The Journey of the Letters, #11

One of the letters in the batch I just acquired has some drawings in pencil on the first page. The letter is signed, “Will B. Troublesome.” From some other letters with the same signature, I know that this one is from my great grandfather William Byers Tomlinson. It’s addressed to his sister, which would be Sarah Isabella Tomlinson, or Belle. 

The letter is from Catlettsburg, Kentucky, and is dated “Nov. one times, 18 hundred and got the headache.” Like other members of his family, Byers loved wordplay of all kinds, especially punning. This proclivity, I have observed, seems to be a persistent trait in the stream of genes springing from this pool. 

Byers moved to Kentucky after he married his first wife, Alice Killin, October 5, 1869. By 1875, he had moved back to Ripley, Ohio, where he published the Ripley Bee, the town newspaper, until 1880. Maybe Alice and he were visiting her folks back in Kentucky. Or maybe they were still living there.

Have you figured out his pun yet? Is it 1878? Or earlier? Despite those genes, I’m still working on it.

Anyway, there are miniature sketches of four different people at the top of the first page. At the bottom of the page, a tiny drawing depicts someone doing a headstand beside Byers’ comment, “The preceding illustration means for you to turn over.”

There is no identification of the four miniature portraits other than a line scribbled above them that says “Family portraits.” So who are they?

I don’t know for sure, although I can make a good guess for two of them. But first I want to get back to the copy of that photograph that I filed away for another day. 



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