Before, During, & After the World Wars: Letters & Cards from the Moon-Hill Families, Pt. I

Transcribed with [Comments]
Larry Pearce, great-grandson
with memories from
Grace TeSelle, granddaughter

Part I – A Letter from Mother Alice to Daughter Myra, 1932

(Click on images to enlarge/Back arrow to return)

Joseph & Alice Hill Family:
Harry, Bessie, Irene, Myra, & Mayme
(c. 1915)

Imagine inheriting a folder of old family correspondence involving relatives you pretty much only heard of. When I say “inheriting,” I mean they were handed to me during a visit to my late father, Ralph Pearce’s (1917-2002) 85+year old sister-cousins, Nettie Stark (1924-2012) and Alice Drescher (1925-2017) in the days before their passing. I guess I had asked enough questions about our family history to show that I could be trusted with these precious artifacts. Now that these Moon-Hill family descendants are gone, I just have to share the interesting content of the letters and cards with the generations after them and preserve the actual media for future families. I will put the writings in chronological order from Part I to Part V and limit my [comments] to just enough to have them make sense. Of course I’ll include a few links to provide context for the subjects and events. Some of the spelling and punctuation is mine, for easier reading.

Alice Virginia Moon Hill (1865-1947)

Date   Postmark           Medium   From                       To

1932   [home Monday]    Letter         Mother Alice Hill     Mrs. Clarence Miller, Sarver

Letter from Alice (Moon) Hill
to daughter Myra (Hill) Miller (1932)

Dear Myra & family: Just a line to let you know how we are. Everyone on foot yet. Paul [dash?] Hazel is quite miserable. Not only cannot wear her shoes but now it is her stockings. Takes about 15 minutes to get them on and her limbs are so sore, it is agony to touch them, and I think she realizes it is a long way to her feet.

How are you all? Daddy says his back is very sore today. About the only thing he has complained about this winter, but his shaky condition seems much worse this last week and still more these last few days.

[Comments: Not certain of exactly who “Paul” is in opening. There was a Paul Smith who married Janet Truver, a granddaughter of Mother Alice – dates unknown. Closer to home was Myra’s youngest son Paul, but he hadn’t been born until the following year. More about him later. “Hazel (1896-1932)” was Alice’s third daughter, nine months pregnant with twins, who would die in childbirth January 19th the same month this letter was written. “Daddy,” of course was Alice’s husband, Joseph Marshall Hill (1858-1939), who would be dead by the end of the decade. I can especially relate to Great-grandpa Joe’s “shaky condition” medical problem. My father Ralph, mentioned below, had it in his later years and I have had it since I was in my 60’s. It’s not deadly like  Parkinson’s, but rather the inconvenient “essential tremors.” As with my father, I have trouble lifting food to my mouth and any form of writing. It hasn’t affected my appetite, but my wife often has to write for me as my mother and sister had to do for my father.]

Ed Stackline was buried last Friday. Died at Woodville [State Hospital]. Was buried at West Union [Cemetery, Pine Township]. You will most likely get “The American,” also “The Companion” this week. Also “The Pgh. Post-Gazette” for either 3 or 4 months. I forget which Dale Pearce was getting subscriptions to so I had him send it to you as we had just renewed our own for the next 13 months. Now, if you are all ready getting it, just write to them and have them extend your time that much longer. I paid him for it so that is that, and he got a trip Saturday to the city, had lunch, [and] also supper. Two bus loads and 3 or 4 cars went. They expected it to take 3 buses but one broke down and they had to use machines: 146 pupils & teachers. They think they had a fine time.

[We don’t know who “Ed Stackline” was nor his condition, as there were many medical and psychiatric conditions for which one may have been admitted to a State Hospital. The “West Union” Cemetery is located in nearby Pine Township. While most of our early family is buried at Cross Roads Church Cemetery, a Presbyterian burial ground also in Pine Township, some of my mother’s family are buried at East Union Cemetery, also Presbyterian on the other side of Allegheny County. In the same paragraph, Alice mentions my dad’s brother Dale (1918-1981) selling subscriptions. It seems he must have done it for school, as I often did years ago, or he was in a contest. Nevertheless, Uncle Dale apparently won a trip to Pittsburgh with his classmates, complete with two meals, always exciting for a young person. I had never heard what the “machines” might have been that came to the aid of the broken-down bus, but cousin Grace explained that they were simply automobiles. Cars would have been relatively new in 1932, so they were just called “machines.” I got a chuckle to read that Alice gave the prepaid subscriptions to her daughter without any expectation of getting reimbursed. She finishes the thought by insisting, “So that is that.” I can almost see her dusting her hands off.]

Hulda was just telling me that both Portia & Katherine were watching for the stork. I do not know how soon Belle Reynolds is on the list for some time in the spring or sooner.

[In the next paragraph, we know that “Hulda” is Alice’s daughter-in-law, married to son  Harry, but unfortunately “Portia” and “Katherine” are unknown, perhaps pregnant friends of the family? “Belle Reynolds” may have been part of distant cousin Frank Hill’s (1860-1946) family, that farmed just up Three Degree Road. Frank had married Maggie Reynolds (d. 1958). Could Belle have been the same that Grace remembers who belonged to the family’s Cross Roads Church? I’m sure with a smile, Alice says that Belle is also on the pregnancy “list.”]

You will get the magazines for 1 year and the other for 3 or 4 months. I think 4 but am not sure. Bess got a couple of letters out Friday and got along quite well. Was not sick like she had been the other time.

Want to write to Carl and Aunt Anna and a few others, but it seems hard to get at it. The company has ordered me a new filing cabinet. [Will or here – unclear?] Either this week or next. Then I will be quite busy for a while until I get everything in the shape I want it. Then I will not be so busy for a while.

[Alice almost absent mindedly returns to the subject of the subscriptions, and then expresses hope for “Bess,” her oldest daughter and my Grandmother Bessie Pearce (1887-1974). We don’t know what she’s referring to about “the other time.” Nor are we certain of the “Carl and Aunt Anna” Alice is referring to. According to my Joseph M. Hill Family Tree, Carl Raymond Hill (1893-1970) was Alice’s second son, but not married to an Anna. He would have been 39 at the time of the letter, where as Carl’s son, Carl Richard (b. 1930) would have been only 2. We can find no Anna who would have been an aunt. Research continues. Alice seems proud that “the company” bought her a new filing cabinet. She had been doing secretarial work for her husband Joe, who in addition to being a farmer was an Agent and Director with the Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Company.]

Mayme is just getting over her lame back. You know she was so bad all the time she was at Velma’s. Hazel had a letter from her this morning.
[signed] Mother [End of first letter]

[Alice and Joe’s second oldest child was nicknamed “Mayme” but usually (1888-1982) went by her given name, Mary. She was, as were her sisters, overweight in their later years so it’s not surprising that her mother would refer to her “lame back.” “Velma,” was Mayme’s third child. Future correspondence will indicate frequent visits to this niece.]

What fun it is to read these beautifully hand-written letters and postcards in this collection. To think that the first one is nearly 90-years old. Great-grandmother Alice has expressed health concerns for her pregnant daughter, unaware that Hazel will be dead later that month. There have been other matters that are on the top of her mind. In the next part, Alice is worried about having to move after the death of her husband Joe and wanting to pay her respects at the passing of her brother Harry.  Please click on one of the links below to read more of these personal family communiques.

Part II – Three Postcards from Oct. 14, 1940, through Jan. 29, 1941

Part III – A Letter from Wintry West View, 1945

Part IV – Two Letters from Two Nieces, 1945

Part V – A Letter from May 17th, 1946

Last revised 2/10/21

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