Friday, December 26, 2008

Unexpected Christmas Gift - 180 Year Old Letter

I had the unexpected pleasure of coming across this letter today. A young girl, niece of my G-G-G-Great Grandfather Nathaniel Healy was writing her first letter to him after the death of his brother, her father, John Healy. After reading this I feel, well, a bit uneducated and illiterate. Obviously Nathaniel Healy was impressed with this letter as well since he retained it, passed it on in the family, and it has surfaced here again 180 years later. Her handwriting is small, an example of elegant cursive almost lost today.

Dear uncle –
Since I have seated myself to address you, the most singular emotions have, unlicensed, taken possession of my bosom. They crowd into my mind unbidden and I have almost said unwelcome. Past occurrences bear no more resemblance to reality than does midnight to noonday the present itself a dream, and futurity omens the same disappointments. I cannot think you and my father were nursed upon the same lap, encircled by the same maternal arms. It looks impossible. And but for the hope of recovering my reason as I advance, I should be unable to proceed. I am, however, far from wondering at this sudden commotion of my mind, considering the various circumstances that agitate it. Conversing with one whom I have never seen or spoken with, one who lives at such a distance and what is still more absurd, one perhaps that is totally ignorant and unmindful of such a person as myself. I have heard of uncle Nathaniel Healy so have I heard of Mithridates, and Pompey that destroyed him, and Caesar that overthrew Pompey and Brutus that slew Caesar and probably had they lived in my day I should have been curious to see them, and what of that? Who would not, but this does not prove that they would have regarded me. Oh! but my uncle does not possess the wicked heart of Mithridates nor the presentation of Pompey, the ambition of Caesar or the sword of Brutus which have conspired to render them famous more than their virtues. I did not find this name upon the bloodstained page of history. The name of my uncle first sounded in my ear when playing on the knee of my Father, fondly pronounced by him and has never since failed to cast a spell upon my senses for how can that which was dear to him be otherwise than dear to me. Then since I have overcome part of my skepticism I will proceed to say your relatives are all tolerably well in this place, the connection is extensive and I cannot write particularly. Uncle Eben Healy visits us quite often, he is an excellent man and Aunt Eliza Killum [Killow or Killim also options] lives on his farm 1/a a mile, I think they must value each the other’s society highly. My mother wishes to be remembered, she remembers you with much pleasure and thinks the distance is not so great but you might visit us. My two older sisters are married, have two children each. Sister Mary the oldest wrote you immediately after the death of my brother, five years this summer, but received no answer (I hope mine will have better fortune). Sister Sally lives in Auburn eight miles from us. Brother John was married last March. Jesse is younger than myself, he is seventeen. Betsy is next in age to John, her health is not good nor has it been for two years. Hannah is the youngest of the family. So, uncle, I am bless’d with a mother, sisters and brothers, but the early bereavement of my father bids me not think them immortal, for I am sensible a great deal of pleasure has flown with him. Then every flower I beheld promised pleasure when I should restore it to the hand of my father, the crimson strawberries, the first mellow fruit that summer showered into my basket was always carried in haste to him. Now May’s roses pine neglected on the stem and seem to wonder as the retarded hand which over gathered them with so much alertness. But why gather roses since he for whom they were culled in [illegible] of me. My father too was the first who disclosed to me the fair pages of science and now I turn the leaves but slowly. I have, dear uncle, sometimes been so sensible of my loss that life seems almost divested of every charm. At other times when beholding the ungenerous world, I would not have him again witness its unkindness even if a wish were the pledge of his return. Please to remember me to your family together with my brothers and sisters. I must conclude my letter by begging of you to answer it as soon as possible. And now uncle I have a [illegible] album and although I have no claim upon your practical talents, yet I must request of you one verse of your own composition to insert therein.
Do uncle send it in my letter and you will confer the greatest favour possible upon --------
Your affectionate niece
(Dolly Healy)

Nathaniel Healy
Aug 31, 1828
PS Do write minutely respecting yourself and family, DH

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday My Dear Jesus

What a wonderful Christmas! It has been quiet, just our immediate family. The day started with another gorgeous snowfall. The snow lately has been a royal pain because it has messed up traffic and schedules everywhere, but now that we've reached Christmas day it is beautiful, glorious, magnificent. What could be better than having the snuggling blanket of snow covering everything once again. And what a great day. Maybe it's just one day a year, but today nearly everyone stops to celebrate Christmas. And whether we recognize Jesus or not, His impact on the world is shown once again as we celebrate the holiday throughout our land and most of the world.

So, happy birthday Jesus. Thanks for coming here into our chaos and loving us. Thank you to God our Father, Jesus our Savior and Holy Spirit our Comforter and Guide for all you do every day providing the resources we need to live and intervening countless times when we make stupid or evil choices and need to be corrected. Thanks for creating us, redeeming us and changing us one day at a time. Thank you for never abandoning us and leaving us the prisoners of randomness on our planet whirling through space.

What is the purpose of man asks the catechism? To worship God and enjoy Him forever, isn't that the answer? So thank you for letting me know and enjoy You as much as I can. Blessings on You this Christmas Day -- and all honor, glory and power that is Your due. Thank you for your care today and every day until my time is past. Happy Birthday to you, most Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Alpha and Omega - Beginning and End, the Bright and Morning Star.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

1916 Present to Dad

In 1916 my Great Uncle George gave his father a cute little Christmas card. Being broke it seems he had no money for a present; but being creative he came up with a plan! Apparently his dad had arranged to pay him for some major help around the farm while he was home from college so he acknowledged payment in full for any work done before or after the gift was given during the month of December.
Merry Christmas to all! God Bless us Every One!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gossip and Fun from 1886 Wisconsin

In this entry my great-grandfather, while he was living in Elgin, Minnesota (and apparently when he met my great-grandmother, altho learning about how they met hasn't been come across yet :-)), has received a letter from his younger sister Grace who is still at home in Glendale (now Kendall), Wisconsin. This letter shows in community relationships that the more things change, the more they stay the same!!

Glendale, Jan 10 – 1886

My Dear Brother,
Your letters came among a good many others in due time. Was glad to hear you had so good a time Christmas and that you took part in the exercises as it all helps to pass away the time pleasantly. We had a grand good time at Lemonweir. Took in three dances and went to the Catholic Church Xmas morn – it was the first time I had ever been in the church. It is finished off lovely inside and the singing was very good.
I must tell you what I got for presents. First an Album from Pa, Aunt G, Mariam and Sam. A hand mirror “plush back” from Susie, handkerchief from Clara, perfume from Auntie. I think I fared pretty well, don’t you.
I went to a Masquerade New Year and had a grand time. There were over sixty numbers. I went with Levi Brown and Lew and Jimmie Gallagher’s. They went masked but I had never been anywhere with him before so that they didn’t anyone know me. My suit was the prettiest in the hall; it was to represent night in a snowstorm. Every one caught on so it must have been quite “plain” – see?
Well, Will, we have had quite a tragedy here in the neighborhood. Old Andrew Smith poisoned himself last Sun. You perhaps have heard that his wife left him a short time ago. He has threatened to kill the children but Mr. Dunning took them away from him. There is no doubt in people’s minds that he was crazy. The account will be in the
Elroy paper next week. Will send it to you. He died at Mr. Senegal’s and it gave them a fearful scare. It must have been a fearful death from all accounts. It was his request to be buried on his farm and he staked his grave out.
We were over there one evening last week and Mr. Dunlap’s folks were there. The same evening we woke up the valley over there in big shape. Sam said he guessed Old Andrew would turn over if we didn’t stop making such a noise.
Marthy says they killed him trying to make him vomit up the poison by giving him tobacco juice. She is the worst old seed I ever saw.
Harry is married and they have gone to Sparta to live and Nell’s father was cranky about the marriage but guess he will come around all right.
We were over to Cutlands today; had a first rate good time.
Susie was as well as usual when we last heard from her. And the rest are all well. I am going up to Elmer’s the first of next week.
Well, I must say good night and get some something to eat as I am hungry.
Your loving sister,

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Grandma & Aunt Dora's View of our Shared Task

Being the "Keeper of the Letters" now I enjoy recognizing some of the feelings of my grandma and Aunt Dora as I read the letter below. This was their shared appreciation of this wealth of family history that Great Grandma Ella Jane and her maternal Aunt Nellie had collected and cherished over the years. Some of them have been previously posted here and others will be in the future.

I was just ten months old when this was written ~ little did I know how signifcant their thoughts would be to me decades later. Now I have the fun priviledge of listening to the thoughts of those long gone loved ones and sharing them with those of you who care ~ enjoy!

Sunday, July 20 – 52

My very precious sister – Two weeks since we reached home. I am beginning to feel myself. Was very weary – it was so hot. I do hope we did not leave you so worn out that you were ill after we left. You know dear, I too felt as tho brother did not take the same interest we did in the vast amount of material that mother and grandmother and Aunt Nellie had worked so long and hard to assemble, led by the guidance of the Holy Spirit without knowing why they should do it. Likewise, you, led by the same Spirit, had protected those things over all those intervening years. It would have been beautiful if we three could have worked together as we two did, but he just did not seem to have our feeling in the matter. Perhaps our Father has given to the women of the present day the urge to keep the records and to receive the blessings for so doing.
I know I have received great spiritual blessing for what we did and you will remember that command to honor our parents has its promise of long days in which to complete the work.
George was wonderful to me. We stopped at Leslie and Ida Atwater’s, drove over the family lot in the Burns Cemetery. Leslie called Aunt Grace Jewett at Chippewa Falls and we all drove up (110 mi) and back the next day. She was able to tell us where to find my father’s[1] grave at Mindoro. We drove past the old Atwater home where I was born, the great-grandmother home tho the house was different. She was a Post and the Kendrick name was the later husband. I also learned that Grandfather Atwater did have other brothers and sisters. Uncle Milt lived close to the Mindoro Cemetery and I remembered visiting there when Mother and I came back from Minn, before she and dad were married and it was at Mindoro I talked over a local phone for the first time. By the way the Skelton and Robinson names we ran across were sisters of G-Father Atwater (Em & Harriet), doesn’t that sound like Uncle John s’ daughters[2]? George said he planned to start a day early as we could have time for any thing I needed to do and he was so wonderful and considerate. We spent 2 nights at Leslie’s and got a really early start July 4th and through La Crosse before heavy traffic started. Ida spoke of the time you called there. They were away and only one or two of their girls and Lenore’s son were there. I can imagine they knew practically nothing about me or my family. Uncle Len passed away 2 years ago. Just walked down stairs and dropped. Since we got home went to the orchard as when you were here, picked and put up cherries and apricots. Last week the Evans family from Winslow Ariz, was in town and here nearly every day. Now I must not start another sheet. More love than I can say for you and love to family. Will write each one soon.
Your sister,
[1] Elmer Atwater
[2] John Sherwood, Dora’s Uncle, also had two daughters, Emma and Harriet. In 1880 both girls lived at home and their step mother was still alive. In 1900 Emma lived with her father and there was no one else at home. In1920 Emma lived alone. I have never been able to find out if Harriet was married or not. As the 1890 census is mostly missing due to a fire, I don’t know if Harriet still lived with her father, if she was married, or if she and Emma were living together away from home at that time.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Remembering John Q Richardson, An Elgin "Old Settler"

Following is a letter written by John Q Richardson of Elgin, Minnesota in May of 1912. He was writing to his cousin, Ella Jane Stevens Sherwood who lived in Kendall, Wisconsin. At that time he was almost 84 years old and still was a hard worker.

Elgin, Minn., May 6, 1912

Dear Cousin Ella:
I think it time I sent you a letter.
We are still moving, slowly perhaps. Delie has been having a cold but is nearly well. I have been well for three whole days and hope to keep on. When I can go a week and have no trouble with my liver I shall feel glad. At the farm they are done seeding. The silage is nearly all eaten. Thirty young cattle are turned out to pasture. Ralph has two men, good ones. The hogs – eight sows are in pasture.
But the apples are not gong to be more than one twentieth as many as we had last year. There are very flew blossom buds.
And nine tenths of the blueberry bushes were killed to the ground. Some of those will start from the roots.
[In Ella’s handwriting added along side his writing, “He set about 150 blueberry plants from here and all were alive last fall – mother.”] The first two months of last winter were very cold. I think the blossom buds on the apple trees were killed then.
Last evening Delie and I went to a show of pictures at the church. It was the Head Hunters of Borneo, and other fine sights among the Malays. It was fine.
Men began, this morning, to build a house across the street. It will be about thirty feet square and two stories high.
My work, lately, has been setting red raspberries in the woods on the farm. I get them here, where they are building that house. They will not begin to bear much for two years. Of course I have my horse here.
--10:40 AM
The clothes are washed, ready to hang out.
As for going East, I must sow some garden seeds and I must see how my health is. It will be several weeks before I can start, if I go. I want to go, very much. I want to see the old farm once more.

Tuesday morning.

Yesterday I hired a German to work today in the garden, digging dandelions with a spade. I have been digging them lately.
About a month ago, my wind vane blew down. It had been on the barn fifteen years. But was made of pine and decayed. I wanted one that would last better. So I made it of burr oak. I had to hew it out of a stick four feet long and six inches wide – the half of the tree. It was well seasoned. I was nearly a week making it. But it is a good one. I got Ralph to do the climbing.
I have been reading Darwin lately. I got the books more than twenty years ago and read them then; but one forgets in twenty years. This is a wonderful world.
I have not heard from Pine Terrace for several weeks. Please write.
This is the fifth day of good health for me -- I am very glad.
I shall go to the farm by and by and get some milk and eggs, do a little hoeing, water Prince, and get home to dinner.
I have hoed the blueberry bushes. Some of them were killed to the ground but will start form the root. A good many are blossoming. I think I shall have less than a quart of berries this year. The bushes have spread some, even in one year so that if I live I can take up some outside plants and set them in vacant places – next year.
I hear form Cousin J. J. Smith of South Newbury, Vermont, that he’s milking machines were not a success and he has gone back to the old way. He milks twenty Guernseys. He has the best farm buildings I ever saw.
4:30 PM
I think I would better bring this letter to a close and send it tonight. I am still well, but awfully old – 84 next Saturday. Please write. Yours, etc.,
J. Q. Richardson

[Ella Jane forwarded this letter on to her daughter Dora with an additional note – “Guess I’ll send this too, but you need return only Uncle Roberts. Ralph’s wife is not very chummy and John and Delie miss Grandma’s letters, so I try to write often. Their birthdays are J – May 11th, Delia, May 21st. Send them a card please. Love to you each. Mother”]