Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Letters from Ruth Osborn-Munnoch

We've established that Olivia Noyes-Haskell-Osborn was a fan of letter writing. It appears that her son, William Noyes Osborne was quite the letter writer as well.   William's daughter Ruth, however, appeared to have the most animated writing style in the family, enjoy the world as Ruth saw it, many of these letters were to her brother Elwood.

Written by Ruth Irene Osborne Munnoch from Miami Florida - August 18, 1947

Dear Elwood:

Say! That salt gets me more than you know yet. Sometimes something is so salt I can’t eat it and I get hungry. It gives me a nauseated feeling and really does me harm. I began to feel quite sick day after day and my ankles got puffy in March. I started home and by the time I got here my ankles were swollen badly. I went to a doctor and he said it was inflammation of the bladder and showed me how a dent from my finger would stay for quite a time in the swelling, which distinguishes it from other swellings.

Now this is to add to your medical lore. And you must have heard ma tell how her fingerprints would remain on her swollen ankles (but she would not stop eating salt). But worse yet she salts everything too much and poor pa tells her it is too salt, but she is only offended and he eats the stuff. Now, if I offer to cook something I sometimes am turned down very definitely and sometimes the lady acts as if she were being very gracious and humoring me for one. When she gets to the table she samples what I cooked very gingerly, or doesn’t eat any at all, while pa gives me a wink. Of course if she has plenty of cake she feels the situation is well in hand. I should think she would remember she used to remark about her father-in-law having done likewise about cake.

Also, I do not relish towels ever so clean, where anyone has a sore that does not heal. Did I tell you I said to Rachel (Hobbs) once, “What do you think of that place on mother’s face?” “Well, frankly I don’t like the looks of it (who would) what does the doctor say?” I said, “Dr. Gousse said it is nothing to worry about,” and Rachel said, “Oh, he wouldn’t know anyway.”  I thought maybe that noise of loose denture was upsetting my stomach, so (after hearing what a good fit Vida Dickey got in Waterville) I told pa I would take $50 of my own and get him some teeth to fit. He said he would not have any others even if the dentist offered to give them to him. I think even a dentist would offer if they had to be around a little.

Then many times every day she made a few little remarks about what I had done to her recipes. I said, “Let me see them”, there they were in little rolls tied with string the way she fixes anything. How anyone can use a recipe, a dress pattern, or even read a poem all curled up has long puzzled me. I said, “You know I always bring my recipe book with me.” Well! It kept on until even I was exasperated and I said - so she could surely hear, “Damn it, I don’t remember touching your recipes/” Pa said she told him that night she was not going to have anyone there swearing and hollering at her.

Shortly before school closed pa wrote that she had fallen 3 times that day and if there was any way I could come home to stay he would make me an offer. I replied that Sara had a good job and wants to stay in Florida and that Henry would have to stay here with her as we don’t want to leave her here alone, but that after school closed I would come. I added, “What is the offer? Are you going to offer to pay my fare?” Mother wrote that they would not pay my fare but my father would be glad if I could come. I kept thinking of the time I was sent for and after 2 weeks I was told, “If you have a home I should think you would stay there and take care of it.” I had just spent my paycheck for new tires, overhauling the cluth, glasses for Henry, etc. and I thought, “If I cash a bond to pay my fare who will appreciate it?”

Now this all is like the childhood expression of “chewing cabbage twice” and it stinks and you knew it all before. But here am I.  I can’t take a job because I may get a phone call anytime. Yet they think they don’t inconvenience their children, they are just sadly neglected. I have got so I don’t just anyone for anything. No one knows all the details of the situation except the one concerned and obviously everyone will do the thing that seems best under the circumstances, and like me they don’t know what to do sometimes. They may be weak but this may go on for ten years.

Your darling sister.


Written from Fairfield November 30, 1947 to Ruth from Bertha

Dear Ruth,

Your welcome letter received. We are not feeling very well. Your Dad says he will put in a line, he is not very well but works quite a lot choring around that has to be done. I am very lame and quite likely it will last. Mrs. Cole had to go to the hospital again for a while but is home now. She is not aware what the trouble is I think. (Mrs. Cole had cancer.) I hope you can come home as you said for the first of January is near. I hope but I tell you I hope your Dad and I will be here.

Well Thanksgiving is gone. We ate alone. Had a chicken baked, Rachel (Hobbs) sent us a pumpkin pie, Mrs. (Clydee) Crous brought us a fruit pie and nice rolls, Mrs. Currie brought us two kinds of lovely cake. I had some nice things already cooked. It is great to be old and lame.

Your Aunt Clara has been quite sick but is some better today. You quite likely know she is boarding now with Marguerite Lord, married Guy Wentworth. Likes well. Caddie isn’t able to write just now but soon. The coldest weather here 8 above last night.

Have I told you the Angle girls not teaching now. Ruth when you come home I hope you can do some errands for me. I haven’t been shopping since you went away. Just imagine it. Your Dad sits here. I guess he won’t write this time. I have lots to tell you later. Maybe you can read some of this. Love to all,



Written from Miami, Florida December 3, 1947 from Ruth to Elwood & including the letter above

Dear Elwood:

Yours of the 1st came today. It was just as well we both sent cards with that many maybe there will be some she can tolerate. I sent two boxes, a different variety in each box, 2 or 3 each. I bought them as much to help out the girl selling them as anything.

I haven’t heard directly from Elva for a couple of months. Sarah forwarded a letter from Elva and she said in that letter you called. I figured about Nov. 7th. She said you looked better than last year. Well, what are the tidings of my child? Give me your version.

I have bought a sweater, which I will send either to Ma or Aunt Clara. I thought I would send one to each of them. This one is gray and I fear neither of them will think gray is pretty. However after some more looking I can’t find a brown, black, dark blue or burgundy. I will have to get another gray, there is a good supply of those. I surely cannot get a shirt with a detachable collar for Pa, and kindly suggest what else. The other thing I have in mind is not allowed in the mail. He must be low on wool socks for he didn’t seem offended at some of Henry’s I took out of my belongings there in March. If you can find the separate under shirts and under pants like he wears. He was wearing some well patched. He didn’t want to buy any he would not live to wear out. I shall probably put in a box of stationery for Ma. Let me know what you decide to do. Also any bright ideas I could use.

I will enclose one I got from Ma. Sounds as if I should pull up stakes right away. I wish they would hire someone to wash bottles and tote wood and take their dill-dock and let me finish this month. I guess that “as you said” underlined, indicates a fear I may renege. I wonder if she ever suspects I am making a sacrifice at all. I have every intention of arriving in Fairfield during the month of January. R.I. M.


Fairfield, ME, August 21, 1948 from Ruth to Elwood

Dear Elwood,

Excuse pencil, it is all I have up here in the privacy of my boudoir.

Your letter arrived from Miami. I thought the folks told you I was here and there was nothing strictly new so I hadn’t written.  However things are developing (like those bits from the edge of postage stamps) now.  Mother fell with some dishes yesterday while I was in Waterville getting a permanent. She got a good black and blue spot on her upper arm & on her knees. She got up this morning and wondered why her blue spots had appears. But shortly it did occur to her that she fell yesterday. She cherishes those spots like the one on her wrist, which she called my attention to two or three times
daily, until alas! These last few days it faded nearly away.

Father did not feel so well yesterday. He’d been afraid his physic would not move, so took more yesterday morning and soon had the trots. Then mother’s fall upset him some; also and more so what he heard about Clara.

He also worries because Henry does not come, and we have had no word from him. I left him in Harrisburg. Henry was to drive to Bradford and I came to Maine from Harrisburg, PA by bus.

I wonder could you phone to Bradford and ask if he got there & if he has started. Just say that W. N. was worrying himself sick & would be all right just to know he is all right. Then you let me know. My dear family do not wish to write.

Henry was not going to write Elva he was coming. He didn’t want to. I did send her a note by airmail, because she had requested him to tell her when he decided to come. But I could not expect as much from her. I only lost around a thousand dollars by staying and taking her sass until they gave my job to someone, my sub failed them in Miami. Please don’t give them the notion it was my idea for you to phone just on your own.

You do not seem to have well adjusted relatives, do you?

Mother says she can’t wait on your family & I told her I should certainly expect them to wait on themselves. I thought it was very unpretty to see a woman 84 doing things for younger people. She said, "Well, I should try to run my own house a while longer."

You could tell her but it will be another episode.

Are Lessard’s cabins, in Skowhegan, suitable for you folks to stay in, if the going gets too rugged?

It is making Pa sick thinking he may not see you. He may not even rally from this if you do not appear on the scene. This has upset him greatly, as you must suspect.

I am going to Waterville this P.M. with Martha.

With candor, Ruth


Written in Lake Worth, Florida from Ruth to Estherann:

We are so glad to hear you are over the hump. Elwood will think I am on my way over the hill when he sees this card with no innuendoes or something.

Another Lydia Osborne used to live in that house. She was born April 29, 1845. She was born down at the Dickey residence and they raised either the main part or else the ell (at Rocky Hill) the day she was born. There was another house before the one you live in. One night I dreamed of being in an old house and I could see the arrangement of the rooms, and it sat back of your house just about where the woodpile used to be. This dream was after I was married, and I was up there at the farm without the rest of the Munnochs. In the morning I described the place to my father and mother and they exclaimed, “Why there was just such a house sat there, the original house here on the farm. We used it for a chicken house and it was town down when you were about two years old.” Henry said that is not so remarkable. He recalled the keys in his mother’s pocket. Elva’s Tony comes out with strange remarks for his age. When we were at Allegheny State Park I heard him say, “I have a strange feeling that I have been here before, so you, Mary?”

By the way if Elwood can’t give you all the interesting details, his grandfather Timothy (after Timothy’s brother Jacob died in 1831) married Jacob’s widow Lydia Burrill Osborne in 1835. I guess Burrills lived on the Dickey farm then, so that is how come she went there when little Lydia was born. And when little Lydia married Charles fuller in 1859, she went to live in Waterville, then later they “went out west”.

In the letter from Alfredda, she said she would tell me a true story. “A man in St. Albans was asked to serve on a committee and he said he would, but if anything happened to prevent his going, he would send a prostitute.”

Just in case I could wax wackier, I better call this enough. Love Ruth


March 7, 1966

Dear Elwood, Yours of Feb 20, at hand. To get back to ancient history, do you recall the letter from Isaac (son of Isaac) and brother of Timothy that you found, written March 1, 1824. You sent me a copy of it in 1958-I think. It began “Worthey Parants” and was signed “Isaac Orsborn and Mille Orsborn.” (Tim, if you run across that letter I would be interested in having a copy. Charlotte) I found Alfredda’s notes but not so many as I had thought; maybe I had discarded part of them. She mentioned Eliza Hilton, an aunt, who had lived in Canaan. I think I recall Aunt Clara mentioning Aunt Eliza. You might ask Gladys Bigelow about Aunt Eliza. Alfredda mentioned some ancestor who lived up on the mountain, three miles above the village of St. Albans, who used to go to Bangor with a yoke of oxen, every fall, with dried apples and other produce of the farm, the trip too three days.

You may recall that Fairville Crocker made us a brief call occasionally, she came from Gardiner or some place that-a-way. She was a sister to Peter and Long John. The family didn’t seem to quite approve of Fairville’s husband because he drove a taxi. You know how Aunt Clara would always take the side of the off-ox. So one day Clara arrived while Fairville and husband were there, also unknown to Clara, Mrs. Ramsey and Rome Rand were there at the farm. Clara was going to give Fairville’s husband a proper welcome, she had not met him, so when she came face to face with Rome in the dining room, she rushed up to him and gushed and we thought would give him a cousinly kiss. You can imagine how mother enjoyed that situation. It made the day worthwhile. …Love, Ruth


April 24, 1968

Dear Elwood: …Aunt Lydia (grandmother of Harold Fuller) is buried at Emery Hill and it mentioned Edith on her stone, but at the time Edith was buried our father had forgotten that Lydia planned to have Edith buried near her. I don’t know where as the place is full up. Edith was living in a third floor rented room in Skowhegan when she died. She had a bad cold and got measles besides and being old it took her off. At that time Harold Fuller (the one who wrote to you) came to take care of her funeral, burial, etc. He called at “the farm” the evening after the funeral and said it was getting late and wondered if they could put him up for the night. Mother said, “No!”, there was an argument between W. N. and Bertha and Harold said he would drive on, so W. N. gave him a ten dollar bill and advised him to go to the Elmwood for the night. This incident could account for Holly’s coolness when you met her. The sins of the mother’s being descended on the children. Mother said she’d never seen Harold before & she didn’t know if he was Arthur’s son, or what kind of a person he was, even if he was Arthur’s son. I don’t know if he got in off the porch. …. Love, Ruth

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