November 11, 1923 letter to Nancy Brown from Hannah Towne

November 11, 1923

To: Nancy Brown, Chicago, IL

From: Hannah Towne, Kalamazoo, MI

Writes about the fire at the Gates’ farm which killed Will Schuyler. Some think it was an accident, but others think it was suicide. Will’s wife, Ina, was in the hospital without much hope of getting better. If she did live, the doctors thought she would be blind and perhaps insane. Will was worried about that and the expenses. Hannah and Ethan need a horse so badly. Ethan has to cart corn and wood in a wheelbarrow. She hopes that Claude can help them with the expense of buying a horse. It is very humiliating to her to have to ask for assistance.

Sunday Evening, Nov 11-1923

Dear sister and all

This has been a fine day lots of autos out. Your letter came yesterday but no candy. That likely will come to morrow. We are so glad the girls[1] are on the road to a big fortune. It sounds pretty good. They certainly will have to have some help and more room. You did’nt say how Lou[2] is. Now I have some thing to tell. Last Friday eve about six thirty the barns on Mrs Gates farm burned to the ground. Mr Wilson and Mr Brown saw it and they both got there at the same time. They called to Will[3] but no answer so they thought he must be in the house and did not know of it. The chores were done. Nine cows two horses and Will burned with the barns. It took until eleven oclock before they found him. He was in the granery and a lot of rye had coverd him up all but his head. That was burned off but rest of body was all right. The Sheriff came before they could do much looking. He staid all night and yesterday he found some of the scull and teeth. Some think it was an accident and others suicide. We think suicide. Ina[4] is in Hospital with out much hopes of her ever being any better. If she does live will be blind and perhaps in sane so the doctors say. She keeps calling for him and to morrow morning the brothers and sister Calvin and Emma[5] and Dr Hobbs are going there and Hobbs will tell her Will had a heart spell and died. He may not tell it just as I have written it. I am sorry for them and Ina I pity her from the bottom of my heart. I would’nt be surprised if it killed her. You see Will was not well and so worried over Ina so afraid she would be blind, then this awful expense it worried him to death. And then he was alone night and day and could think night and day. I talked with him Friday afternoon over the phone and to think his body is up in Oak Grove.[6] Cannot realize it. This morning Blanche Wilson[7] phoned to see if I was going to the funeral. I told her no so she and Charlie[8] came and staid here. Mr & Mrs Wilson[9] went. I phoned Hazel[10] and told her I would take care of Forrest and Arvis.[11] She was glad to have me. It was hustle to get dinner and it was most ready when Jim[12] & Walter[13] came. Just about that time Mabel Buckley[14] phoned that they were going to the lake and would bring Ed H_____ here and leave him while they were gone. When they came Mary,[15] Mabel, Ruth[16] & Ed staid here and James & Edwin[17] went to the lake. Well it was some day here for Ethan[18] and I. Mary is going to Florida the last of this month. Ed look just the same only is quite fat. A good looking old man.

Tuesday eve. All in yesterday and to day. Could’nt finish this. Too much excitement for my nerves. I cannot write much about Will & Ina this time, it affects me so – but the Dr told her yesterday morning. The brothers & sisters were all there. She took an awful hard at first but quited down after a while. The “Dr gave her a hypodermic.” She asked when the funeral was and where he was buried and why they did’nt keep him so she could of seen him. If she lives and finds out every thing seems to me she would go crazy. Jim Blake is guardian. He and some men have been there at work to day taking care of the cows and horses and cleaning up – drawing the rye to the burg. It is a week to day that Will was to see her. It got to be time for him to come and he didnt come. She would call for him. Friday night about the time the barn commenced to burn she ” ” [commenced] crying and cried most of the time since. She got it in her mind that Will had been shot. Now she got some kind of an impression. I will talk about some thing else. Jim said he felt the best and could breathe easier[19] than he had in six weeks. Sunday He did’nt make the fuss breathing that he did when he was here two or three weeks ago. Lou[20] wrote said she boiled some brown paper in salt peter water then dried it took it down to him and told him to put it on hot coals and in hale the fumes. I dont know if that is what helped him. He wants Ethan to buy Dean, says we can have him for $50.00. fifty dollars. You said Claude[21] said he would help to buy a horse. Have you any idea how much he could let Ethan have. It is awful humiliating to us to ask Claude for help. Pendeltons & Doyens[22] I hope wont know it. We need a horse so much. Ethan has to draw corn and wood in the wheel barrow and it is useing him up. The coal store is’nt up yet and it takes so much of his time to get the wood and cut it for this little stove that he cant get time to do any thing else. If you can find out what Claude can do and let Ethan know, but for mercy sake dont let him know that I have written to find out. I guess Ethan will go to Shelbyville some day this week to see the horse.

The candy came to day. All in good shape and look so nice. The carmel are the best we ever have tasted – are so rich. Many thanks for them. Am sure they are on the road to a big fortune. I am so glad that I am aunt to the fortune. I have got to write a little to Lou if I can before going to bed. Oh yes Mrs Wilson paperd the dining room Friday and put down an other carpet. Ethan helped her with carpet so we look a little cleaner.

Hope you are better. Wish I could help wash your dishes.

Good bye

Love H

Ethan cant remember if he put your ____ or his return address.

[1] Nancy’s daughters, Lela (Brown) Mueller and Bess (Brown) Recoschewitz, who have started a candy business, Nancy Keith Candies

[2] Lela’s husband, Louis Mueller, who had suffered brain damage and was in an institution

[3] William Schuyler, who rented the Gates place

[4] Will’s wife, Ina (Snyder) Schuyler

[5] Will’s brother and sister-in-law, Calvin and Emma (Allen) Schuyler

[6] Oak Grove Cemetery in Galesburg, MI

[7] A neighbor; Blanche was about 13 years old at the time

[8] Blanche’s brother, who was about 10 years old at the time

[9] Blanche and Charlie’s parents, Willet and Cornelia Wilson

[10] Hazel (Beaumont) Schuyler. Hazel was married to Allen Schuyler who was Will Schuyler’s nephew

[11] Hazel’s sons, Jay Forrest and Ardis Schuyler, who were about 7 and 3 years old at the time

[12] Hannah’s and Nancy’s brother, James Keith

[13] Jim’s son, Walter Keith

[14] Mabel (Flanders) Buckley

[15] Believe this is Mabel’s mother, Mary (Smith) Flanders

[16] Mabel’s daughter, Ruth Buckley

[17] Mabel’s sons, James and Edwin Buckley

[18] Hannah’s and Nancy’s brother, Ethan Keith

[19] Jim suffered from asthma

[20] Hannah’s and Nancy’s sister, Louese (Keith) Harris

[21] Nancy’s son, Claude Brown

[22] George & Caroline (Neumaier) Pendleton and Frank & Matilda (Neumaier) Doyen; Caroline and Matilda were sisters of Claude’s wife, Eda (Neumaier) Brown

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2 Responses to November 11, 1923 letter to Nancy Brown from Hannah Towne

  1. Susan says:

    Wow. Hannah certainly told it like it happened. I have noticed, also, that newspaper articles about this sort of thing didn’t do much whitewashing of the facts either. It certainly was a different time. Thanks for an interesting post.


  2. Barb Triphahn says:

    Hi Susan, Glad you enjoyed reading it. And you’re right – they certainly didn’t water down the facts!


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