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Are You My Cousin?: June 2011

Are You My Cousin?

Discovering My Ancestors -- One Cousin at a Time

My Photo
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

I tell the stories of my ancestors’ lives. Whether they lived 20 years ago or 200 years ago, they each have a story to tell. Some ancestors tell their stories willingly. Others must have their stories carefully teased from the records. Sometimes the stories are sad. Sometimes the stories are happy. Sometimes the stories are just funny. Regardless, my ancestors’ stories shaped their lives and the lives of those that followed. Come and share in the tales!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday : Grandmom in a Bathing Suit

Cecile White Howard
I really just couldn't resist!  How many people can say they have photos of their grandmothers in a bathing suit?

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday Interesting Stones

Wm Robert Andrews
 I found the color and shape of these two tombstones interesting.  Notice on the one above the place of birth is given.  For someone researching this family that could be a useful piece of information.  Now why didn't my ancestors leave clues like that!
Hattie Lee Andrews
Both photographs taken in Oakwood Cemetery.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Ruth's Story

Ruth’s story is short. 

She died at the age of five years.  It was winter.  It was cold.  And it was yet another loss for the young family of Boss Talbott.

Ruth Virginia Talbott was the second child born to Boss Henry Talbott and his wife Esther.  The couple welcomed their first daughter into the family on 21 May 1918.  I like to think that my great grandparents were excited over the addition of a little girl. I wonder what her 18 month old brother Crafton thought of this new little baby.  Was he excited?  Was he jealous?  Did he “help” his mother tend to the baby? 

Unlike many children who died young, Ruth did leave behind a small set of records. She appears in the 1920 census for Black Walnut, Halifax County, VA. She is living with her parents, her brother Crafton and her younger sister Elma. (The Talbott family listed on farm 183 on South Boston Road.)

The second record found for Ruth was a bill for her funeral.  The bill totaled $51.50 and included her casket and burial by the J.O. Owen Co of South Boston.   This is not a record source I have for many of my ancestors.  While I routinely search out death certificates, the funeral bill just seems sadder somehow.  More personal.

The last record used to learn about Ruth’s life came from her mother’s letters.  The letters filled in a few more details about Ruth’s life.  You may remember that Esther was a prolific letter writer as a young girl.  As a young mother, she continued to write letters to family and friends, just less frequently.  She wrote one such letter after Chrismas 1922.  The exact date of the letter is unknown, but clues show it was written between 25 Dec 1922 and 5 Jan 1923.  I see Esther sitting at the kitchen table after the children were in bed writing to her mother (Hattie Richardson).  She’s tired, but wants to tell her mother about their Christmas celebrations. 

 Ruth and her sister Elma were two little girls excited about a new doll and treats in their stockings.  The sisters spent much of the day caring for their doll. (Esther’s letters seemed to indicate one doll was given for the girls to share.) The three older children received and an orange and nuts in their stockings.  Years later, my grandfather Crafton would tell how excited he and his siblings were to get the oranges and nuts.  These were a greatly anticipated once a year treat for the children.

Ruth lost her mother Esther to influenza at the age of four, shortly after Esther wrote the letter referred to above.  Oral history tells that Bossy moved Ruth and her three siblings (Garnett was born in 1922) next door into the home of his parents Joe M. and Rosa (Bowen) Talbott.  Rosa helped raise the children after their mother’s death.  I can only imagine that was a confusing and frightening time this was for the young children.

A year later on 13 Feb 1924, Ruth lost her younger brother Garnett to illness.  Five days later Ruth lost her own life on 18 Feb 1924.  Family history reports the siblings died of influenza as their mother had a year earlier.  Ruth was buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in South Boston, VA beside her mother and younger brother.  With Ruth’s death, this young family of six became a family of three in just 13 months.

Only one photograph of Ruth Talbott is known to exist.  It is a grainy post mortem photo discovered in the wallet of her brother Crafton Talbott upon his death in 1993. The photograph was of himself and his sister Elma as young children.  Elma is holding a single white flower.  When the photograph was removed from his wallet, it was discovered the photo was folded in half.  Unfolding the photograph revealed the image of Ruth in her casket on the porch of her grandparents’ farmhouse.  Out of respect for a young girl and her family, I chose not to post it.  It is enough to know that she was remembered.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Boss and Esther Talbott

After their marriage in November 1915, Boss and Esther made their home in Jeffress, Mecklenburg, Virginia.  Prior to their marriage, Boss lived and worked there on the family farm.  Letters addressed to Boss and Esther after their marriage indicate they lived in Jeffress during the early years of their marriage. 

Their first child Arthur Crafton Talbott was born 27 Nov 1916 in the Bluestone District of Mecklenburg County.  In a newsy letter to Esther dated 12 Dec 1916 from her long time friend Nannie Lee Farson, Nannie referred to Esther as having taken many trips during the past summer (i.e. the summer of 1916).  No indication of Esther’s destinations was given; however, I wonder where an expecting mother traveled to in 1916?  Perhaps to visit family?*
Few letters remain in Esther’s collection from 1916 to the early 1920’s.  During this time Boss and Esther added three more children to their family.  Virginia “Ruth” was born in Jeffress 21 May 1918.  Elma Lee and Garnet Rueben were born in the Black Walnut District of Halifax County (South Boston area) 15 Sep 1920 and 28 Jul 1922 respectively.  Life was busy and I expect left little time for letter writing.

By 1920 Boss and Esther were living near South Boston in the Black Walnut District of Halifax County, VA.  The 1920 census shows that the family lived with Boss’s father Joe Merritt on the South Boston and Black Walnut Road.  The census also indicates that Joe Merritt Talbott owned his farm.  Boss is listed under the same dwelling number, but is renting under a family unit number different than that of his father. (Boss’s brother Otey [Otis Major Talbott] is listed as renting under a different family unit number as well.) It appears that Otey, Boss and their families were living and farming on their parents’ farm.

In 1921 a letter from Rosa Talbott (Boss’s mother) to Esther and Boss, referred to the family’s upcoming move.  In a letter from Esther to her mother Hattie Richardson in Dec 1921, Esther reported that the family had moved and “nothing broke”.  Esther also reported that Aunt Bettie [Bettie Talbott Elliott] and Nannie [It is unclear which Nannie.] helped Esther and Boss with their move.  Later that day they took the children into town to see Santa Claus.  Given that Boss and Esther lived close to his parents as indicated by the 1920 census, I expect Boss and Esther were moving into their own home but still in the South Boston area.  Further research to determine if Boss bought his own farm is warranted.

Esther’s last letter was written Christmas 1922 to her mother.  There is some question whether this letter was ever sent. She described their day, and what the children received for Christmas.  The girls got a doll with hair to brush and Crafton got a cap pistol. Garnett was still a baby and was referenced in regards to “working on a bottle”.  Her letter gave the details of family’s life and interactions with the extended family. There was no indication that Esther was feeling unwell, but less than two weeks after this letter was written, Esther died from influenza.  She left behind Boss and four young children.  She was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in South Boston, VA.

Boss never re-married after Esther’s death.  The family reports that Boss always stated that Esther was the one and only love of his life.  He raised his children with the help of his parents and extended family.  His mother-in-law helped as well by having the children visit with her at times.

I hope you have enjoyed the story of Esther from her courtship through marriage and motherhood.  Esther is no longer a mystery woman in my research.  She managed to tell her own story quite well.

* This letter was written a couple of weeks after the birth of Esther’s first child, my grandfather.  Interestingly, Nannie Lee does not refer to the birth or even pending birth of this child. Likely she had not heard about the baby’s birth as of yet.  Was it even proper in the 1910’s to refer to a pregnancy in a letter?

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is This How Family Lore is Born?

Cable Car
I just got back from vacation in San Francisco.  Much to the delight of my family there was not an ancestor in sight.  (My direct ancestral line never made it any further west than NC!)  The weather was wonderful!  For someone living in the south, wearing a fleece pullover in June is a real treat (especially when it is 95 degrees back home).

San Francisco is famous for it's cable cars going up and down the city's steep hills.  Quite frankly, they are a lot of fun to ride.  Did I tell you about falling out the back of one of those cable cars?  Not really, but sort of..... The cable car was just beginning it's climb up a very steep hill.  Being on my first cable car ride I was not quite sure what to expect.  I was standing inside the back door of the crowded inside compartment. As the cable car started up the hill, it gave a quick jerk and I took a giant step back through the door (where the rear brakeman stands) to keep my balance. That's it. No fall. No danger.   Not nearly as exciting story, either. We had a good laugh and with each re-telling the story has grown. By the end of the trip the family maintains I  fell out the back of the cable car compartment and was hanging on by my fingertips! I wonder if in a few generations the ggg-grandchildren will believe I actually did fall out the back door of the cable car?!  

Is this how "true" family lore is born?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday Confederate Soldiers

Unknown Confederate Soldier

Confederate Soldier Section of Oakwood Cemetery
These photographs were taken in the Confederate Soldier section of Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC  It is quite an impressive sight.


Monday, June 20, 2011

A Charming Bride

Richardson-Talbott Wedding Announcement
With her marriage to Boss Talbott on 21 Nov 1915, Esther's courtship came to a happy end.  The marriage announcement above was printed in the Halifax Gazette.  She and Boss married in the the parlor of the The Manse of South Boston.  It is possible the Manse referred to in the announcement above was the colonial house known as Green's Folly located about 2 miles from Halifax, VA.  (Among its various ownerships and functions over many years, Green's Folly was a country club during this time period. It was sold in 1918 to again become a private residence.)

Otey Talbott and Myrtle Talbott were siblings of Boss and served as wedding attendants.  Myrtle was also a friend of Esther's as evidenced by their correspondence through letters and postcards in Esther's collection.  Edward and Annie Steube were brother and sister.  Their stepmother was Geneva Talbott Steube, Boss's aunt. Though not related by blood, they were likely considered cousins.

Did you spot the mistake in Esther's mother's name?  The marriage announcement listed Esther's mother as Addie Richardson instead of Hattie Richardson.  It appears the announcement  may have been written by someone who did not know the family well.  Another possibility for the error was simply a typographical error.

Esther and Boss began their married life on his farm in Jeffress, VA.  Throughout her marriage, Esther continued to correspond with her family and friends, though a little less frequently.  Her busy life as a young farm wife and then mother would have made it difficult to write often.

The story of Esther's courtship has ended, but I still have the letters she wrote and that she received after her marriage.  Her correspondence continues to tell her story and I look forward to learning about Esther's life in her new role.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Could This Be Will?

Could This Be William Elliott?
The Courtship of Esther series showed that my great grandmother was popular with the young men.  The large number of postcards and letters exchanged proved that fact.  So, the large number of unidentified photos that were also hers?  Could these be photos of her suitors?   Perhaps the photographs are not of family as I first thought. Likely I will never know for sure, but this photo?

One of the young men who corresponded with Esther the longest was Will Elliott. The photo above might be Will.  In a letter dated 11 Mar 1913, Will makes reference to being in Washington, D.C. and having his photo taken.  Examining this photo shows that it was taken in Washingotn, D. C. by Johnson Bros photographer on Penna Ave, Washington, DC.  From his military papers, I learned that Will had blue eyes, medium brown hair and a fair complexion.  It could be him.  Maybe?

Maybe not? As I write this I can think of several reasons the photo would not be Will Elliott.  Oh dear! (I mean, Oh Yeah!)  I now have the opportunity to embark on some photographer research. Wish me luck!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday Oakwood Cemetery

I recently visited historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.  Oakwood Cemetery was begun in 1869 and sits close to the downtown area on 102 acres of land.  Buried there are the famous and not so famous.  A confederate soldier cemetery is also there.  Since beginning genealogy, I have found myself interested in the styles and designs of gravestones.  Oakwood Cemetery has its share of interesting stones as well.  For the next few Tombstone Tuesdays, I will share the tombstones that particularly caught my attention.  (For my cousins reading this blog, these departed are not part of our ancestry.) 

Gravestone Wth Pillow and Blanket
  This was the first time I had seen a gravestone with this motif.  This is the grave of S Brown Shepherd, Jr. Unfortunately, the dates were very worn and difficult to read.

Gravestone of S Brown Shepherd, Jr


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Courtship of Esther, Part 6

Boss (Bossy) Henry Talbott

Boss Henry "Bossy" Talbott

Today you will meet Esther's final suitor and my great grandfather, Boss Henry Talbott.  (Bossy to his family and friends.) I find his story the hardest to write, perhaps because I know it the best.  His letters and postcards seem to show a man who was different than the rest.  His words were not flowery or eloquent. He did not proclaim his love on the front of a postcard for all to see.  I suppose he was more quiet in his declarations, less "out there" in today's terminology. His letters and postcards proved to be the most difficult of all to read.  He spelled his words phonetically and his handwriting was not the best.  Bossy also tended to write in pencil (a dull pencil!), and the passage of 90+ years has not been kind to the writing.  Regardless, his feelings came through the grammatical mistakes and poor penmanship.  He wrote more letters than postcards.  Perhaps he had more to share with Esther than could fit on a postcard.  Perhaps it was the privacy of the sealed envelope he preferred.

Dear.......Yours rec just a few days ago and was very glad to heare frome you and to heare that you were enjoying your self just fine.........

Boss Talbott's signature
 Above is the first page of a six page letter Boss sent to Esther in May of 1914.  I believe this may have been one of the earliest letters of this type he sent to her.  It was not unusual in his letters for Boss to address Esther as simply "Dear".  I find that rather, well, endearing. 

Unlike many of her other suitors, Bossy was not a "city boy".  He grew up in Mecklenburg and Halifax Counties,Va.  He was the son of a farmer Joseph M. Talbott and his wife Rosa Bowen. (His real name was Johnnie Hodies Talbott.  No one is quite sure why he changed his name or when. He was using the name Boss as of 1914.) Bossy was their second child born 15 Dec 1886.  He was a farmer and worked on the family farm until he was able to have his own. Even then he lived next door to his parents.

How did Bossy and Esther meet?

I have no direct evidence of their first meeting.  I can only put together the clues taken the letters of Esther, her mother Hattie, her cousins and the federal census records to come up with possibilities.  In Nov 1912, Esther's father Daniel T Richardson died.  In the January of 1913, letters between Esther and her friend Nannie Lee Farson indicate that Esther's mother Harriet moved the family to News Ferry, Halifax, VA.  Census records for 1910 and 1920 show Harriet's brothers (and Esther's uncles) C. R. Elliott and John Elliott were in the same vacinity of Halifax County. (C. R. died in 1915.)  It appears that Harriet moved her children and herself to be closer to her family. 

If one backs up in the census records to 1900, C. R. Elliott and his family including his son William F Elliott was living next door to the family of Joseph M Talbott including his son Bossy (Johnnie).  It can also be noted that C. R.'s wife Bettie was Bossy's sister Sarah Elizabeth "Bettie" Talbott.   Obviously the Talbotts and Elliotts had close family ties from the time Boss and Esther were very small children. Possibly Esther and Boss met as children or as young teens while visiting relatives or attending a community event.  It is impossible to know for sure.

How they met is perhaps not as important as the fact they did meet and a courtship took place.  A letter to Esther from her sister Katie alluded to the fact that Esther and Boss initially kept their engagement a secret!  No reason was given and the wedding was itself not a suprise.  I do think the Esther and Boss's wedding broke a few young men's hearts!

The story of Esther's courtship is complete, but her story is not.  A new chapter is starting, and I hope you will continue to follow Esther's story in coming posts.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Courtship of Esther, Part 5

William F. Elliott

William F. Elliott was perhaps Esther's suitor who endured the longest.  The earliest postcard from William, known as Will,  is dated 1912 and he continued to correspond with her until late1914. Will's story is a little different from the other suitors' stories.  Most of his correspondence came while he was stationed around the country serving in the military. Will generally sent Esther two types of cards.  The first type being the view card which depicted a scene or building from the location he was in.  (This is the type of card often sent today of a place visited such as the Empire State building in New York or the Grand Canyon in Arizona.)  The second type of card Will sent to Esther expressed his thoughts and intentions as a suitor.  It's hard to mistake Will's intention when he sent the cards below.

Postcard from WFE postmarked Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA

Postcard from WFE postmarked San Antonio, TX

Now here's where the story gets interesting.

Will Elliott was the son of C. R. Elliott and Eudore Ware.  He was the stepson of Sarah "Bettie" (Talbott). Elliott.  C. R. and Esther's mother Harriett were brother and sister.  That made Will and Esther first cousins.  That gave me pause as I considered the fact.  While this would not occur in today's society, marrying a cousin this close was still a possibility a hundred years ago. 

Will was born 1 in October 1883 and was 13 years Esther's senior. Enlistment records show he enlisted in the military in 1904.  A re-enlistment document was also found for 1910 to include a service period of 3 years. From his military enlistment documents, Will can be described as having had medium brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.  He was 5'7" in height.  Esther received postcards from Fort McPherson in Atlanta, GA, Fort Slocum in New York, and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. His military discharge records indicated Will's service record was "very good".

Will's personality comes out in his postcards and letters to Esther. He appeared proud of his military career, often signing his postcards W.F. Elliott  Sergeant Co.A 17th Inf. Family also appeared important to him.  Will frequently asks about other cousins or Esther's father D. T. Richardson and mother Harriett. [D. T. Richardson died in Nov 1913.]  He also frequently referred to having received Esther's own letters indicating this likely was not a one sided courtship. How often Esther and Will saw each other is not known. He was obviously away from home for a number of years while serving in the military.  Perhaps their courtship was mostly by the written word.  Regardless of the nature of their courtship, Will and Esther's courtship came to an end sometime in 1914. Will went on to marry Florence Satterfield and continued to serve in the military through WWI.  He passed away in Durham, NC and is buried in the Elliott Family Cemetery in Keeling, VA.

Like the other suitors, Will proved not to be the ONE.  You'll meet him in the next post.....

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Monday, June 6, 2011

The Courtship of Esther, Part 4

Going to the mailbox must have been an adventure for Esther. Did she look forward to it? Anticipate whose letter she might receive? Did she go with some trepidation? Anxious over whose card she might (or might not) receive?  Did she worry that her younger siblings would read her postcards?  Postcards put thoughts and messages out to the public.  The answers to these questions will never be known.  One can only speculate as to the real answers.

In 1913 and 1914 the postcards from Esther's suitors just kept coming.  Esther was 17-18 years old.  In all, Esther had over a dozen suitors writing to her.  The ones highlighted here sent 2-3 postcards each to Esther.  Not a lot is known about these young men.  In some cases, not even their real identity is known.

WJH sent this card to Esther in January 1913, lamenting about not being able to see her at Christmas time.  He hoped to see her soon and told her to be "good as ever".  From the picture on the card, there is no doubt in his intention to woe Esther.  I do not know the identity of WJH.  He only signed with his initials.  On none of his postcards does he sign his full name; however his postcards are postmarked South Boston, VA.

This card was sent from Willie Meadows of the Ringgold, VA area.  Willie is another suitor lamenting a missed opporutnity to see Esther.  In this case, Willie missed taking Esther to a picnic.  Perhaps he sent the card to make sure she knew he was still interested.

There was no question about the message this suitor was sending in February 1914.  NWC was yet another suitor who missed an opportunity to see Esther at a local fair.  "Let's Get Married" was a bold sentiment to send.  Was he really proposing or just making reassuring Esther of his intentions as a suitor?  Esther only saved a few cards from NWC indicating he may have been more interested in her than she in him.  I wonder what she wrote back to him.

None of these young men proved to the ONE for Esther.  He was quietly in the background.....

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Friday, June 3, 2011

The Courtship of Esther, Part 3

Howard Roberts

Howard Roberts proved to be one of Esther’s most ardent admirers. He wrote her frequently, sending her postcards and letters. He felt slighted when she didn’t write back. He lost sleep when she asked him not to write anymore. It would appear he lost out on Esther’s affections to Boss Talbott…but I am getting ahead of the story.

Can you make out the writing on the bottom right hand side? It says: Gee! I wish I had a girl.

Howard’s first card in Esther’s collection is postmarked March 1912. His last letter to her is dated Feb 1914. For two years he corresponded with Esther. As Esther’s suitor Ira Satterfield did, Howard also signed his cards in code. His code was 8 12 18. Once I “cracked the code”, I discovered that Howard wrote more frequently than initially thought. How often they actually saw each other, I do not know. Mostly Howard wrote about the weather and who of their mutual friends he had seen. He seemed to let the picture on the postcard speak to his true feelings.

By the spring of 1913, Howard was writing longer letters. His letters often started with the line: I take the gratest of pleasur in writeing you a fue lines to let you here from me.

How sweet! You won’t find lines like that on Facebook and Twitter! On March 16, 1913 Howard wrote “I ben looking at your picture wishing I could see you.” and “I ben staying at home every Sunday since you ben gone.” Finally he declares in feelings, “Esther you is the only girl I ever cred [cared] any thing for.” Unfortunately, he is not sure she feels the same way.

Just who is Howard Roberts? Howard Lee Roberts was born 27 Sep 1894 and was the son of Jacob and Elizabeth Roberts of Dan River, Pittsylvania, VA. He likely lived in the Kentuck area as several of his postcards feature Kentuck, VA. Kentuck is also the area where some of Esther’s Richardson family resided. As with previous suitors, I used his WWI and WWII draft cards to learn that he had blue eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion. He was 5’6” tall. By the 1920 census, Howard is married to Mattie, a woman ten years his senior.

Howard's last letter to Esther is in February 1914.  He laments not being able to see her since she is now seeing that Mr. Tolbert [Talbott].  Obviously, Howard was not THE ONE either.

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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.

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