The banker and the teacher:  a romance from 1909

William McCormick fell in love with Fay Lewis while she was teaching school in Raphine.  The courtship lasted two years.  His letters tell the tale.

Directed to Newport News, Va.
Post-marked Raphine, Va.
April 12, 1909
dear Miss Lewis:

Well, I am still living. Now You may not see anything in the above statement but there is something to it, as I did not feel this time last Sunday that I would be living one week from then  as I felt that saying goodbye would be the last of me, but the Lord gave me strength to pass over that trying event.

Well, I will come back to earth and talk as I have been on a very high key. I think too high for your nerves as a beginner. I hope you made the trip home safe and that no nasty old-men-tried to flirt with you. I guess you and Sallie had time in Staunton to look the town over before you left.  I heard the train -leave Raphine and all I could say or think was, "O Lord." I spent that day at the sale. I told you I was going to and it kept me busy all day holding my hat on with both hands as I never saw the wind blow as it did that day I came down on the early train the next morning and when I got off at Raphine I just thought I was one day too late, as usual.   I hope to catch up and be on time some day.

I went to hear Mr. Hamilton preach at The Chapel here this afternoon, and he is well and after services I got by brother-in-law's horse and buggy and took John Parker for a drive. Now, wasn't this a come down from last Sunday.  We did not go by Lois's house as  I know I would have had to have left Parker. His company would have been incomparable to someone else's. ..

Mr. Wade died this afternoon and I will have to go over there tonight. I guess it is a relief to his family and a blessing to him that he is gone as it has been a sad case.  Frank  Moore went to Staunton yesterday to take Easter and I bet he is putting off a big one too.

Well, Miss Lola Fay Lewis, I will greatly appreciate a reply to this epistle if you will condescend to waste some of your spare time on a clod-hopper like myself.

I will close with hopes.
Your Friend,
W. C. McCormick

Directed to Newport News, Va.
May 3,1909
My dear Miss Lewis:

I received your letter Yesterday and I hope you can imagine how long the time seemed to me between my letter and yours, and I don't believe you would have thought it very nice of me  to write you another letter until you answered mine, but it was mighty hard for me to grin and bear. I am going to prove what I have told you by being nicer to you than you are to me.

I am glad to hear that you are going to lead a life, not so strenuous, in the future as I fear you would not have been in physical condition to have come back to Midway this winter had you kept up the pace you said you were going.

Tell Mr. Howard he must not come, to see you so much and make you lose sleep that I want you to be in bed early at night dreaming about me and if this don't stop him guess I will have to make the trip down there to see him about it. He has a Dickens of an advantage over me in this love affair of ours (his & mine) as I believe that saying absence makes the heart grow fonder" is a fake and I would much rather have his chance than mine, as he can see you when he wants (when you will let him) and I can't: but guess we will have a big time in Charlottesville this summer and he will be in Newport News.

I am an awful selfish man about some things and I hope some day to hear you say there is only one that counts instead of having it two, but still I think I would be well satisfied that there are only two, and I hope as we know each other better you will agree with me that two is too many.

I want to go to Greenville Tuesday night and Fairfield Wednesday night. I have not been to a Masonic meeting since I was in Richmond last fall. I am going to a school commencement at Fairfield and I hope the seats will be more comfortable than the ones we sat on once. I expect I will be getting too much night air all at once as I have not been out late at night since we went to Spottswood.

Miss Lewis, I hope you think about me flirting as I do about you. I don't honestly and truthfully think that you would flirt with a man, and I feel sure that if you knew me long enough you will find me just the sort of gentleman that I think you a lady, and if you will listen to me and hold still long enough I will have a solitaire on your finger before next Xmas big enough to dazzle Mr. Howard's eyes so the first time he sees it he will back off to stay.

I will close hoping to be treated better in the future.
Very sincerely yours,
W. C. McCormick

Directed to Newport News, Va.
May 10, 1909
My dear Miss Lewis:

I would like to be Mr. Howard this afternoon and I would come to see you, but I am just Will, so will have to write. I know I would enjoy myself more it I were sitting by your side, but fate has ruled it out so and of course I will have to make the best of it, but I feel that I will be an old bachelor for four thousand years yet if I have to win a girl by writing to her, as I can't work the pen as I can my tongue. The pen may be mightier than the sword but in my case I don't think it is mightier than my tongue.

I got your letter yesterday morning and went across Main Street from my office to that progressive financial institution known far and near as The Bank of Raphine and had one of our checks certified to the amount of your two school warrants and I am enclosing the check to you which hope you will be able to use to the amount of its face and if everybody is afraid of it let me know and I will give you the name of our broker in Norfolk or if  I thought it would please you one half as much as it would me I would get the warrants cashed and bring the money to you.

Now I am like Hansford, I am glad to be of service to you and whenever you can please command me to wait on you.

I took d inner with Mrs. McCormick today and she wanted to know if I came down to bring back fond recollections and you can guess what I told her. And, by the way, she wanted to know it I had heard anything from you and she was beginning to think perhaps you were sick but I told her it was only the rush of business on your arrival and your social duties.    I wish you would break one of Mr. Howard's engagements and write our friend a letter, as she told me today that she was going to try and get you to come over and spend a few days with her in Charlottesville this summer, and if you did it would be such happiness to me as man never felt before. ...

I will close, regretting that is a letter instead of a face-to-face talk this afternoon.
Sincerely yours,
W. C. McCormick

Directed to Charlottesville, Va.
June 22, 1909
My dear Miss Lewis:

Well, I am at home and hard  at work but not as happy as I was in Charlottesville. I feel that I left something over there that I want. What do you suppose it was? If you can think what it was come over.

Williams has gone to Staunton today and left me cashier of the bank with Miss Huffman as first assistant, but all this is not nearly so nice as loafing around the Gleason Hotel, when I could not be at University Terrace.

I suppose you are hard at work by this time, and would not have time to give Mr. Howard or me a glance should we happen on the campus as you passed from one lecture to another.
Miss Lewis, if you marry Mr. Howard I am going to make a yearly visit to Charlottesville, as the Mohamedans do (I think it is) to Mecca, to shed a tear on that doorstep we sat on the last night I saw you. Now don't make me do this as I would much rather have you so I could see you when I want to and not have to make these yearly visits to cry over something I had lost. When I asked you for a kiss you told me I had been going with the wrong kind of girls, but as I am going with you to satisfy a desire in my heart to be near you, I hope there will come a chance in your heart towards me and that some day I will find I was with the right girl this time.

If you get your Kodak to working I wish you would get [a friend] to take one of you and send it so me as I would like to have one of you to put in my watch.

Don't study too hard, and think of me whenever you cross a doorstep.
Sincerely yours,

Directed to University, Va.
July 19,1909
Dear Miss Lewis:

I received your letter this afternoon and will go you one better and answer it this evening instead of going to the show.

I will come over Saturday afternoon as I did before I will be there too late to butt into the trip to Monticello, but if you care to wait till Monday and it will suit you to go that day we can drive up there, as it is a nice cool drive….

I am going to Staunton tomorrow and will try to get your by phone but I have never been fortunate enough to catch you in.

I am enclosing you a clipping, from the Lexington paper, which I know you will not take much notice to now, but I
hope some day it will mean more than a passing thought to you. I am not sending you the article to show you I am vice president [of the bank] but to show you that the business world has confidence in me, which might in some way help my cause with you in making you believe I am sincere.

Hoping I will have the pleasure of seeing you Saturday, I am
Your fond friend,

Directed to Newport News, Va.
August 31, 1909
My Dear Miss Lewis:

Your last letter was quite a shock, to my loving propensities. I must say, but of course, you are the judge it is your ruling it must be done. If my love making is unpleasant to you I  will cut it out if it kills me but my heart will continue to love you, even tho my lips be sealed, and the only way you will ever know of this feeling in my heart for you  will be to see it in my eyes and I believe if I am fortunate enough  to be in your presence again you can plainly see the truth shining from my orbs.

I know you did not expect me to write to you again, but I have and I am going to close it by asking you to write to me.  I remain,
Sincerely yours,
W.C. McCormick

Directed to Deerfield, Va.
Feb. 7, 191 0

My dear Miss Lewis:

Must I say that I was surprised or that I am happy or both. If  what you wrote me proves true it will be the most fortunate affair of my life, and if it proves fickle it will prove the most unfortunate affair of my life. Did you think of this before you wrote? ...

When I came to my office one morning last week one of my employees asked me if I were sick and I told him no and asked him why and he said from my color and expression. I have suffered since that last night in Staunton but have tried to keep it from showing. Do you think common friendship would have taken me to Richmond to come back with you? You were the dear doctor I went to see and I must say you gave me some very bitter medicine.  My dear girl, I have only asked you for your love, have not even asked you to become engaged, but I do think the climax of real love is marriage so don't say you won't marry me because you don't know what you might do should your love for me become what mine is for you. ... It is nature that men and women love and marry and I don't think you are unnatural. I am not trying to persuade you now to marry me... , but do try to make my interests affect you also, and don't tell me anymore that you would not live in Raphine because if you love it is the man, not the place. ...

Are you coming to Staunton next Friday? If you are, I would like to come down that afternoon and talk with you from two until four in one of the hotel parlors, which I think would be better than me calling on you in the evening of your stay at a private house, but if you stop at the hotel I can come and spend the night. ...

Sweet dreams to you my dear till I see you, and may I not awake to find that I have only dreamed a dream, I am
Your own,

Directed to Deerfield, Va.
April 13,1910
My dear Miss Lewis:

I wish you were teaching right here in Raphine, but then I would not have to write to you, but would go to see you every night that you would let me come. Writing is nearly as bad as talking over the phone when you are in love with a dear sweet girl and want to be with her all the time. ...
I came home all right Sunday. Got home a little after seven and would have made it sooner but my steering gear got loose and I did not stop to tighten it, but came on at a slower speed.
Mr. Searson and I went to Staunton Monday afternoon to see the game of ball, and left there about seven and it looked as though it would rain any minute, and I tried to make too much speed and broke the front springs and shook the carburetor out of adjustment, and we had to leave the car at Greenville and drive home. They are grading five miles of the road this side of Staunton to macadamize it and it is very rough.

Rollers lost the game but it was very exciting at times. My kid brother was the star for the Rollers as he made one of the two base hits and made a running one hand catch of a long fly to the fence that was a peach.

Fay, what will happen to me if my love for you continues to grow and you don't give me any more encouragement about the future than you have in the past? Guess I will have to kidnap you.

Sincerely,  Will.

Directed to Newport News, Va.
June 13,1910
My dear Sweetheart:
You won't mind me calling you the same name that someone else calls you, will you? Anyway, if it will do me any good it will do you no harm and I will promise not to let anyone hear me except the one I intend so endearing a name for.

I am afraid it is going to rain next Sunday as it has rained every Sunday this month and that is a good sign it will continue and if it is anything like this we cannot enjoy the drive to Monticello of the quietude of the "campus."

The C&O trains have changed schedules and I have only five minutes to make connection in Staunton so if I miss the first train Saturday afternoon don't think I am not coming as I will have to take the next one. You cannot believe how anxious I am to see Charlottesville again(under the same circumstances).

An evangelist from N C.   is conducting a revival at Lois's church and I attended twice last week and I hope to have the pleasure of her company tonight. ... I feel sorry for it when I think that I must love you from a distance, and ... I am sorry we have such an ugly old man, and married too, for supt. of schools in this county. If we had a good-looking one I would certainly try to get him to go to Newport News for teachers.

I would like for you to see our National Highway since the seventy cars passed over it in the Atlanta-New York endurance run. The most of them went through Midway Thursday night and a muddier lot of men were never seen. Both fences along the road are even spattered with mud, as some of the heavy cars were making twenty-five or thirty miles to an hour and you can imagine what that speed would do in soft mud.

My dear girl, if my heart's desire is satisfied I will be talking to you this time of day next Sunday.
Bye Bye, my fair one, till I see you, I am

Directed to Newport News, Va.
Aug. 25, 1910
My dear Miss Lewis:

There is a large lawn party being pulled off in the village tonight but I prefer staying in my office and thinking and writing to you, which, I hope will be as agreeable to you.  Away from you I am sour on the world and if I could make my daily bread otherwise I would not even associate with men. ... When I started out for my day's work this morning I thought sure I would have a rainy day, but it cleared up by the middle of the day. My brothers wanted the horse to go to Mrs. Clemmer's tonight to a dance and I was in the machine. I can go along faster in it while the roads are good, but so many of the farm houses are away from the road and I have too much walking to do. I could not go to Mrs. Clemmer's tonight as I am too settled and have turned all social duties over to my brothers. ... I have done some duty dancing myself and know how it goes. ...

Raphine is very much torn up city now as we are moving the present bank building to another site and are preparing to build an up to day concrete bank building on the present site.

Well, when you read this letter we will be even as we have both written about the weather and I hope next time we can write a few things about each other. When you read this letter please go to your mirror and tell the one you see that I love her dearly and that I am longing for the time when I will see her again.
Sincerely yours,

Raphine, Va.
January 16,1911
My dear Miss Lewis:
The candy should have reached you some time before you started for home for your vacation as I think I was shipped about the first of December. I console myself on your saying it was a nice package of candy and I regret that our relationship has become so strained that you could not thank me for it. Anyway, I will not place you in a compromising position anymore.

Miss Lewis, I feel that darkness is beginning to overshadow my future. What now have I left to work for and be my standard between good and evil? My mother is getting old and if I do outlive her, which I hope I will not, what will be my life then? I am not trying to arouse your sympathy for me, but when I was in love with you it was the only real happy days of my life and I did hope the happy days would be many. Instead they have been very few.

I just feel I have nothing left to live for and could meet death as calmly as you close school in the afternoon.

Please burn the letters I have written you and if I do not hear from you again I will do likewise with the exception of two . . .      I will leave it to you to guess why I want to keep[them].

Yours forgotten

Directed to Newport News, Va.
Jan. 17, 1912
My dear Fay:

Your letter received and I am thinking there is some hope for my future happiness. Am I correct... ?

We are having some dandy roads for sleighing but the atmosphere has been right sharp. I suppose you have noticed from the papers the climate has been as low as twenty-five degrees below zero up here and it has not beep much above zero at the middle of the day for a week.  It is right severe weather and water pipes and gas machines suffer. Suppose we go over to Cuba next winter and see how the climate is? ...                                                                       I

I was in the city of Lexington today and I found it a very slick city indeed. You know the depot is out in the suburbs and the snow was not cleaned off the side walks when it fell and it is nothing now but a street of ice and had I not been rough shod I expect my feet would have been higher than my head several times.

Hoping you are growing stronger every day, I am
Your own

Directed to Carson  Va.
Feb. 26, 1912
My dear Sweetheart:
You are a dear sweet girl and I/ love you ever so much for  being so faithful to me and I feel you will remain faithful and love me whether I be poor or rich.

In my last letter  I was only reminding you of  some of the inconveniences you might encounter as I am going to represent the facts to you a little worse than they are as I do not want you to be disappointed in anything when you come to live in Raphine. I live mighty happy and contented here and I hope it will be the same with you and I am not going to promise anything that I cannot do as well as my promise and I am always going to try and do better.

I live mighty happy and contented here and I hope it will be the same with you and I am not going to promise anything that I cannot do as well as my promise and I am always going to try and do better. ..I believe you will be as fond of my mother as I am before you live here long.

I believe you will be as fond of my mother as  I am before you live here long. She is very plain and awfully fond of work but mighty good to me.. .

I want you my darling to marry me in July because I love you and believe I. have enough of worldly goods to make you comfortable. I have not the health I would, like to have but I believe one who has never been sick is not as sympathetic as one who has been sick.

We can go to Niagara Falls and take a boat across the lake to Canada and I hope we will find the climate not too hot there. Four months is a long time to wait and I hope the time will fly it my arrangements suit you because I want to be with you all the time, my dear.

You can help me with some of my work and this will keep you from getting lonely. I will partition off one comer of my office for a private office so you can see me when you care to. My office is all in one room now as I have always had my customers for companions but it you will be my private secretary I will give you a private office so I can flirt a little bit with you. If the hay crop is good here this year I will give you plenty of hay weights to add up.

With lots of love to my dearest sweetheart from,
Your own Will.

Envelope addressed to Newport News
Oct. 9,1912
My Dear Fay,
I received your letter today and was not surprised to receive a certain lecture for my short comings as it seems we are far apart and I don't think your lecture will help matters one bit. If we could be born again I might be changed to meet with your approval but, my dear it is too late now. I want to win your love, something I have not had so far, and then you won't see so many faults in me

I am going to send you a booklet I received before we were married and if you will read it you will learn that your present trouble is caused by your lack of love for me.  You have given way to me simply as a duty and without love - this has been awful for you. We must learn to love
each other or separate as I will not live with anyone who hates me as I know You hate me. It makes the cold chills run over me to think what you have suffered for me when you do not love me. ...
My dear I hope you will be well and you will not have to  be sick again to please me as we will never indulge anymore unless you can join with me from love and not duty ... .

I have had one of my [insurance] policies made payable to you and the other to my estate and I will make a Will leaving the bulk to you and I will not make it necessary for you to live in Raphine to receive the Provision of the will as I think under the present circumstances it will be better for us to live apart
With lots of love, I am,
Yours, Will

Addressed to Tampa, Fla.
Feb. 24th, 1913
My dear Fay:
Your letter was received and carefully read. I promised you before we were married that if you were not satisfied after you came here to live with my  mother that we would  live somewhere else and I am going to live up to my promise.  I am going to begin on a house as soon as spring opens.  I will build the house and you can furnish it.   …  We are having nice weather here this winter and the roads are fine.  There has been no snow and very little ice since Christmas.  I gave my machine a complete overhauling and I think I twill run right this summer.  I had some trouble with the engine last fall.  I will have to buy two new tires.  You asked me to do something in your letter that I cannot promise you to do.  Whenever I want to go and see my mother, I expect to go and the same will apply to you and your mother – I don not expect to go with you every time you go home.  I will promise you I will not go any time that it inconveniences you, and as to talking about you when I am with them, your name is very seldom mentioned to me by my family or friends as they all have feelings and sense enough to spare me in  my trouble.

I want a home and you with me … and something to work and save for.
Yours, Will

Raphine, Va.
Hon. Hugh A. White
Dear Sir:
When I formerly wrote you I had hoped that  negotiations would be opened which would result in some agreed settlement of my wife’s divorce case which would spare the feeling of both of us and the publicity which will come from continued litigation which I would pay something to avoid, and I feel reasonably sure would be desired to be avoided by her . . .  If my wife prefers to give her depositions and state on the stand before men our private relations that should be sacred between us alone in the hope of getting a few dollars without living with her husband, …. I would ask that as quickly as possible the depositions be taken.

Very truly yours,
W.C. McCormick