Through Any Given Door

1.09 Canada, Cuba, or Bust

A letter from my grandmother Nellie (Chamberlin) Chatfield (age 30) to her younger sister Mamie Chamberlin (age 16). At the writing, Nellie had five children: Charlie Jr., Leo, Howard, Roy, and 6 month old Nella May. Two years after Roy was born, Nellie Mary “Nella May” Chatfield came along. She was estimated to be two-and-a-half pounds when she was born, so teeny her mother kept her in a shoebox warmed by the wood stove.
Note: below photo of Mamie is the picture referred to in the letter; group photo of Nellie and her siblings is the other one referred to.

October 15th, 1903 • Sulphur, Grand County, Colorado ~
My dear Sister,
I received your letter and the pictures some time ago, but you’ve no idea how busy I have been. I went to Rifle and got my fruit then I had it all to put up and then we had a lawsuit over water at Meeker last week and I was one of the witnesses but we won the case without my going on the stand at all and Charlie was so glad for he was afraid I would be nervous and maby faint. We had the same kind of a lawsuit last year and we won it also, so now I guess they will let us alone.

Charles “Charlie” Chatfield

I have no pictures of the children now & have never had my own taken since I was married (except in that group). Charlie had his taken last winter in Denver, they are not a bit good but he was sick at the time he went there expecting to have an operation performed. I was already to go to Denver last June, was going to take Roy and the baby and have them baptized and have their picture taken. Charlie went to Rifle to get me a pass, but when he got there he met his Father and he said they had just moved to Pueblo, so of course I didn’t go, but there is a first class photographer in Rifle now and the next time I am out there I think I will have mine and the babies taken together and the other 4 taken in a group if I can keep them all together long enough. I would have had it done the other day but the artist was not there the first day and after that I was so busy getting my fruit I didn’t have the time.

I don’t know whether I will be there again this winter or not, we are about to sell the ranch, if we do we will move to Rifle for the winter and then I don’t know where we will go. People here who haven’t got the Canada fever have the Cuban fever. Charlie is about out of the notion of going to Canada and he don’t say much about Cuba but I think I would like to go there. People who have been there say it is just grand, that the climate is very much like California and the government offers $5.00 a head for all the cattle that are put in there (that would almost pay their expenses) and they say there are very few cattle there as yet and that it is a splendid cattle country, so if Charlie wants to go there I am more than willing to go to. I never did want to go to Canada. I hate the English government and the Cuban government is very much like our own and there are plenty of Americans there now, it seems a good way off and I don’t suppose I would ever come back.

I would be like the Swede we had driving the stacker horse this summer. I asked him if he ever expected to go back to the old country again. He said “Vell, I don’ tink I vill, I don’ like to travel dat road some. I not eat no ting all de vay, and I feel some bad.”

I am all alone with the children tonight, Charlie is on the road with cattle, the children are all asleep & it is after 10 o’clock so I guess I will go to bed. I have some more letters to write but will have to wait till next time.


Mamie Chamberlin, Nellie’s sister

I was so glad to get the pictures. I got them before I did the letter and I said to Charlie who do you suppose that was, I don’t think it is Mamie, he said “Of course it’s Mamie, any one would know it was your sister,” but I wouldn’t believe it till I read your letter. I don’t think it looks a bit as you did when I last saw you and now I must close, with love,

your sister,
N. Chatfield

to be continued …

Chamberlin children, circa 1896, from l-r: (boys) Roy, Joe, Fred, (girls) Nellie, Mamie, Ada

Chamberlin siblings, circa 1896, from l-r: (boys) Roy, Joe, Fred, (girls) Nellie, Mamie, Ada

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Jim Chatfield says:

    Cathy, I love all your stories. I believe Rifle is down in the Wet mountains area, if I remember right. A lot of settlers were down around that area. Love the pictures.

  2. Jeane MacPherson says:

    This jogged a childhood memory for me, right out of the blue. The mention of going to Rifle for fruit… I don’t remember how old I was, but my dad & I drove in the pickup from W. NE. to Rifle to buy lugs of peaches & other fruit. I ate so many peaches I broke out in itchy, itchy hives! I think we were buying for several families. Mom couldn’t go because she was pregnant with one of my brothers & she was too close to term. Fun memory!

  3. Am interesting bit of history by an obviously capable, self-sufficient, no-nonsense woman! Right?

  4. Wow what a history lesson in that letter. A treasure to have a snapshot of their life.

    • I don’t from where I got it, perhaps it was in my mother’s things and my brother had it, or one of cousins gave it t me. Great letter. I loved that she used dialogue. You can tell she’d been to school.

  5. Janet Sasaki says:

    Fun to see the decisions young families were making for their future. Wonder how things would have turned out if they had decided to go to Cuba?

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