The Train Can Take Us Anywhere!

Union Street Station, Bangor, Maine. 1908. Completed in 1907, the entire country opened up for residents of Maine. It was a new world. Anything was possible at the turn of the century. 

Little more than two weeks after receiving Harriet’s reassuring letter, early on Monday morning February 17th, William received a call from his sister-in-law Dora who lived in Brewer. Hearing her news, he left his breakfast untouched and caught the train to Bangor. He met Dora at the Union Street Station. They walked to Harriet’s Studio where they found it and Christy in disarray, then visited Mrs. Johnson at the boarding house. Harriet was gone. They arrived too late. William returned home to Machias broken-hearted. After a long day and not a bite of food, he sat in his library lit by lamplight, stared into the darkness that loomed outside the windows. Alone at last, he put his hands over his face and quietly cried. That same day, Harriet wrote to her parents. She was on a train bound for the West Coast with Zeke. They were on the adventure of a lifetime. This letter, hand-written in pencil on lined notepaper, was mailed from Vancouver, Washington on February 27th, the same day she wrote to her little sister Elsie. Soon, she sent a letter to Christy. What did Father say once he heard the news? We just escaped by going Sunday didn’t we?


Monday A.M. 

On the train. 

February 17, 1908

My dear Mother and Father, 

This letter will be the biggest surprise I know you have ever had from Harriet. First, I will say Father I could not keep my agreement to you any longer regarding Zeke. I understood how you felt about it and still love him too dearly to be away from him long. I had that if I got Christy started at my Studio in June I would come home. I could give up my music for good but in the last wk. everything has changed and I am beginning a new life and I am happier than I ever was before. Otto wrote from N.Y. and asked me if I would like to go West and stay until June with Mattie and he would pay my bills to go out as he could not go out quite yet. Well! it was a hard thing to decide for I knew what I wanted to do and I knew also what you wanted me to do. It is an education in traveling which I knew never would come my way again as I am on my way out to Portland, Oregon then to Vancouver, Washington. I knew when I came to leave I would have a hard time without going home first and yet if I came home to see you all I think so much of you I could not leave; so unless the news has traveled by wire you will not know until you get this letter. When it came time to leave I found I could not leave Zeke behind and so we were married Sat. Eve at 8:30 at the Parsonage on Union St. by Rev. T. S. Tessendeau. We were published a wk. ago and got a license Sat. A.M. We had a nice wedding supper which Mrs. Johnson prepared to all those in the house and Marie Stewart and Mr. Blanchard; Marie belonged in Machias you know. It was your birthday, a day I decided to be married on as it seemed all the better for me. It is leap year Mama and I am the same age you were. Our wedding was a very pretty and happy one and if you had only felt as you should toward my marrying I should have loved dearly to have had you all there. You will feel badly as no doubt Mrs. Johnson will also for they do not know until Zeke writes them that we are married. I have the dearest and best boy in the world for a husband, you can say what you like as to it but within five years you will decide in my favor. He has plenty of ambition, no bad habits and will take good care of me. We are young and happy so please think the whole thing over and see if you can’t forgive me for it. We left Bangor at 1PM Sunday and arrived in Portland at 5:30. Zeke sent a dispatch to Mr. Coombs and the whole family came to meet us with Lewis Palmer who is in Union Station. We stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Coombs until this A.M. at 8:50 and now are on our way to Montreal. We go thro’ the White Mountains and on to Chicago there take the Union Pacific to Portland Oregon – Just think what a fine trip – Christy or none of my friends knew until Sat. I was to be married so don’t blame anyone but me. I tho’t if I went West alone I might be better contented to live in the East. Mr. Harden has given Zeke a fine recommendation and his chances are as good as in the East but we start with little and I think we can hold our own. We can surely come back as well as we went out. I sold my furnishings to Christy and got cash for all and got full as much as I paid for them so I tho’t I had done well. I collected nearly all but from Addie Cousins and as soon as I write her she will pay me so I have enough to last a while. Tell everyone that I had a good opportunity to go West and that I am married and if you don’t mourn they won’t talk long. I shall write as soon as I arrive and let you know how we are situated and all about it and I hope you will not shed a tear for I am far better off than I was before and shall never regret this. Go down and read this to Gram and Aunt Thirza, write Aunt Dora and all feel glad if you can and when I come back which will be before long. I want you to think as much of Zeke as you do of me. It was very sudden the whole thing but sometimes what we don’t plan on comes out better. May God bless and keep you all. Much love to you all from us both.

Your aff. Daughter,



1314 Chumasero Ave. Thurs. P.M.

Vancouver, Wash. February 27, 1908

My dear Elsie: —

I will write you a letter now I am actually out here and have gotten a little rested from my long trip. This is all so strange out here that even the houses look odd to me they are so small. Zeke and I arriv’d at Mattie’s Sunday A.M. at 10 o’clock and find her in a very cozy new house built like Mrs. Dinsmore’s only I like it even better. I was greatly surprised to see how nicely it was furnished but a school teacher built the house and furnished it and run in debt so much she was obliged to leave it. Mattie rents it all furnished so it is dandy. She and the children were delighted to see us and they talk of Elsie because she sent them Valentines. Fritz says you owe him a letter but I told him you never write to me so I doubted if he heard from you very often. We had a fine trip out here and I never shall regret seeing this part of the country. They have just room enough to live comfortable and the kind of house Mama ought to have now. To give you an idea I will tell you what this one is like. There is a front hall, sitting room with arch between that and the dining room, kitchen and pantry and back porch and front piazza downstairs then upstairs there is a bathroom and three sleeping rooms. It is painted white half way and room and upper part stained green. Otto’s people are very pleasant and have been over quite a little and they have a pleasant home here. Of course you were surprised to hear that Zeke and I were married and that we came West but I hope Elsie you will write me real often for I am just as interested in home as I ever was and want to hear all the news. The weather is fine here and seems like May at home. The grass is green and no snow this winter here and the rose bushes and trees are budded. It is a great country so far but I haven’t had time to look around much. Yesterday I washed and today I have ironed and there is quite a little to do. We had lettuce for dinner and strawberries last night for supper. I must close as Zeke and Fritz are going to the Garrison the largest in the U.S. is here. Much love and write soon.

Your Aff. Sister,



#570 Union Ave. North 

Portland, Oregon

March 18, 1908.

My dear Christy: —

You will surely think it’s time I wrote you but somehow each day has gone by since I arrived and I have written no letters. We had a nice trip out but was very tired and half sick as we were a day late on acct. of snow in Michigan. I think the West is great out thro’ Iowa etc. and I never saw such nice farming land – We went right by Iowa State College. Mattie was very glad to see us and I was lucky on her acct. to get here for she is not well at all. I am doing all the work and taking care of the children so I work very hard but it is a change and having Zeke with me we are certainly very happy and I am very glad we were married when we we were. This is a very cozy new house Mattie has and nicely furnished so we are comfortable. Zeke is going over to Portland to make final arrangements with a Mr. Arthur Architect and Contractor for whom he begins work to-morrow. I think he is lucky being a stranger to get a good position so soon. I suppose we will all move over to Portland very soon and there are so many good positions for me open that I am going to work as soon as Mattie is alright again. We stopped in Chicago a day coming out and visited Papa’s friends but it was because our train was late. I just had a grand time and am not sorry it happened so. Well! Christy how are you getting on with my pupils? I hope alright but I am anxious to hear from each one. Mrs. Johnson wrote me that Papa and Aunt Dora called on her the day after I left and that she told him how happy I was and all about my wedding. But she didn’t say one word about what he said so I am crazy to find out more. He must have called on you so do write me what he said and how he took it etc. You see I have not heard one word from them for no doubt they are too mad. Tell me if there was an acct. of my going or anything in the paper. It seems so long to get letters out here that I am tired of waiting so long to hear from folks. We just escaped by going Sunday didn’t we?

Tues. Eve

Well! Christy two weeks ago I began this letter and I am almost ashamed to send it now but I will tell you what has happened since then. Zeke and I went house hunting over in Portland and found what Mattie wanted so I have been moving her and getting settled. We have a 6 room cottage with bathroom all on one floor and I find it much easier to do the work than before. A wk. ago I stuck a splinter in my 3rd finger on my right hand and it swelled and matterated so I had to go to a Dr. and have it lanced and today is the first day I could hold a pen. I always have something come to me but I am O.K. now. I have been lonely here at times because I haven’t felt like writing letters and I haven’t heard from any but Mrs. Johnson. It takes so long to get a letter East and get an answer back, that I haven’t gotten used to it yet. I have sewed quite a lot for the Mattie’s new baby and today I have done a large washing. Usually after supper Zeke and I go for a little walk so the days are full. Portland is a very pretty city and I know when the roses are in bloom here it will be beautiful. I can imagine you hustling at the Studio in the cold and snow and I wish you were in a climate like this. I can see tho’ just why you like the East where it is such a change from Iowa. I suppose Papa tho’t I was crazy coming out here and I imagine they have said all kinds of things about me but it seems the best thing I could have done for you see they would not come to see me in the East for a while so I am better off out here where I know ’tis too far for them to come. I long so much for my clavier but it has not come yet so I can’t practice any. I think of every one I left behind me Christy and wonder how they are etc. and still I didn’t care for any of them but I did like you and Rolf. Write me what he said and how you and he are coming Much love and best wishes. Tell Miss Reynolds I am going to write to her soon. Zeke sends his regards. Yours as ever, 


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