An Antique Letter Home: Elsie Writes to her California Miner Brothers
When I was a little girl, I would sit with my grandma for hours, looking through antique paper scraps and scrapbooks. I was transfixed by the bits and pieces leftover from lives lived so long ago. Today, I woke up to a quiet house and a box of antique paper scraps sitting on my parents’ dining room table. It was full of colorful Victorian die-cuts and letters from people long gone. My mom paid $5 for the box and left them on the table for me to sift through.
I fell in love with the first letter I read. A gal named Elsie wrote the letter in 1914, one month after leaving her home and family in Shasta, California to move to the “big city” of Woodland, California. She addressed the letter to her miner and trapper brothers living up in the mountains of Shasta. It appears Elsie made the move to a larger city to escape rural life and find a husband.
The letter touches on farming, mining, a ball, marriages, and social drama. I especially love the letter because it gives a glimpse at what life was like for Californians a century ago.
I have typed the letter out below, so it’s easier for you to read and enjoy. There are several misspellings and punctuation mistakes, but I only corrected those necessary for understanding because I find them charming.
January 27, 1914
I just received your card this afternoon. I got a letter from mother and she sent it down. I don’t see for the life of me how you could ever send me a card. It sure was a great surprise but you needent stop at that because it’s hard telling when you will get another squint at me. I am down here to stay for a while and may be for all time. You know you can’t tell what you will do next.
I came down the 28th of Dec. and it seems like it’s rained every day I’ve been here. It was clear all day today. “Old Cash Creek” has been out of its banks four times this winter. That’s the most it’s ever been known to overflow. But it isn’t cold down here, like it is up home. There was a light frost last night. The fields look so nice and green. That is the grain that is up. Lots of the farmers haven’t got their crops in yet and some of ems grain fields are all under water and of course it has killed their crops. I was out to see Ott three Sundays ago for about an hour. I was glad to get away again. They have the sassiest bunch of kids I ever seen and Ella was so dirty I believe she would of stuck to the wall if any one would of pushed her against it and she talks just as smutty as she ever did. Ancil was in the house but she never showed up. Ott and Ella acted like “Off Oxs” so I don’t think I will bother them again very soon.
I went to the moveing pictures Saturday afternoon and the party I went with said Ella was there and said she was saying hello, hello, but I be blessed if I seen her it made me smile all over to think I had got one over on her. I am going up town tomorrow to get me a dress. I am getting ready to take in the “Maccabees Ball” the 12th of Feb. (and don’t bee surprised if you hear of me roping a man while I am here.) Dad kept preaching to us girls that we would have get out of Shasta so I just picked up and left and he didn’t know I was going until I was gone.
I hope you kids have got enough mining and traping for once. What did you do with your partner? Did the folks tell you Ben S. Minmic, B. Alice English, and Sam Baker were all married now and Edd Burtner was going to get married. When they go they all go at once. How is your rheumatism. I heard you had it in your knees. If your not careful you will be as crippled up as an old man. I suppose a person could hear you boys bones rattleing when you came out of the Mts.
Well I will have to hit the straw now its almost 9 oclock. Well don’t be afraid to write me a few lines once in a while.
Tell Earl he needent be shy about writing either.
How amazing is this letter? I personally love living here in California and I think it’s wonderful to get a glimpse at California’s history through the eyes of a young woman.