From Great-Grandmother's Trunk

Compiled by Marjorie Allen Johnson. Personal use of this information is permitted. Absolutely no commercial use may be made of this information without the express permission of Marjorie Allen Johnson.


Nellie Walton Shinn was in Nashville in 1893. She had been in Memphis in 1888 (possibly other years, too) at Miss Clara Conway's Institute. Can't tell if Nellie was at Ward Institute (later Ward Belmont).

Spring of 1897, Dora Lemoyne Shinn was in Nashville at 225 Russel St. (visiting sister Fannie?). Norma Shinn at the same time was at 212 N. Spruce, was paying $15 board (per month), had spent $8 for a dressmaker to make a dress.

Also in 1897, Nellie Shinn Polk and her two children, Carmen and Linda spent two weeks in Nashville. Joe Polk (Nellie's husband) sent $40 to Dora Shinn during this time (also in Nashville).

In 1903, Dora was at Barnes House, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

1860 and 1861, Dora Lemoyne was a student at Patapsco Institute, Elliot Mills, Maryland (near Baltimore).

1896-1899, Norma was a student at Ward in Nashville.

Some of Dora Shinn's letters talk about two smallpox epidemics, one when Norma was a student in Nashville and one following the 1914 flu epidemic. Some of her letters describe the flu epidemic hitting the Polk family, by then in Fayetteville. (Earlier they had been in Dardanelle.)

One letter written during the depression, in 1929, is written on what she terms "bread paper" and refers to hardships during the Civil War. "Have you been taxed $1 for using the word 'depression' she writes to Merrill, her grandson, "We have used it so long, it is hard to quit." She mentions cutting margins off newspapers during the Civil War and pasting them together to use for letter writing.

Dora had "sister" near enough to visit often, in Dardanelle, in 1893. This may be Mamie Lemoyne, who was single. She always refers to "Aunt Fannie" and "Uncle John" in her letters to Norma but Fannie was, I believe Dora's sister in Nashville, later California.

Norma was also in Nashville with Aunt Fannie and Aunt Mamie and "Junior" Baskette (who was a baby) in 1894. July 1898, Junior had "typhoid malaria fever, the same thing, nearly as typhoid fever."

One letter from Dora to Norma with advice about clothes to buy from a catalog, she had seen a fur "boa to show tops with muff, $18 and one 85 inches long without muff, $8 and $10."

A letter to Dora while in Patapsco Institute, Elliots Mill, Maryland, in 1860 is signed "Uncle Membly" (sp.?), from Columbia, Tennessee, and was probably on her father's side.

From Norma Shinn, in Nashville, July 1898, to her mother, Dora Shinn:
"---Mayme is very sad. I received a long letter from her a few days ago and she had two young gentlemen friends to go to war (the Spanish-American War). They are at Cal (?). One was her sweetheart and she read of his death the other day. He wrote to her very often and she got a letter last Tuesday and while she was reading it, he was dead. I guess he had the fever. She said every letter she got from him that he was well and it was the other boy who was not well had been having chills."

The trunk in question came to me from my aunt, who in turn had received it from her mother, who brought it up to Fayetteville, Arkansas, following the death of her mother, Theodora Clay Lemoyne Shinn.

It didn't look like it does now - Cass and I removed bits of paper labels that had been tacked to the trunk as it was shipped from place to place. There are dozens of nail holes in it from those labels. My aunt, in an effort to keep the inside decent, covered the inside with wallpaper. I'd like to know just what it looked like inside in its original state. She had also liberally applied paint to the wooden parts. Fortunately, Cass is patient and was finally able to get all the paint off and clean up the tin to some degree.

Dora, "Ma" as my family called her, took this trunk when she went from Arkansas to Baltimore, Maryland, to Patapsco Institute, at Elliott Mills, where we know she was in 1860 and 1861. Dora was born in December 1844 so she was either 15 or 16 years old when she went there and from the letters found in the trunk, it was referred to as "a high boarding school" and she was referred to as a "young college lady" in letters to her from friends. Thus we can assume it was an institution of higher learning.

Dora was a contemporary of the seven founders of P.E.O. She was not a member, nor was her oldest daughter, (my grandmother) but her 2nd oldest granddaughter, Linda (my mother) was a member. She shared with these founders a great many characteristics including a strong faith in God, a large family network, high ideals, forceful character, devotion to her family, friends and faith as well as a deep interest in education for women. As I have so many letters written by her or to her dating from 1860 to close to her death at age 90, in 1935, 1 felt that some of these letters can give you her philosophy of life, as well as everyday aspects of life then.

From the trunk, let me show you first the black silk dress, almost in shreds, which she wore for "good" in her later years. You'll see what a small person she was. Then another dress, one belonging to my mother, from the early '30s, and one, a beaded flapper dress, that belonged to my former mother-in-law, and it dates from about 1920. (No, those weren't all put in there by Dora -- it's a good place to keep them.) In addition to the letters, excerpts of which I'll read, many family pictures and what I consider important keepsakes are kept there.

A little background on the family will help your perspective: both the Shinn and Lemoyne families had come to Arkansas, probably during the "Great Migration" from North Carolina and other points in the South shortly after Arkansas became a State in about 1837. Both families lived in or near Dardanelle, on the banks of the Arkansas River and were prominent in the affairs there. Dora's father was evidently in the Arkansas Legislature and may have also been a judge. The man she married, William Ervin Shinn, was a physician, and his father was also a member of the Legislature and a County Judge of Pope County.

From a letter dated June 17th, 1860, from "Olivia":

To Dora from Olivia at "Rose Hills Cottage" June 17th, 1860.
My dear Dora, ---when I heard you had passed through Lewisburg I could have cried. I would have gone to see you if I had known it. I am a schoolgirl no longer, that is for a little while - I have quituated for this session. Mrs. Hathaways school got so no account that I thought I could do better at home. We have such a good school at College. The examination there will commence next Thursday. On Friday the boys are going to have a dinner. I expect it will be very nice. I am going and see what I can do. Your Pa has gone to Texas - Ma got a letter from him a day or two ago. He is quite well. I did try so hard to get to Ninnie's wedding. If I had had anyone to went with me I would have been there. I will get to your wedding, I know. I expect you will want me to wait on you, won't you? I am going to wait and see who it is you have got laid up for me - I have got one in view too. How many Duckies have you got there - plenty, I guess.
Brother George is talking about going to Dardanelle to see Barlow--(Olivia must be close to the Lemoyne family in some way but I cannot find where she fits in. George & Barlow are brothers of Dora.)

So, even then, college girls had slang words for boyfriends - "duckies"!

To Dora C. Lemoyne from her mother, T.P. Lemoyne, Dardanelle, Arkansas, written July 9, 1860:

My Dear Daughter,
We received you (Pa) letter on yesterday. He just did get it in time to read it. He was very glad to get it when he came in with it he made out like he would not let us see it for some time but at last he read it to us. He says it is a very good letter and just such a one as he wants you to write. He returned home from Texas on last Wednesday. He was quite sick while he was in Texas but is very well now. He left this morning to electioneer and will not be at home for three weeks and he told me to answer your letter for him. [I expect you will think is a bad chance if that is the case but I will do the best I can] I have Fan on my lap about half asleep She keeps butting her old head up against me so that I cannot write. She is sweet she cannot walk yet but can almost talk she knew her Pa when he came from Texas and I have no doubt in my mind but that she would know you if you were to come in. George is just the same old sweet boy [he was when you left] I do think he is so mischievous can do so funny when he does anything that he thinks I will whip him for he will stand with his finger in his mouth and saw Ma I won't do it any more. Mary and Tillie are doing very well. Tillie is still taking lessons from Mrs. Feltus. She has not done much with the guitar. We could not get one for her to practice on. Dora tell Mary she must not be hurt with your Pa. He only meant that you must not take to many confident as you both know that sometimes the best of confidents betray us and we cannot be too careful. I want you and Mary to be as if you were two sisters. If one of you get sick and in trouble do not forsake each other. Tell Mary her Ma, George and Harvy stayed all day with me yesterday. Little Harve is a sweet little fellow He came up to his Ma and says MaMa, where is the piano He seemed to miss it as soon as he came in. It has been almost two weeks since Ninnie was up to see us. I have been to see her twice. Don't you think that is doing very well for me. Your aunt and uncle has gone back to the bottom to live. Mr. Cole has the little babe I see Mr. Down today he says she is growing very fast Poor little Willie is with Bettie. She is so much afflicted I do not think she will last long thought she may outlive the rest of us. Our town is very ---- so far although we have the warmest weather I ever felt in my life. I am in hopes it is not so warm there as it is here. O Dora tell Mary ---- has come and looks the same as ever He was inquiring after you both. He wanted to know what I let Ninnie marry so soon for. Miss Lucy Atkinson has gone back to Tennessee she was not satisfied here. I think she was one of the sweet girls I ever knew. The more you were in her company the more you would like her. Mr. and Mrs. May have returned from their Bridal trip. I have not called to see her yet but intend doing so. Dora you must excuse my writing and so badly but you know I do not write much but I intend writing to you as often as I can. I know you are a good hand to read. You can read a part of it and guess at the rest. I must close. You must write often to me. We are all well give my best love to Mary and kiss her for me and for her to kiss you for me. We all send our love to you from your Mother.
T.P. Lemoyne

This letter tells a lot about life then --"lessons for Tillie from Mrs. Feltus", George missing the piano, calling soon on a bride and groom and so on.

Another letter from Dardanelle, with the signature of the "monitress" on the back of the envelope, as each and every letter was opened and read by a "monitress":

To Miss Dora Lemoyne, Patapsco Institute, July 12, 1860: from "L.H.P."

---When I seat myself to address you who are at a high boarding school I think what shall I say that can interest her or them. I am almost ready to lay down my pen and say it is presumption in me to send such scrowels to a college young lady then I think your chauraty will pardon all blunders." She then refers to seeing "your ma" and later "your pa" who is a candidate (for what?) and that he will make it. Written from Dardanelle.

[Later that same year, we have an account of the social life in Dardanelle. Ninnie, the writer, was Dora's sister and was "permitted to marry early" but at what age, I don't know. Notice that she, like all other married ladies, refers to her husband as "Mr. Brown."]

To Dora from her sister Ninnie W. Brown, dated Dec. 27, 1860:
"My own, darling Sister. Christmas and come and almost gone here and I will try to give you a full history of what has transpired. I mean as I can- The-first thing out dockit is this--just the week before Christmas while I was at my home Brother Compere, his sister, Brother and Mrs. Stevenson, John and Lizzie Holland, Uncle and Aunt stayed all night with us. They sat up this whole night through, never closed their eyes. Miss Sallie Compere is a splendid performer on the piano we had good music. Albert beat the pan, Mr. Brown had the triangle, Aunt had my little bell, John Holland was patting Lizzie with the coarse comb, Mr. Stevenson with his violin, Miss Sallie and myself were playing on the Piano. The others all were listening. They said it was a splendid band and we kept on until midnight. Then we had some supper and after Supper we played on until about four o'clock in the morning. Then I had some molasses candy made They then pulled it and got it all put away just about daylight. It rained the blessed night and all the next day. We called on Brother Compere to have prayer while he was reading. There was a dog come in and sat right before Mr. Compere and let the biggest you know what. It liked to have killed everyone in the house -- then Mr. Compere and Lizzie Holland got in one buggy and John Holland and Sallie Compere got in another one and came up to Miss Maggie Evans. The report now is that Henry Danson and Tennessee Nunnelly are going to be married Thursday week. Dick Berry and Ann Hart, Mr. Lethgo and Lizzie Mensusco but I do not know when. There has been quite a merry Christmas. They stormed Ma Christmas eve night, Christmas day they all went out to Mrs. Banks and eat dinner, danced all day. They had a big fox chase that night. Next day went to Tom Daniels and danced all day. Stormed Dr. Hill night before last, stormed Mrs. Reasoner last night, old Mr. Nunnelly gives a big party tonight and then they storm Dr. Tucker and Bettie tomorrow night. I do not know where they will go then. Today the Masons have a great parade. Well, I believe I have given you a full history of all. John Banks stayed with us (at Mas) last night -- he is badly hurt, limps. His horse threw him he has not been able to dance a step this Christmas. You must not be uneasy about the family. We will keep you well posted. Ma is in better health then she ever was, the children also, and just as pretty, sweet and smart as well. Tell Mollie her family are all well and as funny as ever-- We had a letter from Pa yesterday. He was well and said he would be at home the second day of January. Dora, cousin Sally Walton is dead. Cousin Will sent us a paper with her death in it. You know he lives near the city of Nashville. Well, Dora, I hope you apply yourself diligently. I look forward to the time when you return home welcomed heartily by your Parents, Brothers, Sisters and friends. You must write soon and often to us. We will do the same. Fannie sends her love, all do--- Kiss Mollie for me and tell her to write. Your ever devoted and affectionate sister, Ninnie W. Brown.

From Dora, one of the few letters from Maryland that I have

To Col. G.W. Lemoyne, Dardanelle, Arkansas, from Dora Lemoyne at Endicotts Mill, Maryland, Jan 20, 1861:
My Dear Ma,
Again I resume my seat to spend a few moments in the delightful please of writing to you. I have been looking for a letter from someone at home, for some time but it seems as if you are all enjoying yourselves so much that there is no time to write. The weather has been exceedingly disagreeable for some time and it does not seem as if there would be any more pleasant weather for some time. The times are very dull. Nothing is talked of but the affairs of the Union. I heard through the mail of yesterday that everything concerning politics was at a stand and I only hope they will remain so; although I have not been the least frightened about war. I know if there were any danger, Pa would know better than I would and would come immediately for me; he told me in his last letter he would do so, if he had the most remote idea of danger. I presume the young ladies and gentlemen have had some fine sleighing. I have not had one ride this winter; we all started one evening in Baltimore, but a great accident happened. As you know they always happen when upon such trips. We all had a delightful walk back from our stopping place. I had some pressing invitations to go out skating but fear of meeting with some accident as before I declined. I suppose Sister will soon enter her new house. Will she remain with you until Pa returns? I suppose Aunt Elleanear spends a great portion of her time with you since she has moved so much nearer. I received such a nice long letter from my dear friend, Mrs. Dawson, a few days ago. She said she would send me little Lollie's picture very soon. The semiannual examinations will soon begin. I do not know what think of it. I cannot say I dread it; I am truly glad to hear of the rapid progress of the school. I hope it may continue to prosper. In Sister's last letter she was speaking Miss Compere being there. How long is she going to remain? I hope she will meet with the same good luck as Mr. Jacconays nieces did. I think they were in quite a hurry. I am so sorry to hear of Mrs. Lucy Jaccoway moving to Mississippi. She was one of my great favorites. How are dear little Georgie and Fannie? I am so anxious to see them. I hope little Georgie will not forget me before I return home. The time is rapidly passing, almost ten months since I parted with you all and happy am I to say the time will soon be here when I will leave this dear and beautiful place where I have spent so many pleasant hours, perhaps forever. I often tell the girls I will visit them often after I graduate. I must close. With much love, I remain, your devoted daughter, Dora

[She never saw her classmates again after leaving, but she named one daughter for a dear friend at this school.]

To Dora from Helen Dawson in Dardanelle, Arkansas, written Jan. 31, 1861:
---We are not much excited about politics. This state is going, to hold a convention and prepare herself to secede if all the others do. I think there is no chance now but to dissolve the union without Old Lincoln ------- which some say he talks of doing. I hope he will do so then we can get along without trouble but it does not pester me much."

Evidently, "Pa" did, in fact, go for Dora and he brought her back to Arkansas and sometime soon thereafter, took the entire family (and there were six children) to Texas. He felt they would be safe there during the Civil War and the family story is that he then went off to the Confederate Army. On one of his trips to Texas, and I'm not quite sure just when but I believe it was after the war, he came across a young soldier who was on the road also. The soldier had returned from war to find his wife dead and he was starting a new life. My aunt tells me that Great-great grandfather Lemoyne traded 100 bushels of wheat for the table in my living room. It is a sewing table that belonged to the wife of the young soldier, with a lyre base, and the top opens up, revealing spindles, compartments and a mirror. Dora had this in her home until she died, then my grandmother had it, then my uncle, and his wife gave it to me a few years ago. The family returned to Arkansas when the Civil War was over but Nov. 1, 1866, Dora married Dr. Shinn, who was ten years older than she was. I do not know if they married in Texas or Arkansas, and perhaps part of this story is not accurate. Dora's daughter, my grandmother, in a fit of disgust, burnt her memoirs that she had written over a period of many years after her sons made fun of them! So there is a lot we will never know. In any case, I have the family treasure, the table!
[A letter she wrote in 1866, -- see next page highlights:]

In 1888, Dora wrote a long letter to "Mr. Robert Martin" addressing him as "Uncle", expressing her joy that they had "found" Uncle Martin. However, he evidently wasn't found, for the letter and envelope, stamped "Return to Sender" by the Decatur, Texas, Post office, is in the trunk. In it, she tells Uncle Robert of her married life and the birth of seven children. But she also relates how only the oldest (my grandmother who was then 20) and the youngest (Norma, who was then 7 years old) were the only surviving children. If I read it all to you, there wouldn't be a dry eye! So here are a few lines, showing her losses, which were terrible, and her faith, which was profound.

ENVELOPE: Addressed to Mr. Robert Martin, Decatur, N ine Co. Texas
Postmarked: Dardanelle, Feb 17 ARK
Two cent stamp
Return address: If not called for in 20 days, return to P.M. Dardanelle, Ark.
"Return to Sender" stamped five times on front of envelope. Backside of envelope was postmarked: Decatur, TEX FEB 19, 1888

[Written 6 months after her husband's death. The following letter was written on two pieces of paper, front and back, in pencil. I have tried to type exactly what Dora wrote, adhering to her punctuation, etc. There are many, many run on sentences and no paragraphs. I believe her distress shows clearly in her handwriting, getting worse towards the end of the letter.]

LETTER: (including the punctuation and spelling as near as can be followed)

Dardanelle, Feb 14th, 1888

Dear Uncle,
What is it I hear them say? that they have found Uncle Robert? How glad I am, and now I must write + see if it is him, = if so, tell him of my long years of married life, twenty years --- what a stretch to have been silent, still it seems but a few fleeting years since you left, and I was young + happy with my first child cooing in my arms + a loving devoted husband by my side - ah, how changed it is now. The little one we called Nellie Walton, if you remember. She has grown to be a little woman, quite a comfort + pleasure to me, the 17th of this month, she will be twenty years old. Then came a little boy, Willie Duncan, a dear little blacked eyed fellow, who stayed with us near six years. When the summons came from on high, saying "Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven" + with a heart-rending farewell, he passed into his home. Then came a little girl Fannie Hester a perfect little doll, five short months, and she too was called away. Then a big fat boy with sunny curls came + gave me job (joy?) for five years. Then alas, my joy was turned into sorrow, he was gone and then another little one almost like him leaving my poor sinful heart broken. I was too miserable to have any desire to live. Then came a sweet little girl, a perfect gem, oh how proud we were, every one was proud for me. She was a beautiful child with her little curly head + bright black eyes - all who saw remarked how pretty she was - w called her "Henri Eileen". In a few years came another little girl, + we called her Norma Lemoyne. Well these two little jeweles I have had together for nearly seven years. Oh what happiness I enjoyed watching them play in all it's different modes. Sometimes at one thing + then another, they were so attached to each other as they did not have many other children to associate with all this while. Dr.+ I were yet in our sins but glory be to God a better day dawned + the dark clouds rolled away and, the glorious light of peace with God shone o'er us and we both were made to feel thankful and praise his name - and then I looked back + thought how I had been chastened by his hand because he loved me, Nellie too by this time came into fold + seemed well with us. I felt a new life within + was trying to live better, felt also that it were possible. I could keep the treasures I had - for I had learned to say, not my will, but thine oh Lord be done - but the harvest was not o'er. The Reaper whose name is Death came again + took the bearded grain and a precious bud at a breath, Little Eileen after a severe spell of pnuemonia for 9 days followed the string of little brothers + sister to her home in heaven she was will to go -- if God so willed it, said she would love to live to comfort Mother in her old daysah what a precious child she was - said she believe God had hearkened to her a little place in heaven sang in sweet yet feeble strains. "Nothing but the blood of Jesus" just a short while before she died, she was eight years +three months old. Mothers pet and Papa's pride, she loved the Lord and all his works. scorned to do a wrong had a loving heart for all she knew. She was such a comfort to me in sickness never wearied in well doing and now she is gone, never more will I hear the prattling voice, never see the brown tresses that hung around her neck or feel her soft touch upon my aching head. I must accept his ways, but oh what must I endure next, scarce-- 'ly had the angelic escort swept through the pearly gates who bore little Eileens spirit up to heaven, before Dr. followed, in the wake + joined her in the joys of the home of the soul forever more and now, today, this bright and beautiful Lord's day-

I sit bowed down with unsufferable grief + sorrow, clad in a widow's dress, I feel as if I am ruined, forsaken, left alone, no one to lean upon, to look to for sympathy or advice, oh how much I depended on Dr., in trouble he was my comforter, in sickness my help, in love my ideal, oh Uncle you don't know what a true + devoted one he has been to me, self sacrificing and indulgent, working all the while to add to the comfort and pleasure of his family of which he was so proud. How often has the brittle shread of my life hung in his hands (as well as my makers) through constant care + watching by him, have I rallied around the sick bed of our little departed ones he has sit with untiring energy and it was at such a time he faltered + fell, a victim of death, after waiting on little Eileen, who died on the first of Jan and he on the second of Jan at half past 1 O'clock at night. Eileen died on Sunday morning at 9 o'clock. No one of my own family followed the little one to her little narrow resting place but Nellie. I could not leave Dr. and Norma the little one was quite sick, but when I went with poor old Papa, the dirt was no dry on the little grave of Eileen. I cant tell you how I stood it. for it seems like a dream to me, until I look around +see the vacant chairs around the hearth. I only know it all happened in a few days. Dr. was sick only four days, was taken like pnuemonia but the physicians said they had it under control - it was his right lung that was afflicted , but he kept telling them something was wrong in his left side up near his heart. Told them they were not getting at it + prescribed for himself up to the last, calling all the while for a heart sedative, he could not lie down on account of difficulty in breathing. sit up in his rocker, until a short while before he died I never saw a more complete surrender. He took his bed and folded his hands as if he said my time has come
not one word of distress or a murmur. he did not talk much, seemed to be in deep thought that he was distressed + 'excited over Eileens death + that he would get better. They kept me away from him in my grief, thinking it would be better until it was too late to say farewell and now through blinding tears I ask why is it so? no answer comes to my ear but God did it + he doeth all things well, and if he did it, thine is not a shadow of cruelty or unkindness about it. the same love that spared not his own son but delivered him up, for our redemption, took my loved ones from me, I will look to him for comfort, he has promiesed to be a Father to the orphan + to remember the widow and such are we. These four lines of cheering truth I hold in such commune.

"There is no Death What sees so is transition'
This life of Mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysium,
Whose portal we call Death."

Happy thought, to believe they are not dead, only asleep in Jesus. That we will meet on that peaceful shore will know and be known where parting is no more. Glorious thoughts, of quite a band of redemmed ones sitting at Heavens high portals, waiting + watching for me, + the other two, I have promised to meet them, + I am striving so to do - but I am weak - I fear I'll need a great deal of help - Well, Well, Uncle, I have not said a word of the living ones, I have written about what my mind dwells on most. If this reaches you safely + you reply will tell you more in my next. This is not all of our troubles. The other families have had their share. Don't think that I have not had any pleasure in the past, not so. I have been too happy at times to express. All tolerable well, Hoping you will pardon my gloomy letter + answer soon. I am as I never signed myself before, sadly your neice Dora

Dora was Theodora Clay Lemoyne Shinn, born December 4, 1844, died of burns January 22, 1935.

"Dr." was William Ervin Shinn M.D., born December 19, 1834 in North Carolina. Died January 2, 1888 in Yell County, Arkansas. He served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army in the Civil War.

They married on November 1, 1866.

Their Children were:

Nellie Walton Shinn, 2/17/68 - 7/20/60 (Known to most of us as Mama Polk)
Willie Duncan Shinn, 2/20/70 - 12/25/76
Fannie Hester Shinn, lived 5 months
Walter Ervin Shinn, 9/4/73 - 8/6/78
Arthur Munroe Shinn, 8/31/76 - 8/15/79
Henri Eileen Shinn, 10/11/78 - l/l/88
Norma Lemoyne Shinn, 4/1/81 - 7/31/64 (Known to us as Aunt Norma)

Nellie married Joel O. Polk
Norma married John A. Kennon

Mama Polk said her father's death was from pneumonia but her description of the event to Ruby Nell Polk Lake seemed to indicate a heart attack.

Regarding Uncle Robert Martin: We don't have any idea right now how he fits in. Obviously he wasn't her Father's brother. Her mother's maiden name was Hester Brooks. The letter says she had not seen him since Nellie was a baby, something over nineteen years, which would be 1868. He could have been a half-brother of one of her parents, hence -the different name. Or he could have been a distant cousin, who because of greater years she called uncle. It seems unlikely he was a great-uncle, as by this time she was forty-three and her grandmothers must have been in their eighties, although it's possible one of them had a living brother.

Dick Allen recently acquired a letter that "Dora" wrote and never finished to an Uncle George some time in 1866 to tell of her courtship and impending marriage. In it she says: I don't suppose you ever thought much about me marrying as I am so ugly so little so old and so little account but I guess you have heard the old saying of "no telling the luck of a lousy calf" so it is in my case. I have at last found one who is blinded enough to look over all my imperfections and tells me I am all the world to him and by his earnest solicitations and constant persuasion I have concluded that he shall ever be so to me and down life's vale we will trot in double harness hoping every day the tie will grow stronger.

Later in 1888, my grandmother, Nellie, who was Dora's oldest daughter was in Memphis and I believe she remained there at Miss Clara Conway's Institute until 1893 or later. This again illustrates the family was in favor of educating women. We don't have many letters from that time, but when the youngest daughter, Norma, was ready for school (in 1896), she was sent to Nashville, Tennessee, to Ward Institute which later became Ward Belmont. From the letters between mother and daughter, we have a good record of life in Nashville as well as the social mores and rules of conduct of the times. Gleaned from four years of letters were:

Norma's board was $15 per month, she had spent $8 to have a dressmaker make a dress, there was a smallpox epidemic, Norma often visited her aunt and uncle who lived in Nashville and described "typhoid malaria fever" which her young cousin had. One letter from Dora to Norma gives advice about clothes to buy: from a catalog, Dora had seen a fur "boa" with muff for $18 and another 85 inches long without muff for $8 and $10.

About Norma's studies:
To Norma in Nashville at Ward in 1897:
"I got two of your reports yesterday, Dec and Jan. I find a backward tendence in the last month. What is the matter? Have you failed to study? I hate to see it so. You must spur up. Spelling and music were up. Still I find mis-spelled words in your letters."

The same letter that Mr. Polk (son-in-law then in business in Dardanelle) left Monday morning for New York, wrote from St. Louis and will get to New York "tonight".

The same letter: "Well, the temperance men gained the day in the3 mile fight by big majority and so we will have blind tigers instead of open saloons, which is best I cannot say." -- "I don't see where you get any pin money to save up. I don't see any bill for stamps. Where do you get them? You asked if you were spending too much money, not if you are being benefitted. I am willing to spend it for value received. I am leaving it all to you and hope you appreciate the opportunity enough to get all the benefit possible."

To Norma in Nashville: "I am glad you enjoy the theatre but don't get stage struck. You could not go before the footlights because your feet are too big. --- I am proud Uncle John is not afraid to advance money to you. Tell him you have a lifetime interest in a coal mine that you will put up as collateral."

From Dora Lemoyne Shinn's letters to Norma and other family members: [probably 1898]

"Well, poor old Grandma is gone to rest, died the last day of January at 10 minutes to 10 at night, just the same time exactly that Grandpa died. I did not get to see her alive. She had been real sick a week-etc." "She had a peculiar vision just a week before she died. She told Aunt Julia (who was staying with her) that old room was the most beautiful room she every saw last night, said it was filled with light of 'strange brightness and all around as far as she could see were beautiful flowers of all kinds and sizes and told of their great beauty and how much she admired them, and said, now don't say I was asleep and dreamed.. Said she was wide awake and wanted to call Julia and show them to her but seemed so intent on looking, herself she did not call. If it were as she said or even if a dream, how glorious it must have been to catch a glimpse of the radiance of the home prepared for her. God chose an emblem of childish love (that of flowers) to gladden her in her last days for she was a child again lacking seventeen days of being 77. So we laid her away on the hill by grandpa and I came home feeling that my interest over there was closed."

Later in the same letter: "Are you in ernest about being vaccinated and on the leg? I you are please don't have it put in your leg. I hardly think you would. Is the smallpox in Nashville, it seems to be all over the south. I notice in the paper of so many states being infected with it. There is no spread of it here so far. The six cases in Carden's Bottom have been guarded. The first two died, two men from the railroad camps that slipped the quarantine."

Advice to the schoolgirl: "Get another skirt like your uniform jacket - - - Be careful about your washing. See that all your clothes come in and about your money. Your trunk, keep it locked. Remember Aunt Fannie cannot be upstairs to see to things like Mary. In fact keep up all the points. Mary tells me that you have often taken off your corset and clothes at night to study. That is wrong, sure to give you cold. Don't take off your corset on Sat. & Sun. aft, it don't help you. Now I must stop. Let me know everything you do.
[No date on this letter & the envelope gone. Dora often refers to Mary, who seemed to have a prominent place in the household (Fannie' & John's?) where Norma boarded, I don't find any mention of Mary in the Lemoyne family information.]

January 1899:

"Mr. Polk (her son-in-law) has gone around to the parsonage with several others to arrange things for contesting the whiskey petition. They have been trying hard to prevent license. The judge has been bribed by the whiskey men. So yesterday he granted license to two different men here and has placed himself in a very tight place. By some mistake he made. So they are going to make it hot for him"

Same letter: "The new game you speak of I don't know. I hope it is not like cards. Hope also that you do not play cards. What kind of a spree did you get off on, and forget to go home until late? Be careful, be careful. Who is 'another young man' is he not worth a name? Don't be going over there often. Your time is too precious and fast passing away. Here it is Jan. '99 -- a few more months and the time will be out. I myself feel sad at its closing, notwithstanding wishing much to see you and have you at home. I guess I had better go to bed. I am 'sorter' tired, have been helping to rend lard and grind sausage. Today a colored boy turned the mill. I thought of Aleck. How often he had turned the mill for me when he and I were both happy"

Both her daughters married - Nellie to Joel O. Polk in 1893 and Norma to J.A. Kennon who was a great deal older than Norma. During the First World War, Dora went to Fayetteville for an extended stay with the Polk family, which by that time numbered seven children, of which my mother was one. She wrote to Norma about the five in the Polk family down with the flu and how sick they were and then goes on:

From Dora Lemoyne Shinn's letters to Norma and other family members:

[During the World War I flu epidemic] "Again, I am sitting, waiting and watching almost in fear and trembling about Merrill (her grandson) [This letter was written from Fayetteville, the Polk household to Norma and her husband, Mr. Kennon.] "They have counted it nine days yesterday since he was taken sick, but pneumonia was not developed until Wed. night. The Dr. says count it nine days -from yesterday. We were expecting a change and watching him closely. His fever went down, his temperature was below normal, he got cold a little. We stimulated him with strong coffee and egg-nog and rubbed him with alcohol and have pulled him through to 5 O'clock this afternoon. He seems better in some respects but has some symptoms. ---- Travis (grandson) does not improve, does not complain, but grunts as if in agony. Rubynelle (granddaughter) is on a stand, does not eat or sleep much. Linda (granddaughter) is improving, comes to the table. Wendell (grandson) also Nell (daughter) feels badly today, was up nearly all night. If I could just see the "silver lining to this dark cloud" and be so glad. No indeed, Norma, don't go to Mrs. Majors. I cannot imagine why you would think of it. There is no visiting anywhere now positively against the law unless you have had it. This is done to try to put a stop to the disease. Funerals are all private. You are not to stand and talk on the streets. Has anyone been to Mrs. Major's. If so they are very likely to spread it somewhere else. You did not say whether there was many cases in Danville or how either of you are feeling.

From Fayetteville and the Polk household during World War I: "Today has been a rushing day - Yankee Robinson's -Circus is here - and would you believe that I have been to the circus. It is a fact - I went, on the same principle that I went to Manhattan performances, because they just begged me. Of course I saw many wonderful things but only a repetition of what I have seen many times. I wished for you, Norma, knowing you enjoyed such things. We had complimentary tickets. Linda is working on the draft board and they gave her three tickets. Nell and I getting the benefit of two of them. Linda is the patriot of the family, her work on draft board is free. She knits every spare moment. She has knitted six sweaters, one scarf and two pair wristlets. She has had me knitting ever since I arrived and seems proud that I know how and like to do it. She is thinking of taking a course in training of three weeks to fit herself for teaching in Hawaii. It is a government training and quite a few are entering. Travis goes into training Monday, will be in camps on the University campus where they have built barracks - he gets a course of some speciality, board & equipment free. Will only have to buy his books - he has not been examined yet, fears his eyes may turn him down. I have not been to see them drill yet, think I will later on. I went to church Sunday morning with Mr. Polk (her son-in-law.)"

From the same letter:
"Rubynelle has improved in music very much. She practices diligently. She does not want to enter the university, says Carmen & Travis made failures -and she does not want to do likewise. Linda is determined she shall try it - they have hot arguments about it."
[The Linda referred to is my mother! She had gone to the University of Arkansas and was preparing to teach - which she did in Arkansas and Oklahoma, never following up on the opportunity in Hawaii.]

Dora's advice to Norma's husband - also from Fayetteville:
"Do you remember, Mr. Kennon, the curtain lecture I gave you. I hope you are keeping it ever in mind, not only in that one respect but all others where childish ideas are prominent. If you see that Norma cannot get along, she must have some help. You know she never had to depend on herself and it is hard for her to learn it all at one time, especially while it is so warm and she among strangers and hardly well acquainted with married life. You must help her, show her how, pity her, love her and try to be satisfied with her shortcomings. She too must not become discouraged but keep on trying. Experience is a good teacher, yet there are many heartaches in the learning."

She writes later about seeing my father in Fayetteville in May of the year my parents were married in September:
May 16, 1920 (?) ---"Lena & Gladys Barron came after Rubynelle and who should be with them do you guess Linda's Jim. He came in my room and talked until shower was over. He never mentioned Linda. He is on his way to Kansas City. He has fattened up a good deal, he has signed to play ball up at Kansas City. If he & Linda get their troubles fixed up satisfactory, she may not come home soon. (Linda was teaching in Ochelata, Oklahoma.) This is a family you read about, every fellow has his own idea about things & carries them out regardless of consequences."

At about age 75 at about the same time:
"Dr Flood says I am too run down to take much medicine, that my condition cannot be rapidly improved on account of my age. You see, my dear, Mama's getting old. Time has touched me very lightly all these years, and we must not complain. The good things in life cannot last always. This is why I urge you and Mr. Kennon (that is Norma and her husband) to live up to your best ability in everything, denying yourself nothing that would give either of you a moments pleasure. Mr. Kennon is too far advanced in life to be working so hard to lay up for the future and you are too young and childish to lose the joy of life.
Time and Death are no respecters of persons. No one knows when sorrow will come. I gave you to Mr. Kennon to be a sunbeam in his life, and he to be your guardian lover -- my one great anxiety's for you both to come up to my expectations because I love you -- Perhaps you will say, I am a very good advisor. I'll admit it, but sure I will never advise wrong intentionally."

[Like everything else, the War ended, the flu epidemic became history and both her daughters became widows: Norma after only a few years of marriage and the loss of her only baby and Nellie after 35 years and seven living children. Hard times descended on everyone and Dora and Norma lived in Dardanelle in the old family home on a very small income. Norma's lifetime interest in a coal mine as well as her dower from Mr. Kennon were either fraudulently or legally (who knows?) taken.]

Whatever estate Dr. Shinn had left in 1888 had long since diminished to the family homestead. Grandchildren of Dora contributed to her maintenance, which must have been a bitter blow for a lady who came from a family of considerable means. However, she kept her faith, sense of humor and her large correspondence. In writing to her grandson Merrill she asks, "Have you been taxed $1 for using the word 'depression'? We have used it so long it is hard to quit." Evidently the government had suggested this tax. And a letter from her to her daughter Nellie in 1929 says in part: In 1929: "Dear Nell, I cannot find a scrap of paper without some figuring of some kind on it, which all figures out--all for the white man and none for the nigger. So will have to use this bread paper which we have so much. I fold it up, lay it away for just such emergencies as this. I remember during the Civil War we had no paper. We used wallpaper, made envelopes on the wrong side. We cut white margin off newspapers, pasted on envelopes for address, although I had been accustomed to gilt-edged stationery (talk about hard times) I have seen and felt it. Five years of it, but I have been to school of progress and am feeling this depression very much. Seems a little hard in my old age to learn it all over again. How best to manage. However all this is not what I am trying to get at ---"

In the next five years, she wrote often to family members and her letters still expressed faith, love and hope. She died, as I have mentioned, an accidental death at age 90. She wore, all of her life, long skirts, being a modest woman, never adopting the shorter skirts that came into style in the early 1900's. The home in Dardanelle was heated by open fireplaces. Her eyesight was failing. She and Norma lived there alone. Her worries were about getting the garden in, keeping the neighbors cows out of the garden and meeting the taxes. She walked across the parlor toward the cherry box piano and her skirts caught fire from the fireplace. She died of burns sustained two days later.

Note, 1/22/03 - Since this was written, I have discovered a number of family links that are only surmised in the text. I find one error in the early part - William E. Shinn was NOT a surgeon in the Civil War, rather was in a calvary unit and was taken prisoner of war during the Vicksburg battle. He became a physician later and was highly respected in the area.

As to G.W. Lemoyne’s participation in the Civil War, what is written above was based on word-of-mouth. I am now working on trying to establish his presence during the War. His "electioneering" was to run for County Judge which he was for a number of years.

Note, 4/28/03 - Since writing this, I have learned even more than I had before. Only Saturday, I found that Dora Lemoyne Shinn was born in Virginia, not Arkansas, as I had assumed. (One must never assume!) At this point, I guess that her father, Colonel George W. Lemoyne was born in Virginia, but so far a search of Virginia early census (starting in 1790) has not produced any record of him there.

Colonel George W. Lemoyne led the 17th (Lemoyne's) Arkansas Infantry during the Civil War (Confederate Army). This info from: List of Field Offer's Regiments and Battalions in the Confederate States of America. Dewey # is 973.744 Ea7.

I am searching other files now for more information on Col. Lemoyne. For one thing, I do not know when he went to Arkansas, etc. However, when I complete this, I will update the info.

Note, 10/16/05 - Now I see how I misunderstood a line in a census and in truth, Dora was born in Yell County for sure!

Please reply direct:
Marjorie Allen Johnson
Sedona, Arizona
cassmarj@esedona.net


Copyright © 2003: by Marjorie Allen Johnson
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