About Nellie Elizabeth Curtis (Gordon)
Nellie's Story: (taken word per word from the family history handed down in the Curtis Family. I will not guarantee no mistakes, but as I do find them, they will be corrected.)
"It was 1889, the Eiffel Tower was being built, Victoria was Queen, Benjamin Harrison was President, and George and Alice Gordon were expecting their second child. They had been married for three years, being married in Soldiers Grove, Crawford, Wisconsin on February 6, 1886. Their first child John Calvin was born January 3, 1887 and now the family was living in the Frederick, Michigan area. George was a professional photographer and owned the Wolverine Gallery for six months in 1889 while living with Philip Gordon his father. On March 15, Alice and George were blessed with a very little baby girl, they named Nellie Elizabeth. Nellie shares this story:
"When I was born, I got in a hurry, I came at seven months, no one thought I'd live. No hospitals, no doctors, and my Dad said, "Alice I don't think that baby's gonna live." I did look wretched, 2 pounds and a half and Dad's father would say, "Alice, you keep right on praying and that baby will live." She did and carried me around on a pillow with a hot water bottle to keep me warm."
It worked and Nellie grew and played just like any other little girl in the 1890's. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Adair in St. Clair County where George served with the Methodist Church there. On the 13th of March 1891 Elbridge Mark was born into the family and was to become a special brother and friend to Nellie over the years. There were five other children born to the Gordon family through the years, each in a different place. Being a part of the Gordon family was a special blessing to them all as they each had to rely upon each other as friends because they moved so much. Even though by moving so much their schooling was hampered somewhat, a great deal of importance was placed on getting a good education. In 1901 Nellie received a perfect attendance certificate from her school in Saginaw County, Michigan.
Like most children at the time, they attended a one room school. And like most children they didn't always have a perfect attendance. Nellie remembers: "The worst thing we would do to is disobey our parents was to run away from school and we'd go fishing. We had our bamboo poles and our hook with a sinker and a big cork for a floater and so we'd go. John the older, Elbridge the younger, and I was in between, were the three older ones. They'd say "Nell, let's go fishing" and we'd walk down barefooted and we'd go fishing."
In 1909, at 17 years of age, Nellie and a girl friend Mattie Drew decided to go away to school in Albion, Michigan. Nellie records their first day in her journal: "After reaching the M.C. Depot we were escorted to the Campus by a very nice young lady, leaving her for a few hours we roamed about the Campus, hungry, warm and weary. Finding a restaurant, we went and ordered dinner. Miss Drew and I went to the campus and after waiting under a free for a few minutes we met Mr. Kirkpatrick (her cousin) who directed us to our new homes, where we were expected to work. But we were so disappointed I cried, but only looked to God for help.
After walking about six miles, (all over town) I found no place to work. Well you know God says his followers shall not beg, for he will provide a place somehow. I trusted him again and a call came for me to go out in the morning and stay for a week at least until Prof. Goodrich gets me a place in town. He will put an adv. in paper tomorrow and how things will come out, I don't know.
About 8:30 a call came for me to come at 4129 East Erie Street, at the "Eleventh hour" (you might say). I went and behold they wanted me to try to work for them. So Thurs. morning, I went over to see her, with a longing in my heart.
I worked all day long as hard as I could. Then when my work was finished I started for prayer meeting, but did not get there, for I was called to see Prof. Goodrich about another place to work as my place is very hard. Nothing more can be done that is being done now."
Nellie ended up working for the Curry family. Being slight in build, she weighed 115 pounds at the time, the work was strenuous as she explains in the entry of her journal. This was one week prior to the start of school: "Sept. 28, 1906 Friday Got up, dressed and combed my hair, then I went downstairs, washed myself after starting the fire, I put some water in the tea kettle, then went into the cellar. Got the potatoes and put on to cook, set the table and made coffee. Eat breakfast then took everything off the table, and covered it up then I took down the lace curtains and put them on the line to dust out. Then I put all of the rugs on the line to dust. I then took everything out of the parlor and swept it all over, then dusted and moved furniture back in place again. Went out and dug some potatoes, got some tomatoes and cabbage and fixed for dinner. Cleared up the table, washed and wiped dishes, swept dining room, swept kitchen, scrubbed floor, then scrubbed out the "sink" then I washed my face and combed my hair, then went up town to get some fried cakes, then builded fire, set table and eat my s upper. John came up to eat with me, then I washed the dishes and wiped them. Swept up the crumbs and my work was finished for Friday and I am not a bit sorry. Oh, yes, I went up town and got some salt."
Friday, October 5: Nellie enrolled in Albion College paying $18.00 for one term's tuition. While attending Albion she took General History, German, Algebra, Penmanship, Spelling, English, Ancient History, Typing and Shorthand. She attended Chapel most every day. After school started she combined her college schedule with the housekeeping duties she did to pay her way which was common at that time. To earn extra money she also did the lace curtains for the fraternity building on campus at 15 cents a curtain. The following is a typical day as she worked and attended school: Nov. 5, 1906: "Got up, built fire, got breakfast, washed dishes, swept floors, took care of baby, went to college at 9: got home at 12 got dinner. Swept the house out, dusted, cleaned lamps, washed and wiped dishes. Went up town ordered groceries, went to Johns room payed him and went to college at 3:15 got home at 5, and got supper, washed the dishes, put them away, made two beds and studied my shorthand until 10:10 then went to bed."
Her free time was spent with friends doing many different things: playing the piano and singing, with Nellie always at the piano, going to town for pie at 10 cents or ice cream at 5 cents, attending church activities and going for walks with friends. Nellie dept a detailed list of her expenses during the year and her total expenses were $83.32. On June 3rd she paid $3.00 for her diploma and on June 19, 2007 she graduated from the School of Business in the Shorthand Course.
After graduating, Nellie went home to Dexter, Michigan and spent the summer working in the Dexter-Ann Arbor area in a restaurant called Woodward Brothers. An entry in her journal explains what her day was like: August 6, 1907: "Up at 5, went to Woodwards at 6:15 worked 'till 2:15 went home and sewed till 5, then went to work and got through at 7:15, went home and sewed until 10, and went to bed. Am making a blue silk dress."
She finished her blue silk dress on August 13th and then started making a white "waist". (blouse)
She lists the cost for the blue silk dress as: Blue silk waist- $1.25, Blue silk skirt- $3.00, Buttons - $0.10, Silk thread- $0.15, Total - $4.50
That summer in Ann Arbor she also lists the following: White waist- $2.31 , White Skirt- $1.00, Stockings - $0.20, Lace - $0.20, Under Skirt - $0.79, Coat - $8.75, Gray Skirt - $2.50, Total - $11.75
Sept 17, 1907: The family left Dexter for a new assignment in Kansas. After a long ride on the train, the family of eight arrived in Hollemberg, Kansas to find a very small parsonage of two rooms. One of Nellie's favorite stories is of the time here in Hollensberg, when she and Elbridge went out for a walk. They decided since Hollenberg was just a short distance from the Kansad-Nebraska line they would walk to Nebraska. So they did and upon arriving at the state line found a ditch. Elbridge decided he would carry Nellie into Nebraska and picked her up, (she ws bigger than he was) and fell right into the ditch. Unbeknownst to them, the place they walked to was Steele City, Nebraska, the town that 23 years earlier Will Curtis was born in. In three weeks arrangements had been made for the family to move to Daykin, Nebraska to a much larger and more pleasant situation. The rest of 1907 and early part of 1908 were spent at home, sewing, doing housework and spending time in church activities. During this time she decided to attend the Nebraska Weslyan University in Lincoln. In August she arranged to live at the home of Albert and Louisa Curtis at 2032 R Street, University Place, Nebraska. She found the Curtis's to be n ice people. Mrs Curtis and her daughter Lura both were teachers. She also found that they had a son also who was five years older than she was. But she was not to meet him until January as he was away from home working as a Bible Salesman.
On January 3, 1909 at the Curtis home, Will and Nellie met for the first time. She doesn't mention the meeting in her journal, however in her bridal book she describes the meeting: "In the morning at 6:20 between the kitchen and dining room door. Introduced by the father of the groom, after which he sat down to breakfast. There we sized each other up, and wondered and wondered and the wonder grew."
Life continued unchanged, Nellie serves as Secretary/Treasurer of the School of Commerce at the University and was busy with college life. Her journal describes their activities: toffee pull, parties, spent an afternoon in Lincoln having stamp pictures taken, cramming for exams (her words and she got 96% "Could have done better"), great times at the gym, and of course piano playing and singing. Unfortunately, her journal doesn't go past February of 1909 so we don't know her feelings at the time. Just after graduation Nellie and Will were engaged.
She describes the occasion in her bridal book: July 18, 1909 Saturday Evening Twelve o'clock "On the Northeast corner on the porch by the rose bush. The question was - And some day her'll be my little wife, won't her? Answer -"Oh! Maybe." Guests at Engagement - Miss Nellie Gordon, Mr. Wm F. Curtis, Mr. Moon, Mr. Stars, Mr. Sky, Mr. Rosebush, Mr Heart, M r. Love Engagement Presents - A big kiss, Love, a gig hug, Diamond Ring". Will continued to work in Hickman as he was part owner of Hickman Mercantile and Nellie stayed busy with her activities. On October 30, 1909, he wrote the following to Nellie as she was in Azalia, Michigan at her parents home: "Dear Nellie, This is the little church here. (The card was a picture of the church in Hickman.) It is a very pleasant one but my if they need anyone in the Sunday School they need you. Both to help in singing and play the organ." Than as preparations were being made for the wedding and Nellie had returned to University Place, Will wrote the following:
"June 2, 1910 My dear little Dutch Gal. Got your letter okay bur the picture did not show up. Did those proofs come out all right? Got one old hen sitting on 15 eggs, she is a doodle too. My suit came today and it is nice and fits me fine. Will write soon. Lovingly, Will"
The day finally arrived for the wedding. It was August 2, 1910 and they were married at the Curtis home in University Place. Nellie describes the bride and groom's dress for the day:
"The bride's dress was a one piece dress, dark green, watermark taffeta, the waist has tucks with w hite lace, square yolk. The sleeves were tucked at top, white lace in cuff, skirt all pleated. Black lace hose, Pat. leather sandals. (Mrs. Curtis picked out the dress for Nellie) The groom was dressed in black suit, white vest, white collar and tie, lavender hose and pat. leather shoes."
Nellie lists their wedding gifts in her bridal book: Bride's outfit (From Mother Curtis) - Large Doily - Wedding ring - Piano - Sugar Shell and butter knife (C) - Mission Set for Parlor - Orange Spoon - Quilt - Emb. pillow slips - Kitchen Forks - 2 books - Cream Ladle (2) - Bridal Book - Gravy Ladle - Large painting Scenery - Set of spoons - Sofa pillow - 2 gold spoons - Religious Mottos - Hand painted creamer and sugar - One book - Chocolate Pot - Kitchen Grind Stone - Bread Plate - One towel - Water set - Four pillow cases - String of 14 spoons - One pair linen towels - Hand painted fruit picture - Feather tick - Chocolate cup and saucer - Four sheets - Side board scarf - Two quilts - Hand painted rose picture - Music - Stand spread - Drawn work - Pair of stenciled curtains - Gold clock & Book case
After their honeymoon which was spent at Epworth Lake Park, the newlyweds arrived at home: "August 10, 1910 We came to Hickman to our already furnished new home. We stole quietly up the backway thinking nobody saw us. About 8:45 or 9 o'clock at night a nice little crowd of 80 persons gathered round our little home, yelling, beating pans, pounding the house and prying up windows until they were treated to five gallons of cream and wafers. After the music and singing all went home happy." in 1952 Will wrote the follwing about their wedding on the back of a photograph of the Curtis home in University Place:
"We are married in my room in corner under string of all sizes of spoons sent by mu cousin. Nellie had a little room upstairs in the front. We planned our future on the end of porch by dining room door and have lived happily ever since."
A Short Sketch of the Early Life of William Frank Curtis
The following information is based upon recommendation letters from Will's early life.
21 June 1884 - Steele City, Jefferson County, Nebraska Will was born to Albert Frank and Louisa Johnson Curtis. He was their third child. Their first child Warren B, a son was born July 2, 1872 and died July 16, 1874. Next they had a daughter Lura Dell who was born March 22, 1881 and lived to be a close and special sister to Will ans was known as Anite to all.
25 June 1897 - Fairbury, Nebraska - Sarbach dry Goods & Groceries To Whom it may concern: I herewith certify that Wm Curtis has been employed here at my store since school closed. I find him a good ho nest industrious boy willing to work, he has good habits & recommend him cheerfully. Respedtfully, Jos. Saubachs
7 September 1897- Fairbury, Nebraska - Bankers life Insurance Co of Nebraska- To whom it may concern: I cheerfully recommend the William F. Curtis to anyone needing a trusty bright boy. He worked for me in Gen Store and I found him ready honest and a boy of extra good habits. Very truly yours, L.L. Garrison
15 November 1901 - Fairbury, Nebraska - Superintendent of Schools To whom it may concern: This certifies that Willie Curtis passed a satisfactory examination before me in completion of the common school course, 8th grade. Very respectfully, F.A. Carmony
16 March 1902 - Fairbury, Nebraska - Fairbury Nurseries To whom it may concern: This is to certify that we have known the bearer (Wm Curtis) for several yuears, part of th etime of which he has been in our employ, we have found him sober, industrious and reliable and can recommend him as an honest boy. C. M. Hurlburt Mgr
26 Aug 1902- University Place, Nebraska - Nebraska Wesleyan University To whom it may concern: The bearer, Mr. William Curtis has been under my instruction in Shorthand for several months and I have always found him most conscientious and trustworthy. As an office assistant he has proven himself to be painstaking and careful. It gives me pleasure to commend him as a young man of sterling integrity and whose aim is success. Respectfully, Mrs. F. H. Going, Instr. Shorthand
15 June 1906 - Lincoln, Nebraska - Wagner & Walt, Fancy Groceries & Meats To whom it may concern: It gives me pleasure to give Mr. Curtis a letter of recommendation. He has been in our service about two years, and we cheerfully recommend him to the business works as a deserving young man, we have found him capable and conscientious. yours truly, Wagner & Walt
In 1907, Will started selling Dr. Naves "Student Bible". The following recommendations were writen in conjunction with that work.
18 June 1907 - Lincoln, Nebraska - Nebraska Epworth Assembly - The Rev. S. W. Lewis, D.D., President Morningaide College Dear Sir; This will introduce Mr. W. F. Curtis who has been well known to me for several years as an excellent young man of Christian Character. The work which he represents is in my library and I value it hightly. Any courtesy which you may show Mr. Curtis will be gratefully appreciated by me. Yours very sincerely, W.M. Balch, Pastor of Trinity M.E. Church
21 September 1908 - Marshalltown, Iowa - Brotherhood Bible Class - Rev. E. T. Bishop, Tama City, Iowa Dear Bishop: The bearer Mr. Wm. F. Curtis is selling a bood of unquestionable merit to lovers of the Bible, and hoeps to do a good business in Tama, try and bost him all you can, he is made out of the right kind of mud, is deserving, and I am sure will show his appreciation for any courtesy shown him as will, Your Humble Servant Doc. Wanberg
19 September 1908 - Marshalltown, Iowa - Railroad Young Men's Christian Association - To whom it may concern: I have examined the Students Bible by Dr. Nave and am deeply impressed with the value of this edition as a help to Bible study. The Bible is its own best interpreter and this book makes that interpretation the easiest of any that I have ever found. I am very glad to commend both the book and Mr. Wm. F. Curtis to the public. Very Respectfully, Jno. A. Goodell, General Secretary
21 November 1908 - Toledo, Iowa - Dr. L. L. Lockard, Belle Plaine, Ia. Dear Dr. Lockard: This will introduce to you Brother W. F. Curtis whom it has been my pleasure to know as a young man of excellent Christian character and Moral worth. Brother Curtis is introducing Dr. Naves "Students bible" and during his stay in our city has priven himself worthy of the peoples confidence and trust. We regret to have him leave us, but trust he may find a warm place in the hearts of the good people at Belle Plaine. N.S. Mershon Pastor of M. E. Church
23 November 1908 - Toledo, Iowa - First Congreational Chruch Rev. F. E. Henry - Belle Plaine, Iowa Dear Mr. Henry: This line is to say t hat I have met the utmost confidence in Christian integrity of Mr. William F. Curtis, who is introducing Nave's Student Bible. He has been in Toledo for a number of weeks and has secured for himself the full confidence of the people. He is a Christian gentleman and will succeed in any work to which he sets his hand. I heartily commend him to your fellowship. Very Sincerely, Harland H. Pitzer, Minister
Six weeks after that last recommendation Will returned to his home in University Place, Nebraska, where he met Nellie Gordon one morning just before breakfast as she was a boarder in his parents home. Six months later, they were engaged and a year after that they were married.
This concludes the history compiled by Brenda Webb Senske, a grand-daughter of William and Nellie Curtis.
Later, I will get the Gordon History which was done by Doris Herschbach in the 1960's on here as well. For now, if you have any stories to add, please feel free to do so.