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Letters Of Long Ago
by Agnes Just Reid, Contrib. By Brigham D. Madsen
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One of her most embarrassing times was the day she set out to drown the children. The dust cloud kicked up byshe was certainNez Perce warriors, turned out to be the signature of her husband's horse's hooves. When he found his family on the banks of the Blackfoot River, preparing for an eternal swim, Nels was understandably upset.
Most women of her era would have kept this episode of paranoia to themselves. They most certainly would have kept it from their children. Because Emma candidly shared her stories with her daughter, we now have a better understanding of what life was like in Idaho Territory, not just on the windswept plains, but in the heart of a woman.
Divorced from a scoundrel who she, never-the-less, still loved and with an infant boy to raise, Emma's situation seemed hopeless. Then along came a young Dane named Nels. He did not offer much: living in a hole in a river bank with a buffalo robe for a door. Still, it seemed a chance worth taking.
And so their story began with a marriage of convenience, if not desperation. Emma followed her new husband to a secluded valley along the Blackfoot River in 1870 where she would raise sons and bury daughters. Nels would go on to be a leading figure in Idaho, a canal builder, a banker and a farmer. Emma would be a mother to four boys and, at last, one girl. She would be the star witness in a sensational trial about a religious war that echoes eerily today in incidents like Waco and Jonestown. Mostly she was a proud, brave woman who survived lonely, heartbreaking years before civilization crept into the West.
Emma told her story to daughter Agnes, who set it down as a series of letters, each of which Emma approved as it came out of the typewriter. The resulting book was first published in 1923. It was on the press the day Emma died.
Letters of Long ago is a haunting, often heart-breaking book you will not soon forget.
Letters of Long Ago, by Agnes Just Reid, is back after being out of print for more than three decades. This classic story chronicles 20 years of 19th Century pioneer life in Idaho. The fourth edition of this poignant book includes photographs, a family tree and additional background material never before seen.
About the Author
Agnes Just Reid was a well-known regional writer in the Rocky Mountain States. She published numerous articles and poetry in magazines and newspapers from about 1920 into the 1970s. She wrote a newspaper column for the Blackfoot, Idaho daily newspaper for over 50 years. Mrs. Reid published several books of poetry, all of which are now out of print.
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