On February 8, 1865, he had married Mary Eleen Henry in Charlestown, New Hampshire, where the couple made their home. A son Charles, 4, and a daughter Alice, 6, died of scarlet fever within four days of each other in April of 1871. Mrs. Brink died when another son, Jay Henry, was born on June 18, 1881. After the loss of his wife and two children, Mr. Brink apparently felt the need to start a new life. In 1884, leaving his small son with his parents and a relative, Miss Harriet Parks,¹ he came to Nebraska where he bought a farm near Miller. He seems to have lived in Kearney most of the time.
Letters preserved by the Brink family show the changing relationships between a father and a son whom he knew only through rare visits.
1. Referred to as "Auntie" in the letters.
Did Santa Claus come and see my little boy? He was here and he said he was going way in to New England just as soon as he could give all the little boys and girls something to make them happy. I see a nice picture book marked for you, and lots of presents . . . loaded into his sleigh and oh he had such a pretty team four little reindeer, and oh they had bells all over them when they went off . . . there was such a jingling.
Now papa want[s] to tell you about the little birds that live about the farmyard. When we feed our cattle we have a large box . . . to put the meal for the cattle, and there is large flocks of little birds about the size of the bird that used to look into the window at Aunties. Well they come and pick up the meal and they fly so many together and so fast that they strike the boxes and get a wing broken or hurt someway. We have picked up several and carried them into the house and they seem to be quite glad to get in out of the cold and will hop around the room and pick away at any crumb they can find. After they stay awhile we let them out, and they go off happy seeming to say thank you. . .
We have got 2 little pigs
oh just the prettiest little things you ever see for a pig. They go
around, sometimes they will curl down with a calf . . . and all go to
together . . . . Perhaps Santa will bring you a pig or bird next
. . . .
I am afraid that the weather is keeping it so cold that we will not get our cattle in condition to market before the 1st of March, that being the case you will not see the tramp before the first of April.
A tramp -- now that's not so bad after all. At first thought . . . one can't help to associate the word tramp -- mendicant dirt -- and a host of other unpleasant thoughts -- it is not at all necessary because one is a tramp that he should be dirty, ragged, or a beggar. I never knew a begging tramp who took the trouble to break ice for a bath, did you? . . . I like the name -- certainly we must all get thro some way, tramp along, or be carried. For myself, I prefer the former. The more we tramp amongst our fellow men, the broader views we get of this life . . . I would rather be the tramp that I am than to sit down and let the weeds grow up so high that the sun could not shine onto me. This tramp life will not let the mold gather on us or get rusty . . . . With lots of kisses for papas boy, and best wishes for you all I will sign myself your friend --
First farmstead of C. D. Brink near Miller.
The next letter, dated June 27, 1893, carries the heading "C. D. Brink, Real Estate, 2100 Central Ave." It was likely written after Jay had visited Kearney.
The letter you sent was very nice and I want you to write often and you must be careful and spell the words correctly . . . With kind regards to Auntie Parks, I will say goodbye.
Letters for the next three years are dated from Miller. The depression and drought had apparently ended the real estate business.Miller, Nebr. Sept. 9/96
In your letter you write that they all want McKinley for President there. It is not so here. Bryan will get the most votes in Nebraska, I believe. The West want more money to do business with and the New England states want protection. It looks to us out here in the west as though Bryan would be the next one to occupy the White House. I hope he will - but whichever one wins, I think I can live if the rest of the people can ...
Since I wrote
the first part of this letter . . . your letter came so I thought I
add a little to it. We have game here such as prairie chickens, quail,
rabbit and in the spring wild geese. I am no hunter - have not shot a
but once since I came to Nebraska, then I shot a dog but did not (hit)
him. I like fishing but this is not much of a fish country, not nearly
so good as where you are. I think it all right that you attend dancing
school only don't let it take your mind off your studies ...
You are nice to so readily give up the idea of having a saddle. I hope it won't be long before we will get out of the money squeeze so that we can have things more to our liking. Yes - gold is found in many places in the Black Hills . . . . No steam plows in Nebr. Learning to be an engineer and being one on the railway is quite two things . . . . Very few men get engineers unless they work up from fireman . . . . It want(s) a man of great nerve. I think you hardly fitted for such work . . . .
The letters for the next three years deal chiefly with farming and weather. Prices in 1897 were: wheat 60¢, oats 10¢, corn 7½ to 10¢. Wheat went up to $1. 00 in 1898 then dropped to 60¢, corn 15¢, potatoes 40¢, butter 10¢, eggs 12¢.
. . .I want you to make great
headway in your studies . . . for I want (you) out here with me . . . .
I need to have you out here to help me and I want you fitted to do so .
. . .
Enclosed you will find Bk.
Dft. for $125 - one hundred for "Uncle Henry" and $25 for you to buy
. . .
You wanted to buy a camera, which I wouldn't advise you to do, as you will have no time to take pictures for you must remember you are now past play, and must fit yourself for caring for yourself.
I want you to take up penmanship and bookkeeping you don't want anything to do with telegraphy, there are hundreds for telegraphy that are out of work. What you want most to learn is to keep act. of books and write letters as well as Charles can. . . . I want you here to help me but I want you equipped so you can be a help. I have paid out several thousands for you, which I was glad to do, and now all I ask is that you make me happy by fitting yourself to not only help me but be able to look after your own interests.
So soon as you will write a nice clear business letter in a pretty hand, I will buy you a first-class camera.
Now Jay do your very best to help yourself, and please me, and in time to come you will look back with pleasure that you made the effort ...
C. D. Brink
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