Nellie’s Sister Dora Pleads: Please Write to Your Daughter

In one letter [Harriet] said “getting only one letter from Mother has been more of a grief than all the hardships endured” – and added – “In case anything happens to me before I could see her I want you to know Aunt Dora how I feel. I can’t ever feel hard towards her or anyone of my relations and I can’t see how she can forget me entirely.”

Letter to Nellie from Dora, November 1908


Portland, Oregon

464 1/2 Union Ave. North

Sunday Eve Oct. 11, 1908

My dear Father,

Your letter was much appreciated and also the papers you have sent so regularly each week and I look forward to their coming now. I think the same amount of sickness has gone all over the country for when your letter came Zeke and I both had terrible colds and Mrs. May has been in bed with one also. Mine has hung on and I still have it but it is wholly in my head and nose so it is not dangerous. Last night it rained here for the first time for wks. and from now I think the weather will be more settled. Fri. night about 5 o’clock Zeke awoke with a terrible cramp which kept growing worse and nothing I could seem to give him helped him at all so I called in Dr. Marcellus. He happened to be home at supper so it did not take him long to get here. He found that Zeke’s cold had settled in his bowels and he advised him to stay in bed that night and dose up. I phoned to Mrs. May and she had Mr. May call up Mr. Merrimaw so they put a man in Zeke’s place that night. By taking medicine every half hour he was better yesterday so he slept all day, and last night he was determined to go to work again. The Railroad pays his Dr. bill, medicine furnished to a man so he was lucky that it was no loss that way. I think being careful he will be alright now but there is a lot of Dysentery here and I was afraid to run any risk. 

Machias has certainly lost many this fall and very sudden deaths too. I think it makes everyone feel blue to be where so many are sick and it causes one to think more seriously about it. I am glad you are all well at home and do hope this winter will be mild so you may all enjoy good health. Except for this cold I remain about the same and manage to keep busy at sewing or housework what time I am able. 

I finished one nice puff about a wk. ago and where I did it all alone I felt real proud of my job. Mrs. May comes down often and is as good as gold and she is so motherly as well as tho’tful she is a great help to me. I smiled when I read in your letter for me not to turn Democrat for I must have mixed up what I said so you tho’t Mrs. May was Democrat. They are strong Rep. but I had heard so much talk that I got mixed up. I do hope Taft will win and I feel sure he will. Bryan is certainly not fit for President.

It gets dark by 6 o’clock here now and if I didn’t go to bed early the eves would seem pretty long, as it is I get a little lonesome sometimes. Today has been dull, cloudy and I have imagined you at home with a fire in the library. I have seen very few fireplaces out here and I think it is because most everyone runs a coal fire in stoves as many people have no furnaces. We have nice little coal stove which will heat up our rooms finely. Several mornings since I have had a cold I have stayed in bed until Zeke has come home and he has started a good fire which takes the chill off. We buy coal by the sack at 60¢ and kindling – it is not expensive for there is a coal and wood yard just below here. 

Mr. Collings, Otto’s Father, called one A. M this wk. when he was over to visit Mrs. Grable. He tries so hard to be nice to Zeke, I think because we were used so by Otto and Mattie. Otto is in Seattle and they will move there soon he told us.

Tues. noon

I got so far with your letter Sun. night when Mrs. May and Doc came (that is her youngest boy Dewey) and when they went I was too tired to finish. If I don’t go up to see Mrs. May every day she thinks I may be sick so down she comes or sends someone. I shall miss her after next wk. for she is going to Nevada to stay until Thanksgiving with her oldest sister in Nevada. Her youngest sister has gone there to be confined next month from Oklahoma and Mrs. May is going to be with her. She will take Doc with her and go by the way of Salt Lake City coming back by way of San Francisco. It will be a nice trip for her and where she gets passes all the way it will not cost her anything. 

Zeke is feeling better now and I think we will both be alright now. We have saved quite a little from our grocery bill this month by taking advantage of Sat. Special Sales and we will save from $5 to $8 by it. Hereafter, we will buy down town all we can now that we are getting a good start. Mr. Merrimaw told Mr. May a few days ago that Zeke was doing fine work and as long as he wanted to stay with the S.P. he could do so for they liked him. I was very glad when Mr. May told me for although times are better now it would not be very nice to be out of work. 

Aunt Dora wrote me a nice letter about 2 wks. ago and I was very much pleased to think she wrote. I am going to ans. soon but I am so slow about writing. She told me all about her visit down home and many little things interesting to me that I hadn’t heard before. Yesterday the Jan. sample copy of the Musician came and the Union came. Where I had not seen the Musician this yr. I enjoyed reading it also the home news. I was surprised at Eudora McCabe’s death also Mr. Pen Longfellow. It must have been very sudden. I have wondered what has been done with McCabe’s shoe store and who is running it now?

It was nice Mama could be with Mrs. Burnham at the cottage for a few days. It must be getting  dreary out there now and look fallish and cold. I have a souvenir card of the cottage which I enjoy looking at and showing to my friends here but I only wish I had some picture of home. I never had even a snapshot and I can only tell people about it and I try and tell Mrs. May how it looks. She does or has done such beautiful paintings and is a natural born artist. She says she is going to do a panel of Mt. Hood for me to send you and Mama sometime in the future.

Time flys so it doesn’t seem possible next June will end Wms. schooldays at Machias and it makes me feel sad to think about it. I do hope he will be ambitious to at least get a Business College Course. I think he will make such a practical business, a great deal like you if he only realizes his chance. Zeke mourns so much that his Father didn’t do for him as you have done by we children for he is so eager to make the most of his time. I encourage him and tell him it is not too late now and he has plenty of time. The West has certainly great opportunities if one can only stick long enough. 

I really don’t have any news to write you Papa but just that I appreciate all you do for me and your tho’tfullness and when I get to going about more I shall have more news to write about. I cut some colored paper dolls out of a magazine which I am going to send Elsie to take over to Doris Harmon sometime. She is just the age to enjoy them.

I will close now hoping to hear you are all well when this reaches you. It is cloudy and will rain here today. I hope Mama will write too. I miss her letters so much. Much love to all and best wishes.

Your aff. Daughter


Remember me to Grace, Aunt Thirza, Aunt Nell, Carrie.


The next month, Dora wrote to her sister Nellie. She had one objective. Please write to your daughter Harriet. It was all too common that the outcome of childbirth was not a healthy mother and child. If birthing didn’t kill the mother, childbed fever loomed. Harriet might not live. Nellie was a fine Christian woman, loving in her own way, a good wife to William and had raised their children with care. But Nellie had a hardness about her, a cold distance to separate herself from emotional pain that she used for discipline, her own and her family. Harriet had written to Dora that her mother’s one letter to her had broken her heart. She must be strong for childbirth. Didn’t Nellie know that? Withdrawing a mother’s love now might be the end for Dora’s beloved niece. At the risk of raising Nellie’s ire, she must attempt to intervene before it was too late.


Brewer Nov 27th 1908

My dear Nellie: –

I have wanted to write to you for weeks but there is so much to take the time every day and evenings so that I do not stop long enough. I heard Will when he came in last night and spoke to him so he would know I was awake – told him I had the alarm clock set and should be up at half past five and have some breakfast for him so I called him at quarter of six. I hated to for he was sleeping soundly. There was not much time to talk – he said he could have got something over at the station just as well and not have me get up so early. And I said, “Why Will, don’t you suppose I would want to do that much for you? I always get Mr. Benner’s breakfasts.” And he replied, “Well I don’t know perhaps you would have to bother more for him than for me.” No matter what time anyone leaves this house if it is to take a three o’clock train in the morning I am always up. The trains all leave so early from Bangor mornings it is hard for these traveling men. I am going around “Robinsons barn” as usual. Of course I asked him about how you all spent the day yesterday – how Mother seemed and you and Thirza. Then I asked when he had heard from Hattie last – and he told me and I said I had a letter and he said yes Nellie said you did and Thirza had one – then I said, “Will, has Nellie written to Hattie yet?” He said I don’t think so. I next asked is Nellie put out with me for writing to Hattie? He said I don’t know that she is. That was all there was time to say and he was gone. I feel now as I did the day Hattie left – that she did a great wrong to you all – but – for all that she is your child and my niece – no matter how much she made us all suffer. In one letter she said “getting only one letter from her Mother has been more of a grief to her than all the hardships she had endured” – and added – “In case anything happens to me before I could see her I want you to know Aunt Dora how I feel. I can’t ever feel hard towards her or anyone of my relations and I can’t see how she can forget me entirely.” I had already written that in a reply letter to her. That – I missed her so every day – and that – I loved her. I always did and always should. It never did anyone any harm to tell them you love them. It is understood in one’s own family that we love each other without saying so I know but – in this case I wanted her to know that – I still love her. It would do no good to her for to me to repeat what I wrote her at the time. She went away – she knows all that – but I long for that child and I always shall. I can’t help feeling that way. She is ours just the same. If she should not live, I shall feel better to know from her that she had received my kind letter and I had had her reply. And if she comes out all right – as I hope she will — she will not be harmed by the kindness I have shown her, after all she made me suffer with you and us all. We are not the only ones who have had to suffer by the willfulness others. The best way it seems to me is to make the best of whatever comes. I do try, always have. 

It is getting late nearly 7 o’clock and I want to go out to mail this so I must close. Jim went to Aroostock County last Mon. P.M. and will be home on the late train tomorrow night from Eastport. Katherine and I took dinner with Mrs. McFarland yesterday. We were invited down to Allies and to Mrs. Halls too. I shall be glad to see you when you can come up or to hear from you. 

Love to you all, 




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