Dear Mr. Sinclair,
Your letter, your photographs, the two maps, and above all your kindness in doing all you did for me moved me to tears and I can’t express all the gratitude I feel. You sent me the first sight I ever had of my grandmother Allie Welty’s grave, and photographed it so I could see the date—the day after she wrote the little message to my father,2 seven at the time—and the very words of the message repeated on the stone. You couldn’t have known what a search I made to find that family graveyard and failed—This was in the 60’s sometime, while I was doing a few weeks visit to Dennison at Granville—I rented a car and drove down to Bremen, where the first thing I saw was Welty Ford Company. I went in and introduced myself to Mr. Welty but he didn’t seem much interested in meeting kin—He had known my Aunt Grace Welty (my father’s half-sister) and I think he said he remembered my grandfather (Jefferson W., not Christian, but the same
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family, and my father was Christian). Grandpa Welty & Aunt Grace had sold the farm and moved into Bremen toward the end of his life, which is why I went there to inquire. Mr. Ford Welty knew the location of the farm, but he said I couldn’t find it from Bremen—the landmarks I remembered (like the covered bridge) were of course vanished. If only I’d had the wits to seek out these wonderful maps to clue me! I loved seeing Webb Station and the designated farm properties—I would love to come look at the little crossroads—To see all these things. But now that I know from you that they’re all there, and have the excellent clear photographs to study, this makes it all different, better.
I have heard from a number of Weltys since my book came out, and have been sent some family histories & charts, but I’m not sure where we come in.3 The same Christian names go down the generations. My mother’s people have been writing me too, out of Virginia and West Virginia—as it happened my connections with them were closer, my mother having lived a long time, known them well, and corresponded with them several generations of letters—It’s true, I find, what she told me: It’s not until you are getting old yourself that you get so longing to find out about your antecedents—and by then it’s often too late. You made me feel in touch in an exceptional degree with the Weltys who were the closest kin to me—thank you so much—and for your pictures.
P. S. I don’t think I could have received an invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Manuscript ’s publication of my first story. John Rood, Manuscript ’s editor, was good to me. We kept in touch and he once came to see me. I’d have wanted to come and read on that occasion. Thank you for your message. I never knew till your letter, that Athens was so close to where my kin were.
1. Welty’s letter is published here with permission of Eudora Welty, LLC. Welty’s letter covers almost four pages in small longhand. It was a reply to a letter from Reid B. Sinclair of Athens, Ohio, written after he had read One Writer’s Beginnings, visited the area of Welty’s grandfather’s home, and sent her photographs and Logan area maps. [End Page 23] Welty’s letter must have been written post-1986 following the fiftieth...