Love letters in the basement

Edith’s Death Certificate

Edith’s Death Certificate

Ed Schmidt

When a Robson Ranch resident came into the possession of 170 love letters from the late 1800s that were found in the crawl space of a Philadelphia house, he came to me for help because he knew that I belonged to the Robson Genealogy Club. The letters were written by a woman named Edith who lived in Washington D.C. to her suitor in Philadelphia. I thought that there might be enough information about the couple to serve as a basis for a novel.

Researching the address and residents, census records, and newspapers along with other sites, I found a vast amount of information on the letter writers and their families. Edith’s family included officers of a large Washington utility office, who were having difficulty during this period. C.J. (just using initials of suitor) came from a long line of judges and attorneys and eventually became involved with Herbert Hoover in the Food Administration preventing starvation in Europe during World War I.

C.J.’s brother, Arthur, referred to in the letters as the family problem child, served in the Navy from the Spanish-American War through World War II. He became an Admiral and Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet.

Photographs were found of the ships he commanded and the ship that was named after him as well as a photo of his final resting place.

“Do you realize my dear what an obstacle you are or have placed in the way of our marriage? Do you for an instant think my father will consent to my marriage with a Republican, especially one who was formally a Democrat. Foolish boy. How could you take such a thoughtless step?”

“I still think constantly of our marriage and am eager for it. It is my sole ambition now. I hope you won’t grow tired of me before we have made the experiment.”

Yes, Edith and C.J. did eventually marry and did quite well financially. Records were found of many social events and vacations. By 1930 census records show they lived in the home where the letters were found. Also their son, a cook and a servant were listed as living in the home.

Perhaps the most interesting item found was Edith’s death certificate, which listed several doctors. Usually a single physician is responsible for the death certificate, but Edith’s lists “doctors” and an “investigation” is listed rather than an inquest. How strange? Yet an autopsy was not done and Edith was cremated.

A house being renovated

A politically well-connected family

A “secret” hiding place in the basement

One hundred seventy “love letters”

A wealthy family connected to the White House

Was it murder? Now do we have the making of a novel here?

Come and visit the Robson Ranch Genealogy Club at any of its meetings, the first and third Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. and the second Wednesdays help session at 1:30 p.m. Meetings take place each month in CACT Bldg. Room 104.