A Letter from St. Ann’s Indian Mission, Written In Remembrance of Lieutenant John W. Cummings, Prisoner of War – 1952
A few days ago, while attending the Vintage Bazaar, I came across a collection of old letters. They were in a pile at a booth, alongisde some old photographs… and the vendor was selling them all for $1 apiece. After debating for a little while, I made an offer and got the vendor to agree to sell me all the letters for $15.
Though I haven’t read them all, I happened across this typewritten letter that literally took my breath away. Click the image below to view the full size image, and you’ll see what I mean:
REV. HILDEBRAND ELLIOTT, O.S.B.
TURTLE MOUNTAIN MISSIONARY
BELCOURT, N. DAK.
MAIL & PARCEL POST TO BELCOURT, N. DAK.
FREIGHT & EXPRESS TO ROLLA, N. DAK.
July 24, 1952
Dear Mrs. Cummings,
At the request of Mrs. Sophia Mielnicki I am offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the intentions of your son, Lieut. John W. Cummings who is a prisoner of war. This is a gift for his Birthday.
I wish to assure you that we will remember your son in our prayers, and hope that he may soon be released and come home safe — unharmed in soul and body.
Assuring you of our prayers during these days of our Solumn Novena, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev Hildebrand, OSB
I don’t know any of the people mentioned, and I haven’t read enough of the other letters to recognize names yet. But found items like this are what attract me to flea markets – these old and misplaced things, these magical objects that provide the briefest of window into other people’s lives.
What I love about old photographs and letters is how they can transport you, how a small bit of paper in your hand can instantly take you a half-century or more into the past.
Holding this piece of paper in my hands, I imagine myself standing in the same way as Mrs. Cummings, my eyes looking over the words on the page. As I learned of her son being a prisoner of war, it makes me think of how she first found out… did she find out through a another letter, a telegram, a visit from another soldier?
How long did she carry this weight, knowing her son was being held in a foreign land? Did she receive further news about him? Was her son ever released from captivity?
Today is June 13th, 2012. In a little more than a month, this letter will be 60 years old.
I hope Lieutenant Cummings found his way home.
Autograph Book: Minnie E. Duryee
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Found Magazine + PostSecret: Intuit Gallery