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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Letter from Newtonia offers ‘capitol’ view of 1876 life

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  • Thanks to a Neosho attorney, a piece of Newtonia history is now in the hands of the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association.
    Andy Wood, who has already donated several items to the Newtonia group, recently came into possession of a letter written in Newtonia and dated June 2, 1876. Although it is not a Civil War artifact, it nonetheless tells a bit of the history of this Newton County town.
    The letter has sparked much study among members and presents more questions than answers.
    Actually written by two people, the letters are on the same piece of paper. One of the most unusual things is about the stationary itself. On the corner of the paper is an embossed view of the U.S. Capitol and underneath is embossed the word “Congress.” The letters give no clue of any attachment to the US House of Representative or the U.S. Senate, but it seems obvious that the stationary has some connection to Washington, D.C.
    The first letter is from a young man who is, seemingly, writing to his older brother. His penmanship is very neat and the spelling is nearly perfect. The young writer has very little to tell his brother and writes mostly of everyday things. He mentioned that the family has put up seven quarts of strawberries. He also tells his brother that he has nearly finished the green music book and there are some very hard pieces in the back.
    Since 1876 was the centennial year of the United States, the boy tells his brother that he is keeping a file of centennial papers and publications. He also informs his brother that he has “Found out that that book you got from Dick with a set of marbles, is 162 years old.”
    The second letter is written by a woman, who may be the grandmother of the young writer.
    The woman laments that the boy didn’t write much. “Essie has, as usual, run out early and wants me to finish his letter for him.”
    This second letter is much longer but equally interesting, still dealing mostly with news from home. She tells the older brother that, “Papa has sent to St. Louis about your coat, but doesn’t know whether he can get it or not.”
    She further tells him to order a new and finer coat “...even if it does cost money.” She also tells him to get his pants immediately and “...have them made while you are seeing about your coat.”
    She also mentions that Captain Ritchey has been to Texas.
    The woman talks about a baby, saying, “...he is good as gold — lies around on the bed or sits in a clothes basket or most any where.”
    Page 2 of 2 - In the second letter, the woman talks about the family milk cows and the strawberries. “The other day we churned and had our strawberries and fresh butter and light bread down at the milk house after the old way and I thought how you would enjoy the strawberries — we could not count there were so many.”
    The group at Newtonia is eager to make copies of the letter and place a copy on display in the little museum in the Ritchey mansion.
    With people like Andy Wood helping out, more and more history is coming to the surface in Newtonia.

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