My father William Bascom Wetherall (1911-2013) left 166 letters he had received, first from Orene Hardman, then from my mother Orene Wetherall, between 1937 and 1952. Of these, 125 letters were received during the 2 or so years they courted, between 1935 and 1937, before their marriage in 1938.
The other 41 letters, written in 1940, 1947, and 1952, are from Orene Wetherall during periods that she away on visits to Idaho, or while he too was working in a different part of Idaho. These letters are introduced on the Family letters page, which see for details.
I am calling the courtship letters the "schoolmarm" letters because, at the time, Orene was teaching at Yellow Rose School, a one-room schoolhouse on Little Bear Ridge near Troy, in Latah County, Idaho. The school system at the time was 8-4, and Yellow Rose School accommodated all students from grades 1 to 8 in a single classroom, taught by single teacher. My mother was also the school counselor, nurse, baseball referee, and janitor. Whatever had to be done, she did it.
One set of surviving photographs show 10 students ranging from 4th to 8th grades. Orene said she sometimes had as many as 12 to 15 students.
The letters transcribed below are just starters. Many others will follow.
Yellow Rose School
Little Bear Mountain, Idaho
Orene Hardman's 1st teaching job, after finishing 2-years of study at the University of Idaho in 1935, was at Yellow Rose School, a one-room, one-teacher, all-grade school house on Little Bear Ridge, between Troy and Kendrick, in Latah County, Idaho. As the sole teacher, Orene was also the nurse, counseler, baseball referee, and janitor.
The following gallery shows scans of original prints she kept over the years of photographs she herself took at Yellow Rose School.
Towns around Peck
Orene Hardman's Clearwater habitat
While teaching at Little Rose School, Orene lived with the Arnot family in Troy. On days off, she sometimes returned to her home in Peck, or visited relatives in Kendrick or friends -- especially her future husband Bill Wetherall -- in Moscow.
Orene's "schoolmarm letters" to Bill were posted mainly from Troy, Peck, or Moscow. The letters posted from Troy were probably written in her room at the Arnot home.
Some of the traveling distances were a bit longer then than now, as some routes have changed a bit. Even on the same routes, however, travel times were not nearly as fast in mid 1930s as they are today. By then many families had cars, but people like my mother would usually have gone places by bus and train.
Orene Hardman (1913-2003) was raised on Central Ridge, southeast of Peck, until her family moved to Peck, where she went to high school. She then resided in a dormitory at the University of Idaho in Moscow. While teaching at Yellow Rose School on Little Bear Ridge (1935-1937), she lived with the Arnot family in Troy. She lived in Pierce when teaching there (1937-1938).
William Wetherall (1911-2013) lived with the family of his maternal aunt Meda (Baldwin) Ury in Saint Maries, north of Moscow. He also stayed at Lindley Hall and Willis Sweet Hall on the campus of the University of Idaho in Moscow, and at Elk River and other northwest blister-rust control camps during summers. His first job after graduating from law school was in Orofino (1937-1938).
Yellow Rose School
Mary (Thomas) Lee's recollections
Mary (Thomas) Lee's recollections
After my father died in 2013, I began constructing the present "Trailhead" website to showcase his and my mother's family histories. In my search for others who were working on related family histories, I ran across Niki (Townsley) Lee, who turned out to be the wife of Tom Lee, a 3rd cousin I have never met. My mother, Orene (Hardman) Wetherall, and his mother, Mary (Thomas) Lee, were 2nd cousins. My maternal grandmother Ullie (Hunter) Hardman (1891-1980), and Mary's father John Abraham Logan Thomas (1887-1982), were 1st cosins. Their parents, Ida Frances (Thomas) Hunter (1872-1920) and Jobe Cornelius "Neil" Thomas (1858-1937), were siblings.
Mary's father John A. Thomas, and my maternal grandmother Ullie Hardman, kept in touch all their lives. , and my mother kept in touch with John and his wife, Ollie (Wilson) Thomas, and John kept in touch after Ullie died. He he and Ullie's husband, Owen Hardman, often hunted together with others in their extended families.
Once we began exchanging information, Niki and I were able to both correct and augment each other's understandings of our respective family histories, working as we were without the benefit of knowing many of the people we had to connect and place in our engtangled family trees. In an email report dated 30 August 2013, she summaried her step-mother's recollections of Yellow Rose School like this. All [backeted remarks] are mine.
Arthur and Nettie Arnot
Arthur Clarence Arnot (1874-1958) married Nettie P. Brock (1876-1962) in Troy on 28 November 1897.
The 1900 census shows the couple living in Troy without children. Arthur is a "Farmer".
The 1910 census shows the family living in Troy with 3 sons ages 9, 7, and 1. Arthur is a "Farmer" on his "Own Farm" working on his "O.A." (own account).
The 1920 census shows the family living in South Troy with 4 children, 3 sons ages 17, 11, and 1, and a daughter age 7. Arthur is described as a "Farm Operator" working on a "General Farm" on his own account.
I cannot find 1930 or 1940 census records for the family. The 1940 census includes residence in 1935.
Orene's predecessors and successors
The following teachers preceded and followed Orene at Yellow Rose School.
Orene Hardman writes in a letter posted to Bill Wetherall in Troy, 19 June 1936, that her precedessor at Yellow Rose School was Ada Ferguson.
Ada Rosabelle Ferguson was born in Deary, Latah County, Idaho, on 14 December 1912, about 11 months before Orene Hardman was born in Peck in Nez Perce County. Deary is a few miles east of Troy, and Little Bear Ridge runs north and south between the two towns. The school, however, is closer to Troy, and Ida lived the Arnots, who boarded a number teachers in succession.
The 1930 census shows Ada, 17, living with her parents in Deary. The 1940 census shows her lodging and teaching in Bovill, also in Latah County. The census states she was living at the same place in 1935, and says that she had had 2 years of college, the requirement then for teaching in elementary schools. Orene remarks in her 19 Janaury 1936 letter that Ida was then living in Bovill.
Ada married Ben A. Sirginson on 4 June 1944 and they were divorced on 9 February 1952. Four months later, on 15 June 1952, she married Robert K. Hanson. She died on 19 June 2005, nearly 2 years after Orene died.
Jean S. Brammer
The obituary of Jean S. Brammer (1917-2003), published in the 27 February 2003 edition of the Latah Eagle (page 7), says that, after graduating from high school in Kendrick in 1935, she got a teaching certificate from Lewis-Clark Normal School in Lewiston in 1937, and a certificate in teaching elementary grades in the summer of 1938. It then reports this.
Her teaching career began in 1937 in the one-room Yellow Rose School on Little Bear Ridge outside Troy. In the following 10 years, she taught at Kamiah, Moscow and Kendrick.
It would appear that she replaced my mother, who taught at Yellow Rose School from 1935-1937.
A few other people figure in the story of Yellow Rose School and Little Bear Ridge at the time Orene was living and teaching there.
On 30 November 1990, the Lewiston Tribune carried an obituary on Gunder Reierson (1904-1990), a retired Troy farmer, which included in part the following remarks.
He was born May 27, 1904, at Troy to Erik and Turi Paulson Reierson. He grew up on Little Bear Ridge, where he attended Yellow Rose Country School. He later attended Spokane Community College.
Bear in mind the remark about Reierson's contribution to the bringing of telephones to Little Bear Ridge when reading my mother's complaints about the lack of telephones when she was living in Troy and teaching at Yellow Rose School.
125 schoolmarm letters
28 February - 28 June 1937
William Bascom Wetherall (1911-2013) saved 125 letters he had received from Louida Orene Hardman (1913-2003) during the 2-year period of their courtship from early 1935 to mid 1937. At the time, Bill was finishing law school in Moscow, and Orene was teaching in a one-room school between Troy and Deary to the east of Moscow.
Bill and Orene married in 1938, but over the decades he kept the letters, with others she had written, in a shoebox. When she died in 2003, he couldn't bear letting her go. He put the box of letters, and her high school diary, by his reading chair in the living room. Until he died 10 years later, he habitually read a letter or two or a few entries of the diary before going to bed. When he finished them all, he would start over.
My father probably read my mother's letters as love letters, but I read them as belle lettres. They show her world through prose that sparkles with wit and humor, and breathes the playful sassiness of a petite, dark-haired, bright-eyed young woman in the throes of discovering what she wants in life.
The schoolmarm letters
I am calling the 125 letters the "schoolmarm" letters because, in many of the letters, she styled herself as a "school-marm" as she spelled the term. For convenience, I have divided the letters into the following 5 chronological groups.
1935 32 letters 28 Feb - 28 Dec 1936a 21 letters 3 Jan - 29 May 1936b 16 letters 9 Jun - 12 Jul Posted while traveling with college classmate Marguerite Manion 1936c 24 letters 15 Jul - 28 Dec 1937 25 letters 5 Jan - 28 Jun
The 1936b group of 16 letters consists of 15 postcards and 1 letter in an envelope, all written and posted while traveling with the family of one of her University of Idaho classmates.
Practically all the envelopes bear a single purple 3-cent Washington regular postage stamp. A couple have the purple 3-cent Susan Anthony Suffrage for Women regular postage stamp, and there are a couple of stamped envelopes with the round 3-cent embossed Washington stamp.
Orene's penmanship is that of an effortless, unhesitant hand that was at the command of her mouth. Words and phrases flow in short, dramatic sentences contrived to seize and hold someone's attention. The style is conversational except when intentionally formal. The grammar is perfect and rarely stiff or awkward. Orene was a confident and alert speller who occasionally flagged a word "Sp?". Overstrikes and other corrections number fewer than one per letter.
Orene sometimes stressed a word with underscoring and made ample use of exclamation marks. Her most strongest invectives were "darn" and "darned" (only once did she make an issue of "damn"). She hyphenated a number of words that today would be written with spaces ("high-school") or without hyphens ("to-nite"), and she liked phonetic spellings (thru, nite, tho) and contractions ("s'pose").
She tended to place punctuation marks outside quotation marks when the punctuation marks were not part of the citation. To see this was very gratifying for me, as I prefer this style -- which is common in the United Kingdom, and is standard in legal writing in the United States -- but which most American editors reject in favor of enclosing even uncited punctuation marks in quotes.
28 February - 25 December 1935
32 letters from Orene Hardman to Bill Wetherall dated 1935 survive. The envelope of the 1st is postmarked Troy 28 February 1935. The 2nd envelope is franked Peck 29 April 1935 but there is no letter. The 3rd has a Moscow 19 June 1935 cancellation mark. From this point, there are several letters a month, all but a few with envelopes.
The next till last letter in the 1935 groups is postmarked Peck and dated "Christmas day". And the last letter, which has no envelope, is fully dated "Saturday, Dec. 28, 1935". Most letters have only the day of the week, or a month and day, but no year. Even most of the numerous letters I received from my mother have only month and day, but no year.
Troy 28 Feb 1935 frank, Thursday [28th] letter
Orene vows to refrain from future moods
Walks to Kendrick Bill see lanky cousin
This 1st letter of the 1935 letters from Orene Hardman that Bill Wetherall saved is tantamount to the "establishing shot" which, at the start most movies, shows scenes that reveal the time and place of the beginning of the story.
Peck 29 April 1935 frank
Several letters lack envelops. This is the only envelope that lacks a letter.
The cancellation on the cover, the stamp on which had been lost, tells us Orene was visiting her parents in Peck at the time. Although she is living with the Arnots in Troy while teaching at Yellow Rose School, her home is in Peck, and Peck is close enough for her to return whenever she has a day or two free.
Moscow 19 June 1935 frank, 18 June letter
Orene accepts Yellow Rose School post
Bill waiting for summer job offer
When writing this letter, Orene is attending summer school at the University of Idaho, where she had completed a 2-year normal school program. She had already applied for a teaching position, and the summer school was for "school-marms" (as she spelled the word) such as herself.
Bill is with his Ure relatives in St. Maries. He, too, has just graduated, with honors, and his name is mentioned in this regard in a recent newspaper article which Orene has read. He has applied for a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) summer job and is waiting for a response.
Moscow [25/26] D[december]  frank, Christmas day letter
Orene spends Christmas with family at Peck
Bill knows her weakness for Yardley's
The next to last letter in 1935 is in an envelope with a Peck frank, but the stamp, and the part of the frank with the date, is missing. The letter is dated "Christmas day" -- which, assuming it was 1935, was a Wednesday. The 1935 assumption is based on the content of the letter and the stationery.
No envelope, Saturday, Dec. 28, 1935 letter
Fan-letter golden rule
The last letter in 1935 has no envelope but, unlike most letters, is fully dated.
1936 letters -- 1st group
3 January - 27 May 1936
This 1st group of the 71 letters from 1936 consist of 24 letters written between January and May that year. All were posted before Orene joined the family of Marguerite Manion, a college classmate, on a trip through the western states, which took them as far south as Tijuana, in Mexico, and finally to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
Troy 19 January 1936 frank, Saturday 5:30 P.M. letter
[Former teacher] "thick with the clerk of the board"
Rumors of Orene's dissatisfaction with school
"Notice I said "darned" [not unladylike "damn"]
This letter, just three weeks 1936, and about 4 months into her teaching job at Yellow Rose School, reveals that she was not happy with the situation, and moreover had become upset that rumors of her feelings about the school had reached the ears of the County Superintendent of Schools. She speculates that her predecessor, when visiting the Arnots, with whom she and then in turn Orene had stayed, may have have heard about Orene's feelings from Mrs. Arnot.
No envelope, Saturday [22th], Sunday eve. [23rd] letter
Locked in the schoolhouse and snowbound in Troy
Bill has a rival in Orene's father, whose words count
"A lame-brain posing as a school-marm"
This letter has no envelope, but judging from its content, it was written during the winter when the place where Orene was living was snowbound and she was unable get out. This implies the winter of either late 1935 and early 1936, or late 1936 and early 1937.
Other content suggests Orene was at the home of the Arnots in Troy. And later in the second of two letters that were posted together, she refers to February 28th and 29th a week in the future -- which suggests the letters were posted on the 23rd or 24th of February -- in 1936, since it was a leap year.
Orene almost always wrote on both sides of a sheet of paper, and the 2nd letter -- dated "Sunday eve." (23 Feb 1936) was started on the back of the leaf on which the 1st letter -- dated "Saturday" (22 Feb 1936) -- was written. So the two letters are physically as well as temporally sequential.
1936 letters -- 2nd group
9 June - 12 July 1936
The 2nd group of the 71 letters from 1936 consist of 16 letters -- 15 of them postcards -- which Orene wrote and posted while traveling with Marguerite Manion and her parents through the western states.
The trip took the party of 4 south through the coastal states of Washington, Oregon, and California, as far as Tijuana in Mexico, then north through some inland states, including Colorado, Utah, and Montana. The family briefly returned to their home in Firth, Idaho, after which Orene accompanied the Manions, without Marguerite, to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
1936 letters -- 3rd group
15 July - 28 December 1936
The 3rd group of the 71 letters from 1936 consist of 24 letters Orene wrote after her return from the trip with Marguerite Manion and her family through the western states.
5 January - 28 June
The 25 letters from 1937 cover the first half of the year. Why they suddenly stopped is not clear. Enteries in Orene's diary, and photographs, document the fact that they continued to see each other. Sometime in 1937, probably during the summer or fall, Orene's Hardman family and Bill's Baldwin relatives met at St. Maries. And Bill and Orene married in San Francisco on 1 June 1938.
Possibly there was less correspondence because they made more use of telephones. But I suspect there were more letters -- probably quite a few -- which simply got lost in the shuffle. They probably exchanged quite a few letters in early 1938, after Bill went to San Francisco to start a new job there, while Orene continued to teach in Idaho for a while.