- Monday 4 PM
Feb. 4 - 1901
Dear Father and Annie
We have kept our eyes in the windows all
day looking for John. We have been expecting him since Sat'y.
The storms of last week delayed him. I sat up Friday all day and
felt pretty well, but Saturday pm Julia came down again with fever
and is still in bed but feeling better. Not her throat this time
& in fact the Dr. has been at a loss to know what causes the fever
& concluded it must be malaria. He can not make a test of her
blood till his microscope comes. Anyway quinine has helped her.
He says it is either her kidneys or malaria. Today it is bright
and pleasant and I think we will soon be out and well. Henri &
J.P. are very well & have been out to play Sunday. Julia said
to say she wished we would have letters from Grandpa and Nammie
every day. We had quite a snow storm Saturday but it melted almost
immediately. We have enjoyed all your letters lately. Julia G.
is only nine months older than J.R. Julia wants to know what grade
J.G. is in and what is she doing in number work. The Dr. wants
J- to live out of doors for a few years. Henri is developing nicely
.... spends much time & loves to do "kindergarten"as
she calls it. Pasting paper rings - stringing beads - putting
colored pegs in peg board etc. She sticks them better than Julia
ever did. I was much interested in your.....
I read this letter along
with a collection of others that Flora wrote to "Father
and Annie". We had received the package of these old
letters from some place far from Tombstone and I was soon captivated
by the persona of Flora and the life she must have had while living
in Tombstone over a century ago. I deduced from the other letters
and some clippings that came along with the package that these
letters were being sent to El Paso Texas and the time frame was
from the late 1890's through 1901. The handwriting was quite hard
to decipher and I wondered if it was that hard for Father and
Annie to read as well. Their advantage would be their intimate
knowledge of whom Annie is writing about and my disadvantage being
that in this century I have become spoiled to the typed word.
Flora mentions John again
and I decide this must be her husband. Different letters speak
of John either having just arrived home or expected home. In one
letter Flora mentions... "John came home to-night & I
was glad - I was getting the blues with McKinley shot..."
The president's assassination occurred in September of 1901 and
Flora is waiting in Tombstone for her John to come home knowing
his return will mend her blues while writing a letter only to
Annie this time. Here she speaks of "receiving word to-day
from Mrs. Bacon that she was quite ill .... and Philip and Henri
have not been quite well from bowel trouble but they are better."
The next words she writes portray a mother's feelings .... no
matter what century it is!!! "Julia begins school tomorrow
& I dread the rough elements she has to meet." I chuckle
to myself and remember the letter (e-mail) I received from my
daughter telling me about her daughter starting school last September
.... oh the elements she had to meet!!
yet about the kindergarten but in time I hope we will have one.
People are not educated up to it yet. Mrs. Cheyney's sister Mrs.
Starmuth may be here to live by the 1st of the year & she will
help me as she has tried to get one up in Congress. I have eleven
pupils promised but no teacher yet."
In September 1901, Flora
is apparently trying to start a kindergarten. How strange it sounded
to hear that "...people are not educated up to it (kindergarten)
yet." Children today seem to have a 2nd grade education
level when starting kindergarten!! What must life have been like
for this protagonist? She had "promised" eleven
children a kindergarten and she needed a teacher .... Flora was
going to see to it that this was a promise not to be broken. She
speaks of trying to get a kindergarten started up in Congress
and I decide she must be referring to the town of Congress Arizona.
A once busy mining town near Wickenburg, but today is only a ghost
town. A ghost town that had a kindergarten.
The collection also contains
a letter written to Father and Annie in a more elongated handwriting
with the usual bold strokes of a masculine fashion. The ink appears
to be from a fountain pen and the abbreviations apparently used
to hasten the completion. The letter is dated 7:30 PM Tombstone
Dec. 20. I imagine it must have been pertinent to mark the time
on this letter. And a /01 had been added in pencil, perhaps Flora's
afterthought as this letter signed by "Jack"
has additional notes added along the margins and up the sides
of the paper written in her handwriting.
Dear Father & Annie
The children have just gone to bed a tired
out lot. I got home last night and found them all wrought up to
a high pitch of excitement.
The Bacons came in later and Mrs. B and
Flora trimmed the little tree while the Dr. and I smoked and talked.
When we returned both J & H waked up and wanted to know if it
was morning. We put a few things in their stockings. They had
me up lighting matches long before daylight.... F. got up and
dressed them. First they grabbed a thing or two and came up stairs,
that is up the two steps to the bed room & afterward they took
in the balance of the things piled about the tree. Then we opened
the Mrs. M. box.... Flora is delighted with her spoon and the
prospect of the bazaar. My necktie is to my liking and is needed
in my wardrobe. Flora gave me a small carving set and a big warm
comforter for my camp bed. Julia a watch box and H. a blue neck
tie and J.P. a leather watch chain. I gave F. a fur boa and the
children gave her things of their own selection. The children
were remembered by the Bacons, the Bedfords, Mrs. Kringle, Mrs.
Barrows, Mrs. Platt (Colo Springs), Mrs. Servass and others. The
day has been beautiful. We had a fine dinner but F. is pretty
Here were descriptions of
a Christmas celebration happening before the 25th in 1901. A visit
home timed for a celebration no matter what the date was and John
(Jack) mentions that he would be going back to his camp soon where
the needed warm comforter would be taken. The simple things of
life where Flora receives a spoon and Jack receives a necktie
to his liking are greatly appreciated and spoken of in his letter
to perhaps his father. And the days' exhaustion can be understood
by anyone who knows the holidays, then or now. Jack continues
on and I find myself reading of something unheard of... at least
I never heard of this.
One thing that has marred the day is the
thought of the Vickers family. Last Saturday Lillian 22 yrs old
in her 3rd year at Bryn Mahr College was burned to death while
taking an alcohol bath. By some means her night dress caught fire
while she was alone in her room. Her body is now on its way to
Los Angeles to be buried there. She was a lovely girl, very bright
and fine looking...
The letter concludes with I expect to return
to Bisbee day after to-morrow. And is signed Yours, Jack.
Over the scrawl of Jack's handwriting, Flora adds her graceful
touch with words and writes:
Dear Annie and Father,
Your box was so lovely. I never saw such
dolls & the children have had such a happy day. Mrs. Bacon thinks
you're a wonder Annie. My spoon is a beauty & I am so glad of
the bazaar. Mrs. Bacon gave me "Aftermath". I am too
tired to write but will hope to more. The house is topsy turvy
but all are happy. I am thankful, Flora
The sentences Flora wrote
in these letters would run on and on often times interspersed
with everyday talk of weather to frightful thoughts of possible
malaria. I imagined the conversation Flora would have had with
the doctor and tried to picture a kindly family doctor who pays
a visit on this little girl. I am amazed at the lack of urgency
felt when she casually stated that the test on Julia's blood could
not be performed until the microscope came in. Flora mentions
the quinine and I compare the urgent phone call I received this
week from my daughter 200 miles away who had a concern about her
son's penicillin reaction. How I have taken for granted the system
of communication we have today and the instant gratification we
receive from it. How would I have reacted reading that my granddaughter
might possibly have malaria and having to wait for the next letter
with news of this little girl's condition?
I feel as if I met a fine
woman when I read these letters to Father and Annie. Flora lived
in Tombstone a century and a lifetime ago and yet she writes her
thoughts that are timeless. She longs for a husband to return
home and worries about his delay in the snowstorm. Her children
get ill and she must wait on test results to understand why. She
sends her child off to the first day of school and worries about
the elements to be faced. The children find joy in letters from
grandparents. She writes stories of her children's development
and conveys her desires for their educational needs. And what
fun it was to read of their Christmas in 1901 and the simplest
of gifts so greatly appreciated.
Tombstone was Flora's home.
The letters she sent to Father and Annie have made their way back
to Tombstone and to my heart. I have only a few and they are scattered
in dates leaving me to wonder so much about the life of a woman
whose words gave me just a small reflection of Tombstone.... the
home of John, Flora, Julia, Henri, and J.P. Last name unknown.