Amanuensis Monday ~ With Love…

Frederick and Hester Martin (Courtesy of:  "Reynolda House Museum of American Art Archives")

Frederick and Hester Martin (Courtesy of: “Reynolda House Museum of American Art Archives”)

I enjoy amanuensis when the writing is reasonably deciphered! It is a peevish problem when one’s head is tilted this way and that begins to swim with visions of ambiguous scrawling handwriting with no hope of decoding what appears to require a WWII code breaker from Bletchley Park!  The fulfillment however when the secret of the original records’ message is revealed is a kin to magic!  Journals, letters, legal documents, postcards, are personal and can often reveal intimate details of our ancestors’ emotional, internal lives!

Some of my absolute favourite transcriptions are of letters of wartime context.  The sense of longing and sorrow associated with a lost loved soldier or a distant love in dangerous circumstances can be heart wrenching.

Here are a couple of heart weighing tales discovered from a few simple transcriptions~

Frederick Martin, a cousin of my husband’s was a gardener of much prestige first in England and later at Reynolda House, a magnificent estate in Winston, North Carolina, USA.  Frederick sadly died in France on July 22, 1917 during the First World War.  His wife was devastated and her candid emotion in a letter to his employer, Mrs. Reynolds is truly breathtaking:

Dear Madam, It is just a week ago that I received the news of the overwhelming sorrow that has befallen me. There is not much to tell. He was killed in action on July 22nd. He had been wounded the day before but had been of great assistance to the officers in looking after those poor fellows who were more wounded than he was. Tho slightly wounded went into action next day to meet his death. It was a great shock to me for I had the day before received two letters from him. Letters full of hope, cheer and saying how he would make up to me when the war was over for the past years of separation and anxiety. If only a year could roll back how gladly I would brave the submarines to go with him, for in nearly every letter he was wishing I was with him but can only hope it is for the best. I cannot yet realize he has gone but I know when I go back to Philadelphia and England, I shall have some bad days to go through. I do not know yet what I shall do but am writing the British Consul for a passport to England, but of course they may not be able to let me go. His major writes me that his death was instantaneous and that he died a hero’s death, that is as it may be but I know that I have been called upon to give up a life that was very dear and precious to me. I hope that Mr. Reynolds is better for the visit to Atlantic City and that the children and yourself are well. Please tell Lizzie I will answer her kind letter soon. With best wishes Believe me yours sincerely H. Martin.

A second–I’ll be it happier–wartime correspondence is a telegram written to one Lance Corporal Knowles from Paris, Ontario, Canada 15 Nov 1916 announcing a joyous event which I’m sure he was disappointed to miss, the birth of his daughter Gwendolyn:

Western Union Cablegram From Paris, Ontario Number of words 22/23 Dated 15 Nov 1916 —

To L co. Lance Corporal Knowles 163232 Fourteenth Platoon D company seventy fifth Canadian Army Post Office London.

Daughter Gwendolyn both doing well. Knowles

The original Telegram

The original Telegram

Fred Knowles, a relation of my sister-in-law, was lucky enough to return home to meet his daughter. However, he was so badly wounded at the Somme that he was invalided home and lost his left arm.

Fred Knowles meets his daughter Gwendolyn in June of 1917.

Fred Knowles meets his daughter Gwendolyn in June of 1917.

These personal letters were truly sent With love and for love…
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