A Series of Sudden Decisions – Verne G. 1914-1918

Posted by Preston G. on August 24, 2011 at 8:38 am
Aug 242011

There is a recurrent pattern reflected in the letters from Verne to Dorothy. At the beginning of 1915, in Sept. 1916, in Sept. 1917 and in Jan. 1918 Verne made sudden moves to new places and new jobs. In none of these cases was the specific place or the job revealed at all in the letters before the move, although it is clear in each case in the letters leading up to the move that he was growing restless and somewhat frustrated where he was.

In the fall of 1914, V. was considering several options for his livelihood, the main ones appearing to be dairy farming and crop farming, although he was clearly also interested in chemistry and telegraphy. During the summer of ’14 he had discussed the possibility of homesteading in Arkansas, but this was apparently driven entirely by his mother. It isn’t mentioned again in the letters at all in the fall all the way through Dec. Then, suddenly, right after Jan. 1, V. and W.O. left to homestead in AZ. There is no evidence in the letters about how or when this decision was made, but it was almost certainly initiated by Bealle again. Perhaps the men in the family started to think that she was right about this.

Verne says at various places in the letters that he is not inclined to discuss things while he is making up his mind, although he does tell D. quite a bit about his thinking as time goes along. The decision to go to AZ may have been made earlier than Dec. ’14, and he just waited until D. came home from UT to tell her about it.

I think three things led to this move. One was his belief that he had to “make his fortune,” or get a start on it, to be able to marry D. Second, his interest in farming fit with his mother’s desire to try homesteading. And third, he felt obligated to look after his parents, at least until they could establish a livelihood in AZ.

Verne worked hard and spent considerable money trying to get his homestead (and his parents’) to a point of profitability from Jan. 1915 until Sept. 1916. In Sept. 1916 he suddenly moved to Apache and took a job as a schoolteacher. He informed D. of the move and some of what he was doing in letters at the time, but again he did not tell her in advance that he was moving, and didn’t tell her that he was teaching school until he came to Dallas for Xmas that year. In letters around that time its seems that he made the move because he needed money to support himself and possibly to subsidize his parents.

Again, a decision seems to have been made fairly precipitously and he seems to have preferred to explain the move face to face.

In Sept. 1917, Verne visited Douglas to try to find some Mexicans to work for him and Carl in their wood cutting business, and to visit some mining and assay businesses there. When he got back to Apache, he had a letter calling him to a job with the Douglas Assay Co “as soon as possible.” He made a rapid decision to take it and left Apache the next morning. In this case he did tell Dorothy in the letters what he was doing, and it had been apparent in the letters leading up to the move that he was very depressed and restless in Apache and looking for an opportunity to get out of there.

When the job in Douglas turned out to be short term, Verne moved back to San Simon to get ready for a bigger move. It is clear in the letters from Douglas and in Dec. 1917 that Verne was afraid that only having one hand was going to block his ambitions. He had withdrawn an application with a large mining company in Douglas when he saw first-hand how fast the chemists worked in their assay lab. The army had turned him down because of it of his handicap. These things seemed to have been the deciding factors is his decision to go with telegraphy as his hope for a permanent position.

It seems incredible that this young man, who, having one arm, had learned to fix cars and drive them precisely, to fix windmills and engines, to ride and break horses, to shoot pictures with the primitive cameras of the day and to build enlarging cameras and develop and print pictures, to do carpentry and build houses, to raise livestock, to type, to do chemical assays and who knows what else, was at the end of 1917 wondering if he could succeed with his only one hand. But it seems that that was the case. However, he knew that D. loved him and he loved her, and he figured that that would be enough.

In the letters in Dec 1917, he told D. that he was going to leave San Simon as soon as possible to go somewhere to finish his telegraphy training but he mentions El Paso and Bisbee, AZ as possibilities. He notes that he would come back to Dallas to the telegraphy school there, but for the fact that it was owned by the one man in the world that he counted as an enemy. (I haven’t found the details on this yet.)

This had to seem like an incredibly cruel turn of events, for he and Dorothy were missing each other terribly by this point. In a period of 3 years they had spent only a few days together around Xmas 1916. In every letter he tells her how blue he is, and she was evidently doing the same. V. must have been in quite a tight financial position or he certainly would have come to Dallas for Xmas in ’17.

He didn’t go to Dallas for Christmas in Dec. 1917. He celebrated in San Simon. In Jan, 1918, again suddenly and with no specifics in advance, he moved to Los Angeles.

Tune in next week for more in the saga of Verne and Dorothy.

(I am slowly getting letters transcribed, concentrating on periods when big decisions were being made.)

Preston G.

Retired biochemist. One of 16 grandchildren of Verne Garrison and Dorothy Logan Garrison.

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