The letter transcribed below was found among my grandmother Ellen (Nellie) Duffy Martin’s few possessions in the nursing home where she died. Clearly, of her five sisters who died young, my grandmother felt the loss of Anna most.
Anna was born in 1868, the third child of John and Margaret McLaughlin Duffy. We know nothing about her childhood except that she grew up on the farm in Black Hawk County Iowa and was not in the house when fire killed two of her younger sisters in 1884. [Duffy Family Fire and Sister sister: Lizzie and Rose Duffy posts].
In the 1895 Iowa Census, she is listed as single and living in Lake City, Calhoun County, Iowa. Lake City is 164 miles from Fairbank, Iowa, the town closest to the Duffy farm. We have no idea what took her so far from home. Her household consists of another single woman and Anna’s 14-year-old sister Ada. Anna’s occupation is listed as “milliner.” For description of a milliner of the late 1800’s, see “The Ladies’ Hatmaker”.
Anna had her picture taken with three friends (their names are my best effort with faded spelling).
Anna fell in love. In 1897 in Lake City, Anne married Edward Erler, a young German immigrant. In the 1900 census, Edward Erler lists his occupation as railroad laborer and the couple is living in Denison, Iowa. They were married for 7 years and had no children.
Anna visited her sister Nellie. In 1898 my grandmother married and moved to Wall Lake Iowa, which is about 30 miles from Denison Iowa. We have a picture from one visit, probably the one referred to in the letter. How about that hat. Odds on she trimmed it herself.
Again my best effort transcribing faded words in the letter lovingly preserved by my grandmother.
Dear Sister and all: I try to say a word this morning thanking God I am some better but very slow. I fear glad of going for you never know what I have suffered. My sickness then was but like a day to this. Many things was against me and if … you could explain so if God is good and lets me get so I can be moved to Houston to the sister then I stay until I die or get well.
This is a dark dreary day trying to run makes … awful mean. Well how is dear little Margaret and C. … of her every day and see her standing on the porch the day I left. Just … out of the chair for dinner…. A dirty …. I very tired so give Charley and all my love and how I would like to see you all. Kiss Margaret for me and tell her I always think of her. Every your loving sister Anna. [Undated letter. “C…” and “Charley” would be brother-in-law, Charles Martin. “Margaret” is my grandparents’ first child, about 4 years old in this picture]
Anna died in Houston late in February, 1904, probably at the home of her married sister Florence Duffy Koehl.
Questions: (1) What brought Anna Duffy, a young single woman, 164 miles across the state of Iowa to Lake City? Work as a milliner? (2) Address of J.O. Booth Photographer is Sioux City, Iowa. Did Anna and her girl friends travel to to Sioux City, Iowa to have their pictures taken? Distance on today’s roads is 101 miles, a train trip away. (3) Who were the girl friends? (4) Anna was sick and then died. From what? Would be nice to find out.