Distant relations

Dear Mother,

You will be delighted to learn that I have come across a distant relation recently. We had the great pleasure of visiting with Senator Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina Davis, over the past week end. Politics aside, they are lovey people, the most gracious of hosts. As she and I were speaking about our families, she happened to mention that she was a Howell.

Mother, you cannot imagine my shock and delight to reply that you are a Howell as well! Although we have not yet identified where our families diverged, I know we will enjoy each others company all the more knowing we share blood. I hope we shall see Mrs. Davis again soon. She and Senator Davis are traveling throughout the area, visiting with their troops, so it is possible we shall see them in Huntington Beach, which is the next expected location for the armies to clash.

We persuaded a local photographer to make this likeness of Melody and Mrs. Davis and although Melody looked to the side, I think it still a lovely image of the two.

All my love,


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We survived the pirate raid

My Dear Sister Caroline,

I spent the weekend with Cousin Selden and heard about the history time line at Old Fort MacArthur. I truly wish I was able to accompany you. The newspaper ran drawings of some of the action, which was quite impressive, I must admit! I received a letter from Mother who said that Father was with you most of the time and that they have a new high sprung Ford wagon. I am so happy to hear that Father will be traveling in more comfort these days.

The newspapers have stories of pirate raids at the Old Fort while you were there, and that a troop of cowboys were well armed and able to run them off in fairly short order. I hope everyone in your household weathered the raids and there was no loss of property or life. I understand that Mrs. Marshall had her nephew with her and I dearly hope he was not conscripted. He is such a quiet and polite boy. Although you likely would have let us know if something as wretched as that had occurred.

I have seen in the newspapers that the war will be settling close to your home soon. The predictions are at the end of July and early August in El Dorado Park in Long Beach, California. I do hope everyone will come through without a scratch to body, home and hearth. It comforts me to know that you have pooled resources and live in your home together with Mattie and Mrs. Marshall. I worry for you while your men folk are away with the war.

I have a new recipe for Upside Down Prune Cake from Mother.  It is quite delicious and has become a favorite here.  I hope you will enjoy it.  Keep safe and away from the war as best you can.

You devoted sister,


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Old Fort MacArthur Days

Dearest Cousin Selden,

I must tell you about the most fabulous event that is quickly approaching! The event is called the Old Fort MacArthur Days. It is a history timeline with representatives from historical times up through the modern and into the future! It sounds quite similar to the event I wrote you about last year. We are so excited to attend, as there will be Roman Guards, Vikings, English Civil War persona, Colonial American, Californios, Mexicans, Dragoons, and much much more! Of course, we will be there representing the ladies of good moral character tending the home and hearth, and we fervently hope that we will not be forced to be in the proximity of those other ladies who do not share our fortitude. I’m quite sure you can hear me huff just at the thought of it!

Selden, I do so wish you could attend. If by chance you find yourself with a moment of time, please read this page to learn more about it. The event fast approaches on July 10th and 11th, just to the north of us in San Pedro. There is a fort there, you know. You will find us in the Frontier Area, I suppose. Funny to think that this is still considered the frontier, when really we are quite civilized these days. Just last month, the First Antioch Baptist Church was founded to the delight of our friends and neighbors. Furthermore, we have even got a newspaper. Surely that is civilized?

Ever your devoted cousin,


P.S. Just look at these photographs I have enclosed. While the Roman guard is impressive, and the Redcoats are virtually laughable in their bright red uniforms, the futuristic vehicle is perfectly hideous and terrifying!

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Friends To Reunite In Costa Mesa

Dear Mrs. Coffin,

We are heartily looking forward to visiting with you this upcoming 14th and 15th of May! My sweet Melody has already asked if she will be able to procure the delectable  grapes you frequently have on your table and we hope to spend tea time together if at all possible. It will be such a busy week-end, what with the troops in bivouac so closely near by in Costa Mesa and we refugees simply attempting to stay out of their way. Such is the life for we women who undertake to bring some civility and refinement to these Western outposts and wilds of California.

We expect our visit to be an enjoyable one, and with deep fondness anticipate a joyous reunion.

Ever your friend,

Mattie Marvel

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Troops moving on toward Vista

Dear Mother and Father,

I write to allay your fears and to assure you that Caroline and I, Melody and her father, Mrs Marshall and her family, all are safe and the armies have moved on from Prado Park. The battles were fierce, frightening and intense. The damage to the local countryside is very bad, with craters left from the mortar fire that rained down from above and the hills scarred with the breastworks built as deterrents to the opposers.

The contingent of soldiers left to supervise the burial detail have shown themselves to be fine and humble men tasked with the terrible responsibility of sorting out the dead and interring them. Furthermore, they have hired out some local men to remove the corpses of the many horses left on the field. It saddens me to see such a great loss of life of young men and livestock that could be put to such greater use to further our nation!

We hear that the troops are moving south and massing near Vista, California. Our hope is that the result will be much similar to that at Picachoo Pass out in Arizona. To settle the disputes without further loss of life would be the best outcome, though out here we do not get news until it is quite old and I ask that you please let us know if there is any chance for diplomacy any longer.

I have just finished a new dress for Melody, as she is moving into her short skirts! She is quite the little charmer and enjoyed twirling her skirts around her, much as Caroline and I did as girls. How the time flies so quickly. I will write again soon, dearest parents, and pray that you are well and safe.

Your loving daughter,


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Troops Seen Massing at Prado Regional Park

My Dearest Husband,

Time draws onward and I find myself missing you terribly. I do hope you are keeping well out in the elements with the Army and that my last letter arrived with the blanket intact. Spring is starting to blossom in the garden. The bulbs are sending their stems skyward and I eagerly anticipate the burst of color their blooms will bring to brighten my days.

As every day passes we hear terrible news from the front lines of the war. Just last week Mrs. Henderson received word that her son was killed in action down in South Carolina. It is such a tragedy that his mortal remains will stay down in the south so far away from his mother. She wept with such great sorrow, but has turned her attention to her grandchildren who will need her and Mr. Henderson now all the more.

On lighter news we had word that your cousin, Lieutenant George Brewer, is back in port with his shipmates in the Navy for a week or so. Dear Margaret is so happy to be with him for even a short time.

While the news here is both happy and sad, the war has been creeping ever closer to our own door step. By April we will be hearing cannon as close as Prado Regional Park. This is almost more than we should hope to bear, but word is out that the Federal troops will be bivouacking there, which undoubtedly will bring Confederate troops not too far behind them. I just know that our boys will prevail and take the day. There will also be time for some visiting with old friends at this time, too. Widow Peters from Kansas Mercantile will be passing through with her wares, as she follows the army on its marches. I do hope we will be able to make a visit to her humble establishment at that time without thought of injury from gun fire.

As always, my dearest husband, you are next to my heart in thought and prayer. I long for the day when I see you come up the walk to stay home permanently.

Until then, I remain your faithful wife,


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Drum Barracks Civil War Museum

Dear Friends,

As time passes after the terrible war between the North and the Southern states of our great nation, we begin to commemorate the actions and the many sacrifices made by the men who fought in that war.  Our dear departed President Lincoln made his great speech at the dedication of the cemetery out at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and so eloquently stated “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

There have been many museums founded on this concept – that we must remember what happened during those four brutal years of the death and destruction of war that ravaged our Nation.  Out in California, at a place called the Drum Barracks – know as Fort Drum during the war – a museum was established to honor the men who were stationed in the county of Los Angeles during the great unpleasantness.  Being that the terrors of war fortunately did not reach the western coast of our country, this small piece of history is sadly forgotten in the manner President Lincoln assumed his words would be so forgotten.

Now is the time for action!  The mayor of the city of Los Angeles has decreed that this museum may be closed or at least the staff removed in an attempt to balance the city’s budget.  What a true shame that overspending of the government – one of the many points the war was supposed to have addressed – may in fact bring about the demise of a museum dedicated to the memory of our heroes.

I urge you today to write a note to the local legislators who can positively affect the Drum Barracks by keeping staff employed and keeping the museum open for we local people to visit, learn, and enjoy.  With the 150th anniversary of this moment of our nation’s history fast approaching in 2011, we do not want to lose access to the artifacts and historical locations associated with it.  The names and addresses of the appropriate people to contact are listed below this note.  I hope you will take the time to help preserve our history!

Sincere regards,

Mrs Mattie Marvel

Janice Hahn
15th District
638 S. Beacon St.  Suite 553
San Pedro,CA  90731

Jon Kirk Mukri
General Manager, Department of Recreation and Parks
221 N. Figueroa St.  Suite 1550
Los Angeles,CA  90012

Mark Mariscal
Superintendent, Pacific Region
Department of Recreation and Parks
1670 Palos Verdes Drive North
Harbor City, CA  90710

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Many thanks for the photographs

Dearest Maggie,

I have received the lovely photographs of your relatives and am quite astonished that we have access to such a technology! To imagine that one’s image can be so accurately captured and then mailed to friends and relatives thereby sharing our very features with the world is a miracle we must cherish. I hope to one day sit for a photographer with my darling Melody but I fear she will not sit still for the long duration required. We shall see. I understand these have also been the subject of great discussion at the Ladies Photography Group! Thank you so for sharing of your family with me.

Your friend,
Please click here to see more of these family images!

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