Thursday, August 5, 2010

Letters To Myscie: A Western Love Story By Suzanne E. Smith

First of a series

Letters to Myscie, A Western Love Story is also a story of the love of the west. Not all of us are from this area. My great grandparents certainly weren’t. They were Yankees; “Northerners” unaccustomed to the ways of the west, and specifically the southwest. Love brought them here, and kept them here.
It was quite a few years ago that I started this project. I have had several kind and intelligent persons read it over. It has been reviewed and edited, marked up, and changes suggested, until I almost felt defeated by my own creation. However, for the last decade, I have been living in the home of my great grandparents, and I feel that I have genuiely become a part of their past lives, as they have my present. I thank the Mountain Mail for providing me the opportunity to share this fun story with you.
Suzanne E. Smith

Chapter 1
The West is always referred to as having been “won”. Conrad Hilton, who comes from our area, remembered a little poem to inspire him all of his life, of which the last line reads, "A man who wins, is a man who tries". Those who remembered J.E. Smith had recalled that he was "loved, hated, feared and revered; respected" In traceing his life, I have found that the western frontier country made him a little “hard” by the time he died in 1935. Oh, but as a young man, what spirit and grace didn't give to him, "trying" certainly did.
Joseph Edward Smith was born in Abington, Massachusetts on September 27, 1858. Ten years before his birth, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, and New Mexico became a U.S. Territory. The treaty guaranteed to Mexican inhabitants, preservation of the land, their customs, culture and many freedoms. But as with many U.S. Treaties, a promise made was not always a promise kept.
The conflict with, and hatred of, the “Americans” who intruded would have softened some by the time “Joe” arrived in New Mexico in 1883. As a child growing up on the Eastern coast, I am sure he had no idea that the Spanish West would eventually impact his life.
We don't have a lot of information about his childhood, and with his children all gone now, it is his grandchildren, and memoirs of his son Avery that provide some detail. Avery very thoroughly traced the Smith family tree back to the pilgrims; English decent, both sides.
Knowing your “roots” is wonderful, but thanks to the “love of a woman” we have been given a personal account of daily activities, feelings, desires, and dreams of people long passed, in a time when an important part of America was being settled.
J.E. worked for a Boston newspaper after high school in '76. He was an educated man (two years at M.I.T. from '77-'79), and apparently intelligent. During the time he studied Engineering, New Mexico was becoming a territory of adventure. Hostile Indian raids had been curtailed, allowing natives and new comers alike, a chance to finally settle into agriculture and commerce. Spanish settlements began to dot the landscape, as the people now felt safe and permanent, knowing they no longer would have to flee from their homes and Ranchos. The wealth of minerals had been discovered, and the Land Offices were doing a booming business. Soon would come the railroad, leading to a whole new relm of possiblities.
In 1879, J.E. Smith’s father’s business failed and he was forced to drop out of college. He ventured west to the Chicago area, and worked as a photographer for two years after that.
His work was portraiture mostly, but he also traveled to photograph special events. It was on one of those occasions that J.E. Smith met and became interested in a “special” girl.Mary Ann Elizabeth "Myscie" (pronounced Missie) was born in Darlington Wisconsin on January 8, 1863, and lived there until she came west. Through the love letters saved by her, we are able to become personally acquainted with a devoted and courageous young man, in love with an equally fine woman, and the New Mexico Territory!

Wednesday Evening 8:30
Jan 3rd, '83
Dear Myscie,
Last evening after I left you at the door I came directly here to the gallery and sat myself about writing you a long letter. This morning I took the same letter tore open the envelope, read over, and then put it in the stove, while tonight I find myself doing a similar act as last evening with possibly a sequel to follow it, like the previous.
I am home sick to-night Myscie! and I must do something to put away the "don't care" and selfish feeling that has come over me since tea time---I could find no better mood than that of writing--and no better drift than to talk to you for a little while for you have been in my thoughts all day long. Will, Jule, and Mr. Langford have all gone up to Mrs. Deckers this evening so you see, I have no one to disturb me in my “blues” at all.
Supper over I sat down and visited with Mrs. Hopkins for a little while after they had all gone-but this did not content me somehow. I felt so uneasy all the while so about 8:00- I put on my coat and started off. As I came by the house I could hear you playing on the piano-I stoped,[sic] leaned over the fence and listened to you. I could see you playing -could see someone standing by you. Oh how I fought with myself to go in-------Then someone, I could hear coming down the side-walk, reminded me that I had best be moving on before they came too near, and I started off over here to this old, dreary, lonesome hole that I see enough of in day-time without seeking its shelter for consolation and comfort evenings.
After getting warm I started on this letter -with nothing to say-no point in view and no special thing to say-just simply to be talking to you. How I wish I was visiting with you Myscie in that nice cosy[sic] and warm library room over there at the house, instead of here; there in the big chair reading to you or drawn up to the bright fire visiting & talking with you. What really truly happy evenings I have passed there.
Such volumes of things are running through my mind. Oh! dear; I can't write--I can't think-I can't-------I am going to stop Myscie. If I ever send you this letter, burn it up after reading –
but probably it will share the same fate as last night-
Your loving friend "Joe" Good night.
Myscie and Joe were avid “church goers”, and Myscie was musically inclined. Later in life they would donate land and other items to Churches in Socorro. In Darlington, Myscie was the pianist for the choir of the Methodist Epiphany Church. She also had a burning desire to study music at one of the great schools in the east.
Jan-6-83 Saturday Evening 8 ock

Dear Myscie,
I am not feeling well at all this evening, and if I am feeling no better to-morrow forenoon I will not be at church in the morning. I will try and come in the evening if I feel half decent. The choir will get on very well without me---I guess you must do for both of us, Myscie. Have them sing just which anthem you think they can do best in the morning and charge them to be sure and come to the church at six o'ck Sunday Evening to reherse[sic]. I will be there I think and will call for you if you go Myscie, I want to spend the evening with you, Sunday Evening after church, may I? If I see you at church, answer me there if you do not see me, or have askt[sic] to answer me before then. Hoping everything will go off smoothly in the morning. I will trust it all to you. How much I would like to see you Myscie just at this minute---Good night xxxx, I must carry this down to James now.
Your true friend, Joe.

For nearly two months, J.E. Smith courted Myscie Driver. His “friendly” letters changed in nature by the time he left for the New Mexico Territory. Accom-panied by Myscie's cousin Jim Leighton, his great adventure begins and the letters take on a more serious tone. It is almost embarrassing to read the letters, because of the passion.
Certainly, feelings held by two people in love is a private thing, but because the letters are more like a continuing saga full of history, they must be shared. Truly, the uncertainties of the journey, the outcome of his arrival, and the test of time were determining factors in how this story unfolds.

Join us next week, as Joe and Jim travel by train to Socorro.

Letter to Myscie, a Western Love Story written by Suzanne Smith, All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...this is great great work, Suzanne! Very interesting stuff. I love learning about early Socorro/Magdalena history. And it seems no one documented it better then your great grandfather. I agree with another comment I should put this together in a book form. Cant wait to see the rest!

    RG of Socorro, NM