Home at Last: Tough Times Ahead

Summer of 1910. Home at last. Roque Bluffs, Maine. The family cottage Edgemere in the background. Left to Right: Nettie Perry, Nellie Means, Zeke Johnson, Emma Perry (later wife of William Means Jr. “Billy”), Harriet Means Johnson, William Means Sr with grandson Warren, Ethel Means, Billy Means with nephew. 

Harriet, Zeke, and their baby boy Warren, returned to Machias within weeks after Harriet’s last letter. It was a longer journey going back than coming out. Harriet was exhausted. She would never be strong again. Her little family made their lives in Machias but never established the hoped for business. They lived in a series of homes her father acquired as real estate acquisitions, moving often during the coming years. Harriet taught piano for inspiration and income. Zeke tinkered. He was a thinker, an inventor whose dreams remained elusive, just over the horizon. He harvested blueberries, saw the need for a faster way to remove leaves, and labored at designing and building a hand-powered winnowing machine for two years. Triumphant at last, his machine worked in the field splendidly. He had no money for a patent but began to construct more machines for sale only to find the following year that his design was stolen and patented by one of the local blueberry businesses. Eventually Zeke resigned himself to his fate and earned a meager living as a barber. They had no other children over the next nine years. Harriet had “women’s problems,” pain that came and went with her monthly cycle. Her heart defect further limited her activities. In late 1916, a new surgical procedure was available and she had an ovary removed that was covered in “cysts.” The doctor told her she would be unable to get pregnant ever again lacking an ovary. Considering their financial struggle, this was not unwelcome news. But, no one knew that the surgery would restore fertility, and that the one ovary left would happily kick into gear. Harriet soon discovered that she was pregnant and another son, named Robert Means Johnson in memory of his great grandfather Captain Robert Means Jr., was born in April 1918. The doctor advised her to nurse the baby to avoid another pregnancy, yet a year later Harriet was pregnant again. January 19th, 1920 she gave birth to a daughter, Louise Adele, their last child. Despite their limited resources, and little help from Zeke who remained aloof to their financial needs, Harriet had learned to get by. She took life as it came. She was happy.

Harriet’s brother William, known about town as Billy, finished high school the year she returned from the West Coast. After a long courtship, he married Emma Perry in 1918, the daughter of the shipping magnate George Perry and heiress to his home and fortune. It was a fine match for the Means family. Billy set about making a business that would keep Emma in the style to which she was accustomed. He opened the Phoenix Opera House in downtown Machias where live shows entertained crowds and ran silent movies in the early 20s. The second-floor hall had a seating capacity of 430, with 150 seats in the balcony. It was a profitable business. Commercial establishments occupied the ground floor, a barber shop and Western Union. The telephone company was located on the top floor. Billy and Emma lived in her father’s grand house on Court Street and had one daughter, Priscilla born in 1922.

Elsie completed grammar school the year her elder sister Harriet got married and went to Oregon. In 1912, she graduated from the Washington State Normal School in Machias and found employment as a teacher. Six years later, she married Carroll Gardner from Eastport, a marriage disputed by her father for Carroll came from a family of blacksmiths and had the unsavory reputation of a womanizer. They had one child, Charlie, born in 1919. Soon after his birth, Elsie went to live with her parents and stayed there to raise her child.

The prosperity enjoyed by the William Means family at the end of the 19th century, when lumber and shipping commerce was at its height, when oranges and exotic goods could be bought at the East India Tea Company in Machias, waned. As the years went by, the new century was not kind. The ports of Machias and near-by Bangor gave way those in the south that did not freeze in winter, Portland and Boston, or Saint John, Canada. As hard as William worked to ensure the security of his family, especially his grown daughters, the years had brought more burdens than blessings. His eldest son Otis had moved to Newton Centre, MA to support his family of five as an accountant. By 1923, William and Nellie Means had their daughter Elsie and her son to support in their home on Broadway in Machias. Harriet and her three children lived close by in a duplex apartment on Court Street and depended on them too. Billy had married well but William worried how his son was making all that money. There were rumors that the Phoenix Opera House was a speak easy. Thanks to the temperance movement, the State of Maine had been dry for decades which led to a burgeoning business in the backwoods of Down East Maine. Well-hidden stills dotted the deep woods and hundreds of miles of shoreline ensured delivery of product to shoreline communities or Boston and New York. Billy was spending time in the woods and moved in hidden business circles. Times were changing.

And, there was William’s niece Grace to watch after…

 

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Christmas Eve 1908

HARRIET’S BABY BOY ARRIVES AT LAST

After two days of hard labor, two doctors in attendance for the delivery, and an hour and a half of ether, Harriet and her baby lived. Thanks to the loving care of Mrs. May. Yet, there was still no letter from Mama…

I write to tell you the good long looked for news. Harriet’s baby boy has come and he is a fine big fellow, he weighs 10 ten pounds and looks like his Mama. She had a long hard labor from Dec 22 until Dec the 24th 11:30 P.M. It was a breach presentation and we had two Doctors. They were fine and had to do some hard work to save mother and child. When she was under the Ether and pains would come she would call for her mother.Mrs. May, letter to Harriet’s Aunt Thirza, December 25th, 1908.

Now don’t worry over your daughter, she is having as good care as if she was a Vanderbilt, nothing is left undone…I am very sorry Mrs. Means did not care to respond to my letter. She certainly is taking the hard view of Harriet’s family life. Give her my best wishes and tell her it’s not too late now to answer.Mrs. May, letter to Harriet’s father William. December 30th, 1908.

••••••

Dora wrote to Harriet once again just after Christmas, while she waited. The news came before she finished the letter.

Wed. 9 PM

102 Union St.

Brewer Dec 30th, 1908

My dear Harriet,

The package containing the doily came last Saturday – and I remailed it to Thirza Monday morning. I have not heard from her this week. You did well to make it. It is very pretty and I think they will be pleased with it. This A.M. I rec’d a letter from Otis written last evening. I said it did not seem possible he had been home four days and was back at work again. He came down last Thursday night – he and Ethel. They met your Uncle Jim and Frank D in Boston station on their return home from Brockton where they had been called by the sudden death of their brother Will. The Sunday before a letter came from Rachel and Tom. He was in East Machias over Sunday and asked me if he did not get home on the midnight train Sat. to forward his mail to Machias Monday which I did. This letter from Rachel said Will had had a cough since last summer but kept at work up to Fri. night expecting to go to the store as usual on Sat. morning when he had a headache was weak and tired – felt he must stop work for a while. Tom wrote Rachel by return mail Tuesday night – he got the telegram from Rachel saying Will passed away last night. He was in Cherryfield. He telephoned me to meet him at Brewer Station with his suitcases packed with his best clothes. It was a great shock to us all. Allie talked to Frank and he came in the morning. Allie and I met Tom at midnight and went to Bangor station and she stayed with Tom until the train left which was late leaving at 1:40 A.M. It was a bitter cold night to walk home. Brother Hall came over to the house to stay with Katherine and Donald, they a bed and asleep. Wednesday I was not good for much. Thursday the funeral was at 2 P.M. in Brockton at 27 Glenwood Ave. Isn’t it too bad? Tom and Frank got home in Washington County at 6 A.M. 

I had kept Katherine out of the sitting room until Tom got here so he could see her when she got her Christmas presents. She had lots of things. Her best things were a Willow Rocking chair – a black board and desk combined. Then she had a book from Tom, “The Letters of Jennie Allen to her friend Miss Musgrove” by Grace Donworth of Machias, a pretty purse (Thirza), handkerchieves (Elsie and Otis – a pretty stitch copied from your mother), white linen hand bag from Mrs. McF. And, Thirza sent Tom a book of poems by Fanny J Moon – Ella Gilson’s father, you remember. Otis spoke of you and how much he missed you and how hard they tried to enjoy themselves. He said he and Ethel sent you a white sack for the baby. He had not heard from you but when you are able to, I know he will be glad to hear from you. You know blood is thicker than water and there must naturally be a longing for you – and as they had not heard lately how you are he said his mother and father were worrying a good deal knowing what you have to go through. I forgot to say we planned a Christmas dinner – had invited Frank and family and Mr. and Mrs. McF – so we had them. They all said the turkey and fixings were fine. Just wish you could have been there too. Sunday night Tom left on 8 o’clock train for Brockton. Have not heard from him but may in the morning. What is to be done with Will’s stone? 

Thursday noon Dec 31st

How you have suffered. I am so relieved that you came through and have such a good woman to care for you. Mrs. May’s letter came this morning. I was all a tremble when I saw a strange hand writing for I knew the worst was over. And after I had read it twice through I laid down on the couch and had a good cry for joy. Now I hope I can settle down to work and not worry as I have – and I shall hope and pray you may recover in time, not too soon, and be strong and better than ever before. I can’t stop to write more but will write to Mrs. May soon. She has probably written in the same mail mine was sent in and your mother and father know that their child is living – such a large baby boy – and your husband too, I hope now to getting his much needed rest and will not over much get sick too. With love to you all from your affectionate Aunt Dora

Best wishes for a bright and Happy New Year. Lovingly, Aunt Dora

••••••

The last day of the year, the day that Dora finished her letter to Harriet, a letter arrived for William in Machias. He saw the familiar return address of his daughter and different hand writing. His hands shook as he opened the letter written on official stationary of the railroad.

•••••••

Form 2551

SOUTHERN PACIFIC COMPANY

Office of Agent

Portland, Oregon Dec 25, 1908

Mr. W. G. Means

Dear Friend: – 

At last I can write you the good news that you are grandpa to a fine big ten pound boy. He was born last night at 11:30 P.M. Harriet was a very very sick girl being sick since the 22nd at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon until last night. I never left her and gave her every care as if she was my own. We had two Doctors and she was under Ether for nearly one hour and half. It was such a large child and had to be taken with instruments. She had to have eight stitches taken. Now I am telling you this just as I would want to know if I was far from my dear girl at a time like this. A trained nurse will be here to relieve me for a time until I get rest but I will take care of her and do all as I told you I would some time ago. Mr. J. and Harriet are both delighted with the baby and Harriet says to tell you it looks just like Otis her brother. She was very fond of the little remembrances she received from her brother and sister. I will write you often while she is in bed to let you know how she is doing. 

With lots of love from her to you all. I remain ever wishing you all a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year. I will write to her Aunt Dora today.

Your friend,

Mrs. J.L. May

564 Union Ave N.

Portland, Oregon

••••••

The same day, a letter arrived for Harriet’s Aunt Dora, for Mrs. May knew that Dora had been in constant contact with her niece. She must have a word to say.

•••••••

Form 2551

SOUTHERN PACIFIC COMPANY

Office of Agent

Portland, Oregon Dec 25, 1908

Mrs. T. S. Dennison

Dear Friend: –

I write to tell you the good long looked for news. Harriet’s baby boy has come and he is a fine big fellow, he weighs 10 ten pounds and looks like his Mama. She had a long hard labor from Dec 22 until Dec the 24th 11:30 P.M. It was a breach presentation and we had two Doctors. They were fine and had to do some hard work to save mother and child. She had to have eight stitches but unless something unforeseen sets in I think she will get along nicely. When she was under the Ether and pains would come she would call for her mother. She is having good care as if she were my own. I want to tell you that your dear good letters and little remembrances have helped her wonderfully and I am so glad you have been so thoughtful, among strangers and in her condition it has been very hard at times. We all make mistakes and do foolish things many times during a life time but when we do we all get punished in some way and what’s the sense of holding grudges. Life is too short to let anything come in and break the sweetest and most sacred tie a Mother’s love. I hope through your influence you will get Mrs. Means to look at Harriet’s little love match in a different light than she does now. Mr. Johnson is far from being rich, but he has good habits and he is so good and kind to Harriet and he works as hard as if he were an old man. There’s more more things in this world than being peeved. Well, dear friend, I feel as if I know you so I just write as if we were old friends. I wrote to Mr. Means as he always answers my letters. 

Wishing you and your a Happy New Year. I am Your Friend.

Mrs. J.L. May

564 Union Ave N.

Portland, Oregon

Excuse this but I am so very tired. I Have been up with Harriet since the 22nd and will stay till she is well as can help them save this much for the Doctor bills will be quite high. 

William received a second letter from Mrs. May the following week.

••••••

Form 2551

SOUTHERN PACIFIC COMPANY

Office of Agent

Portland, Oregon Dec 30, 1908

Dear Friend: – 

Your letter to your daughter was received this A.M. and the enclosed $ found her getting along as well as could be expected after having such a very hard time. She will have to be in bed two weeks longer on account of so many stitches being taken. The baby is doing fine and he is such a fine baby. He has lovely large eyes and they are blue. I have not been home for over a week and I have hardly left them for a min. I sleep in a lounge in the room with baby and Mama so I can tend them. Baby has had a cold and not rested very good nights so far but now he will have plenty to eat. I think he will be better by New Years. They have named him Warren Gordon Johnson. I think the name very pretty. Now don’t worry over your daughter, she is having as good care as if she was a Vanderbilt, nothing is left undone. As a rule at my home has a big time at Xmas but this year I was down here and my children did not have any Xmas but we will celebrate later. I will try and stay the time she is in bed and a few days after she is up. She is extremely weak and I think your letter helped her as she has not cryed since she read it. All the time she was under the Ether she called for her mother. I am very sorry Mrs. Means did not care to respond to my letter. She certainly is taking the hard view of Harriet’s family life. Give her my best wishes and tell her it’s not too late now to answer. 

Wishing you a Happy New Year and thanking you from your daughter for the present. I am Your Friend.

Mrs. J.L. May

Nine days after her baby was born, Harriet wrote to her father, the last letter sent from Oregon. The doctors had discovered the reason for Harriet’s “weakness” that beset her since she was a child. She had a severe heart murmur. Harriet and Zeke desperately wanted to go home. They were homesick. Scared. Harriet had been determined to have the baby on their own, unable to face her mother. But, nothing would stand in their way now.

••••••

Form 2551

SOUTHERN PACIFIC COMPANY

Office of Agent

Portland, Oregon Jan 2nd, 1909

My dear Father: – 

I have been looking for a letter from some of you at home all the week but you may have written and I will hope to hear soon.

First I must tell you the baby has a dimple in the right cheek just like mine and when he laughs he looks exactly like Otis. He grows like everything but it takes all my time to care for him, beside Zeke helps me too all he can. He is sound asleep now and looks so plump in the face I only wish you could see him. I am all alone tonight as Zeke went to work again at 7 P.M. as the days go by I think more of coming East and oh! if I only had wings it wouldn’t take long tonight for me to see you and Mama. Since my illness – not being strong – it seems to me I have been more homesick than ever and Zeke is just as homesick as I am. You see we have had such hard luck here that I don’t want to stay any longer than I can help it and if we only had money enough, the baby, Zeke and I would light out tomorrow. 

It is like this Papa. Zeke worries all the time about me because I am not strong and am practically alone so much that he knows I cannot be happy out here away from you all. And we think more of each other – if such a thing were possible – and Zeke wants to do what is best for me and for both of us in the end. I know he would do anything to make things easy for me but you see this past year has taught us both more than we could have been told in ten yrs. of advice and experience. It has been a great thing for us. Zeke and I have decided to come back to Maine as soon as possible for it certainly seems the wisest course. Zeke’s Father has written him that he will do anything he can to help him and if he wants to go into a business of some kind he would sell out his property there in Machias. We have tho’t of Penn Longfellow’s coal business. Has anyone taken it yet? Surely that ought to make a good living if properly conducted and $1000.00 ought to cover the expenses at the start. You see a man who always works for somebody else never gets ahead and Zeke says he will not waste the best part of his life doing that way. Couldn’t you think up some business that would make a living for us? Of course Zeke would be willing to go to Bangor or Portland if there is nothing at home and perhaps with his Father’s help he might go in some business and the baby and I could stay home with you (for Zeke would want to pay board for me. that is if you would take it) until he got started. 

There is no one I have met here that I care anything about and I would give more to be able to run in and see Gram and Aunt Thirza and be home with Mama than all this West put together. I have felt this way ever since I got here but I wasn’t going to hurt the baby’s disposition by mourning all the time about it. I kept cheerful but Zeke knows and realizes what I have gone through with and we can see it will cost us no more to live in Maine than here. And anyway Zeke ought to be able to do as well as he has here in the past few mos. He knows we are indebted to you for what furniture we have here and we will never forget your kindness and hope after we get back it will not be long before it can be paid back. We figured up today what it would cost to come home and with selling out what we have here we find would have $150.00, enough for our tickets first class, but would need $50.00 more to be sure and have enough for meals, birth etc. Could you possibly loan Zeke $50.00 with interest so I could come home right away? You see it has scared us by seeing what the Drs. charged when I was sick and if the baby or I was sick again it would be far cheaper in Maine than here. This building is going to be sold in a month or so, the owner came and informed me today, which means we have to move soon and I want to move only the once if I am going to Maine in a short time. Zeke is paying up my bills so we can leave here as soon as I hear from you as to your advice and approval and if you could loan us $50.00. I know, so does Zeke, what it means to ask you and how we wish there was some other way but I know I can get well far quicker by being home than being so far away and worrying all the time. I don’t get anytime to write anyone since Baby came for when eve. comes I am ready to go to bed as soon as I get everything done for the night. The baby is very healthy and by having Zeke help me I think we could manage to keep him well – alright – on such a long trip. The cars are nice and warm and there are few changes to be made. I do hope you can write us something encouraging that Zeke can do there for I am desperately homesick and want to come as soon as I can. Zeke plans to stop off at Portland, Me. to see if at the Depot they have any railroad work for him and I thought I could come home or stop and see Aunt Dora for a few days and rest up then Zeke could join me there. I only wish a month from tonight I would be home. They are cutting down forces at the freight office and Zeke may be out of work any day now. Well! I must stop as it’s long past my bedtime and I’m very tired. The baby seems pretty heavy when I have to handle him a lot but he is so sweet, I love him more than I can tell you. Goodnight Father dear and may this find you well and happy. Don’t mention to anyone we think of coming back yet. Much love to all from Zeke and I.  

Your aff. Daughter, 

Harriet

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

Harriet

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, 

Dora

 

Sightseeing and Homesick

Council Crest, Portland, Oregon 1908

council-crest-photo

The letter to her mother out of the way at last, Harriet waited for her reply that might never come. Her eyes drifted out the bay window to the hillside of Portland Heights dotted with small tidy homes. There were hardly any trees. It was hot and humid. Portland was full of new sights and sounds but none could replace those in her memory. She had visited the prestigious Council Crest at the summit of Portland Heights, connected to the city by its own streetcar that wound to the mountaintop, hundreds of fancy houses and lots lined the ridges. At the top sat the amusement park with a roller coaster, merry-go-round, ferris wheel, and miniature railway circling the dancing pavilion, the observatory and the wireless telegraphy station that sent messages across the nation and to ships hundreds of miles away in the Pacific. Snow-capped Mount Saint Helen, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood loomed in the distance.

Her mind drifted back to Maine. Home. She loved this time of year. There not here. The chill in the wind. The brilliant shades of red and gold shrouding elm trees that lined the streets, mixed with deep evergreen on the hillsides. Collecting horse chestnuts from the tree at the end of the drive. Tasting the tart apples picked from the tree that Mama planted long ago. She had been to the Sylvan Park Fair every year that she could remember. Papa would enter his finest horses in the races. Mama would enter her apple pie in the baking contest, win first prize as she always did, and make plenty more pies, and steaming pots of applesauce to eat for days. The kitchen smelled of apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. Who would come for the Fair this year? 

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Sylvan Park, Machias, Maine, early 1900s

•••••••

Portland, Ore.

464 1/2 Union Ave. North,

Sunday noon, Sept. 13, 1908

My dear Father,

While I am tending a roast in the gas oven I will write you so that I will not put off telling you how happy I am today Papa, in my new rooms and to think you have bought or rather paid for my furniture makes me feel happier and it makes them seem dearer to me. Your letter with check enclosed with $5.00 additional came yesterday and I was so delighted with it I woke Zeke up out of sound sleep to tell him again how good you were and then I went right away and paid the balance for the furniture. You forgot to put North on my letter and it was a day late in getting here so it went to the S.E. first. When I wrote Mama I told her Mrs. Salmon said she would make us a discount if cash was paid in 10 days more which made it the 11th but as your letter happened to come that day she gave me 10% off. So I felt more than pleased at having so much over. I knew you would be prompt but since you knew nothing about the discount it was a coincidence you sent it in time. I am going to buy sheeting this wk. with the extra money and many necessary things I shall need. I enjoy it so much here it is so cosy and you can think of me from now on as having everything comfortable. Zeke too enjoys it but of course is not home as much as I am. He is getting on very well with his work and as soon as the rush is over of wheat etc. Mr. May has advised him to learn billing on the new machines they have in the billing room for it is a new process which brings fine pay and will be valuable to know about. Mrs. May was down here last night and I told her about your letter and that our furniture was all paid for and she was just as pleased for us as if it was her own. She is such an unselfish and true Christian woman you and Mama would certainly feel glad she looks after me so well and does for me could you know her. It seemed so good to get Wm’s photo with the colt that I only wished it was reality and he was here. I do so long to see you all but I am doing bravely now and think I ought to stay out here as opportunities are more for a young man here. I expect our next President will decide how times are going and I am anxious to know how it will turn. I can talk politics pretty well now and I know more about it out here because the people are so mixed up and the working men out here Mr. May says keep very quiet but they want Bryan because Taft is not for the people and if Taft gets in there will be war, for the working man won’t stand for it. And still I think there will be trouble either way, for if Bryan gets in, the rich men will tie up the trust-unions etc. so that if prices get higher everyone will suffer for it costs so much to live. If a man earns $10.00 a day and it costs $9.00 to live there is nothing gained. 

Of course I am having my first experience as to the cost of living and I am beginning to see how much it has meant for you to provide the way you have for us all these many years and I wonder too if Mama just knew as you pay out cash for eatables etc. how much it averaged a mo. if she wouldn’t be surprised. Now Zeke and I have plenty to eat and don’t have anything but good substantials and I don’t make a cake often, only every wk. over Sun. or a pie once a wk., for I know it costs us now. At the best we can do $15.00 a mo. for groceries etc. Meats are low and $2.00 or 2.50 will cover our meats with having it fresh once a day with roasts once a wk. but butter is 40¢ lb. and eggs 30 and 35 so you can see the necessities are high just now. Milk since they have a union is 10¢ a qt., potatoes $1.40 a sack of 20 lbs. Mrs. May says of all the years she has lived in Oregon this yr. has been the most expensive to live. The farmers out here have to sell to the Commission Houses and that is why things are high – all the profit is gotten by the wholesale people. Anyone who peddles vegetables, fruit etc. has to have a special license. 

Well! Otto has at last arrived. I haven’t seen him but his sisters Mrs. Grable and Bessie Collings came over one eve this wk. to see me and they said Otto came Sat. and spent Sun. with his Father and Mother in Vancouver then he went to see the children and Mattie Mon. They could tell me very little except he was pleased to see his old home and he told his folks Mattie had never been any help to him and if he had only left her before he had the family it would have been a great deal better. Now he feels he has got to stay with the children and never leave them and bring them up the best he can. They all hate Mattie so and Mrs. Grable said just as soon as Otto came she (Mattie) was planning to go visiting leaving him with the children. I don’t think she knows where I am or Zeke because the Collings family never have told her. She wrote a letter to Zeke this summer and had the gall to ask him if he would pay a bill she owed on furniture of $18.00 and I opened the letter as Zeke was in bed and Mrs. May helped me to write her the law and she certainly got more than she was looking for. I have a copy in the bottom of my trunk and someday I am going to send it to you for it was a dandy. I have to laugh when I think of it for I tell you I more than had my spunk up. 

It has been very warm here for several days and it is the Indian summer now before the rain comes next month. Mrs. Vennewitz who lives in this flat next to ours is just fine. Her husband is a German but they neither look or act like Germans. She invited me to go on a long car ride with her this wk. after supper; her husband took care of the baby. We had a fine ride and went way up to Portland Heights to the top called Council Crest. The car goes around this very high hill which overlooks Portland and at the top there is an observatory – wireless telegraphy station across the Pacific, a dancing pavilion, and numerous stands selling things. It was fine moonlight and the thousands of lights in the city looked so pretty. There are hundreds of new modern homes all the way along up to the Crest and lots are from $1000 up to $10,000. Just think of that! Of course it is only the wealthiest who live up there but you can’t imagine the beautiful ground and homes. This city is growing fast even since last winter. 

I know you must be very busy indeed for it’s Fair wk. isn’t it? I hope another year to see Sylvan Park at Fair time for everyone seemed to enter in and have such a good time last year. 

Mrs. May bro’t me down a basket of fine pears and I put up 4 lbs. in lemon a new way they do out here and we have eaten the rest. The fruit is certainly fine and I enjoy every kind there is. 

Mama must be tired from working at the Port and I expect it is fine down there. Has she enjoyed this summer or is the Bluffs still the best? I have missed not seeing the ocean much more than I ever realized I could. It is quite a trip from here to the Ocean – it takes a good 4 hrs. by train from here to Seaside. I hope when Mama gets rested and feels better she will write me.

I wrote Aunt Dora the other day and thanked her for the money she sent me.

No, Zeke does not feel at all discouraged in any way and he is very glad to be able to work and advance as rapidly as possible. He says you have certainly been thro’ the mill and know what it means to do everything by yourself and you know what he is up against. He sends his regards and wished me to thank you in helping me and at the same time helping him at this time.

I am feeling much better this wk. and think it must be my new surroundings. 

Write when you’re not too rushed and I’ll do the same. Much love to all and a goodly share for yourself. 

Your aff. Daughter,

Harriet

Papa To the Rescue

scan-5The 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

Portland, Oregon

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,

Harriet

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.

Portland, Oregon

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,

Harriet.

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.

Yours, 

H

Papa’s Letter

william“I find myself trying oh so hard to find some excuse for you, some way to reassure myself that you did not fully realize what you were doing, but when I read your letters that you have written since and see that you are yet to realize that you have done anything out of the way, I can only say in explanation she had a brain storm, a monumental fit of insanity or she, my Girl, would never have done what she did in the way she did….” 

~ William Gordon Means 1908

After the excitement of the whirlwind wedding and the trip West, Harriet gradually realized her life had changed drastically. She had no Studio and no students. She was a pianist without a piano. She had hoped her Father would send her clavier [stringed keyboard instrument] so she could play music. He did not. She was Zeke’s wife now and they lived first in Vancouver, then Portland, with a family where Harriet did all the work, cared for the children, did the laundry and cooked the meals. Zeke eventually found a job in construction in Portland but they did not have enough money to live on their own. In return for money loaned for their passage West, Harriet was obliged to work until Mattie, pregnant again, was well enough to care for her own family. In mid-April, two months after her journey West, a letter arrived from her father at last. Harriet opened the letter slowly, and counted the seven pages as she stared at the familiar, well-loved handwriting that filled both sides of lined notepaper. She took a deep breath and began to read. She missed her family, especially her younger sister Elsie and brother William. Truth be told, her heart ached. She had written a second letter to her father in late March with no reply until now.

She missed Papa – and Mama too – even though they might never speak to her again. Harriet could see Mama working in the kitchen, boiling sheets in the giant pot on the wood stove, stirring as though it was dinner, sullen, not saying a word. Casting that dead eye look about that made you want to fall through the floor. She saw Papa in his library at his desk, books lining the walls ceiling to floor, a toasty fire below that dark carved mantle that said sit a while. Most of all, she missed the home where she grew up surrounded by family. The Sunday gatherings after Church in the parlor, duets on the piano with Aunt Thirza, the sweet sound of her fingers on the zither. She longed for the seaside excursions in the lorry to the Port and Roque Bluffs. The smell and sound of the sea, now so far away. And, oh, the annual Fair at Sylvan Park. Machias might be a small village but hundreds from all over the County flocked to the Fair and crowded the bleachers for the horse racing, milled about displays of livestock and baked goods, cheered at the childrens’ flour sack races, and thronged to the plays in the evening. She had not realized just how much it all meant to her. Tears fell onto the pages of her father’s letter in her hands.


Machias April 9, 1908

My dear Daughter,

Your letter dated March 30th reached Machias April 6th. It has been read by me and the family at home, by me more than once. It found us well and getting along much the same as we always have. We are having the usual Spring weather since a day or so ago, then rain and snow and wind in plenty. This A.M. the ground was white with snow a lot though wheels are in use. Sunday we had our lorry out. William and Elsie are going to school. This is Elsie’s last year in the grammar school and William only has one more year in the high. It only seems a short time ago that you and Otis were going to school. I would give a good deal, if I had it, if you and Otis was back to that age again. But such is not a possible thing, and it’s no use to wish for the impossible. Your Grandmother is in her usual health and so is Aunt Thirza. They get along very nice and comfortable in their sunny home. Otis we hear from regularly, and he is busy about his work, having lost very little time. He was home soon after your departure for 3 days and we enjoyed having him, only the time was too short, and it seemed only a dream after a few days.

Well, Hattie, I am going to make a reply to your letter realizing full well that nothing I can do or say that is not in accord with your ideas or way of thinking will be rec’d by you in the Spirit I wish it might be. It makes no difference now what I say, conditions will remain the same. You have chosen your path yourself and no one, no matter how much they may want to change it, can do so at this time. I am not going to belittle Zeke or say anything for or against him, only this, that I think that he should have acted in a more manly way in his courtship and marriage. He should have at least asked for you and then if refused he could have felt he did the manly thing and was turned down. You do not appreciate our feelings and our position in this affair, you only look at from your side. It is a long story dating back to opening your studio in Machias that this attachment for this young man formed and your life of deception was begun towards your parents, a life that has been the cause of more tears, more distress, more harassment of mind on your part than any empty stomach ever caused you, say nothing of the anguish it has caused your father and mother. Since the climax of this attachment, we have learned much more than we ever knew before what was going on here under our nose. I’ll admit we were blind. I am more to blame than anyone. I had unbounded faith in my family. I saw no occasion for worrying about them. I was, as you well know, applying my head and hands to earning the money to keep our bills paid, and allow something for the extra things we were all having. I think our children had their share of those extras and in order to do that, not having anyone else to fall back on to ask for help, “I had,” as I thought no time for watching out for prevention of those meetings that ought not to have been and that changed your whole life and feelings towards your own family and your friends.

I can see why now Machias had no attraction for you, why you were so anxious to go away to Bangor to pursue your chosen vocation and satisfy your great ambition for a position in life where you would amount to something. It was, of course, your infatuation for this young man for whom you were ready to give up your life’s desire in the musical line, give up your home, leave your parents, your other relatives all in sorrow at the way you have done. It is beyond my conception to know after the talk I had with you in Bangor, after the promise made to me, by you, when sobbing on my shoulder in your Studio how you could continue to carry out plans made before then and consummated after that time. I find myself trying oh so hard to find some excuse for you, some way to reassure myself that you did not fully realize what you were doing, but when I read your letters that you have written since and see that you are yet to realize that you have done anything out of the way, I can only say in explanation she had a brain storm, a monumental fit of insanity or she, my Girl, would never have done what she did in the way she did. You judge your mother and I wrong when you express the wondering thought whether we was mad when we found it out. We was far from mad. I wish I could have felt that way.

When your Aunt Dora called me up that Monday A.M. and told me what had happened, we had not been to breakfast, your mother was washing. Of course I had to tell her and the children. Could you have seen her face, I don’t think you would have said it showed anger, but such grief as only a mother’s face can show. None of us could eat. I got ready and took the train and went to Bangor, saw Christy at the Studio, she was in a chaotic frame of mind, not knowing what to do or how to do it. It was a mean way to leave her. I then went to the Methodist parsonage, from there to Mrs. Johnson’s and heard all and saw all I did, not eat a meal that day. I found out as far as I could you had paid your bills and was thankful you did that. I came home and told all to mother who had been in mental anguish all day. She was as well as your grandmother who said when told; oh, how could she of done such a thing? How could she? We still find ourselves asking the same question no answer as yet received can satisfy that question. Now you speak of Aunt Dora as if she had insulted you. Now you know down in your heart that she had only your interest at heart, only for your good, your future welfare, and this came to her in a double way. You were there away from home and somewhat under her care. There ought not to be any necessity for care or watchfulness of the moral conduct of a woman 23 years of age, who had the advantages you had, but it seems in your case we ought to have had them to a much greater degree than we did. And not let ourselves think it was wholly your love of music or advancement and that caused you to stay in Bangor, when in fact it was Zeke and nothing else.

When your Aunt Dora learned that he boarded at Miss Whittles and passed your door to go to his room nights, do you wonder she was so shocked? And then both of you to shift to Mrs. Johnson’s, you give up everything and everybody for him way along months ago, he to come home and go back with you, you to meet him here and to have his letters come in care of Mattie. You certainly can’t look back to the life you led with any pleasure. I am writing this in the Office and am interrupted so much it may be disconnected, but I want to say a word about Otto and Mattie. I have the right to feel and do feel that they are the direct and indirect cause of this affair. You had help from Mattie last summer and no doubt encouragement, it is easy now to see why you spent so much time with them. You got the money from Otto to pay either your way or Zeke’s to Oregon, you both could not have gone unless you got the money from him and sold out your Studio. You had their home to go to which made it possible for you to carry out your plans. Don’t you think Otto and Mattie having children of their own ought to have first found out whether your father and mother sanctioned your going so far away from home?

Whether or not they knew you contemplated making such a trip, we certainly on a receipt of a letter from Mattie from Jonesboro did not show our lack of interest in her and her children’s welfare. You have got sense enough to see you gave the public here at home and in Bangor a great chance to talk and say, no doubt she had to get married and you can imagine in a way how such talk would effect your relatives. While they did not believe such things, they had no chance to deny the many things caused by your indiscretion. When I think that you left your music to go to Oregon to be a servant for Mattie I can’t but help saying would she of done all she is doing for her mother, sacrificed her life work to come home to do for us. I am in doubt, great doubt if you would have done it. I note what you say about struggles in Bangor and have this to say. If this that has occurred was the cause of all your troubles, the direct case for which you were working and the results point strait way, why should you speak of this?

Your being in Bangor was of your own choosing, you left a comfortable home, had you have had the interest in home that I would like to have seen you had, there was no occasion of you leaving it. You certainly could have accomplished as much in the development of your musical education here in Machias surrounded by your loving relatives as you have accomplished in Bangor in doing what you have done. Well, I could write and write and then not say what I want to, you are in my mind daily. I have a father’s interest in your welfare. I hope you and Zeke may meet with success in whatever you undertake that is right, that no ill fortune will come to you and that you may have your health and he his. That the unusual work that you are doing won’t cause you to get sick. Remember you are not over strong and from what I saw of Mattie, she is perfectly willing for someone beside herself to do the work. Kiss Elizabeth for me. I hope her parents won’t have done for them when she grows up, they have done for us and I do hope that you won’t have the care of any children of your own as yet for all to come out well. I will close. May He who doeth all things well keep and preserve you until we meet again.

Your aff. father
W. G. Means

Harriet folded the letter carefully, tracing the creased lines that her father had made, and put it back in the envelope. She sobbed as she stood, went to her travel trunk and placed it in a velvet bag where she kept keepsakes and closed the drawstring. She thought back to the last time she saw her father at her Studio. The day she sobbed on his shoulder…

••••••
There was a soft knock at the Studio door. She opened it to find her father. It was very cold and snowing fitfully.

“I came up to Bangor to meet perspective clients, looking for housing for their men. And I wanted to see you.”

Harriet smiled and stepped back so he could enter out of the cold and snow. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly as she always did.

“Oh, Father, I’m so happy to see you!” she said, even though she was filled with a sense of dread of what he came to say. The Studio was empty of students that time of day. They sat down beside each other in the parlor chairs beside the wood stove. She poured him a cup of tea from the pot that simmered and added a spoonful of sugar.

They talked about the weather, then about family, neighbors, the illnesses about. Her father sipped his tea. He sighed, then looked straight in her eyes.

“I’m worried about you,” he said. “I have heard that you are spending time with Zeke. You promised me you would not.”

Harriet’s heart skipped a beat. They had been so careful.

When she moved back to Machias last year, she had seen Zeke for the first time in ten years. His elder cousin lived just down the street from her parents home. They weren’t much interested in each other then, and he was five years older.

She had gone to the Johnson’s to buy eggs, and rewarded herself with a few pieces of candy and licorice for a penny. When she left the shop at the side of the house, Zeke sat with Gene in the dooryard discussing the horse equipment, both just back from the barn.

Harriet stopped in her tracks, blushed, and said, “Good afternoon, gentlemen. Isn’t it a fine sunny day?”

The men smiled and nodded. “I thought you lived in Bangor, Harriet. You come back home?” Zeke asked.

“Yes, for now.” she replied.

“Now that’s a pleasant surprise,” Zeke said softly.

She smiled and tipped her head to take her leave. It took effort to walk steady down the walkway and up the street toward home. It didn’t take long for her mother to notice how eager Harriet was to buy the eggs and how long she was gone. Two weeks later, Nellie stopped her daughter in the kitchen with a long, cold stare as soon as she returned.

“We have two dozen eggs in the pantry, Hattie.”

“I thought it would be nice to have extra, Momma. Boiled eggs are tasty in the supper.”

“You think I’m blind, do you? Zeke is staying with Gene and Judy this summer. You’re down there talking up a storm, acting one of those young fillies in the barn. You best hear me. Zeke Johnson is from Kennebec, his family farms, barely gets by. He’s not had descent work since he left school. He is not a proper beau. You are to stop this behavior immediately. I will get the eggs from now on.”

Nellie made sure that Zeke understood the family position. She didn’t return his hello when she fetched the eggs and shot him a look to send shivers up the spine.

Harriet got a message to Zeke anyway. They had mutual friends in Jonesboro, Otto and Mattie. She had met her mother’s pronouncement with feigned disinterest. She had other things to do. She made regular visits to help her friend with her two children. There she met Zeke. They could talk, walk about the fields and picnic. By the end of the summer, they had a plan. Harriet would return to Bangor in September and relocate her studio there. Zeke had found a job in the railroad office. They separately found rooms at Mrs. Whittle’s boarding house. They did nothing improper, for Harriet was a lady and Zeke a gentlemen. They had sought and found that which was most precious, time together.

That cold January day when her father visited the Studio, Harriet was scared but replied to her father’s words resolutely.

“Papa, I’m busy with the Studio and the night classes. I have no time to see Zeke and I’m not interested. I pass him sometimes on the street when he returns from work at the station. We barely speak. Whoever told you this is mistaken.”

“Promise me, Hattie, that you will honor our agreement that you not see Zeke. He is not a proper suitor for you.”

At his words, tears filled her eyes. They both stood up. She hugged him and sobbed on his shoulder. “I’m so upset that you don’t trust me, Papa. I will honor our agreement. I always have.”

He patted her head. “I know you will. Stop your tears.”

As her father left, Harriet stared at him as he walked down the street back to the Union Station. She knew that it would not be long before she and Zeke were discovered, just as their plans for marriage neared completion. They must leave soon.