St. Louis, MO to Chester, IL
On my last post, Double First Cousins, I introduced you to Dale. A few years ago he passed along three letters that were written by a common grandmother and grandfather from June of 1923.
These three letters are a perfect snapshot of the life and times of the era.
The letters showcase the importance of visiting family, travel, and the love of first time parents. In June of 1923 my Great Grandmother Lillian packed up her one year old daughter Jeannette and headed to catch a train at Union Station near her home in St. Louis, MO. She was journeying to visit family that she has been visiting since she was a young girl.
Lillians mother, Bertha, was born in Chester, IL and she moved to St. Louis, MO after she married in the early 1900’s. In Chester, IL Bertha left siblings and family behind which was a few days travel by horse and buggy.
Bertha continued to visit family in Chester, IL by traveling on the Water Taxi or Steamboats up and down the Mississippi River.
By the time Lillian was grown, married, and with a child of her own she still kept the tradition of travel and maintaining the family connection. During Lillians childhood she made this trek to see grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. But this time she took a train from Union Station St. Louis to Chester, IL.
In the 1920’s St. Louis Union Station was Americas Largest train terminal.
Union Station saw 100,000 passengers per day and serviced 22 railroads. Luckily, one led to Chester, IL. When Lillian arrived in Chester she stated that she was met by family with a ‘machine.’ This was a common term for cars at that time. However, during her stay she detailed how she and Jeannette took a buggy ride every day. Here is where I begin to see the snapshot overlay of travel in 1923.
Horse and buggy’s were still used on farms and rural areas in 1920’s even though automobiles or ‘machines’ were rapidly replacing them.
It’s so fascinating to see American transportation overlap in these 1923 letters. They had steamships, water taxis, trains, automobiles, and horse and buggy’s all at the same time. What a snapshot!
In addition to a look into travel style overlap the use of letters or telegrams for everyday communication was soon replaced by telephones. In the 1920’s only 35% of households in rural areas had a phone. This is the reason Lillian wrote her husband such important detail about her arrival time by train.
There is nothing more sweet than seeing the love between my great grandparents and their first baby in the early years of marriage. what a snapshot.
I adore these letters and how they sent me into researching travel and communication in midwest America in 1923. What a gift for me to receive these from my cousin Dale. A treasure I don’t take for granted.
It’s nice to see that visiting family, even if that means some travel, is still something that we do in my family. Something I seem to owe to my Great Great Grandmother Bertha.
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