A Word from Audrey (Smith) Barclay
There are those who will, no doubt, most emphatically declare the letters I am about to share with you to be nothing more than the wanderings of a senile mind or an unusually vivid imagination. To be perfectly frank with you, in your place I'd feel exactly as you do about it--skeptical, to say the least. On the other hand, there are many people who wholeheartedly believe in Spiritualism, and who cite many unusual experiences to justify their beliefs. I'm glad I don't believe it, because if I did, I'm sure I'd be just plain scared to death!
May I tell you a bit about my grandmother [Amy Lucinda Smith Hagadorn] before we read the letters?
My earliest recollection of her dates back to the days when, as a very small girl, I spent several weeks each summer visiting with her and my bachelor uncle on their Ozarks hill farm at the Crossroads.
In those days the house was a large, one-room log cabin with a loft, or attic, and a wide porch across the entire East side of the house. It was on this porch that most of Grandmother's waking hours were spent, when the weather permitted. I can see her now, in her low rocking-chair, a pan of potatoes (or peaches or apples) on her lap, her paring knife in her hand, and she, herself, sound asleep. Suddenly her head comes up with a jerk as she awakens, but before she has finished even one potato she is quite likely to be nodding again.
She was a little short, dumpy woman of Dutch ancestry--not at all a person to fear, if one could judge by appearances. But woe betide the individual who aroused her ire! Her temper was something to reckon with, and it was common knowledge that she feared neither man, beast, or the devil. Sometimes, because my uncle was a semi-invalid and not to be taken into consideration, someone would try to impose on her, but none ever tried it a second time.
I suppose I should have painted a picture of her better self first, but somehow, I must have gotten started all wrong. Actually, Grandmother was a gentle person, kind to those in need, and went for miles to care for the ill. She believed in doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and she expected others to follow the same rule. When they failed to do so, that was when she took matters into her own hands and endeavored to show them the error of their ways.
It was about the time I came along that my grandfather managed to get himself into disrepute with her. I've never known how their difference of opinion came about, but I do know that during the last few years of his life, they never lived together as man and wife. He was a contractor, and his work kept him away from home for months at a time, but on the rare occasions when he did come for a few weeks, she always made him welcome--up to a point. Even after Grandmother passed away, when I was only two and a half years old, it remained a mystery to the family just why Grandmother had come to shut him out of her life so completely.
Grandmother went to California to live when I was nine, and it was while she was living there that the old house burned. Several years later, after I was married, in fact, my father decided to build a new house on the old home place in the hope that Grandmother would return and spend the remainder of her days there with him.
It was such a joyous time for me when, finally, I could take my baby daughter and visit the place--and people--I had longed for for so many years. At first it seemed Grandmother had hardly changed at all in the eleven years since I had last seen her. Gradually, however, she began to talk to me of things she had never mentioned when I was a child. Before my stay was up, I was almost afraid to go to bed at night. Then, too, the bitter way in which she talked about Grandfather was frightening, although she did not reveal the reason for her bitter hatred of him, even so many years after his death.
I soon discovered that Grandmother had no intention of staying long at the farm. Born and reared in New York State, she insisted she was going back there. Three years later, when she suddenly sickened and died, her trunks still remained packed as they had been when she returned from California. And still, no one knew for what she waited before continuing her interrupted journey to New York. She kept her own council, and she kept it well.
Dad and Uncle Arb continued to live together until Uncle Arb, too, passed away some twelve years later. All that time Grandmother's trunk remained a mystery, as Dad did not seem at all curious, and Uncle Arb, I suppose, wasn't interested. At any rate, I never quite had the courage to make any inquiry, or pry, until recently. The mystery surrounding so many things was finally solved--at least to my satisfaction. Buried deep within the trunk were two old-fashioned school tablets such as I used when I was a child. Page after page was filled with the letters I am about to share with you, written in Grandmother's beautiful script, and dictated (if you can believe what you're going to read) by the spirits of men long dead.
Shall we read?
Editor's Note: Well, no, we won't read those letters just yet. They were not attached to this particular piece, so it seems Grandma Audrey left us with a cliffhanger this time.
As for the school tablets on which the letters were written, it's my understanding that several members of the family have seen those tablets, though no one among the folks I've spoken to has any knowledge of where they are today. As much as I'd love to see the originals, we do have a typed transcript of the spirit letters (or at least a part of them; I don't know for sure), and I'll post that in a couple of weeks.