The Clarendon News
Thursday, January 9, 1930
New Year's Eve Marks the Passing of a Great Character, Aged 91
Tuesday evening, December 31st marked the passing of one of Clarendon's most highly respected and beloved citizens, when Mrs. Albina Brockway Letts succumbed after a short illness at her home in the south part of town. She was past 91 years of age and it seemed fitting that such a long, well rounded life should pass out in the last few hours of the old year.
Mrs. Letts was born in Brockwayville, Pennsylvania in the year 1838 when that portion of the Country was a frontier wilderness. In 1842, her father moved with his wife and large family to the still more frontier country of Iowa , then known as the Wisconsin Territory, and settled in Muscatine County. Here she grew into young womanhood amid the surroundings of real pioneer life. Her parents were of sturdy, cultured, New England stock and soon made a place for themselves and were active and interested in bearing their part of all developments of the new country which abounded in all sorts of wild animal life and various tribes of Indians. Surrounded by such unfavorable conditions, her father managed to give his family a creditable education. There was no school system whatever and a teacher was hired for several winters to live in the home and teach the children. The next step was into the log school house where a subscription school was taught and the teacher 'bounded around'. That was followed by a term at a Methodist Seminary at Mt. Vernon, Iowa, now Cornell College, one of the leading educational institutions of the state. She and her brother, upon returning home from school, were consumed with the desire to pass to others the educational ideals they had imbibed and organized a neighborhood club known as the Pike Township Literary Society, which lived on for fifty years.
Miss Brockway spent one summer in Wisconsin visiting her brother, a prominent pioneer lumberman at Black River Falls, and while there taught a term of school in the mill village owned by her brother. She brought to a successful close the first school term ever taught there, all other teachers having been driven out by undisciplined pioneer children.
In March of 1859 she became the wife of James Robinson Letts, a farmer and cattleman near Letts, Iowa, her new home in Louisa County being but 12 miles from her girlhood home. There they lived on the same farm for fifty-two years, where nine children were born to them, eight having been reared to manhood and womanhood. Yet during this long and arduous period of motherhood she found time to serve as a faithful friend and neighbor, never refusing a call of sickness or distress and giving generously of her strength and her means. She had always been of a literary turn and when, as the years passed and her family cares became lighter, she turned once more to literary pursuits. For many years she was editor of the women's column of her local paper, at the same time writing articles for various papers and magazines in the state, including many pioneer articles for the 'Anals of Iowa'. the official organ of the Iowa State Historical Society. She also was a regular contributor to two Chicago papers and occasionally had poems in two religious papers in the East, one of which was The Christian Herald. She has at this time two book manuscripts ready for the press, one a story of pioneer days in Iowa and has a poem entitled 'The Christmas Baby' published in the Amarillo News under the date of December 26th last. Mrs. Letts literary talent seemed to run particularly along poetical lines and whatever beautiful thoughts passed through her mind she immediately jotted them down, working them out to a fullness at her leisure. These poems were collected by her daughter, who had them published in book form as a souvenir of her golden wedding anniversary, thus preserving for her friends and children the beautiful thoughts of her everyday life.
Being of a deeply spiritual nature, Mrs. Letts while still a schoolgirl joined the Methodist Church and retained to the last the beauty of her Christian character, her culture and her refinement. She was a devoted Christian, faithful friend, a wonderful mother and the world is better for her having lived in it. Much of her life during the past nineteen years has been spent in this town where she was known to her friends and acquaintances by the endearing term of 'Mother Letts'.
Wednesday afternoon at 3 o'clock a short service was held at the residence by Rev. Robert S. McKee, pastor of the Presbyterian Church. Mrs. W. G. Word sang 'Nearer My God to Thee' accompanied by Miss Howren. There was a profusion of beautiful flowers, tokens of love of her friends and sympathy for the bereaved family. The remains, accompanied by her son, Mr. Arthur R. Letts, were taken to Letts, IA and laid to rest by the side of her husband.
Five children survive to mourn her loss: James D. Letts of Iowa, E. C. Letts of Chicago, Frank B. Letts of El Paso, Texas, Arther R. Letts and Mrs. Frank E. McCrary of this city."
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