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LETTERS FROM MONA -Part 7 -April 16 – April 28,1913

April 16, 1913

Dear diary,

I am back from visiting with Sadie. We put the finishing touches on her dress this morning. My, how I wish we were working on mine, too. And I don’t have to tell you who the groom would be. But it is no use wishing for what you can’t have.

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April 18, 1913

Dear diary,

My, was the and postman ever busy with me this week. I got 6 letters in one day. One from Lida, another from Lillian, one from Aunt Ann, one from cousin Justin, one from Amber and best of all, one from my dear Roy.

He has changed camps, so my last letters probably never reached him. It was nice to hear from everyone and know they are thinking of me. Lillian and Justin sound love-sick for sure. All their letters did was talk of the other.

Lida said she was ready for school to be out. She and Blanche have big plans for summer. I sure wish I was there to chum with them like last summer, we had so much fun together even when we were working hard picking berries. After Sadie is married I will lose my only near-by chum again. How shall I survive?

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April 22, 1913

Dear diary,

I did a lot of sewing today, now that the days are getting longer I am able to sit in the window next to the stove and spend extra time on it. Mama and I have been embroidering Sadie a table cloth and dish towels for her wedding gift. And the mending bag always has something that needs attention, seems like Daniel is always putting a hole in his trousers or socks need darning.

Mama has also been teaching me how to knit but I am surely poor at it. So far all I have to show is a couple of crooked wash clothes. I guess when it comes to cleaning they will work, but Sadie shall get Mama’s perfect ones.

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April 28th, 1913

Dear diary,

I didn’t have time to write in you yesterday. I took the table cloth and dish towels over to Grandpa and Grandma’s to give Sadie. Just think in two days she will become Mrs. Bert Marchant. She’s so excited. Grandma and I helped her pack her hope chest full of everything she needs to start her new life. And oh how I wish it were me doing the same, except I’d be going to Washington to be with Roy.

Let me tell you I never saw such beautiful embroidered linens as she has. Sadie must have been mighty busy the whole time we were in Washington and of course some were made by Grandma. And such fine looking quilts, she and Bert certainly should be warm enough come winter.

They put the things Mama and I made to shame. Sadie seemed to like them anyway, said she’d think of us every time she used them, and since dish towels are well used, she shall surely be thinking of us often. After we closed up the chest, Sadie got out the Sears catalog and showed me the dishes and pans she and Bert plan to order.

I stayed for supper, as the fragrance of Grandma’s ham and bean soup and fresh baked rye bread, was too much for me to pass up. The sun was just dipping behind the hills as I left. As I watched the blue sky warm to shades of orange, pink and purple it made me miss Roy all the more. Sadie is so lucky, to soon have Bert to share such moments with.

I guess I best put you down for Mama has twice reminded me I still have chores to do. Seems they never end at this time of year.

LETTERS FROM MONA -Part 6- March 28 – April 12, 1913

March 28,1913

Dear Diary,

It is so nice and warm this morning that I am sitting outside facing our home. It isn’t much to look at especially by city standards. If Roy hadn’t told so many stories of growing up in a sod house, I would worry what he’d think of it. At least our house isn’t sod, it’s made of logs with mud plastered between. Papa and his brothers built it from trees they logged from the hills around here. They came here to homestead with my Grandma Jessie in 1888, eight years before I was born.

Inside we have a big room with a cook stove that also keeps us warm during cold weather.  Mama and Papa sleep downstairs but we kids all sleep up in the loft.  Let me tell you it gets mighty freezing up there when it is cold.

When we need supplies, we either get it from the general store in Aladdin, 8 miles away or go to Belle Fourche, 23 miles away and an overnight trip.  Sometimes we order stuff from the Sears catalog and pick it up from the train in Aladdin. You can buy almost anything that way, course you also must pay for it, so we don’t order much.

Papa is busy now getting the land ready to grow his oats, wheat, corn and rye along with the hay for our animals.  Soon Mama and I will be working in our gardens.

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April 2, 1913

Dear diary,

I have just finished churning the butter and cleaning the separator. I don’t mind doing the churning but I cleaning that separator is a real chore. I have a few minutes to write before it’s time to start the baking.

I am a bit fretful today. Roy wrote to me and mentioned that his parents are planning to move to Missouri to be near his Mother’s family. I don’t have to tell you I don’t like the sound of this. What if Roy decides to go there, too?  I know he could still write to me but I’d lose my Puyallup connections to him. It’s just troublesome.

I guess I need to stop writing. Mama says it’s time to start the baking. Besides the usual bread and biscuits, she wants me, to make a cake.

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April 15, 1913

Dear Diary,

I am at Grandma and Grandpa Smith’s. Sadie and I are having a fine visit.

Can you believe it? Bert asked her to marry him. Of course she said, yes. Grandma and Grandpa seem pleased. Grandpa said Bert was a fine man and he’d be proud to call him son-in-law.

I have been helping Sadie put the finishing touches on the new dress she will wear for the ceremony in Belle Fourche. It won’t be much of a wedding just Sadie and Bert and Grandpa and Grandma and Mrs. Marchant. Papa says there is too much farming to be done to spare the two days it would take for us to go. Maybe Mama, Hazel and I can hitch a ride along with Grandma and Grandpa. I hope so, anyway.

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,

Mae


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.

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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,
Mae

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.

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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.

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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.

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Prologue:

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.

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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.

Mae

My Grandma

This story is about Margaret Ragsdale Caple. Although my aunt says she was born in Kentucky all of her records indicate Missouri as her birth place. The family came to live in Puyallup sometime between 1900 and 1904.  The Puyallup house, in this story, burnt down in the late 1930’s. The G.A.R. home mentioned was the Meeker mansion. Today it has been restored back to to the way it was when it was Ezra Meeker’s home and is a museum.

Margaret Ragsdale Caple with grandchildren in 1923

Margaret Ragsdale Caple with her 5 grandchildren in 1923. Standing in back are Robert Caple and Blanche McKay. The girl standing in front is Iva Caple Bailey and the older baby is her brother, Roger Verle Caple. Margaret McKay is on the right.

My Grandma

by Iva Bailey

I was only twelve when my grandma Caple died, but I have many good memories of her.

For the first eight years of my life, grandma lived right next door to us in Puyallup. We all lived on 16th street, south-east, in what was then called Meeker Junction.

The house grandma lived in was a large, two-story, white house with a big bay window in the living room that grandma called the parlor. There was a porch that went almost all the way around the house. This was the home my dad grew up in and the house that was for a short time, my second home.

My grandfather Caple had died in 1920 when I was only two years old. I really couldn’t remember him but his memory seemed to live on in the house too.

Grandma had snappy brown eyes and long beautiful hair when it was combed out she could sit on it. She would let me brush and comb her hair, then she put it up on her head with big, bone pins and pretty combs. To me she was beautiful.

Even though grandma was born in Kentucky, she was of English parentage and she was an avid tea drinker. She and I had many tea parties, complete with Johnny cakes, as she called the little cakes she made. I remember, in particular, the sassafras tea she would make for us.  It tasted so good to me then.

Years later, when I was grown up, I bought some sassafras bark and made some tea, but it didn’t taste the same as grandma’s.

The feather bed she had brought with her from Missouri, in the covered wagon. How I loved to spend the night with grandma and sleep in the big feather bed. In the morning there would be sunken spot where we had slept. She would let me help her fluff and make up the bed again.

When I was about eight, grandma traded the big white house in Puyallup for a house in Orting, which was about ten miles away from Meeker Junction. She was a Civil War veteran’s widow and as such was entitled to commodities. To get the commodities she had to live in Orting where there was a colony of soldier’s widows. There was then, and still is, a soldiers home there.

Once a month the army officials would deliver grandma, coffee, tea, sugar and other staples. To grandma on her small widow’s pension, this was a big help.

I can remember how really upset I was by this move. Grandma traded houses with a lady by the name of Mrs. Zettiker. I didn’t like this lady. She had taken my grandma’s house away from us, or so I thought in my childish mind. I can remember my dad trying to explain to me that it was to grandmas best interest that she make this move.

Mr. Zettiker came and she changed grandma’s house. She put a bathroom in the room that had been my play house. She tore off the big porch that my cousins and I had played on when it rained. All this didn’t make me like her any better. I was glad she never lived in the house. She rented it out and I had several “best” friends there during my growing up years.

I would visit grandma every chance I had, which was pretty often. Dad worked in the logging camp which was above Orting, so he would take me along often, when he went to work, and I would spend the day or week-end with grandma. We had some good times together, grandma and I.

It was the summer before I was twelve that will always live in my memory. Grandma had gotten up early one August morning to water her garden. She left me sleeping in the big feather bed that she and I loved so much. In a short time she was back. She was talking to me but I couldn’t understand her. She lay down on the bed beside me and I knew something was wrong. I don’t even remember getting dressed, but I guess I did. I ran to the neighbors and hysterically told her that something was wrong with my  grandma.

The neighbor helped me call my dad in Puyallup. We had no telephone at home, so I had to call a neighbor who got Daddy to the phone. I was so hysterical by the time Daddy got to the telephone he could hardly understand all that I was trying to tell him. He knew something was wrong with grandma.

 By the time my mother and dad got to us, grandma was in a coma. She had a stroke and never regained consciousness.

They moved her to the G.A.R. home in Puyallup. There she died a few days later on August 5th, 1930. She was seventy-two.

She was laid to rest with my grandfather in the Orting Soldiers cemetery on August 8th, which happens to be my dad’s birthday. It seemed to me then, that part of the light had gone out of my world.Headstone-Caple, Margaret Malinda (Ragsdale)