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Handwritten letters were the leading means of communication for hundreds of years. Correspondence of well-known historical figures have long been used for research, however letters of everyday people are typically undervalued.

Nora Ross with family and friends.  The man to her right is

unidentified, Rufus Barton is to her left.  The photo also includes

Nora’s sisters, Emma and Addie and brothers, Ed and

Boyd (in front of Emma and Addie).

On October 13, 1918 Nora Ross of the Selica community wrote to her “true friend till death”, Lester Wilson who was serving in the U.S. Army in France.  In her letter she states, “Several more of the boys have got their war papers. Joe Lance, Rufus Barton, Frank Turner and Odd Bryson.  A lot of people here think the war will soon end and I hope and trust it will.”  She shares that, “Chester is still at Camp Severe.  Bud is still at Augusta, GA.”

She mentions other newsworthy events, including a fire that destroyed Toxaway Tanning and several thousand pounds of leather ready for shipment on Friday afternoon, October 11. 
Apparently the blaze did not have much significance to her personally as she only briefly mentioned, “Last Monday night the Tannery at Rosman was burned down,” getting the day incorrect.

Of much more importance to her was a recent outbreak of illness.  Nora writes, “There is a new disease here now called influenza.  There is a good many cases at Brevard and several at Cherryfield.”  Later in the letter she adds, “Geneva is at home now.  Her school has stopped two weeks on account of the influenza.” 

In between Nora told of a chestnut gathering party on Kuykendall Creek and her disappointment over not receiving a letter from Wilson this past week.  Her letter shows the effects of major events like WWI and the influenza outbreak in a personal way not found in official or news accounts.

Just five days after writing this letter, Nora would learn that her brother Boyd had died of pneumonia at the hospital at Camp Hancock near Augusta, Georgia. His obituary states, “Owing to the epidemic of influenza only the family and a few friends were present at the interment.”

Nora Ross and Lester Wilson were married on December 25, 1919.  The Wilsons had three children.  Nora was also a beloved aunt to her sister’s ten children, ages 2 weeks to 23 years at the time of the death
of their mother.  Lester died in 1936 but Nora lived another 62 years to the age of 101.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments, or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.

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