Appalachia Christmas Holidays in Appalachia

December 10, 1962


Christmas in appalachia north ga
David Templeton found an old letter while fishing in the woods of Virginia. This is what he told me about finding the letter:


“I was fishing along a mountain creek over in Lee County Virginia. There was a gravel road that ran along the high bank, just above the creek. Lost in the thickets and honeysuckle, still hanging on to the banks of the road, but falling down eventually into the creek, was the ghost of an old house. Its roof was mostly caved in but the floors were somewhat still intact, so I could get into it.

Some of the old linoleum was still in place and some patches of wallpaper clung to the walls. Even a piece of furniture or a cabinet waited for someone from long ago to come back and take it with them.

I looked in a kitchen cabinet and found an old letter, still in the envelope someone had licked and mailed and someone had happily opened one December, many years ago, but time worn so the sender’s address couldn’t be seen. One end was torn off and two or three pages of still folded writing poked out.

I read the letter and, you know Tipper, I could feel the frail little woman, standing there, reading the Christmas thoughts her dear sister had sent.

And, I could look around the now dilapidated remains of a once warm home and imagine the little woman’s smiles from another time as she put wall paper on the cabin’s walls or when they brought the roll of linoleum she had gone to Jonesville and picked out at the furniture store. And, I could imagine a time when she had children there and the school bus was coming and she hurried them off and then sat at her kitchen table and wrote back to her sister.

And when I read the letter today, as I sometimes do, I can feel the poignancy as she and her sister pined to see each other during that bleak midwinter’s day.

Weren’t letters so much more meaningful when they were hand-written, just as the writer felt and just like the writer talked, without the adulteration of spell-check and grammar-check and fancy printed fonts?

Anyway, that’s how I found the letter: In an old falling-down cabin in Virginia, written many years ago at Christmastime.”
Read the letter David found below-I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

Mon-Morn-Dec 10. 1962


Dearest sister an

Just a few lines let you know I am still living and as
well as could be expected at my age. Never feel good iny more.

Hope this will find the whole famley well and happy. Well sister Ronald had his operation. Got over it fine. Seams to be in better helth now. Is looking good. Elsie don’t never feel well looks bad. They both are working. Elsie has bin working 6 days to the week. Ron puts in lot over time. That way it goes at this time of year. Well sister we had pretty fall, but it sit in to snowing baut week a go the ground was warm if it hadent bin we would has a big one about 2 inches layed on. Still some on ground. And Cold was 10 above this morn-I look for us to have a ruff winter that is what they are predictin. I dread it. Well I had go to stellas a week a go. Stay with neylun the children while Stella was in Hospitalle her Docter put her in to have testes run on her. He thought had what anna Sue had. But thank God she dident it was thyroid and nirvis Condition. Thay are treating her. I hope she don’t half to have a opration. Seams like some of my family is always sick. I told them all I wanted for Christmas was all the family to be well. Would be the best thing in the world. I have went throw so much. Sister how is all your family? I am Just sending you a card and letter. I haven’t got to do no Christmuss shopping. They way thay woork I don’t have no way to go. So don’t you send me nothing but a letter a baut your self the whole family I would like that better than iny thing I think a baut you all and wonder how you are. Sister I would love to spend Christmus with you better than iny thing but at this time of year would be dangras to travel and make a Change so I will do like the ground hog hole up tell warm wether but will be always thinking of my love ones wishing I Could be with them. Well sister Ronald and Elsie bough them a house and 1 acer land. We have moved I like it fine. We have watter in house I don’t half pack it like I did don’t half be out for nothing but go to mail box. The house has living room 2 bed rooms kitchen dining room bath room portch large basment we wash down there. Is room up stars to make 2 bed rooms if thay want to is stare way up there we keep all our Junk up there hang cloths to dry up there. We have oil heat Cook with gass. The house is white an out side trimed in blue. Have a big lawn plenty of srubery the Lawn borders an high way. The best thing we have land a nough to raise all the vectbles we want. There is 3 big pine trees in yeard. 2 grape vines lots rose bushes. Thay payed 1/3 down pay the rest a paying rint till thay pay for it. Well sister I am going to wash to day so I will sine of here. Tell Frank and Homer helow and not do nothing that I wouldn’t. and dear sister, write me a letter for Christmaus gift I would like that better than iny thing. Take care of your self and be carfule if it gets icey and snows down there if you was to fall brake a bone would be hard to hell at your age. Wishing every one of you helth happens and susess in all your under taking. May the good Lord take care of you all and keep you until we meet a gin is my prayer.

Your only sis Emma by by now

Paul, Tipper, Steve - Christmas at Granny and Pap's

Paul, Tipper, Steve – Christmas at Granny and Pap’s
It’s been a few years since David sent me the letter he found. Every time I think of the writer, Emma, and of how she missed her Sister-it makes me forever grateful there’s never been a Christmas I’ve not spent with Paul and Steve.



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  • Reply
    susie swanson
    December 7, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Oh I enjoyed this so much. People never send letters anymore and it used to be the only way of communicating with anybody.. so sad.. I love the pic of you, steve and paul..

  • Reply
    grandpa ken
    December 7, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Let’s talk about grammer and mispelled words, sisters never noticed, it was like talking to them. The sisters could hear and the feel the love. These folks were born before 1900 true pioneers none of this stuff we use today was possible. Alot of us have lost the feeling they had for siblings.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    December 6, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    A wonderful letter. Thanks so much for posting it.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    When my very beloved Aunt Blanche passed away, it fell to my mother to settle her affairs. What a mess! Aunt Blanche kept everything she ever loved, & she loved many things. We looked through shoe boxes for well over a year. Among her many treasures, I found a letter I had written to her when I started jr. high. It wasn’t a long letter-just one confirming some plans we had made & my deep love for her(the sisters were very frugal & a stamp was cheaper than a long distance call). Funny thing, I remembered sitting at my little girl desk & writing that letter. I was so pleased & touched that she thought enough of it to include it in her collection of things that were important to her. It is so sad that future generations won’t have that chance to “communicate” with the ones we’ll miss the most.

  • Reply
    Madge @ The View From Right Here
    December 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Oh my gosh… that is simply precious… it brought tears to my eyes…

  • Reply
    tony foster
    December 6, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    thanks for sharing. reminds me of my grandmothers…can’t wait to get back to murphy. gonna have a good ole fashioned mountain christmas!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    So long ago I know, but still – I pray she got that Christmas letter from her sister.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Tipper, that touches my heart and leaves me without words.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I miss letters. I hope I have saved some, especially from my grandmothers. Sister Emma certainly expressed herself beautifully!

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    The letter he found in the old log cabin was very touching. What a sweet posting about this little mountain woman.

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    December 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Lots of readers have letters from the “old” folks. As with this one, I wouldn’t mind seeing some of them in future blogs.
    Unfortunately, my grandmother on my father’s side was a school teacher and fundamentalist, so her letters tend not to be very colorful. More unfortunately, my much more colorful relatives on my mother’s side were illiterate, so nothing but pleasant memories on that side, but oh what pleasant memories!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    That was a nice letter to read
    especially during this Christmas
    Season. There’s nothing like family being together for the holidays…Ken

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Thank you Tipper and David for sharing this gem!
    This letter is so poignant, I can really feel the worry, love and heartache passing between these sisters, I hope they got to see each other again!
    It seems like we’re seeing these hard times again now, with older folks who are not in very good health having to work regardless.
    I saved a passel of letters from my great-grandmother’s house as it was falling down around me – it had no indoor plumbing either – she lived her whole life without such luxuries. I treasure those letters and have “met” many relations I wouldn’t have otherwise, through them. It is true that a handwritten letter tells so much about the writer, unlike our impersonal e-mails and IMs.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Jones
    December 6, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Letter-writing, unfortunately, may become a lost art. When we live in an “instantaneous age,” with e-mails, facebook, twitter, blogs, texting and cell phones, why bother to write and post a letter? We have lost something precious from the old-fashioned method of communication: family (and/or love) letters. I found some letters my mother and father wrote to each other before they married; although short and to the point, they gave me insight to how my parents really loved each other, restrained as their correspondence was. I’m a “collector”–and treasure many letters from yesteryear that give poignant insight into how life was in years gone by.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    December 6, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Well Tipper, you did it again! You talk about ‘relating’ to a letter! I had not a sprig of trouble with that. The only trouble I had reading it was seeing through my ‘tear dimmed eyes’ as I imagined my mama writing such a lonely letter! Those familiar words – incorrectly spelled – seemed so right to me!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 6, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Why the somber faces on you and your brothers? Bet you have some with hugs and smiles. If you don’t you need to make some this Christmas.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 9:51 am

    What a great letter! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Tipper – This is one of the most enjoyable articles I’ve seen on your blog! Just shows that (like David said) when a person writes from their own perspective without spell check and grammar check and all the use of all those different fonts their true personality comes through. It will captivate the reader. Misspelled words and bad grammar will only add to the true identity of the writer. It is us!
    I’ve known people that wrote just like her. Most of them were relatives of mine! I feel like I somehow knew her. Tipper you and David are to be thanked for this.

  • Reply
    Darlene LaRoche
    December 6, 2011 at 9:39 am

    What a neat letter,I have some letters my paternal grandmother had written to a neighbor in 1946, have the envelopes and on the envelopes are a 3 cent stamp…my mamaw lived in KY and the letters were written to her neighbor who had moved to Indiana, long story as to how I came to get them, but I treasure them, I never got to meet my Mamaw Crace, she died the year I was born…..

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 6, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Such a great letter, it brings home how much family means to everyone. A Christmas without mine would be horrible. We are so lucky to live near to our loved ones.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 9:07 am

    There is something sad about being in an old house that now is abandoned, but once was filled with life. Makes you wonder who the people were that lived there and what kind of life they lead. I truly hope Emma and her sister were able to visit each other. Christmas is certainly a time when you want to be with family. My mother just turned 85 years old and I treasure each and every day and especially the holidays that I have with her. I have always got to be with her and my dad until he passed away every Christmas. I know the time will come when I may not have her with me and I just can’t even think about it. Wishing that everyone has the gift of family this Christmas!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 6, 2011 at 9:02 am

    and David….thank you for sharing this letter…It reminds me of some letters from my Grandmother…a few spellings of words wrong, but still able to understand the letter….
    I wonder if they every got to see each other by the Spring…
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Reading that letter brings tears to my eyes too…makes me miss my sister too! Thank you for sharing. And I agree with David, there isn’t anything like a hand written letter!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 8:37 am

    That was lovely. I now how distance can make ones heart long for family get togethers. This letter also is a reminder of how we should put aside silly pettiness and hold our loved ones close, even if miles separate us. Keep them close in heart.
    I wish I still had my sis to communicate with.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Tipper, thank you for posting the letter. Times were so hard for people, but love for family was probably made stronger.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    December 6, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Reminds me of the ’round robin’ letters my mother,her 5 sisters and grandmother, used to send. There was news from each family when it came. seems it came around about every three months…
    I know how Mother looked forward to getting it, taking out her old letter and adding a new one to send along.

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    December 6, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I inherited all of my mother-in-law’s old letters from around 1900 all the way up to 2008 or so. This also included letters from old boyfriends, still wrapped in strings. I have been trying to transcribe them into my wife’s genealogy. We found her old diary, too. My wife and I wrote back and forth and we kept all of those letters. It’s a pity that these recent generaltions will have nothing like this to look back on. Texting and emails are not permanent or near as personal. Such is the pity. I told my sons they will have to write real letters when they start dating.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 6, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I really enjoyed reading this letter. It worries me some that 100 years from now, our descendants are going to be searching for information on their family history and there won’t be any paper treasures like this one to be found.
    I hardly ever write paper letters, either, but I think I need to change some of that.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 6, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Great memories evoked by that letter, and David is exactly right about the handwritten part of it.
    When I went off to college, I always looked forward to Tuesday when the letter Mama wrote of a Sunday afternoon would get there. How often have I wished I’d kept every one?
    By the way, did Paul sing both parts and play all the instruments on “O Little Town of Bethlehem” that leads off today? I’m betting he did. You know, those doggone Wilsons just have too much talent; I put in an order for some of that musical ability to be sent by special delivery to Swain County, but I reckon the feller that delivers must have gotten so used to dropping musical gifts off in Brasstown that he left my order over there.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 6, 2011 at 7:51 am

    I enjoyed reading the letter. I’ve mentioned many times how people don’t send letters any more and have often thought of surprising someone and sending them one. I have kept all my letters Charley sent to me when he was in the Navy and I have the letters Mom sent to Dad when he was in the Army. I also have a treasured letter from my aunt to my mom when she was pregnant with my older sister. I love it so much, spelling mistakes and all. People really cared about each other and you can tell it from their letters to one other. They didn’t live far apart, (by our standards anyway), but didn’t have telephones so a letter was special and their only way of communicating.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Reading that letter just about brought a tear to my eyes. Sounds like they deserved the new house and a few comforts like running water!! Hope they the sisters got to visit when the weather was better.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 7:23 am

    I know how my Mom missed her sisters. This letter made me think of her. I also have letters that my Grandmother received from her sisters. And ones she wrote that were never mailed. I’ve always wondered why she never mailed them.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 6:48 am

    This one really hits home as I am from Lee County, Virginia. I can just see the woman looking out her window and telling her sister about the new house.

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