In this extraordinary letter Bessie, widowed 3 years prior, explains to Ida why she wrote to her recently deceased husband.
The letter evolves into a young widow's accounting of the hardships of raising 6 young children alone on a farm she is still trying to pay for. In the end one gets the impression that Ida has a better understanding of Bessie's motives.
April 22, 1928
Mrs. Ida E. McDonald
Your very cordial letter received and contents fully noted. First I want to say that I am very sorry to hear that Laurel is gone, also to know that you are entirely alone, you must be quite lonesome. You surely have had more than your share of trouble in this world. You no doubt have wondered why I wrote to Laurel. Well it was because in his last letter to me he asked me to let him know if I ever became a widow. I did not promise him that I would and I had not thought of doing so until this winter I read a book and in it one of the characters reminded me of him so much that it inspired me to write the letter which you received and which you so kindly answered. He also asked me to correspond with him after I was married but I did not deem it proper to do so.
He was a true friend to me but through a misunderstanding we drifted apart and in the meantime my late husband came upon the scene and I longed for a home of my own so decided to become his wife. He was a dear good husband to me but his health failed and on Oct. 31, 1925 he took sick with pneumonia and died Nov. 21, 1925. He left me with six children to support. Their ages now ranging from 4 to 13 years. I have kept them together and expect to keep them if nothing serious happens to me. Ten years ago we bought a 40 acre farm but on account of ill health he did not get it paid for. I am still living on it and if things progress as well in the next five years as they have in the last two I expect to have it all paid for.
Mr. Starling's sickness was a mystery to everyone. He coughed for about 20 years. Some thought he had tuberculosis but he weighed over 300 lbs. and was six feet tall.
I get a widow's pension from the county which helps out but I have to work hard to clothe feed and send them to school. The oldest girl will enter high school next fall. She is nearly as tall as I am and can help so much. I milk four cows and have 16 sheep and 22 lambs. Last year I raised 23 lambs from 18 sheep. I am expecting to raise quite a few chickens this year.
I sell eggs to the hatchery and get 38 cents a doz. for them. I could tell you a whole lot more but perhaps it would not interest you. If I happen in your neighborhood I may stop in to see you. It can't be more than about 40 miles from Bucyrus to Greensprings. What is Edith employed in? Tell her I send my regards. It is too bad that Laurel's life could not be spared as he must have been a good teacher, but it seems that death is something that no one can avoid. Now if you do not care to correspond with me it will be alright but if you do I will gladly answer.
(written in the upper margin of one of the pages is a note, apparently written by Ida, before sending the letter to Edith to read.)
If you want to write to her, her address is #3 Bucyrus, Ohio.