Uncovering A Historical Treasure

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My cousin is coming down my way to collect some of the family heirlooms. There are marriage certificates, genealogy files and a large box of  letters that are over 100 years old that were sent to my Great grandmother. Apparently she was a “pack rat” or was just extremely sentimental for there are letters from relatives, friends, the Civil War, World War 1, and everything in-between. Tales of the mundane, trips cross country on steam trains, fighting in France and the truly bizarre.

I have been working at cataloging these letters for the past two years but had put them aside for a bit. But because my cousin is coming, I have to get them done in three days. So yesterday, I was scanning and putting up these letters on Ancestry.com when I ran across one dated May 1906. It was from one of my Great grandmother’s best friends who had moved across the country in 1898 to the state of California. In it she describes the HUGE 1906 California Earthquake in which much of San Francisco burned to the ground. She was living about 100 miles away but describes how awful the quake felt as the ground shook.

“Well we are alive and well which is something to be thankful for after such a calamity. The earthquake was severe here and there was much damage in Salinas-but old San Francisco…well it truly makes my heart ache.”

Cora goes on to describe trying to contact her daughters who were living in San Francisco at the time.

“The telephone and telegraph were all down…so there was no way to hear from the girls or get to them. On Saturday at about four we got a letter from them mailed at Stockton. They left the city on Thursday morning-went to Oakland. They were burned out. Lost everything. They only had what they had on their backs when the quake hit.They are thankful to get out alive.”

I love that my great grandmother found such great joy and comfort in the letters she wrote and received. I am also thankful that she saved them for future generations. Due to her example she inspired me to give each of my grandchildren their own letter box. I write them about twice a month telling of family activities, talking about the news and letting them know what I value. All those emails…they will be lost… but the letters I write will always be available to them. I hope they treasure them as much as I enjoy writing them and it is my wish that the “packrat gene” of their Great-great-great Grandmother is lurking somewhere within them!

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Letter From The Civil War

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I have had the honor of transcribing some letters between my GG grandmother and her cousin who was serving in the Civil War. I love this bit of family history and appreciate that I have been entrusted with it. There are mis-spellings and I left them that was intentionally. Cousin Mac who wrote this letter did not survive the war. He died of Typhoid Fever at a hospital in the South. He was a Union solider.

Loudon Tenn

Sunday eve

May 22, 1864

Dear Cousin:

I happen to have nothing else to do this evening so I guess I will write to you, though I think I wrote since I had one from you.

We are once more comfortably located since leaving Knoxville and I think fully as pleasantly possible, at least the boys all think so.  We took possession of some houses left by the 50th Ohio, as they were relieved by us, so we were home at once.

We are near the River-about as far from your house to the bridge. The River is larger here than at Knoxville. It looks about as wide here as the Ohio at Cincinatti, though not near as deep. Our camp is on a kind of neck of land; the River comes in from the south, and then makes a circuit of 7 miles around and comes back within a half mile of where it passes this Camp.  I have a lready had  a couple of rides on it…some of the Plymouth boys had a trout line set- and night before last I helped them take it up. It was a nice night, as the moon shone bright and I tell you we had a good time, we rode some two miles but didn’t get many fish. About all the kind of fish that is caught now is what we call “Sheep Heads”. The “natives” here call them pretty good though.

Of all the homely ill-looking speciments of mankind I ever saw, I beleive Loudon & vicinity can take the lead. If you wanted to see some specimens, you ought  to be here at the Provoost Marshalls Office part of a day. His business is to give passes to loyal citizens, and to soldiers who want to pass the Picket-lines. Anyone can come into town, but all have to get passess to get out again. The Office is generally crowded all day, and you may be sure there are all sizes, kinds, and colors. They are generally ignorant- few can write their names.

Several members of the company came in today, they were left in hospitals in Covington, among them was Isaac Borough & Horace Place. I guess they are the only ones from our town. One of our Lieutents that was in Cincinatti in command of one of the Prisons there, also came with them.

I have heard nothing of our (?) yet. William is still at K, and will take care of it. I presume it has come before this time.

Some way or other I have very poor success in getting letters from home. It has been most three weeks since I had one, and I feel anxious to hear from them.

I send you some verses of a song what has lately come into the company and is very popular just now. I think it is about as good one as I’ve heard for a long time and the tune is so well suited to the words. I wish I could send it just as it sounds when three or four parts are sung and it is so true too. But maybe your know it for I presume some one has it in the town.

Write a soon as you can

Good night