, the town was almost depopulated but there was a Dr left & he was right at hand. We soon had it “set” & it never troubled her a minute. It was broken in two or three places. She is so quiet & uncomplaining, perfectly satisfied with everything, willing to do|
|anything you tell her. Her arm healed rapidly & in six weeks it was seemingly well & strong when we took the bandage off.
When Mr. W-left home I told him I should hope he would get no claim and he never had the shadow of a chance. The land is lovely & rich good soil, but I do not want any more frontier if you please. I have pioneered enough for one woman. We own a little home here, six lots with our house & shop, another house & lot near, & nearly two acres of ground that we sow to wheat for our Jersey cow. It is all free from debt & more than pays taxes, it is ours & I am satisfied. Our house is too small to be real convenient but we get along. We have good schools & here my boys are buried so here I want to stay. Our little business keeps us very well with the outside work I do. Mr. W – is in poor health yet is rugged for a man 61 years old, he has always worked hard & endured many hardships-his Army life & exposure is telling on him by way of rheumatism & other ailments. The first week in Nov. this half bro came after me to go to Ark City with him, he was going to send his little daughter to school there. You remember his older daughter lives there. The day we were to drive from his house it was the coldest of the season & his team was large & fat & he is such a slow driver & it was 20 miles. I suffered with cold. I stayed a week in the city & made the little girls clothing, three flannel dresses & a nice wool dress with five big aprons, skirts & underwear +c. I sat long after all were in bed & worked & nearly put my eyes out, they trouble me so much, got the material for the aprons, like you rec’d from the girls, the one I intended for you was longer & hem stitched but the girls did not know there was much difference & knew “Aunt Hattie” was tall & sent that one to her. I hope yours is all right. I wished I might have sent you something nice. Jessie crocheted a pr of slippers for you & Mildred got a placque, just a little thing, but I think she showed such good taste in selecting. Jessie couldn’t get any soles in town & wouldn’t send the slippers. I was away from home and did not know what they were doing. They may send the things yet & you can give them to someone if they do not suit you. When I came from the city there had been two men after me to go nurse their wives. I was so sorry to miss these, because my hard work at the city was all a “thank you” job. I had a case close at hand, my nearest neighbor, the 19th of Nov. & the l0th of Dec. I rec’d a telegram to come to Burden on first train. The trains were all gone before the message was delivered and it was dark so I had to hire a team & go overland 12 miles — it was only 8 o’clock PM. When I got to the place the baby was waiting to be dressed. I had contracted last Aug to wait on this Mrs. Limmons, but had never seen her. I found her a sweet little lady not married two years. This is her second baby, the little Howard (& a lovelier child never was) being one year & 8 days old when “little Joe” came. I wasn’t in a very good condition to go, having been up with a sick baby two whole nights before & having company both days I had had no sleep. The baby was as good as good could be, and made very little trouble. Mrs. Limmons said I was awake every time she looked at
|me, but I rested & got along very well, only two days I had such a sore throat & aching but I didn’t grunt, or say a word, they should not think me a fussy complaining nurse, I just rolled in the quinine, & antihamnia & got better. I didn’t eat a thing for two days then I told them I had been nearly sick & if I had been at home I surely would been in bed, & perhaps had the Dr. These were such nice people & loved each other & their babies. They both worked together so nicely they learned their little boy regular habits. I do like parents that train their children & seem to think there is something else besides growing in children. The dear little things are so sweet & nice when they are good & a good child is loved by everybody. I am afraid the envelope will be too full & if you will excuse pencil I will write the other side of the paper this tablet Mildred got for me and the paper is so poor.
Mr & Mrs Limmons seemed suited with my work. I had promised to stay three weeks when I first contracted but she got along nicely & the baby slept all the time, there was so little to do & Mrs. Bibler wanted me at home. I am Mrs B– nearest neighbor & have been with her when four of her children were born & she was nearing her fifth confinement & was troubling about my being away. So the day before Xmas the day was warm & roads hard & good, my three girls drove up to Burden after 2 PM saying Mrs Bibler was feeling so badly & wanted me. Mrs L- said I could come if I would come back as soon as I could. It was 9 PM & dark as pitch when we came through the woods, the ponies were safe so we let them take their way, just as we got through the woods & across the bridge some one spoke “throw up your hands” & I recognized Mr. W- voice. He had come down to meet us over a mile, he was afraid for us to cross the RR track alone. There was no train due, but I suppose he thought there might be an extra to take his precious load. I rather like people that are cautious.
I came home to my good bed but before daylight I had to go to Mrs Bmissing the nice dinner the girls had prepared. At 8 PM on Christmas night the baby was born, a 10 1/2 lb. boy. This is her 5th child in seven years, three born in 34 mo. She is so large & fleshy weighs 230 & the two babies before this weighed one 12 & one 14. The Dr said she never would go through childbirth again but she got along all right & I carried her through. There wasn’t a Dr in town that day, one was in Winfield, one was called to the Stateline & the third one was Jack rabbit hunting. I staid with her of nights, would come home early, got her bread ready for toasting & tea steeping & send Jessie over with it. I knew she would see the water was boiling before she filled the tea & she would brown the bread just right & poach the eggs as good as I could. Jessie is a regular little cook. At noon I made some kind of soup & carried to her & to a sick man across the St. I went as soon as I could after breakfast & washed & dressed my baby (Mrs B’s) gave her her bath & tidied up her room & fixed her for a nap, taking the three other children two, three & 5 1/2 home with
|me washing, combing, changing their clothes +c which would just about take the forenoon. This I did for 10 days. My neighbors say they believe I am glad when some one in town gets sick so I can wait on them. I am glad now to be at home & if they will leave me I will rest. I have no other engagement till April when I go to Arkansas City for two weeks so now I am going to rest & make two or three dresses & “lots” of other sewing & knit & read. I have Hot Plow Shares by Longee I have never read. I do not know what papers to take. I have had the Minneapolis Housekeeper for years, it is not so good as it was so will discontinue it & Authors & the Housewife. I have the” Home Journal” yet & Mildred the “Home”. Myrtle spent her last $1.50 for a Co paper & NY Tribune for my Christmas present which I surely appreciate.
Mildred’s Youth Companion stopped the first of the year. Now Christmas & New Year is past comes the birthdays Mildred 12 the 30th of Jan., Myrtle 18 the 5th of Feb., Mr. W-61 the 16th of Mar. & I 44 the 28th of Apr-. Mildred & Myrtle must have parties, just a surprise. I can satisfy Mildred with a pound of candy, some nuts & apples so I can Myrtle for she is satisfied with anything but she must have something better. I wanted a nice book, cannot get it here. She wants Miss Evans, St Elmo, Vashti, Inez Macan or At The Mercy of Liberus. I think I can get her a nice Bible which I know will suit her. Jessie got one from one of her music scholars Xmas & Myrtle expressed herself there saying she “would rather have a Bible than anything”. We have to watch Myrtle for she never would ask for anything, she will not even say what she likes for fear we will put ourselves out to get it for her.
I never knew a person that was always suited as she is. Nothing is ever wrong, she makes excuses for everybody & every child is all right, Mildred is much like her, but Jessie would be bad if she didn’t see how the other girls are & try for their sakes to be good. Jessie is a little girl with a temper if she would just let it out, but she knows pretty well how to control it.
|Volume 2nd Chapt XIX|
|17th Dear Friend I am so glad you are better & on the way to health again & trust you will become strong & well again. I know something of Dr. Flower, have never met him. Isn’t it strange how he can perform such miracles nearly. Two ladies from our town met him at Wichita. One had a tumor removed & is a well woman. It is a pity he can’t leave his talent to some one else when he dies for die we all must. I thought I would answer your letter at once. I had so much to tell you then, but now it is all gone.
Bro Sam came to see us in Apr. He is growing so fleshy and getting as awkward, he that was so slight & active. I am three yrs older but could get in & out of the buggy so much easier than he could. He is the same jolly boy he always was. We miss Hattie so when she doesn’t come with him, she seems so a part of him. She sacrifices so much for her people &
|thinks the money spent in coming to see us would help her parents so much more, that she gives up many pleasures to help them. Sam sent me a lovely pocketbook at Christmas, he sends me one every few years. I am saving them up. I like a common one that I can carry in my pocket & not hunt it, I told him once I would rather have a nickle pocket book with $40 than a $40 book with a nickle in it. .
I always have a pocket with my handkerchief & thimble in & I am ready for almost any emergency.
Did you read much about the Strip opening? It was not much overdrawn. We never witnessed such hot, windy, dry days as it was at that time. We were only 25 miles from the line & nearly everyone from here went to see the race. I didn’t I cannot leave the undertaking business when Mt W-is gone so played the dutiful & stayed home. There were very few got claims honestly & fairly. There was so many tricks just real characteristic of the Democratic ruling, nothing else but Grover Cleveland & “Hoke” Smith being at the helm made dishonesty. So many that went from here was nothing like going from a long distance & then failing. We lay everything to the Democratic administration or Peoples Party. Jessie is the cutest child to say & do things I ever saw. She is so quick motioned & as witty as an Irish man is said to be. One day last summer when I was hurrying to get my washing on the line & I was so warm the bottom fell out of the well bucket we draw with two buckets & pulley. I said “O dear I do wish it had waited till I was through.” Jessie came running & said “It is all the fault of the Peoples Party”, then looking at the bucket & knowing one of them was continually in the water she said “it may be the dry weather that caused it”. Of course I laughed at her foolishness. It does not seem so funny to repeat these things but when they are said so quick & cute they do seem funny.
My family is my all & I must tell you of them. Every one says Jessie is like her mother in action & speech: I do not see she is, I know she is quick tempered & witty like her Papa. Myrtle is like her Papa in her likes & dislikes but hasn’t his temper while Mildred is the Howe of the family, looks like I did when I was a child I know, and my aunt says I was the same indifferent child Mildred is. Jessie nor Myrtle neither look or act like their Papa or 1. Jessie looks exactly like Lester while Mildred is the true counterpart of Claude. Lester was sedate at home or abroad. Jessie is as prim as can be a way from home but a bigger monkey never lived or acted at home. She can mock anyone & I believe she would make fun of her Grand Mother to make some one laugh yet a better kinder hearted child there never was, she has the sympathy of all & a kind word ready for any one.
PM I am going to make a letter of this but I am afraid you can not read it it is so mixed & jumbled. The paper is so poor & my pen hardly writes. I wish you could step in. I have no fire, all the doors open, the birds are singing & twittering, the crows cawing, the hens cackling, men are
|plowing in their shirt sleeves, the wheat field looks so green & fresh, the cows are panting in the shade of the barn, everything seems like Spring – I wonder if I ever told you of our little Jersey, two yrs old in June & I make six lbs & more if anything of butter off of her milk every week & we use cream off of one third of her milk I do believe. Mr W – is delighted with her. We have an acre of wheat for her to run on. Mr W – is getting out wood on the shares & has worked all winter stands it very well & is so glad to be able to work he takes the cow as he goes to work & I know he is proud of the little thing, she is a perfect picture & such a pet. Butter is only 12 cts per Ib, eggs 13/doz. I have 40 hens, get 12 to 18 eggs a day. Hens pay better than cows. I like to raise chickens.
I could write more but will not burden you with it. If Jessie & Mildred send you the little presents they had for your Christmas, please accept them as the best little motherless children could do & don’t think you must send something in return we don’t want a thing so don’t. I said all I wanted for Xmas & I wanted to get it myself was a nice valise, I have no good one & have so much use for one. I sent one box of paper books & clothing to OK between Xmas & New Year. After I was there in June I found almost anything would be accepted to them in that new country. I am trying to fill a box now, I expect to go down in the spring.
You never told us when your sister’s little boy died, but you speak of the sister being at home during the summer with the little girls so we thought from that or rather knew it had died. I am truly glad your sister has given up teaching and has a home of her own now. It is perfectly right & proper that we all make homes for ourselves.
Was Fleta 12 her last birthday? I think she is only eleven, I wonder if she is as tall & slender as Mildred. When Jessie was Mildred’s age she played the organ as well for Church & SS. Mildred never practices unless I send her to the organ, there is such a difference & she never touches the guitar, I ought to say nothing though. I used to play & cannot now only a few chords. I never played much but might improve. The girls can do so well it is foolish for me to try. I tell them when I get old & cannot work then I will learn all over again. I am better of my stomach trouble for the last six weeks I have only vomited once. I have ached & felt so badly for over a week just as if I was going to have the ague. I don’t think it is the Grippe for I haven’t any grip at all in the way of ambition. My hands just refuse to work & before I know it they are lying idle in my lap. Not feeling like work is my only excuse for this long letter to you. Give my best wishes for the future to your sister in her new life. Remember me to all with kindest regards with love to you & wishing you a happy & prosperous year. I am your friend.
|Write as often as you can to us.|
|Mar. 13 .98|
|Mrs. Nellie Elwell,|
| My Dear Friend,
I was very glad to get another letter from you and thought I would answer it right away, but when I have any spare time to write or on Sun. when I layout to, the baby comes over and I play with her. She is so sweet now, and does such cute things. She is commencing to say a few words and goes all over the house, by a chair, and is so little trouble to anyone. She is a regular pet and between the two (one of our dear girl friends has one two weeks younger) we have a baby most all the time. Sybil lives just across the street from Dena, and they are together so much. Jessie has not been welt this week and Mama was almost sick last Mama goes so much in sickness, getting up and going any time in the night, and I think exposes herself too much to care for some one else. Her harvest of babies increases every year. Since Jan. 1st, ’98 there-have been seven and she is expecting to go to other places any time. We are coaxing her to go to Burlington, Kans. her old home and I guess she will as soon as she can leave her patients. She has not been there for twelve or fourteen years, and knows so many there.
I had such a nice visit in Ft. Worth, Tex. My aunt and uncle (Mama’s brother) have been married eighteen years and have no children and are always coaxing one of us to visit them so I have been planning for several years to spend the winter there but never thought I could go until this winter. I left home the 15th of February in such an awful storm and cold weather. I ran down to Arkansas City in the afternoon, took supper there and boarded the south bound Santa Fe at 8:30. I soon went to sleep and in the morning just as it began to grow light I could see the trees with mistletoe in them and the forests of live oak, and I knew we were in Texas. When we stopped at Gainesville I went out on the platform and it was warm. We reached Ft. Worth at 9:30 and Aunt Hattie was at the depot with her horse and phaeton to meet me. It seemed so strange to me to go to sleep in such a blizzard and wake up to find it so warm. It was just four days until Christmas and we went down town every day not so much, to buy as to see others buy. The shops were so crowded one could hardly get around and you couldn’t stay with your mate. We saw such pretty things I would not know how to use if I had. The book and china departments were the most attractive to me. The streets were full of revellers and masked people, some in costumes, and everyone with a big tin horn which they blew not sparingly, even young ladies were costumed and blew those noisy horns. Holly and mistletoe were everywhere but ever among that jolly crowd were cripples, blind, or deaf and dumb or poor begging. It seems a sin for people to spend so much and especially for those horns when there are so many needy. I wished for lots of money to give them and to remember my friends with, but did not spend much: Christmas morning I found such a pretty paper weight by
|my plate. It was onyx cut in the shape of a book. Uncle Sam had got it for me and Aunt Hattie got me a pretty set of small diamond shirt studs and a picture in brawn and white of Priscilla and John Alden and a pretty plaid neck ribbon. Mrs. Leffler, her sister, who lives near gave me a copper card plate and an embroidered handkerchief. Jessie sent me a pair of tan kid gloves and Mr. Hannah sent me a box of fine bonbons.
Feb. 5th I was twenty two. years old and Aunt Hattie gave me a party Mrs. & Mr. Leffler (he is a photographer) made me a present of a half dozen photos of myself and Aunt Hattie gave me such a pretty silk waist that she had made herself. It is red and black changable.
Uncle Sam gave me a toilet set. I staid two months, and saw the most of Ft. Worth. It seems that I got home just in time for Mama and Jessie are neither well. They have such awful colds as has everyone but it is no wander when we think of this changable spring weather. One day it is warm and nice and the next it is cold. I have our hot bed made, and our cannas set. Aunt Hattie writes me that their tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, etc. are in their full beauty now. The roses are in bud and honeysuckle in bloom.
When I left the peaches and apricots were in full bloom. No, I did not have “Klondicitis” very long. I would like to see the country, but do not care to be in such a crowd. Our jersey cows would do well there, we have two such fine ones. Papa says they have more than paid for themselves in milk and butter. We churn four pounds every other day. Our hens are not setting so well this spring as usual but we get lots of eggs. They are 6 cents per doz. and butter 12 cents but we do not make it for sale at that price. I will be very thankful for the books on fancy work as I do a great deal of it, but have not had any thing now for a long time. I crochet, knit and embroider but do not paint as I do not care much far it unless it is fine. I like to embroider and since I have been wearing glasses three years I can do. it easily. I also do drawn work am piecing and quilting at present I have just finished a blue and white “Irish chain” and took it out of the frames, then I tacked a woolen crazy patch comfort and a blue cheese cloth one. I have three other quilts ready for the frames, two. of them are very pretty. I am going to be married the middle of June to a Mr. Hannah who I have known for ten years, about half of the time I went with or corresponded with him. He is a depot agent at Olcott, Kans. 112 miles from here. I hate to go so far away on Mama’s account but that office pays more than any nearer, so I shall go there. We know the family well and I think I have profited by waiting until I was twenty two.
|Mama says tell you she will write when she has time.|
|Jessie and Mildred wish to be remembered and Dena is tip-toeing and smacking her lips to be kissed.|
|I hope you will write when you have time.|
|Ever your loving friend|
|St Clair, Mo Feb 25th, 1899|
|Dear Mrs. Elwell–|
|Will you excuse this paper after the surprise of seeing the heading of this letter is over? I left” home in Kans” the 20th of Jan. to come here to care for. Mrs. Hodge, my brother’s wife’s sister, through her first confinement. She has been married 6 years and thought she knew me better than anyone else that could be with her so I consented to come. Mr. Hodge is agent at this place & sent me a pass +c +c. My “folks at home” insisted on my coming, Jessie saying she would help Mildred care for her Papa & the house. Mr. Wmson said “yes if I could do Eva (Mrs Hodge) I surely must come.” I was here two weeks before the baby came. It was born Feb 3rd a beautiful 10 1/4 lb girl baby just what they wanted but it only lived two days. They had a fine physician & did all that could be done to save the life of the child. (The forceps had to be used & this was the cause of its death) Mrs Hodge is getting along nicely & is up but so lonely. A baby is all they need to complete their home. I never knew a finer man than Mr H & Eva always was “just perfect” in my eyes.
Your long looked for letter had been rec’d before I left home. I was sorry to hear your parents were so poorly this winter. So many of our old people have died with Grippe this winter & here the Drs are very busy working with the same malady, I think it is a good screen for the Drs to say “Grippe” if they don’t quite understand a case.
This is a lovely little place, that is the situation is fine, of about 1000 inhabitants, 48 miles from St. Louis, in the hills & wooded hills at that. The people are nice & friendly but southern always asking how are “you all” this morning? I am now just waiting for the return of my pass (it had to be sent & rewired) to go on to Terre Haute, Ind to visit my only Aunt & three cousins, these three are all I ever had.
Myrtle came home in Dec & stayed five weeks was happy & contented. Jessie and the baby Dena & I drove to Western Kans & Myrtle’s home in Nov. We had a big new buggy & harness & team, our horse & Jessie’s. It takes us two days to go by rail as we have to stop after four hours ride & stay at Conway Sprgs then go about two hours next day and it would cost us about $16 or even more, so we drove making the trip in 2 1/2 days. We stopped in houses of nights & had a bed & breakfast. There were no fences or streams to interfere so we drove right up the RR track about one hundred & thirty miles. Found Myrtle living cosily & happy & very much surprised & glad to see us. Then we had the team & buggy to travel over the country with. It is a beautiful country, too level & sandy to be pleasant in winter or spring. It looks so new yet, so many deserted their claims there to go to OK & the Strip and this keep the country back. The second day out it was nearing evening & we stopped at a house to see if they could keep us all night, a girl said yes if we would
|help work as her Mamma was not at home and four men had just stopped besides they had a big family. We drove up close to the house & stepped on the porch just as one of the men, a book agt that was going to stay there, stepped on the other end & I recognized him just as he did me. We were little boy & girl together in Kans in 1857 and lived in the same little town together for 16 years, he said his mother lived in Kingman 8 miles farther on, so the next morning we stopped to see her & on our way back we stayed there all night & renewed old acquaintances. They were a lovely family always the poorest family I ever knew yet did not fail to educate their six children who are now all teachers. They only live 18 miles from Myrtle’s in Kingman City. Myrtle came back that far with me & stayed all night. Such meetings with old friends is very pleasant & I did wish Mrs Kelly was with me. Poor Mrs. Kelly! I am uneasy about her. She is so lonely since her “grand loyal old man” as she calls him has “passed on” as she says too. Her second daughter married last May leaving herself & older daughter Herma, 37 years old, living alone in that mansion. Her work is done, she has no grand children. Nothing to do & she writes she is “only waiting till the shadows area little longer grown”. I feel so sorry for her & so worried about her. She has taken up Christian Science in the last few years and it really is no comfort to her. Her sister 13 months younger than her and a teacher for years married late in life & her husband died & now she is crazy and in an asylum at 60 years of age. Mrs Kelly feels so badly about it.
What a wicked old World this is! and how full of disaster was the year 1898. Mother Shipton’s Prophecy is no comparison to it. I hope ’99 will not be so full of disaster and death. How they are keeping things stirred up at Manila. Mr. Williamson is so worked up & eager for his daily paper which comes at 1:47PM & he just devours it before anything else is done. He is such a reader at anytime but news paper reading has … (illegible)… every thing else out. How thin the new books are. I don’t like “Quo Vadis” nor Ian McLaren’s brag books. I believe I am hard to suit in my old days.
Jessie’s husband gave her a new piano for Xmas and she is contented with that while I am gone. The poor girl has too much to do. She is a perfect little mother and never neglects Dena in the least, but she has her old music class & instructs on Piano, Organ & Guitar so it takes lots of her time. She lives so near me & is now overseeing my house. Mr. W – milks one cow but she is a Jersey & I made six lbs of butter a week before I came. The milk is all to ‘tend to & a calf to feed and the weather has been so cold. We gave Myrtle the young Jersey cow & she pays nearly all her groceries with her milk & butter & uses so much cream. Myrtle is quite an economical housekeeper. She thinks Will Hannah just about right but likes Dena Day fine and says she don’t “care how soon they are three in family.” She said she would never marry if she couldn’t have a
|family. I am not particular about her having children, yet know it is right & proper. Children are such a comfort. I wish everyone had the pleasure that I have with my girls they give me so much pleasure with their company that I am not as social with my neighbors as I should be. This Rail road paper is all there is here at the house and you will please excuse it. From the cold winter we have had you surely have felt it severely in your New England. Myrtle wrote last week that it was warm & balmy that she let the fire go out every afternoon and that she had 14 chicks & more. hens sitting etc etc. Mr. W – writes he was thinking of getting some early potatoes in the ground. Here the earth is locked tight in “Jack Frosts” embrace and piles of snow in every fence comer. This is the greenest town, there are some fine brick buildings well built but the majority of the houses are frame & ceiled & painted ceiling at that, few are canvassed & papered. They bum dry oak wood all over town. Good dry oak sells for $1.25 per cord & “tramps” will saw up & split a cord for 40 cts & their dinner (of cold victuals) then they take the 40 cts and go to the saloon of which there are many here. There is no regularity to the streets. They run in any direction to avoid the hills I suppose & the houses too are “set” diagonally or straight just as they like. I don’t actually believe they are level even. There are no alleys in the town. The grand old oak trees grow over town and the valley is lovely laying between the wooded hills. O I ought to have been raised in the woods, I love them & the streams. I never had enough trees, and vines. Speaking of vines I had the most beautiful Japan morning glories & white hyacinth beans, just lovely. I have only a few flower seeds this year and I love the flowers 80. I am afraid my tender roses are gone yet they were all covered well. I had beautiful cannas & dahlias. Of all things I prefer roses, Mildred’s favorites are violets so I get her a dish or doily or picture, every thing a violet.
I do hope you are all well for this severe weather, and that with the spring time your Papa & Mamma will take on new life & enjoy many years yet. Remember me to all of the family. With love especially. yourself I am as ever
|Mrs. F Williamson|
|I go on to Terre Haute, Ind. today & back to Kans by Mar 28th. I was not at home Xmas, or not till Xmas day, is the reason my friends were. so neglected but they were not forgotten.|
|NOTE: This letter was in an envelope whose corner was torn off for It stamp, hence the gaps.|
|Dexter, Kansas Jan 6th, 1900|
|My dear Mrs. Elwell,|
|the agt gave or got me another pass to Indianapolis, Ind through Terre Haute, so I went on to visit my old aunt in…& saw all my relatives viz…& her son Clyde 20 he is…out of four the others dying…born then I had another Aunt that died several…a son & daughter Kate……37 yrs old & Will 27 principal of a commercial college. So you see here we are, one aunt, three cousins in Ind. one brother without children, a sister with two girls & I have three girls but they are going to revive the stock. Jessie married three yrs ago a man that has always lived here & he had eleven brothers & sisters. He is a good man & industrious making a good living & having plenty of everything & above all he is so good to Jessie & the children. Yes there are children, Dena two years old last June& Eula born in…is proud of her two little them like little…dolls neat & …… is a beautiful child having curls, Jessie is neat & …ekeeper& loves Elmer her…Myrtle was married & came home every three or four months for a year. Her husband is a nice man too, he is an agt at a little station on a branch of Mo-Pac RR. She said she wouldn’t marry & leave her good home as she could always have a beau, but she wanted a family, four at least. In a year she came to stay awhile as I wanted her here with Jessie & I. Jessie has a nice big south bedroom & mine is small so we arranged to have her sick at Jessie’s & do the cooking, washing. +c. ‘over…here block apart) but when Myrtle… sick she was here upstairs …… in a bed to herself & she…We called a good Dr & …wire for a surgeon. She was in spasms twelve…fore she was delivered of boy that lived & is a beautiful baby now & a better child I never saw. Myrtle knew nothing for five days, we sent for her husband & we were all nearly crazy as was the whole town about Myrtle but she got along very well but slow & is now heartier & in better health than she ever was. She went home in Aug with her baby Neil two months old, coming back in Oct to help Jessie through Nov. Neil was 4 1/2 months old & weighed 20 lbs & could jump & play. Myrtle had made him a jumper & he…cried or took any care……dress & Jessie got along…& we were so glad as a… Jessie & I drove out to Myrtle’s home last Nova year it was 130 miles I think & we drove it in 2 1/2 days. Myrtle is a lovely housekeeper but has such a tiny house & so little to do with. They live at a station where this is the only house to rent & only one store to buy from & there are so many things she can’t get so she never says a word & does without. Will is good to her in his way. He is a good moral man but has boarded so many years he doesn’t know how to help about the house& Myrtle loves him so she lets him…for knows he has a jewel in Myrtle…She took Jessie’s babies…adding a few pieces & they…made & hem stitched she…hand, but has a machine now. Mildred is in school last year, she will be 18…my baby, she is very girlish…wearing her heavy hair in braids & her dresses short. She is my largest girl & a fine disposition only she doesn’t know how to work or even know she can work if there is a book or a baby in the house. I never saw anyone love a baby as she does & she makes them obey her & all children love her. I don’t know what I can get for her 18th birthday.|
| I tried to get “the Mistress of the Manse” well bound for her as that is the book we took her name from, but I can’t ……only in cloth, so I thought…send my copy & have it…have had it 26 yrs & is good…but I know you are tired…a letter. It seems to…you from St. Clair, Mo. … least, but I am so forgetful now. I didn’t tell you I went to Indianapolis to visit with Mr. W -s only bro & his family. He has two daughters & three sons all married & living there, his wife died several yrs ago & he lives with his daughter & they are such loveable people. I love them as my very own. He & my husband & one sister are all there are left out of a family of twelve. O the sights I saw. I never imagined any city so grand as Indianapolis. Mercury registered …… below zero & it was 10° be…AM when I left Terre…& I am Kans raised you…& never regretted it so sorry Mr. W -, Mildred (Myrtle & Jessie for that matter) wasn’t along; but you see I went from where I was nursing “Eva” & had a pass +c +c.
I began this letter to thank you for your remembrances rec’d by the girls at Christmas time, they were so glad to get them, & my book it was so nice in you to remember us. Your presents came to us years ago as blessings came when I couldn’t afford them +c & by the way Jessie dressed her “Nellie”, the doll you sent her 14 yrs ago, I think for…this Christmas. Hoping you are…king you for all you have…looking for one of your good…I wish you a happy & prosperous…ingly.
|Mrs. F Williamson|
|NOTES FOR YOUNGER GENERATIONS|
|February 14, 1884|
|EVERLASTINGS – Also called Strawflowers, Helichrysum.|
|April 3, 1884|
|“PA MOVED TO THIS SOUTHERN COUNTY.” – Cowley.|
|“JESSIE HAS LEARNED TO PUT UP STITCHES”. – To cast on. The first step in knitting.|
|GOMPHRENA – The flowering plant Globe Amaranth. The blossoms resemble clover.|
|“P A .. WAS KILLED.. .. ..” – Fatal Accident|
THE EARLY SYMBOL for et cetera, +c, appears here and is used throughout letters.
January 5, 1885
MEDIUM – One professing to have supernatural powers. In this instance, probably powers of healing.
CHAUTAUQUA – A stationary or traveling institution flourishing in late 19th and early 20th century. Provided popular education combined with entertainment in form of lectures, concerts, cultural matters. Founded at Chautauqua Lake, New York, 1874.
CElLED – Overlaid with thin boards.
STOCKING BAG – For carrying mending, various kinds of handiwork.
“TALLMADGE ESPECIALLY” – American Presbyterian Clergyman, 1832-1902. His dramatic preaching drew great audiences to Brooklyn Tabernacle.
“BEECHER WITH ALL HIS VICES” – Congregational Minister, president of Lane Theological Seminary, founder of American Bible Society, one of the great speakers of his time. Center of a trial for adultery, but jury disagreed. Father of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher among other children.
“ANOTHER CUSTOMER TO DEAL WITH.” – President Grover Cleveland, elected in spite of widely publicized attacks on his personal morals. He acknowledged a son by a Buffalo, N.Y. woman and admitted his financial support of both.
|NOTES FOR YOUNGER GENERATIONS|
|“THE SERPENT ST. JOHN.” – The two-term governor of Kansas was nominated for President by the Prohibition Party, splitting the vote.
“FOREIGN ELEMENT” – The Irish, largely Catholic, voted for Cleveland in retaliation to the Republican dinner speaker who condemned the Democrats as the party of rum, Romanism and rebellion.
February 5, 1886
“MR. WILLIAMSON’S FAMILY OF ELEVEN.” – Only ten on available Kansas records.
“THE SICKEST WEDDING.” – Grover Cleveland, 49, ,married Frances Folsom, 21, whose legal guardian he had been since she was eleven years old. Her father had been Cleveland’s law partner, killed when thrown from his carriage. There had been eight marriages in the White House, but for the first time a President was the bridegroom. Although the guest list was small, the wedding was elaborate, with the Marine Band playing, extravagant decoration throughout the rooms, and a lavish supper, as well as a gift for each guest.
“CROCHET TEN TIDIES.” – Chair back and arm protectors, antimaccassars. (Literally, against macassar oil, a product for the hair.)
March 11, 1887
G.A.R. – Grand Army of the Republic, organized 1866 by Union Veterans of the Civil War.
|BIBLE FORGET-ME-NOTS – Probably book marks or small cards with scripture verses.|
|December 14, 1887|
|TOBOGGAN – Stocking cap.|
|“HER NICE BLANKETS SHE HAS WOVEN” – Excerpt from a letter written by Marcia McLaughlin, January 16, 1989: (During a massive cleanup of the Elwell farm) “I especially remember a huge loom in the third story attic. Someone, maybe Nellie had woven their own sheets and blankets. “|
|NOTES FOR YOUNGER GENERATIONS|
|December 29, 1888
“OUR NEW PRESIDENT-ELECT.” – Benjamin Harrison.
FASCINATOR Scarf or shawl draped over the head and around the neck in a manner to merit its name.
February 3, 1890
OIL DRUMMER – Oil salesman.
“EACH BED PROVIDED WITH A BAR.” – Mosquito barrier, made of fine net.
January 16, 1894
PEOPLES PARTY – Political party formed in Topeka in 1890. Although it spread across the nation, it lasted only about 10 years.
OUR LITTLE JERSEY – Dena Day McAdam has recorded elsewhere that Mildred was allowed to name the cow, and named her John.
March 13, 1898
“THE BABY COMES OVER.” – This was Jessie’s first child, Dena.
COPPER CARD PLATE – Small engraved rectangle of copper used to produce calling cards.
February 25, 1899
MOTHER SHIPTON’S PROPHECY – A mythical prophetess, believed to have foretold, during the reign of Henry VIII, most modern inventions and the end of the world, all in published verse.
January 6, 1900
“SEND MY COPY AND HAVE IT BOUND.” – This copy is still easily read in 1989. A brown leather binding with gold trim and lettering was added to the book by a Winfield, Kansas bindery, according to a sticker still on the inside of the front cover. A small photograph of Mildred is centered in the same inside cover. Her name and the dates of her birth and her 18th birthday appear on the front of the book.
|OLD SETTLER PASSES AWAY|
|(Mrs. Frances Williamson dies at the home of her daughter in Arkansas City)
The death of Mrs. Frances Williamson at Arkansas City, Saturday, October 9, marks the passing of another of the old settlers of Dexter. According to the report from the daughter, Mrs. Mildred Berry, with whom she was living at the time of her death, the end came very suddenly and peacefully just as Mrs. Williamson had always wished.
On the Saturday above referred to she got up in the morning in her usual health, got breakfast, ate heartily and helped with the work after breakfast. Shortly after, she complained of a pain in her chest. She laid down with a book to read, and after reading a few pages, turned down the comer of a leaf to mark the place and took off her glasses and laid them on her book and went to sleep. “I don’t think she was ever conscious again,” said Mrs. Berry. “When I went into her room a few minutes later she had passed out of this life peacefully, quietly and without trouble to anyone, just as she always hoped to and just as Papa did ten years ago last June.”
Many, many are the good deeds – deeds of kindness, deeds of service to her neighbors performed by Mrs. Williamson during her long residence in Dexter. Probably no one in Dexter ever rendered more service in cases of sickness and death. She has left her sphere in this life and passed to the great beyond to reap the rich reward of a kind and bounteous providence who is mindful of every good deed performed by His children.
Frances M. Howe was born April 28; 1850, and came to Kansas in 1857, being married in 1866 to Walter Scott Williamson. Five children were born to this union, Lester B., who died in 1889 at the age of 22 years; Claude I., who died in 1882, aged 12; Myrtle Hannah, Jessie Day and Mildred Berry. She also leaves eight grandchildren, one brother, S. H. Howe of Fort Worth, Texas, a sister, Mrs. Emma Cain, Lovell, Oklahoma, -and a half-brother, Wm. T. Howe, Hartford, Kansas.
The funeral service was conducted by Reverend Moore, Pastor of The First M. E. Church at Arkansas City, being held at The Presbyterian Church at Dexter, Monday, October 11 at 2:30 P.M. She chose her own text years ago and had it marked in her Bible from which it was read by the Pastor. The verse reads: “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness, I will be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness.”
The Reverend Moore drew some very practical lessons from this text, his remarks being logical and timely. The church house was filled and each one viewed the face of the departed one for the last time on this earth.
|The body was buried in the Dexter Cemetery by that of her husband, the ceremony at the grave being conducted by the O.E.S. of Dexter, of which the deceased was a member. The three living children with their families, were in attendance.
She rendered enough unselfish service to make the world much better by her having lived in it, an example worthy of emulation by all.
|October 14, 1915|
|DEATH CLAIMS OLD-TIME CITIZEN|
|Walter Williamson dies suddenly of|
|Heart Failure Friday evening.|
|Walter S. Williamson, an old time Citizen of Dexter, died suddenly at his home in this city Friday evening, June 9, 1905. Heart failure was the cause of his sudden demise.
The news which was soon on every tongue came as a shock to the people of Dexter. That the man who only a few moments before was in usual health had answered the final summons seemed difficult of realization. Word was immediately sent to the wife at Pawhuska and to other relatives at a distance. Just before the end came, Mr. Williamson had lain down on the sofa and had scarcely done so when life peacefully and quietly but swiftly passed.
The deceased was born March 16, 1833, being a native of the state of Michigan. He was, therefore, at the time of his death 72 years of age. He came to Kansas in 1857 from Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked at the carpenter’s trade. In 1861 he enlisted in Company C, Ninth Kansas Cavalry and served three years and four months in the Civil War. In 1866 on the 4th of July, he was married to Miss Frances Howe, in Ottumwa, Kansas.
A few years later, 1873, Mr. Williamson came to Cowley county and settled on a homestead south of Dexter and about ten years later moved to Dexter, where with his family, he has occupied the same residence property for twenty years.
Mr. Williamson in addition to being a first class carpenter, was an expert cabinet maker and during his entire residence in Dexter was engaged in the furniture and undertaking business. He was methodical and thorough to the last degree, this being one of his striking characteristics.
He prided himself as a master workman and had little respect for the slipshod, hurry up methods practiced by his fellow craftsmen in later days. Neatness, completeness and the strictest order were maintained in his workshop, his place of business, and around the home premises.
|The deceased was a Mason of high standing in the order, and the funeral services were conducted under the auspices of the Dexter lodge. Mrs. Williamson arrived Saturday afternoon, and later in the evening the funeral services were held at the Presbyterian Church. Rev. Miller preached the sermon. The mortal body of Walter Williamson was laid to rest in the Dexter cemetery, whither it had been followed by a large concourse of friends.
Besides the faithful wife of thirty nine years, the deceased leaves three daughters as follows: Mrs. Will Hannah of Wichita, Mrs. Jessie Day of Topeka, and Miss Mildred Williamson of Dexter. Two sons preceded their father to the other shore, Claude who died twenty three years ago at the age of twelve years and Lester who died sixteen years ago at the age of twenty three years. The latter died of consumption.
In their sad bereavement the family of the deceased have the warmest sympathies of a host of friends in the community.
|Thursday, June 15, 1905|
|Mr. Ira Howe, of Dexter, last week in company with several of his neighbors with two wagons went hunting in the Indian Territory south of Caldwell. While moving along in their wagons in the Territory, three men who seemed to be hostile attempted to stop the teams, at the same time cursing the occupants of the wagons. Ira Howe was lying in the bed of a wagon, and one of the occupants of that wagon in the excitement of the moment undertook to draw a gun from under the seat, and, while doing so, hastily, the gun was discharged, killing Mr. Howe almost instantly. He was brought into Sumner County and buried. Mr. Howe was a friend of ours and a very estimable man and citizen. His bereaved relatives and friends have our heartfelt sympathy.|
|The Winfield Courier October 31, 1878|
|MRS. E. S. BERRY DEAD|
|Another well known Arkansas City woman passes away.|
|Mrs. Mildred W. Berry, wife of E. S. Berry, died at the family residence last night at 9 o’clock after having suffered an attack of pneumonia and complications for a number of days past. Mrs. Berry was well and favorably known in Arkansas City as the family has resided here for a number of years. She was born in Cowley County and was 37 years of age.
The deceased was a member of the First Presbyterian Church and she was a favorite with all her many lady friends in church circles. She was a gifted reader and impersonator and she had pleased many audiences in Arkansas City with her accomplished art.
Mildred W. Berry was born at Dexter on January 30, 1882. She was married to E. S. Berry July 12, 1908. Three children were born to them, Marianne, age 9 years, Jean, 3, and an infant son who breathed but four days and is buried at Dexter. Mr. Berry, the husband, is a successful contractor here. Two sisters survive her. They are Mrs. Myrtle Hannah, of 909 South First street and Mrs. Jessie Day of 820 South Summit street. A host of sorrowing friends also survive her. While pneumonia was the direct cause of death, she had been ailing for the past year.
There will be services at. the home at 9:30 o’clock Friday morning conducted by Dr. Gardner, after which the body will be taken to Dexter on the Missouri Pacific. It is said that train service is arranged so that the funeral party may go to Dexter and return the same evening.
|ARKANSAS CITY TRAVELER|
|Thursday, February 20, 1919|
|MRS. J. E. DAY DIES SUDDENLY|
|Heart attack is Fatal to Widely Known Arkansas City woman|
|Mrs. Jessie Day, wife of J. Elmer Day, Arkansas City real estate dealer, died suddenly at 6 o’clock last night as she emerged from the water of the Day Lake near Oak Grove school, northwest of the city, where she had been swimming. She was 50 years old.Mr. and Mrs. Day had been at the lake for a picnic with a number of relatives and friends. As Mrs. Day left the water after swimming, she complained of a severe pain in the region of her heart. A few moments later she was dead, before a physician, summoned immediately, was able to reach the lake.
Since she was injured in an automobile accident several years ago, Mrs. Day had been subject to heart attacks.
Mrs. Day was a native of Cowley County, having been born in Dexter, where she lived until she and her husband moved to Arkansas City a number of years ago. For several years she was a member of the First Methodist Episcopal church choir, but more recently she had belonged to trinity Episcopal church choir and she had attained an enviable reputation as a soprano.
Mrs. Day was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and the Auxiliary to the Order of Railway Conductors, Mr. Day having been a Santa Fe conductor here before going into the real estate business. Their home is at 820 South Summit Street.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Day is survived by three daughters, Mrs. A. E. McAdam and Mrs. LeRoy Eaton, both of Arkansas City, and Mrs. Ben Lewis, Woodriver Illinois; and one sister, Mrs. Myrtle Harpol of Chicago.
Funeral services will be conducted at 10 o’clock Wednesday morning in Trinity Church. The Reverend Frederic Busch will officiate. Burial will be in Riverview Cemetery. Oldroyd is in charge.
|ARKANSAS CITY TRAVELER|
|MYRTLE HANNAH HARPOL|
|Myrtle (Hannah) Harpol died in 1949 in the Seattle area where she lived with her daughter, Louise. In the absence of an obituary, this column from an area newspaper, written three years before her death, is used. The columnist was Marcella Von Gortler.
The broad Kansas plain lay stunned and frozen under the February storm on a night in the year 1873 when this story begins. The tiny log cabin, half buried in the snow looked sturdy enough, for it was built to stand against blizzards like this. No light came from the windows for heavy curtains were hung over them to keep out the chill of the icy air against the thin panes.
When the occupants heard a knock at the door they were not too surprised for strangers had a way of taking shelter among settlers in those early days. The man opened the door and was asked by a traveler whose horse and gig stood in the yard, if he might have lodging for the night. Bidding the unexpected guest in, he explained that ordinarily he would be pleased to accommodate him, but under the circumstances it would be a bit awkward in the one room. The two young sons were sleeping in the loft, and he was just going down to the barn for the horses, so he could fetch the doctor for his wife, he went on. They were expecting a baby before morning.
Truth, as you know, is often stranger than fiction. Dr. Chase had been canvassing the territory selling his doctor book and had been caught in the storm. He would attend the young wife gladly. Shortly before dawn Dr. Chase laid a baby girl in the man’s arms with these words, “Here is your daughter, she is worth her weight in gold.”
This story is about that little girl. She is Mrs. Myrtle Harpol, who makes her home with her daughter Mrs. H. B. Kohr, 1826 S.192nd Street. This vivacious little lady, who began life in a humble log cabin as did a famous president, has lived a long, full and eventful life that has molded as interesting and delightful and admirable” a personality as you will ever meet.
At a time in life, past the allotted three score years and ten, she accomplished more from sun to sun than many women half her age. For the present her daughter is away in New York and she is caring for her four grandchildren in a spacious seven room house. Four school lunches are included in the daily routine and Mrs. Harpol bakes twice a week so that tasty home made bread can supply the many sandwiches that are carried to school every day.
During my recent visit to Mrs. Harpol’s home I admired a huge hand hooked rug that completely covers the living room floor. Just a hobby for spare time, was the way she put it. In the next room was an
|elegant braided rug about 12 by 16 feet, made of bright warm wools in well chosen colors. Yes, she’d made that too, but she wanted to take it apart and make it over one of these days; it was a little worn in spots she thought. One bedroom was covered with a priceless rug Mrs. Harpol had hooked by hand. It was done in a conventional pattern of her own design. A very unusual and clever rug was a small one in black and white, resembling music recording the notes of the ballad, “Home, Sweet Home”. Yes, the lines, spaces, rests, half-notes, whole notes, all were there. She’d made that in two days she said, but she hadn’t done much of anything else in those two days!
Exhibiting at the fairs gives this little lady much pleasure and from her exquisite quilts, crocheting, tatting, braided and hooked rugs, she had won many premiums. At the recent Hobby Show, sponsored by the Three Tree Point unit of the Music and Art Foundation, Mrs. Harpol was one of the largest contributors to the display. Back to braiding rugs again for a moment, she told me that she could braid not only the ordinary three strands, but could handle as many as 31.
Her radio contesting is her greatest delight and holds her keenest interest. She’s an ardent contester and enters many contests put on by the big programs on all net works. Proudly she displayed a beautiful and expensive wrist watch she had won for writing a letter she submitted under the title “Never Too Old”. When asked if she had ever received any cash awards she replied, “Seventy five dollars is the most I ever got at one time but I get a little money now and then. I won a Mixmaster too”.
The biggest surprise she ever had, she said, was when she was a warded first prize for submitting a list of the most ways to use ordinary bluing. A search of encyclopedias, questioning druggists, reading, and just plain every day experience had rewarded her with a lovely gift prize.
By now you are beginning to see that the lady of my story is by no means an ordinary person. In addition to a vital interest in things that go to make up a full daily life, Mrs. Harpol keeps up on new books. When could she ever find time to read on top of all the other things she crowds into a busy day? Well, ordinarily she reads to her daughter while her daughter irons, and in that way they both enjoy the best in present day literature.
“What keeps you so young?” I asked, because I really wanted to know. To have such an awareness of important things, an approach to daily living as full and wonderful as this, to take hold of each day in strong sure hands and mold it into productive and happy hours as this wonderful little woman was doing, seemed to me well worth looking into. She didn’t answer immediately. Finally, “Hard work. Why look at anything but the sun?”
|So this is the story of a little lady, a woman of Scotch descent who has lived, loved, lost and laughed as one must do in a full life. She dwells not on her sorrows or misfortunes; no more has the writer, for it should be a happy story about a very happy woman. Men and women have been influenced by the example of her life, have been touched by the flame of her spirit. To her church, to her social life, in her home and community, Mrs. Harpol is a symbol of majesty, warmth and grandeur. She is a vivid example to all those around her of what life can be, if we will but turn our faces to the sun and let the shadows fall behind.
The Highline district is richer for counting Mrs. Harpol among its people. When one is inclined to feel bored or that life is empty, dwell a moment on the story of this wonderful woman, whose every day is dedicated to doing for others or completing some self appointed task, or growing mentally and spiritually.
The strange country doctor who stopped at the crude log cabin many years ago and brought the tiny baby girl into this world said more wisely than he knew, “Here is your daughter, she is worth her weight in gold.”