Thursday, December 31, 2015

October 1917 or 1918 Letters from Ann (Potter) Kelser of Oldham, England, to Ida Ellan Hall (Ogden) Flint in Massachusetts; War-related

October 20 and October 29 letters from either 1917 or 1918, written by, I believe, Ann (Potter) Kelser, "Nan", of 4 Staveley Place, Salem, Oldham, Lancashire, England, to Ida, who I believe to have been Nan's half-sister Ida Ellen Hall (Ogden) Flint in the Boston, Massachusetts area.

Images of the letters and a transcription of each appear at the end of this post.  Click on any image to enlarge it.

The letters mention the recuperation of Nan's husband Alexander Kelser, "Alec", at Easton Park in Easton, Suffolk, England, the estate of the Duchess Mary Hamilton, which sadly no longer exists.  For a history of Easton Park, click here and scroll down to the section on the Hamilton family.  Nan also expressed her admiration for President Wilson and his "Sammies".

From brief online research, which did not leave definitive information - corrections and additions would definitely be appreciated:

Ann (Potter) Kelser, "Nan", was born about 1886 in Chadderton, Lancashire, England.  According to a record of her baptism on August 26, 1886 at St. John and St. Matthew at Chadderton, she was the daughter of Jesse Potter and Mary Ellen Potter, perhaps Mary Ellen (Simpson) Potter, whose first husband Seville [or Saville or Sayville] Ogden had died in 1882.  On April 15, 1906 at Oldham, Lancashire, England, Nan married Alexander Kelser, "Alec".  I don't have information on his parents.  Nan and Alec lived at 4 Staveley Place, Salem, Oldham, Lancashire, England, and had two children, Annie Kelser and Frank Kelser, who figure in the letters.

Ida Ellen Hall (Ogden) Flint was born December 3, 1883, daughter, according to her marriage record, of Seville [or Saville or Sayville] Ogden and Mary Ellen (Simpson) Ogden. I found a Saville Ogden who died in 1882, which is a problem.  About 1895, Ida came to the United States, but I don't know if she came on one visit or more.  On September 23, 1905 at Newton, Massachusetts, Ida married Ernest Melville Flint, son of Edgar L. Flint and Alice May (Ames) Flint.  Ernest was born at Damariscotta, Maine, on October 8, 1882.  Ida and Ernest lived at Needham, Massachusetts, and Boston, Massachusetts, and had sons Clarence Melville Flint and Ogden William Flint, who are mentioned in the letters.

If you have corrections, clarifications or additions to the information above, please leave a comment or contact me directly.

Images of the Letters


4 Staveley Place
Salem Oldham, Lancashire, England
October 20

My Dear Sister,

You will be pleased to know Alec is in England.  He has been in Hospital down in Suffolk, down in the South of England, and whilst he was there, Annie and I went to see him and stayed in the same Village for two weeks.   Alec was staying in the home of Her Grace the Duchess of Hamilton.  So, miss, you see we have been amongst the Aristocracy.  Annie and I stayed a few yards from the Mansion which is called Easton Hall.   The Hall itself is a beautiful house, or rather I should say Mansion, for it is of a tremendous size and the beautiful old English oak paneling and furniture is a sight of beauty never to be forgotten.   I remember once hearing a song about the Stately Homes of England.   Well I've seen two of the grandest Halls in England and I think the grounds of Hamilton or Easton Park are just lovely  for whilst we were there all the fruit was at its best.  Didn't take me long to get friendly with the Head Gardener.   Peaches, plums, apples, grapes, in fact all fruits and nuts, vegetables, etc, of every description.   To be sure I got some peaches and I had the satisfaction of knowing they were of the finest quality grown.   Ida, I do wish you could have two weeks on the Hamilton Estate as I had.   Words fail to express the treat we had.  Her Grace belongs to all and everything she can see around her as she rides along the country roads, miles upon miles of lovely country, corn fields, orchards, farms, woods, etc., all belong to Lady Mary Hamilton really, Lady Mary  Hamilton is the only Daughter of the Duchess of Hamilton.  Lady Mary married Lord Grahme.   They have three children and live at the present time at their country home up in Scotland. The Duchess has been married twice, her first husband being the Duke of Hamilton and Lady Mary's father.  He left the Estate, Park and Grounds to Lady Mary and left his wife a beautiful house and farm, also the means to uphold her title for life.   She after a time married a Mr. Foster, a regular scamp he turned out to be,  and they have not lived together for years. The Duchess is running the Mansion as a Red Cross Hospital for Wounded Soldiers and lives there also. It really is Lady Mary's home but I guess Mother and Daughter understand each other and Lady Mary has two or three beautiful Halls in Scotland.  Her husband is a very wealthy Lord, and both he and his wife are beloved by the tenants on the Estate but the Duchess is not liked so well.  So you see, Ida, Annie, Alec and I have danced in one of the “Stately Homes of England”.  The ballroom is very nice and the Duchess played for dancing.  The nurses and soldiers and the Select villagers were there.  So Annie and I had a rare time.  Annie danced all except one dance.  I had every dance.  Alex cannot dance. The Duchess came and spoke to me and then to Annie. So you see, dear,  we've been among the Knuts, eh!   Alec is better now and is having 10 days sick leave, then off to France again, I expect.  It's hard to have him go out a fourth time but he's been very lucky not to be killed before this, for he has been in the thick of the fighting and was in the Great Retreat last March when the Huns broke through.  His company was Sacrifice Party and the Germans beckoned  them to surrender, but they fought on and covered their retreat as best they could. The Royal Engineers were ready to blow up the bridge when they got down to Perrone and they were only just in time to get across.  Ida, I have plenty of pluck but when Alex tells me what they have had to go through it makes me sit quick and hold his hand. I must not let him see me cry but, oh, don't I feel like going out, to do my bit in France. I am more proud of my nationality now than ever I was British - Yes - to the backbone.  However,  2 days of the precious ten have gone.   I shut my eyes here and try not to think, shut my left fist tight and wonder shall I have strength to take my  part as he takes his.   I must, though, & I will not give in. One must set their back and square their chin and be determined.  It's the Huns who give the women the courage to face their troubles.  The Huns who thought to terrify us by the barbarous methods of War and the very thing they used to frighten us gives us courage.  Now, dear, I have two gifts from two of your Yankee Soldiers.  One is a button, a soldier's button. One is a silver half Dollar. Their train drew up alongside ours at a station on the Kettering line. The tram was crowded with President Wilson's Boys and the yell they gave made my heart leap with joy. They opened the carriage windows and I opened my carriage window. They wanted newspapers and I and some of my fellow travelers were able to oblige them. One fine fellow asked me if I would like a souvenir. I said I didn't mind as I had been to America and my sister was there married. That did it. The fellows in that carriage seemed to go crazy.  One happy lad pulled a bundle of dollars out of his pocket and offered me some to buy the little girl something fine.  I thanked him and told him to keep his dollars as he would need them in England and more so in France, for the prices, oh Ida,  they are awful. I have to work although I feel like dropping at times, but the allowance is so very small I dare not tell you how things are here. Don't think I am complaining, dear, no, no I don't mean anything like that for all soldiers’ wives here are the same. But the war will soon be over. Well I had to take a coin as a keepsake off a Sammie and so we changed coins.  Bet your nibs I'd have to be jolly hungry before I parted with that half dollar and the button. Well I prize the button all the more because the soldier saluted me and Annie. The train started to move out and didn't those boys cheer.  Well, you ought to have heard them. Good luck and Godspeed was my unspoken thought and my eyes were dim.  They were going to embark for France not knowing what the hell it is.  They were ready for the fray and I hope they may soon be coming home to the land they lived in, The Land of Liberty.

That's the name I think of it by now, not America but the Land of Liberty.  Des not the Statue signify it?  Well, sweetheart, I've tried to write to you a letter.   I'm afraid it's a poor letter though, for all the time I keep thinking two days gone. But then, what's the use of worrying?  Worry killed the cat and seeing what a cattish nature I have, I must be careful, else I may suffer a similar fate. And I want to live to see the Day President Wilson comes into his own.

You have no idea how we British people look to President Wilson and All his Huskies. It’s to be hoped he is properly appreciated when his Day comes.  He's a fine fellow in my way of thinking. May he live long and die happy is my wish. Your boys are doing good work in France, dear, and we are proud of them. There, 90 pounder Phoebe, does that suit you?  Well, Ida, I think this is all. Excuse me this time. I cannot write as I would like. Give my love to Ma, Flint, Uncle Frank, Ernest, Clarence, Ogden, Edgar and accept the same for yourself from your loving and happy Sister Nan.

How is Henry's family? Do let me know. Love to them all, also Nettie and family, also Aunt Ellen and Pollie Heald  and her children. What's become of Mary and John Heald? I still cherish the pretty Bon Bon dish she gave me.  Yes and love to Georgie but don't tell her I sent it.  But she's your chum and I’ve a chum I love just as dearly as you love Georgie.

X X X X X X  and given me a kiss (bless him)

Staveley Place
Salem Oldham
Lancashire, England
October 29

My Darling Sister,
You owe me a letter. I know you haven't had time to answer my last one yet, but when I’ve posted this one off to you I can say Ida hasn't answered my last two letters yet.  How can you be so neglectful, cruel, woman?  Poor little Nan.   Poor child (Dear little innocent) to be neglected thus.   Nan who never did and never would refuse a good feed.  Don't let Ern read this letter, Ida, then I can say what I like to you.   The Censor man never seems to take offense  at what I write.   I guess it's because we both use the same swear words. I should swear heavy, though, if I had to wade through a lot of letters like some. The ninety pounder Phoebe,  well she writes just like you and who the devil can read so well, my hand absolutely refuses to try and write like you and the 90 pounder.  She had better take care and be more careful in her writing.  But you are even worse than Phoebe, you are.   You cannot write plainly. If you’re not bow legged, your writing is.  “Sorry, Censor”.   Phoebe, I guess, writes like you, walks like you,  dresses like you but I bet there's two things she cannot do like you, i.e. Talk and Cook like you.  You're a good cook and a better talker.  Ha Ha.  Go on, get mad and cuss away.  The Censor won’t mind.    He's a decent chap.   I know him quite well by this time.   Alec been home for 10 days sick leave and went back yesterday.  One feels sad and lonely today so took the best way out of my sadness by writing to my one and only sister. No, the fault is not mine, Ida. I would rather have been a brother but you will have to put up with me. I'm here and here I intend to remain as long as I can. It's a dear old world we live in and if the rain does pour down six days out of every seven, just think what a nice time we have on our fine days. It just rains, rains, rains all the time in Oldham.   I'm just as sleepy as I can be. I may finish this letter and I may not. The kettle, or rather the water in the kettle, is boiling and I want my tea.   I've got some precious jam for tea, the first we’ve had for 7 months and then Alec had to get it for me.  He says I've done nothing, only take him shopping, all the time he's been at home and says he wouldn't like to have me for a customer if he was a shopkeeper. I told him I would have a divorce and then he said, “but you're the best little wife any man could have” and so I smiled and we are good friends. So I wonder did he mean it. You can jolly well shut your face and stop laughing. You couldn't take him away from me with all your good look.  You're only a baby, you know. Ernest has spoiled you, you’re [mad, maid?]. You was a bit of a sport when you was a child at home, but now. Well you're a baby miss Matilda Gartside. If she's Tilly to you she's Tilly to me. I like her, she said my house was clean. Yes I like her she said you was so sheltered and happy.  Well, old girl, you deserve to be. You're a really good sister and even if you do scribble you cannot help it. So we will blame the pen. I think I like Phoebe but am not quite sure. Am waiting her next letter and then I can tell you what I think of her. But if she gets pitying me in any way, she's done. I write no more to her. You could do with just a wee bit more sympathy for me. You are not half as sympathetic as some folks. That's the reason I answer your letters so prompt. I like your chin wag, old girl. You go it, talk away, uphold family traditions. It's far better than being a dud. So chatter away.  Don't I wish I could see you.  We’d cheat the Censor chap, eh?   Well, Ida, my throat is on the better side just now. I am not working so maybe I shall be better. I hope so. How are you, Ida. Do you keep well and does Ern have good health? How are your boys. I'll bet they lead you a dance.   I’ve only one boy but he's full of the devil, not a bad lad, oh dear no, but he's a boy alright. Annie gets shocks now and again and you should see him tumble her about. I laugh till the tears roll down my cheeks.

Annie is very particular over her hair, clothes, etc Frank wouldn't care if he never saw soap and water for a month. His pockets are always full of tins, string, nails, knife, corks, etc.   He is a villain but just a lovable boy.  Dad is having his tea. He just looks the same. He still goes out with his papers and he is 79 next March.  I wonder what sort of an old geezer I should be at 79.  Talk about skull and crossbones. Oh bring some brandy. The Censor has fainted  and no wonder, poor chap. Well, Ida, I have not a lot of news.  Alec is at Grimsby just at present. But may have to go out to France any day. Remember me to Uncle Frank, Ernest, Clarence, Ogden, Edgar and all the rest.  I have written to Ma.

So dear Sister, good afternoon.   I'm going to have my tea.  XXXXXXXX from your loving Sister.
Happy Nan XXX

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