Years ago as my grandma was going through old pictures and papers she had saved, she gave me a few boxes with some family history information in them. None of it was in any kind of order and none of it was one kind of medium. Some pictures, cards, letters, some photocopies of old typewriter-typed lineage charts, some envelopes with just the postmark and a stamp on them- she saved all those things. In a small manila envelope I found a photocopy of a letter, a few pages long, and stapled in the corner. It was a copy of a hand-written letter that dated 1898, and I figured out that it’s author was my Great-Great Grandma Bowers.
She was Sarah “Sallie” Elizabeth Gillespie then, and was a single 24 year old woman living in Coosa Creek, Union County, Georgia. Here’s the letter as typed up by me, doing my best to decipher the old form of writing: (also, forgive her run-on sentences, there are heaps!)
Coosa Creek, GA January 16, 1898
Mr. William Bowers,
My dear friend I now attempt to answer your most kind and highly appreciated letter of January 8. I was truly glad to hear you were well and enjoying life, oh how bad I want to see you. I could answer all your questions much better than I can by letter and would enjoy talking so much better than trying to write. You have in your last letter forced me to confess love to you, no doubt, but you are aware that I have always felt great pleasure in your company indeed, that I prefer you to any other of my acquaintance among your sex, but the reason I have been slow to answer your questions-one thing is because I have been in delicate health for the last two years but you knew I was not enjoying good health when you left old Georgia but our acquaintances have been of long standing and I think we know each others dispositions and my affections have grown warmer toward you for some length of time and it would be false modesty of me now to disclaim a feeling of the sincerest and most affectionate regard for you after such undoubted proofs of your attachments. You surely have known for some length of time that I cared for you. You say you know there is other men I rather correspond with than you. If there is I know them not. I had your fortune told yesterday and she told me you were true to me. She said you had a good fortune but you had a few jealous thoughts is all she disliked about your fortune. Well, must I tell you? Chastain was here today. He spent last night at J.M Addington’s. Sallie is spending tonight with us. Your brother-in-law was here today. He said your folks were well. Well, I will finish my letter this morning. It is very cold and I think will snow I guess. My folks will start for home this month. They have been gone 8 days. Cousin Eugenia Rider’s husband died the 6th of this month. I suppose Sallie will leave for Elijah to spend the summer. She wants to start in about two weeks. I suppose Rufe will go back with John, I don’t feel like I can bear to give them up. I don’t have much idea of going with them. If I was ready I would go with them. You please tell me what you think of me going to (Calo??). I know you will give me good advice just tell me your thoughts I will not get offended- let your answer be what it may. Charlie aims to go back with the boys also. (?? Ledford?) well as I have failed to interest you I will close hoping to hear from you by return mail. Take good care of your health. Write soon and a long letter. This leave me in common health and truly hope this will find you well, I wish you were here to help me eat my birthday dinner next Sunday, provided I shall live to see that day. (? ) Cromley and Della will start school this morning. Dove and Virgil has been going two weeks to Mt. Pleasant. (? Ida Earney?) will be teaching at Coosa this morning. Write soon.
Yours very sincerely,
The names in “bold” are Sallie’s siblings she’s referring to. There are other names and places I’ve come across in other research but haven’t put together with this letter yet.
I find it funny that aside from the more “flowery-speech” on occasion, she is a typical young woman, over-analyzing a guy’s words, actions and confirming and doubting his affections all in the same letter. And to think it took a week or more to really communicate if they were sending letters, and they couldn’t just call or email or text each other about how they felt and get on with it. And maybe that is the problem in many relationships today. Instant gratification. She was 24. He was 27. That was a bit older than the norm back then to get married and start a family- I bet she was feeling pressure to find that perfect guy, and being sick for a couple years would have set her back for sure. The letter is from January, and they would finally be married November 23 of that year. They lived a long life together in the northern mountains of Georgia, raising their kids and seeing grandkids and a few great grandkids. She died in October of 1948, a month shy of them celebrating 50 years of marriage.