The Courtship of Esther, Part 3

Howard Roberts

Howard Roberts proved to be one of Esther’s most ardent admirers. He wrote her frequently, sending her postcards and letters. He felt slighted when she didn’t write back. He lost sleep when she asked him not to write anymore. It would appear he lost out on Esther’s affections to Boss Talbott…but I am getting ahead of the story.

Can you make out the writing on the bottom right hand side? It says: Gee! I wish I had a girl.

Howard’s first card in Esther’s collection is postmarked March 1912. His last letter to her is dated Feb 1914. For two years he corresponded with Esther. As Esther’s suitor Ira Satterfield did, Howard also signed his cards in code. His code was 8 12 18. Once I “cracked the code”, I discovered that Howard wrote more frequently than initially thought. How often they actually saw each other, I do not know. Mostly Howard wrote about the weather and who of their mutual friends he had seen. He seemed to let the picture on the postcard speak to his true feelings.

By the spring of 1913, Howard was writing longer letters. His letters often started with the line: I take the gratest of pleasur in writeing you a fue lines to let you here from me.

How sweet! You won’t find lines like that on Facebook and Twitter! On March 16, 1913 Howard wrote “I ben looking at your picture wishing I could see you.” and “I ben staying at home every Sunday since you ben gone.” Finally he declares in feelings, “Esther you is the only girl I ever cred [cared] any thing for.” Unfortunately, he is not sure she feels the same way.

Just who is Howard Roberts? Howard Lee Roberts was born 27 Sep 1894 and was the son of Jacob and Elizabeth Roberts of Dan River, Pittsylvania, VA. He likely lived in the Kentuck area as several of his postcards feature Kentuck, VA. Kentuck is also the area where some of Esther’s Richardson family resided. As with previous suitors, I used his WWI and WWII draft cards to learn that he had blue eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion. He was 5’6” tall. By the 1920 census, Howard is married to Mattie, a woman ten years his senior.

Howard’s last letter to Esther is in February 1914.  He laments not being able to see her since she is now seeing that Mr. Tolbert [Talbott].  Obviously, Howard was not THE ONE either.

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