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 & the pictures some time ago, but you’ve no idea how busy I have been. I went to Rifle & got my fruit then I had it all to put up & then we had a lawsuit over water at Meeker last week & I was one of the witnesses but we won the case without my going on the stand at all & Charlie was so glad for he was afraid I would be nervous & maby faint. We had the same kind of a lawsuit last year & 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 & the baby & have them baptized & have their picture taken. Charlie went to Rifle to get me a pass, but when he got there he met his Father & 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 & the next time I am out there I think I will have mine & the babies taken together & 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 & 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 & 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 & 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 & the government offers $5.00 a head for all the cattle that are put in there (that would almost pay their expenses) & they say there are very few cattle there as yet & 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 & the Cuban government is very much like our own & there are plenty of Americans there now, it seems a good way off & 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 & 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 & 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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