Letters From America

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The following are letters sent to my ancestor from her aunt who migrated from Wakefield in England to St Louis in America. There is also a letter and some postcards from her American cousin. In the section below showing the postcards I have tried to link to modern pictures of them to create a sense of historical perspective (click the corresponding links to see). The descriptions that accompany the postcards were written by Elizabeth Kershaw in 1909 and were on the postcards that accompanied the letter dated 23rd July 1909 and were referred to in that letter.

Edward Kershaw

Edward KershawHerbert Richard KershawHerbert Richard Kershaw

LETTERS FROM ST LOUIS, MO, USA

1307 S Compton Avenue, St Louis, MO, USA.

23 November 1908

My dear niece

I received your welcome letter and was glad you are better; I have been very sick but I am glad to say I am well for an old woman, as I cannot expect to be very well at my age and in my seventy seventh year. I did write [to] you and got no reply to it and in 4 mo9nths time I got word that Mr Cole was dead but who got the letter I do not know and I am glad to hear from you. We will try to send you some pictures of the 3 girls next time we write to you. They go to high school and they have so many lessons to get a night and then they have to practice the piano lessons so that they do not have much time for anything else but they will have a week holiday at Christmas and then they will have their photos taken and I will send them to you.

How many sisters and brothers have you, give my love to them as I often think of all in Wakefield and wish I could see all of you but I do not expect to see you this [side] of the grave but hope to meet you all in the beyond and the meeting will be a grand reunion for all will be there to meet us.

I will close with love to all of you and God bless you all and hope to hear from you seen.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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29 January 1909

My dear niece

I hope you will excuse me for not writing sooner but I hope you are well as I am for my age. I do not expect to write many more letters but will as long as I can. I send you the 3 girls’ photos and the boy but Elizabeth’s is not good of her for it doesn’t do her half justice for she is much better looking but will send a better [one] when she gets some more taken and would very much like you to write to Elizabeth and she will write to you in return so then you can keep in the way of knowing about us all the time all joins me in love to you and all your brothers and sisters not forgetting yourself.

I remain your ever loving aunt and God bless you.

Mrs R Kershaw

April 20th 1909

My dear niece

I received yours sometime since but have neglected to write but please excuse me as I am old and it is a trouble to write so do not think hard of me if I do not answer you just at the time. I should but will as soon as I can. Elizabeth is the oldest and Ruth the second and Edna is the third and Elmer is the boy and youngest. Elizabeth got your letter but she is looking for some posties for you and she will write you soon and send you the posties at the same time. She cannot write as soon as she would for she has so many lessons to get and her practising on the piano for an hour so you will see she does not get much time but in June they get a vacation for 10 weeks and they you may get a long letter for she does write very long ones but the one she [writes to] you in a few days may be short but make it up later. All is well at present and hope you are well. I will close for time hoping to hear from you soon. Give my love to your brother that is 20 I wish I had his photo and yours. I should be very glad all here joins me in love to you and God bless you is my prayer.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

I will be 77 on the 17th June so you see I am old.

1338 Maine Street, Racine, Wisconsin.

July 21st 1909

My dear niece

I received your welcome letter and I send you some photo[s] these are old but they’re what I have so I send you them. Fred is called after your mother McNeledge so I though you would like to have them. Edward is the one I make my home with in St Louis and I hope you will write to them in St Louis. My son here would very much like some postals on Wakefield. He was 8 years old when we left there. I am here on a visit for 3 or 4 months, but I will be in St Louis by Christmas all being well. I am between 300-400 miles from home. I am well and hope you are well. All joins me in love to you and if I can get any cards I will send them to you but being old I cannot get round as I would like. I am in my 78[th] year and not so sprite.

I remain your loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

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1307 A S Compton Avenue, St Louis, MO.

23rd July 1909

Dear Cousin

I will now take time to answer your very welcome letter and thank you ever so much for the beautiful views from England. I guess it is never as warm in England as over in America. Sometimes the heat is so intense that we do not know where to put ourselves but at other times it is very cool and pleasant. Grandma is gone a week today. She has gone to Racine, Wisconsin to visit her son Fred [Fred McNeiledge Kershaw???]. I am going to a picnic Sunday, on the 31st and then again on 14th of August. I am getting so tiered of picnics, I have gone to 6 since the last week of school and then to so many other entertainments that I am tired of vacation besides picnics. This is my last year at high school. I hope to be a graduate in June if I pass in all my studies. I am sending some views of St Louis which I hope will please you as much as your English postals please us Americans. It seems so nice to be able to correspond with someone living across the ocean. I guess I will have to close now as I have to help cook supper because papa works nights.  Mamma and papa sisters and brothers send love and best wishes from your ever loving cousin.

Elizabeth Kershaw

Fred McNeledge Kershaw
Above: Fred McNeiledge Kershaw

31st October 1909

My dear niece

I received your ever welcome letter and was glad you are going to be married and I hope you will get a good husband for if he is good it will be a blessing but if on the other hand I will be very sorry.  I wish you all the happiness in the world can give you I only wish I could see you but I cannot so my love to you and your intended husband with best wishes and I hope God will bless you in the undertaking. All is well here for they are getting ready for a mascarade ball on the 24th of November. The 3 girls and the mother will go to watch over them. I hope they may have a good time.

I do not know what is the matter with Mrs Southwell as I have not had a word from her since last winter is she sick or what is it.  I am back home again and will stop home now. I will write more next time so I will close with love to you.

I remain your ever loving aunt.

Mrs R Kershaw

 

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John P Kershaw John P Kershaw (Son of Mrs R Kershaw)scan0005

POSTCARDS ‘SOME VIEWS OF ST LOUIS’ THAT WERE MENTIONED IN ONE OF THE LETTERS ABOVE:

Bridge & Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo.

The drive-ways in this part are very nice but this is extremely pretty [??] this park was where we had the World’s Fair and that time we certainly had enough people in St. Louis during the whole of the Fair. (These postcards are from Elizabeth Kershaw.  Although my name is Elizabeth I am called Libbie for short).

Bridge-and-Drive-Forest-Par

City Hall, St. Louis, Mo.

This is our City Hall, it is very handsome old building but could be in a better locality. Its grounds are beautiful always so pretty and green.

City-Hall

Compton Heights Water Tower, St. Louis, Mo.

We get our water from this tower, it is in a park which is about 8 blocks from our home. In this park we spend much time in summer and have often climbed to the top of the tower whre we could get a birds eye view of the city.

Compton-Heights-Water-Tower

Custom House and Post Office, St. Louis, Mo.

This building is one of our most useful buildings in the city. It is very large but it is not so extremely beautiful. But we are having a new post office built right across from Union Station.

Custom-House-and-Post-Offic

Eads Bridge & Wharf Boat, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a very interesting place as well as beautiful. Hundreds of people stand on this bridge to view our big floods. This bridge has very large traffic.

Eads-Bridge-and-Wharf-Boat

Grant’s Cabin, St. Louis, Mo.

This is an interesting cabin to the St. Louisiana. This used to be the home of one of our presidents in earlier days.

Grant's-Cabin

Lake at Hyde Park, St. Louis, Mo.

This is not a large park but for all is very beautiful. The lake is grand and a pleasure to sit by during summer and fine for skating in winter.

Lake-At-Hyde-Park

McKinley High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This high school is the one that Ruth and I attend. I have been going 3 years this June, only one year more and Ruth has been going 2½ years this June. We have lots of fun at school and cause the [?teachers?] lots of trouble.

McKinley-High-School

Elizabeth Kershaw graduated in the class of 1910:
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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Louis, Mo.

This has the [?name?] of having a grand front. It contains many beautiful pieces of statuary besides the wonderful paintings and other art works.

Museum-of-Fine-Arts

New Coliseum Bldg, St. Louis, Mo.

This is our new Coliseum, a very pretty building. I was there to [?hear?] [?Gyspey?] Smith. He was fine. They had to hurry this building last fall to hold the [?different?] conventions here. In this building we are going to have a large May Festival in May for three days. I expect to take part in the High School [?chorus?].

New-Coliseum-Building

Pagoda, Forest Park, St. Louis, Mo.

This is one of the prettiest scenes in St. Louis, and is located in the park where the World’s Fair was held in 1904.

Pagoda-Forest-Park

4058 – Smith Academy and Manual Training School, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a school for boys and is situated in a beautiful part of our city. They have fine times at this place.

Smith-Academy-and-Manual-Tr

Soldan High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This one is the new school and was named after the late superintendent of the public schools Mr Soldan. This is not yet finished and will be a handsome school, being ready for work the beginning of September

Soldan-High-School

St. Lukes Hospital, St. Louis, Mo.

This is a very pretty place. Grandma Kershaw has visited there when my aunt [?Jennies?] mother was taken there when she was very ill.

St-Luke's-Hospital

Union Station, St. Louis, Mo.

This good old depot to proud of. It is the largest in the country. It interest many tourists besides its own people.

Union-Station

Vandeventer Place, St. Louis, Mo.

This is where many of St. Louis’ wealthy citizens reside. It certainly is pretty, especially so during the summer months.

Vandeventer-Place

Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

After I am through High School and care to go to college this is the one that I will attend. It is a very large place and interesting. From Elizabeth Kershaw.

Washington-University

Yeatman High School, St. Louis, Mo.

This is one of the four High Schools in St. Louis. It is the second to being the newest. It is built on the same plan as McKinley but this school has more grounds than McKinley and the trees are older.

Yeatman-High-School

Family Meetup At Hardwick Hall

Today I met up with the Derbyshire wing of my extended family at Hardwick Hall.  It’s a grand Elizabethan house built by Bess of Hardwick in the 1590s who was famous, in a kind of feminist critique of Henry VIII way, for having four husbands and becoming incredibly wealthy as a result.

Bess-of-Hardwick

Above: Bess of Hardwick – portrait from 1550s.

Built in a renaissance style that originated in Florence, the hall is known as a Prodigy House, ostentatious in design and large enough to accommodate the Monarch and their army of attendants when they upped sticks from London and went on a Royal progress around their realm.

Wikipedia (1) describes the Hardwick Hall as follows:

“The house’s design also demonstrated new concepts not only in domestic architecture, but also a more modern way in which life was led within a great house. Hardwick was one of the first English houses where the great hall was built on an axis through the centre of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance.

Each of the three main storeys has a higher ceiling than the one below, the ceiling height being indicative of the importance of the rooms’ occupants: least noble at the bottom and grandest at the top.

A wide, winding, stone staircase leads up to the state rooms on the second floor; these rooms include one of the largest long galleries in any English house and also a little-altered, tapestry-hung great chamber with a spectacular plaster frieze illustrating hunting scenes.”

This description put me in mind of another house, far less grand though more local to me, in the town of Normanton, called Hanson House. I may appear to be digressing here, but bear with me, trust me – this does have relevance to my story.

The reason it put me in mind of Hanson House was that I recall reading something in Wakefield library that this house, the older part of it, was also of architectural significance.  Apparently it was a kind of transitionary piece of architecture that represented the move from houses based on the Medieval great hall to the multi-storey houses of the Tudor era. (2)

Now, back to the main story  – Bess of Hardwick was the daughter of Elizabeth Leake and that’s where a possible link appears in relation to Hanson House, and perhaps even my own family.  In my own family tree there is a link with a family called the “Leekes”, slightly different spelling, I know, but there it is! Following the death of my grandfather in 1988 I found an old book in a pile in my dads’ garage which I promptly rescued.  In it were some hand written copies of letters between a man called ‘Sir’ Levett Hanson (c.1748-1814) and his Yorkshire based cousin Thomas Leake (3).  Levett Hanson of course lived in Hanson House as did the person he was writing to – Thomas Leake. In some of the letters, Hanson alludes to Thomas’ family being a branch of one with a very ancient lineage, so that link with Bess of Hardwick could be a distinct possibility. Perhaps something that I may look into in the future?

That’s the end of my family links but another fact that I found interesting was that the descendants of Bess of Hardwick and her second husband Sir William Cavendish were the Dukes of Devonshire. People may remember the film, The Duchess, in which the glamorous Georgiana married into the influential Cavendish Family.  Georgiana herself was a member of the Spencer family – think the Duke of Marlbrough – John Churchill, Winston Spencer Churchill, and Lady Diana Spencer – Princess of Wales (4).

Duchess-of-Devonshire

Above: Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire – painting by Joshua Reynolds.

Bess’ descendants, the Earls and Dukes of Devonshire, were to have important and influential roles in future British politics, society, and history.

References and footnotes
(1) Hardwick Hall, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardwick_Hall
(2) There was a time when this house was derelict and the newer Georgian part can be seen HERE in a state of disrepair though thankfully it has since been renovated as can be seen HERE (the old building is behind the Georgian part of the house).
(3) I previously wrote about this subject here HERE.
(4) Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgiana_Cavendish,_Duchess_of_Devonshire

 

The weather today was pretty dreadful in typical English fashion, with constant rain which will probably mean more flooding.  A nearby stream at the bottom of the hill near the Hardwick Inn where we had lunch was getting pretty high. Still managed to take some photographs though not as many as I would have liked.

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Above: Hadwick Hall with carefully maintained garden.

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Above: Close up of Hardwick Hall.

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Above: Hardwick Hall from a distance.

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Above: Me in front of the Hall, clearly uncomfortable in the rain!

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Above: Hardwick Inn

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Above: Out of the rain in the pub!

Well worth a visit. I hope to make another visit to this wonderful house, when the house itself is open and with hopefully better weather.