Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Letter


My internet has been down for a few days on my home computer.  It is frustrating because it seems the only thing I can do is play solitaire.  So much of what I do on a computer is tied to the internet from research, surfing and email.  It seems that it is rare nowadays to handwrite a letter giving either good news or bad news.  It made me think of a letter that one of my ancestors wrote.

William Henry Dollar was born on 22 May 1812 at the Eno River, Orange Co., NC.  He married Jennie Sparks on 22 May 1838 in Orange Co., NC.  Soon after they left Orange Co., NC with their young son and traveled by wagon to Ashe Co., NC.  Henry Dollar owned some land and worked as a blacksmith.  He and Jennie had nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood.  After 55 years of marriage, Jennie died in 1893.  It must have been difficult, but William Henry Dollar wrote a letter to his daughter living out in Utah telling her of her mother’s death and that she had been buried near the homeplace.  The envelope itself was edged in black which I’ve been told is a tradition to let the reader know that it was bad news.  William Henry Dollar was 81 years old by this point in life.  He and his wife had raised their children – lost one daughter as infant and another in sickness.  Their youngest daughter lived far away in Oklahoma and their other daughter lived in Utah.  Emeline, the other daughter, had married her sister’s husband after her death.  She raised her sister’s five children plus six of her own.  I can only imagine how hard it was for her father to write that letter and how difficult it was to receive it.

In the 1800’s the only real communication between family members were letters.  It was a time period when adult children married and left their homes.  Sometimes they traveled short distances, but many times they traveled clear across the country never to see their families again.  The only ways to keep contact were letters that traveled across the country on the postal system of the 19th century.  Sometimes these letters would take months to reach their destination.  When a letter arrived it was a special event….seems funny that is almost the attitude that we have today, because so few people write letters anymore.

I remember my great grandmother and grandmother writing letters to family members back in Tennessee and North Carolina as well as fairly close to home.  It was too expensive to pick up the phone to call and many didn’t have a phone readily available.  Those letters were saved and shared with other family members when they came to visit.  In fact, I have a few of those letters that were sent by my grandmother to her sister in North Carolina. 

I imagine that Emeline received that letter and reached out to her father by letter and invited him to come and live with her.  William Henry had his sons around him…but must have needed the comfort of a daughter, because he traveled from Ashe Co., NC to Cleveland, Emery Co., UT to spend his remaining years with his daughter in Utah.  That must have been quite a journey.  In 1840, he and his wife must have traveled hard miles on a wagon to reach Ashe Co., NC from Orange Co., NC.  It still must have been a hard journey to reach the train from where he lived – but infinitely shorter.  Once he boarded the train he could travel clear across the country in a matter of days which had to have been astonishing to him.
After his arrival, I’m told that William Henry Dollar converted to Mormonism – just as his daughter had done many years before.  He died just a two short years later after his wife and his buried there in Cleveland Cemetery in Emery Co., UT.