Grace Means was the niece of my great-grandfather William Gordon Means, the daughter of his elder sister Francis. But Grace was raised as his younger sister since her mother died “of a long illness” at the age of 27, not long after Grace was born. Grace finished school in Machias, lived in South Boston, then moved to New York City to work in the publishing establishments setting illustrations and photographs on the lithographic offset press. She never married and had no children. She became a long-term NYC resident, living in the precarious region between Manhattan and Harlem at 519 West 121st Street, but her family was that of William and Nellie in Downeast Maine. Grace regularly wrote letters to William, sent books for his library and grandchildren, photographs and descriptions of the ancestors as she remembered them.
In 1923, Grace wrote to wish William a happy 68th birthday. The family had fallen on harder times but she still sent him books.
“Yesterday I got off to you a box of books by parcel post insured. During the campaign RV Jollitt, (secy to WHH) who is a friend of Dr. Will Howe, Indiana University (and one of the authors), had several sets of these school readers sent him by Dr. Howe. After they were published by Scribners – the State declined to appropriate so they were not used. RVJ gave me a set I’ve just taken out of storage…so I’m sending a book for each grandchild. I leave it to you to perform a miracle because I’m one short of covering your 7…”
“The book containing the Canadian Captive is for you to keep with other family data to be handed on to coming generations! Thus we keep the fires burning…”
Grace had difficulty finding work and sold some furniture “to keep life supported.” She has been interviewed by Major General Harbord, Brigadier General John J Pershing’s understudy and now President of Radio Corporation of America. In the meantime, she was counting every dollar.
…“I had to use the Christmas check in spite of myself but it will go back as soon as I get busy – for I don’t want to add to your burdens. Our family has its troubles but we are strong and courageous, loyal to each other and have staunch old blood in our veins and we must show it by calmly meeting these trials as a part of the human heritage. It’s a long road that has no turns. Brighter days are ahead – We can’t always see the light but it shines somewhere and we’ll get a peep at it if we are patient and strong.”
Two letters remain that Grace wrote to William Means. The letter below was mailed January 28, 1923. I hope it is legible here. Grace was frugal and used old paper folded in fourths, writing on each side and sometimes in the margins. And, the last pages were on tissue paper with writing on both sides.