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Copyright 2001, ©:, by Shirley Farone

compiled in book form and entitled,

The forty letters which follow were compiled and edited during the past few years into an unpublished book called “Write....and All The News.” By “edited,” I mean that I have guided the readers through them with my comments based on the limited knowledge I’ve acquired by studying the family genealogy. I hope these interruptions will not be annoying. This introduction appeared as a foreword and I have modified it for electronic reproduction.

Why the title, “Write and All the News?” Well, many of the earlier letters contained that command, which I found a strange expression -- write and all the news. There were many intriguing expressions, such as “I now sit down to write you,” but I felt the title, “Write And All The News,” better conveyed the pleas for informative communications between family members in those days when people began to move so far from their families and roots.

What, you ask, could be the intrigue in a pile of old letters from the 19th and 20th centuries? Silver-fish have crawled among them for decades, sections of their brittle pages have provided meals for hungry mice, and their existence with time has yellowed their properties beyond belief -- so what’s the big attraction? Why subject these old pieces of paper to more intrusion as I attempt to transport the words and thoughts contained on them into the 21st century? Let me explain.

My hobby (some say “lifestyle”) for some time now has been dwelling quizzically with names, birthdates, obits and miscellaneous facts about a group of people from the past called ancestors and their families. With over 9700 names, it became necessary to use our modern-day miracle called a computer. All these names became denizens of a computer unit called a database...the names became inextricably linked to one another in ready reference fashion or shall I say, in clickable order. But, that wasn’t enough for me. Allowing this information to lurk solely among electronic impulses seemed such an impersonal and fruitless medium. I felt a need to know more about these people, their true feelings for one another, how they lived, what made them happy, what they worried about, where they worshipped, how they died, etc. What better resource for this than old letters -- if I could find any, that is.

My birthplace and childhood residence was a farm in the Town of Hounsfield in Jefferson County, N. Y. (see my photo section) The farmhouse was built in 1897; and our family had lived their since it was built. Naturally, papers, books, diaries and other items accumulated through the years. When young, I remember seeing these treasures packed away in places which pretty much remained unexplored -- places off limits to nosey little girls. After our parents’ deaths, my siblings salvaged some of these items from the estate auction; and of course, a packet of old letters quickly caught my attention. It is arguable whether the diaries and letters are considered private in addition to being personal, but in the minds of those interested in genealogy, it really doesn’t matter. We pry into anything. I apologize to those who feel I have violated the rights of those who wrote the letters or those who were mentioned in them.

And so it is that the letters which follow take on a life revisited. Most of the letters have connections, directly or indirectly, to a family named Wallace who lived on Pillar Point in the Town of Brownville, Jefferson County, N. Y. Those which appear not to have been written by and to Wallace family members were from members of their extended family. Example: The first letter from a Hamblin was written to the mother-in-law of a Wallace girl. The very fact that the letters were found among the papers of my grandmother, Mrs. Minnie Gladwyn Conklin, a Wallace descendant, is indication that there was a link, though remote, among the authors of the letters.

I haven’t yet completely answered the question -- why this little book called “Write And All The News?” The first reason is so that members of our family, our friends, and now, you cyber-readers, may enjoy and be informed by the letters contained here. Secondly, it will serve as a means of peeking into what life was like for our predecessors and those who mingled with them. And thirdly, these letters provide a perspective in writing styles of the times, spelling*, grammar*, punctuation, colloquialisms, etc. -- perhaps reflective of educations acquired by those who wrote and read them. And last, and not least, to those like myself, a place to locate very reliable genealogical facts.

*When I prepared the book, I did an exactly-as-written version, which is not included here.

Please use the Reading Guide below for making your selection of letters you wish to read.

Reading Guide To Old Letters


June 11, 2001