Week 7 — Valentine
Love in the 19th CenturyBy Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018\
When Nancy Jones’ beau died during the Civil War, she must have been heart-broken, though no diary or letter has been found that records her emotions — only a poignant note written by him (whose name has since been lost) during a battle wherein he told Nancy that he had
“Laid as close to the ground as ever a squirrel laid to a limb.”
At the time of the war, Nancy lived with her parents, Evan Jones and “Polly” (née Weaver) and some of her 10 siblings in Laurel County, Kentucky. Nancy, born in 1839, was one of the couple’s younger children. Exactly when or how Nancy met Ephraim Clayton (called E. C.) Anderson, a young man eight years her junior, who lived about 20 miles away in adjoining Clay County in mountainous southeastern Kentucky is another story that’s been lost in the passing of the years.
On February 14, 1868, Nancy took a sheet of lined paper, folded and cut it artistically. When she was done, she had four hearts. There were also four hands and four designs that appear to be flowers at the sheet’s corners. In the confines of the cut hearts, she wrote this valentine to E. C. Anderson:
Last lots ware (were) cast
From them I drew kind fortune
It must be you
Look at the first letter in every line to your right hand
I send my hart (heart) in hand to you.
You may think strange of this.
Kind sir if this you do refuse
Then burn the paper and be excused
Answer from you I will expect
Say answer by a line
Will you be my valentine?
Beauty is but a flower
And may be wilted in an hour
[Taking the first letter of each line and reading vertically, it spells out her name]
and love will
no (know) that we must
consult our minds
youth and beauty will
Just do for a flower
one is all we trust
nothing else can we study but
each other. You are
so far away.
My bosom swells
with deep concern
I love but cannot love but one.
I guess I’ll never love another
so let us live in love together.
If this Valentine you do refuse
please burn the paper and be excused.
More than a hundred years later, in 1977, when descendants were selling their ancestral home and dividing up the furniture, one of the heirs took a small wooden table with one drawer. It had sat in a combination room that served as both bedroom and living room.
Later, when she and her sister were going through things with a purpose — to leave some old papers to Berea College — they found the valentine. It was among old photos, receipts, Confederate money and memorabilia, folded up in a little square. They read it, made a copy and then folded the original back into its small square.
E. C. and Nancy (Jones) Anderson died within six months of each other with Nancy going on December 26, 1917. Nancy was 78. Ephraim lasted six months longer, dying June 5, 1918, at the age of 71. They are buried in Pine Hill Cemetery in Marydell, Laurel County, Kentucky.
Tombstone photograph by the kind permission of Hank Cox. Photo Copyright 2010, Hank Cox, originally uploaded to Find-A-Grave.
Thanks to my cousins, Mary Martin Cheek and Shirley Martin Chandler, for sharing this story and other family information with me.
See also: “Treasures in Old Letters: I Have Taken me a Woman . . . “