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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn E. Cook

A Saver’s Treasure Trove — Charles's Letter

Denver, Colorado

Aug 26, 1900

My dear Elizabeth,

This is a picture of an Indian. I thought I should tell you as you have never seen one. He is a good Indian but not as good as a dead one. Look on him and thus be thankful for what civilization is doing for you, you young Indian.

Your loving cousin,


Charles was Grandmother’s cousin, ten years her senior, and like an older brother to her and her sister Edith. According to the postmark, he sent this postcard when she was fifteen, probably soon after he arrived in Colorado. Obviously, the sentiment is not acceptable in today’s culture, but such was the size of things over one hundred years ago. Grandmother kept the postcard (too bad the corners broke off and were lost) and the following letter from him for all the rest of her life, until her passing in 1970 — strong testament to how much she liked the guy.

Charles W. Campbell, taken in Denver, Colorado, around 1904

Charles was born in 1875, grew up to be a good-looking man, and had a droll sense of humor. The family lived in Osceola Mills, PA, where his father was a druggist, owned and ran the local drugstore. Charles must have worked there starting in his teen years.

According to Grandmother, many of her relatives seemed to have a predisposition to consumption and Charles was no exception. Of course, there was no cure, only treatments that grasped at toothpicks. All worthless. One of the no-good treatments was to breathe pure, mountain air. I guess the mountains of Pennsylvania didn’t produce air that was pure enough. By 1900, Charles was packed off to Denver, away from all family and friends, and he worked in — a drugstore.

This letter is a fine window onto daily life in 1904.

Denver, Colo.

Jan. 1, 1904

My dear Elizabeth,

This will be little more than a note – just enough to say Thank you for remembering me so very kindly last Friday. It was entirely unexpected this donation to the Home Missions Fund, but as treasurer of the Board I assure you it will be carefully spent. Trust, however that you will not demand an itemized statement.

Fared quite well this Christmas – watch fob, silk muffler, silver mounted comb, “The Expatriates” by Lilian Belk, “Goodins Keith” by Thos. Nelson Prager, “The Islands of Paradise” by Robert W. Chambers, fancy silk handkerchief, two ties, pair suspenders, hosiery, two half dozen handkerchiefs, and a pastel picture, with $7.00 to boot. Not a bad showing, thinkest thou?

Have had a very busy week. Mr. Mussey went east yesterday week and your Uncle Dudley has been outside man, inside man, book-keeper, cashier, errand boy, and bouncer. Strenuous life us leads here in the West. Last night I worked at the office till two and got home at – will say it was the last night of the year, wasn’t it? and the last night of the year comes only once a year and to-morrow’s another year and I have been out late before, also early.

Glad you approve of the change in residence. As yet there has been no mad rush of maidens at the door but that’s because they don’t know me. Wait until they do. Iron doors won’t keep them out. I shall play no favorites but take the bunch and run to Utah. Good opening there for a dental supply house.

Hope everyone is well. Hope 1904 will mean much to you and Edith, men, perhaps. To Uncle Dan and Aunt Sadie I give my blessing and wish them a happy New Year.

With love to all,

Your foolish but affectionate cousin,

Charles W. Campbell

Weakened by consumption, Charles died of pneumonia in 1910.

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