Chester Jackson

Page 2 - Correspondence

I scanned a number of letters either written or received by Chester Jackson.  He was a prodigious letter writer over the course of his long life, but some key correspondence is missing.  For example, we don't have letters he wrote William Hornaday, especially those written during Hornaday's 1876-79 expedition.  A vast number of Chester's letters were found in the files; those scanned represent a small selection, each usually for some reason or other.  In the case of multi-page letters, they are presented as a PDF.  For some letters not represented as scanned originals, I have provided extracts below.

I have included comments offered when the letters were originally circulated to family.  I have also included some family members' responses to my original email -- my most prolific responder, my uncle Richard Bates, is identified as "RCB".

Here are the letters, in chronological order:

  • Chester to Eliza - Antigua - 1/18/1880.

  • Chester to Eliza - Antigua - 6/23/1880.

  • Chester to Eliza - Antigua - 6/29/1880.

  • Chester to Eliza - Antigua - 6/23/1883.

  • Chester to Eliza - from Dominica - 5/11/1885.

  • William Hornaday to Chester - 11/25/1899.

    Shows strength of the relationship twenty-four years later, including mention of some unique Michigan gifts sent to Hornaday.

  • Chester writing Myra and Wilma Jackson at Michigan State Normal College, 10/6/1903 (extract):

    "I hopeth thee do not take homesickness to thy several bosoms because it is a silly weakness and groweth not on the Jackson tree on thy father's side."

    That would certainly seem to be the case.

  • Chester writing Myra and Wilma Jackson at Michigan Normal, 10/14/1905 (extract):

    "I have to tell you Ma is getting fat, all on account of eating grapes & catching mice.

    "She borrowed a little trap of somebody not larger than a bit of toast (the trap I mean) and it is a fell destroyer, I tell you.  She has said, 'I've got another' so many times that her fund of English is getting low on account of disuse, which makes us quite fearful that she will have to give up society and even church going.  It would certainly be awkward for the family to have Ma blurt out, just as the minister nicely got into the 'begats,' 'I've got another,' wouldn't it?"

  • Chester to Wilma Jackson - 2/11/1906 (extract):

    "I learned, when a callow youth in the pin feather stage, that when people are crazy to buy a thing to sell it to them, and when they are in the opposite mood and things look black with no silver lining apparently, why, then buy of them.  Also, never jump into a thing because the crowd is there, but nurse up the neglected & downtrodden."

    106 years later, still pretty good advice, as anyone who owns stocks can attest.

  • Chester to Wilma Jackson in Fairmount, ND - ca 2/1907.

  • Chester to Wilma Jackson in Fairmount, ND - 2/10/1907 (extract):

    "As you know Auntie [Alma Spalding Keys] went up to Myra's [in Montana] a week ago Friday.  She wrote down a day or two since she was 30 hrs going to Myra's from here.  Wasn't that a dandy?  She had notified Myra that she was coming on Friday 11 a.m. train and that if it was inconvenient for Myra to come down she would take the stage.  It seems Myra had two men to dinner for & did not come down.  Alma engaged the stage man to take her but he left without her someway.  So she put up at the Steele.  Myra next day had a headache so she sent Mrs. Tooken [?] down but she did not find Alma at the train of course & went home without her.  So Alma got the stage man at last & started.  Before they had got out of town they found that Alma's suitcase had dropped off, so they had to drive back several blocks & found it in a grocery store.  She arrived at Myra's after 6 p.m.  Inasmuch as she hates to watch [?] people or hotel life, I imagine she was not very happy."

  • Chester to Wilma Jackson in Fairmount, ND - 2/24/1907.

  • Chester to Wilma Jackson in Fairmount, ND - 3/15/1907.

    1) Those were the days when you could address an envelope to a person, a town and a state, and it would be delivered.  [RCB:  The mail wasn't delivered:  you went to the Post Office to get it, even in my time.]  Not seen on the envelope is the stamp on the reverse side showing the letter arrived in Fairmount at 5 p.m. on March 17 -- pretty darn good delivery time for 1907, and I don't think the Post Office could do any better today.

    2) Clearly, Wilma's previous letter (referred to by Chester) was distressing, and she was hoping to transfer to Ovid's schools.  Note that Wilma wrote a few days prior to March 15, and the date of her Ovid teaching contract is March 26 -- Chester moved quickly.

    3) Reference to some relatives who lived in our (Minneapolis) backyard:  Charles Sumner Jackson (born 5 Jul 1856 in Racine, WI; died 2 Dec 1935 in Excelsior, Hennepin, MN [Minneapolis is in Hennepin County]).  Charles was the son of Chester's half-brother Andrew.

  • Chester writing Myra Jackson in Montana, 11/17/1907 (extract):

    "Am glad that you saw the great works on the ditch [may be referring to photos of construction in Myra's photo album].  Only wish I could get away next spring and come out & see that wonderful country.  It would take me back to the 70s when I used to go up in Minnesota back of Red Wing on the big rolling prairies where liberty sat & twirled her thumbs."

    Isn't that phraseology just wonderful?

  • Chester writing Myra Jackson in Montana re my grandfather courting my grandmother, 12/8/1907 (extract):

    "Wilma has a regular 'stiddy' in the person of Dr. Bates and the [??] chap is badly hit, we think.  He has thrown Bessie Berry to the four winds.  Was here last night and the previous one until 12, etc., etc."

    That appears to put a date on it!

    Took them one and one-half years to tie the knot.

  • Chester writing Myra Jackson in Montana, 3/8/1908 (extract):

    "By the way, Mr. Storker [?] was in Detroit last week and stepped into one of the 10 ct Vaudeville shows and there saw Mabel Cowan [?] singing on the stage.  Isn't it enough to make a statue shed tears to know that the poor girl is slowly going down to the depths.  I would like to see for [?] Graham tied to a tree, stripped & left to starve & be tortured to death by the stings of innumerable mosquitoes."

  • Chester writing Myra Jackson in Montana, 1/23/1910 (extract):

    "Chas Beebe [my 7th cousin, once removed] built a fort between the kitchen & woodshed facing the street & planted the Stars & Stripes on the parapet.  Fearing trouble he summoned several lusty yeomen about his size and subjoined them that the Gods had sent an emissary saying that the Fort across the track would make a sally & tear down their 'Grand Old Flag' -- the one that Barbara Freitche [Fritchie] covered her bosom with, likely as not.  A great 'by Gosh!' oath was taken that they would never give up the G.O. Flag.

    "So a bushel basket full of snowball ammunition was put in place and breathless they waited.

    "They waited & got cold & then waited some more.

    "A scout slithered out to the corner of the house and peered under his hand but all was quiet.  The flag still waved on.  Then Capt. Charles shouted, 'Less charge them my heroes.'  Bruce Eaton and another burly yeoman were detailed to lug on the ammunition and the army charged.

    "They were commanded to 'never whistle nor yell.'  A rush was made across the turnpike through the water works yard across the railroad, up the embankment into the fort, and -- not a soul was there -- deserted.  All gone home to supper.  Their chagrin was something fearful to witness.  They jumped on the ramparts & bore them to the ground.  At this, Capt. Hathaway appeared on the porch -- the back porch.  Chewing on a fried cake and viewed the ruins over.  He never said a word.  He never shed a tear, but turned into the house -- his father's house and there did disappear.

    "By this Bruce Eaton and his burly comrade staggered in with their basket of ammunition and laid it at the feet of their master.  Their master kicked it over when all departed for their several homes.  It was a great victory.

    "The next morning before school 'Fort Hathaway-Storrer' was rebuilt, stronger, larger than before.  Tommy Hyslop Jr. with spectacles well down on his nose pronounced it invulnerable and all was well.  A campaign was mapped out, to wit:  An assault would be made on Fort Beebe right after school.  Great bravery & much hot air were shown at the mapping.  Jaws were set & lips tightly drawn when one & all recounted what they would do with 'them other chumps' after school.

    "It was my fortune to be passing between the forts just after school and I could plainly see activity on both sides and knew that a great battle was unavoidable.  Great activity was apparent especially in making up ammunition against the time when most needed.

    "Scouts were out watching on both sides.  Soon the troops filed out from Fort H&S & crossed the railroad track.  They carried no flag & jogged along like they were driving cows to pasture.  Young Tommy & another brave carried the ammunition.  The enemy was watched from vantage points around Fort Beebe and all knew that gore would soon cover everything.  By order the fort was emptied and all took cover behind the adjacent houses.  Much ammunition was hastily made.  The rebels were now crossing the road, a few desultory shots were being exchanged when who should walk between but Beebe senior coming home to his supper.  The firing now increasing in steady volume, Senior Beebe sought to cross his yard when a rebel shot -- a stray one, knocked his derby hat many feet away.  He picked it up and deftly plunked it on his head and charged the rebels.  Another stray shot hit him in his jaw and he straightway chased the aggressor when he stubbed his toe and fell kersplash into the soppy snow.

    "At this point both sides set up a yell heard for many squares and was the means of breaking up what might have been a mighty battle.  A very bloody battle.  Mirth is a mighty factor to turn hatred away and mend men's passions."

  • Chester writing Beulah Jackson, 3/19/1917 (extract):

    "Ma & Mrs. Hunter are crazy today over the relationship of the deposed Czar [3/2/1917] to the Kaiser -- our ma has been all turned up because McCormick  the acting superintendent of school told Mrs. Hunter that the Czar's wife was a relative of the Kaiser.  Now you know what a relish our ma has for setting people right.  And so she has been tumbling encyclopedias all about and has proved that Mr. McC is wrong, and as she isn't home tonight I have to believe she has gone to his lodgings to tell him the living truth.  They have dug out that the Czar's great grandmother was King Edward's wife's sister, of the House of Dagmar.

    "Now ma just loves that Dagmar bunch.  Funny isn't it, that our ma is so heated up over "them people" while she doesn't care a hooter about my ferreting out the Jackson tribe?  [Written while Chester was in the middle of correspondence with far-flung cousins trying to put together genealogical loose ends -- the task resulting in letters I've been using to extend the family's Jackson lines to extraordinary length.]

    "This brings me around to say that I have dug up some dandy Jacksons way down in Maine & Mass.  They seem so glad to know that they have kin so near where the sun goes down.  [Chester then goes into a recitation of what he has found, and seems very pleased with himself for it all!]"

    Gee, I can't believe that anyone would ever think that the Jackson-Bates-Haynes line has produced anyone with single-minded focus!

  • Chester to Emily - from NYC - ca 1/11/1921.

  • Chester's Visit to Antigua - 1/21/1921.  After revisiting Antigua, when walking around the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, Chester encountered some Antiguan women living on St. Lucia who had known and recounted the fate of Caroline Parker, the Jackson's maid/assistant/nurse during Chester's term as Consul, which permitted us to identify this photo:

  • Chester to Bion - 2/1/1921.

  • Chester to Poultney Bigelow - 2/6/1923.

  • Poultney Bigelow to Chester - 2/23/1923.

  • Chester to Myra Jackson from Anna Maria Florida - - 1/15/1924.

  • Chester to Bion from St Petersburg Florida - 1/27/1924.

  • Chester to Beulah Jackson from Anna Maria Florida - 2/2/1924.

  • Chester to William Hornaday - 4/10/1924.

  • Chester to Emily - 7/9/1924 (extract):

    "Can't think of any news only that the Klan is to have a meeting here evening of the 10th this week.  Ma says she is going."

    [SLH:]  The KKK's activity in the north (and even certain redneck areas of Michigan) has long been known, but this is the first I've heard of activity in or near Ovid.

    However, a search turns up this:  Arthur Hornbui Bell became Grand Dragon of the New Jersey KKK about this time.  He was married to Leah Hamlin.  Leah died in 1951 and is buried in Ovid.  Leah was about ten years younger than Grandma.  I've not been able to ferret out her Ovid connection, but perhaps there was something in 1924 that brought the Klan to Ovid.

    RCB:  "I remember being in the car in Ovid at about age 5 when a man in a white robe and peaked cap was directing traffic--of which there was none.  Father, the driver, sniffed that it was the Ku Klux Klan.  An ordinary man named "Shinaberry" was said to be the local head, but of course, membership was secret and concealed. If Grandma attended the meeting, I'm sure it was because of curiosity rather than sympathy with the cause. (She took me to a temperance meeting at church once to expose me to the silliness; we walked out in front of the whole congregation when they circulated a pledge never to touch the demon rum.)

    "After all, we lost relatives on both sides in the war to end slavery. Our parents looked down on African-Americans, made fun of them, found the sitcom 'Amos and Andy' hilarious, but they were appalled by hatred of blacks and lynchings.

    "It was a time when 'nice' people looked down on many groups:  Irish, Polish, Hungarian, the poor, the unlettered, union members, factory workers, Catholics and -- on college campuses -- Jews.  (I wasn't exposed to that last prejudice until I got to the UofM -- it wasn't apparent to me at MSC.)  'Looking down' did not equate with violence:  that was the redneck response to blacks.

    "Grandma Amanda Bates 'discovered' Mary Bethune who was trying to run a school for black children in Daytona and contributed to her cause. The North was Republican, the party of Lincoln, and stood up for the downtrodden. The South was solidly Democratic and tried to suppress them.  Times have changed, as has my political orientation.

    "It is hard to conceive how far public attitudes have improved just in my one lifetime.  I'm sure there is still room for improvement but white Anglosaxons merit praise for the progress made to date and automobile unions under Walter Reuther merit a share."

    More about Eliza Jackson and the Klan, an account that buttresses RCB's opinion that it was curiosity that drove her to check them out.  Chester writing the Myra & Beulah Jackson, 7/10/1924:

    "This evening Ma & neighbor Miss Hozel [?] are gone down to hear or snoop around the meeting place of the Ku Klux Klan who are in conclave with public invited to hear one of their national speakers tell the people all about the institutions of the K.K.K.s."

  • Chester writing Beulah Jackson, 1/22/1927 (extract):

    "Glad you found the bear story -- thanks [implies there's more to the story than what follows].  As to the progress of the story would say that the old she-bear is killed and gran'pa [by implication, Abraham Jackson, Jr., 1751-1833] has taken possession of the hollow and has fitted it out in a grand and comfortable manner.  The 'slat' is giving a mellow light, a little fire is glowing in the little fireplace; the dishes are washed and the water poured down through the trap door into the swift-running brook below; the little brass kettle has been lowered and drawn up filled with lovely pellucid water ready for the morning meal of bearmeat and beechnuts!

    "Bunches of yarbs [herbs?] and roots hang on pegs along the walls and cast long shadows into the far reaches of the hollow and Peace and plenty seem to reign.

    "The bear being killed brings great peace and plenty of bear meat -- plenty.

    "Granpa is reading in his old and well-thumbed bible -- the pin hole bible -- some of the songs of David, how David slewed his enemies (the bear) and how he is ready for more of 'em -- say three or four.

    "The day has been mostly spent in curing the great skin through the aid of a big fire in front of his new home.  When cured he will have a grand spread to put on his bed of hemlock boughs.  And now he has stuck the pin in the leaf of the treasured bible at the word 'and' and has turned to his store of beech nuts and is peeling off the thin husks and throwing the husks in the fire, where they flash up and show granpa munching the savory things and gloating over how he beat the red squirrels.

    "The brook gurgles below; the old hoot owl is hooting his hooter; the little screech owl is screeching his screecher, and grandpa has stepped out of the door and views the great trees of the great wilderness and hears the great sounds of nature and draws in great deep breaths of Ozone -- no finer in the world -- heaves a great sigh that his 'bacca [tobacco] was lost in the great fight.  Would give a dollar for a chew -- and then slowly turns to his new home, turns the wooden key in the wooden lock, and, and goes to munching beechnuts."

    (Chester appended to the story, "Please retain this for I may want a little of it and don't remember very well.")

  • Chester to LaMott George Bates - 10/13/1927.

  • Chester to Myra & Beulah Jackson - 7/4/1928, describing a 4th of July like we cousins remember (albeit thirty years earlier) and a trick Grandpa played on Harold Bates (you fishermen will appreciate this one).

    RCB:  "I remember it.  Father 'fired the anvil' in the lane, back of the Jackson house using black powder he kept in a metal can in the garage.  Scot, the dog, was gun shy, and every time the anvil went off he backed a little farther under the car, eventually emerging back of the back bumper with a streak of crankcase oil down the middle of his back. The 'Carrie' in the salutation is Carrie Shaw, long-time unmarried friend of the Aunts. 

    "And the stoned pike was good for stories at the dinner table for several years."

  • Chester to Emily - 1/14/1930.

  • Chester to Emily - 2/23/1930.

  • Chester to Emily - 3/29/1930.

  • Wilma to Emily re Chester's impending death - 4/21/1930:

    "I wrote Ivalita [Emily's friend and classmate at UofM] this morning and told you about Grandpa.  The doctor didn't come til just before noon.  He says his condition is very serious -- that he is turning blue, then clearing up showing that his system isn't taking care of the poisons.  Papa has gone up now to talk with Grandma about having a doctor in for counsel.  I phoned Aunt Boo & she will come home tonight.  I'm sure Grandma will be glad to have her.  Aunt My is so nervous and can't control herself.  I am cool & collected here at home and do the telephoning.  Will go up this p.m.  Will phone you when we need you, dear.  Be brave, it's going to be hard for all of us.

    "Papa has just come in.  He says Grandma is trying hard to control herself but is in bad shape.  LaMott is coming up from Durand this afternoon.

    "Grandpa looks bad.  His pulse is coming up all the time and his breathing is gaspy, papa says."

    Chester died April 21, 1930.


    "Though but nine years old, I remember Lamott coming from Durand to consult, but it seems to me it was a few days before death. He was said to have percussed a fluid level in the chest. This letter clears up one question:  The death certificate says he died of 'Acute Cholecystitis' -- gall bladder disease -- but I never heard that he was jaundiced, the sine qua non of that diagnosis. Indeed, this letter says he was blue -- not yellow -- had a rapid pulse and was short of breath, all compatible with heart or lung disease. Mother once wrote that he had 'been failing all winter' and at another time that he died 'after a short illness.' Nowhere is there mention of pain, fever, cough or swelling.  Take your pick:  pneumonia, pulmonary emboli, congestive heart failure. 

    "Grandfather was blue-eyed and had spent many months under a tropical sun and in the orchards.  Apples were sprayed several times a year with 'Bordeaux Mixture' of arsenate of lead and limed sulfur.  I have seen both Grandpa and the hired man coated with spray -- they never wore masks, so arsenic inhalation must have been inevitable. From the sun and/or the arsenic, he had severe keratoses of the back of his hands that he used to rub with 'bag balm' and 'Skin-Ku-Rill.'  It would not be surprising if some of these lesions were malignant, but I don't think this was a cancer death.

    "He was 84; Grandma Bates died at 81.  In our family, both these are considered to have died young. 

    "Upon invitation of the undertaker, father attended the embalming in the home -- a rather grizzly procedure.  The body was in a casket in front of the window in the living room and the funeral was held there.  In an attempt to cushion the blow of my first sight of a dead person, Aunt My led me to the bier, leaned over and kissed his dead cheek. My viscera contracted in horror, partly because Aunt My never kissed anybody, live or dead."

Chester signs many of his letters to his girls, "SKaister," the origin of which is obscure.