June 2, 1913
From: William A Gray
To: Ruth (Barrell) Gray
My dearest Ruthy:
It is now 9:20 and I have just finished a letter to the company. So will try briefly to
recount some of my experiences since leaving you Sunday morning.
Arrived at Chatham on time but on account of wreck on Rutland railroad had a wait
there of ever 2 hours and arrived at Petersburg at 7 o’clock instead of 4:31, according to
schedule. The station agent phoned to a livery man who in due time appears with a rig and
drove me to Mary’s. The day was just about fading away when I arrived at the Reynolds
place and they having no advice of my coming, (I couldn’t get a wire thru), were caught
entirely unawares. Mary is the eldest of three sisters, a woman of 45 summers and
perhaps a few more winters and seems to be the boss of the institution. Another sister (I
couldn’t say which was the older) is the cook, and Jessie the baby of the family, not far
from 40 is the farmer. I was informed later that the brother whom I didn’t see was not
especially competent and I think they keep him in the stable with the cows and horses.
Well, to go back there is nothing you can say about the scenic beauty of the country
that adequately describes it. As you will see from the postals I am enclosing, Petersburg is
located in a narrow valley or pass, with high hills or mountains rising on either side. There
are a number of shallow brooks winding about and mountains and mountains and
doubtless would be a fine place for the youngsters.
The Reynolds place of course is not as fine as we were led to believe from the
Madam’s letter. It is an old house in not especially good repair, with the usual sloppy out
buildings, etc., etc. It stands back about 50 feet from the road and in front of the house is
the railroad. There is a high wire fence separating road & railroad. There are few trains a
day, so I suppose there is no particular danger in our slumber when their heavy freights go
I dismissed the hackman upon arrival at the house and tried the front door bell. It
wouldn’t ring. I walked around the house and got a nod from Jessie who was herding
geese or something in the back. The cooking sister let me in with a broad smile on her
apparently toothless face and ushered me into the sitting room, which was anything but
neat. Pretty soon (in about 10 minutes) Mary came along, and gave me the glad hand,
saying she had been thinking about me and making apologies for everything in general.
She said she had been resting most of the day, fatigued from walking to the village the day
before. By the way, all the sisters are built the same way – one diameter from shoulders
down, starting down with sundry chins. Mary had a gingham gown on, her shoes were
sloppy and unbuttoned. Well, she showed me over the house and it is too long a story to
tell all the details of her descriptions, explanations, etc., etc, which I can tell you when I get
home. She thought all the rooms were fine and I had to admit it of course there is some
difference between our tastes and ideas and those of Petersburg folks. We finally got back
to the sitting room and I had to hint as gracefully as possible that on account of delay I
hadn’t been able to pick up any supper and a bite of bread and a glass of milk would not
go amiss. More apologies, etc., then sister got busy in the kitchen, soon supper was
announced, and I sat down to eat. There was bread, butter & milk and preserved peaches
and crackers in a jar. This was really all I wanted, but in walks cook with a dish containing
6 fried eggs, several slices of ham, and a dish of boiled potatoes (about 8 larger ones). I
asked Mary to join me but she said she had been eating bananas all the afternoon and
wasn’t hungry. She finally sat opposite me and ate a couple of potatoes and some eggs.
The meal over Mary entertained me with some pictures of guests that had stayed
with her during several years past and to her queries “Aren’t they fine looking people, etc.,”
I had to answer, “yes, very fine.”
At about 9:30 I was so sleepy I could scarcely keep awake so I suggested bed
would be in order and then she wanted to know which of all the rooms I had seen I would
like to sleep in. I said any old one would do so she prepared one on the ground floor in an
annex they had built as a wing to the main house and after a half hour or so was on my
way following Mary who carried a kerosene lamp, as pilot.
I was sleepy and was soon dead to the world, awakening once by a train going by,
and at 4:30 again by the crowing of roosters under my window. Arose at seven, walked
around the place a little until breakfast was announced at eight. The oat meal was well
cooked, there was plenty of cream, the coffee was fair and I had 2 real eggs boiled. Then
came the griddle cakes and some of that famous home-made maple syrup which Mary
insisted I use lavishly in order to thoroughly appreciate their flavor.
We had more talk about the rooms, and rates were discussed. I told her $42 was
more than we figured to pay and she agreed to knock off $4 on the two room proposition.
My letter may lead you to believe that I was not at all impressed with the house or
people. This is not entirely the case. They are simple country folk not in the least
intellectual but probably honest and kind hearted. They have plenty of good food, well
prepared, and I don’t think we’d have any trouble in getting enough to eat.
The main part of the house is square and there are two front rooms on 2nd floor that
are fairly large, with good size closets that would take care of us all right.
The beds in these rooms are wood, but Miss R says they are clean and comfortable.
The mattresses are of the cotton fibre sort, nothing like ours of course but in that air and
scenery I don’t think we’d have any trouble sleeping. No doubt an offer of $35.00 would be
accepted as she said finally any reasonable offer would be considered. She had taken a
fancy to our “bid” as she called it the picture of the children and pointed out that she
received many “bids” that she did not even answer. I told her I would talk it over with you
and write her.
Jessie, a good natured buxom lass, drove me to the station getting there about ¾ of
an hour before the train arrived. She had some errands to do in the village, and I suppose
getting me to the depot was just incidental.
The train left Petersburg and I arrived at Albany at noon, had lunch with
Winchester, got a $150.00 order from his concern, a $75.00 order from another and finally
called on the Hudson Valley Paper Co about 4:30. Mr Jones of that concern asked me to
take supper with him at his farm at Font Grove 8 miles from Albany on the D & H which I
accepted, getting back to Albany at eight. His wife extended an invitation to stop with them
over night, but on account of having letters to write, I begged off.
Have given you a fairly good account of my trip so far and will fill in the details
omitted when I get home. I go from here to Springfield tomorrow (The Worthy) where I
hope to hear from you, then to Boston Wednesday, Essex Hotel. Don’t know just when I
shall get through there, probably not until Friday sometime.
Well how is my big sweetheart and all the little sweethearts. It’s tough to be away
from such a dear bunch. I hope every thing is well with you all and with many kisses and
much love, I am, as ever.
Haven’t reread this ramble. Hope you can decipher it.
W. A. G.