Monday, March 30, 2009

Amanuensis Monday: Stop, I L__ You!

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

Below is a letter from one of my maternal grandmother's male callers, likely sent in 1919. He was trying to stop my grandmother from marrying a man named Jack. I haven't yet figured out his last name. In his letter he provides more information about Jack than either of my grandmother's parents provided in their letters consoling her on her divorce (which I posted last week). I don't think the marriage lasted long.

The author of the below letter only signs it "H. May." May is a fairly common surname, and there are several given names beginning with H. H could also reference the individual's middle name or nickname. I have found a couple possibilities in the 1920 census.

Dear --- Dearer --- No Dearest Myrtle

Again I come as one who is trying to bar your happiness, perhaps; but hope not.

Myrtle, I hear you are to be married. Can it be? God forbid it. I admit, by saying that, I hope to benefit myself; but, also, I believe it would be a favor to you. Should you marry that man, it cannot help but make your life a sorrow. Forgive me, Myrtle that I talk thus. Two things there will be to take away your young and just begun happiness. The main one is his disposition that will make it unpleasant and miserable for you. The other is you will leave a home of plenty. Jack already has a family to care for. Another thing, girl, you are his superior.

Wait. Go with a few other men. See the difference between this one and others. Then, if you still believe you would be satisfied with his ways go ahead. What future can you look ahead to by marrying him? Only one thing do you know, and that is that he thinks a lot of you. But can that make you happy to be around one who loves as he does? As for being a nice man, there is no comparison between this man and any other in Berclair. But think ahead – of your happiness, etc.

Myrtle, if you will not marry yet, and think you could care the least for me, I will promise to do my best that you won’t regret not marrying him.

Being I have gone with you but one time, you will perhaps think me a liar, or, as you once before called me – “silly” – when I say that I have fallen in l___ with you. That one night alone, especially, when you shook hands good-night, left in me a feeling for you that I have felt for no other girl. That night, perhaps had no effect upon you other than to want to consider me an intruder and a quarrel maker. If it had no other effect upon you, you will consider this different from how I mean it; then pardon me for what I write.

Yet will I ask that you consider me in earnest, and as one who would like to have your love.

Myrtle, please do not marry for your own sake. Some one has, no doubt, insisted that you do; but you say for yourself, and consider well

I wanted to get to talk with you Sat. but had no chance. So have taken this my only chance before it is too late. Will you please write me an answer tomorrow? I will keep it a secret.

Your friend – enemy, lover --- or what?
H. May.

PS Excuse lead pencil, bad hand writing, etc. I wrote this late last night expecting to recopy it today, but will not have time before you all with Loyd, my message boy, leaves. Again I say I sure would hate to see you marry that man. Destroy this when you read it, if you do read it.

My grandmother didn't listen, to any of his requests, even that of destroying the letter.

'H' mentions Jack's 'disposition', and suggests my grandmother wouldn't want to be around someone who 'loves as he does.' In the letter from Myrtle's father, he expressed concern that Jack might become violent after their divorce. My grandmother moved to St. Louis in the fall of 1920, and I wonder if there was an element of escape involved. Her brother, Sam, was attending college in St. Louis at the time which would have provided a reason for her to choose St. Louis.

It appears that Jack was from Berclair, TX, which is about 650 miles from El Paso. However, I do know that Myrtle's father opened a cheese manufactory in Berclair in 1914. And the Van Everys had farms in San Marcos and Caldwell, TX, both within 100 miles of Austin, prior to moving to El Paso, and Berclair is in the same general vicinity, about 140 miles from Austin.

The Van Every deed to the land in Fabens/El Paso, TX was purchased in July 1917. I wonder if they could have maintained farms at both locations for a couple years, despite the large distance inbetween.


Anonymous said...

Wow! What a letter!


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Wow! I'm glad she saved it. Too bad they all knew who they were talking about so they didn't feel the need to give more hints.