Monday, July 19, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: The Severance Papers of Myrtle Van Every

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

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I return briefly to the documents preserved by my maternal grandmother, Myrtle Van Every Deutsch. I have long been amazed at how much she (and my maternal grandfather) kept. I know I inherited some of my "pack rat" nature from them. Many people save mementos of celebratory points in their lives - weddings, births, etc. How many people save severance papers?

The below documentation adds details to a crucial turning point in my grandmother's life - when she left El Paso, Texas for St. Louis, Missouri at the age of 20.  90 years ago.  If the events that led to this move hadn't happened, I wouldn't be here today.

July 6, 1920

To Whom It May Concern:

This is to certify that Miss Myrtle Van Every has been employed in this office as a clerk and typist from August 12, 1919, to date, and is separated from the service only on account of a mandatory reduction in personnel. Miss Van Every is a clerk of exceptional ability, painstaking and efficient in every detail assigned to her, prompt and attentive to duty. While not a stenographer she is moderately fast and very accurate and neat in the use of the machine.

I especially recommend her to any one desiring the services of an efficient office lady.

Lewis Snider
Clerk QMCorps
In Charge, General Supplies Branch


War Dept
El Paso Sub Depot
Southern Supply Zone
El Paso, Texas

July 7, 1920

From: Depot Officer, El Paso, Texas
To: Myrtle Van Every
Subject: Separation from service.

1. This is to notify you that your services will be no longer required after close of business on July 8, 1920.
2. It is with regret that I am obliged to discharge you at this time from the Government service, but on account of inadequate appropriation a reduction is imperative.
3. Your work while in the employ of this Depot has been highly satisfactory, and your discharge is for no other reason than as above stated.

John P. Hesson
Captain QMCorps
Depot Officer


The China Palace Company
Importers * Exporters
Largest Stock in the Southwest
Factory and Mill Agents
El Paso, Texas

July 8, 1920

To Whom It May Concern:-

Miss Myrtle Van Every was in our employ for ten months as billing clerk and typist, and we always found her to be a steady and energetic worker.

Miss Van Every is very efficient – her work was very satisfactory to us, and we do not hesitate to recommend her to anyone in need of her services.

She left our employ of her own accord.

Yours truly,
The China Palace Co.
Per H. Hyman, Pres.


El Paso Bank and Trust Company
El Paso, Texas
July 9, 1920

To Whom It May Concern:

This will introduce Miss Myrtle Van Every, who has carried an account with this bank for the past year and a half.

Miss Van Every is reliable, honest, energetic, and all of her business dealings with us have been very satisfactory.

FP Jones


Capt. H.C. Gardner
c/o Depot Quartermaster
St. Louis, Mo.

This will introduce Miss Myrtle VanEvery. If you find it possible to give her employment I feel she will justify my estimate of her ability expressed in another letter to you.

Lewis Snider.


El Paso, Texas
November 13, 1920.

Capt. H.C. Gardner,
c/o Depot Quartermaster
St. Louis, Mo.

Dear Harry:-

This note is addressed in behalf of Miss Myrtle VanEvery who is at present in St. Louis employed with the Missouri College of Optometry.

Miss VanEvery was formerly employed in this office and worked here under my direct supervision for about one year both as a temporary and certified Civil Service employee. Miss VanEvery was one of the best clerks that we had in connection with the Stock Records of this depot, was punctually on hand, absent one day from sickness in more than a year, and aside from the fact that she did neat work, it was correct.

She was separated from this service in July on account of reduction of force and I was very sorry that she happened to be one of the younger ones. So far as merit is concerned there were several who should have gone before she. I have a letter from her in which she expresses the desire to reenter the service and wishes to get into the St. Louis office if possible.

I realize that retrenchment is the order of the day, however, I am also aware that occasionally employees are taken on even under this stress therefore if Miss VanEvery presents a request for employment and you find it possible to do anything for her I feel sure that she will justify my recommendation of her.

Trusting that you are well, and that everything is well with you, I am


[No signature]


1) While there is no signature on the last document, it is almost definitely the letter referenced by Lewis Snider.  The spelling of my grandmother's surname as one word strengthens the connection.

2)  Since my grandmother worked at the QMC starting in August 1919, at age 19, the ten months at China Palace indicated in the letter of reference brings her back to 1918.  It's quite possible she had no other jobs prior to or after being graduated from high school, in which case I have a record of all of her employment.

3) Her brother, Samuel, attended college at the Missouri College of Optometry, which is a suitable hypothesis for why she moved to St. Louis, and how she found the job there.  She was hired by the St. Louis Post Office on November 20, 1920, only one week after the glowing letter of reference above was sent to the St. Louis Depot Quartermaster.


Joy Stubbs said...

Thanks for this idea. It gave me a direction to post today (

Bill West said...

Hi John,
I posted the pension file testimony of my ancestor Elisha Houghton at

Documentarian said...

I enjoyed your post--how fortunate you are to have such a record of your grandmother's early jobs! Perhaps that glowing letter of recommendation was the reason she saved the whole correspondence.

I appreciate your idea, too, of "Amanuensis Monday," and I decided to give it a shot in my first foray into themed blogging:

John said...

It's a pleasure seeing this meme of mine spreading to blogs I've been reading for a long time, as well as ones new to me. I enjoyed reading all three of your posts.