The love of history and curiosity can lead to exciting discoveries, even in your own town. That certainly was the case for Nellie Nelson who was rummaging through records at the Washington State NW regional archives while researching historic structures in Fairhaven, WA. A boom town in the 1890s, its recent development as a tourist destination belies its struggles once that bloom faded.
At the archives, just a little more than a year ago, Nelson came upon letters written by pioneer doctor Will R. Gray. Writing to his fiancée Anna Kurtz back in Mount pleasant, Iowa in 1890, Gray provides details of boom town Fairhaven, 19th century medical practice and the NW region with sensitivity and perceptive study. For Nelson, it was a life changing moment.
Nelson is fairly new to Bellingham, but after taking Brian Griffin’s tour around Boulevard Park , they became friends, sharing a love of history. Nelson knew that Griffin would be interested in the Gray letters. Griffin, who is a long time resident, immediately recognized the names of Gray and Anna. Having a personal connection to the family and appreciating the letters’ quality, he proposed publishing the letters together.
The 113 letters are a true treasure hold of not only Fairhaven’s history, but of the 1890s, reflecting both national and regional views. Their book, My Darling Anna, Letters from Fairhaven 1890, is a treasure hold as well. Complimented by 200 photographs and graphics, they put the letters in context, making them all the more valuable. Remarkably, 157 new letters have been discovered, many of them written by Anna.
Come and hear about the journey undertaken by Brian Griffin and Neelie Nelson to publish the letters this coming Thursday, January 14th 2010 at 7:30 in the Rotunda Room at the old City Hall Museum. Doors open around 6:45 for refreshments and mingling.
While the talk is free, there is a small donation of $3.00 payable to the museum. Their books will be available for signing.