Love is this week’s theme for 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. I wrote about the courtship of my maternal grandparents, Joel Daniel Martin (1886-1955) and Florrie Thomas Martin (1894-1979). *please excuse some photo labels being far off from the photos of the letters. I’m still trying to figure out the changes to WordPress.
Daniel and Florrie lived in the same area of Richland County, South Carolina, but not close to each other. Florrie was a schoolteacher, and Daniel was a farmer.
The story told is that Daniel sometimes went with a circuit preacher on his rounds to different churches. Daniel had been to seminary, but he didn’t feel led to preach.
One of the churches he visited was a church Florrie attended, probably Brown’s Chapel Church in Richland County. The church building is no longer there, but the church cemetery remains. Daniel also attended Enon Methodist (his family’s church) and Fairview Methodist. Both of these churches are on what is now the Fort Jackson property. Enon’s cemetery is still there, but neither church building remains.
Courtship Through the Mail
I’m not sure when Daniel and Florrie met and started a friendship, but I have letters they wrote to each starting in Sept 1913. In the letters they address each other as Mr. Daniel Martin and Miss Florrie Thomas.
I never knew my grandfather, but my grandmother lived with my family until she died when I was 19. Her letters to my grandfather show her bubbly personality and how she liked to joke.
In one letter she has to decline his invitation to carry her home from church because she won’t be there. She is staying where she boards instead. She tells him, though, that if he goes to her church to ‘tell them all I am living and as saucy as ever. Haha.’ That sounds like my grandma.
Daniel is more serious in his correspondence. He is clearly smitten with Florrie. He writes about what a pleasure it is to talk to her, and he expresses concern about her getting home safely after church meetings.
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
In November 1913, Daniel and Florrie had a hard time seeing each other. He invited her to Enon with him, but she had already made plans to go to Cola (short for Columbia, South Carolina). She said if he liked, though, they would go the Brown’s Chapel the next Sunday. She was careful to say ‘please don’t think me any ways hasty in mentioning it.’ The social norms being what they were, her inviting him may have been considered forward and brazen.
Daniel wasn’t able to go to Brown’s Chapel with her that week because he was going to a church conference for two weeks. In this same letter where he tells her that, he writes ‘It seems like a month since I have seen you. I want to see you real bad and have a long talk with you.’
In the return letter to him dated 16 Nov 1913, Florrie writes, ‘Hope to see you soon and know what that is you have to tell me and ask me. Am real anxious to know.’ She goes on after that. You can read it below.
Just a few days later she got this post card below in the mail. I think he was making his intentions clear with the card.
The Friendship Evolves
It seems that he expressed interest in marrying her not long after that. In a letter to her on 14 Dec 1913, Daniel says ‘don’t forget what you had to tell me. I am certainly crazy to know what it is. I have something that I certainly do want to tell you and I know it is true, too.’ He says other loving things, too. Read it below.
In her letter written on New Year’s Day 1914, Florrie starts the letter with ‘My Dear Daniel’ instead of Mr. J. Daniel Martin. And she signs it with ‘all my love’ instead of ‘your sincere friend.’
The letters continue off and on with Daniel becoming sweeter, now calling her Darling and My Dearest. His letter to her on 7 May 1914 is precious to read. Their love for each other is clear, and he asks her about setting the date for their marriage. They married on 15 June 1914.
I love reading these old letters and seeing their relationship bloom into marriage. Also, the letters give me glimpse into the honorable man my grandfather was.
Do you any correspondence from your ancestors? Perhaps recipes or cures for diseases in their hand? Please comment. I’d love to hear about them.
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