Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917

Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917
William Richardson, Alice Josephine Richardson Dakin, Robert Worthington Richardson, Harry Bogart Richardson
Showing posts with label tanner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tanner. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Bundle of Letters: Such a Treasure!

Marion Evans Dakin
playing a game she loved,  Scrabble

When Nana, my grandmother Marion Evans Dakin, died on the 4th of July in 1974, her only son who had survived to adulthood, had already died two years before her.  As her oldest granddaughter, I found myself as her executrix ... a whole new world of responsibility added to the life of a mother juggling a couple of kids.  Commuting to Connecticut was more than I could do, so we put the crib on the top of our car and stayed in her house for eight weeks, first as she was dying from a stroke and then afterwards as we cleaned out her house and settled her estate.

My siblings joined me part of the time as we discovered we were on a treasure hunt.

An old Jacquard woven rug which was much older
than Nana that we found in her house.

I knew Nana had quilts made by her mother-in-law, Mother Dakin (Mary Alice Smith Dakin) but we had no idea how many quilts were there not just on the beds but hidden in trunks in the the attic.  We all went home with antique quilts and I documented them in my book Quilts in our Family.  When I had visited her a month before Nana died we had taken the quilts off the beds a couple of other quilts to the nursing home where she was staying so she could put on a quilt exhibit.  One of the quilts was a sampler quilt and she spent the last month of her life finding the names of each quilt square.  Ironically, the morning the quilt exhibit was to open, the nursing home called me to say she had had a stroke.  When I arrived in Connecticut, they were questioning whether to open her "show" of quilts.  I said "of course, show the quilts, that's what she wanted."  When I told her they had "opened" the show, she squeezed my hand.
Some of Mary Alice Smith's quilts
Not so dramatic in appearance, was a bundle of letters tied together with a string in the back of her desk.  I looked at them and saw that I couldn't possibly read them -- they were in Swedish.  I knew her grandfather Eric Helsten was from Sweden but I didn't know much else about him.  I assumed these must have been his.  I put them in my stuff to take home not knowing whether I would ever be able to read them.  Ten years later, I had a Swedish colleague who was willing to try to translate some of them for me -- she would read while I scribed. 
1858 letter from Eric's mother,
Lovisa Charlotta Robbert Hellsten 

 It took about 30 years before they were all translated, but what a treasure!  Eric was one of 13 children and everyone of his siblings and his mother took on personalities.  Eric's father had died unexpectedly, leaving his wife with young children including a baby.  Eric was the oldest son, a teenager, and he had older sisters.  He apprenticed as a tanner in Sweden and when there wasn't much work.  He came to the USA in 1845, settling first in Haviland Hollow NY and then moving to Gaylordsville CT when he bought his own tannery.
Eric Adolf Helsten

Back in the 1980s, we had enough letters translated that I was able to piece together a bit of Eric's family tree and when my wonderful colleague/translator traveled to Sweden for Christmas, while there she wrote the Uppsala parish vital records office and a few weeks later I had a letter from Alice, a "cousin."  Alice's grandfather and Nana's grandfather were brothers.  Years ago my grandmother visited Uppsala Sweden but didn't know about Alice, so they never met.  I had a chance to visit Alice back in 1984 before she died in 1990.  Such a treasure hidden in a bundle of letters.  It's too bad my grandmother never new the contents of what she had carefully saved.

I have taken the 86 Swedish letters and documents, had them translated and put them together in chronological order.   I researched Eric's family back in Sweden and his life in the USA.  I wrote a book for my family this year which is the story of Eric's family on both continents.  A Ring and a Bundle of Letters has been 30 years in the making with the help of three wonderful translators who not only read Swedish but also could decipher the old handwriting, structure and spelling.  

The book is available from

Such a treasure!

©2013, Erica Dakin Voolich