Monday, February 21, 2011

"too late to catch the fast train..." - Amanuensis Monday

Thanks to John at Transylvanian Dutch who originated the Amanuensis Monday meme, providing a framework (and nudge) for transcribing family records, news clippings and other treasures.

My grandfather Bob Sawyer wrote this letter from Portland, Oregon to his mother Catherine Conway Sawyer at home in east Tennessee in the spring of 1927. Bob and his wife, Iva had married in 1925 and had their first child the previous summer.

May 8, 1927

Dear Mother,

I thought of writing you so you would get it for Mother's Day, but I decided I would rather it on that day. I know it will be late in getting there, but you will know I was thinking of you anyway. I dont want you to think that I only think of you when I write, for I think of you every day. The older I get the more I love you, and Papa and all the family. Now that we have a Baby of our own I can see how much you have loved all of us. I can also get some idea of how much trouble we all gave you. I am afraid some of us have caused you more trouble than we are worth.

I am glad Iva will get to bring Joan home this summer. I am crazy for all of you to see her. I know you will all love her too death almost. I guess I will get so lonesome this summer while they are away. I wish it was possible for me to come with them. I will bring them back again some day when we can all come together. I can not get off from work now, and would not have the money if I could.

I am going to take a weeks vacation about July if nothing happens. I have been out here for three years now and haven't had any vacation and when I work all on the inside you really need one.

Iva leaves here the 23 of this month only two weeks more. I hope she get along alright. She will get to Knoxville too late to catch the fast train out of there, and will go on to Johnson City on the local train. Why don't you go over to Mohawk and get on the train and ride up as far as Greeneville with her, then you could stay all night with Clevel. She will go on to J_ City and stay up there for about a week to get rested from the long hard trip before she can come down home. I know you will want to see them so you can go up on the train with them. Write and tell us if you can do this. I hope you come back with Iva and Joan this fall.

Much love from your son, Robert.

Iva's parents, R.J. & Flora Williams, lived in Johnson City. Bob's sister, Clevel Luttrell lived in Greeneville, TN. Catherine did meet the train in Mohawk. She rode with Iva and the baby all the way to Johnson City and then caught a train back to Mohawk. Bob ended up moving back to Tennessee soon after this. He wired his family he had found work and arranged the move home. Iva and their child did not return to Portland but stayed in Tennessee until he arrived. Her daughters told the story that when the telegram from Bob arrived that he was coming home his mother was in the chicken coop collecting eggs. The hens scattered and the eggs went flying as she flung up her arms in celebration.

Iva's trip was lengthy. She traveled from Portland through Denver, St. Louis, and Memphis before arriving at Knoxville to catch the local train home. The local went through Morristown, where they would soon live, Mohawk, Mosheim, Greeneville, Limestone, Jonesboro before stopping at Johnson City.  I wish I knew how many days the trip took, but I'm sure she was more than ready to be home with her family when she finally arrived.


  1. This is a great letter and info. i was hoping they came through somewhere in TN my family was but they didn't.

  2. Enjoyed this letter from your grandfather, as you had just posted other info. about him (I look up to him, remember). Anyway, why was he in Oregon in the first place and how did he meet his wife?

  3. I enjoyed this post, too. I wish all of us wrote more letters. You think they'll have access to our blogs 100 years from now?

  4. Barb - I've always wondered why he chose Oregon. Maybe just a desire to see another corner of the world. He moved out there after he quit playing baseball in 1924 and went to work selling men's clothing in a department store. He claimed that Clark Gable worked there, too, in the sporting goods department.

    Bob & Iva met in Johnson City when he played on their minor league baseball team. I come from a long line of sports fans!

  5. Kathy - I do hope the blogs last in some format. That's the whole point of this exercise for me! Gotta get these things out of my files and into the world.


Comments related to the information shared here are most appreciated. All comments are moderated, and since I am not actively researching right now it many take a day or two for your comment to post. Please know that it will post, and that I much appreciate the feedback.