March 29, 1925.
My dear Cousins:
Knowing by past experience that if my letter is not on time my Cousin Will will call me down, and since it's snowy and cold today - a real March day - and there is no going to church for country people1, I am taking this "Sabbath Day", as my mother would say, to write you. I feel that I am not capable of doing justice to either you or myself, just at present. I am not very strong and am very nervous.
A letter from Roswell Young says, "Write the little things of family life". One of the big things of my life was when I could go to Elmira and visit my much loved Cousin Lou. On one of these visits Roswell went to a picnic, his mother packing his lunch basket and sending one of her best solid silver spoons. When he returned, the spoon was missing. She talked to him very seriously, and tried to impress the fact that it was one of her best. That night he found it in his trouser pocket, and bringing it to her he said, "There's your old best spoon!"
Next day at lunch Ethel announced that she was going to Roricks that afternoon, and not to school. Her mother said,"No, Ethel, not today". Whereupon she set up a big cry. Her father got up from the table and administered a spank that took all thought of Roricks out of Ethel's mind, I am sure.
In my family a good many things have happened in the past year. In May it was necessary for me to go to the Arnot-Ogden Hospital at Elmira. William went with me and came every week I was there. Jessie came from Binghamton, and Frances and Isabelle were there the day I wanted my friends most, and Isabelle and Frances came every day I was there. The Elmira cousins were most kind. Carrie Campbell, Grace, Treva, Nan Pepper, Fannie Monroe and her two sons2. Treva and her little daughter brought me a box of candy at two different times. Cards and letters came from everyone of my cousins except one, I think, and from lots of the second cousins and friends. Cousin Jennie Bosard wrote me several times. Flowers, four dozen beautiful roses, came from "the three Selphs3". When my nurse brought them to my room she said, "That fellow must be a millionaire."
1. Roads weren't plowed in those days. And if the snow wasn't too deep, icy dirt roads would have been too slippery to drive on.
2. Edward and Donald Monroe.
3. Will Selph, wife Edith, and daughter Doris.
Dr. Loop4 said to me one day, "Will Selph must think a lot of you. He writes me every day asking me to tell him just how you are, and he says that you are one of his favorite cousins." I think the Campbell cousins ought to be thankful to have so wonderful a surgeon in the family as Dr. Ross G. Loop. A good many know him by experience. Charlie Congdon spent an hour with me there.
I left a good woman to keep house. She stayed eight months. Jessie and family were home in August for a month. The babies enjoy the farm. Tom helps Grandpa Bill5 drive the truck. We bought a pony he will enjoy this year when he comes. Anne Betty is a favorite in the family, I fear, as she is the only girl. Baby Henry is a lively two year old. Elizabeth was here for a short stay in November. Joseph is a fine scholar for an eight year old, and David is a lively boy of one year.
In October I went to Binghamton where Jessie lives. While there we drove down the Lackawanna Trail to Great Bend. We were going to New Milford, but the day was cold, and Walter had tire trouble, so we went back. From there we went on to Elizabeth, one hundred miles farther. Was there one week, then they took me for several nice rides. We went to Herkimer, eighty miles farther north, where William has a niece, and we spent a very pleasant day there. The roads are real roads in that country. I had the pleasure of riding on the "Million Dollar Highway"6 while there, a few miles anyway.
In January William went to the Arnot-Ogden Hospital for an operation which was successful. He is feeling well now, only not strong enough to do much work. I went with him and spent the nights with Isabelle. She can cook like any of the Campbells, and is a good housekeeper although she is a teacher by profession. Her mother was in Osceola at that time7.
We have just bought a six cylinder up-to-date Reo truck8. It is very comfortable to ride in. I go quite a bit when our mud roads permit. William has a rather extensive milk route.
4. Dr. Ross Loop was not a "blood relative" but he was considered part of the family because he was a half-brother of Cousin Stella LOOP Hooker Wilbur.
5. After my mother's father died, she was raised by her aunt, Inez, and husband William Boller (my namesake). Because both my grandfathers had died before my parents married, Billy Boller served as a surrogate grandfather to my siblings and me, hence to us he was always "Grampa Bill".
6. Countless stretches of highway all over the country, being paved for the first time, were locally called by that name. In this case, I suspect she was referring to NY5 thru the Mohawk Valley, which followed the route of the Erie Canal and in turn was followed by the NY Thruway.
7. Isabelle's monther, Frances (Goodrich) Hoyt, spent time in Osceola because her mother, Elizabeth (Batterham) Goodrich, was suffering from dementia. The Goodriches lived in a home built for them by their son-in-law, Lee Smith Tubbs. Lee built it for them just across the street from where he and Mary (Goodrich) Tubbs lived.
8. I remember that truck, It was still running 20 years later. I have photos of it -- and of the pony with my eldest brother riding her.
We work the farm, keep two hired men, who make lots of work. William makes it as easy for me as possible. He gets the breakfast, has the washing and ironing done, buys bread9, and each Saturday a school girl helps me all day.
Cousin Mary Shipman wrote me February twelfth, as she always does on my mother's birthday. It's a thought I appreciate most sincerely. Cousin Kate has sent cards this winter from the South, as have Cousin Ed and Em Congdon. While we haven't the sunshine or flowers of the Sunny South, we did have the eclipse, the earthquake and the "big" snow. "Count your many blessings".
I called at Mark Seely's Thursday evening while William was at the barber shop. We all went to a warm sugar social10 given in the hall by the "Presbyterian Ladies Aid". Lena11 and I are both very hard of hearing. We have good visits with pencil and tablet12. Most of the Campbells who are left in Nelson are working to keep the church our Grandfather helped to build alive. The congregation is small. We have a very fine minister. It seems to me it is a duty for each one of us to do our best to help. I believe we shall have it to answer for if we through carelessness, selfishness and don't-care-ness let the church go down. I am sure our grandparents and parents would think the same way.13
Stella is very thoughtful of other shut-ins. A letter, card, or magazine or book finds its way to our mail box very often. I try to do the same by her. Ann Owlett sent several cards while on her visit this winter.
I attended the Cousins Dinner at Laura Mowrey's.15 We had a good time, of course. Hope to be present at Minnie Clark's for the next one. You have such a lovely, big home, Minnie. Why not ask the second cousins?16
Last Sunday Walter and Tom came from Binghamton for the day. While their stay was very short, we enjoyed every minute of it. Tom went to the attic for butternuts, and to the cellar for apples; also a little bit of eats went in the bag. Taste better when they come from Granny's17.
I think that I have done more than my duty this time. The day of the arrival of the cousin's letters will be a day of rejoicing for us.
With best love to you all,
9. In the 1920s, as before, most farm wives baked their own bread. So, in buying bread with hard earned money, he was lightening the burden on her.
10. At this time of year, Nelson-ites, and most country folks along the state line on both sides of the border, were boiling down sap to make maple syrup and maple sugar. What was this "warm sugar social" that apparently was held at the Odd Fellows Hall (as were Campbell reunions on rainy days)? Presumably it was similar to an ice cream social, strawberry shortcake event. Old newspapers explain: They make "warm sugar" by boiling down sap to a syrup and beating it into a creamy sugar. It is eaten by the party-goers on buttered buns. Pickles and coffee whet the taste. My mother, who was from Nelson, didn't do that with the new syrup. Instead of beating it, she served warm syrup in individual, small bowls -- along with fresh from the oven, baking powder biscuits.
11. On their mother's sides, Lena and Inez were 1st cousins once removed. But in addition, Lena was the widow of David Goodrich, brother of Inez' sister-in-law, Frances GOODRICH Hoyt.
12. Lena was profoundly deaf after having scarlet fever as a child. My sister told me about having many of these writing pad conversations with Lena. As a teenager, she resented being delegated as the one to "go visit Aunt Lena" when my parents and siblings would visit Nelson.
13. It saddens me that the Beecher's Island Presbyterian church building was allowed to decay to the point it had to be torn down. Our early Campbells and sons-in-law Sam and John Hazlett put so much blood, sweat and tears into building it, and it meant so much to them. I'm sure Inez was right that her aunts and uncles, and grandparents, would have been disappointed if a crystal ball had shown them it's fate. But most of the decline of Nelson, and similar small communities, was an almost inevitable result of Henry Ford and the Model-T. And when most of Nelson's homes were demolished to make way for the lake and the residents scattered, maintaining two separate congregation --- Methodist and Presbyterian, became impractical. The Beecher's Island Presbyterian Church was the one my mother attended until she married and moved away. It meant a lot to her, which is why she made a painting of it.. But she was also linked to the Methodist church building, which was moved from the South Side to the "New Nelson" and is used by the merged, non-denominational congregation. Her maternal grandfather, Rev. Henry Goodrich was it's minister, and the building has a stained glass window in his memory. For more detail, see Beecher's Island.
14. Ann lost her husband and youngest son. Ada's house burned down (See her letter on page 2.)
15. The 1924 "Cousins Dinner" was held at Charlie Congdon's summer home, near Stroudsburg, PA. That was the farthest from Nelson one was ever held, and further than some of the "First Cousins" (i.e.grand children of Joseph and Ann Clinch Campbell) were willing or able to travel, so Laura held an alternate one, at her farm in Farmington Twp..
16. The Cousins Dinner was created by and for the 30 grandchildren of Joseph and Ann Clinch Campbell. Some were uncomfortable with the "anyone can come" Campbell Reunions, which sometimes had several hundred attendees. These 30 "First Cousins" all grew up in Nelson, knowing and playing with each other. The dinner's were intentionally exclusive. Only the First Cousins were welcome, but it was up to the hostess of a dinner as to who else would be invited. They waited until the First Cousins were dying out, to start including their children, the "second cousins." Either they waited too long to start involving their successors, or the fact that the next generation was scattered all over the country and had never met more that a few of the others may have been why the Cousins Dinners came to an end a few years later..
17. She was Tom's great-aunt, but was apparently referring to herself as his "Granny" to match her husband being called "Grampa Bill". She died before I was born and I don't recall how my siblings referred to her. .
Utilizing Sandy Buck Garrett's 2012 transcription.
Copyright © 2013 William B. Thompson. Commercial use prohibited.