‘Love Letters in a Box’: Book looks inside long-distance romance in 1900s-Cullman

 Photo courtesy E.W. Boening

This collection of old letters chronicles the communication between Francis Resch and Emma Schwaiger.  Photo courtesy E.W. Boening

CULLMAN – In 2011, during a Memorial Day weekend visit to friends in Cullman, E.W. Boening was shown a box containing a few photographs and a remarkable collection of love letters written by a young man named Francis X. Resch to his sweetheart Miss Emma Marie Schwaiger, who was the friend’s grandmother.  The letters had been preserved in a box in the family’s possession for more than 100 years.

Resch, the letters’ author, 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.  It is not known how long he lived in Oneonta, but by 1906 he was in Kansas working as a teacher.

Schwaiger, the recipient of the letters, was 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, where her father was employed as a stone mason.

The families had been well-acquainted in South Dakota, and their friendship continued after their move south.

Although Resch originally had an interest in Emma’s sister Anna, by 1906 he had decided to pursue Emma, and a romance through letters had blossomed.

Boening took an immediate interest in both the correspondence and the people named in the letters, so she borrowed the box to take home for further study.  After reading and transcribing the entire collection, she was informed that another box of letters existed, carrying the relationship to 1912.  Those letters were just as beautiful and romantic as the previous ones, and she quickly set about transcribing the new batch, after which she approached the owners with the idea of a book.

“Thankfully, they thought it would be alright,” Boening told The Tribune in 2015, as she was beginning the publication process.  “And before long (the friend) 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!”

Boening’s efforts to understand the relationship between Resch and Schwaiger, and to preserve their correspondence, has finally paid off with the recent publication of her book “Love Letters in a Box” through Dorrence Publishing. 

This week, Boening talked to The Tribune about the process of getting her book published:

“It took a year, took over a year.  It was agonizing!  The first time they edited it, they wanted me to correct all the proper English and stuff, and they didn’t understand that it was word-for-word that I had typed.  So, that was aggravating.  ‘But that’s spelled wrong.’  ‘No, it isn’t!’”

The book will officially be released on Oct. 18, and will be available through Amazon and other retailers, both in print and as an e-book.  Release event plans have not yet been announced.

“I’m excited about it,” said Boening.  “I’m real excited, and it’s kind of neat.  Now I have an obituary: stay-at-home mom and a published author!”

From Dorrence Publishing:

For author E. W. Boening, a simple gathering one day at a friend’s house ended up turning into something much more than simple.

While talking and enjoying each other’s company, her host jumped up, left the room, and, when she returned, she brought a box of letters to Boening. These letters took Boening’s breath away, as they were filled with such beautiful words of love, which she felt had to be shared with the world.

“Love Letters in a Box” gives us a peek into American history from 1902-1912 and the lost art of love letter writing.

About the author

E. W. Boening was born in Buffalo, New York, and raised on Grand Island, New York, until her family relocated to the Birmingham area. She lives in northern Alabama with her husband of 23 years. All together they have six children and 13 grandchildren. Boening has been a stay-at-home mom, with some outside jobs, such as a limousine owner/operator, deli owner and upholstery shop owner.

Copyright 2018 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.