My cousin is coming down my way to collect some of the family heirlooms. There are marriage certificates, genealogy files and a large box of letters that are over 100 years old that were sent to my Great grandmother. Apparently she was a “pack rat” or was just extremely sentimental for there are letters from relatives, friends, the Civil War, World War 1, and everything in-between. Tales of the mundane, trips cross country on steam trains, fighting in France and the truly bizarre.
I have been working at cataloging these letters for the past two years but had put them aside for a bit. But because my cousin is coming, I have to get them done in three days. So yesterday, I was scanning and putting up these letters on Ancestry.com when I ran across one dated May 1906. It was from one of my Great grandmother’s best friends who had moved across the country in 1898 to the state of California. In it she describes the HUGE 1906 California Earthquake in which much of San Francisco burned to the ground. She was living about 100 miles away but describes how awful the quake felt as the ground shook.
“Well we are alive and well which is something to be thankful for after such a calamity. The earthquake was severe here and there was much damage in Salinas-but old San Francisco…well it truly makes my heart ache.”
Cora goes on to describe trying to contact her daughters who were living in San Francisco at the time.
“The telephone and telegraph were all down…so there was no way to hear from the girls or get to them. On Saturday at about four we got a letter from them mailed at Stockton. They left the city on Thursday morning-went to Oakland. They were burned out. Lost everything. They only had what they had on their backs when the quake hit.They are thankful to get out alive.”
I love that my great grandmother found such great joy and comfort in the letters she wrote and received. I am also thankful that she saved them for future generations. Due to her example she inspired me to give each of my grandchildren their own letter box. I write them about twice a month telling of family activities, talking about the news and letting them know what I value. All those emails…they will be lost… but the letters I write will always be available to them. I hope they treasure them as much as I enjoy writing them and it is my wish that the “packrat gene” of their Great-great-great Grandmother is lurking somewhere within them!