Letters to Arnon Laney
The following letters were written by my great grandfather, John W. Laney and his sisters, Anna and Emma, to their brother Arnon, who was residing at the time in Montana. The letters cover the period from the fall of 1886 to the spring of 1888 and were all were addressed to Mr. A. Laney, Miles City, Montana.
Postmarked: Rosendale, MO, April 29, 1886
Rosendale, April 28th ‘86
Dear Brother, Ah! Dear, it just rains, rains till I am sick of it. Prof. Glazier was out and tuned our piano today. He is trying to get a class. Hope he will. I want to take all the time all the summer. I am in the notion now, so want to take all I can before I get out of the notion. I am getting along very well with my music. Done very well in my painting.
Mother thinks she will start West the middle of next month. She is going to stop and see you. O! How I wish I was going along. I know I would have a jolly time out there. Think it be so nice to keep house for you and help herd sheep and ride that little pony. I wish I had a pony. Our horses are so large. To ride them makes me feel so small. They the don’t go nice either. Perhaps I am hard to suit. I don’t doubt it. I am in something others are not.
Good, it has stopped raining. Looks like it would clear up. I spent a few days in Savannah last week. Clint Starr died last Sat. Were you acquainted with him? (He and Mitt were engaged). Poor girl she takes it awful hard. I feel so sorry for her. John was down last Sunday to see his girl. I came home with him Sunday evening. You have a [w]hole host of them to go to see when you go to town. Tis better than ever one can do.
I hope Aunt Agg will come and stay with us till Mother comes back, if she don’t I will be awful lonesome. Eve is going up to make Joe a visit this spring. Will start when Mother does. I am going up when Mother comes back. I think it would be so nice for you to come back with her. Don’t you? Our folks have commenced to plant corn today. It rained and they had to stop.
Today is Dave’s birthday. He is 13 and ever bit as large as I am you would hardly know him. I only weight 103. Ain’t I a “smashes”! I am going to St. Joe this week if it gets nice. Mother and I.
Mrs. Waits has a little girl. I have a big time teasing Mr. W. calling him “Papa.” Will discontinue for this time. Hoping to hear from you soon. I remain your loving sister Anna.
Postmarked: Rosendale, MO, October, 14, 1886
Rosendale, Oct. 10, 1886
Dear bro. Arnon, Your kind letter at hand. Was glad to hear from you, hope this will find you well as it leaves me and all the rest of us. Uncle Mike and Aunt Mariah Keffer of Pa. are here for a visit. They got here last night on the 8 o’clock train, took us all by surprise. Ann and I had gone down town to hear a lecture and Pa was over at Frank Sugders and when he got home today at noon he could hardly believe his own eyes when he came in and saw them.
I don’t hardly know what to say in reply to your letter. Must confess that the plan don’t strike me very favorably. Father is not much in favor of it, but he said if I wanted to go he would fill me up a car with something. I have about concluded to stay here till spring at least. As I think by that time I can raise $800 dollars which if I leave this fall I can’t raise that much by a considerable. Father talks some now of renting the farm in the spring and leaving it for good. He says he had better rent it than kill self working. Now if he was to rent and leave I don’t know but what I might stay if he will let me have part of the land and part of the stock on the shares. He had better leave the farm for if he don’t he will kill himself, also mother and the girls making them work. Ann is a little bit of a body only weights 95 lbs. and he expects as much of her as if she was a 200 lb. Dutch girl.
Pa hasn’t any plans nor ideas, he don’t want me to go to Montana, nor he don’t want me to go to Kansas. He don’t seem to care much whether I stay here or not. He seems to think that I am on the verge of getting married. He said to mother the other day, “I believe John has a notion to get married.” Mother promptly replied that she didn’t care if I did, that if I wanted to marry the Heren girl she had no objections. I be old gent is slight by off. I don’t know that I could get Miss Heren if I wanted her. However I would hate to ask her if I didn’t want her, just between you and me.
Now Arnon, I will tell you I am not so sure but what I could take $800 and invest it here so as to make as much as I could by going out there as you suggest. Now if I had the money.
Now I hope you will come home this fall if you can do so without too great a sacrifice to your business. I will be here for a month or two yet at any rate. So if you can come home in Nov. I will be here. I don’t know but what there might be an argument affected by which I could take charge of part of the place and part of the stock in case he goes away in the spring if you could be here to talk it up a little. He thinks you are the darling boy since you left home. I don’t think he ever found it out till after you left though. Mother tells him that he has been going down hill ever since you left. It seems as though we come out of the end of the year in debt rather than ahead. One year ago we were in debt I think about $600 and before we sold our stock that sum had increased to nearly $800 and after selling about $2,700 worth of hogs and cattle we are still in debt about $400. We have made really no improvement on the farm and spent only about $125 for machinery in the last 2 years or since you left home. And I guess you won’t blame me much for not being very auspicious to stay here considering the way things have gone. There is considerable stock on the place for sale now but no market for it. I advised Pa to keep everything through till spring then make a sale. As everything will be worth more then, and I guess we will have enough to feed them through. Now I wouldn’t like to promise you to go out there and buy that property you spoke of till I know for sure if I could not do better here. So if that fellow wants to sell his ranch this fall I don’t see but what we will have to let him sell it.
How I would like to see you and hope kind providence will not prevent your coming home this fall as he did last winter. I believe it would do us much good to meet again after so long a separation. Annie and I went over to see Sadie and her Johnie Miller last Sat. evening. They live 2 miles S. of Westley Choffel. They live on one of John’s father’s farms, have it rented. They haven’t very much of a starter, although they seem happy. John is nice young fellow, only 24 and Sadie about 34, him 6 ft. tall and she 4 ft. short. A striking contrast. I don’t believe I would like to get married under the like financial circumstances.
Well, I guess I will close this long letter as probably you will be tired of reading it. Answer soon. As ever, your aff[ectionate]. bro[ther].
Postmarked: Rosendale, November 25, 1886
Rosendale, Nov. 20, 1886
Dear bro Arnon, Your kind letter came to hand a few days since. Was glad to hear from you. I had been looking for a letter from you for several days. Was sorry you could not come home this fall. I am glad you wrote as you did. When father read the letter he said it is very easy for Arney to talk, but not so easy to do. I will tell you this that I don’t think your writing to father to try to get him to let me have charge of the farm will do any good. For he thinks I am incapable of managing the place and is not willing even to give me a trial. There is only one way to get me to stay here next year and that is for him to take the family away from the farm. Now Father thinks that if you were here to help with the family that things would go on all well and right, but I he thinks could not begin to handle it alone. And he actually thinks it would pay you to come home and settle down on the farm.
Now it seems to me as though there ought to be more money made on this farm than there is, and I believe that you and I could make more out of it than Father does but I don’t believe it would pay us. Now I am willing to do anything in the bounds of reason and good judgment. I would much rather quit farming all together, or here at least. And if you want to leave Montana when your contract expires with Ben and come back to Missouri I am perfectly willing that you should have the farm if you [want] it. Or if you want to come home, and you think it would pay us both to stay here I am in favor of giving it a fair trial. The principal object in may staying here would be to get the folks away from the farm and the hard work. And if I can’t accomplish that by staying I don’t see any use in staying. Because Father wouldn’t work any harder if I wasn’t here than he does when I am here for he does all he can do anyhow. Now if he will let me have a trial at running the old farm I will do my best for him. But if he still insists that I am incompetent to manage the work of the farm he may run it himself till he thinks I am competent, if I am ever so luck or rather unlucky to get that way in his judgment.
Now I will tell you what I am going to do or rather what I am not going to do. I am not going to monkey around here till spring and not know what I’m going to do or where I am going. Now I am going to take a trip South to see the country. Will go to Alabama first most likely, may probably go to Tennessee also, will stop in Mississippi and Arkansas’ lumber districts. I purpose going to northern Ala. And northern Miss. I want more particularly to see the great lumber districts of Ark. Billey Enis was down in Alabama this fall and gives a very glowing description of the country. He says he has traveled all over 29 states and territories in this union and that land at $5.00 per acre is worth more than land in the west for nothing. I can get a round trip ticket to Northern Alabama good for 30, 40, or 50 days for less than $24. Now I want to go and see the country and if I like it I may want to go there to live something in the future. And while I am gone Pap can think the matter over about letting me run the farm, and if I talk South pretty strong when I come back it may have a tendency to bring him to terms. I want to start South in about 2 weeks or less. You write me and if I don’t get it before I go, the folks can send it to me.
Will is married and at home on a visit. He married Sue Caldwell. They are at home now. Guess I will have to go down to see them tomorrow. Wash Dickenson is in Rosendale on a short visit. He has been traveling for an eastern jewelry firm. He sends his kindest regards and best wishes to you. We sold some hogs yesterday for 3 ½ cents, a little less than we got when you left home. Well I must close for this time. Write soon and often. As ever, your aff. bro. John W. Laney
Postmarked: Rosendale, December 6, 1886
Rosendale, December 5, 1886
Dear bro. Arnon. I write to let you know that we sent you a keg of butter on last Wednesday by freight. Father says tell you that when you get that eat up come back home and stay. I will not take my trip south quite as soon as I anticipated. May probably wait till after Christmas. We haven’t our work in very good shape yet. Dad is afraid if I go away that when bad weather comes his hired hand will leave him in the lurch.
Our corn and fodder is all down in the bottom field yet, and on bad days it is no fool of a job to get up enough of it to feed everything. We are just getting our bull shed up. When it is done it will shelter 14 bulls and 24 spring calves. Made it out of boards instead of straw as we usually use for roofing and siding. Is there anything positive about your coming home in Feb? Well as there isn’t much news I will close. Hope we to hear from you soon and often.
Your aff bro John Laney
NOTE: The winter of 1886/87 was one of the worst in the history of Montana. Snow came early and lasted late into the spring. Most of the sheep ranchers lost half to three quarters of their herds. Arnon was in Montana during this winter getting his sheep business under way. This is situation is reflected in the comments of the next two letters.
Postmarked: Tarkio, January 11, 1887
Tarkio, MO. January 10, ‘86
[since the postmark is 1987 I assume that Emma misdated this letter. Tarkio, in the northwest corner of Missouri is the home of Tarkio College, a private Presbyterian college founded in 1883. Emma was attending the collage at the time of this letter.]
Mr. A. Laney, Miles City, Montana
Dear Brother, I received your most welcome letter. And was glad to hear from you. I have had my hair cut. [Emma enclosed a lock of her hair tied with a blue ribbon with this letter!] My head is perfectly flat behind and it makes me look awful funny. I have taken two new studies Physiology and General History. The class was a good way along in Gen. His. but Prof. Gilkey (the President) it did not matter very much. I like it splendid. Physiology too. They use Steele’s here. I have lots to do in the literary society. I have to debate next Friday night. The question is: “Resolved that the common people of Ireland have just cause of complaint against the British law.” And I never debated at all, and to take up such a hard question as that at first is pretty hard for me to do. But I can do no worse than fail, and would rather fail than get up and make forty’leven excuses that doesn’t amount to one thing after all. I will tell you about a girl that was on for an extemporaneous speech once. The president gave her the subject “Should students neglect their studies for literary work?” She got up right where she was sitting and trembling all over said, “Mr President, I don’t think they ought to neglect their studies for literary work. I believe that is all I have to say on the subject.” And sat down. But I do wish I knew something about the common people of Ireland. As for the British law, I never heard of that before. I don’t read history near as much as I ought to. I could get plenty of books in the library.
I got three Christmas presents. Nellie got Anna and me a silk crape muffler. Anna’s is pink and mine is blue. John got me Milton’s poems. It’s the driest thing I ever saw.
I am boarding in the college this term. They have a club here and you only have to pay seven dollars a month. They have a steward, have a president, secretary, treasurer and so on, hire a cook and each one pays her $.50 a week. It beats any arrangement in the boarding line I know of. Did you know John intended going South soon? When I was home he intended starting in two or three weeks. Isn’t it funny! I have not been a bit homesick since I left home in the fall. I don’t care so very much for staying by myself either. I think I can study more than if there was someone with me. I will close. I send all the love I’ve got. Write soon, and give me lots of good advice. I kind of feel the need for it sometimes. I remain as ever your loving sister Emma.
Postmarked: Rosendale, March 21, 1887
Rosendale, March 20 1887
Dear bro. Arnon. Your kind letter at hand a day or so since. I had been looking for it for several weeks and wondered why you did not write. I expected to hear that your sheep were dead. But am glad you had a few left and are not completely broke. It will not be so hard for you to get a start as if you had lost all. Keep a brave and true heart and you will come out alright yet. I would like to have you sell out and leave that God forsaken country. I will say this that if Father don’t sell or trade the farm that I do most anything to effect [?] by which we can take the farm off the old gentleman’s hands, and work it ourselves.
Father is trying to make a trade with a man in St. Joe and I think he is pretty sure of a trade. The property in St. Joe that he talks of trading for consists of a nice two story brick residence on 10th street and a large business building 46×100 ft. thee stories high and is a good and valuable piece of property. The lower story is now used as a wholesale feed store and is leased for over 2 years. The 2nd story is used as a tenement house and the 3rd as skating rink and dancing hall or an all purpose hall. The man that owns the property offered to trade the business building for the farm even. And Father offered to trade the farm for the dwelling and the business building. Father thinks the man will take him up. If he does I think it will be a good trade. Then that will throw me out of employment this fall, and I will be foot loose to do as I please. If I stay on the farm I will try and get the folks away in the course of a year anyhow. And I will get married and run the place myself.
We have commenced farming now. I will put in 90 acres of corn and if we have a good season we ought to raise 5000 b. of corn. My girl was up here a couple of weeks ago and made us a visit. She is not quite so anxious to wait 2 years as she was when you was here.
Well, I will close for this time. We all join in much love to you. Write soon.
As ever your aff. bro. J. W. Laney
I sent you your pictures. Kept what you told me to. I think they are very good.
Postmarked: Rosendale, April 4, 1887
Rosendale, April 3, 1887
Dear bro. Arnon. We are all well and hope this will find you the same. The last 2 weeks of March was very bad. We had a good bit of snow. The first of April was nice and we have a good prospect for some good weather. Father went to St. Joe last Friday to look after his trade. He came very near closing a trade. Came within $300 of it.
Now the object of this letter is to tell you that there is a chance of us making the trade and if we do it is more than likely that I will buy out one of the three pastures in the wholesale feed store in the first floor of the big building we expect to trade for. Now my plan is to buy out one of the junior pastures myself and have you buy out the other junior pastures and retain the senior pasture to manage the business for us till we are all able to run it alone. There is a chance to make something. They do exclusively a wholesale business. The head man told father that they took in about $5000 this month and that they had a profit of 20% on the stuff they handled. So you see there is a good profit in it. Now I think that this arrangement could be made if we trade which we will very apt to do since there is but $300 difference in the trade. Now if this will suit you let me know and if it is possible to make such an arrangement as I have indicated we ill see what we can do.
Joe and Nellie were down to hear mother’s funeral sermon preached last Sunday at Rosendale. [Martha, John and Arnon’s mother died on January 28, 1887 and is buried in Savannah Cemetery, Savannah, MO.] Aunt Agg went home with them to stay a month.
I expect to be sewed for that note of $400 that Caun (?) holds against me. Now you bet he will have to scratch gravel if he gets judgment against me for it. I don’t think we would have to put in more than $1500 a piece to buy two thirds interest in that feed store in St. Joe. We will not give possession of the place till fall if we trade. How much money do you expect you could raise if you were to sell out this summer? Do you expect to skin all your dead sheep?
Have my deepest sympathy in your trouble. Hope though you will be able to leave that God forsaken country soon for a better base. Write soon. Good bye. Your aff bro John
I bought Sallie a dandy nice ring and gave it to her on her birthday the 27th of last month. She was 21. Well am John
Postmakred: Rosendale, April 6, 1887
Rosendale, MO, April 3, 1887
Dear Brother Arnie,
As I have not written to you for a good while I thought I would write today. They are all at Sunday School but me. It is very windy today. O My! It is lonesome here now Arnie. Aunt Agg is in Tarkino [Missouri]. I am in hopes Annie and I will have a little peace of mind while she is gone. We are going to begin music lessons again next Wed. Prof. Is coming out here. Bird has left us and we cannot get another girl. I do not know what Annie and I will do. Do the work I suppose though. Aunt Agg expects to be gone four or five weeks. I wish it was four or five months. I ain’t a bit ashamed of saying that either. Oh, I hardly know what to write. I could tell you lots of nonsense but I know you do not care for that. Uncle Henry’s folks have moved back on the farm.
April 4th. Today is my birthday. It seems as though every year flies faster. Annie and Dase [apparently a nickname for brother David Alfred Laney] put me under the bed this morning. They had to force me under though. O yes! I got a present too. John is an awful nice boy. He got Annie a gold pencil and a book for each of us. Mine is Duty. One of Dr. Smiles’ books. Annie’s is Pilgrim’s Progress and Dase’ is Tom Brown at Oxford. I believe I will like mine best. Pa has built a new grape harbor across the front of the boys’ room. They are still thinking about that St. Joe trade but I do not believe they will make it. I do not care whether they do or not. Just so I am can go away to school. I would just as lief [like?] live here as in town. I go all I want to anyhow. True I am not in love with the society around here. But then I am no society lady anyway.
Oh much obligated for your picture Arnie. I think it is splendid. You never had a better one taken. I tell you if folks should see that that [who] did not know you they would not take you to be a Montana sheepherder. I am sorry you lost so many sheep. But then there is no use worrying over what you cannot help. I believe I will close. Write soon. And often. With much love. I remain your loving sister Emma.
P.S. I shall not try to scrape the blots of this letter. Yours Emma
Postmarked: Rosendale, April 25, 1887
Rosendale, MO, April 24th, ‘87
My Dear Brother, I have everything my way this afternoon. The folks are all at Sunday School but me. I went as far as the big gate and it commenced to rain so I came back.
I would rather write to you than to go to S.S. anyway. John and I went to Uncle Henry’s yesterday eve and stayed all night. Had a very pleasant time. [?]ess had just read your letter.
Well, we have made a trade at last and I am so glad. For I am so sick of this old farm. I have very few pleasant memories of this place. It ought to be the happiest place of my life, but about all the pleasure I ever got I had to steal it. I was always afraid of Pa. But I am not now.
Aunt Agg is up at Joes, has been for the last month. She did not say when she would be home. I am sure I don’t care.
I am taking a horseback ride every day for my health. Uncle Tom [D. H. Laney’s brother, Dr. Thomas Laney] said I needed outdoor exercise so I go every morning. Have been for two weeks and some “stuff” to take after I eat. I enjoy my ride so much. Know you are making things out there. How I wish I were out there with you for a while. The next time you come home we will be living in the City. After we get moved and fixed up I will commence my painting again. I am so anxious to commence. The time will soon pass. We give possession the first of Sept. only four months, not very long is it. Gee Watts brother and sister were in to see him. His bro. Left a few weeks ago but the sister is here yet. Rosendale is the same as ever. I will close. Bushels of love to you. I remain your loving little sister Annie
Postmarked: Rosendale, June 4, 1887
Rosendale, June 3, 1887
Dear bro. Arnon, It has been so long since I wrote to you that I have most forgotten whether I owe you a letter or you owe me one. At any rate I concluded to drop you a line or so knowing it would not come a nuisance. I expect you are having a pretty hard time of it all by yourself. Wouldn’t wonder if you did not have the blues once in a while. We are all well at present and hope that this will find you the same. Last Monday a week ago Father and I started to Dakota with a car load of our bulls. I only sold 3 of them here so had 23 to ship. I went with him as far as Council B[luff] and left him and the stock in good shape to make the balance of the trip alone. We shipped to Dell Rapids in S. E. Dak[ota]. Father wrote when he got there. Said he got through all safe and had a good prospect of selling at good prices. A few days later he wrote that he had sold 3 of the smaller ones, one for $80, one for $75, and the smallest one we had for $55. Said he intended to stay till all were sold. Our car cost $85. If he sells them all at their likes it will pay him big.
Our corn crop is good at present. I never saw better prospect for corn than we have on the bottom this year, our other corn is good also. I am plowing it the third time now and it is over knee high. I have some dandy colts. Wish I had kept my stud. I could have done well with him this year. Annie has quit taking music lessons. She has not been real well anytime this spring. Eldwood Richey is little or no better than when you were here last winter. I have been having a nice time with my girl lately. Had her out here part of last week. Took her buggy riding every evening. Went to Radical last Sunday to decoration of soldiers graves. God there just in time to hear the speaker get off the stage. But eat dinner with Myers on the grounds and came home and stayed a while and then took Sallie home to Savannah.
If I go into business there in St. Joe and find I am going to make a success of it I expect I will get married before the winter is over. Think you said something about selling out this summer when you wrote last, and coming home in the fall on a visit. I expect you could get into something in St. Joe that you could make as much at as you can out there. But however, I am not going to advise you now. You know what is best for you better than I do.
Mother’s monument is finished but not up yet. It is a very nice one. Cost $75. Joe was down to S[avannah]. and was looking at the monument that Pa had ordered for $48 and did not like it very well so he agreed to pay for a lot of extra work on it. Joe was talking of putting an iron fence around the cemetery lot and paying for it himself.
Well I guess I will have to close. Hope you will do whatever you think for the best and come home this fall if you can. We all join in much love to you. As ever you aff bro. J. W. Laney
My lawsuit comes off two weeks from next Monday with Ganis at Maryville. Judge H. [Heren?] takes my case. The probabilities are in very favorable.
Postmark: Rosendale, June 20, 1887
Rosendale, June 18, 1887
Dear bro. Arnon, your kind and welcome letter came to hand a few days since. Was glad to hear you were in such good spirits. I don’t think there is any way to give up and get discouraged about some things we can’t help. I have not seen Mr. Pettigrew lately as he is now in Kansas on a visit. But I am satisfied he will let you have the money as long as you want it. I gave your letter to Father and opened it. Father is not home now. He went to Dak. four weeks ago tomorrow. He wrote one week ago yesterday that he had 16 of them [bulls] yet. They were selling slow but he was getting good prices. He got $280 for the old bull. $55 for the smallest calf not a year old yet. $75 for that best red yearling. $125 for one of the nicest black two year olds. He said he was offered a thousand dollars for the 14 of the balance but wouldn’t take it. I think if it had been me I would have sold out to quick unless I was very certain of doing better.
My corn is all doing fine. I never saw corn grow so fast in my life. We have about one says work for 3 teams yet till we will have it all laid by in fine shape. When Pa left home a month ago corn was about 6 or 8 inches high. Now the bottom corn is a good bit higher than my head and the balance not to my shoulders.
I have been hustling around getter ready for my lawsuit with Ganis (?). Judge Heren and W. W. Ramsay of Maryville are my attorneys. I have the ablest council that can be got in this part of the state. They think we can do Ganis up in good shape but I am not building any hopes to high for fear I will miss it. I know one thing I would not be in Ganis place for twice the price of all the horses he has got or ever will have. If I carry my case through successfully it will ruin Ganis character forever. Then I would not be in his place for all the money Ganis has or ever had or ever saw or ever will have or see. But he drove me to it. I offered to compromise with him last Tuesday by giving him $50 and paying the costs on the suit. But he would not do it. He tried to run a bluff on me but it would not work. I done everything in my power to settle without a suit so now he has got to look out for no. one or else go under. I have found out more mean tricks on him lately that I every supposed it possible for a Methodist preacher to be guilty of.
Well Arnon, I would like the best in the world to go out and make you a visit this fall but don’t know yet whether I will or not. I think your advise well and good. The only thing I thought of going into was the fee business. I know that is a good paying business in a city like St. Joe. If I can get into a business in St. Joe that will suit me where Father is willing to give me a lift, it will be better for me than to go away where he won’t give me anymore than he has to. However, time will tell the tale. I am not going to be in a hurry. I would dearly love to go out to see you and then go on to see Clara [a sister married to Ben Myers in Montana] and if circumstances will justify me in doing so I believe I will. However don’t build on it for you might be disappointed.
Well dear bro guess I will have to close and say good bye for this time. As ever, your aff. bro John Laney.
Postmarked: Rosendale, June 27, 1887
Rosendale, June 26, 1887
Dear bro. Arnon. Your kind letter at hand and glad you are so cheerful and getting along well. Mr. Pettigrew says you may let the note run on. Maybe he won’t want it for two years. We are all well as usual. Annie is feeling much better than she has for months. I don’t believe Uncle Tommy [D. H. Laney’s brother Dr. Thomas Laney] can do her much good. There is a Dr. Fisk of St. Joe who is doctoring Bob Heren [Sallie Heren’s grandfather] that I believe is a first class Dr. and I intend to have him see Annie sometime. You need not feel uneasy about her at all. She will get along all right. I don’t believe going to the West would do her any particular good only as a visit. I will see that she has proper care and medical council while I am at home.
You seem to be very much upset about the family moving into the Hall building in St. Joe. I don’t believe the girls represented it fairly to you. The suit of rooms are very pleasant, roomy, airy, nice and pleasant, but lack one room of being as many as the girls would like to have. It has all the modern conveniences of hot and cold water with a good, big bathroom to boot. The only thing against it is that it is all upstairs, is in a big building, and has poor society in the neighborhood. I have not heard Father say that he intended to move in the hall building, but I suppose he does. He can save $10. Per month on the rent by it besides being there to see that his building is taken care of which is very necessary. If I get married this coming winter I would be very well satisfied to live in the Hall property and let Father move into the 10th street property. I will talk to father and see what I can do with him. And if I can influence him to move into the 10th St. house I will do it. But to tell the candid truth, I believe it would pay him to take the children away to a good college and not move to St. Joe at all. If I live in St. Joe I can look after his property and rent. If I don’t live in St. Joe he ought to. If he would move to Glasgow he could rent a house for $10 per month and have the other $20 that he would get from his 10th St. Place in St. Joe to keep up the table and help pay the children’s schooling. He thought of doing this but wanted me to go to Glasgow and go to school and study for the ministry. But I would not do it. So I guess he thought he would move into St. Joe.
Well, my lawsuit comes off this week. I got to Maryville tomorrow to attend court. I attended court at Judge Heren’s last night. Sallie is a pretty sweet girl. Believe she will make me a good wife. Pa has not gotten back from Dakota yet it will be 5 weeks tomorrow since he left. Good bye. Your aff bro. John Laney
Dated: Rosendale, MO, June 30th, 1887
My Dear Brother,
My thoughts fly westward this evening. I I would like to slip in your little cabin house and give you a surprise this eve, for I am homesick to see you.
Nothing would please me better than a trip to Mont. I would love to paint your ranch, but I will have to take lessons for sometime yet before I can.
I am going to commence soon as I can after we move. By the way, it will not be very long till we leave the old farm. I am not sorry to go. But I don’t like the idea of moving in the building Pa wants to. Suppose John has told you all about it.
Everyone says it is the roughest part of town, but the idea of moving in there when we have a nice place up in the north part of town in a nice neighborhood.
I wish you would write Pa about it, but don’t say anything about me talking about his old “barn.” That is what I call it. He is just doing it to save a little money and who for? Show him how foolish it is to live along just any way you. You is the time [?]. Em[ma] and I ought to have some of it. There is no one in that end of town we will want to associate with.
As far as living in the city, I like that part of it for we have advantages we would not have in a small town. Now a town like Savannah has no first class painting teachers and then the society is not the best.
If Pa could not afford it, it would be different. Tell him what you think about it for he thinks you and Clara are about right. All we can say won’t do any good. If he intends to do anything for us girls now is the time. I have decided to become an artist if Pa will put me through. Us girls out to be in good society all the time now we have been out too long already.
I am going to take vocal music too. Painting with house keeping and the vocal music is all I can do at once I think. Tell him you think we ought to have a horse and buggy for the girls so they can get out and get the fresh air. “Ha, ha.” You will think I’m a good one. Dave says he is going to take a cow, we will have milk. Pa said he could not afford to keep a horse, but if he keeps a cow he can keep a horse too don’t you think?
For the last two weeks I have felt better than I have for some time. Till today I have not felt like I would like to. We look for Pa home the last week. Took cousin Ida Waugh [Waugh was the maiden name of D. H. Laney’s wife, Martha]. I got a watch with my money. Em[ma] has not decided what to get with hers.
The boys commenced in the hay today. Haven’t so very much to put up this year.
Sorry to hear you are by yourself now. Wish I could be out there with [you]. Mitt was here on a visit last week. She said send you her love and write to her. She was sick and had to stop work. She is much better than when she came out. She is up at Uncle Henry’s. Is coming down there the of this week. They all join me in love to you. Hoping to hear from you soon. I remain your loving sister Annie.
Postmarked: Rosendale, July 1, 1887
Rosendale, July 1, 1887
Dear bro Arnon. You kind letter at hand the same day I wrote you last. I dropped you a card when at Maryville stating I had lost the suit. You see Ganis had sold my not to Baker and Baker in turn sold it to his son-in-law Tate. When Baker bought the note off Ganis he made him put what is called a guarantee on the note which waves notice and protest and compels Ganis to pay it when due. This guarantee destroyed the commercial value of the note. Judge Heren told me when he saw the note that Tate could not sue a guarantor and the maker of the note jointly which he had done. When it came to trial Judge raised the point and if he had been sustained would have thrown the other fellows out of court. However we would have been all right if we had been able to prove that Baker and Tate had notice of fraud in the note before they bought it. They swore they were innocent purchasers of the note which would not allow us to bring in any equities and prove the fraud we allege.
Judge Heren took an appeal to the Supreme Court. Judge Heren told me on the way home the other evening that he had a talk with the Court and he felt very certain she would reverse her decision and grand us a new trial. We took an appeal without giving bond so you see them fellows could enforce their judgment against me if I had property that they could get a hold of by law. If the Court here don’t give us a new trial it may be a year before we get a hearing in the supreme court. So you see I must be careful how I invest any money. However if I wanted to invest any money with you in horses I could easy fix it so Gann could not touch it. I could cover it by letting you pay the tax on it till this case is settled. If I don’t strike anything here that suits me I would just as like go in to the horse business as not. However I could not tell till after we move to St. Joe.
Father has been gone for nearly 6 weeks. He wrote the 26th and said he had 9 bulls yet. Said he had been selling for good prices. Sold a yearling for a hundred dollars cash. Sold on two-year old for $150 on 18 months at 10%. Said he was making it pay and intended to stick it [out] if it took all summer. Well I will close. We are all well and hope this will find you the same. We all join in much love. Your aff. bro John
Postmarked: Rosendale, July 4, 1887
Rosendale, MO. July 3, 1887
Dear Brother Arnie,
I received you kind letter sometime ago. John also received your last. We are always glad to hear from you. Cousin Ida Waugh [Waugh is the maiden name of D. H. Laney’s wife Martha] is here now. She came yesterday. Mitt is here also. She has been sick. She is rather think yet. Annie is as well as usual. She does not complain of feeling bad as much as she did in the spring. But I can tell by her color that she is far from well. Pa has not yet returned from Dakota. He intended coming home the last of last week, but I suppose could not sell the rest of his calves. He has been gone five or six weeks. It is the first time he was every away from home so long. I expect we will all go to Savannah to spend the fourth if it does not rain. I am getting along very well in my music for the time I have put on it.
We are going to have a girl this week then I will have more time. Fannie McBrien is her name. They live away across the river. She said she used to know you. I think she will stay with us until we go down to St. Joe. I don’t like to talk about that. This old place never looked so pretty to me before. The thought of our future home makes it seem still more pleasant. I wish I was out there with you awhile. I would lots rather go to the mountains than to the City. Prof. Glazier is going to give a concert the last of July. I have to play a solo and a duet with Annie. I do not go on the stage very often and I am afraid I will make a failure. The name of my piece is “A Starry Night.”
Sunday night. I did not finish your letter this afternoon Arnie so I will close now as I want to wake up in the morning in time to catch the half past seven train. I hope you will enjoy yourself as well and better than I will for I never do enjoy myself at a picnic. To tell the truth I don’t enjoy myself much anymore at all. That is nice talk for a youngster like me isn’t it? Well goodnight Arnie. Write sooner than I did. With more love than I can tell.
Your sister, Emma Laney
Postmarked: Rosendale, August 5, 1887
Rosendale, August 5, 1887
Dear bro Arnon. It has been so long since I wrote to you that I have forgotten whether I owe you a letter or not. But presume you are always glad to get a few lines from home. We are all well as usual. Annie seems about as well as she was when you were home. Pay says he will take her to see a good Dr. when we go to St. Joe. Your check came all right but you ought to have had your name on the back of it. Father sold his bulls all but one. They brought him about $2,100 neted him $1,503 which I think was done very well.
Our corn crop is almost a total failure. Our bottom field is all we have that will make our corn to speak of and that not over 20 bushels to the acre. Judging from the present prospects. We have not had any rain to do any good for a month. I never saw things so dry in my life as they are now. We are beginning to cut up our corn already and have six men engaged to commence next Monday. I don’t suppose we will get more than 4 or 5 dollars an acre for it and maybe not that. Our hay crop made about 30 tons. We will make a sale if we don’t sell out everything to Seamore. Seamore is to be up tomorrow to see what he wants that we have for sale. I am not going to make more than about half as much as I expected I would. But I guess I will survive the shock.
We are going [to] move into the Hall property. I did my best to persuade the Old gentleman to move into the 10th St. property but it was of now use. He would not do it. So I guess we will have to make the best of it if there is any best to it. But really I haven’t any idea that Paul will stay there very long. Maybe one year. And probably not that long. Well, dear bro. What are you doing now? Have you sold all your sheep? If so, what are you going to invest int? Write soon. As ever, you aff. bro John
Postmarked: Saint Joseph, May 1, 1888
April 30, 1888
Dear bro. Arnie. Thought I would drop you a few lines this evening. We are all well. Hope you and Annie made a safe trip. I am boarding at home. I got the promise of a job in the Chicago Lumber Companies yard here the same evening you left. And I began work on Wednesday morning. There is lots of hard work about it and some that ain’t quite so hard. However I like it pretty well and unless I strike something a good deal better I will almost likely stay here all summer if they don’t turn me off. I think I will have steady work all the time except when it rains which it did last week.
We have no house keeper yet. Martha went back on us. Pa got on track of a woman this evening and lit out to hunt her up. It is pretty hard to find a suitable person for the place. I thought I would stay here a little while and see how things go. The old gent has been in a good humor and behaved quite well for him lately and I hope he will come to his senses now and be a man the balance of his life but I haven’t any idea if he will.
Sallie sized you up about right. Said she thought you were one of these big open hearted kind of men that was a friend to every body and ever body’s friend. Well good bye for this time. We’ll try and write more the next. May success and God’s blessing be with you.
Your aff. bro. J. W. Laney
Postmarked: Saint Joseph, May 6, 1888
May 6, 1888
Dear bro Arnie. You letter came to hand a few days since. We also received one from Annie yesterday. She got through all safe. Glad to hear you got through all right. We are getting along al right. Pay has not got his house keeper yet. Consequently has lots of the work to do himself. And he is getting most awful sick of it and wants to get a cook mighty bad. I think he as concluded that it is not quite so easy to get another house keeper as he thought it would be. And he has also concluded that there is some work to do about a house. Am glad you got a job so soon. Hope you will have success in all your trades.
I put in a full week in the yard last week and got very little $9 for it. But it seemed to me as though I had to work awful hard for it. I don’t think there is very much chance to be promoted there very soon as they have boys there that have been in the yard for 4 years and one of them told me he only got $10.00 per week. Others have been in a year and are only getting $1.50 per day. But then the business don’t seem to be very hard to catch on to and I believe if I stay there all summer I can learn a good bit about it. I opened your letter from Miller and enclose it to you. I don’t suppose it is worth monkeying with. Mits (?) wedding cards are very fine indeed. You and Pap and I were invited to bring our ladies. I attended an illustrated lecture last night at the opera house given by Mr. H. H. Ragan. Subject “Paris the Magnificent.” It was the finest lot of views I ever saw. Showed a lot of the boulevards, buildings, parks, works of art etc. There are to be 3 more lectures and I think I will take them in as the season ticket costs but one dollar. Well write and tell me all the news and how you are making it. Write soon and often.
As ever your aff. bro.W. Laney
Note: The New York Times published an article on April 11, 1885 about Lecturer Henry H. Ragan who gives “the delights of travel without its discomforts.” The article records how Mr. Ragan entertained and delighted his audiences with illuminated pictures on screen of the beautiful buildings and monuments of Paris. Three years later Ragan was presenting his illustrated travel lecture in St. Joseph, MO.