Friend Ettie

Friend Ettie

Prelude: Here is a little gem of a letter I found at Cuba Antiques, located at 6 Water Street in Cuba, NY.  I spent some time sorting through a box of old papers and found this tiny little envelope. It was sealed and the post stamp on the outside of the envelope was barely readable, but I thought the date said 1881. I was right. I purchased the letter and opened it. It was written on August 2nd in 1881 by a man named Clarence Gleason who lived in Belfast, NY to a woman named Ettie Merrill, who lived in Belmont, NY. It’s short, but sweet, and I left the spelling errors in, so you can read it in its original form.



Belfast                                    August the 2nd 1881

Friend Ettie,

I take my funcile (?) in having to let you now (know) I am well, hope to find you the same. Well we have just got threw (through) heying (haying). We have got to (two) sick horses now and when they get better I am coming up your way. I am in quite a hurry now, please excuse me for this time. Write soon.

Clarence Gleason



I love this little letter! I wonder if the postman was passing through town and Clarence decided to write something quick so he could send it along to Miss Ettie. He’s got two sick horses, and it’s the beginning of August. That was probably quite a hardship when people depended on horses for labor on a farm. Anyway, it’s a glimpse into the life of local people living in 1881. I did a little research (see all the links below) and found out an interesting fact. Clarence and Ettie got married! I found this out by researching cemetery records of the Riverside Cemetery in Balfast, NY.  I went first to the Allegany County Historical Society and found a link to the cemetery records there. I looked up Clarence first and to my surprise found Ettie a few rows down.

So, this letter is a courting letter from before they were married. I just love finds like these, where I can find historical information about the people who wrote these letters. History is so interesting when you find out about the personal lives of everyday people. What do you think?



Here is a link to Wikipedia 1881:

Here is a link to Belfast, NY:

Here is a link to Belmont, NY:

Here is a link to the Allegany County Historical Society:

Here is a link to the Riverside Cemetery List :

Here is the listing of Clarence :

Gleason Clarence B. June 5, 1858 – December 2, 1930

Here is the listing of Ettie:

Gleason Ettie L. Merrill February 22, 1864 – October 31, 1945



Dear Emmy

Dear Emmy

Prelude: I don’t have a lot of information to the origins of this letter. I believe it was written in the late 1930’s because it was with a few of the other letters in a bundle I acquired that were written to Emma/Emmy. This letter is from a man named Walter.



Dear Emmy,                                                                Sunday afternoon

Please forgive me for the way I acted and treated you last Friday evening. Never did I realize until last Saturday that there are others in the world besides me.

Friday, you saw me as I really am – a selfish, infantile fool intent on gaining my own pleasure and self-satisfaction, disregarding the feelings of everyone else.

In this game of life, I have cheated, taken short cuts and broken many rules; unwilling to conquer and surmount the obstacles which presented themselves.

What a fool I am. What a heel you must think I am after the way I answered and treated you – driving through the streets like a madman, caring not whether I smashed the car or injured someone.

Only two weeks ago I told you that I didn’t think there were any decent girls left.  Let me retract this statement.

Last Saturday, I found a girl who exemplifies all the traits I desire in a girl.  This girl is a good sport, clean-cut, understanding, likeable, good company and a swell pal to have on any occasion, and to think that I treated her the way I did – causing her to shoulder the blame which I alone am responsible for.

To you Emmy, I offer my most humble and sincere apology and ask your forgiveness.

To you I promise that I shall never act up as I have previously and conduct myself as you would have me.

I shall attempt to square matters up with Mrs. Cook’s sister.

To a swell girl and pal



COMMENTARY: Well, last week’s letter from Tony was really boring, but this week’s letter from Walter is not! Walter sounds like he acted like a big jerk. After reading this letter the big question is –  What did she ask him? What did she say that made him drive through the streets like a madman? Oh, I wonder what it was! I’d love to hear your best guess. At least he attempts an apology. Oh, and what did he do to Mrs. Cook’s sister? What do you think?


Dear Emma

Dear Emma

Prelude: This letter was written by someone named Tony to a woman named Emma. It was written in Spencer, New York on December 22nd 1937.  There was no envelope so, I  am not sure where Emma is located, but there is a reference to Wmsville, which could be Williamsville, Pennsylvania.



Dear Emma,

This letter will be short because by this time you must be quite tired from hard work and won’t want to read too much.

It won’t be long now and will I be glad.  Have done only a small part of Xmas shopping. Exercises are Thurs. P. M.  so that will be one thing over with.

The trip home turned out o.k., got home at 3:30, didn’t start from Wmsville until 12:07.

The map helped out fine.  I’m going to keep it so as to find the way next time.

You should know by now if and when you can come do maybe I’ll have your letter before you get this, hope so.

Too bad you mother feels the way she does about your coming but I can understand it all because of your mother being so much like mine and other things so much the same.

Enjoyed the visit at your house very much.  Maybe I’ll come again sometime.

This deal we thought of was quite an idea, you know, trading Mama for you some week.  Your mother wouldn’t miss you so much as otherwise and I think they would find a lot in common to talk about, for on, I think, people from across have in common is a great interest in people in their own circumstances.  It’s so plain to see your mother misses the companionship of her own relatives and countrymen.

Well, here’s expecting a little message from you soon.  Sent a package same time as this letter which I hope you receive unharmed.

There isn’t much snow yet and no skating but maybe there will be.  So Christmas vacation holds a lot in anticipation.  Do you feel that way about it?

Mama talked all the way home about her trip.  Haven’t heard where Wilma is yet. Don’t you think this was enough for a shot letter?

Lots of love,



This is an interesting little letter that is really about nothing. He seems to talk about the letter being short and his Mama more than anything else. I do wonder what was in the package he sent…Maybe a Christmas present? I wonder what a Christmas present in 1937 was? Anyway, it’s a little voice from the past that can make us imagine what it was like to live in another time. What do you think?

Dear Mother

Dear Mother 1845 - 1

Dear Mother 1845 - 2

Prelude: This is a letter, I’ve been saving to post at the right time. It is a very old letter that was written on January 1st 1845. Yes, this letter was written before the Civil War and during a time when our country was deep into slavery.  It was written by a man named E.M. Nay. Mr. Nay was a lawyer and was living in Livingston, Alabama when he wrote this letter to his Mother who was living in New York under the care of a Mr. William Townsend. His Mother’s name was Mrs. Deborah Shelden. The letter looks to be have been written with a quill pen and has some unreadable words. Also, there is no envelope. They did not use envelopes in 1845 the letter was simply folded and sealed with wax.



Dear Mother,

I will in the first place wish you a happy new year. About nine O’clock the domatables made their appearance and with torch lights marched through every street in town. The domatables are people dressed in disguise of all the vanities you can conceive. After they got through marching they went to the tavern and got supper and then to the grocery and had a great spence, which they kept up till near day. That is the way an old and a new year meets together in this country. At Christmas, 25th Dec., the holy days commence and last until the 1st of January- during that time the N….rs and all foolier and make jolly old time.

It is so seldom that I write a letter unconnected with business that when I attempt it I can find hardly two ideas connected together, and it is for that reason together with the fuss I can hardly get an hour in the day to spend except with my pen, that I have not written you oftener. I have all that I can do, either of my own, of my own business or of Mr. Smith with whom I am staying.  I commenced the practice about the middle of August last.  In my first case I made $30, the 22nd last month a man gave me a note with security for $50, fee in a case. Those are the two fees I have made, but in all the cases have made $150.

I have three cases in which if I secure, I have a fee of $500 each.  I think I have been lucky in getting business, but this for it is nothing but luck, and there is not 12 men in the county who know whether I am a good lawyer or not.  About this way I spend my time- dress before breakfast of course- then study till 12 O’clock at night. I do not believe I have been to bed before that time in a month, and from the present indications, I think I may say I can make a living by the practice of law.  John is doing a good business and just getting into every circumstance. I suppose he is worth about $5000 or $6000 clear of debt. He has lost enough to make a man rich in New York, which he’s always been kept a secret from you and still would have, had he not got a start again.  He says he is going to see you alive when he has made $10,000.  If he has success for two years more that he has had the last year and life is spared. You will undoubtedly see him.  He says he cannot spare the money to go this summer and to pay off and see that it will take his loose change to secure his bribery, which by the bank takes about $3000 to purchase a pass able bribery. The firm of Renggoto, Vary & Clark gets $5000 in one case in this country.

John never writes me any news, if he has business he writes if not – never. Here is a specimen of his letters- London Dec. 27th 1845. Brother Elbert- The note for you from Mr. Larett is secure- I have not time to write you about the matters I want you to attend to previously you have terms – but will send in mail next week business to handle & am well. Your brother, John H. Nay. The above is about as he writes if he has business, if not I never get a letter, I doubt if he was to be married that he would write – perhaps he would. Your sons are dispensed to live the lives of old bachelors from present indications.  I can give you no encouragement of visiting you at present; I have not the means if was disposed, but I hope fortune may favor me that I shall be able in a few years.  We have here a cold winter that ever was experienced by the oldest fellows and this is the first winter I have ever seen snow in Alabama. My health is good.  Give my love to all and accept the same yourself. Write as soon as you receive this.

Your affectionate son,

E.M. Nay



First, I must apologize for how choppy this letter seems, but it was very hard to read the writing.

I think it is a good glimpse into the life of a lawyer living in the south in 1945. I’m guessing that he was from England where his brother is. I wonder what happened to his father and why his mother is in New York and not with him or his brother.

Of course, the formality of the letter and all the talk about what money he made and was planning on making was interesting to me and gave us insight into his mindset.

And one last note, He did use the “N” word when referring to the people in the street. This alone gives us the reality of the time that he lived in.

I welcome your comments and opinions on this letter.