The following letters were written to Arnon Laney from his sister Clara who had married
Ben Myers of Livingston, Montana. Ben was in business with his brother Alfred on a
ranch on the Shields River. Records show that Clara married Ben on January 4, 1882 in
Bozeman, Montana. Ben and Clara had three daughters–Ruby, May and Hazel, and a
son, Bennie (or Benny). The letters are all addressed to Mt. Arnon Laney, Miles City,
Dec. 14th 1883
December 11th 1883
Dear Brother Arnie,
I had some photos taken in St. Paul and I believe I told you I would send you one if they
were fit to send. I have not received any letters from you since I saw you. I wrote to Mother
and told her it would do her heart good to see how fat you was, that no one would ever think
now of associating you with bean pole dressed up. I am glad the climate and outdoor
exercise agrees with you so well. My health is better since I came back to the mountains
again. I have better health here than I ever had any place in my life.
Baby has been quite cross for some little time. But the reason is he is teething and that is
enough to make any body cross. Sallie is a splendid good girl. Tries to do every thing to
suit me. I am so glad I found such a good girl to come away out here with me. She seems
very well contented.
We have been in our new house about three weeks. Have things pretty nearly straight.
Arnie I am going to have a beautiful home when we get everything fixed up. There is eight
good sized rooms in the house beside the pantry. Bathroom and a small bed room off the
sitting room where we have our bed. Then there is a front stairway and back stairway and
halls above and below and closets in all the bed rooms. It is a splendid good house, very
warm. We bought handsome furniture. I think if our friends in Mo. Could see my home they
would open their eyes. Next summer we are going to have gravel walks made and a drive
way and trees set out. We have fruit trees set out and all kinds of small fruit growing nicely. I
think we have the garden spot on Shields River. Well, I am in a hurry and must close for this
time. Write me a good long letter soon. I remain your loving sister, Clara Myers, Livingston,
P.S. Come up and see us when you can. I do wish you could come up and spend
February 21, 1884
February 19th 1884
Dear Brother Arnie,
I received your welcome letter sometime ago. Glad to hear from you and that you was
getting along so well. I am glad you like the photos. They are not what I wanted but are I
think are possible good. I received a letter from Mary Wertz the other day. She has a little
daughter. Calls her Ina Irean. Says she has dark blue eyes and brown hair and thinks her
hair will curl. Mrs. Heren has a little brown eyed brown haired daughter over two months
old. She is a little beauty.
Benny boy can almost walk. I think in one week’s time he will be running every where. He
can go everywhere now but he creeps and walks by holding on to things. He tries to walk
alone now all over the house, but falls down every little bit. He can say several words and is
so interesting and nice. His hair is as curly as Johns. Ben calls him John Laney but I can
not see as he looks like John except his hair. He is the biggest little romp and mischief of a
baby that I ever did see but I guess he inherits all of it. He is very much like his Papa. I hope
he will make as smart and enterprising a man and have as much get up and go ahead
about him as his Papa.
We have been having very cold weather. It has turned some warmer now but do not know
that it will stay that way. Arnie I do think you must try and come up a little while next summer
either before or after haying just as you think best. Ben says he things you could come very
well. It would not cost you over #25 if it did that. Ben says he thinks he will try and go down
in the spring and see how you are getting along. I hope you will do the best you can and
tend strictly to your business and stick to it and in ten years time if you have success you
will be worth more money than Pa is after working like a slave nearly all his life. I suppose
John is determined to come West too and go into business. It seems too bad to leave the
old gentleman alone but they can not get along at all and I think it would be best for them to
be separated. You boys both will do better out here for yourselves. Ben says if John wants
to come out and go into sheep he will go in with him and do the same by him he did with
you and that is better than he can do there any place.
I think Pa regrets very much he cannot make a preacher out of one [of] you boys. He was
telling me last summer that it seemed too bad. That you with your intellect that you could not
have decided to make a minister of yourself that you would have made your mark. I am
very glad you did not decided on any thing of the kind. He fooled away all of his young days
at that, then had to work like a slave when he ought to have been taking things easier to
make a living for his family. He preached last summer when I was there twice a month.
I had a letter from Kate Sayers a short time ago. She said she had not had a letter from
you for a long time. Want to know if you had gone to sleep fro the winter. Now I am going to
tell you a secret. And don’t you tell any body I told you. Kate is going to be married the 27th
of this month to Milton Clark. Every body says he is as lazy as can be. I will quote her
words: I believe in Mr. Clark I will find not only a Christian gentleman but a kind husband. If I
do right I can safely trust my future in the hand that has dealt so gently with me in the past. I
know he has not riches but a Christian character can give more lasting pleasure than
wealth no earthly pleasures however desirable can satisfy the longings of the soul.
I am very much afraid her soul will get starved and for want of bread and butter. Mother
says that their mother was the only one of the family that amounted to anything. She went to
town and kept boarders to educate her boy and worked herself into her grave. I heard folks
say the boys all were lazy and had not get-up about them what ever. I expect if this fellow
ever amounts to anything Kate will be the making of him. I am afraid Katie has a rough
road ahead of her. I believe my soul would feel better satisfied to see my husband stiring
around and get something to keep me on, would not you think so. Don’t say a word about
this. Kate did not want me to tell it, but I thought you was so far away it would not hurt to tell
you. I wish you was here so I could talk to you and I have so much to say. I cannot put it all
on paper. I must stop for this time. Write to me soon and often as you can. Ben joins me in
love to you. Benny boy sends a kiss. I remain lovingly your sister,
Clara Myers, Livingston Montana
P.S. I suppose you have heard that Minnie Andrews and Charley Seamans were married.
August 14, 1884
August 13, 1884
Dear Brother Arnie,
I have been a long time answering you. But I have not been able to write any for a long
time. I am feeling pretty well and I think in a short time I will be myself again. I wish you
could see Ben Alfred. He is a little captain. I know if you could see him now you would think
he was about the smartest boy you ever saw. He even wants to ride horse back and goes
around with a whip in his hand and makes a horse of everything. He is so bad to rein off.
The other day I missed him and called and hunted every where and was getting so
frightened I did not know what to do. And finally I found him away down the road by an
irrigating ditch playing in the water with his whip. He is learning to talk very fast.
I am glad you are getting along so nicely with your sheep. I hope you will continue to do well
and not have any loss. Ben has been talking all summer about going down there but one
thing after another was come up so he had to put it off. I guess he will go before long now. I
would go with him if I had a nice place to visit and did not have to stay at a dirty hotel. Arnie
I want you to be sure to come up and make me a visit. You surely can get off a little while. I
am going to write Will and Add to come up and make a visit while Annie is here. As it is
not that pleasant for her to visit them at Miles City.
Arnie, do you write to Fannie Williams yet? Now I want you to tell me if you do. If I was you I
would stop, For you don’t know her and I would not for anything in the world have you get
into an entanglement there.
Our folks will get done haying this week. And next week we are all going up to the
mountains to camp and pick berries. I wish you was here to go along. Anna and I want to
go to the geysers this summer but I am afraid it is doubtful about our getting to go. As the
folks are so busy. Well I must close for Benny has wake up and wants me to dress him and
give him his breakfast. Come up when you can. We have not had our house finished yet.
Think will commence work on it this month. Good bye. Lovingly Your sister, Clara Myers
P.S. I can’t remember the number of your box to save me. I guess you will have to put it in
every letter. C[lara]
November 16th 1884
Dear Brother Arnie,
We received your letter a few days ago. Was very sorry to hear of your losses. I do not
know whether Ben has wrote to you since or not. But he says you will make money on
those sheep yet that when people are in debt they have to pay their debts and very often
have to sell at a sacrifice. Just like the cattle Ben is taking east. Now if they were kept
another year [they] would bring more. But they are short of money and have to sell. But as
far as you are concerned you need not be afraid of Ben being hard on you.
I am so sorry to hear of your things being stolen. And they took your bed. What do you do?
If Mother does not send you some bedding I will. My dear brother this will teach you a
lesson not to leave things of so much value in your cabin. You ought to leave your trunk with
your good clothes in it at town for you do not need them out on the ranch surely. And you
would want to dress after you went there. Experience is a bitter teacher is it not. Did you
write home anything about it?
Ben will load cattle tomorrow and start to Chicago. He left home today so I will be alone for
the next three weeks or more. Not exactly alone for I have help. But I miss Ben more than I
can tell you when he is gone. I hope when you get a wife she will think as much of you as I
do of my husband. Ben may probably run down home for a days visit at each place. I
should have gone home if it had not been so late and Ben could have stayed long enough
for a visit but to rush right down and back. I thought it would not pay. I would have gone
home with Anna if money had not been so scarce and then we have put a good bit in the
house this fall. It seemed like I ought not to go under the circumstances.
Arnie I want you to come up Christmas if possible. Ben says he thinks you can come. I am
going to have a Christmas dinner and a tree here and have Herens and Offiens folks here.
And I want you to come. I thought I would write to Will to come. I think Add played smash
when he was down to the states. Had Mit Laney crazy for him. And went to see Anna Smith
and stayed until nearly morning and then took her the next day to the fair at St. Joe and they
stayed all night. Were not that pretty actions. I think Aunt Kate must have lost what little
sense of propriety she ever had, don’t you! And as far as Anna is concerned she never had
any. I see by the reporter that Anna has gone to Pa (Pennsylvania) to stay six months. I do
not suffer much uneasiness on your account as far as the girls are concerned. But I gave
John quite a lecture the last time I wrote him about spending to much of his time with the
girls. The first letter I got from him after he went back had not much else in it but the nice
girls there and did not know where to go first and so on. It quite alarmed me. I did not know
but what he was going to turn Morman and cabbage [verb: to pilfer, take dishonestly] the
whole lot. But the last letter I got he tried to convince me to the contrary. It would most break
my heart to see you or John marry young with nothing ahead at all and then there is not
much shaw [noun: leaves and tops of vegetables] to get much shaw to get much ahead.
And then a young man of 21 or 22 does not know what would best suit him for a wife. I must
close. Write soon. I remain your loving sister, Clara Myers
Around the edge of the letter: I forgot to say Benny is well and learning to talk very fast. He
is so much company for me. Ben is gone so much.
January 27, 1885
January 25th, 1885
Dear Brother Arnie,
I received your most welcome letters some time ago. I should have answered sooner but
have been quite busy, but then I suppose I ought not to offer that as an excuse for I am
always busy at something. I have looked for you up in vain. Will was up a week or so ago.
He said he guessed if you had known he was coming up you would have come along. Try
and come this winter if possible. I am anxious to have you visit me. There never has been
one of my own family visited me yet since we have kept house. Be sure and bring your
violin with you.
Ben started to Helena this morning for the purpose of working against the country division
movement. Will be gone several days. I am awfully lonesome when he is gone. But my little
boy is lots of company for me. I would be lonesome indeed without him. I told him what you
said about the candy. And now whenever I say anything about you, he says Uncle Arnie
bring me candy. Benny has the best memory of any child I ever saw.
You wanted to know how my health was. It is very good indeed. I think I never had better
health in my life and my appetite is splendid. Ben told me the other day I was getting fat.
But I think I could not stand it to work very hard as hard as I used to at home. I get tired so
easy. I have help, an old woman who does the roughest work but I have to see to every
thing I want to have nice, but then I take pretty good care of myself and intend to do so for I
believe I could not stand it rough and tumble like a good many women and I am very
thankful I do not need to. For there is not every girl that marries blessed with plenty of
everything, a comfortable home and as good and kind a husband as I have.
I had a letter from Emma the other day. She said Annie was writing to you so I suppose my
letter is no later than yours. I am glad to hear Aunt Lizzie is married. I hope she has a man
who will provide well for her so her relatives may be relieved of the responsibility. I am
anxious to see you and have a good long talk for I never can write like I can talke to anyone.
Well, I must close for the present. Write often as you can. With much love I remain as ever
your sister, Clara Myers.
Feb. 16, 1885
Feb. 15th, 1885
Dear Brother Arnie,
I received your kind and most welcome letter a short time ago. Am very sorry you can’t
come up now. No my dear brother my memory is very good, but I want to know if I was not
living at somebody else’s house when you came to see me. I said there had been none of
my family to visit me since we had been keeping house. And I assure you, you would find it
intensly [?] different to visit me in my own home. I am sure it would certainly be a great
pleasure to me to have some of the family run in every week, but that is in the future. We
want to go home this coming fall if possible.
The weather here is very good now and there is not near as much snow as last year. Ben is
at Helena at present working against the county division bill. I will be so glad when it is
settled for that has been all the talk this winter and Ben has been away from home so much
on account of it.
I received a nice long letter from Joe this evening. I believe he has a little notion of getting
married. I wish he would marry some good girl. Arnie, don’t get vexed at me, but I wish you
would not write to that Fannie Williams. She is my cousin you know and I have heard a
great deal about her. I will give you my reasons when I see you. It is bed time and I must
close. Write as often as you can. Conveniently I remain your loving sister, Clara Myers.
PS. Maybe I will go with Ben in the spring (April) to Miles [City]. He is going down to attend
the stock association. C[lara]
January 30, 1887
Jan - 28 - 1887
I received your letter in due time. Glad to hear from you. We had not heard how you were
making it down there this winter. The weather has been very stormy up here since
Christmas. Ben is going all the time riding and feeding cattle. I am afraid it is going to be a
pretty bad winter on cattle. I wish Ben did not have all the money he has got running around
on foot. I hope you will have success this winter and would hate dreadfully to see you loose
what you have got. We are all well. Bennie has got quite stant [?] again. I wrap him up well
and he plays out every day it is not too storm. Ben has fixed some little bobs [runners] on
the buggy and takes us out sleigh riding when he as time. There is no road broke but down
in the field so we ride around there.
The baby is growing so fast she has been sitting alone a long time but does not make any
effort to creep. She has quite a head of hair now and it is brown. She is a very sweet baby.
Today is Bennie’s birthday, 4 yr. old. I made him a nice little scarf for a present. I suppose
the folks at home wrote to you about Mother being sick again with dropsy of the stomach. I
am so afraid she will go off suddenly sometime. She is so delicate, can’t stand anything
and then what would become of the family I can’t see. I am in the hopes she will live to see
every one of her children settled in life. I cannot help feeling uneasy about her every time I
hear she is sick. Being with her this summer all the time I know just how frail she is. I would
like to go home again next fall but don’t know whether I can or not. I suppose you knew
Annie talks of going to Pa [Pennsylvania] with Aunt Ag in March. They talk of starting if
Mother is well so Annie can go. I must close for this time. Write as often as you can. All join
me in love to you.
I remain lovingly your sister, Clara Myers
Hand written postmark:
April 14, 1887
Dear Brother Arnie,
I have intended writing to you for a long time but it has been one thing after another and I
kept putting it off. The children and myself were all sick this spring awhile. All are well now. I
was over at Bozeman last week a few days. Ben was on the U.S. Trial jury. It was the first
time I had been off the place since the first part of Dec. I did think for a while I would go
home this spring but have given it up now. They are getting along pretty well at home. My
heart aches for them all the girls especially. I can’t have the sympathy for Pa that I would
have if he had not always treated Mother like he was a kind of a machine. I had a very
affectionate letter from him a short time ago telling me how he misses Mother and how his
heart was broke. I felt mine breaking long ago when I saw her dying by inches. [Martha
died on January 28, 1887 and was buried in Savannah Cemetery, Savannah, MO.] I
never can feel towards him like a daughter should on account of the way he treated her.
And then he always treated me in a way that I could not care for him like I did for Mother. I
well realize the best friend I ever had or ever will have is gone. Nobody else is ever going
to worry about me or try to save me in any way. She was always trying to do little things to
save me. She said nobody else cares how much a body does.
Her death was a dreadful blow to me. I am not over it yet. Just think neither of us saw her
alive after she left here. Her visit out here is a great comfort to me now. She was free from
one summer’s hard work and worry before she left us anyway. Dear Heart, she is I am sure
enjoying her well earned rest at last.
The girls are what worry me now. I guess they have a pretty hard time getting along
between Pa and Aunt Agg. I just wrote the other day and told Em [Emma] that they were
given [?] to let Aunt Agg talk the way she does that they ought to just tell her that they were
women grown and not little children and they could not and would not stand her petty fault
finding. It makes me so made I can’t stand it or won’t. I will write to her myself if the girls
don’t make her stop. She ought to remember she is under considerable obligation to
friends and there is no sense in the way she goes on. Ben gets so mad he don’t know what
to do at the way she scolds the girls and did when we were back there. Said he had a
notion to say something to her. I am so sorry you lost so heavily this winter. [The winter of
1886/87 was terrible in Montana with early snow and a late spring. Ranchers lost much of
their stock.] I feel a great deal more sorry for your loss than I do for our own. Our folks went
broke once. Don’t grieve over what Ben lost. If he had not lost it in sheep he would have
had it in cattle and lost it that way I expect. I would rustle around and make back what I
could. It may be in a few years you will never miss it. It is not near so bad to loose about all
one has at your age as it is for a man at Ben’s or Alfred’s age. You have the best part of
your life to make it up in.
I must close. Write often as you can. Children send you a kiss. With much love I remain
your loving sister, Clara
Written around the edge of the letter: It seems funny to think of John being engaged don’t
it. I hope he won’t get married. He has a little something ahead.
PS. I expect you can not make out all of this letter. It is written in such a hurry and I spilled
milk on it too and I have not time to copy it so please excuse it. Clara
June 10, 1887
June 12, 1887
Dear Brother Arnie,
It has been some time since I received your letter. I have been very busy lately is about all
the reason I have for not writing. I just received a letter from Annie. I will send it to you.
[Annie’s letter was included in this envelope and appears below.] I feel real worried about
her. She is not well and I don’t believe anybody thinks much about it or cares much. Mother
is gone and I find no body else is going to bother themselves much about one. Oh how I
wish she was out here in the mountains with me this summer. She would soon get well and
strong. I cannot go back now and could not do any good if I did. Much obliged to you for
your kind offer of the money. If I had want to go I guess Ben could have managed to raise
the money for me. I know about how Aunt Agg would talk so you would think these girls did
not know anything. But I know you could hunt the country over and you would not find two
girls their age that are better sewers than they are and as far as knitting is concerned, very
few young girls now days know how to do that. I never knit any until this winter and thought I
would learn and knit the baby two pair of stocking and Bennie a pair of mittens. Anybody
can learn that when they want to. Mother never knit any until after she was married or
darned and patched either. I heard her say so. And I never did at home. She used to say if I
ever married I would have enough of it to do and you had better believe I have had.
It vexes me to think Pa wants to put these young girls with no mother to look after them in
the roughest place he can find where no telling what associations may be thrown around
them there in the city. It does seem to me as though the Laneys have the lease sense of
propriety of any people I ever saw, the men and women both and Aunt Kate especially.
She even let Anna sit in a dark room and keep company with a gentleman. Well I know
mother instructed me pretty thoroughly about what was proper and what not and I suppose
she has them. But they are young and need looking after all the time and Pa is no more fit
for that than a yearling calf. O how I wish we were situated so I could give them advantages
for I know very well I am the one they ought to be with. Well I don’t know how it will end. I
wish you would find out how things are and give him a talking to. Maybe he would listen to
you. Why if he wants to rent them both (his buildings I mean) he could rent a small place in
a nice part of town to live. I am very much afraid he has fooled the farm away pretty near. I
would have been much better to have moved to town with the children and sent them to
school and let John got moved and run the farm and make what he could of it. It will be very
We are having a rather cool spring. Had our garden frosted but not many things killed
entirely. Baby is so cute. Can say a number of words but can’t walk yet. I am thinking of
going to Billings this week on a visit. I will close for this time. Write to me soon. The
children send a kiss. I remain your loving sister, Clara Myers
Annie’s letter to Clara was included in the envelope with the letter above.
June 1st, 1887
Mrs. Clara Myers
My Darling Sister,
I was astonished when I looked at the date of your last letter to find how negligent I had
been in not answering for almost six weeks. Have been feeling so bad have been in no
humor to write letters. I was in bet very near all day yesterday. Feel some better today, but
far from well. Between you and me I don’t believe Uncle Tom [Dr. Thomas Laney] knows to
much. He don’t know what’s the matter with me. I am sure I don’t have the least idea what
the matter but know something is. I feel bad all the time and I never did feel so weak as I do
now. I can’t do any work to amount to anything. I am going down to St. Joe and see a Dr. I
think it time to be finding out. I have been feeling this way for over five months. I haven’t one
bit of color in my face, don’t think I look like I use to am sure I don’t feel like I use to. But
Em. [Emma] is the picture of health. Her cheeks are like red roses. I would be almost
happy if I was as healthy as Em. is. I use to be. I am not taking music now. I stopped
because I did not feel like practicing. Em. is taking yet. Prof. Did not come out this week.
Auna [?] was down and spend the afternoon last week.
Pa took some stock to Dakota, has not got back yet. I have not been to see our new house
yet so I can’t tell you much about it. Only Pa has decided to live in the Hall building. And I
don’t like that for we will not have one bit of yard. In the other house on tenth we would have
a little yard which would be better than none. Then the neighborhood is very rough. But he
thinks no other place but there. Says we will have to live there to see after the building. But
is just an excuse to save a little money. He can get some for the rent for the building on
Tenth. Mr. and Mrs. Seemore both advised him to live on Tenth because his girls were
young. They said there we so many men in that part of town. Said that was about the
roughest part of town. It is near the “Union Depot.” I had a big cry, of course that didn’t do
any good only I felt some better. I just settled it in my mind that I would not stay there much
longer. I am going to put in my time this winter in painting and I want to take singing too. Pa
and I can never live together in peace not long at a time. Perhaps I ought to be ashamed to
say so but it is the truth. I do ever little fooled thing he wants me to and it makes him mad. I
always take all I can then I give as good as he sends. I am going to take the money Mother
said I was to have and get me a watch then I can always keep it. I expect that Pa will kick
on that but then he will not know anything about it till I have got it. Am going to get Joe to
send for it for me. He knows more about such things than I do.
When do you think you will come home. I wish you would soon. I want to see you most awful
bad, Clara. I would have sent you those flowers but the time I got the letter, the folks thought
it late to send them. You can have all you want next spring. Mrs. Seemore will let us have all
we want. I would love to see the Babys. Give them a hug and kiss for their Aunt Annie as
little Ben call me. The W. C. T. U. [Women’s Christian Temperance Union] had an ice
cream supper Sat. eve last. We made over $10.00. Very good for the first time. They meet
here tomorrow. Only meet every two weeks. We were busy last week sewing, made three
dresses. I guess that is one thing that makes me feel so bad. I done most of the sewing
and Aunt Agg and Em. done the work. Have another dress for Em. Don’t know when I will
get it done, not while I feel . . . [last page of the letter is missing.]
August 26, 1887
August 21, 1887
Dear Brother Arnie,
I received your most welcome letter some time ago. I intended answering soon, but I have
been without a girl for a month and I have had fruit to put up and the children have both
been sick in the meantime so you see I have been kept pretty busy. We are all well at
present and I have a girl now so I hope to have a little more leisure. I wish you could come
up this fall. Can’t you? Do you think of making a run down home this fall. I would like so
much to go but it will be impossible.
I have not heard from any of them since I cam back from Billings. The last letter I had from
Annie she was feeling some better. I suppose they are preparing to move. I do hope Pa
will not put those girls in that rough part of town. It always took mother to straighten him up
on anything like that. He would never have thought of putting her there, but it seems as
though he delights to go in opposition to his children’s wishes. Well I hope it will turn out all
We have had a delightful summer here. We have a nice garden and heavy had crop I see
by the papers it is very dry in MO. I expect our folks won’t make much out of their crop. I
sent you our Baby’s photo. It looks like her but does not do her justice. How are you getting
along down there. I wish it was not so far so you could come and see us often. It is real
lonesome for me here. Ben has to be away so much. If I did not have plenty to do and the
children I could not stand it. Our folks are through haying here but not on the open ranches.
They are cutting the bales here now. They got a new self binder the other day. I must close.
Write as often as you can and come up if you can. I remain loving, your sister,
|Letters to Arnon from Clara Myers