a compilation of correspondence
between Glen Roy Johnson and Vesta Christena Wilt
before and during their marriage
beginning in the Spring of 1916

Dear Reader,

       It is my intention to share the hundreds of letters I discovered that have great historical and genealogical value. As I was “digging” through my mother’s home in June 2001, I opened a steamer trunk only to be assaulted with the odor of mothballs. Feeling my way through blankets, pillows, and fabric, I felt a box. Underneath it was another box. I removed both of them from what had probably been their home for over forty years. One box was decorative and appeared as if it could have been a jewelry box without the inside separating holders. I opened it and to my amazement, the first envelope, in Nana's handwriting, was addressed to “Our Children”. It held several sheets of family lineage information! The rest of the contents were letters, news clippings and postcards. The second box looked like a large shoebox. In pencil on the top had been written “Letters, W.W.I”. My first thought was “no, these can’t be”. They were! Letters upon letters that had been written to and from each other beginning almost immediately after the couple met on Easter 1916 and continuing through the time Glen was sent back to the United States from Europe during W.W.I. Had she meant for one of us to find these letters in the future? Probably not – but I don’t think she’d mind so much – especially after I read them. All of us who knew them, could tell they had a great love for each other; however, in the course of losing myself in their words of over 80 years ago, I no longer pictured them as I knew them later in life. I saw them as a young couple on the brink of a changing world entering married life unaware of what the future held for them. I could feel the intense love and passion that they shared as a young, newly married couple as well as the fear both of them must have felt with a war raging in Europe. I hope that by sharing their correspondence, you, the reader, will also get swept up in the greatest love story that we’ve been a part of. For we are all here due to the intense love shared by this amazing couple.

       I have taken an “editorial” standpoint to these letters. Due to the nature of some of their feelings and emotions, I have edited out intimate details that I feel some of you may not really want to envision! I have also edited out some of the “courser” language used and included some definitions for terms no longer in existence today.

       My hope is that you will rediscover the “souls” of these wonderful people and remember the love you had for them. For those descendants who weren’t as fortunate to know them when they were living or who don’t remember them as well, I hope that they will find an inspiration to know more about them and the history of the time they lived.

Wendy J. Littrell

Welcome to Anderson, Indiana during the Spring of 1916. Europe has been at war since the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 20, 1914. Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and Baron Manfred Von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”) are aces of the air. Woodrow Wilson was president and the last war fought by the United States was in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. But in small town America, the war has yet to touch the lives of the young people. The cost of living is quite different than we know it today. Instead of saving for new cars, electronic toys, trips to amusement parks or ocean cruises, folks are getting by with their own machinations. Everyone has a garden or farm – no need to go to the corner grocery store for produce when one can grow it. Cars, or “machines,” are not in every garage or driveway. The most common transportation is by foot or horse. Women are considered to be the hearth of the home. They keep it running smoothly. Their days are spent doing laundry by hand or in a crank tub; preparing all the food from scratch – no box dinners or frozen foods for them; keeping the children mannerly and clean; and making sure the home is kept dust free and clean. There weren’t any all-in-one cleaners to make housekeeping fast and easy. It was time consuming and demanding. There weren’t any suburban shopping malls and if an item couldn’t be made by hand, it was usually ordered through the Sears Roebuck catalog, if it was affordable. Women made the clothing for their families and re-made last year’s clothes into new pieces if possible. Families spent time together at church, on picnics, with their neighbors, and helping one another. Reputations and a man’s word were everything. Single women did not go to the store alone or with a man not related to them unless they wanted to be the topic of local gossip. Postal rates were 3 cents and a yard of fabric averaged 25 cents. Children born out of wedlock were usually placed up for adoption many miles from the girl’s hometown. Couples whose marriages ended in divorce, were pitied and gossiped about. Problems that occurred within the home stayed within the home for it was the notion that it wasn’t anyone else’s business. Parents ruled and controlled their homes and children even after those children moved away and married. It wasn’t unusual for couples newly married to live with parents of one until they could afford some land and a home of their own.

This story begins at Easter in 1916. Vesta Wilt has experienced first hand the hardship of her parent’s divorce. Her two oldest brothers, Clarence and John, were farmed out to other relatives because her mother couldn’t afford to take care of them. The youngest four she kept with her. On top of that, there was one other child to feed when Martha married her late sister’s widower husband. Vesta’s cousin, Ralph Clawson, joined the household. Her uncle, Frank Clawson, owned a store and the family lived behind it. Vesta worked in the store to help them out. Martha, her mother, was a Dunkard (member of the Church of the Brethren), and was very strict as far as how her daughter dressed and behaved. Vesta completed school through the tenth grade – a common occurrence at that time. On that religious day, her friend, Mae Agnew and Mae’s current beau, Densel Clemons, introduced Vesta to Densel’s best friend, Glen Johnson. Glen had grown up mainly as an only child for his older brother, Letis, was many years older and had spent most of his life at the Fort Wayne Hospital for the Insane. His sister, Mary, didn’t live very long and in 1910, while his mother was at the hospital, a woman gave her an infant girl to take care of for she was illegitimate. Though never formally adopted, Eva, became a part of the Johnson family. Glen enjoyed pranks and liked to have fun. He didn’t follow such a rigid code of behavior like Vesta did. His entrance into her daughter’s life, caused Martha heartache.

Wed. Morn. 9:30
May 31, 16

Dear Vesta:
Rec’d your letter and was glad to hear from you. I am going to try to write a few lines. I did not go to work to-day. I had such a cold and was so tired I could not get up. Hope you did not fare as bad as I did from yesterdays trip. When I got home last night I had my mother make me a hot lemonade. I drank it just before I got in bed and then I just sweat all night. It broke my cold up some, but I still have a cold. I have been taking dope all morning. But I think I will be all right Sunday. If I am not we are going any how. “Do you hear. We are going.” My mother just about had a fit because I took that long tramp. But I think I can go to work in the morning. You told me that you were not cold last night but I think you were. I am afraid you (my little girl) will be sick. But I hope not. Do not work to hard to-day. I hope you had a good time yesterday. I did I know. Say that was the most loving bunch I ever saw, I wish I had a picture of them. But we have not. and I don’t suppose we will get one. Say I bet we walked 10 miles yesterday I wish we had come home on the six o’clock car. Don’t you. You said in your letter that you had not got that present yet you had better be getting one. I got to bed last night at 11:10 just about the time I leave your house the most of the time. That letter is the most dearest letter I ever saw. I would not take a farm for it. I wonder where Gladys and Russell went yesterday. I bet they are not as tired as we are. Where do you want to go Saturday night? Well I have wrote every thing I know and every will know I think I will close with this foolishness as I don’t suppose you care anything about it. I will call you about 7:15 to-night and we will finish our talk then. You will please excuse this writing as I am no penman as you can see by this writing. But maybe you can make it out and understand what I mean. So I will close.

So good-bye Dear
I still remain yours forever
To the one I love best Miss Vesta Wilt signed Glen

Monday eve 8:30
May 29, ’16

Dear Glen –

I am taking your banner – altho’ I hardly know what to write since I was just talking to you. ha!
I guess Ralph and Shirley are going to Noblesville next Sunday – and of all things! in a Ford! But that’s all Ralph can run so its either that or the car, so they get a measly Ford. ha!
They put another coat of varnish on the floor this afternoon in the sitting room so I have retired to the dining table.
Mae is or has the “I don’t know what to do” feeling since she can’t get Densel. But I really think they are a little foolish going down (if they do) to-morrow and then Sunday too. Don’t you?
And say, you want to be rid of that cold by Sunday or you will have a worse one than you have now. And maybe if it isn’t any better and it gets worse I'll not go at all. you understand. ha! ha!
They have all gone to bed except me or that is all that was at home because Mr. Boys, Ralph and father are out so you see that makes a lot to go. ha! ha!
I haven’t got that graduation present yet. I had better hurry or she will be graduated before I have it. ha!
I wish I didn’t have to work to-morrow morn – I would just sleep, sleep – like I did this morning. I slept three quarters an hour over time. ha!
Did you see this evenings paper? Bro. Underwood delivered a good lecture last eve or so says the paper. It has such good advice.
This is such a nonsensey letter but I really hardly know what to write so here it ends.

Ever yours

This writing is just grandorious but I guess you know who wrote it ha! V.C.S.W.

Monday eve, 8:15
June 5, 1916

My dear Glen –

Looks as tho I’m not going to get to bed as I said I would. The telephone rang as soon as I was thru talking to you and then I hadn’t more than hung up when Shirley and Mae called, then Ralph came in and wanted to talk and then he went up town and as I was ready to go upstairs Mr. Boys came in and wanted me to play for him (and to think I was hurrying up to get up stairs because I know he would want something for me to do). Sounds a little selfish doesn’t it? But I did want to go upstairs and write your letter because if he knew what I was doing he would torment the life out of me. ha! ha!
We will never hear the end of that prank they played on us yesterday. But never mind, we’ll get even with them, won’t we? Most assuredly!
Why I wanted to know when we were going to Tipton was that I was planning where to go the next few Sundays. But I guess I’ll let them take care of themselves.
Thinking of we four going to St. Joe this summer mother said she didn’t like to see us going by ourselves, rather a chaperone. Understand eh?
I guess Ralph and Shirley went to the show to-nite as she called him and he didn’t want to go and she did and when he hung up the receiver he explained “Oh! The life with going with a girl – hang it.” Do you think that dear? I hope not. I hardly think you do. Am I right? I almost believe I wrenched my shoulder yesterday. It hurts and aches so. More or less. ha! ha!
Wish Wednesday nite were here. But oh! I said too much so I had better stop before I say any more, don’t you think? So good-nite dear.

Ever yours

P.S. You must excuse my pencil but the ink is in the other room. Sounds a little lazy. ha! ha! Your flowers are keeping just fine. Again. Vesta

Thurs Eve 6/8/16

My Dear Vesta: -

As I rec’d a letter from you I am writing you one in reply. I hardly know what to say. But I can say it rained again to-day I suppose you know that.
Hope you girls have a good time to-morrow night. We will have a good time Sat. and Sunday nights. (won’t we dear) You asked me if I thought the way Ralph did. No! I think it a pleasure to come and go with you, and anytime you want to go any place and I don’t know it just called me up and I will come right up. I am expecting to have some time when you go to the big city. I mean when I come down on Sat. (you understand don’t you) I don’t mean I will have some time here, down there. If Mae goes to Tipton the same Sunday we do, why can’t we go over together? And about St. Joe we will take a chaperone with us then. (your mother) We can have some time when we do go. We will get home about 2:00 in the morning. I will not work Monday I will just sleep, sleep, my head off. And about that joke we will get it on them some day when they are not expecting it. Won’t we? If you sleep Sunday afternoon I don’t know what I will do, I suppose I will have to stay at home. We will talk about this Saturday night. I have your picture setting right in front of me. It is the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I just love to look at it. Well as it is growing late I guess I will close but you will please excuse this writing as my pen was bad and I am getting very sleepy. Hopeing to hear from you again. I will say Good Nite Dear.

Ever yours

P.S. Excuse all misspelled words and writing. I still remain Glen to Vesta. 10:30

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