Monday, March 14, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Melvin Van Every - on preaching, baptizing, and marriage - 1926

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, newspaper articles, 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.

This week I transcribe two letters from my great grandfather, Melvin E Van Every, to his daughter, and my grandmother, Myrtle. They wrote to each other weekly, and I have many of his letters from 1926 and 1927, but none of the letters she wrote. Of course, he refers often to what she wrote, so there are glimpses.

Garfield, N.M.
April 11, 1926

Dear Machen

I was afraid I wouldn’t get to write today as we are having a wonderful meeting. Had Sunday school at 10 a.m. preaching at 11:00 and he did not get through preaching till 1:45 and had Baptizing 2:30 and he baptized 23 and we have just got through and home and it is 4:30 so I will proceed to write you a few lines while Josie gets supper

Myrtle I will not advise you in reference to marrying. But if you love this man dont pass it up ...but be sure you love him and that he loves you.

If you dont marry I want you to come to El Paso even if you dont make so much. I worry quite a
bit about you if you were to get seriously sick you are so far away. why are you moving your boarding place? you seem to like those people and they like you. We are starting to plant cotton this week. Josie’s garden is looking good. will have vegetables soon to eat. planted a little corn yesterday for rosting ears. have not answered Sams letter yet. have been so busy but will soon. Love and Best wishes. Dad


Garfield, N.M.
April 18, 1926

Dear Machen

As this is going to be a big day at church I will write now it is 9:00 we have sunday school at 10:00 preaching at 11:00 Baptizing at 3:00 and preaching at 7:30 the meeting closes tonight had 51 conversion. I did not intend to say anything to you in reference to Divine healing till I got your last letter and you spoke of christian science and that you believed in it. This preacher teaches divine healing I have been healed of the cough I have had so long and I am a believer in prayer. the bible teaches all this and if we believe the bible we must believe that god will heal us if we have the faith.

Now in regards to your love affair if Dale loves you as he should he will not go in the army he can get by I know and make good in civilian life reason with him and he will be able to see his way clear.

am glad you have a good bording place and hope you get on nicely.

Love and Best Wishes


1) I have transcribed my great grandfather's letters as closely as possible, with grammatical and spelling errors intact. He would often go for sentences without a period or without capitalizing.

2) Dale - to whom he refers - was my grandmother's husband from April to July of 1927. Currently, we believe he was her third (of four) husbands.

3) My great grandfather speaks of church and prayer sessions often in his letters, perhaps as it was his habit to write his weekly letters on Sunday. I already knew my grandmother was a follower of Christian Science, and a distant cousin to Mary Baker Eddy, though my grandmother likely didn't know this. It is good to have an approximate date as to when she started to become interested in the religion.

4) I'm not sure what my great grandfather had against service in the military.

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