The Box reveals a vernacular letter from 1880 in which lonely Nellie writes to her far away cowboy brother Douglas to inform him of their father's death, but is unable to reach him as he has left his "horrid ranch" and is off herding for the season.
Norwich Town Conn. Oct. 31st 1880
My Dear Douglas
I have been hoping for some time to hear from you. About two months since I became so anxious about you that I wrote to the Postmaster and to Mr. Charlie Davis at Collyer to ascertain your whereabouts. They kindly replied to my inquiries that you were off herding, and would return to Collyer in October. I feel deeply pained that you should neglect to write to me for you know how dear you are to me & to all your family. We have all felt great anxiety on your account.
You have doubtless before this received a letter from Europe dated the 15th informing you our dear father’s death. George telegraphed me on the 11th to go to New York immediately as father was dangerously ill. I went and found him very low with his old complaint in an aggravated form. His sufferings were intense but Morphine relieved him. Em & I were with him constantly & he had every attention. But nothing could save him. He died very quietly, did not seem to suffer any pain. He died at 257 W. 4th St. where he was boarding. The funeral services were held at St. Peter’s Church West 20th St. and we laid him beside our dear mother in Elizabeth, N. Jersey. I can hardly realize that we shall never see our dear old father again in this life. Dear Douglas I wish you were with me that we might talk about him & about many things. I know how sad you will feel for you were a good affectionate son.
I spent a few days at George’s after the funeral and then returned to my work at Norwich. As soon as I can (perhaps in a few months) I want to go to Springfield & live with Kate, we might as well live and work together for we are both alone. Poor Kate is feeling dreadfully about Father’s death. She came East to spend this last vacation. Both she and Father were here. We had such a pleasant time together. How little we know “what a day may bring forth”. I hope you are doing well, Douglas & I am glad to know, (through your friends) that your principals are sound – but I am sure that you must be tired of that wandering life. Do sell that horrid ranch & locate in some Western City, say Kansas City or Chicago, where George would find a situation for you and help you in any way that he could. Do think seriously of it and write to me very soon.
Perhaps some day we can have a home together. I don’t like to think that you don’t love your sisters or that we are never to meet. Em & Theodore are to begin housekeeping on Nov. 6th in a flat on the corner of 52nd St. & Broadway. Mrs. Benedict the elder is to live with them and pay the bills as her father has recently died & left her plenty of money. I hope Em will enjoy it. It is many years since she has had a real home. George’s children are very interesting. They have a new baby born in July called May Leathrop. Old Mrs. Belkamp of Elizabeth is dead in her 90th year. Our friends here are well. Henry Hard is here preparing for college. His mother is in Chicago with Mr. Hard.
God bless you my dear brother do not forget your loving sister,
St. Peter's Church on W. 20th, perhaps not so different than it looked at the time of Nellie's father's funeral.
"How little we know what a day may bring forth". Amen, Nellie.