Sep 2018 Story


Written By Angela Stout September 2018

Last month’s article was on how our ancestors received their mail through the postal service; in continuation of that story, there was another way that news was shared with loved ones.  Our ancestors use to write letters to newspapers like the Putnam County Herald Newspaper to be published for family and friends to read…just like today’s Facebook.??  A small number of people would buy a subscription to the Herald (25 cents for a year) and there would be letters published in the newspaper which would provide them updates on their family and friends.  Those who subscribed to the newspaper would share the news from the letters to the community.  Some people would write letters to receive the newspaper subscription for free.  Even relatives in other states would receive the Herald and read the news from Roberts Switch! 

I found reading these letters from our ancestors to be informative, interesting, funny and sometimes useful for genealogy purposes.They wrote about churches, homesickness, decorations, schools, health status, deaths,remembrances of home, loved ones in the war, local contests, farming, hunting and a lot of encouragement to move where they are (like job opportunities and available single women).  Reading these newspapers really give a snapshot into what our ancestors were thinking about and going through…hmmm, sounds like today’s Facebook.

In the 11 Mar 1915 Putnam County Herald, our ancestor Harmon Young Lee wrote sharing news from Tropic, Utah.  Harmon Young Lee was the son of William Browder Lee and Marinda Roberts (daughter of Joseph Roberts).  Harmon converted to mormonism and traveled out to Utah.  He says, “Uncle Joe Jared of Boma, write a letter to the Herald, and all the rest of you Boma folks.”  He tells everyone that he is “taking up a homestead on the mountain.”  This gives a genealogy clue that suggests that Harmon Young Lee did travel out to Tropic Utah on 13 May 1913.

Harmon Young Lee

Harmon Young Lee

In the 25 Jan 1912 edition, Lena Martin shares about “Uncle Marion of near Boma died Tuesday night, aged 76.  He was buried Thursday near his home.  He was a federal soldier in the Civil War.”  This is Francis Marion Roberts, son of Joseph Roberts of Mine Lick Creek.  As a genealogist, we can confirm death dates and other information on Francis Marion Roberts.

Francis Marion Roberts 

Francis Marion Roberts

In the 24 Feb 1921 newspaper, Mrs. Andrew Moss writes a letter from Bridgeport, AL.  She talks about missing her Tennessee home but “don’t want to make that my home any more.  We can make more money here and I like the country better.”  She then goes on to explain why she likes it better there in Alabama—location, good schools, 4 churches, 7 stores and 2 drug stores.  She encourages Boma and Hopewell folks to give news.

In the 26 Feb 1914, J. M. Stewart writes a letter about the Boma news.  In his letter, he talks about “H. S. (Tinker) Roberts and wife are gone to Texas and Oklahoma to visit their children.”  Don’t why the letter newspaper has H. S. when Henry’s middle initial was ‘E’ for Ervin.  Either J. M. Stewart got the middle initial wrong or the newspaper missed typed the middle initial when typing it for publication.  His letter goes onto to talk about “Mrs. Sarah Roberts, aged nearly 79 years, died very suddenly Saturday morning…She was held in high esteem by all who knew her.  She was the widow of the late F. M. Roberts (Francis Marion Roberts), who died two years ago.”  Once again, a great confirmation on genealogy data.  Henry Roberts (Uncle Tink) was son of Francis Marion Roberts and his wife was Sarah Vickers. 


Henry Ervin Roberts and wife Sarah (Vickers) Roberts

In the 25 Nov 1920 newspaper, the Ada Oklahoma folks write, “If you Tennessee people want a good job just come to Oklahoma.  Everybody is wanting cotton pickers, and hand sure are scarce.”  During the depression, Clavis Roberts was one of the Roberts Switch people to travel out to Ada to work in the cotton and peanut fields.  He stayed with the Aunt Roshie (Roberts) Sliger family and the Aunt Maude (Roberts) Jared family.  They both were the daughters of Winfield Scott Roberts and had migrated out to Ada for better lives.  Don’t know if the Ada letters convinced him to go out to Ada but in 1933, he did go out to Ada to work. 

          These are just a sampling of the information our ancestors posted on facebook.??If this has made you curious, you can read more of the Putnam County Herald by going to this link:

It has the digitized Putnam County Newspapers from 1911 to 1921.  It allows you to search by whatever search criteria you wanted to look for (Roberts, Mine Lick, Boma, etc.).  Put in your search criteria and it will bring up the highlighted Putnam County Heralds with your search criteria.   You can also save the newspapers you want onto to your computer and print them. 

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