Sepia Saturday: An Uncle I Never Knew – Letters of Condolence

The month of January and a health emergency declared in the state of Washington because of a measles outbreak had me thinking about an uncle I never knew.

This is a continuing series about my uncle Wilbur Thomas Hoskins, who died at five years of age due to complications following measles. You can catch up here:
A Tow-headed Boy
Who was with the family?
Funeral Record
The Salvation Army Offers Assistance

As the extended family learned the news of Wilbur’s death, some sat down to write words of condolence to Tom and Eveline. Two of Tom’s three siblings were with Tom and Eveline in Rockford, Illinois, so most of the letters were from Eveline’s siblings.

The first to write were Eveline’s brother, Carl Coates, and his wife, Nellie Metcalf Coates. Carl and Nellie wrote individual letters on opposite sides of one piece of stationery. Wilbur died early on the morning of January 18th. Apparently Carl and Nellie had just received a letter telling of Wilbur’s illness when they learned of his death. They sat down to write on January 19th, but instead of sending their letter to Rockford, they sent it to Joe and Alice Coates (Joe was Carl’s and Eveline’s brother), probably assuming that the family would return to their hometown of Mystic, Iowa for the funeral.


Burlington Iowa

Dear Brother & Sister

We are certainly grieved to get the sad news of Wilburs Death. And my heart goes out in Sympathy for both of you. as this is an awful shock for you both. We would like to be with you at this time to help comfort you in your hour of need. but as we cannot our Sympathy is with you and Love to you all

Brother Carl.

Dear Brother and Sister:-

My we were so shocked to get the news of poor little Wilbur’s death. We never knew he had been sick until about half and hour before when we rec’d a letter from your Mother.

I am not a very good letter writer when it comes to a case like this. I never know just how to express myself, but when you read this you will know I am sending you all the sympathy that one can possibly give.

With love to all,

Alice Tingle Coates wrote a letter on January 21st. Alice was the wife of Eveline’s brother Joe. She and Eveline were in the same high school graduating class and had been friends for many years. I think they also attended normal school together.

Joe Coates, Jr.











Alice Tingle Coates

Mystic, Ia
Jan 21-1930

Dear Eveline & Tommy –

So shocked & very, very sorry to hear of little Wilbur’s death & know that both of you are finding it very hard to bear up from the loss. It is doubly hard to give him up at such short notice. Words of sympathy cannot help you much I know at this time & I am a very poor hand at giving comfort but dear old chum, Eveline, please know that I certainly do sympathize with both of you in this terrible hour. It is a heavy cross indeed to shoulder.

It came as a great shock to Joe as he didn’t even know he was sick. So we both send our heartfelt sympathy to you & hope that time will help to heal this great hurt.

Alice and Joe

I am enclosing a letter from Carl & Nell that they sent to me to forward. Nellie is forwarding this dollar that came from Blanche. She thot you were bringing him back here & she sent it for flowers.

The Nellie who sent the dollar for flowers was Eveline’s sister, not to be confused with her sister-in-law.

Blanche Coates

The final letter is from Eveline’s sister Blanche Coates, who looks like she might be expecting one of her several children in this photo.

Jan. 23, 1930

Dear Eveline and Tommy

Our hearts sympathy is with you both.. If we had only know you were not taking the little fellow home we could have been there Monday, By driving as far as Elgin in the car then taking the bus. But we did not know and I’m very, very sorry. It’s hard to reconcile ourselves to his leaving. But we know we must carry on, with the one and only consoling tho’t, that he’s one of God’s little angels, he’ll never have the suffering an heartaches that we have.

If there’s any thing we can do to help you financially or otherwise, don’t be afraid to let us know. 

Miles has been out of work since Christmas, but we still have a few dollars and if you kids need them your more than welcome to part of them.

It’s been comforting to know  that Margie has been with you doing the little acts of kindness that I would have been glad to do, you have always been so good to me. An I know you realize how hard it is for me to get out with four little ones and the weather staying 26 below. 

Write when you can Honey. I know your poor heart is broken and I grieve with you & for you.


Blanche and her family were living in Wheeling, Il – outside of Chicago – at the time of Wilbur’s death. She realized too late that he was to be buried in Rockford, Il and not in their home town of Mystic, Iowa.

The final bits of ephemera that I will classify as correspondence are two postcards. They are not postmarked, so may have been included with letters that are no longer with the others, or perhaps given in person at another time.

On the back is the notation
Wilbur Hoskins

Vivian was Wilbur’s cousin, daughter of Tom’s sister Edna Hoskins and her husband, John Martin. Vivian and Wilbur were very close in age – she would also have been about five years old at the time of Wilbur’s death. I don’t recognize the handwriting. Maybe her mother, Edna wrote it and this was Vivian’s way to participate in expressing sadness at the loss of her cousin.

The last postcard has nothing written on the back except “Wilbur.” I have no idea why this particular postcard was chosen or who it was from. I don’t readily recognize my grandfather Tom’s handwriting like I do my grandmother’s, but this does remind me of his writing.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday. Please visit other participants who likely responded to the prompt with dancing and good times.

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

A Day in Appanoose County

2016 Trip to Iowa Day 3

I was going along pretty well here, writing about my recent trip to Iowa. Then came the maddening, frustrating realization that I experienced a major technical failure on this particular day of my trip. It was my own un-techy fault. Unprepared. Ill equipped. Lacking knowledge. So I stopped writing mid-trip. Really, I am so bummed out about it. Nevertheless, it was a lovely day! Here goes …

2016-iowa-mystic-water-tower-copyWhen I was in Iowa four years ago, my Uncle Roy wanted to take me to Mystic, the town where he and my mom and their siblings were born and spent their early years. I ran out of time during that visit, so I made sure to reserve a day for a trip to Mystic this time.

Mystic, and the rest of Appanoose County, experienced a boom during the late 1800s and early 1900s because of coal mining in the area. Later, the mines ran out and many of the towns are now a mere shadow of what they once were. For today, we’ll just focus on the trip and I’ll hope to write more about Mystic and the lives of my family there another day.

map-of-appanoose-travelsThankfully, I had swapped out the two-door hatchback for a four-door sedan so that Uncle Roy, Aunt Joan and I could travel in relative comfort. I picked them up at their RV in Ottumwa Park and we were on our way mid morning. I was so thankful to have Uncle Roy as my navigator and tour guide.

The first stop on our trip was Elgin Cemetery in Mystic, where members of my Hoskins side of the family are buried. My great-grandmother’s stone was easy to find.

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins nee Bryan

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins nee Bryan

JAN 27, 1864
JAN 7, 1939

Prepare to meet
me in Heaven

Sarah Elizabeth Hoskins, nee Bryan was my maternal grandfather’s mother.

Her daughters were buried nearby.

Edna Hoskins Martin and John

Edna Hoskins Martin and John

Ethel Hoskins Bland, Mark and Barbara

Ethel Hoskins Bland, Mark and Barbara



But where was her husband?

We looked and looked for Thomas Franklin Hoskins, but he was nowhere to be found. His death certificate confirms that he should be here, but we could not find even an indentation or tiny mark where an unmarked grave might be. Just to the left of Sarah Hoskins’ marker was a small metal marker. It is difficult to read, but I think the name is Morlan and other Morlans are nearby.

stickler-adaThere are a lot of Sticklers and Milburns buried in Elgin Cemetery – both family lines that married into my family tree, so I took pictures of their markers as well. There were a lot of old stones that were impossible, or nearly impossible, to read. Someone had taken black paint to preserve the names on the old Stickler markers. I know this is frowned upon, but I do understand the motivation. The names on those stones were not long for this world.


Taking pictures of grave markers always seems to be a challenge for me. Here is one of my photo fails. Like my big yellow bag?

I found this short video someone took at Elgin Cemetery. It doesn’t show the part of the cemetery where our family is buried, but gives a view of the landscape.

I’m just going to stop here and write about the rest of my day in Appanoose County in another post ’cause I’m still bummed about what happened next.

P.S. You can enlarge small photos by clicking on them.

To Do List:
Find the location of great-grandfather’s grave in Elgin Cemetery. Thomas Franklin Hoskins.

Related posts:
Flying Solo – Day 1 of this trip
Bonaparte Retreat – Day 2 of this trip
Puzzling Penmanship – includes pictures of Thomas F. Hoskins home and children
Sisters, But Not – Edna Hoskins

Sepia Saturday – Sisters, But Not

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images.

Today’s prompt image is a photograph of Lala Williams and Elgie Crook from the Samuel Bell Maxey Collection at the Texas State Archives. Upon first glance, we might assume that the two young girls are sisters. We would be wrong – but not entirely. Elgie’s mother and Lala’s father were siblings. Elgie’s mother died when she was a little girl and she was sent to be brought up by her uncle. The cousins grew up as sisters.

And so I have chosen a picture of two (older) girls who are not exactly sisters, yet they are.



















The young woman kneeling is my grandmother, Eveline Coates. She is pictured with Edna Hoskins. On the back of the photograph, my grandmother wrote “Pals”.

And so we know that she and Edna were close.

Eveline and Edna grew up in the small communities of Walnut and Mystic, Appanoose County, Iowa. In the 1920 U. S. Census, their family homes are separated by one house. Eveline and Edna both married in 1923 – Eveline in February and Edna in August. With the marriage of Eveline Coates to Thomas Hoskins, Eveline and Edna became sisters…in law.

I have a picture of Edna that may have been taken on the same day.

Edna Hoskins

I think Edna looks happier in the company of Eveline. Or maybe she just didn’t want to stand in the cornfield.

And here is a picture of Eveline wearing the same dress – but this doesn’t look like it was taken on the same day. Her hair is different. She is in a different location. And she has a pretty lace hat.

Eveline Coates


















It is hard to tell, but Eveline may be wearing a ring on her left hand – possibly her wedding ring, which would date this picture (or both?) as 1923 or later.

A few years ago, I found a heritage craft in a magazine that I took inspiration from and made this little tribute to Eveline and Edna.

To see what others have created with today’s sisterly prompt, visit Sepia Saturday.