In times past people wrote letters to their kinfolk and friends. This method of communication was used because people lived great distances from each other, and there was no other way to transmit information unless you visited. When visits were made, people usually stayed several days or weeks, because travel distances were so far. Social graces of years ago also taught that letters and thank you notes were the proper thing for people to write. Of course, in today’s world we have phones, voice mail, email and many different modes of communication and travel; therefore, it seems that many of these social graces from our culture are no longer taught.
Much information about life in the past can be found in old letters, which makes interesting reading. This letter was written on June 5 of 1922, and is ninety-seven years old! William Gibbs Allen was the son of Valentine Allen III and Ann (Frazier) Allen; and wrote many articles for the Dayton Herald and other newspapers describing the activities of the 5th Tennessee Cavalry during the War Between the States. Allen’s son John Gibbs Allen, married Versailles (Versie) Ault; their daughter, Hazel Allen (married Francis Pray) was the recipient of this letter. This particular letter consisted of four pages, and was written by W.G. Allen to his granddaughter, Hazel. I am leaving the letter in its original form, with misspelled words and little or no punctuation; however, I did not make corrections.
June 5, 1922
Miss Hazel Allen
Your Grand Father is at his Monday Morning job writing to children and Grand children and his friend old friends.
I did not go to Sunday School and church yesterday. A Mrs. Brown came from Chickamaga Station, Tennessee not Chickamaga, Ga last Wedsday, and I and Mary (this Mary is his daughter, since his wife, Mary Elizabeth, died in 1915) Promised her we would meet her Husband at Missionary Ridge Tunell. We left Trane Station at 8, went on Red bank car to Broad and 9th Street, there took Missionary Ridge incline car to the tunell Mr. Brown was there with his car and we were soon passing under Missionary Ridge near the Point where So Many Brave Tennesseans and Arkansas men gave up their lives in Battle for our beloved South the 26th and 27th of November 1863. We passed out into a Town that was woods where your Grand Father and the old 5th Tenn. Was Fighting General J.T. Wilder and his Dutch heavy weight Brigade, now a 20 foot concrete Road.
Now on to a Dirt Road through a farming Country, accompanied by the old Pioners, who settled amongst the Indians under Chief Ross, Such men as the McFarland on to the Old Simpson Section then up a new made Road to top of a Hill more than 50 feet above the Tennessee River in to 8 Acre Strawberry field and into a large New house with a 10 foot by 40 foot Forestry South where you could See Taylors Ridge the Smokey Mountains in the South. And looking to East and West as far as the eye could See, could hear and see the Smoke curl as the wind drifted from the Passing Engine three or more Miles on our left or right as the East Tenn. Or Western Atlantic Iron Horses Passed on these lines loaded with Livery or commerce from one or more of the 48 states of Our America. On the new approach to this home, there stood Mrs. Brown, wife and her 18 year old Son, on one leg, with a cruch under his Arm for a support, Then a three year old bright boy, and Mrs. Browns sister May to welcome us in. After taking this fine view, a glass of Strawberry wine good and sweet, we enjoyed the grand view till dinner was warm and then we were seated around a large Chinese made Mahogany table in Mahogany chairs from Pekine and hand made pictures that cost 600 Dollars, with two large 6 foot standing figure lamps and a hand figure of a swan and carve of pigeon flying, hand pictured and cost of $600oo Dollars, and one of the best Plain well cooked vegetable Dinners you could wish to set down to cooked by a Lady raised, and Educated in City of Richmond Va. Seated on this Long Porch we Saw a Small cloud rise and soon covered the valley that lay many miles South of us, but they Hills and valleys Soon the Lighling flashed and the thunded resounded and echoes came rolling a long this Hills a valley till you could not See Ridge or Mountain then the Rain Reached the Hill, and we were almost in Darkness. Soon the Rain ceased and the Sun came at 4 o’clock we were biding this grand House wife and refined family adeau, seated in their car we soon was through the Tunell and seated in the Missionary Ridge car, back to 9th and Market St and took Red Bank Con. Ready fire station at 6. Found all right. Spent a good day.
Saturday I went to the Memorial Services herd two fine talks. Helped the old boy March as the Daughters Setted the Reathes and flowers on the Graves of Dead comerades, and Daughters who have crossed over the River. Then shook hands with many old well known friends and made many new ones, for Grand Father is treated royal and kind by all, old and young. Ailene is in her last week in university, and has the record of being only one of the three that Kept the Honer roll out of 43 in the class, but she is really trying to get a place to work. She is up at 5 o’clock, out helping Mother on working her flowers, and is growing husky and strong. Early rising, fresh air beats Drs Medicine. We having so mutch Rain Mr. Stapleton is behind in putting out his potoes and corn planting. Hoping you all are well, and asking you to say howdy to any and all who may chance to enquire about your Grand Father
North Chattanooga Tenn
Route 5 Box 113
June 5th 1922
As the reader can see, there are numerous punctuation, spelling and grammar mistakes. However, this is exactly as the letter was written. There may be problems with some of the information about the war because this was a number of years after that event. Even though there might be some mistakes with names and events Allen wrote about, his is basically the only account we have which relates to much of the history of Rhea County.
During the early years of my life I always heard W.G. Allen referred to as “Uncle Will Allen” by my grandmother and great aunt, and it wasn’t until I was older that I understood why. William Gibbs Allen married Mary Elizabeth Thomison in 1859; she was a sister to my great grandfather, Dr. Walter F. Thomison, and an aunt to his children, my grandmother, great aunt, and great uncle. Hazel Allen Pray, to whom this letter is written, used to visit my family in order to work on the Thomison genealogy. Both Hazel and her husband passed away a number of years ago. Even though I never knew any of the Allen family except Hazel, I believe we can all gain a new perspective of W.G. Allen through this letter he wrote to his granddaughter. It is necessary for all of us to remember that we need to learn from the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.