Mattie And Martha – Down Memory Lane

There were twelve children in my mom’s family.  The oldest was Mattie (b. 1907). My mom, Donnie (b. 1910), was third, and Martha (b. 1917), was seventh.

Photos were rare during their childhood, so this picture is a treasure to me. I was told that it was taken in the spring of 1922.  At that time, the two youngest children were but a gleam in my grandaddy’s eye.

Mattie is the girl in the dark dress, my Mom is just to her right. And Martha is standing in front of my mom.

The following is a letter written by Martha to Mattie. I don’t know the exact date, but it was probably around 1996.

A letter of love and thanks to my dear sister, Mattie,

I read a note from you today, thanking me for a few pieces of fruit.

My mind skipped to a January morning, 1917, to a little girl 9 years, 4 months and 11 days old, named Mattie. Course I don’t remember, it was just my beginning.

I wonder what she thought when she looked at yet another baby, (seventh), six younger than herself. They say it was one of the coldest winters on record. “and Papa was sick a lot that year, Donnie, too”.

I wonder who brought in the fire wood to keep us warm? For cooking? What kind of heating? (Fireplace) What kind of cook stove?

Who brought in the buckets of water? For drinking, cooking, bathing, dirty diapers, dirty clothing, bed linen? Who washed the clothes? And on a wash board? Who hung the cold, frozen clothes on the line?

Was there ice in the buckets, snow on the windowsills? Or your bed? Who fed and watered the stock? Milked the cow? Fed the chickens?

We lived on a farm, there had to be a few of these things.

Who washed the lamp shades? Put oil in the lamps?

Who watched our 3 younger brothers, even if Lucille and Donnie were able to watch them themselves, who had time to see to my sister, Mattie? She was still a little girl.

Sister, I know that some of these jobs were yours, and that day, I was yet another burden for you. I wonder how you could show us such love and care all these years, and with all our faults, love us still. Always without fail.

For all the things you have done for us, I love you and thank you. Just in case you had any doubt.

Aunt Martha’s daughter, Betty, read this letter during the funeral service for  Aunt Mattie in 2002. 

When we were children, my cousins and I spent hours fascinated as the “twelve” told us stories of their childhood.  We didn’t realize at the time that they were allowing us to walk with them down memory lane.

Aunt Martha passed away in December of 2010. She was the last of the original twelve children.

Today, I’m linking up to Two Bears and Three Cubs Memory Lane Friday.


22 responses to “Mattie And Martha – Down Memory Lane

  1. Welcome to Memory Lane Friday! Thanks so much for joining in.

    Love this picture! I’ve scanned a few old black and whites too. Always good to get them digital, since they tend to fade. I’ve had some luck sharpening the images too, by auto adjusting the brightness/contrast.

    That letter! It is amazing! What a beautiful piece of family history to have, and she sounds so wonderfully sweet.

  2. What a lovely post. So many families have archives in their home and don’t realise their worth until it is too late. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Will anyone of today have a treasured letter like this in this world of instant messaging, email and texting? Beautiful post!

  4. This is such a treasure! Wonderful on so many levels ~ That you have and have saved these momentos, that you were treated to so many stories about your heritage, and that this letter expresses such warmth, love and respect (as it gives us a history lesson!) You can imagine how much my scrapbooking self adored this!!

  5. This is a wonderful post. The letter is a treasure and the words pour from the heart identifying all the ways she felt loved, cared for and safe. There’s no over analyzing, revision, crafting…it’s genuine and authentic. I agree with Kentrucky Kindred…”will anyone of today have a treasured letter like this…?” Oh my, thank you for sharing.

  6. I can see the family resemblance. What a wonderful story and letter. We have it made these days don’t we!

  7. What a great post! Thanks for sharing a bit of your family’s history. 🙂

  8. I love Memory Lane Fridays and the amazing family moments that are cherished. Love the letter. Amazing how families survived and just kept going through it all.

  9. Not many people would think of all those things that had to be done on a daily basis when the aunts were growing up. I think that was the year of the big flu outbreak…not sure but I remember Mama talking about how sick she was.
    When we think of all the hard times as well as the fun times those 12 siblings shared, it’s no wonder they were all so very close.
    Thank you!

  10. I know: you can almost feel the cold and hear the wind whipping outside. Uncle Bennie came to the Castle one day, and we walked around the grounds. He told me many things that day while we walked around. When I went back in, my boss told me to sit down with some paper and write it all out. Uncle Bennie passed soon after, and I’ve already forgotten some of the things he mentioned that day. Luckily, I have it on paper ….

  11. This was so beautiful! It should be a reminder to us all to show our appreciation for others while we still have them. Life is too short. I believe letter writing was an art and it makes me sad that technology has allowed us to pretty much lose it.

  12. Oh my goodness. What a precious family treasure. So many folks never say thank you like your aunt did to her sister – at least not while she was alive. Brings tears to my eyes.

  13. very nice. My gran was born in 1895 and had 10 children including 2 sets of twins with no gas, electricity or running water. It hardly seem possible does it?

  14. I just love this. It’s hard to imagine having 12 kids, let alone having a farm to handle back then. But people just did it, and had beautiful close-knit families. Simply amazing. My husband’s parents come from farming families of 9 and 10, and I love hearing their stories as well. Thanks for sharing some history with us!

  15. Susan Burt Smelser

    Oh Dianna! Another lovely post. I didn’t know your Mom’s name. Was that a nickname? Of course, I only knew her as ‘Mrs. McGurriman’!

  16. What a beautiful letter! So many people miss the
    chance to say thank you or I love you to those that mean the most to them. I love your picture! My grandmother
    was also one of 12 children, but I don’t have a picture
    of all of them together. Either small groups or huge
    family reunions. Thanks for sharing this!

  17. Dianna, this letter is a treasure for sure! I think it was about the same in my daddy’s family: older children taking care of the younger. It’s so wonderful Martha had a chance to express her gratitude to Mattie while there was still time.

  18. Your 2 aunts would have been so proud of you, writing about them and the family. The tribute that Aunt Martha wrote to my mother was beautiful and so lovely to have been read at her funeral. Thank you—-job well done!!!!!!–

  19. What a testimony to the power of words, and how much weight they carry. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story of one’s thoughtfulness. And yes, how much are the future generations losing to electronic everything?

  20. Ohh i love memorie lanes! and great picture!


  21. Shirley Matthews Dunn

    What a treasure that letter is and the picture. You looked just like your Mother at that age

  22. I absolutely love this post. Thanks for sharing the letter. I have a letter that my Pap wrote my grandma back in the 40’s. It is one of those timeless treasures that I will cherish forever.
    That letter was just so touching. Made me think of the relationship I have with my sister. 🙂

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