Collection of 83 letters, 502 manuscript pages, no envelopes, letters dated January 11th to November 8th, 1888. Letters are in good condition, written in ink, in a legible hand.
Beulah Irene Peters was born on 17 October 1866 at Parryville, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Jacob and Mary Elizabeth Peters. The Peters were members of the United Methodist Church of Parryville. Jacob Peters was a local merchant. When Jacob died in 1917 at the age of 85, he was described as a wealthy retired business man, who had followed mercantile pursuits at White Haven and Parryville. In the 1880 Census the family was enumerated at Parryville, showing Jacob, his wife Mary Elizabeth, sons Harry and Guy, and their daughter Beulah. The family was doing well enough to have a live-in servant.
The letters chronicle the development of Beulah and Charles L. Miller's long distance relationship, almost up to the time they were married on 20 November 1888. According to the Carbon Advocate newspaper of 24 November 1888, Beulah and Charles married at Beulah's home in Parryville, Pennsylvania. Charles had met Beulah about a year earlier when he worked as superintendent of the Carbon Iron and Pipe Company in Parryville. Soon after, Charles left town to work as the superintendent of the Missouri Furnace Company in St. Louis, leaving the majority of the couple's relationship to develop via correspondence.
Charles L. Miller was born in 1866. It appears that Beulah moved to Missouri to live with her husband after they married, but by the 1900 Census, they were found enumerated at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Charles is listed as a general superintendent of a steel company. The couple had two children, Lyman who was born in 1890 when the family was still living in Missouri, and another son Kenneth, born in 1896 in Illinois, presumably another place the family lived before returning to Pennsylvania. The couple had the services of an African-American servant, a twenty-two year old woman by the name of Hannah Gray.
Twenty years later the 1930 Census shows the family is still living in Pittsburgh. Charles is now listed as Vice-President of American Steel & Wire. Charles L. Miller died in 1936 at Pittsburgh. Beulah appears to have out-lived him - she died around the year 1951. They appear to have both been buried at Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh.
Beulah writes to Charles about her day to day activities, and gives her opinion of some of his habits:
"No, I don't think six cigars in one week 'is doing very well.' I was going to say one a week was sufficient, but that is one more than any one ought to smoke."
As revealed in her letters, Beulah kept their relationship secret from almost everyone, save her mother, and even when the time came to marry, she told few people:
"I don't intend telling anyone else here in town, I dislike to say goodbye, so to avoid that I will be very quiet."
Not only does the correspondence lend insight into the courting traditions of the late 19th Century, but Beulah's letters inform the historical setting. She tells of an outbreak of smallpox and the aggressive vaccination going on in the region. She writes often about local coal mining issues and strikes. In March, Beulah tells Charlie of her experience with what would come to be known as the "Great Blizzard of 1888," which took place from March 8th to the 14th and was stated to be one of the most severe blizzards in American history dropping from 20 to 60 inches of snow, drifts of 50 feet, and winds of 45 miles per hour.
"We couldn't open but one shutter, wandered around in the dark. Actually at night, I was afraid. The house fairly shook."
In a letter dated 14 October 1888, Beulah relates news of the Mud Run Disaster on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. On October 10th, a train carrying members of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America, ran into the back of another train about 25 miles from Parryville, killing sixty-six people and leaving fifty injured. Thirty-seven of the dead were from the small village of Pleasant Valley (later renamed Avoca) and many of these were teen age members of the Drum and Bugle Corps of the Aloysius Society. Beulah knew the engineer of the train who was blamed for the accident, having had a near disaster with him herself:
"Presume you have heard or read of the terrible accident up here, or rather at Mud Run, very near White Haven, that occurred last Wednesday. It was dreadful, makes me shudder, when I think of it - seems more frightful and sad to me because some that were injured I was acquainted with and have visited at the places where the people lived. No one from White Haven or Wilkes-Barre were injured, all from towns above - along on the D.L. & W. R.R. One man from Weissport was seriously hurt, - Charlie Graff's brother, you remember they did the painting here last fall.
The engineer who is blamed for the accident lives at East Mauch Chunk he is the very man who nearly took us over the embankment coming from Wilkes-Barre when Edith was buried, you remember we were so late getting home that evening. I feel very sorry for the man, his feelings one cannot imagine."
Another event of the day Beulah writes about is the "Payroll Caper," which was described at the time as one of the most brutal, cold blooded murders in the history of the county. Michael "Red-Nosed Mike" Rizzolo, Guissepi Bevevino, and Vincent Valalli, all Italian immigrants, murdered payroll officers of Charles McFadden, a well-known area railroad contractor. McFadden was working on a major project for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Red-Nose Mike and his accomplices shot and killed two payroll officers and their horse and were able to get away with $12,000, the entire payroll for the men that were working on the project. McFadden hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to find the killers and recover the money. The three men were eventually caught. Red-Nose Mike was arrested in Philadelphia; the other two in Italy, however only about $2,000 was ever recovered. Red-Nose Mike was found guilty and hung. The other two were never extradited back to America:
"Monday morning, 10-22-1888
...Presume you read of the terrible murder which occurred near Wilkes-Barre last week? I tremble when I think of the time I drove over that lonely road, told my people yesterday I would not go over the [Pocono] again for a fortune, it is very like the road where those men were murdered."