As John starts writing from all over Nebraska in his travels for the college, it seems like a good time to insert a map.
The Benton family farm is in Dixon County in the uppermost right hand corner. The address of the farm is Waterbury, but that town is too small to be on this map. It would be north of Wayne. The “city” Ruth refers to is Sioux City, Iowa.
Central City, where Nebraska Central is located, is right above the eastern Route 80 icon.
John’s family live in Shelton when the letters begin. Shelton is also too small for the map; it is closest to Kearney that is at the bottom of the dip in Route 80. They later move to Columbus; just west of the eastern Route 30 icon on the map.
My, but I was in a sorry condition. I look pretty decent again although the measles still show if I get hot or very tired. I’m getting back my pep and feel mean again. I sure sign I’m well. Poor Dad is still in bed and still has bad coughing spells. I’m anxious to see you again next Sunday.
Cecil is at McAfee’s now but don’t know how long he’ll stay. He brought Arvilla (Ruth’s cousin and best friend) home. Wish those kids would get married. Cecil sure is funny; I hardly know what to make of him, but I guess it’s all right. I’m not the one who will always have to be with him, thank goodness. I just couldn’t be so meek and quiet as Arvilla seems to be. If she would dress just a little more “flapperish”, if I may say that, she would feel like asserting herself more. Perhaps I shouldn’t advocate such a thing and tone down a little myself but I guess I was just made on a different plan. Mother says I’m inclined to wear my dresses too short and my hat too much on one side – you know the style. Now if I must be YWCA president next year just what kind of example am I going to be? Or do I need to be an example?
Even though our time together was short it was sweet beyond description. As to the problem you are facing just now, I have thought of it all afternoon and only wish there was something I could do to help you but I think it is more for you to solve alone. Rest assured that whatever your decision is I shall do all I can to help you carry it out. I have always felt like you would be a minister but as you know I have always fought against it and hoped in my heart that your decision would finally turn some other way. I want you to decide carefully and I will try to be happy even though it means more years of study and a longer period of separation. Whatever you do I want you to do well. If you feel that you should preach the gospel then by all means do it.
As soon as the oats were ripe enough to cut they had to cut it immediately for fear it might rain and knock it down. That meant they worked until dark and I had to wash dishes after nine o’clock. A little too late to suit me. People have been writing to me about the Estes Park conference. Last week I got a letter concerning the class work I wanted to take. Several books were mentioned which they wanted me to read.
I would love to do as you thought perhaps we might but I don’t see how I can. I won’t ask the folks to send me to school any longer. I feel like I should do something for myself. I know there are lots of things the folks want themselves which they would have to deny themselves if I went to on to school. I can’t think of borrowing the money to go on because it would only be for you to pay back and there will be enough expense without that. It would be nice to go on thru college but I tell you frankly I don’t care a great deal if I don’t. If I did I would never have a chance to teach school and I want to try it so much for at least a year. Dad graciously sent me or will send me through two years of college and then he expects me to teach and help myself.
What do you suppose I was doing yesterday when your letter came?? You never could guess in all the world. I was playing with my old dolls. Not really playing with them,but I had them out looking at them and a lot of the other things that I played with when I was a kid. It was the most fun and it made me think of so many things I used to do especially of how I took care of my doll family. It was a large family of about nine. I put them all away and intend to give them to my little girls someday, relics of by gone days. (Rachel’s note: I’m looking at one of those china head dolls sitting on top of the bookcase in our family room.)
This is the reason I say I will not make a good minister’s wife. I can’t live like you are happy to live. I abhor missionary and aid societies and all that sort of thing. I would detest always being talked about like they always talk about the minister’s wife and having to be a “shining example”.
Next Sunday will be the quarterly meeting and I won’t expect you to come here until Sunday evening. It will probably be fortunate for you because Dad and Mother are going and I will be guarding the roast, so if you value your life you’d better go or else take out an insurance policy at once. No need of taking a useless risk since all your work lies before you. It will probably be such a disappointment to you that it will unnerve you for the rest of your life. I am referring to my lack of mastery of the culinary arts and I don’t mean maybe. (Rachel’s note: Mom’s tales about learning to cook and her insecurities sound so funny because she became an excellent cook so at ease in the kitchen. That’s where I learned my love of cooking.)
Even though you did have the measles I would much rather them to being away from you. Almost a soon as I had left your place I felt an emptiness in my soul. It just seems that without you my being isn’t complete. I am going to continue my work for another year if for no other reason than I can come and see you more often. Maybe it won’t seem such a long time to wait until we can get married if I don’t have to stay away from you so long in the summer.
When I got back “home” (NCC) everything looked so different. The wheat was all ripe and some was in shock; the corn had grown to quite a hight and the campus had lost its pretty green color. President has bought himself a new Chevrolet. I wanted him to let me break it in for him but he thought he could do it well enough.
I have thought of you constantly since our visit at Young’s Park. I am so weak when I am with you but I’m happy that you are strong. I have been facing the great decision of our life’s work. I feel that God has laid it upon me to make that decision. I wish so much that you were here to talk with me tonight as I have struggled so hard today to see my way through. I shall never decide definitely until we have talked over every thing together. I had a good visit at home. The kiddies, mother and father were so anxious and happy to see me. I have accomplished something I feel with Edith. I had the most sincere and frank talk with her tonight that I have ever had with any of my folks. She gave me her consent to go to school and I’m so happy about it. I hope you will encourage her.
John 7/24/27 from Holyoke, CO (Rachel’s note: Dad has too much time to think as he’s driving the country. This is just the first of many schemes he cooks up!)
Of course I have every detail, or almost every one, of our union and future worked out. Isn’t that just like a man? No, I haven’t done such a thing but of course I have a number of possibilities to suggest. I just can’t wait to tell you some of the things I have been thinking about. I talked with Theo Foxworthy, confidentially of course (Mr. Foxworthy is a field worker for the Yearly Meeting and on the board of NCC). He felt that I should enter the ministry. I then asked his advise about our getting married. His advice was that if possible we ought to get married and go to school together. He couldn’t have said anything more welcome. He advised us to go to Hartford, me to the seminary and you to the post graduate college. Theo and President thought you ought not to teach but go to college. Would it be possible for you to finish college before teaching? I could teach one year while you finish college. If we both had scholarships and I had worked one year they thought we would have no difficulty in finishing our courses at Hartford. President said you would be ale to enlarge upon music, piano and pipe organ, take religious ed, sociology, etc. while I did seminary. He said we would especially enjoy living in New England. (President Carrell studied at Hartford Seminary.)
John 7/20/27 Imperial, NE
We have made our way out to the western edge of the state since eight o’clock this morning. Theo, President and I have had a jolly time traveling today. I did nearly all the driving but we had a very good time. Theo purchased bananas, plums and cookies after eating a large dinner and we ate them this afternoon together with a quart of ice cream we bought along the road. It would been ideal if you had been with me. I am planning so much on our touring together some summer. Tonight we are staying at a perfectly lovely tourist home which was just recently built.
I have well begun my trip that leads me to you. Fullerton, St. Paul, Dannebrog, Elton, Cotesfield and finally North Loup. Before getting to you I will visit Arcadia, Sargent, Comstock, Erickson, Elgin and Plainview. The work is discouraging. I visited one girl who was such a good prospect. She went down last week to look over the school while I was away. When I called on her yesterday I found that she was greatly disappointed in the school and that she may not go.
What would you think if I would turn preacher next year and preach regularly while going to school? They are struggling so frantically to fill the pastorates in this Quarterly Meeting. I might take Alda, Community Friends, or Platte Valley. If I did this I wouldn’t need to work any while going to school but it would be a big undertaking and I hesitate to think of doing such a thing as unqualified as I am. The people would have to want me pretty bad before I could get up courage enough to undertake it. I know you are anxious for the Estes Conference to come. I wish I could go with you but I’m sure you will get more out of the conference if I didn’t go.