I know that my grandmother wrote often to Jay but he didn’t save the letters. Rinda did write several to her older sister Gertie Upham in Minneapolis while she was working as a cook and housekeeper at a ranch near Brantford, North Dakota. Somehow, three of those letters survived the 100 years since they were written. I have them.
Rinda started the job back on July 18, 1918. About the time she wrote the first of these letters, posted below, influenza had reached North Dakota. In fact, it came to North Dakota “in early October, when 75 cases were reported in (New) Rockford in Eddy County” (The Great Epidemic of 1918: State by State).
This is exactly where Rinda and my dad were living.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
One hundred years ago today, on October 12, 1918, Rinda Shetler penned a letter about life and work in North Dakota to her sister Gertie. She was a hard-worker, taking care of the household, cooking, mending clothes and chasing after two-year-old Raymond. She sounds satisfied with the money she’s making and talks about work in the area.
October would be a time when farms and ranches would have been starting the fall harvest. The war effort has taken a lot of men off the farms so there’s a lack of workers but people are doing their best to get things done. She’s also anxiously awaiting mail from Jay but it’s being sent to her sister in Minneapolis so there are big delays in getting mail.
Much of this letter I don’t understand, but since its between two sisters, I’m sure it was very clear to them!
Just received your letter and as I am anxious to get the ins (insurance?) book will hurry a letter. Send it to me and I’ll change it here and Gertie what have you done with my mail let me know right away. As I soon ought to hear from Jay.
Did you have the Woman World (a national magazine) changed (address?). If you don’t I will have it here as I like the paper and am reading continuous stories.
I haven’t done any fancy work for a week have been so awful busy. There lots to do on a big farm and Raymond and the other boys keep me busy mending. In fact, all of us have plenty of mending. Have cleaned 2 rooms had to quit and get caught up with the house work.
I have been here three months the 18th. Will then have $102. I shocked wheat 4 days and done the thrashing, cooking alone. 5 days, 16 meals, you know out here are hired men and they here for every meal, breakfast and also sleep in barns.
So, Mr. Crandall (owner of the ranch) payed me $52 last month and I felt good over my big check. There was quite a few women on thrashing rigs. They only got $3 per day or rather .60 per hour. Mr. Crandall’s thrashing bill was only $996 and he had over $300 in twine. I think if the war keeps on, a great many farmers will quit as they can’t get help. There is one neighbor has 100 acres and no hired man. Wife and 11-year-old boy and mister done all the harvesting and city girls shocked.
Does Orrin (Gertie’s husband) get as good work up there? Maybe get more. My friend Mrs. Dirks in Waterloo, her husband earns $60 some weeks, all piece work.
Oh, say what did you do with my stamps? If you have them might as well send them to me. Ought not have left so many things. What did my trunk and bed cost you? Will send money when you let me know.
You can do a favor for me if you will when downtown. In clothing store they have wool underwear that has been faded and soiled from being in windows. If you can buy a shirt or union suit for $2.00 or less I’ll be awful glad as it would be fine for Raymond’s drawers. You know that what his shirts are and they are still like new. Can’t get only 10% wool no catalogue. You can pay for them and write me and I’ll send money before you send them.
There are many cases of influenza in Rockford and quite a few deaths. In fact they have it all around us. One of Mr. Crandall’s son’s wife and baby are all in bed. It is within a mile of us.
Raymond is mad because I won’t give him my pen, won’t have the pencil.
Please answer soon or at least send the ins book.