Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Courtship of Esther, Part 2

In 1913 Ira Satterfield took a fancy to 17 year old Esther Richardson. He wrote a number of postcards to Esther and one of the interesting things that came to light is that he signed the cards in code. By comparing the handwriting on his signed card with the cards signed in his signature code, I was able to determine which of the postcards Esther saved were sent from Ira.

The code turns out to be a simple substitution pattern where each letter of the alphabet is given a number. For example: A=1, B=2, C=3…… Ira signed his cards 9 3 19. I = 9, C = 3. S= S. 9 3 19 = Ira C Satterfield. Ira even had a code for Esther: 5 12 18 (ELR).

On the front of the postcard below, Ira has written : (It is a little difficult to see in this photo.)

9.13.19          (I.C. S)
+                  +
5.12.18           (E.L.R)
Bye, Bye                    

It would also appear Ira may have been student of Latin. He signed one of the cards Vale which translates “farewell”. On the opposite side of the card he added Vale me amori (Farewell my love). I cannot be certain of his Latin skills, but Ira’s sentiment comes through clearly.

I turned to the records at to learn more about this young man who appeared so infatuated with my great grandmother. Just who was Ira Satterfield? According to the 1900 U. S. census, Ira was the son of Ed and Mary E Satterfield of Birch Creek, Halifax, VA. He was born on 6 Oct 1893 and at the time he was writing to Esther he was about 19 years old. He lived in Vernon Hill, Halifax County, VA not far from News Ferry where Esther lived. According to his WWI draft card, Ira claimed a physical disability of “one weak eye”. His WWII draft card provided his physical description. He was 5’5” with brown eyes and hair and a dark complexion. Dark and handsome, maybe. But tall, not really.

I was unable to determine how Ira and Esther met. Perhaps they met through a mutual acquaintance or through one of Esther’s cousins. Ira’s cousin Florence Satterfield eventually became the wife of Esther’s cousin William F Elliott. (Esther and Will were first cousins and very close over the years.) Ira also knew Esther’s brother Rueben who he mentions in one of his letters. I will never know what caused Ira to drop from Esther’s favor as a suitor. Perhaps she dropped from his favor. The postcards only cover a few months time. Regardless, Ira Satterfield proved not to be THE ONE.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another charming look into one of Esther's suitors.


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