It was in October 2006 that Hometime, the nationally syndicated home improvement show, returned to help and film major restoration work of Betsy’s house, Maud Hart Lovelace’s childhood home. Hometime had worked and filmed some of the exterior work on the house in 2005. During the 2006 restoration, the interior of the house was gutted to the studs, revealing many interesting clues as to the original construction of the house. But also found between the attic floor and the main floor ceiling were many interesting artifacts including high buttoned shoes, long black stockings, a shirtwaist, a valentine, a card tally, puzzle pieces, Lincoln Logs, checkers, porcelain doll arm, magazines and newspapers. These artifacts may have belonged to the Hart family when they lived in the house so many years ago, or they may have belonged to any of the people who lived in the house after the Harts’ moved to 5th Street. But the real treasure found beneath the attic floor was a yellowed and faded letter.
The envelope, addressed to Miss Stella Palmer, is postmarked September 24, 1885. Inside revealed a letter from Thomas Hart (Maud’s father) to Stella Palmer (Maud’s mother) written two years before they would marry. They were married on October 15, 1887 on the shores of Madison Lake. The letter is transcribed exactly as written complete with misspellings and punctuation. A blank is inserted for illegible handwriting.
Sept 23, 1885
My own dear girl –
I arrived home safely last night just at dusk and found the folks all well. I had a delightful ride coming home I came near by missing the train at Mkto just got to the depot barely in Time left Mkto at 7:30 and was just 12 hours on the road home. My sister May is at home but Flo is still “at large.” Flo sent me two of her cabinets and she told me to send one of them on to you which I will send to you to-day. I think it is a good picture of
Flo that just as she looks now I don’t believe you will recognize Flo by that picture for she has changed so since you saw her she said she was going to write to you just as soon as she got settled but now she is in LaCrosse Wis and would be there only a few days longer and then she dont know whare she will go she was in Winona a week ago she sent the cabinets and said to tell Stella she would write soon and she will write to you just as soon as she knows whare to tell you to address her she is moving around so awfully much that she dont know one day whare she will be the next. however you will hear from her soon. There was some friends of ours that came here this summer and was traveling taking pictures of residence there were new boys that had no experience in the business they told Pa if he would let them that they would take the picture of our house so they did so and got some horrid looking things and those are all the ones that there are left now and if you would care to see it I will send you one I will tell you now that our yard doesn’t look one bit like that Pa said for me not to send those pictures to any body for he was going to destroy them all but I’ll smuggle one off and send to you Those that you see in the ________ are my little sisters my little sister and brother are standing on the steps my aunt and her children are on the porch Pa and Mrs. Hart and her mother and little girl are in front those are not half of the brothers and sisters that I have but that will do for this time you can’t remember any more and Jim says to tell you that, that other fellow out at the left is the “hired man” every one of my folks are ashamed of there pictures Again, my home seems like a home for the first time in three long years, Mrs. Hart and her family are all gone and just my own folks are here it really seemed like a reunion last night my neck is a foot longer than it was when I came and my little sister Minnie has been on my lap three fourths of the time with both arms around my neck the big girls tried to make fun of her but she don’t care a bit says she’s guesses she can hug her brother if she wants to Jim is going to school now and is very busy we will have your pictures taken soon and send you one My brother Steph who is 13 years old has just attended the teachers instr and just for fun took the examination and got a second grade certificate all but his age he knows a good _____ _____ fan of his brother whom I know “happy day”
Your father and I had rather a pleasant ride into town Monday, he is Tolerabel good company but I had rather have made the trip with you, just a little rather but as it was I suppose I ought-ent to complain for I had such a good time Sunday and Monday what a pleasant time we had Monday morning down by the pier under the banks of the lake I have thought about that time so often since then, on my way coming home I was sitting in the cars and every little ways there was a lake the banks of which was sure to remind me of Lake Madison and of you dear Stella what a lovely home you have yes Stella and you shall always have a lovely home I hope it is within my power to make it so. Frank and I took a _____ claim and the ____ and talked a long time Monday night had a good time Frank had first received a letter from Miss Carter, Stella I think she is a splendid young lady and she writes a good letter too Frank let me read it and then he said isnt that a splendid letter ? I said yes Frank it’s a good letter but Stella can take the shine all off from it Frank claimed it all first but finally he said he supposed it was because you were his sister really Stella Miss Carter does write a nice letter but just dont compare one of them with one of yours and any one could see that the differences yours are far far the best I am glad that Frank has found one at last that he can respect I believe that he does love that girl
I received your letter today which was forwarded to me from St. Paul O how can I ever repay you for writing me such nice long interesting letters Stella when you know that in return you are sure to get only one of my miserably constructed and poorly written epistles. keep up your courage Stella for perhaps in time your excellent letter may have a good effect on me and I may be able to write a halfway kind of a letter. Mary was just in and says “give Stella my love and tell her that I hope to become better acquainted with her in the near future” Mary is lady of the house now but that doesn’t exactly satisfy her for she has intended to get married this fall and when pa and Mrs. Hart had that trouble she came home to help Pa and her plans were all spoiled for the present she is awfully lonesome here for she has never lived here before til now and every body are strangers but she is getting acquainted some now she gets two long letters every week from Dell (that’s her father) but they seem to make her more lonesome than before My little sisters have been teasing me to go to the rink tonight but they want ____ to come home with me and we are having a big time over it. Rhoda said this morning “Tom you can go with us and if some fellow want to come home with me why you don’t care do you” I told her he could come and get her if he wanted to take her home so tonight you will be in your room I suppose watching the moon and will be at the rink with my sisters my thoughts will be with you Stella one hundred miles away I will address this to Mankato for I think you will get it sooner I must write to Frank today to Frank said he was going to take you with him Sunday out to Mankato you will have a good time I hope I’m not shure but think I shall stay at home this ______ and perhaps you in address Waverly but I will know soon and will let you know all about it when I know myself I will write you a long letter Sunday Stella and shall look for a letter for you every day Please dont disappoint me very long. The weather is fine and warm have had no frost here yet but the leaves are nearly all gone I must close now so Good bye my darling girl write soon Love to all
Address Waverly Ia