Bundle of letters reveals century-old message from Wilkinsburg father


By James Breig

Ohio-born and now a New York resident, I had never heard of Wilkinsburg, until I recently opened a bundle of letters I bought on eBay. Now I know something about a resident who lived there precisely a century ago.

In retirement after decades as a newspaperman, I have been researching a nonfiction book about World War II. As part of my research, I have been purchasing old letters through eBay, the online auction service (www.ebay.com).

When a recent box full of deeds and letters arrived, I began combing through the contents and discovered that the oldest item was a letter from a Wilkinsburg man. It was odd to see the date: 11-4-09. Of course, the “09” referred to 1909, exactly 100 years ago.

Written by “your old Papa” to “my dear Daughter,” the letter expresses an old man’s affection for his child, who has moved away. Without an envelope to go with the letter, I don’t know his name or hers, nor where she lived. However, many of the items in the box are from Colorado, so she could have moved there, about 1,300 miles away from Wilkinsburg.

There are only a few clues in the letter as to the recipient or sender. For example, the letter mentions two names, Mr. Deering and Jean Ferguson, which could be clues for those with long memories or an interest in Wilkinsburg history.

I am hoping the text of the letter might stir some remembrances in Wilkinsburg as to who the loving father and daughter were and what happened to them.

Here is the text of the letter, with only minor corrections to clarify some sentences:

Wilkinsburg, Pa


My dear Daughter

I received your welcome letter with John’s and was glad to hear from you both. I get very loansome to see you at times. I wonder how you are and am allways glad to hear from you. This afternoon I am so lonely I hardly know what to do. I get tired reading and do not have any pleasure going out for I will start to cough or I cant get my breath. I was sorry to hear and glad to[o] of Mr. Deering Death. He don’t have to suffer any more. We have had very nice weather so far this fall but perhaps I shall feel better when it gets colder. At least I hope so. I go out to East Pittsburg to Uncle Charley often and see your old schoolhouse and think I can see you running home. Then I wonder if I shall be permitted to see you once again if I am living next Summer. I want to try and get a trip out and see you but many changes may turn before that time. I am glad John likes his work but I did wish that he could of had two years more schooling. I hope that he will study hard that by the time he has learned his trade he can stop working and start in some kind of business and not have to work hard like I have done and make an old man before he is 40 years old. Tell my baby to hurry up and learn to write so she can beat Jean Ferguson. Jean writes very nicely now. Well dear I must stop now. I suppose you got the card I sent you.

With much love and kisses from your old Papa

John         Sara         Baby

XXX         XXX         XXX

Anyone who has information relevant to the letter is invited to share it with the author by emailing jbreig1@nycap.rr.com. A descendant of parents who were born in Vandergrift, Pa., he lives near Albany, NY.


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