In our world of electronic and digital communications, one wonders what evidence of our day-to-day lives will exist for our descendants in the next century. Modern technology has given us the ability to be in almost constant touch with one another. But, will our emails and texts still exist a hundred years from now? For decades, letter writing was often an everyday occurrence for most people. Keeping in touch meant sitting down with pen and paper. Receiving a letter was often an exciting event, especially from someone miles away. And, for many, including Alexander Graham Bell and his family, these letters were something to be kept, not simply discarded once read. The Bells were profuse writers and as a result, their story can be told today through thousands of letters.
Born in Scotland in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell lived a unique life. Influenced by his father, Melville, a professor of elocution, and his deaf mother, Eliza; the loss of his brothers, Melville and Edward, to Consumption; and marriage to his deaf pupil, Mabel Hubbard, Bell left a legacy to the world that few could imagine living without. How this came to pass is best revealed through the letters between these individuals. Here, we present those letters to you.
With this letter, Eliza brought Aleck an update on how Carrie was settling in to the Ballachey farm following her marriage to George, the marriage of Tom and Mary Good at Myrtleville farm, and news that Carrie’s mother, Mrs. Ottaway, would be coming over from England in the spring. Melville had been made Justice of the Peace. And, plans for the building of a home by his aunt and uncle were on hold, with the possibility that they would stay at Melville House and with neighbours during the construction.
Home, March 13th/75
My dear Aleck
I have sent two letters to Salem since the first of March, both of which we trust you have now got, though you had not received them when you wrote on the 5th. Carrie also wrote, but she tells me she directed her letter “University, Boston”, so if it has not come to hand, you will know what to enquire for. She has been down this Afternoon for half an hour, and is looking very well. The house she says, is in great confusion as the Sams leave tomorrow. Sam and John drive the furniture and effects, while his wife and Lizzie Ballachey go by the cars. Mary Ballachey was married to Tom Goode on Friday, and is off on a trip to Buffalo, and Niagara. Mrs. Ottaway has accepted our invitation and will (D. V.) be out in May.
We were glad to find by your letter that matters looked so hopeful for your success, and hope most earnestly you will not be disappointed. It is a great matter to have such influential friends, for without, merit however great, is often lost. Did I tell you Papa had been made a Justice of the Peace? He has also been offered the Presidency of the Horticultural Society, but this he has declined.
I told you in my last, that Uncle David had purchased a large portion of the woods beside us, and intends to put up a house upon the plan of ours. Papa wishes your Uncle had made up his mind sooner, for he wants a brick house and now not a brick is to be obtained till it is made, and of course there must be a long delay before the house is up. They must leave the one they are in before the first of May. We have proposed that they should all come here, during the building period. I dare say with the help of Mrs. Mitchell’s bed-room, or Mrs. Brooks’, we should be able to manage. Papa and Uncle have engagements at Toronto some time in April.
The weather within these two or three days, has been milder and the snow gradually lessening. Yesterday Afternoon all the young people from Town, accompanied by one of the Miss Reids (or Reeds) came up here for a snow-shoeing exploit in the clearing of the woods. They all came here to tea, with their stockings and petticoats so thoroughly wet, that they had to be taken off. While these things were being dried, five young ladies took possession of the bed in your room!!
Mrs. Mitchell is now quite well again, and Mr. Van is better. Aunt Ellen thinks it not at all unlikely that Chester will be over this summer. Papa is writing a few lines so I will conclude with dear love.
Ever my dear Aleck
Your affectionate Mother
E. G. Bell
W Brantford, Ont, Can.
The Bell Letters are annotated by Brian Wood, curator, Bell Homestead National Historic Site.