Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 17, 2014
Love letter with Deer Isle ties returned after more than a century
by Ruby Nash
Callie Riggs of Atlanta, Georgia, purchased a dresser at a flea market several years ago, and when she opened it, she found an old letter stuck in one of the drawers. That letter, it turns out, has a local connection.
“I have letters from my grandparents and they are just so precious to me,” she said during a recent interview on The Bert Show, a syndicated radio program out of Atlanta. Riggs’ boyfriend Jeff Dauler is a co-host of the show. He invited Riggs to bring the story of the lost letter on air to see if their national audience might be able to help with the search.
“We have to get this family their letter back,” Riggs said to listeners.
The letter was written in 1902 by Horace Eaton and was addressed to his soon-to-be wife, Emily R. Lovett. Written on stationary from the Thorndike Hotel (now the Thorndike Creamery) in Rockland, the letter describes Eaton’s search for a summer property in Maine.
While the radio show hosts, Dauler, Bert Weiss and Kristin Klingshirn, discussed the letter on the air with Riggs, a caller originally from Rockland called the radio station and offered to help. Offers for information started pouring in, from phone calls or Facebook, and connections were made almost instantly.
Riggs did some research of her own and contacted a distant cousin. Very quickly, she had responses from a half-dozen other family members.
Meanwhile, a resident of Atlanta called the Bert Show producers to say her daughter was going to be married at a property called Edgehill in Sargentville, which had been purchased by Horace and Emily Eaton in 1905, three years after the letter was written. Edgehill, the caller claimed, even had a Facebook page.
“It just came out of the blue,” Deb Marshall said. Marshall, who lives on Little Deer Isle, is the granddaughter of Horace Eaton and is one of five remaining owners of Edgehill. “It’s not quite the same as finding a long lost sister, but it’s along the same lines.”
There are 26 members of the family connected to Horace and Emily Eaton living in the area full-time, including eight grandchildren. The family once spent long summers all together at Edgehill, but the house is now used primarily as a vacation rental. It is still set aside for their own family weddings, reunions, and the occasional get-together.
The bureau did not come originally from Edgehill. Instead, it was once part of the Eaton’s residence in Syracuse near the university where Horace Eaton taught. Somehow the piece of furniture made its way to Georgia with the letter inside.
Marshall went on air to discuss the letter and her family history with Riggs and the hosts of the Bert Show. While on the air, the owner of an Atlanta-based furniture company called to offer free shipment of the dresser from Atlanta to the family in Sargentville. The dresser and letter will soon be making their way north to the descendants of the Eatons.
In the letter, Eaton writes to his soon-to-be wife,
I wish that you were with me, but it was with unspeakable joy to think of you and to realize that you are mine and I yours with heart and soul.
All your own.