Mabel in Iowa–1903

Mabel in Iowa–1903

Four years before Hobbys and Potters met in Cuba, Mabel Potter visited her aunt and cousins in Iowa City and established relationships that continued in Cuba in 1907.

March 1903:  Mabel Potter, who was working as a governess in La Crosse, Wisconsin, visited Aunt Mary and family in Iowa City for the first time.  Mabel’s mother, Ellen (Parker) Potter, hoarded family letters which are my primary source of family history.  Mabel’s cousins Ned, Ruth, and Paul were adults living elsewhere, but Carl, age 17, and Will, age 23, lived at home.  Cicero Mead Hobby, “The Doctor,” had purchased a ranch near San Diego which Will apparently worked on or managed for a couple of years before returning home to finish his engineering degree from the University of Iowa.

Ellen seldom, if ever, managed to leave Massachusetts to visit her sister Mary who was similarly unable to get back east, so Mabel’s reports on the Iowa family were greatly desired.

These letters are my introduction to the grandfather I remember  only from a few-weeks’ visit during my eighth summer.

March 30, 1903:   Note on envelope:  Spring 1903    First visit

My dear Mother,

Here I am feel quite like one in a dream—and wishing every minute you were here—Still I am enjoying every minute, and trying to visit for you too—It’s so good to be with own kith and kin and really feel you have a claim besides that of friendship—for however satisfactory that may be one is at times an outsider—

At 11:28—on time for a wonder— [Iowa City]. came into view…At the station were Aunt Mary and Will—and of course we had no trouble in recognizing each other!  Came up in a hack—and for a time I hardly knew how to act, so unaccustomed am I to visiting far away relatives…

Aunt Mary impresses me even by her quietness, unassertiveness, adjustment to her surroundings, and to whatever comes—Her life here seems to be with and for Will and Carl—of course Carl is first—but Will scarcely takes a second rank—and should not—They are fine boys—and enjoy their mother as much as she does them—But the Doctor works and that seems to be all, as near as I’ve been able to see or learn—and no-one apparently sees much of him—Yesterday he couldn’t come to lunch—down town in p.m.  we went to office and just shook hands—Last night he was home to dinner, ate hastily, left immediately—back to office until eleven—same thing this morning tho he is expected to dinner and I believe generally tries to take Sunday p.m. off—Last night he could not sleep and read most of the night I belielvel.  Pretty unsatisfactory way to exist it seems to me—brings in the ducats for the family—and probably he finds satisfaction in the work—but I’d prefer fewer ducats and more husband if I had my way!

… Will has developed much in his two years of ranch life—and independence—has grown since we saw him—has a bright keen face—but in real good looks is behind the others—in dress you would call him “farmer” and general carriage, while Carl would pass in N.Y. any day—The two get on finely together and it’s a delight to see Aunt Mary take so much   pleasure with them…

Will stayed home until after dinner on my account—he usually spends most of Sunday in his “second house,”  where [Aunt Mary] and I walked with him after dinner—mile and a half across the city and on in country, on western slope of bank of river—Large attractive old stone house, red roofed, quite a conservatory &c.  Pleasant unconventional people—with one child, a rather delicate girl of thirteen—she and Will are quite companionable and they are all fond of him—and Mrs. Saunders has always tried to have more boy playmates than girl ones for Mary, better for her outdoors … We had a nice call…has been a delightful day…

This p.m. after lunch we cut oranges for marmalade which I am helping to make in order to found out how—then each took a nap and spent remainder of time outdoors—the boys were raking and carrying straw off the lawn—I stayed out with them till [Aunt Mary] came, then we wandered all over the yard to hear the history of its past and future prospects—then I spelled Carl and raked quite a little…This evening Will brought out some of his college English work, description, character sketches, &c, gave us those to read…doesn’t like to write and modestly thought he couldn’t do much—but much of those I saw was very good indeed, for one who has so little drill on this work.  Most of his subjects taken from California scenes and experiences…

Mabel Louise Potter. Photo taken in New York, 1908.

With much love,  Mabel




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