1882 Letters

May 9, 1882 letter to Oscar & Mary Ann Keith from Sarah Keith

May 9, 1882                      

To: Oscar & Mary Ann Keith

From: Sarah Keith

A letter of condolence to Oscar and Mary Ann regarding the death of their daughter, Katie. Also writes with an update on her family, particularly that Louese and D.D. Harris were married on April 12th. She also adds a letter of condolence to Katie’s husband, Ira.

Galesburg May 9th 1882

Dear Oscar & Mary[1]

Your postal bringing the sad news of Katies death[2] we received last Thursday. Would like to have went to the funeral but could not leave home. Mother[3] is not well, had no one to leave with her or do the work. It always seems to me as though words of consolation were almost meaningless when our feeling and affections are all lacerated and torn by such deep affliction as you are passing through losing your darling Katie. Know you all loved her. Her winning ways attracted every one to her. Aunt Kate[4] and I have talked about her agreat many time, what a pretty sweet woman she was. We were so in hopes she would get well for her own sake, for the sake of her little girl,[5] her husband[6] and yours. She had so much to live for. It does seem strange your two girls should have the consumption so young too. Only three short years has passed since Nettie[7] passed on to her heavenly home and now Katie has gone to join her. You have this consolation your Dear ones are at rest, they have got through with their sufferings, no more sickness, pain or death will afflict them. The separation will only be short but a little while and the boatman pole will come with his canoe we will go softly down the bank step in and pass over to the beautiful summer land the land of the ____, where our dear ones who have gone before are waiting to receive us. If we could only look at such afflictions as all for the best we would not mourn but we are mortal and must mourn. We were to Aunt Kates the other day she wanted me to say to you she sympathized with you in your sorrow and so do we all.

Lou[8] was married the 12th of April to D. Harris.[9] She has moved seven hundred miles from home near Copper Harbor, dont intend to make it a permanent home. Hannah[10] is at home when not sewing. Jim[11] work for Ed Flanders.[12] We are usually [well]. Will write a few lines to Ira that is what he told me to call him. Have not heard from your Mother[13] in some time. Presume [you heard about] Hugh Shafter[14] death. Please write whenever convenient. Remember me to the children.[15] Will close with love to you all.

Aunt Sarah

Ira my dear young friend you are washing through deep waters of affliction. You feel as though they had well nigh covered you. Sometimes our afflictions work out a more perfect way for us. If we could only know why such troubles come in early life perhaps we could bear them better. It will all be made plain in the hereafter. All your expectations, hopes and anticipations of happiness and comfort you were to take with your sweet young wife are blasted. You was a kind loving husband to her poor suffering child that is a comfort to you. You have a dear little child to love, live and work for. She will find in her grandmother[16] all that a Mother could be. You have our heart felt sympathy in this great affliction.

Your Aunt Sarah

This letter is among several which were loaned to Jim & Ruth (Stankey) Keith, probably back in the 1980s, by Ella Nola (Curtis) Eaton, whose husband, Clifford Eaton, was the great-great-grandson of James “Oscar” & Mary Ann (Batey) Keith. This is a photocopy of Ruth’s handwritten copy of the letter. Note: Jim Keith is the great-grandson of Charles Luke Keith Jr., who was James “Oscar” Keith’s uncle.


[1] James “Oscar” & Mary Ann (Batey) Keith. Oscar was the nephew of Sarah’s husband, Luke

[2] Catherine (Keith) Randall. Katie died of consumption on May 3, 1882 at the age of 20

[3] Her mother, Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[4] Catherine (Keith) Bradley Lee, who was Sarah’s sister-in-law

[5] Inez Alice Randall, who was 2 years old

[6] Ira Randall

[7] Katie’s older sister, Jessie “Nettie” Keith, who died on March 13, 1879, also of consumption, at the age of 22

[8] Sarah’s daughter, Louese (Keith) Harris

[9] Daniel D. Harris Jr., known as D.D.

[10] Her daughter, Hannah Keith

[11] Her son, James Clinton Keith

[12] Edwin Flanders, Sarah’s neighbor

[13] Alfleda (Starr) Keith

[14] Another neighbor of Sarah’s, Hugh Shafter, who died on April 27, 1882

[15] Harvey, James, Glenn and John Keith

[16] Mary Ann (Batey) Keith. In a May 28, 1882 letter to Sarah Keith, Kate Chaffee wrote: “Katie only made two requests, one was to be buried beside Nettie and the other that her Mother should have Inez. Ira is willing they should have her as long as Mary lives but would not be in case of her not living.”

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