I honestly don't know where they came from. It was around Christmas 2005 - during the demolition of part of Freeman House - that they appeared. Faded, folded letters tied into a neat bundle. They were, that year, 75 years old. I found them outside on the ground where a wall used to be, waiting for me. I like to suppose they had been tucked into that wall for safe-keeping or hiding... not meant to be seen for decades... if ever. Regardless, there they were, patiently waiting to be scooped up and rescued from the elements.
They are all addressed to Miss Freeman. Between 1928 and 1930 - her early years in this house - she was apparently courted by two young men: Vannie and Ernest. It doesn't appear as though Vannie knew about Ernest, but Ernest... well, he appears to be the wise one. Both appear to be smitten.
I know little about Miss Freeman. I've never seen a picture of her, though I've been told with my dark hair and fair skin I could be her twin. I know she was industrious. Resourceful. In the very same room that Miss Freeman used to take in washing and ironing, I sit and sew for my Etsy shop. I know Marie was feisty. That she fought for what she loved, including this house. I surmised that because the grounds were peppered with roses and hydrangeas we would have shared a love of favorite flowers. But aside from the obvious... and the neighborhood hearsay... I know little about who Miss Freeman was.
I suppose that is one reason why these letters were a priceless find. "My Dearest One," begins a letter from Vannie dated May 7, 1930 - 77 years ago this week - "Will answer your letter that I received this afternoon. Began to think you had about forgot how to write.... Dear, try not to forget me Friday nite for I will be expecting you.... Be sweet until I see you."
Click letter to enlarge.
I wonder about the men who wrote these letters. I wonder what happened to them, and if they have descendants somewhere who would like to see them. I know Miss Freeman was married once, and briefly, to a man who turned out to love the bottle more than her. I've heard the story of her divorce.... how she put on her hat one morning as he stumbled in drunk, left without a word and walked 2 blocks to the courthouse and went in to see the judge. "Well, good morning, Marie," I'm told he said. "What can I do for you?"
"Judge, I want him out," she said. And I'll be dang if she didn't walk out of that courthouse with a divorce, storm back into this house and dump all his things on the lawn. She never remarried and never had children. (As I read these letters, I wonder if the Vannie in these letters is the drunk husband. He seems the type. I really need to do a marriage record search in the courthouse and see what I turn up.)
But until then I've debated on what to do with these letters. These precious, precious letters. Do I store them in a safety deposit box? Do I frame them and display them in the halls of Freeman House? Does the fact that Miss Freeman left them here... left them behind... mean that she intended them to stay here? Should I tuck them back inside the wall as she did?
These letters are amazing. But they also make me look at some of my own letters and think. I wonder if 75 years from now another dark-haired young girl will stumble across bundled letters from my one true love. And I wonder: what would she do with them?