Monday, January 28, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: Letter from Josie Van Every to her step-daughter, Myrtle - August 15, 1927

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.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.

This week I look at a letter Josie (Thetford) Van Every, the second wife of my great grandfather, Melvin, sent to my grandmother, Myrtle Van Every, in August of 1927.

Garfield NM
Aug 15 1927

Dear Myrtle I will ans your welcome letter was good as usual to here (sic) from you Daddy is just about as you left him I have got his medicine and he is taking it regularly he won’t miss a dose he has so much confidence in it I do hope it help him well Myrtle we hated to see you leave so soon but it could not be helped I have not sent your coat yet but will try and get it off tomorrow if possible you no (sic) what a time I have a getting thing off.
Myrtle I would like to see you I am as well as I was when you left write soon from Dad
Well this is what he wrote you I told him to write to you and he said he would like to write more but he did not have time he wanted to get a fly out the room

His mind is pretty good now yes Myrtle send him something to read

Well ans soon with love to you

John is working at Rincor and it just leave PaPa and I to do the work Cherry & Jerry still suck the hose

Write Soon


1) Josie didn't use periods, nor was she a perfect speller, and I haven't attempted to make any editorial corrections in my transcription.

2) When I first read and scanned the collection of letters my grandmother had saved back in 2008, the date of August, 1927 didn't mean much to me. But that is the month her brief marriage with Dale B. Ridgely ended. The divorce papers were filed on August 12th. The divorce complaint stated that Myrtle had left her home with Dale for El Paso on July 19th. El Paso and Garfield, NM are about 90 miles apart. Myrtle's father had a farm in Garfield, but her sister, Minnie, lived in El Paso, and I am sure her intent was to visit and receive advice from both of them. After appearing in court for the divorce on August 12th, Myrtle returned to St. Louis. Records indicate she had applied for her old post office job on August 8th, and was rehired on Sept 26th.

3) As I wrote in 2008, my suspicion is still that Cherry and Jerry were farm animals or pets who enjoyed getting their water straight from the hose.

4) I'm uncertain who "John" was. Possibly a relative of Josie's. If census records are accurate, Josie was 30 years younger than my great grandfather. She would have been 34 when she wrote the letter, so if John was working somewhere, he isn't likely a son from a previous marriage. (Though it is barely possible if she was only 16 or 17 when he was born.) More likely a sibling or other relative.

5) This is also the last letter from Josie or Melvin that my grandmother saved. She by no means saved them all. The earliest I have was from 1925, and I suspect the letters began in 1921 when Myrtle moved to St. Louis. Several times the letters are referred to as weekly, and I only have a couple dozen. And, of course, I have none of the letters Myrtle sent back home. However, it's clear Melvin is having some difficulty writing, and Josie may not have been as focused on sending her step-daughter weekly letters. Melvin passed away in May of 1929.

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