Letter From Lee's Ranch

"A Letter from Lee's Ranch" 
A letter to Mary Lawton ("Mrs. Walton") from Annie Fellows Johnston.  Probably Easter 1902.

 

My Dear Mrs. Lawton:

Your dear little Easter remembrance came yesterday, and the card with it, which meant so much to me. You have no idea how much I have thought of you these last months. Your picture is almost like a companion, for although it can not talk back, it silently suggests a great deal. And then too, I have been using you quite freely in the new book. The Little Colonel's mother is away from home and she and Betty are boarding for one term at the old Pewee College. Consequently there are numerous times when "the Beeches" becomes a haven of refuge, and Mrs. Walton has to figure largely. She also tells a fairy tale to them and the little Waltons which points the moral and adorns the tale of the whole affair. A thousand times I have wished for you to talk it over with, for your enthusiastic interest was always such a "booster."

A thousand times, too, I have wished for a good cosy gossip with you, for the farther I get away from that little Kentucky "Cranford" the dearer it seems. So many changes are taking place there, and the old places going to strangers so fast, that it will lose its old time personality I fear before I get back to it.

We may stay here until the middle of May and even later. The ranch closes the first, but Mrs. Lee has promised to keep me until the book is done, and I am working like a beaver to finish. That is why I have not written you once in awhile this winter. My eyes have almost failed me.

This will be a notable week with you, and I shall have many a homesick spell thinking of it. You have no idea how much I want to be there. But it will all be over by the time you get this, so there is no use in crying over spilt milk, or its equivalent, the missed opportunities that fate shuts us off from.

We are quite undecided about our next move. It will be California but we probably cannot stay long (at the) coast and shall have to go to some place like Redlands or some (of the) mountain resorts near Los Angeles.  We'll blow up a feather (and) follow its course.

Give my love to all your family and accept my most appreciative thanks for the little nun who bears me your Easter greeting. Lovingly yours,

Annie Fellows Johnston

Easter Sunday,
Lee's Ranch, Phoenix Arizona

Notes:

  1. Annie Fellows Johnston again acknowledges Mrs. Lawton's ("Walton's") influence in the books.
  2. The Little Colonel's mother is away because of her father's (the Old Colonel's) illness.  In real life, the Old Colonel will die.  In the novels, he will come back, but play a very minimal role in the following stories.
  3. The New Book Annie is referring to is "The Little Colonel at Boarding School" (1903). The fairy tale is "The Three Weavers" contained in the book, and would later be published as its own volume (1905).  The next Little Colonel Book in the series will be the "Little Colonel in Arizona," set here at "Lee's Ranch"
  4. More on the "Pewee College"  
  5. The "Cranford" simile will appear many times in the little Colonel stories. It first appears in "The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation." (chapter 12). This is obviously the same affection Annie Fellows Johnston holds for her Pewee (Lloydsboro) Valley.
  6. Lee's Ranch:  This is the only evidence we have found so far for a place in Arizona near Phoenix around the turn of the century (19th/20th) actually called Lee's Ranch.  And with a real Mrs. Lee.  Try as we might, so far we have been unable to find any further information on this place.  We can only hope that eventually some kind-hearted Arizona history buff will write us and give us a couple of tidbits of information on the place.  A picture or two would put us in ecstasy!  Annie Fellows Johnston spent time there to try to give some treatment to her step-son John (the model for Jack Ware), who suffered from tuberculosis.
  7. Redlands, California:  It's interesting to see that she mentions this to Mrs. Lawton, as Mrs. Lawton's husband, a general of no minor fame at the time he died in battle in the Philippines in 1899, owned a home and property in Redlands that he was never able to enjoy.
  8. "...the little nun who bears me your Easter greeting..."  We puzzled on this on this for a long time, and asked if someone 'out there' might know.  "M" sent us the obvious: "My guess is that the Easter greeting depicted a nun, therefore she is mentioned as the bearer of the message.  

More Letters From Annie Fellows Johnson here.