Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Maggie Neill Letters


The Gamble family will forever fascinate me. They are second only to my own families - the Clow, the Fitzpatrick, the Fitzgerald, and the Short families - in the comprehensiveness of what I know about them as people. Due to the letters, we've been priviledged to entered into a real slice of 19th and early 20th century life of those individuals. Thank goodness for packrats...!

I have recently received correspondence from yet another Gamble/Griffith descendent. Her family saved letters from Maggie Neill. Maggie was a member of the Gamble family through adoption (details of the adoption are not known to me at this time...) While most members of the Gamble family moved on and settled farther west and south, leaving their original Ontario home after initial migration, Maggie stayed at the old place alone, growing into old age. Her connection with those who left was through her letters to them, of which is an example below.

I will let the letters speak mostly for themselves, but from time to time will include comments from the family of what is known about them or the writer...
June 1, 1928

To Mrs. P. Edkins

My Dear Alice,

I received a card from you at Christmas time, but as you spoke of writing one a letter later on I waited for it, but of course it never came;
so I decided to write you one instead. I did not hear from little Jean for months, but I owe her one now. Kathleen still writes to me. I was sorry to hear from her that Willie had left his farm.

I hope this Spring was more favorable for seeding than last Spring was out there. We had a cold dry Spring here. The leaves on the trees were a week late coming out, and the ice on the lake was late in breaking up. We can stand fires in our stoves most of the time yet. Indeed I might say we need them most of the time.

Seeding here was quite late, and a nice warm rain would do the crops good. But there were frosts lately instead. My garden looks rather nice now. There are Lily of the Valley and Narcissus and Bleeding Heart and Forget-Me-Not and Columbines etc. etc. blooming now. It looks too nice for some people, for they would like to get it away from one if they could. Of course, the buildings are old now, but it is the site they covet of course.

The street is paved like the City streets now. There is only a strip of grass on each side - where the maples grow and it is near the schools and R.R. stations and stores etc. The Council said if I would will the place to them they would not bother me for taxes - the taxes are very high here now - but I sent them word I would pay what I could and the rest could run on. I was sixty-eight last January and far from strong, and don’t expect to live many more years. There is a young couple in the other house the last two years with three little children.

I hope you and your little ones are quite well. I must now say goodbye,

from yours affectionately,
Margaret Neill
From Gamble descendent Lori Bianco come these comments on this Neill letter:
"Little Jean" would be Barb's mother, Jean (Gamble) Maloney, and "Kathleen" would be her (& my grandfather's) older sister, Kathleen Gamble Jaynes Weber. "Willie" is my great-grandfather, Alexander & Mary Ann's son -- he lost his farm during the Depression.