Frank E. P. Eastabrook and Eva E. Briggs
Frank and Eva
A true story of American life in the 1880's
in Bradford County, Pennsylvania
and Elmira, New York
Based on forty-two
letters, transcribed in the year 2001©
by Willis O. Benson, Editor - Frank's great grandson
~ ~ ~
This web site/book is copyrighted ©.
Reproduction without the editor’s permission is prohibited.
However, short textual sections or photographs may be copied
for genealogical, academic or historical purposes.
This web site/book is gratefully dedicated to Elizabeth Eastabrook (“Betty”) Hardy, who passed on these letters, and to all the other family members mentioned herein.
Many thanks go to Frank for not destroying them as Eva once asked him.Thanks are also due Mildred Clara (Easterbrook) Morrow, for protecting Frank’s documents, and to Dorothea Marie (Morrow) Benson for other pictures and memorabilia.
I hope that you, the reader, find these letters as interesting as I did.
With best regards to the past and to the future,
Willis Oliver Benson Jr. (Bill)
The U.S. had recently become one of the major powers, producing most of the world’s grain, meat and steel, and was about to produce most of its oil as well.Carnegie and Rockefeller were the world’s richest men, and their large factories dominated the industrial east and sold their goods from huge department stores.
The country had recently celebrated its 100th birthday, and there was a feeling of pride in American hearts.Many towns had marching bands and loved to play the patriotic music of John Phillip Sousa.During this time dozens of county histories were published detailing their resident’s lives and accomplishments, as they honored their past and looked forward to a brighter future.
“Kickapoo Indian Oil” was still a popular treatment for everything from coughs to warts, but doctors were on the verge of understanding and conquering yellow fever, pneumonia and cholera, and thousands of Americans had been inoculated against smallpox.
In Panama, the French were building the world’s largest canal, to link the Atlantic with the Pacific and greatly improve trade.It was an age of magnificent inventions and everyone knew the names of Edison, Singer, Eastman and Bell.
Edison’s new fangled electric lights had been introduced in a few cities, but there were no radios or automobiles, and very few people had telephones or phonographs.But most Americans were very happy to have running water, inside plumbing, oil or gas lamps, and coal heat in their homes.Stagecoaches and trains delivered passengers and the mail quickly and efficiently to most parts of the populated areas.The Statue of Liberty was being built in France, and New York’s Brooklyn Bridge was about to be opened.
Newspapers were well read, but the persecution of the Jews in Russia, Boer wars in South Africa between the British and Dutch, and Western imperialism in China and Japan seemed very far away.Colonial expansion was at its peak, and nearly every European country and the United States held power over parts of Africa, Asia or South America.
President Garfield had been shot in July of 1881.His death in September greatly saddened the country, but Vice President Chester Arthur confidently stepped in to fill his shoes.
Sheriff Pat Garrett had recently
killed Billy the Kid, and Marshall Virgil Earp and his brother Wyatt would
soon meet the Clanton gang at the O.K. Corral.Paperback
stories of their exploits inspired young men to “Go West.”Mark
Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) from Elmira, New York was working on The
Prince and the Pauper, and his Adventures of Tom Sawyer was
still a bestseller.In nearby Bradford
County, Pennsylvania, admirers of former resident Stephen Foster still
danced to the “Tioga Waltz,” and sang his well-liked “Camptown Races.”
You will read about sleigh rides and making mittens, using rattlesnake oil and the smallpox epidemic, school work and lumbering, floods and funny incidents, hard work and happy times, love and friendship, and much more.And you will see two fine young people mature as their love blossoms, and their awakening world spins around them.
Eva lives with her parents in the small farming village of Stevensville, in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, population 150.She works as an elementary school teacher, making fourteen dollars a month, and also teaches Sunday school.Frank is a new bookkeeping student at A. J. Warner’s Commercial Business College, in the “big” city of Elmira, New York, population 20,541.
The fifty miles that separate
the young lovers is a long train trip, but the summer drought has been
forgotten, and the gorgeous crimson and gold leaves of autumn cover the
northeast countryside, as our true story of Frank and Eva unfolds...
“At home [Stevensville], Sunday, Sept 11/81
My Darling Frank,
I want to tell you how much I regret the wicked words I spoke the last time I saw you.
An ‘evil spirit’ must have possessed me, for at the time I seemed to forget God’s oft repeated Command, ‘Love one another,’ and I also violated the ‘sacred promise’ I had given you, by not trying to please you.I feel as if I sinned very deeply against God, and also against you, my nearest, dearest earthly friend.
I earnestly thank you for the perfect patience, and gentleness which you used toward me!And I very humbly ask your forgiveness for my conduct.I cannot promise never to repeat the offense, because I have tried, and failed somany times, but you know how much I want to please God and you!
I know that you believe me though I do fail so often.I suspect the trouble is I forget how weak and helpless I am, and try to do it all myself, instead of asking God to help me.
It seems that I am the owner of an unusualy disagreeable disposition, but I am sure it may be, in part, overcome at least.And I do hope yet to make your dear life, a ‘happy one,’ if God permits.
Your very penitent, ever loving Eva
p.s. I thought I could write this, better than tell it to you, and I
do not think it breaking the Sabbath.”
#3 – October 13, 1881 (Thursday) Letter from Frank to Eva ~ Table of Contents
“Elmira, Oct. 13, 1881
My Dear Eva,
I have some time today noon, so I thought I would write to you.I am now at the college and I am enjoying it very much.I board accross the street from the college so I haven’t far to walk.I like the place very much.They appear to be very nice and I do not see why I cannot have a good time.
You do not know how near I cim [came] to freazing the morning I left home.I walked and tried every way to keep warm, but it was impossible.I met Mifs [Miss] Millie Gregory on the train and some outher persons that I was acquainted with.Our train was stopped on the way and we had to wait about one hour.It was very tiresome.
The first person I saw when I got here was Charles Hoffman.I went to Smith’s to dinner. [possibly Frederick Smith, a partner in Warner's College – Ed.] Then I went to see Mr. Warner [the founder of the college] and made arrangements for school.Then I thought I would go up and see Sarah [S. Eastabrook, Frank’s sister-in-law]I met her as I was about half way up there.She was very much pleased to see me.
That afternoon we went to Mr. Ingham’s and made a call.Then we stoped to Smith’s for Tea.After Tea I went with her up to Mr. Hillibrand’s and I stayed there and spent the evening.Had quite a nice time.Though I [felt] more like being in bed than I did like being there.
The Lefrantz band just passed here.It sounded good to hear them play.It reminded me so much of home.[Frank was very active in the Stevensville Band - see photo below.] [The band Frank saw probably represented Elmira’s world famous, LaFrance fire engine company. – Ed.]
I will tell you now before I forget it, how to direct letters that you send to me.It is 336 East Main St.
I want you to remember how often you said you would write because I shall want to hear from you so often.I think if you were only here this winter I could have such a nice time, though I guess I will enjoy myself some as it is.
I was talking with Mr. Warner yesterday about studdie[s].He said that I would get along all right if I did not get as some of the rest of the boys, and get in love with some of the girls.I told him I had gone through with all of that.
There is a great[?] boat[?] race here this afternoon, but I guessed it will not be very pleasant to see it.It is raining very hard.
I cannot think of very much to write.If I were home and you was there, I think I could write a good deal more, or if I was where you are, I could think of lots of things to say to you.
I liked to of forgotten to tell you that I was sitting by my window yesterday and I saw Pa [Edward Eastabrook] on the street.I rushed down and saw him.I was glad to see him, but I did not have but a few minutes with him.[His father was a “threshing agent” so he may have traveled a lot. - Ed.]
I am in hopes school is going off nice and you are enjoying yourself.Do not forget to tell me how James [Grant’s] children are getting along with their cough.[James is his friend and former boss at the Stevensville lumber mill.]
After I got down by the bri[d]ge that morning [when he left for Elmira], I felt worse than I did any time before.It did not seem as though I could leave you for so long a time.I thought it was nice of you to get up that morning.
I have not any more time to write now, so I must close.May God be with you each day and keep you.
From your Dear Darling Frank E.”
#4 – October 17, 1881 (Monday) Letter from Eva to Frank ~ Table of Contents
“Stevensville, Oct. 17, 1881
Dear darling Frank,
Your letter was very kindly received yesterday afternoon, and I tried to wake up early enough this morning to answer it before school time.It is now nearly seven o’clock and I have just got up.
A few minutes after you started last Tuesday morning, your mother [Emeline Eastabrook] and I got to thinking about your riding so slowly, and we thought you might have worn another overcoat.So we both rushed downstairs and out to the road, but we could hear the wagon away out toward the corner, so we went back to bed.It seemed too bad for me to go to sleep so comfortably when you were out in the cold.
Saturday night I drove up [by carriage] to the post office at Rush just before dark, feeling almost sure of getting a letter.On the way back I shed just a very few tears, not over the disappointment, but because I got to thinking what I should do if you became sick and died some time.
Mother [Adella Briggs] and I came down to church yesterday and I found your letter over at James’s.
I saw your Father and Mother and went down to your house after church to read your Mother’s letter, and to read mine to her.
I am so sorry you don’t have something nice for your supper.I shall think about you every time I have a good one.Perhaps it would not be healthy for you to eat so heartily while you do not exercise very much.You had better think so anyway.
I sat out on the porch at your house and talked a few minutes with Mart [Frank’s brother].He said it had been a little lonely there yesterday.
I wore my new dress and hat yesterday.Didn’t you miss quite a sight?
I think I have now arrived at the state of mind which is called “spooney.”Anyway, Mother says I have.If there is any such thing as trusting in weak mortals, I think now you may safely trust in my love for you.I never loved you half as much before when we have been separated!As I could not see you yesterday, I felt real pleased to see your folks.
I think we will have to write once apiece every week for a while anyway, don’t you?I want you to tell me all about yourself.What you study and when your study hours come, and who you get acquainted with.Are there any young ladies in school?Please tell me whether you have a pleasant room and all about it.Your mother is afraid you won’t have bed quilts enough.
I nearly forgot to say that James [Grant’s] children are much the same.They have to get up nights with them a great deal.Ma has taken Ray [Grant] home for this week to give Cora [Grant] a little more rest.
Mary Keeler is not well this morning.I am afraid she is going to be sick as I was last fall.
Send a letter so it will arrive Sat. night won’t you?
Yours with love.”
#5 – October 17/18, 1881 (Monday/Tuesday) Letter
from Frank’s Mother
“Stevensville, Oct 17th/1881
My dear Frank,
Knowing that you are anxious to hear from home, I will try and write a few lines tonight.Clara [Frank’s sister] & Freddie [Clara’s son] have been up here all day.Pa is home, yet he talks of going to Synod [a council of church officials] with Mr. Thomas [on] Thursday to Wilkesbarre, which will last over the Sabbath.I do not know how much longer.
Fred [Frank’s brother] came home just as we were eating supper.We had chicken and biscuit.I told Clara I wished you could have some of it.Pa has about 15 bushels of potatoes, eighty-five cents per bushel delivered - very nice and large.Bought 25 bushels of oats, fifty cents per bushel.
I am glad you have as good a boarding place as you have. If it was very poor, I should not think the Teacher would board there.I hope you will have sauce or something you can eat.I hope you will have a good appetite.They say hunger is the best sauce there is.You must exercise enough to give you an appetite.
How sorry I am you did not take some pears and a few apples.I would send you a box or barrel of apples, but I guess it would cost as much as it would to buy them there.Mart has gone to Regis Stevens to a party to night--a surprise party for their hired girl.Angie [Stevens] invited the company [of] all the young folks in the place except the Dolittles I guefs [guess].John Lyon, Vira [probably Elvira Brown], Mart, [and] Clara Fowler have gone together with our horse and Fred’s platform [a flat cart - see photo below].
Fred ate his supper and went right away to the Post Office.Guefs [guess] Pa has Just come from the P.O. and brought a postal from you, giving directions [to] your addrefs [address].
You must be careful about Spelling, especially on postals where every body can read it.You misspelled Brother and Mother in my letter and “body.”On the card you spelled “bodda.”I thought you would not care if I told you.I do it for your goal.[to become better educated. - Ed.]
Monroe Carlan was buried Sat.Died Sudden from hurting his spine riding on horseback with one of the Bradshaw boys, on front of the saddle.He tried to make the boy stop righting [riding] so fast, for he said ‘twas killing him every time he came down on the saddle.He would not stop.He only lived a few days.
Old Mrs. Sharrar is very sick with the Typibroyed [typhoid?] fever and heart disease.The Doctor says she is liable to drop away any moment.
My eyes are sore.I must stop writing.
Mart has Just gone to the mill.Got home between one and two o’clock.Had a nice time.I did think to ask him if Eva was there.She came down from church with me Sunday to read your letter.I told her she might read mine if I could read hers.She read a part of it to me.
I worried about you that morning [when he left].It was so cold.Was sorry you did not wear another overcoat and send it back by Mr. F[?].Was afraid you would get more cold.Was thankful to hear you were well.May the Lord keep, guide, and blefs [bless] you ever, is the daily prayer of your Mother.
Fred is going to take his piano to Mifs Tukesbury [Tewksbury].[He] Has sold it to her.[He] Is going to commence his [Music] School’s week after next.
I must close and send my letter before the stage comes.You will find enclosed in this, [a] Check of ten dollars from Mr. Grant [probably for past wages - Ed.].
From your affectionate Mother,
Mrs. E. J. Eastabrook
[Frank’s younger sister] says that picture of a Japanese conveyance was
left in your bible.It belongs to
Mrs. Thomas.Please send it in a
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