Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Love Letter from George A. Rockwell

            We have given a great deal of attention to Bertrand and Julia Rockwell’s story in the past. As the primary owner of the B. Rockwell Merchandise and Grain Company and the donor of the Ladies’ Reading Club building, Bertrand had a very visible presence in Junction City, but today we are going to share the story of George Arthur Rockwell, the younger brother of Bertrand.
Advertisement for the B. Rockwell store 1896
            George Rockwell was born in 1851 in Warsaw, IL and came to Geary County with his family as a young child. After running his own general store in Abilene, Kansas for eight years, George returned home to Junction City to help his father and brother at the B. Rockwell Merchandise and Grain Company. Together they acted as president, vice president and co-vice president until the early 20th century. When Bertrand and his family moved to Kansas City, to ensure their children received a cultural education, George took over the business as president.
            In 1870, George met Annie Clark of Collinsville, Kansas after she came to Junction City to visit her sister, Mrs. Howard, whose husband was serving at Fort Riley.  After she returned home, Annie and George began a correspondence, which they continued for five years before they were married. In these sweet letters, which start out in the spirit of friendship and progress over the years to declarations of love, George shares local Junction City stories to his sweetheart among surprisingly candid reports of his feelings throughout their long courtship. Following is a letter written by George Rockwell to Annie Clark on December 31st, 1873.
            My own sweet darling Annie,
Here I am again with my old pencil attempting to answer your dear sweet letter which I received this Eve. It is now 10.30 P.M. and this is the last letter that I shall write in the year 1873 and I am sure I should not be writing now if it was not for my own darling Annie whom, as the year begins to close, I find myself loving more and more and with the new year I will renew my vows of Love and Constancy to you my darling and if you have had nay doubts of my love for you in the past year, dear darling Annie, I want you to throw them away with the old year. Of course the year 1873 can never be recalled so let all your doubts of my love be left with it, never to be recalled and let us both enter this new year with determination to love and stand by each other even unto death.
            Yes darling Annie I will do anything in the world for you that I can, if I think it is for your good and I will not willingly do anything that I think would cause you in the future any sorrow or regrets, for I do dearly love you my darling more than I do my life.
            If I could only have you here tonight to hold in my arms and kiss and caress you as much as I like I would be the happiest person in all the world. But no! Fate is against me and I am compelled to be here all alone, poor miserable feeling fellow whose only hope and love is far far away from him. Nevertheless in my mind my own precious treasure, you are always with me when I am not busy at work and I hope the time will soon come when you can be with me in person instead of mind at all times when I am not busy. I wish I did not have to work at all for then I could be with the “Idol of my heart” all the time…Please wipe off all the old kisses and let us begin again. Just kiss yourself 999 times for me and remember that you and you alone fill up my whole heart.
            George and Annie Clark married in 1875. After working in his shop in Abilene or the first years of their marriage, they moved their family of four children back to Junction City where George, his son, and eventually his grandson all worked at the family store. When the Rockwell store closed in the 1920s, George moved his family to Florida.
B. Rockwell store circa 1896
If you’ve ever wondered about your own local family history, stop by the Geary County Historical Society. We might be able to help you with our collection of local family histories, obituaries, wedding licenses and other historic documents. Museum open Tuesday- Sunday 1pm-4pm, Research Room open Tuesdays and Thursday and the Second Saturday of the month, 1pm-4pm.