After the death of my Aunt Eleanor, wife of Philip Hutt, daughter of Frank Dewey
Phillips Sr. and of Norma Celia Heter, I came into possession of a treasure trove of
letters written to her and to other family members by kinfolk in Kansas. Most are
personal. But there are some that are appropriate to share, and they are reproduced
here. The family members are identified according to their relationship to Eleanor.
RAIN FOLLOWS THE PLOUGH
September 16, 1934 Grandmother Phillips writes from Lyons, Kansas of autumn rains,
cool weather, and bumper crops of string beans, peaches, carrots, radishes, lettuce,
cucumbers, beets and eggplant. "Wheat looks fine, & corn for fodder, & lots of stuff
for silage. Many people have changed their minds about letting the government have
their cattle. They think they can get through the winter now."
March 31, 1935 Grandmother Heter mentions dust storms for the first time. "We are
haveing the worst sand storms I have ever seen this Spring. All I doe is clean house."
March 31, 1935 Grandmother Heter writes from Sterling, Rice County, of "an Electric
survey of the County & probly later every boddie will have Electricity in their Homes."
Grandmother Heter's letter was written six weeks before the formal creation of the
Rural Electrification Administration. In the 1930s, Kansas farmers relied on kerosene
lamps for light, and wood or coal for cooking and heat. Power came to rural Kansas
in early 1938 when the Brown-Atchison Electric Cooperative began stringing wire.
Electric hookups cost five dollars, a substantial sum in those days.
Three days before Christmas, Grandmother Phillips wrote that "Uncle Marion was building
a new house for your Grandmother Heter, modern in every way, air-conditioned and all.
Now isn't that just mighty fine!" She and Marion had already moved into the new home,
but she did not live to enjoy the modern conveniences. She died on November 28, 1936.
Scenes from Kansas a century ago. Top left: Harry Street Grocery Company, Wichita.
Top right: Chase Garage & Motor Car Company, somewhere in central Kansas, 1912.
Bottom left: M & L Garage, Sterling, 1909. Bottom right: horseless carriage, 1910.