Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Eleanor Crane "please don't forget to send one dollar" 1914

This adorable letter is from a daughter to her "dear momma" during a summer at a relative's house. Eleanor talks about playing on the farm and having nothing to do but write letters (and running out of money from all the stamps!). She refers to "poppa" and a relative Caroline, and closes asking for her mother to send one dollar. 

What Do We Have?

Mrs. H. N. Crane, Baltimore County, Maryland
August 1, 1914
Letter from her daughter Eleanor from Middleton, Delaware

The Results of the Hunt

After reading the letter, I thought Eleanor was probably a child, maybe a teenager spending the summer in Delaware with family. She mentions playing with Caroline and "Clod." With this assumption, I looked at the 1910 census for Eleanor Crane, with a father named H.N. Crane. I guessed that Eleanor's year of birth was about 1900. 


The 1910 census revealed H. Nelson Crane, age 50, and Adalaide L. Crane, age 39, living with two daughters, Elleanor (sic), age 7, and Doratha (aka Dorothy), age 13. They also had a servant named Eunice Edmunds, age 29. Eleanor's father was an auditor for a steel manufacturing company. 

Eleanor Lore Crane was born March 28, 1903 and died May 19, 1989 (The U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007)

She married Col. Robert J. Trinkle on June 20, 1923 (findagrave). You can tell they were quite the attractive couple.

Eleanor and Robert 

According to her obituary, Eleanor and Robert made their home in Virginia. She was the curator of the Virginia Military Institute Museum from 1964 to 1973. She specialized in restoring and repairing textiles and flags at the museum. Her husband taught at the Institute from 1921 until his death in 1953. She also worked as a dietitian in schools in the late 1940s. She and Robert had three children, Robert J Trinkle, Jr.; Nelson C. Trinkle; and Anne Trinkle. Her obituary notes she had 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. 

I wanted to find out more about how the Caroline and "Clod" (Cleo?) was in the letter, so I dug a little deeper into Eleanor's parent's history. 

Eleanor's mother and father, Horatio and Adalaide

Eleanor's father, Horatio Nelson Crane, died in 1933 at the age of 74 of cerebral hemorrhage. His parents were Silas Pierce Crane and Lydia Lyncon Souther. (Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014)

Horatio's mother died in 1860 at the age of  21 of consumption. His father, Silas,  enlisted in the Civil War in 1861. The U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 noted he was a grocer before the war. Tragically, his father died of consumption (tuberculosis) during the Civil War on April 9, 1864 at the age of 29. (Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915). He was wounded during the civil war, which his family alleged led to his death. (findagrave note).  

Horatio was born in 1859, making him 5 at the time he was orphaned. He was an only child.

Horatio's Parents, Silas Pierce Crane and Lydia Lyncon Souther Crane

Eleanor's mother Adalaide's parents were George N. Gill and Adalaide H. Lore. Adalaide Sr died in childbirth while giving birth to Adalaide Jr on October 9, 1872 (gravestone and birth records). She was 27 (Virginia, Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917). 

Adalaide's parents, George Gill and Adalaide Lore

However, George Gill remairried to Sarah N. Drummond. By 1880, he had another child, Florence. 

Unfortunately, after getting mired in masses of cousins, I was not able to find Caroline or Clod/Cleo in this attempt. Maybe another day...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Al and Mary F. Freeman "This war is an awful thing..." 1862

This letter, from a brother to a sister December 19, 1862 during the civil war, outlines the grim life soldiers had to bear. The soldier, Al Freeman, discusses being cold, lice, unpleasant commanding officers and other unhappiness. This is the 1962 version of "venting". (click photos to enlarge them)

What Do We Have?

Mary F. Freeman, Uniontown, Fayette County, Pennsylvania
Al Freeman, Camp Schoonmaker
December 19, 1862

Starting with the 1860 census for Mary F. Freeman, I was off and running.

The Results of the Hunt

The 1860 census revealed that Mary F. Freeman, age 22, lived with her widowed mother, Malinda  Freeman, age 43, in Georges, Fayette, Pennsylvania. Also in the household were numerous siblings, Alson W Freeman (the soldier writing the letter), 20; Jno F Freeman, 16; Julia V Freeman, 10; and Azel C Freeman, 8.

In 1860, Alson worked as a farmer, presumably on the family property because the Freeman were fairly wealthy for the surrounding area. The census noted their real property was valued at $6,000, and their personal property was valued at $1,000. In comparison, others nearby had no real property and about $100 in personal property.

Mary and Al's father, Ellis Freeman, died November 1, 1859 of unknown causes. He was 46. His occupation was listed as farmer. [U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885]

By the time of the census in 1880, Malinda lived on the farm with A.W. Freeman (presumably Alson). Alson returned home from the civil war, but was not without difficulties. He applied for a civil war pension in 1895, stating he was an invalid. [U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934] The application noted he served in the 7 14 Pennsylvania Calvary. Of note, the aka on the application has a name of Allison Freeman, which is how he is listed in the National Park Service list of soldiers (this made research a little tricky). He was a private during his entire time in the military and was with the 14th Regiment, Pennsylvania Cavalry (159th Volunteers).

Alson, born December 30, 1839, died on August 6, 1910, a widower at the age of 70. His death certificate noted he was a farmer. The cause of death was tuburculosis he had in the spine, right hip, ankle and lung for the past 10 years. [Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963]

I was able to find information that he married Mary Elizabeth Shoaf in 1864 until her death in 1881. They did not appear to have any children, but I was not able to find any primary source information to document this. Interestingly, Alson was living with his mother in 1870 and 1880 according to the census records. I wonder what happened with this couple. Bad match? Stress from Alson's return from the war?

Mary married John James in 1865. As of the 1900 census, they lived with their son Arthur, born in May 1865 (hmm). The census notes she had two children, and only one survived.  Both James and his son were farmers who worked land they owned.

By the 1910 census, Mary was widowed, and continued living on the farm with her son. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the names of the parents for John M. James, and due to the common name, I couldn't find his date or cause of death or whether he served in the military.

As of the 1920 census, 82 year old Mary was still living with her bachelor farmer son, who was 54 years old by that time. Mary Francis James died on April 4, 1928 of "paralysis due to cerebral hemorrhage and senility". She was 90 years old. [Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963]

The Letter

Dear sister

I will have to go on guard this after one mistake right away I will have to go on guard tomorrow for not going on dress parade this afternoon that's if the doctor doesn't mark me unfit for duty for I intend to report sick in the morning but very often it does no good the boys tried to play this off so much I got a letter from [illegible] last night we are at work now from morning till 9 o'clock at night if we are not sick and it is most awful we have had to practice jumping our horses over logs fixed up a piece from the ground heavens you are to see the boys pitching off and horses falling down I believe there are men here that never till they came here the doctor give old Jonathan's [illegible] his discharge but the captain and Colonel won't sign it he has to stay here but they can't make him do anything why the devil don't you send me them papers it won't cost much we all combed our heads in the morning in the tent the other day and they all catch a louse apiece but me and I didn't comb much for fear of finding some to we have some stuff to kill them now we have got our bounty but it was it was promised though only $27 instead of 42 and that's about all we will ever get I don't know whether to send it home or not probably have to have gloves and books and things that are old [illegible] find us and we have to pay for what he does find us and they are not worth anything I am seeing accounts of lots of poor old soldiers freezing to death while on picket but I won't freeze as long as there are there's any clothes or fire if I do have to let on to be sick does John [illegible] stay at our house yet I would like to be at home about Christmas but it no used to say anything to our old baldheaded captain unless you want to get cursed if ever I tell you or mother to write to me to come home to attend to something you must do it but I won't do that for a good while and I'll try to get just discharged first and if I can't they will never get any good out of me has singing broke up at the Grove yet tell mother I will send her enough money to pay Jake most of most for threshing and what owe her as she can sell something off mine a good [illegible] of fellows started their money home in letters and it was taken out poor fellows to that had nothing at home or their families to live on this war is an awful thing write immediately if not sooner and tell all the news

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mary AR Streeter and Esther Fessenden "Just a scribble to let you know..." 1928

This sweet letter from 1928 accomplishes what we would do in a quick text now. Esther (no last name in the letter) writes her "Aunt Maime" to let her know she can pick up up at the train station, but if she doesn't arrive by a certain time, than her Aunt should contact someone. The last line states "My head nurse promised me time off though so I probably will be there" 

The letter is addressed to Miss Mary A R Streeter of Truro, Mass. 

What Do We Have?

Miss (a good clue) Mary A. R. Streeter aka Aunt Maimie
Highland House, Truro, MA
Postmark is August 29, 1928 out of Boston and Truro
All we know of the niece is that her name is Ester, she is probably a nurse, is living in Boston and works at Massachusetts General Hospital. 
The stamp on the front is interesting - Forwarding Fee Not Claimed. Did Mary ever actually get the letter?

The Results of the Hunt - Mary AR Streeter

Mary AR Streeter was born March 5, 1882 in Worcester, Massachusetts.  By 1900, she was an 18 year old school girl, living her father, John P. Streeter, Her mother, Esther A. Streeter, and brother Henry E, age 30.  Her father worked as a milk marketer (possibly – this word is difficult to read).  Mary also had a sister Harriet, who was 25 in 1990 and was no longer living in the household.  [1900 census]

Mary's parents had married late for the time; her mother was 31 and had Mary when she was 41 years old. Mary's brother did not marry. Her sister married Walter Fessenden when she was 19 and had three daughters: Esther Louise, born 1895; Marion Elliott, born 1899 and Helen Curtis, born 1908.

Her father died on January 25, 1905 at the age of 69 of apoplexy, also know as a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke. [Commonwealth of Massachusetts Return of a Death record]

Mary graduated from Smith College in 1906 [Smith College Monthly] and by about 1911 or so, she was teaching German at a K to 7th grade preparatory school, then called Woodland Street School, now called Woodland Prep. She made $700 per year.  She moved to North High School on Salisbury Street in 1912. [Mass. City Directory]

modern day Woodland Street School

By 1920, 39 year old Mary lived alone with her mother., working as a stenographer. [1920 census] She also taught immigration (then referred to as Americanization) classes in Worcester, Massachusetts [City document #74]

In 1922 she was a member of the Worcester Women's Club, which met at this interesting hall. [Mass. City Directory]

In 1930, Mary lived with a boarder or landlady and worked at as a teacher in a publishing school. [1930 census]

By 1940, Mary lived alone, and worked as a language teacher at a public high school, including teaching German. [1940 census]

In 1944, she lived in an apartment in this gorgeous building at 72 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA. [Worcester House Directory].

In the 1940s, it appeared that yearbooks began including photos of the faculty. Here is Mary in 1942 in a faculty photo at North High School. She taught Latin.

Here is Mary in 1948, when she was still a Latin teacher at North High School.

Her dress in both photos, if not the same, is strikingly similar. 

Mary died on May 14, 1951 at the age of 69. I have not been able to find information as to the cause of death.

The Results of the Hunt - Esther Louise Fessenden

At the time of the letter, on August 28, 1928, Mary was 46 and her niece Esther was 32. The letter notes Esther was unsure if she would be able to meet Mary at the train, but her head nurse assured she could make the appointment.

Esther Louise Fessenden was born October 24, 1895 in Barre, Massachusetts, the oldest of three daughters. Her father was a merchant at the time of her birth. [Mass. town and vial records]

Esther attended Smith College, just as her aunt did. In the 1918 class book, she is indicated as a former member.

The 1930 census confirms that Esther was a nurse, most likely at the Massachusetts General Hospital noted in the letter. Esther continued nursing, and died in 1984. She was buried with her parents and never married.

You can see why these women were presumably close. Both were educated and employed in challenging work. Both never married or had children. I'd imagine that having an independent aunt who is only 13 years older than you would lead to friendship between the two like-minded women.

Welcome to The Letter Detective!

I love ancestry. I've loved tracking my family through Ancestry.com, and finding out what secrets my dna hold with the Ancestry.com dna testing kit. I'm addicted to the show Who Do You Think You Are.

Although there is always more work to be done (namely narrowing my massive family tree into a tree of direct decedents based on primary evidence), I was browsing on Ebay recently and found old letters for sale. For fun, I decided to see if I could find out more about the people in these letters. What were there lives like? What happened to them? What did they look like? It's so wonderful to see little nuggets of how people lived in the past - I was dying of curiosity about what these strangers were like.

So, welcome to The Letter Detective. I intend to find old letters and accept the challenge to see if I can fill in more about the history of these letter writers and recipients beyond the pages of their correspondence.