1899 Letters

April 11, 1899 letter to Nancy Brown from Louese Harris

April 11, 1899

To: Nancy Brown, Chicago, IL

From: Louese Harris, Shelbyville, MI

On a visit to her parents’ home she stopped in Kalamazoo and she couldn’t keep the tears away as she missed all the times that Nancy had greeted her there. Also mentions how excited Nancy’s dog Zama was to see her children when they got “home.” Reports lots of news on family members and friends.

1899-04-11 Louese Harris to Nancy Brown

Shelbyville April 11/99

Dear Sister

Well I guess you begin to think that I’m a poor correspondent but of course you know the reason I did not write to you last week. I promised Ma[1] to write you yesterday but really I could not seem to get at it getting up so early yesterday morning to take the 5,20 train. Knocked me out as far as doing any thing I was not absolutely obliged to do all day. Have felt first rate to day though pretty tired just now. Faded[?] all the forenoon, have just finished my dinner work and now will see how much of a yarn I can spin to you before supper time – or rather before I have to do something else. Yes I’ve been home[2] once more, did not make up my mind to go ‘til last Wed- morning. The children[3] were anxious for me to go but I did not know hardly whether to leave them or not. Leone & Mildred went with me. LaVerne and Marion kept house but D[4] said they would get along all right so I got ready & went on afternoon train. The thought had passed through my mind several times that it would not seem just right to go to Kal[5] & not stop at 1236,[6] but I tell you when I arrived at the Depot and the old familiar face I’ve been in the habit of seeing there (scarcly missing the last thirteen years) was gone the fact dawned upon my mind very forcibly that Kal had no more charms for me. As we had two hours to wait I thought I would kill all the time possible so walked over to M.C. Depot stopped at Jones’s got me some gloves then in the bakery to get a lunch for children but all the time I kept up a terrible thinking – and when we got down to the corner of Main & Bardick and the street car stood there I just tell you I couldn’t keep the tears back. I know if that old car could have spoken it would have sympathized with me. We walked along down to depot had been there a short time when Mrs Hewitt came in. I sat in the north east corner of waiting room and she recognized me as she came in from Gents waiting room. She staid with me nearly an hour and we had a good visit. I was very glad of it the time passed more quickly. She said she had received a lovely letter from you and wanted me to be sure and tell you when I wrote to you that I saw you her. So now when you write to her just mention it so she will know I kept my word. Just before train was due Dell[7] walked in as I had his company to Galesburg. Then we walked from Depot down to house – took Lois[8] by surprise. Had to stay there all night as Pa’s[9] folks knew nothing of my being there. Lois seemed very glad to see me but of course it made her lots of extra work as you know it would but you and I are more used to surprises. She is worrying about Ina[10] and her own house cleaning. She is going to commence to clean the middle of this month I think. I asked her where she would begin, told her I would like to be there when the time comes & see how she did it. When I begin to clean I want things in shape so that when I am through I and others can see the effects of my labor. I can see that Lois is growing old[11] though I ought not to say it. D said if it was pleasant I might walk over to Pa’s and surprise them but the walking was not very good and we were all to lame & tired from our walk the day before. About 10 oclock we went over to Aunt Jane’s found Cora[12] there. She was all ready to go over to Uncle Wills – but when she saw us she changed her mind and said she would go to Pa’s so Leone went over with her. Geo took them their after dinner. Ethan[13] came after Mildred and I. Found Pa & Ma better than I expected but had enough. They were awfully glad to see us and wanted us to stay longer but that was out of the question. Pa & Zama[14] are just friends he makes a great pet of her. She was one tickled dog I tell you to see the children. She staid right with them. Sunday afternoon we went up to Uncle Wills. When Pa saw us coming home he came out with Zama & pointed us out to her. Well if she didn’t make the dirt fly and when she got to us she fairly stood on her head she was so pleased. Hannah[15] is just as busy as ever and Ethan too. He begins to talk house cleaning and it is most as much of a conundrum to know when she would begin as to know where Lois would – front part of house especially. Ethan is boiling sap. He tapped the two big maples out east side of road. Made two qts syrup Friday. It is the nicest I’ve tasted since I used to eat it at Aunt Katie’s.[16] He must have very much of course – was going to sugar off the next lot. Ethan has been in very poor health. When Hannah was up here two weeks ago I sent him a bottle of Miles Heart Cure. He told me the other day that it had helped him so much he wished he had ½ doz bottles to take. I let him have change to get him another bottle perhaps or I’m going to try most awful hard to get the third one for him. It seems like a terrible thing for any one along in years as he is, and working as hard as he does that he cant have a cent of his own to get a little medicine with. I feel awful sorry for him. He is to be pitied and then he gets no credit for what he does do. They all got up yesterday morning to see us off. We had to wait again in Kal nearly two hours, ate our lunch at Junction then went down to Main Depot but I missed you all along the line. Found every thing right end up when we got home. LaVerne had work nearly done so I had a chance to rest. School commenced yesterday and I do hope we can have pleasant weather and the children keep well so they wont have to miss a day this term. Cora is awfully homesick & did I write you that she wanted me to write for her to come home? I did’nt do it just the same ten weeks tomorrow since she and Lela[17] went from here. Roy Higgs is sick has peritonitis and Aunt Jane wants Cora to stay with her. The other morning when I went in there Aunt Jane says have you come for Cora. I said no we dont need her she can stay until the 4th of July and it made Cora warpy[?]. She called me down for it when we got over to Pas. I’m most awful glad she wants to get back here may be she will appreciate home for a while. One year ago Sunday Floyd got his wheel[18] & a year ago to day Lela got hers. In the evening Lela, Grace, Cay & Floyd went riding on their wheels and then the next day (year to morrow) Floyd came home. Lois & Ethan drove down to Kal and Mildred went home with them. Goodness but dont time fly! Your yard of “Nerves[?]” is tacked on west door of sitting room at Pa’s. To see it ‘carried me back’[19] but not to old Virginia. How is Lela and the Dr[20] coming on any way. The excitement has died down some what here. I dont hear any thing more about what he is going to do. Has Lela given him a definite answer yet.[21] I dont feel as if she had for I think he would let me know of it in some one way or other. A week ago yesterday Emma Schroder[22] spent the day afternoon with me. She was very nice gave me a full account of Mamies & Dr Arthur’s courtship.[23] Mr & Mrs Wood[24] feel very bad about that marriage. Mamie has been home but once since she was married and that was in Jan- and only for a day. Mr Wait was here to dinner a week ago to day. Jay[25] invited him over. I told D “[Jay][26] was a damn fool for asking him & he was one for coming. Dexa[27] wrote to D asking him to send her a sewing machine for the red bedroom suit she supposed I had. Well you know I never have had it so that settles it. I’m going to write to her this week and explain matters so it will be clear. I think Dexa is asking considerable even if I had the suit. D has given and done enough for them so I think she has had her pay but she is getting into a bigger boat than she thought for can’t support her children[28] neither has she since she has been gone. Jay has sent them lots of things out of the store besides money. And of course it all comes out of D. Now Isabelle has St Vitas dance.[29] Her doctor bill is ten dollars a month and Jay pays it out of our money drawer. Do you suppose Shelton could get him away from here. I dont want to do any thing that I ought not to but it does seem as if I can’t endure the way Jay does. Last Thursday he went to Kal on afternoon train & staid until Friday night and so it goes just a constant drain on D all the time. I must tell you about Mrs Stromberg’s daughter.[30] Five weeks ago she got rid of a Baby was nearly four months along and the awful poison medicine she took paralyzed her left side. She is in a critical condition. I’m doing all I can to keep her but every one has given her up. She has four children[31] they are scattered around different places. Mrs S- was here a week ago to day. Clara was getting better then but now is worse again. It is a terrible thing and some have’nt much sympathy for her but I have. She was desperate and did not realize what she was doing. Nancy if you want to write some privacy to me just direct the letter to LaVerne and then D wont open it. He is just bewitched to see your letters and opens all that I get before I have a chance to. LaVerne has been taking on because Bessie[32] did not write to her last week but I told her that Bessie had her hands full. I suppose it wont be many weeks before you come home. You will have to bring Mrs Brown[33] with you wont you? Guess I’ve written all you will want to bother to read and I know its all I can think of so will say Fare Thee Well to all. Write when you can.

Love to All



LaVerne has gone over to stay with Marian. Dr said he was going over to play croquet. The new school teacher a Miss Crawford boards there. Dr has lots of driving to do now days. Cora wants to know if you have had her lansdowne[34] dyed yet & if so was the dollar enough.


[1] Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[2] When Lou and her siblings mentioned “going home” they were referring to their parents’ home in Comstock Township, Galesburg, Michigan where they grew up

[3] LaVerne, Floyd, Leone and Mildred Harris

[4] Her husband, Daniel D. Harris Jr.

[5] Kalamazoo, Michigan

[6] 1236 Summit Avenue, Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Nancy and her family had lived for the past 13 years before moving to Chicago, Illinois

[7] Adelbert Skinner, the husband of Lou and Nancy’s half-sister, Lois

[8] Their half-sister, Lois (Keith) Clark Skinner

[9] Charles Luke Keith Jr.

[10] Lois’ daughter, Ina (Skinner) Holmes

[11] She was born August 16, 1840

[12] Believe this is referring to Cora Harris, her sister-in-law. Research continues as to Aunt Jane and Uncle Will mentioned

[13] Their brother, Ethan Keith

[14] Nancy’s dog. They didn’t want to take her with when they moved to Chicago

[15] Their sister, Hannah (Keith) Towne

[16] Their father’s sister, Catharine (Keith) Bradley Lee

[17] Nancy’s daughter, Lela Brown

[18] Bicycle

[19] Believe she is referring to one of Nancy’s paintings

[20] Samuel Boyer, who was referred to as Doc, and was boarding at Lou’s

[21] Doc had asked Lela to marry him

[22] Emma (Wood) Schroder

[23] Emma’s sister, Mary “Mamie” Wood & Arthur Burroughs. They were married October 19, 1898 in Plainwell, Kalamazoo County, Michigan

[24] Emma and Mamie’s parents, Joseph & Nancy Wood

[25] Lou’s brother-in-law, Jay Harris

[26] Lou used a quotation mark underneath Jay’s name on the line above

[27] Jay’s wife, Dexa (Strait) Harris

[28] Starr and Isabelle Harris

[29] A disorder characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet

[30] Clara (Stromberg) Gustafson

[31] Ellen, Eva, Carl and Marie Gustafson

[32] Nancy’s daughter, Bess Brown

[33] Nancy’s mother-in-law, Matilda (Allen) Brown, who lived with her

[34] A fine lightweight dress fabric in twill weave with a silk or rayon warp and a worsted or cotton filling

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