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Archive for June 30th, 2013

Postwatchletters

A couple of months ago, I pulled out some letters from my genealogy archives to read. Apparently, I missed putting one of them back and found it on the table about a week later. It was written by Dorothy Welch (my second cousin once removed) to her aunt (my great-grandmother) Martha Stern Wilt Clawson.

July 19, 1922
113 E. Ave 58
Los Angeles, Calif.
Dear Aunt Martha,
I received your letter and was certainly glad to hear from you.
Some Muncie people by the name of Cites came out here the other day to visit her brother
who is a friend of ours. They brought word to us from my grand daddy Welch.
I am awfully sorry to hear that Nellie is sick again. I wish she could come out to Los Angeles
if she has to come “west.”
I haven’t heard from Uncle Ralph since March either. I’ve wrote several letters to see what
was the matter but I never got a answer.
I bet Vesta’s children are cute I certainly would like to see them.
Leonore is studying her spelling now so she will pass in her grades next term.
What grade is Clifford in at school?
Well I must close this time with love,
Dorothy

The first thing that stood out for me was the date of the letter – 1922. My mother always said that she didn’t meet her grandmother until she was an adult so I assumed that Grandma Clawson had moved west before my mom was born – the fall of 1921. I really think she meant that she didn’t remember her because my mom and her family moved to the Dayton, Ohio area in 1922.  I looked up Grandma Clawson’s address on Google and the street scene shows a parking lot now at 31 W 12th Street in Anderson, Indiana. There’s a church nearby so I wonder if the house was torn down since 1922. It would have been interesting if it had still been standing.

The “grand daddy Welch” that Dorothy mentions would be Americas C. Welch. A.C. Welch married Sarah C Buzzard in 1875 in Huntington, Indiana (according to the database: “Indiana Marriages, 1811-1959″ index on FamilySearch.org). A.C. and Sarah were the parents of Dorothy’s father, George Welch.

Nellie was my grandmother’s younger sister. She was 20 years old at the time of this letter and had been diagnosed with asthma. I had been told by my mother that due to her illness, it was necessary for her to move to the western United States.  She ended up moving to the Oregon/Washington area and lived most of her adult life in Washington.

The “Uncle Ralph” that Dorothy is referring to is her mother’s brother, Ralph Clawson, and my grandmother’s cousin. He was enumerated in the 1920 Census as living in Watertown, Massachusetts in the George C Shattuck household. I know Ralph had gone in the Navy  and he would have been about 24 years old in 1922 when Dorothy was trying to reach him. In June 1923 Ralph married Olive Sundberg in Chicago, Illinois.

Vesta would be my maternal grandmother (Vesta C Johnson nee Wilt). She and my grandfather had already bore three children, my Uncle Glen R Johnson, Jr., my aunt Genevieve V Johnson, and my mom Mary H Johnson.

Leonore was Dorothy’s younger sister. At the time of this letter, Dorothy was age 16. Leonore was probably close to nine.

Clifford, my grandmother’s youngest brother, was born April 20, 1906 making him a little over 16 when Dorothy wrote this letter. The 1940 US Census shows that Clifford only completed the first year of high school (generally 9th grade) – so he was not attending school any longer. If he had remained in school, he would probably have been going into his sophomore year when school began that fall.

I am under the impression that Dorothy wrote this letter as a reply to her Aunt Martha’s correspondence to her. I haven’t run across any other letters written by Dorothy so I don’t think it was a regular occurrence.

I greatly enjoy reading old letters that were sent back and forth from family members. It enables me to glimpse a window into their lives at the time of the letter. I noticed that Dorothy didn’t volunteer very much about herself such as her social activities, friends, work, or suitors.  She also didn’t ask how her grandfather was – as after her grandmother Margaret Ellen passed away, her aunt Martha (Ellen’s sister), married her widower, W. Frank Clawson.

If you have letters or post cards like I do, a good way to understand their deeper message or the lives of the people then, is to do an analysis on them as I did with this letter.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

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