I guess you could say I’m fascinated. It’s fun to learn about your distant ancestors. Then you learn that two of them died in their teens in an airplane accident. Recognizing the pain that their family and community felt upon their passing somehow honors their short lives and deaths and makes me better appreciate life and my ancestral heritage.
Below, I’ve transcribed a letter from my grandmother’s brother, Nelson Kerns, 15, who was killed in an airplane accident with his brother Warren, 16, on July 24, 1930. You can read about the accident here.
He wrote this letter to his mother, Caroline (called Callie) who was visiting her parents in California at the time. Some of the handwriting is indecipherable. I just transcribed the letters as best I could, leaving out editing marks to avoid distraction. For example, I’m sure that “hoes” isn’t the correct word in the second line, but I can’t figure out what word it should be.I never knew these two uncles, obviously, since they died so young.
My grandmother never talked about them either probably because their tragic lives would have been too painful to recall. She would have been newly married and no longer living at home, which would explain why Nelson doesn’t mention her in the letter. Her husband, Charlie, is mentioned, however.
Nelson’s letter to his mother (and others I have) included details about farming, school and church activities, local scandals, and a dog that really sucked.
June 24, 1930
I have been so busy that I haven’t had time to write. I have had all of the corn plowing to do while Papa works around home and hoes the truck. How are you getting along out there? How is Grandma? Warren hasn’t worked home a day since school was out. Our corn sure is fine, almost ready to lay by. We are laying by the corn by the potato patch. Our truck and garden is fine, more vegetables than we can eat. It has been awfully hot and still hot. We had a rain yesterday evening. It is noon now and Papa is up at Mr. Wallace’s getting a team to plow with and pay him back by plowing. The chickens sure are fine. Some almost ready to sell. I didn’t play the harp at the commencement exercise. We had it with Metz. I was second. Charlie has botten Warren a new suit. Papa has bought a complete new outfit of Sunday clothes. Old Spot got so bad sucking eggs that we carried him off. We took him up to Trout’s old house, up by Maler’s. We took him three weeks ago Saturday nite, and he came back Saturday morning. It took him three weeks to come home. He sucked six eggs one day. And found a nest of 12 and sucked all of them. Maybe you heard about the Leuty boys, Frank, Jim and Edgar. All three got in jail over stealing. Serving two years. Edgar and Jim broke in Horton’s store and got a shotgun and a lot of ammunition. And Frank helped steal meat from John Corribon.
Well, I must close:
I have more Warren and Nelson Kerns ephemera (report cards, Sunday School records, drawings, etc.) that I will be posting soon. Here is Nelson’s handwritten letter: