Wednesday, December 10, 2014

True Romance & Pioneer Hearts


Pioneer Hearts, a Facebook group dedicated to western romance, is hosting a month-long Christmas event. Each day, a couple of us authors are posting an excerpt or custom-written scene, along with a recipe and a chance for commenters to win a prize.

Not me. I'm going to be different. (C'mon. You could at least act surprised. :P) I couldn't come up with a by-the-seat-of-my-pants scene, and Christmas was not a good time for my characters, so I decided to post some real historical romance instead.


Don't worry. You'll still get your chance at a prize. ;)  Comment on this post by 7:00 PM central time to enter the drawing for a $15 Amazon gift card.
My great-grandfather on my paternal grandmother's side only had a 3rd-grade education (approx. 7th grade by today's standards.) Even so, he was a brilliant man. And apparently quite the romantic.

Bear with me while I give you a little background.

William Edgar Whitten was born in Georgia in 1875 and moved to Texas when he was 18. He farmed and worked in other business ventures, but he was a self-taught man with a keen legal mind. In 1919, he opened a real estate and farm loan office, which he would operate for the next 40 years. 

Some of his accomplishments include:
  • Organized the town's Chamber of Commerce and eventually served as president.
  • Served for 20 years as president of the town's cemetery association.
  • Served as president of the town's school board from 1919-1920.
  • At his church, he served as a member of the board of deacons for over 40 years and was church treasurer for 21 years.
  • In 1920, he became a stockholder in the town's first bank and was eventually elected vice president.
  • He served as director of the Farm Bureau Federation and the South Texas Cotton Cooperative Association, which he helped organize.
  • He was one of the Texas farmers sent to Washington to meet with President Roosevelt and the members of the House and Senate.
  • As a result of his life of public service, he was invited to the inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. 

Now for the romance. :)

Shortly after moving to Texas, Edgar met Annie Harrell, daughter of a prominent farming family. Here's a copy of the invitation to their first date: 


After a proper courtship, he proposed. Since Annie was only 15 and he was 22, they chose to elope.   

According to family legend, Edgar borrowed a fast horse for his buggy from a friend, and then, because unmarried couples had to be accompanied by chaperones in those days, met up with his sister and her husband in their buggy. 

As he and Annie went about their date, Edgar sped up his horse and outran the chaperones. He raced to the parson’s house with his bride-to-be at his side on December 28, 1897, and married her. Their marriage lasted 70 years.

Annie's birthday fell on Valentine's Day, and Edgar often wrote her love letters. They'd been married 32 years when he wrote this first one (typed on a manual typewriter, by the way). I'm reprinting two of them exactly as written, no editing.

###

February Fourteenth, Nineteen Hundred Thirty 

- - - - -

To Annie, my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
It is sweet to think of the many happy days we have spent together during the Thirty Two years we have trod life's pathway together, althoe many a rugid spot have blemished our pathway, But you are still my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
To Annie, my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
It is sweet to remember your smiling face as a young Girl with no cares to blight your life, but it sad to me to think of you now, at the age of Forty-eight, after the days, months and years have marked upon your fore-head, the wrinkles of age and trouble, and have changed your smiling face of youth, to a smiling care-worn face of an elderly mother and wife, But you are still my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
To Annie, my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
It is sweet to think how true and faithful you have been to me, and how firm you have stood by my side, and helped me as no other could do, to brave the storm of life, and to bear my burdens, and how thaughtful you have always been of me when I was discouraged and almost down and out, it makes me love you more, you are still my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
To Annie, my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
It is sweet to think of you as you go from day to day, giving your very life for the ones you love, and to hear you say, tis no trouble to me, that's what I'm for, and I do not mind, it is sweet of you to be a mother so kind, such a mother as you are very hard to find, but you are still my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
To Annie, my sweet Valentine.
- - - - -
It is sweet to think, as the years go by, that God has prepared a place for you in his heavenly skies, and I know to that home you will shurely fly when the heavenly Father calls on you to die, and I trust that at the dawning day of us all, that to that heavenly place we will all be called, to meet one by one, until the last has been called, and that you will be my sweet Valentine there.

W.E. Whitten.

###

[This next one was typed on his business's letterhead.]

February, 14th, 1942

TO MY BELOVED VALENTINE:

You are my sweetheart, chosen on St. Valentine's day: a love missive, sent on the 14th day of February 1882, you were God's gift to an humble Christian home, a tiny bud then unfolded, later to burst forth into full bloom, not only to bless the home to which you first came, but to bless all people who learned to know you, and especially my-self and all of your dear Children who have bosomed their heads on your breast these many years.

I know of no one who have learned to know you during the span of your life, which has been three score years to-date, who have not been blessed by having known you, I know that you are truely loved by all who have learned to know you.

You are just as sweet to me to-day, as you were 45 years ago, you have always been my ideal of a wife and of a Mother, I have always looked upon you as the highest type of Woman-hood, as a wife and as a mother, you have no faults, you give your best and your all for your family, your Children all love and cherish you, they should, you have give them a Christian home in which to live, you have stood by them in sickness and in health, you have never let one of them down.

This birth-day signifies to me that you are growing old, it makes me sad, it hurts my heart to spy one gray hair on your head, it indicates to me that you are in the upper bracket of life, I wish it wasn't so, while we know people live to be three score and ten years, and by chance even more, yet it is a short span of time after passing the three score years, I wish it wasn't so, but it is, if each of us should live to three score years and ten, or even four score years, the time is short, we will soon be bowed down with old age, the remaining days of our lives can-not be very active, we cant care for our family and friends as we would like to do, we will have to demand more care for our-selves.

You have been my posession three fourths of your life, it seems short for me, I am glad that you have been my Valentine so long, I am glad that I got you when you was a small Girl, that gave me more time to live with you, and to love you, your life has been an inspiration to me, I don't want you to die and leave me, I don't want to die and leave you, but Gods will shall be done.

Your loving Husband,
[signed] W.E. Whitten


Sources: 
My mother and father.
The Kingsville Record, Nov. 16, 1965; Nov. 5, 1968
New Encyclopedia of Texas, Vol. IV, 1927, p. 2893

9 comments:

  1. Wow... that's an amazing story, and sounds like it could be a book on its own. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  2. Melissa, you so need to turn this into a book!!! These are wonderful, and your great-grandfather sounds like a fascinating, amazing man.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, guys.
    He was, Liz. And he worshiped the ground his wife walked on.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Awwwww! That was so sweet. He was quite the romantic. It's great you have this bit of history to remember him by.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That is the sweetest. Sad that he understood that when you find the right one, 70 years doesn't seem like anything but a blink.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sounds like this is a book waiting to be written. Think about it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. No wonder you're a romance writer. A heart this loving must run in the family.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That makes for a much better scene, I think. Your great-grandfather's life would make an interesting historical novel. Married for 70 years! Impressive :)

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear what you have to say.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. = )