For the past three weeks, I have shared with you letters my great-grandmother Dona had written to New Orleans in search of the Boullemet family. The first week, she inquired with the New Orleans Post Office as to their whereabouts. The second week, the post office responded and so did a Boullemet. The third week, she wrote to Mrs. Bartels, the daughter of Stephen and Elizabeth Boullemet, who wasn’t exactly overjoyed to hear from her.
This week, it gets real with the final two letters. I say the final two, but there are obviously letters that didn’t get saved, or Dona didn’t keep a copy of one she sent to Mrs. Bartels because the next letter is again from Mrs. Bartels and it appears that she had received one from Dona we don’t have a copy of.
This is the man in question, my 2nd great-grandfather Rev. F.H. Williams.
He looks like a Reverend, doesn’t he?
Here we go, the last letter to be found from Mrs. Bartels:
New Orleans Dec 6th /17
Mrs. R.F. Higginbotham
Again I am compelled to say I have no connection by the name of Williams, either by blood or marriage, or ever have had. As regards the picture it would be folly to attempt to trace any resemblance in a grey-haired man to my lost one.
My mother’s brother was not seen after the close of the civil war by my parents was heard from once thro an incident in his life reported in the daily paper, and none to his credit.
I never heard of any other bearing my father’s name. My grandfather, a most worthy man, broken-hearted thro the conduct of an only son, totally blinded by sun-stroke was not a wealthy man, he with my grandmother were absolute dependents upon my father for about thirty years and both rest in our family tomb.
I trust this may fully satisfy you that I do not know Mr. Williams and were he my mother’s brother indeed, neither my sister or myself are able or willing to accept a burden to which we are not called.
Mrs. A.A. Bartels.
Tell us how you really feel!
If I had lived back then, I would have had plenty to say back to her, but get a load of what my great-grandmother Dona said back to her. I couldn’t have said it any better or more refined than she did.
My Dear Mrs. Bartels,
Imagine my surprise when I received your letter telling me that if my father were your mother’s brother you nor your sister were willing or able to be burdened with him. I am hastening to assure you that such a thought had never entered my mind. My sister and I are amply able and willing to take care of our father and our only fear is that we may not have him to take care of many days longer as he is extremely feeble and though he may not have been a credit to his family in his younger days, he is now considered a very refined and polished gentlemen among his circle of friends and acquaintances. He clearly shows the culture of his early training. We have never published his mental misfortune our friends know very little of his real condition.
My mother is a direct descendant of the Courtney’s, one of the best known families of S.C. Should it ever become necessary for any member of my family to secure credentials for my purpose I feel reasonably certain that we should find no great difficulty in obtaining such references right here in Texarkana. I am not given to boastfulness but I felt that in justice to myself I should try to make you understand that I am asking neither financial aid nor social standing but a very natural desire to know more of my fathers early life to learn if possible if the wound in his head is entirely responsible for his present condition or if there could have been any other reason for it.
I cannot help suspecting that my father is indeed your mother’s erring brother tho. I assure you that I shall not betray this knowledge outside my immediate family. He has frequently spoken of his fathers loss of eyesight caused by sunstroke and has other intimate knowledge of the family no outsider could very well possess as for the name, if he saw fit to change it, it doesn’t matter now as my sister and I am both happily married and there were no sons.
Possibly we shall be happier without further knowledge of our father’s past or his kinspeople. Yesterday my father underwent an operation to remove the pressure from his brain and it may be possible that he will have his mind restored sufficiently to tell us all that we need to know if he is too feeble to understand the shock the Lord’s will be done is all I can say.
Yours Very Truly,
I think Dona won my heart the very moment I read this letter!
Dona’s letter had no date, but the last letter received from Mrs. Bartels was dated December 6, 1917 and unfortunately Rev. Williams died just ten days later on December 16, 1917.
I don’t know if he was ever able to speak again, but it doesn’t appear that he was. How sad that Dona never got this resolved for her own knowledge, but had she not left these letters behind, I would have had no clue about the possibility that he had changed his name.
I’ll give you a day or two to ponder on the letters, and then I will share with you my research into the letters and tell you what I have discovered!
I think I now know who Rev. Williams really was, but I would like your opinion on the matter, so I will share all in the next post about Rev. Williams.
Prepare yourself, this is so far-fetched, it would make a good movie.
Or maybe an episode of Jerry Springer.