Monday, November 14, 2011

Amanuensis - A Letter from Hannah, March 21, 1904

“An Amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.”

This could include the following:   transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some we never met - others we see a time in their life before we knew them.

A Letter from Hannah in Lee Summit, Mo.
March 21, 1904

Lee Summit
Monday, March 21/04

Dear Daughter
            I received your letter Saterday I would have written sooner here only once a day when the mailman brings the mail today he will take this letter along as we put the the letters in the box by the roadside as we do not always see him.  Well now I must tell you that we are expecting Earnest here today or tomorrow as they sent him a dispatch to come right away as soon as he could they sent the dispatch Saterday evening this work will be through by the middle of next month they have 2 shovels in running night and day  Effie Dad wants you to ask your Papa if he will Pack that Lubricator Pump in that box with the straw in that is in the trunk room and send it by express as soon as he can and send it by the express co that uses the Rock Island Rd send it to Little Blue in Dads name care of Stubs Flick and Johnson const co.
            Well we called in a Dr and he would not undertake the case as he could not do anythink for me  he said he might as well tell me at first as last he said he could run up a doctors bill but that would be all he could do for me  so Dad is going up to see him and he is going up to see the Dr and he is going to tell him what Dr to take me to in KC and then if I have to go to a specialist he will tell him where to take me to so I do not know what they will do with me that Dr that came here wanted to know if they had used the X ray on me he said he thought it would be a good Idea  I asked him about painting that lump in my neck and he said not to do it well I am tired love to all kisses for Irene from your loving Mother
                                    H Ward
            I hope your Mamma is better
                        Kind regards to the neighbours

I was not sure about the statement, “painting that lump in my neck” until I did a little research.  I believe what Hannah meant was to apply iodine to the lump on her neck. 

Studies had shown that the area around the Great Lakes region had high incident of goiter (swelling of the thyroid in lower neck area).  In the early 1900’s the United States and Canada recognized this problem and had iodine added to the salt supply called “iodized salt.”  Consumption of iodized salt successfully reduced goiter but was not enough to prevent other thyroid problems.

I do not know precisely what happened to Hannah; she may have had a goiter, or it may have been cancer, or something else.  In 1900, Hannah, was in Bohemia Township, Ontonagon, Michigan where her husband and son were employed as stationary engineers.  At the date of this letter, 1904, they were in Lee Summit, Missouri, and the men were operating steam shovels and excavating rock and grading for Stubbs, Flick & Johnson Construction Company of Kansas City.  By the 1910 census, her husband, William was a widow in California.

©2011 – Frank’s Daughter All Rights Reserved


  1. How sad to know that there was nothing the doctor could do for Hannah. It's a long way from 1904 to the 1910 census--I'm sure there was a lot of story in between those two dates.

  2. So true! And wouldn't we love to have that story!