Tag Archives: Isaac Smith

LETTERS FROM Mona- part 20- April 4, 1914 -April 7, 1914

April 4, 1914

I am back from staying with Grandma and Grandpa Smith. I went on Thursday and Grandpa dropped me back this morning on his way to Aladdin.

As usual I had a good visit. Grandma and I made cookies and worked on her newest quilt. It’s going to be a beauty. And guess what? It’s going to be mine, to put in my hope chest. I can hardly wait until I can give it a place of honor upon a bed. Guess I will be waiting a while though, won’t I?

It’s done in the World’s Fair pattern. She’s using only 2 colors, a creamy white and soft green print of tiny flowers. I love how easy on the eye it is.

I took the logging picture Roy sent me along to show Grandpa. And Oh, my did he ever love looking at it. He kept exclaiming, “What a sight it would be to see a forest like this.”

Roy Caple is the man on the right with his partner Gus.

Then he got out a photograph to show me. It was a man in a Civil War uniform. “This is Isaac Smith, my father, that makes him your great grandad.

Isaac Smith – photo taken Dec. 1863. He served in the 28th regiment, CO D of Iowa Infantry from Dec. 1863 -Nov. 1864. He was discharged due to ill health and died April 1865.

I exclaimed over it and Grandpa told me his father had died from an intestinal illness during the war and then he got up abruptly and went out the door mumbling about chores to do outside.

Grandma said Grandpa doesn’t much like talking about his boyhood on account he was only 10 when his father died leaving the family destitute. To survive his mama married a man who turned out to be an abusive drunk. I guess it’s all kind of hush, hush but she finally had to divorce him.

Matilda Fowler Smith and her husband Isaac Smith. This photo was taken around 1852 either before or just after arriving in CA. Matilda was born in 1835 and Isaac in 1824.

I wondered why they had gone back to Iowa so I asked Grandma.

“On account,” she said, “of Matilda wanting to go back to her mother when she found out she was in a family way again. So they gathered up their meager savings and went back to Iowa and that’s where your great Uncle Addison was born in 1860.” Grandma fingered the picture and added, “I guess it took all their resources to get back to, leaving them pretty hard-up. She once showed me a small gold nugget she kept wrapped in a handkerchief. She said it was the only thing left of their time in California. She did go on to have 2 more sons by her second husband. She lives with one of them now.”

Do you think I could write to them,” I asked intriqued to know more.

“Don’t see why not,” she said. I’ll give you the address before you leave.

“But here’s something else for you to see.” She pulled out another photograph, this one of and old man and woman. Course I thought they were Isaac and Matilda but then I remembered he’d died during the war. Grandma said the man was Matilda’s twin brother and they were both still alive. I guess the photo was taken for a newspaper article about them being the oldest living twins in Iowa. She said she and Grandpa hadn’t seen them since they moved from Iowa in the 1880’s.

Matilda Fowler Smith and her twin brother William.

Then she chuckled, “Mae you had better watch out you’ve got twins running through both sides of your family, you just might end up with a set of your own.”

While I am looking forward to having a family someday, I’d just as soon skip twins.


Donald, WYO

April 7, 1914

Well Roy I will try and write you a few lines to let you know I am still alive, and I am pretty well. I got your letter Wednesday, was glad to hear you were well. And hope you are yet. We are all, almost over the La grip now, and are awful glad. Mama is not so very well tho yet. And Daniel has the headach so much.

Hazel and Daniel are still going to school down here. There was so much school lost on count of Aunt Sarah’s sickness and so it won’t be out until the first of May or later.

School started up home yesterday. I think we will move up there about a week from Saturday. I will be very glad to get home again. For “be it ever so humble there is no place like home.”

We was up there Sunday but Hazel and I went to see Vera and did not go on as it was to far to walk back. We had a nice time there tho. I was so glad to see Vera. Clarence was there too. “Ace” Lathrop was there too and oh my what a scolding I did get for not coming up when we were at Aunt Sadie’s and he would not let me make no excuses, was the worst of it.

Was glad your partner was back again. And supose you were glad to see him.

Frank Risher is home again, I was talking to him today he says he had good luck down there selling beads he sold $23.30 worth and is going to sell a lot more.

Hazel and I have got the bead notion now. Can make them lots better and we were just thinking maybe there might be some people there that would like some if Frank hasn’t said anything about it. Hazel is just wild to make them. I am going to send Lida a string and a Bandeau, will send them Saturday I think.

I have a string of light blue that are pretty good.

Papa is busy farming has quite a bit done and lots to do yet.

We are having pretty good weather and the grass is starting pretty good now. I am surely glad to see spring once again. 

Do you hear from Justin often? I wrote some time ago but have not got an answer.

Was surprised to hear about Gladys Clason and that uncle of hers.

Edna was here last Wednesday and stayed all night.

Aunt Sarah is not much better, Mama and I was over there Wednesday. Oh my she looks so bad. It made me feel so bad to see her look so. I hope she gets better tho.

Aunt Sadie and Bert are both well, haven’t seen them for a time tho.

There is not much news to write, I guess I had better go get dinner now and finish later.

Well here I am again, just got throu with dinner. How is the weather in Nagram? Hope it is better.

It is kindy cold today we have had pretty good weather tho.

I am still reading my Bible. I was glad I was so far ahead for when I got sick I could not read for quite a few days, so had to read again and am ahead quite a ways now.

I supose you hear from your folks quite often. I will write Lida Saturday.

Well I guess I will close this time.

Write often,

As ever, Mae

Frank and all of the folks was just here and Frank says he got your letter and said it was a nice letter and he is going to answer it soon.

(did your ears burn today, ha ha)

China letter:

15. translation: (don’t worry about me for I will get all right soon, Mae)


Matilda Fowler Smith


Matilda Fowler Smith taken about 1852. Possibly just before or after moving to California .

Family history writing prompt 3 – think of  an ancestor as character in a novel and describe their life in a few paragraphs. For this prompt, I have chosen Matilda Fowler, my third great grandmother from my Father’s maternal line. Her real life story reads like a great historical the one without a happy ending.

Matilda Fowler Smith

 Matilda walked him to the door, “Thank you for coming. I don’t know if I will ever be able to pay you.

The doctor stepped onto the porch. “Don’t worry about it. I just wish there was more I could do. It shouldn’t be long now.”

She nodded and watched until he reached his horse and buggy. She closed the door and walked across the room to where a chest stood. Bending down she slipped her hands into the bottom drawer and rummaged under the linens until she found what she wanted – a frame and an old knotted handkerchief. 

With slumped shoulders she walked over to the rocker next to her sleeping husband. She sighed as she lowered herself onto the seat and began to undo the knot. The pulled back edges of fabric revealed three tiny gold nuggets, the frame an image taken just after they married. They’d been so young, so full of hope for their future, now this was all that remained.

“Oh, Isaac, she whispered.  “What happened to our dreams.” 

Tears leaked from her eyes, instead of rich they were penniless, and soon Isaac would join the five babies she’d already buried.

 She closed her eyes, “What’s to become of us?” she murmured. How will the  boys and I go on without you?”


Born a twin, Matilda and her brother William, were the 8th and 9th children of Phoebe Hockett and John Fowler. At age four her family moved from Ohio to Henry County, Iowa. In 1845, at the age of ten, her father died. The family moved to Tama County, Iowa in 1850.

Matilda matured fast, at the tender age of 15 she and Isaac Smith eloped. The following spring the pair set off to “see the elephant” having caught gold fever. They had big dreams of becoming rich in California.

The trip couldn’t have been easy. Cholera and other diseases loomed across the trail and although they caused no problems the Native Americans always watching, frightened Matilda.

By October the couple had only made it as far as the area of Salt Lake City. There Matilda gave birth to their first child, a boy they named William. Two days later they buried him and had to move on. How hard it it must have been for them to face this loss alone without the help of extended family they’d left back home. The hardest part of the journey still lay ahead. Exhausted the couple finally arrived in the gold fields in December of 1852.

In the next few years Matilda gave birth to 5 more children. Twins who died shortly after birth and two others who died of childhood diseases. Only the oldest my great great grandfather, William R. Smith, survived.

By 1860 she was pregnant again and longed to be back in the safety of her mother’s arms. So she set off alone, to sail home, while her husband and son traveled back by wagon train. That summer she gave birth to a healthy baby boy in her mother’s home. They named him James Wesley Addison Smith.

The couple moved to Benton County, Iowa, where Isaac rented a farm, and they struggled to make ends meet. Isaac’s health was already suffering when he joined the Civil War effort, enlisting in 28th Iowa Regiment, in December of 1863. Most likely he joined to get a bounty to help support his family. That summer he lay ill in a Washington D.C. hospital. Discharged in 1864, due to disability, he died at home in April of 1865.

Matilda was left with their two young sons to raise alone. Penniless she was able to collect a small pension but it wasn’t much.

In 1866 she married Amos Werner and they had 3 more children. I wish I could say her marriage to Amos had a happy ending but he turned out to be a drunk and she divorced him.

In 1881 Matilda married for the third time to James Small. One can hope this union was happier. In 1895 James passed away and Matilda moved in with her son, Samuel Werner.

Her family said her hard life had made her thrifty and honest with a strong sense of right and wrong. She spent her last years enjoying her corncob pipe, quilting and piecing braided hairpieces for extra money. She was 82 at the time of her death in 1917 and is buried in the Reading cemetery, Farmhamville, Calhoun County, Iowa.


Matilda at age 76