Friday, February 8, 2013

Family and Fences


porch of Leon Bean home in Redwood City California
Though it is frustrating to know that the letter young mother Ella Shields Bean wrote to her father was undated, I’ve been formulating a way to pinpoint the year based on the reports Ella gave of her young daughter.

In the first part of Ella’s letter, posted yesterday, since she was discussing the seriousness of her daughter’s illness, I had presumed Leona was still an infant. Born July 28, 1891, Leona would have been barely four months old when the letter was written on November 24—if it had been written that same year.

Later mention of Leona’s talkative ways, though, probably indicated a letter dated at least 1892, or more likely 1893.

In the next section of the letter, which I’ve included below, Leona had been up to further antics, making me wonder if she weren’t even older. She certainly was stronger. The only thing I know for sure is that the letter couldn’t have been written after 1895, for the twins arrived in March of 1896. If Ella had thought she had her hands full before that date, I would have loved to take a peek at any of her letters written after that date—if she had the time to even write a letter!

Before continuing with Ella’s letter to her dad, I need to add a few details about the family constellation. By the 1890s, “Mrs. Beane,” Ella’s mother-in-law, would have been a widow. That referred to the former Celia W. Hankerson of Maine, who had traveled all the way to California and married Samuel Bean in Redwood City in 1861. By the time of this letter in the 1890s, Samuel Bean had been gone for almost twenty years.

“Blanch and Harry” refer to Ella’s husband’s sister, Blanche Celia Bean, and her husband, Harry Griswold Watrous.  They were married a year and a half prior to Leon and Ella’s wedding on June first, 1889. Though Harry and Blanche spent much of their time in Redwood City, they evidently also lived for a while in San Francisco.

With Leon a building contractor, it makes me wonder, every time Ella mentions any buildings, if Leon had had a hand in doing the work himself. I wonder if the sweet picture of the children on the porch displays the very remodeling project that Ella referred to in this letter.

handwritten letter home from daughter to dad in California
 
We have the house moved over like I was telling you, and the porch built on the front and east side, and a four foot walk from the front gate to the back door. I like it much better over here, we also have a five foot board fence between us and Mrs. Beane so Leona can not pull any more pickets off. Blanch and Harry have moved in the City again. The Mid-winter Fair buildings are just advancing very fast. I suppose you will be up again when it commences. We are going sure if nothing happens to us before then.

Northern California builder from 1890s

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