Keeping my promise to Minnie

Minnie Velma Backus 1898-1993
Minnie Velma Backus

My Grandma Minnie Velma Backus was born on March 2, 1898. If Heaven is the type of place from where our dear, departed loved ones look down and check out what we’re doing here on Earth, I hope she can see that I am doing my best to fulfill the promise I made to her. I promised her I would keep our family history alive. And in the process, I am writing a book.

Grandma was a sweet, sentimental woman and a saver of keepsakes. She kept little mementoes tucked away in envelopes in shoe boxes, in plastic cases in her chest of drawers, even in her sewing box. She saved letters from her son who served overseas during World War II. She saved  every card a grandchild ever sent her, and even kept five pennies that my little cousin gave her as a present. She put them in an envelope and wrote “From Jennifer” on it in pencil.

A Keeper—In More Ways Than One

Nathan Hanna letter to Caroline Page One
This is the letter written to my great-great-grandmother Caroline Grose in 1854.

Most importantly to me, Grandma kept a letter that serves as the most important clue to our 19th Century family history. She carefully saved a letter written to my great-great-grandmother Caroline Grose in 1854 Virginia by a man who professed his love for her. The letter lasted through the Civil War—two battles of which were fought within 10 miles of Caroline’s family farm—and it even traveled without leaving home, surrounded by the freshly drawn border of the new state of West Virginia in 1863. It survived Caroline’s marriage to another man, my great-great-grandfather Frank, and was safely passed to her son Adam, his daughter Minnie and finally to me.

My curiosity about the letter led me to research my family, my state (once Virginia), the Civil War and many other details of 19th century life in Western Virginia. After years of compiling, double-checking,  writing and editing, Panther Mountain: Caroline’s Story is ready to publish. I hope Caroline’s bravery and dedication to helping others while standing up for her Christian abolitionist beliefs will inspire readers.


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