Monday, March 16, 2009

Amanuensis Monday: A Birthday Letter - March 21, 1926

The following letter was written by Melvin Van Every to his daughter Myrtle (my grandmother) on her 26th birthday, March 21, 1926. He lived in Garfield New Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, TX. She had been living in St. Louis for 5 years. All of his letters to her began with "Dear Machen", likely a term of endearment meaning either 'little girl' or 'little woman'.

Minnie and Sam are a sister and brother of Myrtle's. Josie was Melvin's second wife.

Garfield N.M.
March 21 - 1926
Dear Machen

This is your Birthday and I failed to get you anything for a remembrance. I was in Hatch yesterday and looked around for some handkerchiefs with your initials on them but could not find them so I will have to make it up some other time. Those 3 handkerchiefs you sent me on my birthday were so nice. I left one at Minnie's the last time I were down there and have the other two at home.

It did not seem possible it was snowing and cold in St. Louis last Sunday while it was so warm and springlike here.

We had one sandstorm last week and it is sure nice and sun shiny now. Josie has made some garden but the farmer's friends (the birds) have eaten most of it. I will sow some oats and alfalfa next week. We are ready to plant cotton when the time comes which will be about April 15.

I have two gopher traps and have caught 8 gophers in 4 days. They were bad in Josie's garden. Had a letter from Sam this week. The first in 2 months. He said he was getting his three regulars.


Well write me a long letter & just tell me anything.

Love and Best Wishes



Claudia said...

Machen is German and does meyoung girl, the "chen" part is the dimunitive form. When my cat Henry was little we called him Henchen. He is not so little now.

John said...

I've been told the proper German spelling is actually M├Ądchen or Maedchen, as used in Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women. My great grandfather's English spelling was far from perfect, so this isn't surprising.

Someone else has suggested that since her name was Myrtle, Machen could have been a diminutive of her name.

However, since the family wasn't of recent German extraction, having been in North America for 200 years, I think it's more likely a reference to Alcott's Little Women.