Unexpected Treasures: Letters From The Past

Back inthe mid/late 70’s, after the success of the TV series Roots, my Mom got interested in the family history. She didn’t get far with any of the research before losing interest, but she did get a letter from my great-uncle Owen from my Dad’s side of the family.

In this letter, Uncle Owen detailed as much of the family history from his side of the family as he could remember. I met him once in '78 or '79, when he drove from Denver to St. Louis, and I recall him as a fairly spry old guy in his early 90s, wearing an old but dapper gray suit and hat, with a walking cane from having broken his hip a few years prior.

When my Mom died in 2004, I came across the original letter, and had it laminated, but it disappeared about the time my brother went back to Idaho. Just about a year ago I was visiting with my Dad, and he mentioned that he got a photocopy of the letter from my brother, which confirmed my suspicions that my brother had taken it.

After pestering my Dad persistently for a copy, he finally copied his copy and got it to me.

So, I’m working from a bad copy of a bad copy of a letter written by a 90+ year old man in 1977 or thereabouts.

I tried to “copy” (type into Word) the letter as faithfully as possible to the way it was originally written. If it seems like your typical illegible net-speak, please bear in mind it was written by a man in his early 90’s or thereabouts who probably never had much formal education.

Anyway, here’s the letter:

Page 1

Page 2:

Page 3 (on this page, the stuff in parenthesis was added as a “superscript”):

*I think that words is medias.

Last Page:

It’s always interesting to come across things like that. I have a lot of my father’s letters to my mother when he was away in the 70s. I haven’t read them as I feel I’m too close to the time period.

I also have a collection of my great aunt’s letters from her husband from WWII. They are interesting and I’ve read them. A lot of it is just ‘I miss you darling’ and things like that. Since they had no children I plan on donating them to the local historical society. I have made scans of them so I can have copies.

I also have letter from my great grandmother to her children. We were always told that she left her children and never talked to them again. I’ve found out that’s wrong since she wrote to them at least a few times. I know there were plenty of other letters as she talks about what she wrote in them. I wish I could find them but I don’t think I will.

Today someone let me borrow some letters that he bought that came from the 1920s. I was thinking on buying them, depending on how much he wanted, but I can’t see to find the people in the letters in the census records just yet. I would either donate these letters to a historical society or try and find a family member that might want them.

I recently came across a bunch of papers from my grandparents. Unfortunately, they’re all in either Polish or Czech, so I have no iea what anything is.

I once read transcribed copies of letters that men in my (ex)husband’s family wrote home, and to each other, during the Civil War. They were Confederates.

I remember one writer telling about seeing Union observation balloons, calling them “flying fools”

Following one letter the transcriber/editor made a notation “by the time this letter was received the writer was dead.”

Near the end of the war one man wrote of all the sickness in his camp, and how many fellow soldiers in his unit were hoping that their pay would be late again, as it would give them an excuse to desert.

I find old letters fascinating. After my Great Aunt passed away I found a stash of letters she had kept dating to WWII. It appears that she had fellas from just about every branch of service writing to her. I never had any idea she was so popular! The most interesting letter was on stationary covered in swastikas with numerous bits cut out of it - by censors I’m guessing.