A Letter From Nanna

My dad’s mother — my grandmother and namesake — was the youngest girl of 11 children, six boys and five girls altogether. The oldest was Clara, whom we heard from in a prior post


In the course of packing for our move to Minnesota, my progress is being continuously sidetracked by finding old photos, notes of family history, even a few letters.

Case in point: I found a little letter written by my grandmother when she was 12 years old, addressed to her sister Clara.

And when I say it was a little letter, I mean little:

Nanna's letter
The pen should give you an idea of the letter’s size

I was in college when my dad received the letter from a cousin. I remember him showing it to me and how delighted we were by the size of it. The envelope is 3” by 4” and the letter itself is folded like a little book.

What I didn’t remember was that my parents made a replica of it for me, going so far as to create a makeshift envelope so I had the complete package.

I must be the luckiest blogger in the world.

Before I reprint the letter here, I should explain something. As has been stated before, my dad’s family was not one for nicknames but they made an exception in my grandmother’s case. Since her name was so long — Christianna — as a young child she had a hard time saying it. The best she could manage was “Nanna.”

The name stuck. Even as a young girl, she was called Nanna.

Clara and Grandmother
Clara & Nanna

Personally I’ve always been charmed by the fact that my grandmother’s name was literally Nanna. 

Postmarked: Nordness Iowa, May 4, 1897

Miss Clara Jacobson
Hills, Rock Co. Minnesota

Dear sister:

I will ans. your very welcome letter, received it yesterday eve when I had gone to bed. Momma has a cold, the others all well. Ragnvald is over to Bakken to help Signe Abraham and she has not done her house cleaning yet.

How do you like to teach school when it is so many, 34 in all wasn’t it?

It is getting very nice down here now. We have Pentecost lilies that bloom and bleeding hearts will soon be out & pansies out and many buds on the peonies. Momma said I should thank you ever so much for those nasturtium seeds. I’ve been going to school today. Helga is playing now.

The church was just full at Mary’s funeral. The boys came up. Christian, Isaac and David, they came up on bicycles Saturday. Isaac and David stayed till Sunday but Chr. went down again.

We laid 5 hens on the hen house, one was dead on her nest and the others ate up their eggs.

How do you like to stay with Mrs. Sarah Jacobson? I suppose she has it nice.

Martha Brown fell out of the buggy Sunday when they came home from church and the wheel went over her. Nettie Hovey said she did not get killed but I have not heard any since that.

I must close now. Please ans. soon.

Your sister,

Excuse scribbling and bad spelling, writing and everything. I hope you can make it out. – Nanna

Just a couple thoughts:

  1. How hard it is to write out ‘answer’? That’s twice she abbreviated it to ‘ans.’ (No offense Nanna, but really. It’s just three stinkin’ letters)
  2. Is it just me, or do you get a sense Nanna was disappointed Martha Brown survived? I mean, outside of the peonies the letter was a bit dark, don’t you think?
  3. Did you notice where the letter was sent? Clara was living in Minnesota! Where I’ll be living in just one month’s time!

I looked it up. Hills, Minnesota is in the southwestern-most corner of the State, very close to both South Dakota and Iowa borders.  According to Google maps, it’s just a little over four hours from where I’ll be.

Hills to Randall

I was aware that our move would put me closer to family in South Dakota and Wisconsin. I hadn’t considered how much closer it would put me to my past.

Of these 11 offspring of Jacob Abrahamson (Nanna and her siblings), eight of them wound up in Minnesota. I know this because my family kept ridiculously good records.

When my move is complete and the dust has settled, when I find my “new normal,” I plan on sharing a few thoughts regarding the bios I have on these 11 offspring. They are interesting not only for what they say, but for what they omit. Particularly with regards to Nanna.

In the meantime, hang loose my friends. Only don’t fall out of the buggy.

20 thoughts on “A Letter From Nanna

  1. Well this letter reminded me of my aunt, who still writes good old fashioned letters. And they sound about as disconnected as this one. The only exception is I don’t know most of the people she talks about. And by the way, buggies were much lighter than cars. My teen age grand daughter was walking behind my son in law’s truck as he was backing up. Bad timing, and two very distracted people, but she’s young and her foot did recover. Amazing resilience that the human body has.

    1. Oh my, I’m glad she’s okay! You’re right, our bodies are fortunately quite resilient.
      As for buggies (I love that word, don’t you?) I expect it matters how many bodies they’re holding and how big those bodies are. 😉

      1. I adored how in Arkansas people called shopping carts buggies and always asked if you wanted a sack for your groceries. again I love this blogging community, seeing you and my dear old friend Mary chatting like old friends too is just so lovely.

        1. Ah, I know what you mean! I love how when I “discover” a new blog, and see that one of my blogging buddies already visited and liked it. It feels like I stumbled upon the friendly neighborhood hangout. 🙂

  2. I suppose to our view it seems dark and morbid, but deaths ( of livestock or people) was so commonplace then. Everything else was just same-old, same-old. Much as now, if it bleeds, it leads. That’s the news!

  3. Another letter from the past. Nana, like in Peter Pan. We all need little nana, someone to hold on too when the thunder claps and the lightning strikes… jc

    1. Very true! Nanna passed away several years before my parents married, but as a young child I used to imagine (probably because I was named after her) that she was specially appointed to be my guardian angel. Maybe it was a little silly, but what a comfort when the storms came.

  4. I’m in full agreement with your Thought #2. “… she did not get killed but I have not heard any since that.” This speaks of an intense rivalry that only got worse during the harsh winters…

  5. Talk about curious! I can’t believe I missed this post, Christie. It’s too interesting for me to not recall any of it. It’s all good. I now have a clear path for what’s left of my vacation. I’ll finally open that bag of old family letters. My mother had only five sisters and no brothers, but there must be some tidbits of fun in that correspondence between Arizona and Northern Illinois in the 1940’s and 50’s. That is when Phoenix began developing into Chicago’s biggest suburb. Film at 11… Okay, digital file to follow. Sheesh.

    1. Yay, I’m glad the bag is about to be opened! I’m sure it will be worth a post or two or three.
      As to Phoenix being a Chicago suburb, you aren’t kidding! We were always amazed at how many Cub fans mingled among the natives. Nearly indistinguishable. 😉

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