Hatching Eggs, Fights, and “Menegitis”

My offering today is a letter from my maternal grandfather to my maternal grandmother months before they were married.  Because I knew my grandparents so well, I feel a fondness for this piece of 100-year-old news.

First, the letter:

Round Mtn.

Feb. 24, 1913


Dear Bertha,


I guess Elitha has told you the news as there is but one thing happens in this country in a decade except fights and a fellow is a little afraid to tell that for fear he will get a licking, but I will send you a sheet of paper with my address.


They tell me that Joe Shugart and Joe Polvado liked to had a fight the other day  if they had fought I would liked to have had a spyglass to watch them for a man would haven [sic] been in danger of Joe S. blowing him (me) away, had I been close.


Do you know very much about incubators if so tell me what kind of a hatching Nora will get from her setting.  She had Emma to leave the eggs here yesterday and Elitha talked to her this morning and she said she had the machine fired up, the eggs are here in the closet.  Nora is scared, for fear she is going to have menegitis [sic], since she went to Georgetown and stayed in the Cabiness hotel and now one of the boys there has menegitis [sic].


We had a letter from Mary today she is alright.  I think she is going to make good in her work.


Well come to see us when you get enough of that business to run you through the summer.


With best wishes,


Now, with Mom’s help, I will try to deconstruct this letter for you.

First of all, the letter is written from Round Mountain, which is not where Frank lived- he lived at Cypress Mill, which was 7 miles away (two or three hours by horseback).  Mom suspects he was visiting Bertha’s brother’s place at Round Mountain- Frank and Elitha Shelley Dodgen.  Nora (married to Pike Davis  and living up toward Llano, on the Davis Ranch) and Emma (married to Jesse Stewart and living on the Stewart Ranch at Sandy) were sisters of Bertha.  Mary is yet another sister of Bertha, and she and cousin, Sibba Price, went to school in Georgetown, likely the reason Nora had visited that city.

Mom tells me that they had telephone service, so Emma, Nora, and Elitha might have talked by phone.  They did not have electricity, so the incubator was warmed by some other method.

Now, on to the syntax peculiar to the Texas Hill Country:

“like to had”, sometimes heard as ‘like to of had’ or ‘like to have had’-  it means almost.  Also heard as came pretty near to or come prit near.

“setting”- the eggs a hen produces at the rate of about one per day until she stops and “goes to setting”.  In this case, the ‘hen’ seems to be an incubator.  Chicken eggs hatch after three weeks of incubation.

“make good”- do well

“had person’s name to leave”- arranged for person’s name to leave something.

Now, the cryptic last sentence about ‘getting enough of that business’- Since the letter is addresses to Bertha at Fischer’s Store, not close to her family home, she might have been teaching school nearby, so Frank’s reference to getting enough of that business to run you through the summer might mean “after you’ve made enough money teaching through the school year to last through the summer”.

By the way, Frank and Bertha were married on December 23, 1913.

Here is the clear, tidy handwriting of Frank Alexander:

Envelope from Frank Alexander Envelope from Frank Alexander to Bertha March 4, 1913 Letter from Frank Alexander Letter p. 1 from Frank Alexander to Bertha, postmarked March 4, 1913 Letter p. 2 from Frank Alexander Letter p. 2 from Frank Alexander to Bertha, postmarked March 4, 1913 Letter p. 3 from Frank Alexander Letter p. 2 from Frank Alexander to Bertha, postmarked March 4, 1913

I am terribly curious about WHAT HAPPENED that was of 10-year significance!  Elitha, Frank, Bertha, please tell US.