Early last year, my great-aunt pulled out a box of love letters written by my great-grandfather to my great-grandmother—dozens of them, written between March 1928 and late summer 1929.
My great-grandmother, Dorothy, was 19 years old. My great-grandfather, Charles, was 18 years old. He left Dorothy, Pittsburgh and his "gang" of good friends in Etna to travel and work on a plantation in Mississippi—the Macon Brooksville Farm.
The letters are an incredible treasure. I've been working on putting together my family history for about two years. At first, I hoped the letters would give me some clues about Charles' parents—both died very young, his mother in 1913 and his father in 1918. Charles was raised by his stepmom (who was also his aunt) and her second husband. Other than the place they are buried (Hampton Cemetery in Allison Park), I have very little information about them.
The letters don't provide much light in that area—but they provide something just as precious: A family love story that unfolds, letter by letter, week by week, told in my great-grandfather's voice.
He was a writer and a charmer, full of compliments and professions of love. In between describing life in the South on the plantation, he dreamed of their future together—the car they'd drive, the house they'd have, little "Chas Jr."
But he also was a flirt with the ladies in Macon and loved to tease Dorothy. She, too, was spunky, and he would then be full of hurt when he heard stories of her paying attention to other men. He would scold her and then remind her he was coming home soon.
Every letter makes me smile and laugh and often gasp at the PG-13 content.
In March 1928, shortly after he arrives at the plantation, he says Macon is "marvelous," but
"God, how lonesome it is without you and a piano to dream on and to pass the time away."
A year later, after finding out two close friends are getting married, he reflects on their time apart and how he is trying to save up enough money to take care of her after they are married:
"There are so many lovable young couples broken up these days just because they haven't sufficient means to get along. Now, I don't think I'm an old-fashioned foggy, I'm just trying to look into the future a little bit. It's pretty hard at times to realize that those same (reasons) are robbing me of precious moments with you. ...
As I sit here by the window and look out over a 100 acres or more of the best oats, I hope and pray that they reap good results for the labor spent on them. This is another game that is all a chance and not skill. While gambling on crops, I'm gambling two years of the best part of my life.
This year will decide all. It's either make or break with the farm. ...
Well, Dor, the time has come to go to the barn, so closing with my deepest love. Good-bye and good luck for now.
Forever yours. I love you, Chas."
I could go on and on sharing parts of the letters. There's the poem he wrote:
"All to myself I think of you.
Think of the things we used to do, think of the things we used to say, think of each happy yesterday.
Sometimes I smile or sometimes I sigh, but I think of each olden wonderful while
All to myself."
And there's the check. On what appears to be a real check used to pay the plantation bills, he makes it out to my great-grandmother on March 18, 1929 for "1,000,000 kisses."
They married in October 1930 and celebrated their 50th anniversary at the in 1980 with their five children, 19 grandchildren and one great-grandchild (me).
More family came later, and I am in the middle of scanning all of the letters so that everyone in the family can read the story as he wrote it.
I feel so lucky to have these letters and to know this love story.
What love letters do you cherish? What love stories do you love to share? What is your own love story? Tell us in the comments!