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My words and photographs are copyrighted, and may not be used without permission, even on Pinterest.

~ Kathy M.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

1885: Ellen Conley, Fort Bidwell, Surprise Valley, California

This week's Sepia Saturday theme is the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the Boy Scouts.  Happy Birthday, Scouts!  

As it goes half the time over here at Oregon Gifts, I am off theme again.  I do have a photo of some men in uniform that I borrowed from, if that counts.  Here are some guys who were stationed at Fort Bidwell, which is located in California near the boarder of Oregon and Nevada in the late 1800's.  The photo below was taken in 1890.

 Source:  Military

Fort Bidwell

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Source: Military

Ft. Bidwell was established in 1865 and named after General John Bidwell.  General John Bidwell was one of the first pioneers to cross the plains from Missouri via the California Trail (a southern route to the West Coast).  The store at Ft. Bidwell was erected from stone found in Surprise Valley in 1874 and is still in operation.  The church was built in 1885, and people still attend services there.  

The fort closed and was converted to a boarding school for Native American children in 1893.  The U.S. Government had deemed it necessary to take Indian children from their families and teach them the white man's way of life.  That is a whole other story though.  "CLICK HERE" for a good website with info about the history of Ft. Bidwell, when you are done here at Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy. 

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

One of the neat things about living at Ft. Bidwell, is that all of the homes had running hot water which was piped in from a nearby hot spring.  That made it so much easier to do laundry, as the woman below, Ellen Conley, did in bulk.
On April 19, 1885, Ellen Conley wrote this letter to her family in Oregon.  There wasn't an envelop attached to the letter, so I am still trying to figure out who her family was.  Ellen had traveled with her own family from Grants Pass, Oregon and settled in Fort Bidwell, Surprise Valley, California.  I'm not sure if she had something like TB, but she was really sick when she wrote it.  I transcribed the letter using a bit of punctuation, but left some of the spelling alone.  

Ft. Bidwell, Surprise Valley, California
April the 19 1885

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

Dear Mother, Father, and Sisters and Brothers,

I seat myself today to drop you a few lines that you may all know where I am.  I am hardly able to sit up.  I have been sick for 2 weeks.  I got here last Sunday.  The children has got bad colds but well otherwise.  It has been storming all week.  Ella and Jim is working from home for wages.  As soon as I get able to work I can make 40 and 50 dollars a month washing, so everybody tells me and they say they know there was an old lady came in here yesterday morning and shad she known of a lady here in this house that got as high as one hundred dollars per month washing.  I have made 100 $ washing already and I was not hardly able to set up at the time.  I had to turn of one washing by not being able to work.  When I get able to work I will ...

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

... hire an Indian woman to work for me and pay her 50 cents per day.  That is what they work for here.  So I cannot think of much to write this time.  I didn't know I was coming out here untill 2 days before I started.  I was sick when I left Grants Pass, hardly able to set up and not much better yet.  I have got a grave yard cough.  I have had it nearly all winter.  The children have all got colds.  I take something spells everyday.  I don't think I will be here soon.  I will stay as long as I can make some money.  I sold my team at Grants Pass for one hundred and 50 and hired a man to bring me out for 175 cents per day.  I furnished everything.  I do not bring the money.  There was 9 of us in company and it taken us 10 days on the road a.  We had a sick horse and layed over 2 1/2 days and I was sick all the way through not able do do anything.   I lost 35 dollars out of my pocket between Bonanza and Lakeview.                

 Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

So, I am getting tired and will wind to a close for this time by asking you to all write.  Tell James folkes to all write to me.  This is a good country for a woman to make money at work washing especially if she is able and willing to work.  It is a cold country though I do not care for that if I can get well again. 

So no more this time.  Write soon as you get this letter and let me know how you are all getting along.  Good by to you all and if we never meat again on earth I hope we will all meat in heaven. 

Give me the news of that country as I don't think I will ever see it again. 

From Ellen Conley
To Mother, Father, Sisters and Brothers


Novermber 24, 2012 -  Today, I was so excited to figure out who Ellen Conley is!  Born Amanda Ellen Letsom, "Ellen" was my Granny Talitha Letsom Hedrick's half-sister, or my Great-Great Auntie.  She was born in 1853 in Yoncalla, Oregon and died in 1922.  Her parents were Sarah Jane Harer Lewis Letsom and Stephen M. Lewis.

Ellen married Orlander Conley in 1889, when she was 27 and he was 42.

~ Kathy M.

So, there you are, my friends.  If you enjoyed this story, please visit my Sepia Saturday friends by "CLICKING HERE" to find other neat photos and stories.  To read more about my family and other stories featuring old photos, memories and more, please look for this picture of me and my dad on the left-hand sidebar and read whatever else catches your fancy.  Thanks so much for visiting!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

At Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy, if you miss a day, you miss a lot!  All material on this post is copyrighted and not for use without my permission ...Please click here to go to my home page and see what is happening in Mayberry today.  Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Check


Arkansas Patti said...

What an interesting look into the past. The wages makes one gasp.
She did sound quite sick but in those days even Bronchitis could be lethal with out modern drugs. My mulitple great grandfather wrote a book on the History of Key West. I was stunned at what people used to die of that could today be cured by over the counter meds.
Sure glad for the here and now.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Patti,

You are so right. I just jumped to TB because of "the specks and the death rattle", but it could have been something else. What is the name of your Grandpa's book?


Bob Scotney said...

AS one of the early pioneers Col Bidwell must have had a scout so you are on theme, Kathy.

Wendy said...

Still interesting whether on or off topic!

Christine H. said...

I'm so accustomed to reading messages on postcards, so it's a real treat to get to read a long letter from the past. As ill as she must have been, her handwriting is still lovely.

barbara and nancy said...

What a sad story. Where was her husband, I wonder. Her life sounded so hard. And then to think of the poor Indian, making even less money!
A very interesting post.

Little Nell said...

A really interesting story Kathy. I’m struck by her handwriting; the letter is carefully written with a nibbed inkpen I think. It probably took her quite a while, which says something for her willpower when she was feeling so ill.

Joy said...

Sounds a hard winter when even the horse dies. The women were certainly tough in those days, she sounds typically plucky.

Tattered and Lost said...

Can you imagine getting a letter like this knowing you cannot pick up a phone, send and email, or simply get to them in a reasonable amount of time. The angst those who received this must have felt.

Alan Burnett said...

This is definitely on theme because starting with some images you take us on a fascinating historical tour. Classic Sepia Saturday.

Linda@VS said...

I love reading old letters like this, and doing so always makes me wonder how our descendants will learn about our lives as they unfold today. Between blogs, tweets, emails, and videos, there's certainly a lot of material available now, but I wonder how much of it will survive changes in technology.

Mike Brubaker said...

Photographs give us one kind of visual insight into personalities, but handwriting and letters give us other clues, perhaps more accurate too. Another very interesting post on western locales.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Thank you for your comments, everybody. This one was interesting and insightful, but kind of worrisome because we don't know what happens to her.

Kathy M.

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