Monthly Archives: December 2019

Letters from Mona -Part 5 – March 19 – March 25, 1913

One of the Phillips brother’s ranch probably near Aladdin, Wyoming

March 19, 1913

Dear Diary,

I am exhausted this afternoon. We had a surprise party for Mama’s birthday last night. Oh my, so many people came, so much storytelling and laughing. Papa teased Mama about he used to wheel her around in her baby carriage and vowed he’d marry her one day. Mama swatted him and said he was lucky she ever agreed to be his wife. And of course, there were the many stories everyone in these parts have about the hardships they faced when they first got here to Crook county. It was the wee hours of the morning before folks left.

I think Mama wishes I would be more social; I have gotten rather quiet since our return from Washington. I know the other young people are going to dances and parties, but I just can’t bring myself to join them right now.

The days pass so slowly. And I worry about Roy. His last letter said he’d soon be returning to the logging camps and I know how dangerous those places can be.

March 22, 1913

Dear Diary,

At last spring has arrived. How wonderful it is to be able to roam again in the warm sunshine. At dawn I went out to fetch a pail of water. The sun was rising and what a glory of nature was before me.  Meadowlarks were flying from dewdrops to dewdrops while jack rabbits loped beside the path. Everywhere there are hints of green popping out and before long everything will be in bloom.

I intend to plant a garden this spring. Not only will it give me something of my own to do but I am hoping I will have enough to sell to the miners in Aladdin and show Mama and Papa how mature I have become.

March 23, 1913

Dear Diary.

I had a letter from Amber Henry this week. She says all is well in Puyallup and asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding this summer. Seems she and Ode are planning on tying the knot. Oh, how I’d love to go. I read the letter aloud to Mama and Papa and suggested I see if one of the aunts might accompany me out. We’d have plenty of places to stay there.

Hazel said please, please let us both go. But Mama and Papa said it was out of the question as Mama would be needing our help with the canning and garden then.

I guess Roy would be up logging in the mountains anyway but maybe he would make it home for the wedding if he knew I was going to be there.

March 24, 1913

Dear friend,

There is a dance at McDonalds. I suppose we will go but I don’t care a great deal about it. I wish you would go too.

No I haven’t heard from Justin or Lillian for a long time. I don’t see why they don’t write. I hear they are not going to Canada. It would be nice if they moved up there to Nagram for you.

I am sorry your Mother and father are going away.  My it will be hard for you. Maybe they won’t stay so long as they think for I don’t think I would like it there as well as Wash. But maybe they will. I hear Amber and Ode will be married in Aug. sometime I don’t know just when. Hazel got your card and seems pleased to get it. I wish you were here to go to church tomorrow I have kept my lessons up in the Bible and I think quite a bit a head. Well I must close and get busy again now. Write if I don’t.

Best regards, as ever,


March 25, 1913

Dear Diary,

I just finished by morning chores and there is nothing that needs doing until the bread dough rises. I am so tired as we didn’t get home from the dance at MacDonald’s barn until 5:00 A.M.

Mama is napping, perhaps I’ll find time for one this afternoon. It was a fun crowd except I’d really rather not have gone. Not that I had a choice wherever the family goes, I go.

It was nice to catch up with all the family and friends though. We haven’t seen much of some of them since we returned from Washington. I was relieved to hear my Uncle say cousin Justin isn’t going to Canada after all. I don’t have to tell you why; I want to keep all my Puyallup connections.

I am a little worried though, I didn’t get a letter from Roy this week but Hazel got a card. I try to tell myself it’s just that he is trying to show he is interested in friendship with our whole family so gradually they may come to accept our relationship but still I worry that maybe he is losing interest in me. Hopefully I’ll get a letter next week.



LETTERS FROM MONA – Part 4, February 14, 1913 to March

Reminder: The diary fiction but the letters are real. The first letter appears here in the 4th part.

William Roy Caple, photo is from around 1914

February 14, 1913

Dear Diary,

Oh my, my heart is soaring. Papa came home with the mail from Mona, to my surprise he handed me an envelope and package. And yes, they were from Roy.

Here I thought he’d forgotten me; I hadn’t heard from him in so long and then he goes and sends me the most gorgeous Valentine. He also sent me a quirt with a note that said – something for you to use when riding your pony, Drummer. My goodness, he even remembered my horse’s name. I just love them both and I will think of Roy every time I ride my pony.

He sent Hazel and Daniel cards too, but they are nothing like my big fancy heart. Mama and Papa said very little about my gift, I am not sure they were pleased.


March 4, 1913

Dear Diary,

I haven’t written in you for a while. Mama has kept me pretty busy with chores. Yesterday was wash day. I hauled water from the well and stood over boiling pots of white linens most of the day.  All the wringing, rinsing and more wringing it dry before hanging it all about this tiny cabin. Doing laundry in Puyallup was much easier with indoor water and more space.

Sadie just called; she is coming over tomorrow. I can’t wait to see her. I haven’t heard from Roy since Valentine’s day.

Mama is calling, the irons heating on the stove are hot, it’s time to start the ironing.

Mona WYO .

March 1913
Dear Friend,

I received your letter some time ago. Was very glad to hear from you for I had not heard from anyone there. I surely thot you had forgotten me in Puyallup. We are all pretty well at present and hope you are well and happy.
I received my valentine and many thanks for it. I think it is awful pretty and so do everyone else. They all think my quirt is nice too. I haven’t used it yet on my saddle pony for one of our horses got lame and we have to drive him.
We had a surprise party on Mama last night wish you could have been with us. We had a nice crowed and a fine time. They stayed to almost five o’clock this morning.

Did Lida and Blanche get my letter? And how are they getting along. When are you going now and where are you going up in the woods to work? Justin said you and him are going. Are you going to the same place you were last year?
We have had very nice weather for the last week. But it was cold. Aunt Sadie came over today. It seems like I have to be with her all the time. My, I sure do miss Lillian. And of course I miss all of you folks there. Has anyone moved into the house where we left yet? Do you go to very many shows? I well remember the last one I went to. I don’t know when I will get to go to another, it is thirty miles to one here so I don’t think I will go to any for some time.
Did you get my card? I sent you one long time ago.
They have had quite a few dances since we came but I haven’t been to many.
Well I must close for this time and please excuse me for not writing before. Hoping to hear from you soon, I am as ever your friend,

LETTERS FROM MONA – Part 3, Dec. 22, 1912 -Jan. 30, 1913

Dec. 22, 1912

Dear Diary,

Well we arrived back in Mona last Friday. Cousin Clifford took very good care of our animals and place. You could barely tell we ever left. We loaded up on supplies before we left Belle Fourche. Grandma and Grandpa Smith and Sadie were there to meet our train on our arrival in Aladdin. It was good to see them again, especially Aunt Sadie. I have learned my 2 best chums, who lived nearby, have moved away. So, Sadie will be my only chum. She may be my Aunt but since she is only 5 years older, she is more like a big sister. At least I will have her to talk to. And surprise she has taken a homestead claim of her own just north of Aladdin. Isn’t she the plucky one?

I told her all about Roy and she said she understood how I felt, for she has fallen madly in love with Bert Marchant. She’s hoping he will ask her to marry soon. I never thought of them as a couple, so it came as a big surprise. And it made me miss Roy even more. Tomorrow after church I am going to write everyone in Puyallup a letter. The weather is turning cold probably won’t be long before we get our first snowfall.


December 29th, 1912

Dear Diary,

Christmas has come and gone. I didn’t have much time to write because Mama and I were busy making lots of cookies and cakes. We went to the program the school put on, if we had been back earlier Hazel and I would probably have would have been part of the production. They had a good crowd and it was nice seeing everyone again. It snowed for two days before Christmas so we had a white one. Christmas day dawned clear and bright. We hitched up the team and took a sleigh ride over to Grandma and Grandpa Smith’s. Uncle Will and Aunt Minnie were there also. My how my little cousins had grown in a year.

We sang Christmas carols, enjoyed oyster stew and ate plenty of the cookies and cake that both Mama and Grandma made. On the way home the moonlight glistened on the snow like glitter. Oh how I wished Roy had been there to share it with me.

There will be a dance down at the Phillip’s barn New Year’s eve. Guess we will go if the weather holds.

———————————————————————————————————————————————January 30th, 1913

Dear Diary,

It’s been a while since I wrote in you. I must get back in the habit, I think for I have so few to talk to around here about my deepest thought.

My the weather has been cold. Makes me really wish we were still in Puyallup where it never gets this cold. We did go to the dance on New Year’s eve. Most all of the Phillips relatives were there which made it fun, I hadn’t seen many of them for so long. But I didn’t care so much for dancing.

It would have been different if Roy had been there. I got a letter from him, but he didn’t say much and it was ever so proper. I keep telling myself it’s because he knew Mama and Papa would read it but then again, maybe all he means to be from here on out, is a friend who once lived next door. It makes feel so blue. I don’t dare say that around Mama and Papa, I’m sure they wish I’d forget all about him. I never shall never forget him, no matter what the future may hold, of this I am sure.

It’s time to help Mama get dinner on the table, more later.

Letters From Mona – The Beginning -Part 1-Dec. 1912


Over the next few months I will be sharing my grandparents courtship letters along with an accompanying diary. The letters are real. The diary is historical fiction based on what I have gleaned from their writing, talking to their children and my research into life in rural Wyoming between 1913 -1916. I hope you will enjoy reading them.




She crept into the musty attic, in a corner sat an old brown trunk. She remembered her Mama telling her how her Daddy had sled it through the snow to a train waiting to take them to their new life in Puyallup, WA.

Judging from the amount of dust on top she guessed it hadn’t been opened in years.  Ignoring it, she undid the worn leather straps and tugged the latch open. There wasn’t much in the trunk, some photos, a pretty dress her Mama wore to dances and a little blue sailor suit. She remembered watching her Mama stitch it for her little brother.

At the bottom of the trunk was a covered box. She lifted it out and carefully removed the lid.  Inside lay the quirt her Daddy had given her Mama for Valentine’s day. What had her Mama called her horse? She didn’t remember anymore. Under the quirt sat a few photo’s of her Mother’s youth and two packets of letters tied in blue satin ribbons – one pile addressed to Roy Caple, Nagram,Wash., the other to Mae Phillips, Mona, Wyoming and a faded leather journal. Her fingers shook as she opened it.


Puyallup, Wash.

Dec. 1, 1912

Dear Diary,

The Henry’s gave you to me as a birthday gift. Up until today all I wanted to do was admire your pristine white pages and touch your soft leather cover but now I must have a place to spill my heart, for it is breaking.

Just a bit ago, Mama and Papa informed me we are going home before Christmas. Why now, I asked. We’ve been here almost a year and I thought they were happy.

Papa said it’s because cousin Clifford, who has been renting our place in Mona, had decided to move elsewhere. And Mama said she couldn’t bear to be away from her family any longer. But I think the real reason is to get me away from a certain somebody. Just thinking of him makes me want to swoon. I fell for him the minute I first set eye on him and recently he told me he felt the same way.

Let me tell you with his blue, blue eyes, dark, almost black, brown hair and gentle smile he has to be the handsomest man alive. And that’s the problem, he is a man and according to my parent’s, I’m just a girl. Never mind that I am 16 and finished with school. Why Grandma Jessie was married a year by the time she was my age.

I said I’d stay with the Henry’s and get a job at the box factory. But Mama said absolutely not, you’re too young to live away from us. You only want to stay because your smitten with that young man next door. You’ll forget all about him once some fine Wyoming lad sets his sights on courting you.

But I know I won’t.

We came here because our last winter in Wyoming was very cold and hard. Papa’s family kept writing about the wonders of Washington state, so when my cousin said he was looking for a place to rent, my folks decided to give Washington a try. Right after Christmas we boarded a train bound for Puyallup.

The Henry’s found us a place to live not far from them. I can never remember just how but Mrs. Henry is some sort of distant relation of Papa’s.

The house was furnished and a family by the name of Caple owned the house and little farm next door. In no time we made friends with Mr. and Mrs. Caple. Their daughter Lida was an age between Hazel and I and soon the three of us were the best of friends.

Lida kept talking about her three handsome brothers who were away working in a logging camp and how they would soon be back home. But nothing prepared me for meeting the middle one. I tell you it was like a bolt of lightning hit me the first time I laid eyes on him.

Just thinking about him sets my heart to racing. For a long time he didn’t say anything about feeling the same. He was just as nice as could be towards me. But then he is with everyone. He was so patient with Hazel’s silliness and Daniel’s little boy ways. But one day while I was helping him pick berries in his berry patch he confessed he’d be smitten with me of I wasn’t so young. But more and more lately I think he feels the same way as I do – that we are meant to be together – forever.

Papa says he’s a fine young man but too old for a girl of 16. Honestly, I can’t see what difference that makes. Papa is ten years older than Mama and no couple could be more devoted to each other, so I don’t understand why the 11 years between Roy and I matters.

Mama is calling so I must stash you and see what she wants.


Synopsis of William Roy Caple Family

Like my Grandmother Mae’s family, my Grandfather William Roy Caple’s, roots also went back to colonial America.  His paternal side of the family were from Maryland and Pennsylvania while his maternal originated in Virginia.

William Roy’s great grandfather, Samuel Caple Jr. moved from Maryland in the 1830’s to Richland County, Ohio. His oldest son Jacob Caple was William Roy’s grandfather. Jacob married Sarah Ann Garey whose roots were from colonial Pennsylvania. They were the parents of Samuel Hugh Caple born in 1845. In 1857 the family moved to Monroe, Jasper County, Iowa.

Samuel Hugh Caple was a veteran of the civil war and a wanderer. After the war he married a hometown girl. She passed away in 1876 leaving him with 2 small children Milo and Minnie. In 1877 he married Margaret Melinda Ragsdale in Brookline, Missouri. The couple soon moved to Kansas and are found in several different areas of the state. While in Kansas the family grew with the addition of Samuel Jr. in 1879, Ida in 1880 and Joseph in 1883. In 1885 William Roy, my grandfather was born near Coffeyville, Kansas. Around 1887 or 1888 they moved to Washington territory. Their youngest son was born in Cheney, Washington in 1889. During this time they are found living in several areas including Spokane, Cheney and Puyallup, Washington. There were probably at least two other children who died in infancy.

In 1892, when a depression hit Puyallup hard, Samuel H. decided to try homesteading with his brother in Caple, Oklahoma, present day Texas county. My grandfather, William Roy, would have been between the ages of 7 to 9 when they made this move. Their daughter Ida died in route and is buried somewhere along the trail in Idaho.

There they lived in a sod house and their youngest daughter Lida was born there in 1899. The couple’s oldest son drowned while rounding up cattle during a storm in 1899. By 1901 they are again found living in Puyallup, Washington.

My grandfather’s Mother was born in 1858 and raised in the home of Richard Jordan Ragsdale. Her parents were said to have died when she was a baby during either in a smallpox or measle epidemic. Richard Jordan was said to have been a cousin. He had been born in TN and his roots go back to the early days of Virginia near present day Jamestown. Who her real parents were remains unknown.

Alexander Phillips Synopsis

Martha Smith Phillips mother of Mae Phillips.

It’s been a long while since I posted on this blog. Soon I will be sharing letters my grandparents, Mae Edith Phillips and William Roy Caple, wrote to each other from 1913 to 1916.

In hopes of aiding the reader, reading these letters, I am posting a synopsis of Mae’s heritage, another for my Grandfather, William Roy Caple will follow, tomorrow.

Most of Mae’s ancestry in this country goes back to Colonial days. Many on her paternal side were among the first English settlers of Connecticut in the 1600’s.

In 1794, Cynthia Prindle, of this group, married, Patrick O’Hara of Londonderry, Ireland. Patrick had come to Canada in 1783 and by 1794, when they married, they were living in Vermont.

They had 12 children and eventually moved to LeRay, Jefferson County, New York. Here their daughter, Sarah O’Hara, married Reuben Phillips in 1823. Reuben’s parentage is unknown, but census records indicate he was born in the New York around 1800. Their first child, Mae’s grandfather, was born the following year. They named him Daniel and he was soon followed by 6 siblings, 4 brothers and 2 sisters.

Meanwhile, about the same time, Sara’s brother, James O’Hara, became one of the earliest settlers of Madoc, Hasting County, Ontario, Canada. By 1833 Sarah and Rueben also moved to this area.

Around 1840 another family made their way to Madoc. Alexander Cross and his wife Helen Ross of Scotland crossed the ocean and settled next to the James O’Hara property in Madoc. Both Alexander and his wife Helen were born in Ross and Cromarty county, Scotland but were living in Aberdeen, Scotland when the emigrated. In 1848 their daughter Janet (Jessie) age 16, married Sarah and Rueben’s son, Daniel Phillips.

By 1852 most of Rueben and Sarah’s children were married with families of their own and they were all on the move. The entire family group first moved back to Northern New York, by 1860 they were living in Whiteside County, Illinois and by 1870 the census records shows most of the group had settled in Tama County, Iowa. Daniel and Jessie were living there when Mae’s father, Alexander Phillips, was born in 1867.

Six years later Daniel was killed in a wagon accident leaving Jessie with 13 children to finish raising.

Sometime after 1880 most of the Phillips and allied families moved to Shelton, Buffalo County, Nebraska, and by the late 1880’s they were homesteading in the Black Hills of Crook County, Wyoming. My grandmother was living there when the letters I will be sharing were were written.

Mae’s maternal ancestors also go back to the Colonial days and are of Quaker, Scots Irish, Palatinate German, and French Huguenot origins. The Quaker and Scots Irish groups moved into VA, NC and finally Iowa. The Palatinate German and Huguenot groups also moved into VA, then Tennessee, Indiana and eventually Tama County, Iowa.

There her Smith grandparents William R. Smith and Lavina Harden married. To this couple 3 children were born, Martha Smith, Mae’s mother, b. in 1877, William I. Smith b. in 1880 and Sadie Smith b. in 1891.

Around 1885, when most of the Phillips clan moved to Nebraska, they were joined by the Smith family. Most of this group including the Smiths went on to homestead in Crook county, Wyoming around 1888. Lavina Harden’s Smith’s father Jonathan Harden, had gone there during the gold rush in the late 1870’s. His presence there probably had something to do with the group choosing to homestead there.

Alexander and his mother, Jessie Cross Phillips, both took out claims on Deep Creek as did their old Iowa neighbors, William R. Smith and his wife Lavina Harden Smith.

On Aug. 5th, 1895, Mae’s parents, Martha Smith and Alexander Phillips, wed. Their first child, my grandmother, Mae Phillips was born the following year. Her sister, Hazel in 1900 and a brother, Daniel in 1903.

While Mae grew up in a isolated part of the country she was surrounded by a large extended family, which included aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, many cousins both first and several times removed as well as her Smith grandparents, Aunt Sadie and Uncle Will Smith.

In 1903 Mae’s Uncle, John Phillips, moved to Rosedale, Pierce county, WA. Justin, the cousin she mentions often in her letters, is his son.

Later other Phillips kin moved to Puyallup, WA. In 1912, perhaps because of a very hard winter and a poor crop year, Alexander moved his family to Puyallup and rented a house next to the family of Samuel Hugh Caple. There my grandparents, Mae Phillips and William Roy Caple met. Mae would have been 16, Hazel her sister, 12 and Daniel, her brother, 9. William Roy Caple would have been 27, his older brother Joe, 30, his younger brother Richard, 23 and their sister Lida 13.


Notes: James O’Hara the brother of Sarah O’Hara Phillips had a sawmill in Madoc, Hasting County, Ontario, Canada. Today the site of the Mill is a heritage park. Readers may find it interesting to explore their web page at Be sure to check out their history link for more history about the O’Hara family.

You might also enjoy looking up the Aladdin General store’s face book page or google it.  Today Aladdin, WY has a population of 15. At the time the letters were written it was a small coal mining town. This same general store is the place Mae’s family used and where her Dad collected the mail for his mail route. It is also where they could catch the train to Belle Fourche and points elsewhere. Several extended members of her family also lived there at one time or another.