May. 21st, 2016

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I have always dreamed of finding a long forgotten diary from one of my ancestors, and envied those who have.

However, our family does have some letters and telegrams, including two from my great great grandmother, Eada Belle Parrish, written in March 1881 to her father, and her favorite brother. Both letters were written after she had recovered from a bout of measles.
 photo EadaParrish.jpg

The town of Memphis, KS is now Garland, in Bourbon County. The school she refers to is the one at which she hoped to teach. We know she was a teacher for a time preceding her marriage to Fred Chapin. At the time she wrote these letters, she was attending school (university?) herself.
Memphis, Kansas
March 19th, 1881
Mr. B A Parrish

Dear father,

Your kind and welcome letter was received some time ago and I have delayed answering on account of being sick with the measles. I was very sick for a few days but have gotten over them now. I missed one month of school on account of them. Our school is out now. I expect to go back to Bro. John's before long. Father, I would like so much to see you and all the rest. Bro. Henry talks of going to Ky. next fall by land, if he does I don't know but what I shall come with them. I am well satisfied here. I think you might come and pay us a visit and see how you like this western country. It is a beautiful country I think, and is a good fruit country.I know you would like that there was an abundance of apples raised last season. If you were here you could have all the apples you would want. This has been the severest winter I ever saw, and still continues to be winter. Farmers have done no plowing yet and a great many are not done gathering corn. It has been snowing for the last three days and is very cold. I think this is a hard country on old people on account of the winters.

Pop, I think you are partial towards me. I don't think any more praise is due me than any of the rest of the family. I always tried to do any duty whether I succeeded or not.

As to the people here, I like them generally very well. They are more on an equality. Those who have means do not feel themselves above common people. As to marrying here, I suppose a girl could do as well here as anywhere, but I am not caring anything about that just now. I expect I was cut out for an old maid.

Well Pop, I guess I have written as much as will interest you now. I guess Charlie and Wessie and little Mary have grown considerable since I left home. Kiss them for me. How is Ma's health now? Tell her that I would love to see her very much. Excuse this ill-composed letter, as I am not much of a hand to write letters. This leaves all tolerable well at present, and hoping it will find you all the same. I will close for a time. Mine and sister Lydia's letter together will make you a pretty good letter.

My love to all and write soon to your daughter,

Eada B. Parrish

Some notes about the letter above.

Eada was 21 years old when she wrote this letter. She did not marry Fred Chapin until 1885, when she was 26.

Henry and Lydia Parrish were Henry Clay Parrish, Eada's oldest brother, and his wife, Lydia Conklin, with whom Eada was living at the time.

John was John Parrish, fourth in the line-up of Eada's brother's and sisters. He and his wife Gertrude lived in Mitchell, KS.

Ma was Melvina Crume, the second wife of Benjamin Abraham Yeager Parrish. She was Eada's step-mother. Eada's own mother, Minerva Hamilton, died in 1865 when Eada was 6, so it's likely Melvina was the only mother figure Eada remembered.

Charlie, Wessie and Mary were Eada's half brothers and sister. Charlie was the oldest and was born when Eada was 8 years old.

This has been the severest winter I ever saw, and still continues to be winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of The Long Winter, and Barbara E. Boustead, Ph.D. wrote, "Both meteorological records and historical accounts indicate that the winter was particularly long, snowy, and cold," in her 2014 dissertation, THE HARD WINTER OF 1880-1881: CLIMATOLOGICAL CONTEXT AND COMMUNICATION VIA A LAURA INGALLS WILDER NARRATIVE. (See this link for the entire paper.)
March 20th, 1881
Mr. Daniel Parrish and wife

My dear brother and sister,

After some delay I take the silent pencil in hand to try to answer your kind and welcome letter which found me sick in bed with the measles, or smeasles, as Dink calls them. I caught them at school and had them first, so I was able to help wait on Lydia and the children when they had them. I was not able to read your letters, but Lydia read them for me.

Well Bro and sister, I don't know what to write that will interest you. News is scarce at this time. With me, about all the talk is the cold weather, which is disagreeable. It seems like we will have a backward spring. There is no farming done yet. Dan, I recon you and sister have moved to yourselves by this time. I would like very much to step over and take tea with you. I know we would have a jolly time. I guess I will come over and live with you now as you have always promised me I should. You must tell me where you are going to reside. Sister, when I saw you last I did not think that the distance would separate us that does now, nor was I not thinking you would ever be my dear little sister. I am happy to know you are so well pleased with my Bro. He is a dear, good brother. You must take good care of him, also of your dear self.

Dan, I wish you were close enough that I could come to see you and sister. I would like it much better. Do you think of coming west any way soon? If I stay here I wish you would come. I believe I like Missouri better than I do Kansas. I am going back to Kansas in a short time. I will either try teaching or will go to school. We received a letter from sister Emma. She seems to be discouraged about going to school where she is. Wishes she had come to see us in place of going to school.

Sue, I would love to see you and Dan so much I don't know what to do. Is Sina married yet? Give my love to her, also to the rest of your father's family. Dan, who did Fin Young sell to? I guess there has been several changes made since I came away in that neighborhood. I recon little Becca is quite a woman by now. If you move away it will seem to her like all are gone.

I will close for a time, sister. Lydia is going to write to you. Bro, you and sister must write soon to me and tell me all the news. This leaves all well at present,, and hoping it will find you both the same. I will close by asking you to excuse all imperfections and write soon. My love and best wishes to you both.

I am, as ever, your affectionate sster

Eada B Parrish.

Some notes about the letter above.

Eada's brother, Daniel Braden Parrish, was a newlywed at the time of this letter. He and Susan E Morton married on 17 Nov 1880 in Breckinridge Co., KY.

Emma was Eada's older sister by two years. I don't have a lot of information about her, other than she never married, she taught school in Illinois and she was buried in Grayson Co., KY. I do not know where she is buried.

Sina was one of Susan Morton's relatives.

Little Becca was the youngest of the children of B A Parrish and Minerva Hamilton. She married Ulysses Grant Bond in 1883, divorced him in 1889, married Webster Taylor in 1906, divorced him, and married her final husband, James Shea, in 1910. She had two children with her first husband. Her son, Steven Washington Bond, lived in shack beside a railroad yard in Lewiston, ID, and was crushed to death when he fell into a pit containing a locomotive turntable in the rail yard. His grave in Normal Hill Cemetery is unmarked.
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It always bothers me when I learn that someone has died alone. Even more so when I learn that they died days before the body was discovered.

And so it was with Martha "Mattie" Williams, older sister of my great grandfather, Jo Desha Williams.

But not only did she die alone, two days before her body was discovered, strangers to her family organized her funeral because my great granddad and his oldest sister, Minnie, did not - would not? - attend.

Indeed, from the telegrams from Hubert Wise notifying them of Mattie's death, it seems Minnie was only concerned with the estate.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm reading this chronology the wrong way.

You decide.
Telegram #1 - received in Little Rock, 15 Apr 1930, 10:18 p.m.
Extra=Chigaco ILL 1009p
J W Williams 2310 Ringo Street Little Rock Ark
Regret to tell you we found your sister Mrs Fisher passed away suddenly this evening, I have taken charge and will follow instructions left in letter by her. Have also notified Mrs Shinn nightletter following.
Hubert Wise 4738 Kenwood Avenue

Telegram #2 - received in Little Rock 16 Apr 1930 12:55 a.m. (This was Wednesday. Mr. Wise discovered the body late Tuesday night.)
NL=Chicago ILL
J W Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Dear Mr Williams not hearing from Mrs Fisher since I took her home Sunday evening and getting no response by telephone I went out this evening and with the janitor opened the apartment and found Mrs Fisher laying on the floor. I fetched Dr. Thompson who said death had taken place Sunday night. Mrs Fisher has left written instructions to be laid by her husband in Elmwood Cemetery. Also undertaker and service she desired. Will have autopsy performed and coroners inquest will be held in morning. Have enjoyed such close friendship with Mrs Fisher for many years. We shall do everything possible to carry out her wishes and shall await your instructions.
Hubert Wise

This makes me wonder if she committed suicide. I now will have to try and get her death certificate.
Telegram #3, from Minnie Williams to brother J D Williams, received in Little Rock on 16 Apr 1930 at 7:14 a.m.
NL Collect=Washington DC
J W Williams
2310 Ringo Street Little Rock Ark
Please go to Chicago for me and look after Matties affairs. I was looking for her to be with me. I am not able to go. Hope to bear it. Her furniture has just arrived but not her personal belonging have to be looked after.

Telegram #4, from J D Williams to Hubert Wise, 16 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark 4/16/30
Hubert Wise
4738 Kenwood Ave
Chicago Ills
Received message and nightletter. Carry out completely her instructions. This was her desire indicated to me after her husband passed away. You take charge of all her possessions of every nature including all funds held by her and follow instructions in regard to burial. We will be satisfied with what ever you do and thank you so much for your kindness and attention to this matter. Under the existing circumstances do you think it advisable for me to come. If so advise immediately. We know everything is in safe hands. May God bless you for your kindness to us.
J D Williams

Telegram #4, Received in Little Rock on 16 Apr 1930, 7:17 p.m.
Chicago ILL 710p
J H Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Dear Mister Williams thank you for your message of love and confidence placed in us. Have arranged for funeral service Friday at one thirty from Lawrence Undertaking Parlors in exact accordance with yours and Mrs Fishers request. It is not necessary for you to come. Every detail taken care of. Letter follows giving full particulars. Lovingly
Hubert Wise

And so Mr. Wise sent J D Williams the order of service for Mattie's funeral. I have not transcribed it, but you should be able to tell from the account that Mattie's friends put much time and effort into organizing her service.
 photo funeral service-page-001.jpg
 photo funeral service-page-002.jpg

Wire from J D Williams to Minnie Shinn, dated 16 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark April 16/30
Mrs Minnie C Shinn
624 Rock Creek Church Road
Washington D C
Night letter received - have been waiting to get notice from Mr Wise. He advises - Dear Mister Williams thank you for your message of love and confidence placed in us. Have arranged for funeral service Friday at one thirty from Lawrence Undertaking Parlors in exact accordance with yours and Mrs Fishers request. It is not necessary for you to come. Every detail taken care of. Letter follows giving full particulars. Lovingly
Hubert Wise - Now Minnie I could not change their plans - Mattie [illegible] as to all details planned by her as being executed and all belongings will be properly handled steel yourself and you can bear this burden and all will be well - will go later if necessary to wind up affairs better than now - desire to remember her as in life - not in death - now that all details are so well taken care of - the Good Lord has blessed us by her passing in the midst of loving and Christian friends - let us be thankful it is this way - will advise you by wire and mail the b[illegible] just as soon as received.
J D Williams
Address - 2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

Telegram #5, received in Little Rock on 19 Apr 1930 at 5:24 a.m.
NL=Chicago ILL
J W Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Your dear sisters remains were placed beside her husband this afternoon. Service was expressive of her life - dignified graceful and loving. Many beautiful floral pieces indicated the high esteem in which she was held by many friends. Her last wishes have been carried out to the letter an obligation I consider very sacred. Will you please notify law department First Trust and Savings Bank thirty eight South Dearborn street Chicago immediately authority to pay all bills presented by myself? Letter follows explaining this request. Similar request made to Mrs Shinn.
Hubert Wise

Wire from J D Williams to the bank, granting power of attorney to Hubert Wise, dated 19 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark - - 4/19/30 - -
Law Department - First Trust and Savings Bank
#38 South Dearborn St
Chicago Ills
Power of Attorney is hereby granted to Hubert Wise to act in my place - Pay all bills and accounts incident to the death and burial of my sister Mrs Mattie Williams Fisher out of any funds held by your bank in trust by her and this wire is your authority to honor the checks as issued by him for that purpose on the said funds as held by our bank.

My sister Mrs Minnie C Shinn Washington City D C the only two legal heirs to her estate including myself.

Witness my hand and seal this date Little Rock Arkansas.

J D Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

Wire to Minnie Shinn from J D Williams, dated 26 Apr 1930
Little Rock April 26/30
Mrs Minnie C Shin
624 Rock Creek Church Road
Washington D C
Just arrived home - am sending Special Delivery letter all correspondence from Mr Wise and others - they acted wisely. You do not need legal services - stop that expense for statement will be sent you of all expense - you will receive all over that amount - I have waived my rights by wire to bank last week. We are lucky indeed to have such good Christian friends to do this for without pay - compose yourself - dont worry - all will be well. You are alright and in safe hands for Matties will or request will executed exactly like she directed - You will receive balance some over two thousand without any legal action on your part.
J D Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

That last one sounds to me like Minnie was going to sue Mattie's friends - who organized and attended to all the details surrounding her death, without asking to be compensated - to ensure she got every dime left over from the estate of the sister she wanted to attend her in her old age.

But she couldn't go to the funeral.


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Dee Burris Blakley

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