The month of May brought brilliant rose blossoms and a new revelation to Harriet. She was pregnant. Her father had made his feelings clear in no uncertain terms, he knew there there was nothing he could do to change his daughter’s decision, life could not go back the way it was. But, there was one aspect of the consequences that Harriet faced that he could not, would not, tolerate. His daughter would not be a slave in someone else’s household, especially that woman from Jonesboro. Mattie took her children and moved all the way to Vancouver close to her husband Otto’s parents, while he was in New York. Harriet did all of the household work for Mattie, work she should be doing herself, and then had Harriet move her entire family south to Portland. Soon after writing the letter, William set about making contacts in Portland. He secured employment for Zeke with Southern Pacific Railroad, a position that paid enough for them to live on once established. He sent money and arranged for Harriet and Zeke to move into a boarding home with reputable people known to his contacts, Mr. and Mrs. May, who would help the couple secure a rental home of their own. William did not approve of the marriage, or of Zeke’s unmanly actions (the gall not to ask for his permission!), but he would give them a start in life. He would protect his daughter as much as he could from afar, despite her “monumental fit of insanity.” Yet, William remained deeply worried. It was one thing for his daughter to be 100 miles away in Bangor, a small city of just over 20,000, yet still a rough and tumble shipping port for lumber, goods and boot-legged rum since Maine passed prohibition laws decades before. But Bangor was a short train ride from Machias to visit Harriet often and Dora lived walking distance away. Portland was thousands of miles away and one of the fastest growing cities in the Northwest, second only to Seattle. Commerce was booming in lumber and grains from the mid-West brought by the railroad and shipped down the Columbia River to the Pacific and Asia. In the past ten years, Portland’s population had doubled to more than 200,000 with fortune seekers, railroad and dock workers, and Chinese immigrants who provided hard labor at the docks. The Chinese now numbered 10,000 and this city possessed the seedy reputation as the major smuggling route for opium. Portland was considered one of the most dangerous port cities in the world. And, all those workers gathered in that city demanding shorter hours and more pay. Portland was ruled by the Republican business elite but the way things were going, the Democrats touting the cause of the working man just might gain control. What was the world coming to? What would become of his little girl?
464 1/2 Union Avenue North
July 30, 1908
My dear Father: —
I thought I sent a letter to you the 28th but I gave it to Tom May to mail and he forgot it so I will write a fresh one tonight.
I was very glad to receive your letter Mon. A.M. and the check for $10.00 was a pleasant surprise. You were so kind to send it Papa and I think Zeke was as pleased as I was. Where it is not pay day until the 19th Aug. there was no way that Zeke could spare any money for me to go to a Dr. until then and you can imagine how relieved we both were to think there came a way after all.
I sent a specimen of urine to Mrs. May’s family physician Dr. Marcellus today and tomorrow I shall know the result and will get just what I need for them. Mrs. May is going down with me to his office which is just a few blocks below us on Union Ave.
Since we began to keep house here indeed we realize it is not an easy task and no child’s play. As the years roll on Papa I can realize more what you have gone thro’ in the past 25 yrs. by keeping our home running.
Since Zeke began in the Freight office he has gotten along very nicely and the man above him goes on a 2 mos. vacation beginning tomorrow so that Zeke takes his place. They allow no vacations so that man will either lose his job or will have to take anything left. I don’t know yet whether the salary is any more than what Zeke has now but it is a better job being all clerical work.
I get up in the A.M. at 7 o’clock or 6:30 and Zeke gets home at 7:15 if on time, and after breakfast and the work is done up I have no other meal until 5 o’clock. Mrs. May and I usually eat a lunch together at noon but I don’t fuss any and we enjoy it. So you see I am not obliged to work hard unless I want to. This wk. I have put up some fruit. I made logan berry jelly and put up 12 pint jars of the fruit. The logan berry is twice the size of a raspberry but not seedy and it is tart like a cranberries. I think they are fine and Mrs. May gave me a box of fresh apricots to try so I got 5 pints of those. I like them better than peaches. Tomorrow I’ll put up a few raspberries – they are 5¢ a box and in fact that is the price of all fruit. We don’t need very much but it all looks so good that I tho’t I’d try some.
The weather is fine and we have not had one cloudy day since the first of June and only a few days of hot weather. I think we notice the heat because it’s sultry and altho’ the hottest day was 92 it seemed very oppressive. The climate I have certainly enjoyed and days when I have felt so homesick and blue it has been a little comfort to see the sun. In Sept. the rain comes to stay and I imagine at first it will be very dismal but there is no country that suits everyone I guess.
I don’t wonder you and Mama blame Zeke and I for coming out here and perhaps the hardships we have gone thro’ is not half we deserve but as long as we are here and have a lot to go thro’ with our first year all we can do is be brave, trusting in the One who is always a help in the time of trouble. There are many times we have both wished we were in Maine for Zeke’s Mother who is always hoping we will come back and your letters ’tis no wonder we get very homesick. Next yr. if Zeke still works for the So. Pacific I can have a pass to any city as far as Chicago and the fare from there is not much so I am hoping it will not be long before I will see you all. A great deal may happen before then but it’s the pleasant tho’ts that keep one’s spirit up and I don’t want you to think we have everything unpleasant out here for if we had been here 10 yrs. we could not have had better friends and neighbors.
Mrs. Grable called yesterday P.M. and she is so nice. She bro’t me some dear little baby clothes and said they were new ones she had for her last baby expected that died before birth. She feels so badly to think she can’t have any more and she wishes she were in my place but I told her altho’ I knew I ought to be brave as my own Mother has been thro’ with it all four times still, I am not, and I feel sometimes as tho’ I never can go thro’ with it. I have not begun my sewing yet for first I want to get some sheets made and 3 puffs – and on acct. of money I shall only get a few things at a time.
Aunt Dora with Katherine and Mrs. McF. And Mrs. Maylaud will enjoy it at the Port in that cozy little house I am sure and I can see how nice it looks in my mind’s eye. It was nice too for Mama and Elsie to have a few days at the Bluffs but it must seem strange not to be able to be at your own cottage. Papa, do be careful this hot weather in starting on your new duties at Augusta that you don’t over do. I do hope it will be profitable some day to you, for Papa I never have seen a man hustle as you have ever since I was a little tot and it will not always last. Zeke and I were speaking about it today and he said it might be he could get you and Mama a pass from Chicago out here next summer and wouldn’t it be nice if we could? There are excursions always to Chicago, and if you are ever going to take a trip it should be before long. Mr. May and the family go on all the roads free here in the West so it is profitable to work for a railroad after all.
My arm aches so I’ll have to stop soon. I have rheumatism at times in it. You asked me if I ever got Mama’s letter. Yes, a long time and tho’t I had told you I had but it was so gloomy, Papa, and so like a funeral all the way thro’ I wanted to forget it and wanted Mama too also. I think it is best for us both. I will write her alone just the same but you have done all the writing so I have written all to you but have meant them just as much for Mama as you.
Mr. May is running their Victor Phonograph tonight and some new records are very pretty. Sometimes I am as bad as Mama about crying when I hear it especially when it is sad pieces but I am doing better than I used to at first when I came here. Mr. May cuts up as you do and Mrs. May is so jolly that they usually get me to laughing.
Well, I think I’ve written about all except how bad I felt to hear of Kate McD’s death. If ever there was a good woman she was one.
Write when you can Papa and send the papers when it is convenient to do so. I told Zeke I was going to write to you tonight and he wished to send his regards to you also to thank you so much for sending me money when I needed it. Much love to all and may this find you all well. Regards to Ethel Flynn if you see her. I will answer Otis’ letter when he is home.
Your aff. and loving daughter,
It took months for Harriet to gather the courage to write to her mother. She had received one letter from her. Such an awful letter. It was like a funeral. There was no hope for the future since she had disgraced the family and herself. She read the letter twice. It made her feel so sad. Then she crumpled it, put it into the stove and watched it burn. Papa was helping her and Zeke. He had forgiven her. But Mama was a whole different matter. Mama was hard as a rock. Even so, she longed for her mother, needed to talk to her, needed to hear her voice. Harriet was pregnant, lonely and scared.
464 1/2 Union Ave. North
Sept. 3rd, 1908
My dear Mother,
It is so very warm here this P.M. that I thought I would wait until tomorrow again but that is the way I put off writing and so I will write today and not put off any longer. Anyone as dear to me as you are and who is in my mind as much as you are I know I ought to write you every day but somehow since I have not been feeling myself I am slow in accomplishing any work and writing seems the hardest thing of all.
I have been packed up ready to move from Mrs. May’s for over a wk. but we didn’t get started until the 1st. and yesterday we got settled at 464 1/2 just 4 blocks below Mrs. May at 564. We took Mrs. Salmon’s furniture and moved here as it was much nearer Zeke’s work, also Mrs. May and Dr. Marcellus, is only 2 houses below me. We intended when Papa sent me money to hold the bargain to move in her rent at 700 Wms. Ave but the more I considered the 3 rooms the less I liked it for it had no bathtub only the toilet stool and Mrs. May spotted this place in the Sunday paper. It is a new block only been built a year and we have nice large rooms and a bathroom with hot and cold water and gas furnished us for $10.00 the same as we would have paid at the other place. It seems a little like where Gram and Aunt Thirza are as it is all on the 2nd floor, and a large millinery store is below. My sitting room is a large bay window room which overlooks Portland Heights and way down Union Ave. I can see there are double car tracks with a great deal of passing so I don’t get lonesome in that way. There is also a large arc light which makes my bedroom as light as day. In the back flat there is a very pleasant young couple with a 7 mos. baby boy so I have them for company. I am not very well acquainted as yet but the lady came to me this A.M. with a large basket of plums, Greengages, which she had gotten from her sister’s fruit trees yesterday. I am going to preserve them tomorrow A.M. which won’t take long on the gas stove. We are so cosy here. I only wish you could step in and see us.
I have been very homesick for you all at home but I think it is best for me to stay here thro’ my sickness especially where the climate in the winter is so much milder here. By Papa’s sending me money when he did – and when he sends the balance of $100.00 – it will give us a start and I can see no reason with the good position Zeke has with the S. Pacific why we can’t do well here.
Of course I know if I was home you have so many sheets and things that I shall need I know it would be far easier for me but as long as I can’t come I must do without what I can’t afford to get.
Mrs. May gave me two new little shirts, 4 flannel pinning blankets, 3 nightgowns of white outing which she had saved from her baby so that is a great help. I am going to make only just what I need but of course I haven’t much idea what that means. How much did you allow for we children Mama? If you would only write to me I perhaps would not need to make as much as I had planned. You understand all about me and how badly I do feel lots of times and I only wish I could be with you and just the thought of it makes me cry now. I am almost afraid I shall have a cry baby for I have cryed so much and felt so serious but I hope from now on I am so pleasantly situated here that I shall feel different. I try and take a long walk every night and A.M. for the Dr. said I must. You see instead of my abdomen getting larger, I am larger through my stomach and breast so that I showed it so very little Mrs. May had the Dr. examine me for fear it was a watery tumor but he said every woman is built differently and my bowels had pushed up into my stomach it was nothing to worry about and I would come out alright. My kidneys are alright as I had my urine tested again.
Mrs. Jenson who lives just across from Mrs. May had her first baby night before last and she is very ill. It seems it wasn’t time for 2 mos. and it was only a 3 lb. girl and they will have to keep it in an incubator until it should be the right time. Mrs. May was with her all that night and until 3 yesterday P.M. I knew Mrs. Jensen as she plays the piano so nicely perhaps you remember of my writing about a recital she played for me at Mrs. May’s while I was at Mattie’s. She is much better this A.M. as I went up to inquire. How nice it was Aunt Dora bro’t Katherine down with her this time and didn’t Gram and Aunt Thirza think she was a nice little girl. I always tho’t that Aunt Dora should have her as she had none of her own and couldn’t understand their feeling about her as they did. I just wish I was down to the Port today. It would be so cool but still we have had very few hot days here and nights it is fine to sleep. Zeke got a nice letter from Will Robinson last night and I got the catalogue of the Fair at home from Papa. I was pleased with it and also the papers he sends so often. Will wrote that they liked it better than in Maine now altho’ they had had such a hard time they had wished they were back there. Will is in a Lumber Co. keeping tally on lumber and a little book-keeping now as on acct. of the financial crash he was glad to take what he could get. Their address now is 1615 Berkeley Way. He wants us to come down there to live when times are right but I think by that time, we could do better here.
I more than appreciated the $5.00 Aunt Dora sent me and I am going to write her a long letter next. Laura Beam wrote me from Machias and said she was in to call on you all. I will be home next summer if nothing happens and then when the girls call you will not feel as sad as I know it makes you feel now. It is 5 o’clock now and time to call Zeke and to get supper. I am going to have salmon croquettes mashed potatoes, ripe tomatoes, (macaroni with cheese warmed over from yesterday) and a pudding. Doesn’t that sounds pretty good? I must close now hoping dear Mother this finds you well and that you write me often. Elsie I think of just as often as I do the rest and I wish many nights she was here to sleep with me but I will write her sometime too. Wm. is growing up so fast I expect that this summer he is taller than Papa. Where is Otis? Papa wrote he was coming home and that is all I’ve heard. Much love and many kisses to all from
Your aff. Daughter,
Mrs. Salmon of whom we bo’t the furniture said if we paid the balance within 10 days she would make us a big discount of 10% so I am hoping Papa has sent it but I told him anytime before the 19th because she didn’t tell us that until last Sat. A. M.
6 thoughts on “Papa To the Rescue”
What a fascinating story. Even an incubator!
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Thank you Luanne! It is a delight to share these letters and stories. Yes, even an incubator. And there are more surprises to come!
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The past amazes me.
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Me too! We realize that: “the more things change, the more they stay the same” Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr – 1849
Sherry, I’m enjoying your blog very much. I guessing that Harriet is talking about Kate McDonald. She would have been my husband’s great aunt. I am looking forward to reading your next blog to learn more about the ancestors of Machias. Thanks for sharing your family history.
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Thank you Jill! I have enjoyed sharing my family history. It’s a lot of fun. And, it’s so nice to be able to identify the people mentioned in Harriet’s letters. It’s obvious from Harriet’s words that your husband’s great aunt was well loved: “Well, I think I’ve written about all except how bad I felt to hear of Kate McD’s death. If ever there was a good woman she was one.” Sherry