Neville, Jean
Courtship Letters of teacher, Ms. Jean Neville, of Knapp Creek, New York, and bill collector Ernest Roberts, of Toledo, Ohio, dated 1897-1899

Collection of 31 letters, 315 manuscript pp., with retained mailing envelopes, dated 10 February 1897 - 4 June 1899.

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Of the 31 letters in the collection, 26 are the correspondence between Jean Neville and Ernst Roberts. Jean writes Ernest 15 letters (181 pp.) and Ernest writes Jean 11 letters (119 pp.). These letters are dated September 1898 to June 1899. Ernst is writing from Toledo, Ohio, to Jean who is located at Knapp Creek, Cattaraugus County, New York. Jean's letters are all addressed to Ernest at Toledo, Ohio. All of her letters were written from Knapp Creek, except the first one, where she was at Johnston, Pennsylvania, the last one is written from Buffalo, New York.

The remaining five letters are earlier letters and date from February - April 1897 and were written by various individuals to Jean Neville: H.E. Stephenson (2); Jess [E.] [Millin] (1); Wilbur Royce (1); & Dell Moody (1). These four individuals are writing from Knapp Creek, New York, to Jean who appears to have been living at Newark, New Jersey, before heading back to Knapp's Creek, where she writes to Ernest Roberts, once their correspondence begins. There are also four pieces of ephemera: 1 used envelope, 1 color printed “vinegar valentine”, and 2 newspaper articles about new laws being passed in Ohio concerning marriages.

This collection contains the courtship letters of Jean Nevillea teacher in Knapp Creek, New York and her beau and soon-to-be husband, Ernest Roberts in Toledo, Ohio. The letters discuss their relationship, wedding plans, and contain content about their daily lives and domestic activities. Jean writes about teaching -- students crying when they learned of her marriage plans. Ernest writes of his life in Toledo; where he works in an office in the collection business.

             Ernest Roberts (1864- after 1945) and Jean Neville (1868-1957)

Ernest Roberts was born 4 March of 1864 at Rotherham, Yorkshire, England, the son of William Roberts and Elizabeth Lilly. He immigrated to America about the year 1886 and became a naturalized citizen about 1890. The letters in this collection show Ernest writing back and forth to his fiancé Jean Neville. Jean was born in July 1867. She was born in Michigan, possibly Detroit, to English immigrant parents. Jean was a teacher in Knapp Creek, New York while corresponding with Ernest. Knapp Creek is just over the Pennsylvania state line, northeast of Bradford, Pennsylvania. In 1897, she was living at Newark, New Jersey. However, soon after this correspondence took place, she quit teaching, married Ernest and moved to Toledo, Ohio to live with her husband, and raise a family.

The 1900 Census shows Ernest and Jean a married couple living in their own home. Ernest was working as a sanitary officer. During the correspondence he was working as a "collector." Ten years later when the 1910 Census was taken, Jean and Ernest are the parents of three children: Frederick W. Roberts (1900-1945), Richard J. Roberts (1902-1954) and Eleanor Roberts. While they still own their own house, they moved to a different location in Toledo. Their occupations are not listed.

In 1920, Ernest was listed as a collector for the street railway and they run a boarding house with 14 boarders and a maid. Their three children are still living at home. The 1930 Census shows Ernest working as a clerk for public utilities. The family was still running a boarding house, only on a smaller scale, with four lodgers instead of 14. The children are all grown, the oldest son worked as commercial artist, the second son was a musician in an orchestra, and the daughter a pianist.

By the time the 1940 Census was taken, only Jean and her husband Ernest and their son Richard were living at home. Jean was 70, her husband Ernest 76, and both were retired. Their son Richard was still listed as a musician. Their daughter Eleanor was married to John Hine and lived at the house, with one other lodger. Eleanor had become a music teacher, her husband a designer at a glass factory.

Jean and her husband Ernest both died after the 1940 Census was taken. Ernest died in 1945, the year before their son Frederick died in 1946. Their son Richard died in 1954. Jean lived on till 1957. The boys and their parents are buried together at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo.

      Sample Quotes:

"Toledo, Ohio, September 25th, '98

My dear Jean,

      I was delighted to find a letter waiting for me at the [Xxxxxxdale] P.O. this morning (Sunday). from you...Dear Jean you must have thought me an awful sleepy head, the little you have seen of me at nights, but being outdoors as much as I have during the day, for the last 2 months & taking it easier than what I have been accustomed to for 12 years, you must look over it. I am still collecting and am doing fairly well. I hope soon to make quite a business of it. Of course I make more money some days than others. On Saturday morning between 8 & 10 am I made my expenses for 1 week, and if I only make that much money three or four times a week, I will be satisfied. I have the promise of two or three of the doctors, to do their collecting. I have not seen Mr. Hudson personally about the position of bookkeeper, but will do so in the course of a day or so as I need to get a few things & will then have a talk with him. Knowing what I do a position like that is worth, especially to a man that is going to be married, I shall not take such a salary as he would give to a salesman which would be about $8 per week. It is a very confining place. I was up to look at my house this afternoon & went all through it. I shall probably have a picture or two taken of it, so as to send one of them home. I am also having one of my pictures taken tomorrow morning & when they are finished I will send you one....I will be better able to know in a month or so, than I am now as I will know just what my prospects are in the future. I do not want you to work for your self one day more than I can help, but I want to be so prepared as to start out right. I have written to Mother & told her that she must not be surpris4ed to meet a daughter-in-law next May or June. I am & will continue to do all in my power to take that rip together next Spring & I would like it to be our honeymoon trip...Believe me dear Jean, Yours with best love & kisses, Ernest Roberts"

"Knapp Creek, NY, Nov 15, 1898

My Dear Ernest,

At last I am writing in a reply to your lovely, long, welcome letter. I did not receive it until Wednesday & I was so busy that it seemed absolutely impossible to write before arriving for home. I left Johnstown Friday morning at 5:40 arriving in Bradford 4:30, so you see I made good time. It was a new route to me and, such a beautiful one. It was through part of the Allegheny Mountains. The conductor was very kind in pointing out the places of interest. It seems such is customary on that line.

I commenced my teaching yesterday amid much mud and considerable snow. My! but, I wish it were summer time and not winter. I never was much of an admirer of winter. It is not surprising to me, that this weather causes you to feel low spirited. I can sympathize with you for I never feel during such dull bleak days, as if I had one friend on earth.

It seemed when I came home that my friends were numerous. Such friendly greetings as I did get. One old lady fondly embraced me, exclaiming "Oh, you precious lump of gold," I f I only was composed of some such valuable material.

I was very much surprised when I read you were settled at Fannies. I am sure it will seem like home to you and besides, I know Fannie will be giving you some idea of what it will be like to be ruled by a woman for I know she will have a kind of ownership feeling and perhaps use her authority by bossing you a little. She will have the work begun for my continuation.

My nephew Clarence at Mineral Point tried to have me promise that I would never get married as he was afraid I would not be the same Aunt Jean then, and perhaps never go again to see them.

It struck me as being very comical. I laughed and told him I could then visit oftener for then I would not have my own living to earn.

I so often think of your Mother. How sad it must be for her to be left alone at her time of life. If the ocean had not such great terrors, we might at some future time induce her to come to this country. She might derive great benefit from it.

The preparation for my friend's wedding are progressing finely, everything is in readiness and waiting for the day. I do not envy Miss Roberts her prospects for the future as the young man is a rank Catholic and even at this early day is out of sorts because her people wish to have the ceremony performed at their home but, by special arrangement with the Priest, he will be married in a Protestant house...

...With best wishes for your health and prosperity, Ever your loving Jean"

"Toledo, Ohio, November 19th 1898

Dearest Jean,

Your long looked for & welcome letter received yesterday morning. I was pleased also to know that you arrived safely after a pleasant journey...I have enclosed two other slips which I cut out of the Commercial and the Toledo Herald. I thought it might possibly interest you. My Mother would never venture fifty miles across the water she is so nervous. And then another thing she would never give up her beautiful house. Should my brother survive her, he will either occupy it himself or sell it, but I think he will do the latter as he has no intention of getting married. His notions & experiences of love are not very pleasant memories to him. Perhaps I never told you of my experience but may as well do so now. I was twenty two years old at the time. I was going with a young lady of about 19 years of age. Her father was the depot master of one of the most important railroad depots in England. I met her at a Xmas party. My father seemed to know him better than I did. The day before I was going to propose my father got on to the fact that I had been goning with her & he positively stopped it and her father it seems also got offended at my father & there it ended.

After I had been in this country some years my father wrote & told me she was married but it did not prove to be for her good, as it was a forcible marriage or I should say a forced one, as she did not really like him. I am thankful to say that I am not of the same disposition as the rest of my family. Ever since I left home in 1886 I never satisfied their curiosity in any of my letters as to what I was doing, although I loved them just as much.

My Mother remarked it when I went home last summer. Well my dear girl, I am looking forward to the time when I can live with someone that is pretty near the same disposition as myself. I think we are don't you think so too? I only wish we could be in each other's society more. I have lots to talk about when I see you....

...Miss Roberts' marriage will be anything but a happy one, especially for him. It is a very unwise thing to do. The relatives on booth sides will make it very unpleasant for them. I am thankful that religion need not be a bone of contention between us, although we follow different creeds. I am going to Detroit this evening to stay till Monday evening. I am taking my Kodak with me as I want to take some snap shots of various points of interest...

Well dear I must close now as I have quite a little work to do before night....Ever yours, loving Ernest"

"Friday Morning, March 10th '99

My dearest Jean,

Your ever welcome visit received & read with great pleasure...

We had two blizzards this week. One of them came on Saturday night in the nature of a wind storm, and the other one came in the person of Tom Jones, the Evangelist on Tuesday evening. He has been drawing crowds of people every night, but I think that people did not as a rule go for what good they ought to get, but simply to learn his slang talk. I read his lectures out loud to Bert and I thought he would fall over with laughing. It was comical to see him holding his fat sides. I will cut out all this lectures and send them to you. I have enclosed Wednesday night lecture & will hunt up the others. Perhaps Jim would like to read them. I should think it would be harmful to a good many people, such language as he uses...I am as ever with best love...Earnest"

     "Sunday, June 4th, 1899

My dearest Jean,

Your ever welcome letter received this morning....Well my dear, in a week from the time you receive this, all being well, we shall both have commenced life anew, sharing each others pleasures and sorrows together...Your invitations are very nice indeed and I sent one home telling my Mother that I would probably be home on the 22nd, but this morning I thought I would write & tell her that we had decided to go right on to London as I did not know but what it would be better and spend the last week or so in Scarboro during the last month of August on our way home. Now my dear if you wish to find your relative in London, it would be as well for you to write your sister in Johnstown before it is too late. If you can get the address and they are living I will pilot you there. I intended to mention it in my last letter. I really will be thankful to get away from her for awhile, for if I was not a good matured disposition I believe I would be crazy. I have had the life almost worried out of me by married men, and single. The reporter, who is a member of our club, swelled the account of the refreshments to one awful pitch. The whole business did not cost more than $3.00 and everyone helped themselves to it in the back room. I hope my dear that you will not overtax your strength in the next few days & when I arrive I hope to be of great service to you...God bless you my dear is the wish of Your ever loving Ernest"