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04 November 2014

#31-52ancestors--Treasures in Old Letters

“Taken me a woman . . .”

Letter dated: 25 January 1885
Jasper, Newton County, Arkansas
Addressed to: E. C. and Nancy Anderson and family
(in Laurel County, Kentucky)
From: J. F. Kelley and Wm. C. and M. E. (Kelley) Vanderpool,
Newton County, Arkansas
[note: J. F. Kelley is the father of M. E. (Kelley) Vanderpool


J. F. Kelley writes:
“Dear Brother and Sister. I seat myself to write to you in answer to your letter that I received and was glad to hear from you and that you was all well and doing well. This leaves us all doing well. As for news I hant [sic] any more than times is hard and money is scarce. Corn is from 40 to 70 cents a bushel. Pork is 4 cts. per pound, wheat is $1.00 per bushel. Flour is $2.25 cts. per hundred. Horses is high and cattle is low. Store goods is reduced in prices in this country. So that will do on that.

“We have had some winter here for some time but I think we will have some milder weather in a few days. Well, I would like to see you the very best in the world, but as old age and time and distance will not admit [sic] just now. I can't tell when the opportunity will roll round but I would like for you all to come over and see me and look at the country. I will try to furnish you some to eat."



[The following evidently penned by either M.E. (Kelley) Vanderpool or her husband, W. C. Vanderpool]:
“Uncle Clayton, you spoke in your letter that your children was good scholars. I am glad to hear it, but not boasting at all but I think that we have got two children that learns invariably fast. John, our oldest can spell anywhere in the Blue Back Speller by heart. He and Elbert is [sic] going to school four miles from home. His studies is the speller, fifth reader and third part arithmetic, and our Nancy is a spelling near the back of (the) speller and can read in the second reader.

“Aunt Nan, I will tell you about Henry's folks. They are as well as common. They have three children. They have a pair of twins. They are both girls. They are one week old. The oldest one is just eleven months old. So enough on that. My baby is ten months old and is as smart as a cricket.

“Aunt Nan, I would love to see you all the best in the world. I wish that you and Uncle Clayton was out here to go to meeting with us next Sunday. We live in one mile of the church house. Aunt Nan, I want you to tell Aunt Jane that I hant forgot her that I would love to see her and I want her to write to me.

“As we haven’t said anything about corn crops, I will state to you that has been good corn crops in this country this year. Pap says that he has raised more corn and better this year than he ever did. Aunt Nan, I will send you one of Pap's pictures in this letter. So I will come to a close for this time hoping to hear from you all soon."

[Thanks to my cousin, Shirley Martin Chandler, who found the letters in her granny’s attic, transcribed and provided me with a copy.].



The family links:
“Aunt Nan” was Nancy (née Jones, 1847-1918), the wife of E. C. (Ephraim Clayton) Anderson. They married 1868 in Clay County, Kentucky and at the time this letter was written, they were living in Laurel County, Kentucky.

The family connection between J. F. (John Farmer) Kelley and E. C. Anderson was actually between Sarah (née Anderson), the wife of J. F. Kelley, and E. C. Anderson. They were sister and brother (children of Joseph Anderson and Mary McElroy). Sarah died sometime between 1870 and 1880 in Arkansas. J. F. Kelley calls them brother and sister although technically, E. C. Anderson is his brother-in-law, and Nancy is E.C.’s wife.

The second part of the letter, evidently by (or for) Mary Elizabeth (née Kelley) Vanderpool contains some genealogical jewels. She mentions her children, John Vanderpool (my paternal grandfather) and Nancy Vanderpool (apparently the namesake of “Aunt Nan” as there are no other Nancys in these families. The Elbert mentioned is probably Mary Elizabeth’s youngest brother — Elbert Kelley. John Vanderpool was about nine years old and his sister, Nancy was seven. Elbert Kelley would have been a teenager, about 16 or 17 years old.

At first I thought it odd that Elbert would still be in school, but have discovered that children who lived in rural areas often went to school only when the crops and farm chores permitted—usually in the winter — and may have attended school only a few months each year. The four-mile jaunt to school postulates that they were indeed tough in the “good old days.” Walking eight miles a day provided plenty of exercise for those kids. They probably had chores after school, too.

In another part of the letter, Mary Elizabeth (my great-grandmother) records the only evidence we have about her “smart as a cricket” child who was born in March 1884 (and thus was 10 months old in January 1885). This child (sex unknown) died before 1900 and no other record has been found about him or her.

While the information about the price of crops, horses, store goods and the weather is of some interest, Mary Elizabeth, also gives us the exact birthdate of her brother Henry Kelley’s twin daughters — Dora and Cora —  and confirms that they are only 11 months younger than their big brother, Will Kelley.

Henry Kelley was born in 1857 in Clay County, Kentucky. He married 4 Feb. 1883 in Newton County, Arkansas to Mary Jane Henderson (1866-1920). Thanks to a letter that Henry wrote to this same uncle (E. C. Anderson) on 21 July 1883, we know more than just marriage facts. In it, Henry wrote:

“Uncle Clayton, I have taken me a woman. I was married the 4th of last February. My wife is 16 years old and she is black eyed, black hair and the same size of Sister Mary [who was my great-granny, Mary Elizabeth (née Kelley) Vanderpool, who my dad said was a "tiny thing"] and the prettiest girl you ever saw.”

Ephraim Clayton Anderson (1847-1918) married Nancy Trosper Jones (1839-1917) in Clay County, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Even Jones and Mary B. Weaver. They lived most of their lives in Laurel County, Kentucky. He was a surveyor, farmer and justice of the peace. They had six children, including a set of twins, but only three children survived childhood.

The “Aunt Jane” referred to apparently is a sister of E. C. Anderson and Sarah (nee Anderson) Kelley. If so, she is believed to have married a Sampson Wilder as his second wife.

Thanks to the family letter writers and those who preserve and share these treasures.

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