Dorothy to Ellsworth, 25 January 1934

Dorothy to Ellsworth, 25 January 1934

[Today is Ellsworth’s birthday! Read the newsy letter his fiancé wrote to him, and why she turned down Torleif Knaphus’s invite to the Beaux Arts Ball. -Cathy Gilmore]

2368 Highland Dr
S.L.C Utah
Jan 245/34

Good Morning Merry Sunshine!

How do you feel today? A beautiful, coral-streaked opal sky heralds the dawn of your Birthday Anniversary. The cool, crisp air promises continued winter for us.

Yesterday morning we rose to see the world blanketed in the heaviest snow of the season. The trees—a varied collection of weeping willows bowed reluctantly under their heavy burden, wires were rope-like in appearance and the general appearance was as tho a fairy had touched the landscape with her magic wand strewing the skyline with a lacy network of white branches.

Today enough snow remains on the trees to disguise them as cotton plants—what a frivolous climate.

I’m hoping your birthday joys were complete. Am sending my present today along with one from Knaphus. Eleven in all. You can buy a car with it if you like or a radio or a train ticket for a weekend in S.L.C.

I will be celebrating tonight by doing some sealings in Temple tonight as it is also Grandma Bushman’s birth anniversary & a group of us are going including Vera. Tomorrow night I am helping put over a pageant depicting N.D.A. growth and Saturday Olive & I & June & 3 other of the Knaphuses are doing some baptismal work.

Vera and I had to postpone our missionary meeting but hope to get started next week.

What did you think of the proposition we had to offer. Don’t drop it from your mind without due consideration will you?

Do you hear from Lewis? You know I was just thinking the coincidence it was that you and he should both get Arizona girls. Come to think of it she may even be a relation  – everyone else around there is. Now I have it! If she lives around Taylor she must be related to Vera for Vera was born there & it’s the home of he[r] Father’s folks. Ha! who said we weren’t a smart bunch. Tying a not [sic] right around the 3 couples of us. And Gene Murphy is related to some Smiths in S.L. I’ve got to look that up.

Now for my diary incidentally it is sadly neglected.

Stayed with Vera Sun. night. Monday night skipped school & sent to dinner at Eight with Torleif and Olive. Honestly honey. I was too tired to study  he had been wanting one to chum more with Olive so I felt rather obliged. Please forgive?

Tuesday night I attended a Stake Mutual party on Stratford Ave. with Oliver.

It was a grand affair & the most fun I’ve had in ages.

Tomorrow night (Fri) Don & Oliver have dates from for Granite Gold & Green Ball.

Knaphus has his car back & says it is at my service. Would I like to have a week end off? Better watch for me hiding under one of the seats in your Sunday School.

Rec’d letters the other day from Marv & one of his old girlfriends simultaneously. Marv’s enjoying life, what with a dance now & then & now & then a new good-looking ‘frill!

Virgil is well now & is back into mischief again.

Connie is still undecided. I have a 50¢ order from her to make a Valentine for John. Didn’t think I’d be making them for other men did you? This coming Sat. the Art Barn sponsors are staging their first annual Beaux Arts Ball — a grand costume affair.

Last night T.S.K. called for me at school and asked if I would care to go. Didn’t say definitely but a ‘couple’ is a ‘couple’ and I’d rather ensure my social standing than my artistic one so I’m waiting till I get a personal invitation from the committee at which time (if ever) you will be the other party. How’s that?

It’s lunch hour now. We’re certainly busy at Kress. S.H. arrives Mon Tues the 30th!

Burbidge tells me his son, Smith leaves Feb. 22 for Western States mission. He may even be your companion. Watch for him.

Edna Remington (office girl) says her sweetheart ‘Wid’ Davidson presided over that branch about 2 yrs ago & that he organized the original basketball team there.

I still see Aunt Annie Folsom upstairs now & then. She sends her best wishes to you & always asks about you. She tries to check up on my behavior & says I look better than at Xmas time.

I saw Helen, Iris & your mother for awhile yesterday.

Time’s up See you tonight under that big bright moon. Where’s that birthday kiss? Here’s mine “X” [stylized “x”]



Figure this out & don’t ask me. [underneath looped lines leading up to her name]


What’s in a Letter? More than you think.

What’s in a Letter? More than you think.

“Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How can we use letters to reshape our history? We may be surprised to learn how rich a source they can be. As an example, here is a transcription of single page of a letter—one that is part of a larger story of Ellsworth M. Clark hitchhiking his way through Southern Idaho and Wyoming in the summer of 1934. He was to be married to his fiancée Dorothy Smith that August, and was desperately seeking work as a school teacher in the height of the Great Depression:

This morning I came  over to Montpelier with the County Sheriff. I was in Montpelier for almost one hour before I found out Wm Clark was not coming over here. From the garage where he worked. I walked up past Munks (Mildred is now home), but I believe they were yet in bed so no one came to the door. Not knowing how I would get over here, I walked towards the canyon until I got out of town. I waited for about an hour and caught a ride over with a big truck. As there are very few cars going on that road, I consider myself very lucky to get a ride so soon. I was back on top of mail sacks and boxes of groceries etc. The wind tangled my hair until I thought I’d never get it combed out. Arrived in Afton about 12:30 and just had time to shave & clean up for dinner. Aunt Louise & family have treated me very fine. You should see the swell bedroom I am to have tonight.

After dinner I called on Mr. Crook, the Superintendent of Schools. He was not home, but his wife said she to at a ballgame or church, she didn’t know. He will be back at home about 5:30, at which time I will interview the Gentleman.

June is leaving Paris for Salt Lake today. I think she left about noon. Suppose you will see her before I will.

The weather is somewhat cool up here

Aside from containing fun details about riding in the back of a truck, this letter is more than just a story: it contains people, places, and events. For example, this page contains six people, four places, a date, and a few subjects:

County Sheriff [Bear Lake County, Idaho]
Wm Clark [William O. Clark KWCZ-3G6​]
Mildred Vilate Munk [KWCB-M92​]
Aunt Louie [Louisa Mary Shepherd Call KWJZ-HL8]
Mr. Crook
Mrs. Crook

Montpelier, Idaho
Afton, Wyoming
Paris, Idaho
Salt Lake City, Utah

9 June, 1934

Great Depression
Job search

Each person tag represents an opportunity to share this source as on their family trees such FamilySearch Memories. The date provides a mark on a timeline for that individual, and the locations can help form a map that is also linked to that person.  Finally, subject tags illustrate what is contained on this page that will enrich our view of history with this new perspective.

If this much information can be indexed from a single page, imagine what we could derive from an entire letter? An entire collection of letters? This is why transcribing and tagging is the key to unlocking our histories and the stories contained therein.

sample 1

New Year’s Letter, 1934

New Year’s Letter, 1934

The following letter was sent on New Year’s Day from Elder Ellsworth Clark in Colorado Springs to his fiancé Dorothy Smith in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s a wonderful snapshot of a couple’s relationship and of a  missionary’s challenges. And, it is an instructive window into history unsanitized. In this letter, there are expressions and words we would consider inappropriate today, but we must take history—the sublime, the odd, the uncomfortable—as a whole as we search for understanding of our past. —CG



222 No. Wahsatch
Colorado Springs, Colo
Dec. 29, 1938

Dearest Little Starlet,

I’m oozing with sentiment tonight. The moon is full and my thoughts run tenderly along such lines as boat rids on a lagoon, walks in the park when it’s just chilly enough for the arm of your loved one to warm  you, and skating on crystal clear ice with a sweetheart on my arm as the cold blue white stars wink and fall in the frosty sky. Then thoughts go back to June nights when the air is burdened with sweet perfume of big copper colored roses and lilac. When grass and ground invites you to linger and muse and in silence wonder at the handiwork of God & his goodness to Man. Two lovers are in bliss as they feel more than they can say, and when the kiss of the betrothed is as a sacrament for themselves, to a greater power than Man. Dreaming of days to come when service and love shall know no bounds and two shall be as one. Blessed children and blessed old age; even death is then beautiful.

It is beautiful tonight. Old Pikes Peak in majestic stillness is in communion with the stars & trees. It is quiet. The noise of city life is not near and as I look out in the dark, it seems you are near. See— I’m talking to you now. I’ll tell you how I love you if you don’t leave. This may seem foolish but you are near. And I know of a surety of my love for you.

Darling I’m lonely tonight.
My eyes if I know aright
Are wet, yet I can smile,
‘Cause in a while a short short while
I’ll see you and kiss away the worries of your day.

We live and love; Life’s good to us.
What’s this in all eternity?
but a test of faith and trust.
Yet most important can’t you see?

11:45 p.m.
I sit along upon my bed—
The lights grow dim;
Tis you.
True blue.
I want to know.
My head is like a chunk of lead—
So sweetest. I know
My eyes.
It’s time to go.
To sleep I’ll lay my head.

12:05 p.m.
Good night.

Jan. 1st 1934

Old 1933 is gone & the New Year is just about 70 minutes old. I beat you to it. I told you I loved you first this year.

It has been a beautiful day today. Much happiness and success has come our way. Spent the afternoon with friends and investigators. Through us a man has quit smoking—weeks ago. A boy is now quit (at 12:00 tonight). One woman has applied for baptism & we have made some new friends. Oh yes, and another has quit the use of tea & another of coffee. Well, I’ve got to go to bed.

11:30 a.m. Jan. 1st

Well, old sweet, I still am thinking of you. After a good nights rest and sleeping in until 11:00 I feel like the new born year itself.

We had a beautiful time last night. We talked the gospel to two investigators until 11:30 & then had waf[?]ers & ginger ale. At 12:00 we went outside looked up towards Pikes Peak & the whole top was lit up with torches. They had huge fireworks & spelled out 1934 in the sky. With the bursting of bombs, sky rockets & red & green fire works it was simply grand. So we saw the new year in with two investigators, a Miss DeMasters age uncertain at least 45, and a Miss Mildred Blanc age 19. The Lady Missionaries were with us also. These investigators called us up & invited us over for New Years eve & we decided not to go unless someone else went with us so therefore the lady missionaries. The people were very nice however & we talked with them along religious lines a lot of the time.

Miss Blanc (French) is a teacher in a Presbyterians but is interested in Mormonism and the Theosophists (not exactly a religion but a philosophy of [sp] and meaning of our actions with re-incarnation as one of its tenants. We walked home with the lady missionaries, & a good thing too because we passed through several groups of drunken men. One group rather boisterous (colored negroes).

I was asked last night if I would act as president of the M.I.A. in Colorado Springs. There never has been one & the organization will be left largely to me. We figure on having the other members of the presidency & some of the teachers non-Mormons. We have some very capable investigators & friends who could help us out in that way.

We are not going to have, at first, two distinct organizations of Young Mens & Young Womens. But I will act as president with a woman first councilor & man 2nd & woman sec. I hope it works out alright. I already know of the woman  (a non-member) to take care of music & perhaps dancing, and I believe I know a very capable man to take our M. Men activities. Most of our membership, I believe will be non-Mormon & so it behooves us to be careful & not let them walk away with the movement.

I’m glad I waited before sending a letter off to you on the 29th because on Sat. I received your long hoped for letter and the $10.00. The 10 was not urgent but the word from you was. I was beginning to wonder if you had forgotten me. But, happy days, when I received your letter. I felt like shouting I was so happy. Gee, it’s great to know you really think of me and I know that if you wrote the letter on Wednesday that I was thinking of you and looking at  the half-moon too. You know I mentioned to Elder Howell that I wished I was in Salt Lake that evening & made the query that I wondered if you might be under the same old moon thinking the same thoughts and yet a few hundred miles away. Last night when Pikes Peak, 14 miles away, was lighted up I gazed at it and wished you could have the vision to see that beautiful spectacle and to see me, as I was out there on the boulevard, and speak a little token of love to my ear.

I’ll try to, sometime soon, write a letter to Connie. I don’t just know what I’ll say but I think I can conjure up something in the mean time.

Say, you should have seen me speak last night in church. I spoke 20 minutes on the subject of  prayer & boy my knees were sort of weak at first, but I believe you must have starched them a little for me because I soon got rid of the scare & did I tell one particular investigator in the audience, what I thought of her skepticism. I think she knew I was talking to her, because after, she came to my partner and told him to thank me for the airplane ride. We spent the afternoon before the meeting with her & I talked to her then & you so she was ready for it. There was about 50 or so present.

You should see me with my mustache. I’ve had it for about 2 weeks and I look as wicked as Nero himself. Sometime I’ll have a closeup snap of me & send & to you. I have to blacken it a little to make it as dark as my eyebrows, but I suppose I’ll cut it off before long now.

I’ve had one investigator, a girl of 20, make the boast that is maybe going to make me break the mission rules. She has tried on one or two occasions to get Elder Howell & myself to come to her place & play cards or dance. She says that nobody would see us & says she certainly likes to dance. She’s good looking too but I didn’t tell her that. I’m practically married & very much in love with someone else. She’ll find that plenty soon. I feel like spanking her rather than getting sore at her for her designs. Well, all that matters is that I love you and no one can take your place in my thoughts, not even out here. My little finger is lonely and I wish I could squeeze you hard for just a second. I want you to know that all my love & sincerest wishes are for you, the dearest girl I know, for the coming year! May the Lord guide and protect you always.

Ellsworth OX

p.s. tell Iris & the rest of the family to write once in a while. I’ve written to all of them but Iris[1] [2] and I’ve only received a letter from my mother. Tell Virgil and June to write too. I’d surely like to have a note from them along with your letter. Of course I’d like to hear from Don & Lois & Oliver also, so when they haven’t anything important to do suggest that they write a note.

How are your friends & workers at Kresses getting along? Is Olive Knaphus[3] still with you? How is Knaphus[4] getting along and does he feel better now? Tell him hello when you see him and send him my sincerest wishes for a happy and prosperous new year.

When you see Vera tell her that I think of her often when I think of such things as cottage & street meetings. Give Charles[5] my best regards and wish him a happy “traveling” new year. Hope he sticks to the school in L.A.

I wish I had my tennis racket, but I won’t have you send it right now. I’m not sure but I may be able to borrow one out here.

A new years resolution for the coming year is that Elder Howell and myself are arising every morning but Sunday and taking a run for exercise. We’ve already had an application from two lady investigators to go with us, but we told them we were not to be bothered with them with us, but that we might buy a ten cent whistle and wake them as we went past. Anyway I don’t think they have any running pants. Ha[?] wouldn’t they look cunning, especially if it snowed.

Well dearest, I’ve prolonged this quite a bit now when I only expected to add a note but I can’t help it it just seems I want to talk to you .


Don’t get the idea that I wasn’t pleased with the candy. Honestly it was swell and I liked it best of all I received because it came from the sweetest kid I know. The little doll is in safe hands and I will try to be a good example to it. The lady miss gave me a trundle bed for it and and there it sits playing in its bed by the side of your picture on my dresser.

[1] Iris Clark, Ellsworth’s sister

[2] Gordon Clark, Ellsworth’s brother

[3] Olive Knaphus was Dorothy’s close friend and co-worker at Kress.

[4] Torleif Knaphus, LDS sculptor and art mentor for Dorothy

[5] Charles Jarman, Dorothy’s friend and one-time suitor.