CULLMAN – May 29, 2011, began as a typical day for Eva resident, Beth Boening. To celebrate the Memorial Day weekend, she and her husband drove to Cullman to spend the day with friends. Once everyone had arrived, the group settled down with his or her lawn chairs and coolers. The ladies chattered away as the men gathered up broken tree limbs that were scattered during a recent thunderstorm and piled them up for a bonfire.
Once the women discussed the latest happenings, Beth’s friend, Jan, began to talk about a batch of old love letters she had found.
The letters had belonged to her husband’s grandmother and dated back to the early 1900s.
The more she talked about them, the more excited she got and before long, she scuttled up to the house to retrieve them. When she returned, box in hand, she sat down and got comfortable. What was inside that box would change Beth’s life forever.
“It was a good size box and had leopard print and flowers on it,” Beth explained.
“When Jan opened the box, everyone gasped at the same time,” she giggled.
“On the top was an old black and white picture of a very handsome man. Under his picture was about 40 handwritten letters; the first one I could focus on was dated 1907. I remember my brain finding it hard to process the fact that the letters were over a hundred years old!”
The letters were from a young man named Francis X Resch to his sweetheart Miss Emma Marie Schwaiger.
Francis was born around 1880 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and somehow landed in Cullman in 1899 to attend college at Saint Bernard. In 1903, he established The Southern Tribune newspaper in Oneonta, Alabama. It is not known how long he lived in Oneonta, but by 1906 he was in Kansas working as a teacher.
Miss Emma is the daughter of Joseph and Annie (Bauer) Schwaiger. She was born in 1887 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and later moved with her family to Cullman.
Because her parents had been friends with the Resch family in South Dakota, the friendship had continued long after their move south.
Although Francis originally had eyes for Emma’s sister Anna, it didn’t take long for him to discover young Emma and by June 21, 1906, a steamy romance, through letters, had blossomed.
“The old style handwriting is just amazing to me considering that the children now don’t even use cursive writing,” Beth said as she shook her head a little. “Since I can read his handwriting, I’ve scanned and typed – word for word – every letter in the box.”
Once she finished with the box, Beth was thrilled to find out that there was another box of love letters that carried the sweet relationship to 1912.
The letters were just as beautiful and romantic as the previous letters. It did not take her long to get to work on the new batch and before long she had scanned and typed the additional letters.
“By the middle of June I was on the phone begging Jan and her husband Buck to let me write a book with the letters,” Beth giggled.
“Thankfully they thought it would be alright. And before long Jan began to tell me all kinds of things about the family’s past, after the letters, and oh how I wished I had a tape recorder at the time!”
From the moment Beth touched that first romantic letter from Francis she has been fascinated with the young couple and their long love story. She often finds her thoughts turning to Emma and what she might think of how things are this day and age.
Whatever happened to the two love birds? Did Emma and Francis ever marry and have a family?
The answer is in Beth’s upcoming book, ‘Love Letters in a Box’ and hopefully soon all can purchase a copy and see.
Until then visit her Facebook page to read some of the letters and see some of the family photos and mementos that have been saved and scanned.