Tag Archives: politics

Family Politics–Mom and Dad, a Political Courtship

Since all eyes are on politics this year in the U. S., I began thinking about the political involvement of members of my family.  Political involvement runs deep in several of my ancestral lines, starting with the protesting Puritan William Bassett who left England through the tavern keeper Samuel Howe, an agitator for Revolution against the British, and into more modern political campaigners and office holders.

In honor of all those caring citizens and their involvement in politics, I will feature some stories each month leading up to the Presidential elections in November 2016. This first post allows me to share some precious artifacts.

Paul Kaser and Harriette Anderson Kaser in politics

Politics tea

Harriette Anderson (right) attending a tea for politician John Bricker’s wife. June 1936

My parents were such fervent Republicans, that I always smile when I think about the fact that when my father died in October, 1996, he had already cast his absentee ballot, voting for Robert Dole against Bill Clinton for President, and probably for every Republican on the ticket for local races. He got his two cents worth in to an election that happened after he died.

Mother, while usually loyal to the Republican party, followed the lead of her grandmother Hattie Stout who impatiently waited for the opportunity for women to vote. Mother  was prejudiced in favor of women candidates, regardless of party.  I’ll never forget when we discussed an upcoming election in Arizona when she was in her 90s and living in a nursing home.  I described the two candidates, assuming she would vote for the male Republican.  But instead she said, “I think we should support the woman, don’t you?”  Soon to be Governor Janet Napolitano was a Democrat.

But that was later.  I found clues about Harriette and Paul’s political involvement in stories they told, but also in newspaper articles and in the letters they exchanged during their lengthy courtship.

1930’s Republican Politics in Ohio

The first hint of political activism I discovered was a letter that had been printed by a duplicator (those old fashioned copy machines that used a purple gel surface, predating mimeograph). It was mailed from Killbuck, Ohio on April 11, 1935. It was in my father’s files, so obviously he was involved in some way in party politics in 1935. (He and mother had started dating in November of 1934.)

I was able to transcribe the words in this almost totally faded form letter. The letter talks about reorganizing the Holmes County Republican Club. “In order to have a part in the certain victory now in our grasp…” [My italics]

The “certain victory”  expressed unwarranted optimism about the 1936 Presidential election and the Republicans ability to defeat first term President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The Democratic Party had swept elections in 1930, 1932, and 1934, but the Republicans were confident that 1936 was their year.  President  Roosevelt, first elected in 1932, was a polarizing figure. Those who believed he was amassing too much power were blind to the loyalty he had engendered by those whose programs had helped them.

Note: If you’re a political junkie, and would like to know about the political situation in Ohio around that time, read the beginning of this web article.

Harriette and Paul plunged into the revitalization of the Republican party, “young Turks” intent on reform. According to stories they told, they spent a great deal of time visiting Democratic farmers in rural Holmes County and persuading them to switch to Republican. They were very successful, and Paul and Harriette became big fish in the little pond of county politics in 1935 and 1936.

Note: At the same time, Paul’s brother Keith Kaser was running as a Democrat for Holmes County Clerk. Keith won.

1936 Politics – Bricker

While Harriette was on one of her summer road trips with fellow teachers in the summer of 1936, Paul became aware of an opportunity to advance their contacts in the Republican party, and possibly even help him find a permanent government job.

Love letter about politics

A political/love letter from Paul Kaser letter to Harriette Anderson in summer of 1936.

The key part of this letter reads, “There is a banquet in honor of Bricker in Columbus the night of June 30th and on the afternoon of June 30th there is to be a tea for Mrs. Bricker.  The bigwigs ask me to give them the names of two women to be invited.  I gave your name and Sarah [Sarah Anderson, wife of Harriette’s brother Bill]. Only two are to be invited from this county and I want to be sure to be represented.”  He closes with a paragraph that sounds more like what you expect in a love letter.

In a later letter, he makes it even clearer that he wants to go to the dinner because of the opportunities it presents to make himself known.

Bricker was attorney General of Ohio when he decided to run for Governor in 1936.  He lost that election and ran again in 1938 when he was successful, and again in 1942 when he won a second term.

Although the tea took place soon after she returned from her road trip, Harriette did attend, as reported in the newspaper article at the top of the page.

More than 100 young Republican women from various parts of the state attended the tea Wednesday afternoon in the Mramor, given by the Young Republican League of Ohio in honor of Mrs. John W. Bricker, wife of the Republican candidate for governor and Mrs. Katherine Kennedy Brown, Dayton, Republican National committeewoman.  In the above picture Mrs. Bricker is shown greeting Miss Harriet (sic) Anderson, Millersburg (sic).

In September, 1936, Bricker was invited to the Holmes County Fair. The Holmes County Women’s Republican Club and the Republican Executive Committee sponsored a dinner for Bricker at the Fisher Restaurant in Millersburg, Ohio.  The newspaper article announcing the event says says “Reservations can be made with….Miss Harriette Anderson, Paul Kaser, or B. W. Lawson.”

Ticket for politics event

Holmes County ticket for Bricker Dinner September 1936

1936 Politics Alf Landon

Paul and Harriette, still courting, continued to fight for Republican candidates, including John Bricker and  the Presidential candidate, Alf Landon, a moderate. They thought Landon, a reasonable and intelligent man had a great chance because Republicans were so angry about what they saw as FDR’s power grabs.

Paul and Harriette’s reward for registering so many new Republicans was a ride on the Alf Landon campaign train across Ohio.

Landon Train for politics

Ticket for Paul Kaser to ride on the “Landon Special”, presidential campaign train.

An article in the Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune in 1936. Since it is Killbuck news, it does not list Paul Kaser, who at this time was living in Canton, Ohio, still looking for a career, but as the guest card shows, he was also on the train.

reward for politics

Paul and Harriette ride on Alf Landon train. October 1936.

That Landon rode a campaign train across Ohio is somewhat ironic because Landon was known as the “disappearing” or “invisible” candidate.  His devastating loss was blamed mostly on his failure to campaign.

The young couple must have been devastated when the votes came in.  That November Franklin Delano Roosevelt piled up the largest margin that any Presidential candidate has ever amassed.  Landon won only two states, Maine and Vermont, for a total of 8 electoral votes.  P.S.  He lost Ohio, too.

A Job and Marriage

Presumably the couple continued their political involvement in 1937 between elections. In early 1938 Paul finally landed a job with the U. S. Weather Bureau and relocated to New Philadelphia Ohio area. Ironically, his job was part of the federal work programs that had been instituted by the President he so disdained.

Paul Kaser

Leonard Corwin and Paul Kaser installing weather station

In June 1938 they were married and spent one night at the Neil House hotel in Columbus, near the State Capitol, a hangout for politicians.  I doubt politics was on their mind.

You can read the interesting history of the historic Neil House hotel, gone since 1980, in this Columbus Dispatch article and see a slide show including some of the famous politicians who visited.

At one point we had a receipt for their $4.00 room, but it is lost. That may not seem like an expensive room, but given Paul’s complaints just a year earlier in one of his letters to Harriette about paying the exhorbitant fee of $1.00 for a hotel room, I’m guessing they were splurging on a very fine room.

1938 Ohio Republican Convention

Then I find this pass for Paul Kaser for the Ohio State Convention in 1938.  You will note that it is for an “advisory delegate” pass, so the bearer of the pass was not a voting delegate.  I only have the one pass.  Although it does not have a name on it, it was in my father’s files.  Since it did not have a name, they might have shared it, each attending at different times. On the other hand, Harriette would have been three and a half months pregnant by mid September, 1938, probably too late for her to be traveling.

politics convention

Pass to attend Ohio state Repbulican convention in 1938.

1938 was a come-back year for Republicans in Congress, where they gained, but still did not hold a majority. Harriette and Paul could finally feel accomplishment when John Bricker won the Governorship and Republican Robert Taft was elected to the U. S. Senate.

My parents unique courtship lasted over three years, and most of that time, they were deeply involved in politics in all their spare time.  Harriette was teaching school and Paul was trying hard to find a job so he would be deemed worthy of marriage. Politics was not only an interest, but also an important tool for networking and cultivating the possibility of patronage employment.

From then on my father worked either for the federal government or the state government, although the jobs were not patronage related.  1938 was no doubt his last active involvement in politics other than never missing a vote, and, after his retirement, stuffing some envelopes in campaigns I was involved in.  He never lost interest however, railing against Democrats, and laughing about the “flower fund” in Ohio state offices that employees were expected to contribute to in his day.  The fund went to support whoever was the current governor, to be sure to protect their department.  That practice died out with Civil Service reforms and state ethics laws before my father retired from his Ohio job in 1969.


All photographs and souvenirs of political events, the love letter  and the unidentified newspaper article at the Bricker Tea are my own, passed down by my father and mother.

The snipped of a newspaper articles is a screen captures of an article from The Coshocton Tribune, found at ancestry.com.

The Coshocton Tribune, 8 September 1936: “Bricker Invited to Holmes County Fair.”

Internet research on the politics and history of the period is linked in the article.


Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has A Story suggested doing posts on heirlooms in a discussion in the Genealogy Bloggers Facebook group and wrote Now Where Did I Put That? Several bloggers have taken her up on the challenge to write about their heirlooms and we hope more will follow our lead. This is one of my random posts generated by family artifacts and Heirlooms. 

Other bloggers doing Family Heirloom stories:

You can discover more Heirlooms at Ancestors in Aprons, by entering “Heirloom” in the search box on the right.

Politics and Peaches:Erasmus Anderson Civil War Letter #8

The Army of the Mississippi, February 17, 1863

There is hardly a soldier in this army but what would rather give them [The Confederate States] their independence than stay any longer.

Grant’s Army, including  the 16th O.V.I. has made camp, since E’s last Civil War letter, moving down river from Arkansas Post. On January 20, they camp at Young’s Point, Louisiana, about three miles above Vicksburg.

Civil War movement

Union troops move down the river to Youngs Point LA. Map from the Michael Woods Website for 16th O.V.I.

It is hard to fault Erasmus for being discouraged. This “Long Encampment”, which is to last 45 days, straggles along the river on levees and ground made deep with mud from nearly constant rain. The weather has turned cold. The only escape from camp is working at digging muck to build “Grant’s Canal”, or occasional forays dreamed up by General Grant to find a “back door” to Vicksburg. Sporadic bombardment from the Confederates roar across the river with their noisy “Whistling Dick” . Replies from the heavy Parrott guns mounted on flat boats. their firing lighting up the night sky. Add to the smell of smoke, sweat and mildew, the stink of the hundreds of mules used to transport things up and down the slopes, most dying from the effort.

In this Civil War letter, addressed to “Dear Wife,” Erasmus alternates his thoughts of home with political rants and doubts about the decisions being made regarding the war.

Although Erasmus has just received four letters from home, he has a political conspiracy theory about the mail, and makes it know that The Emancipation Proclamation, that went into force on January 1, 1863, is not universally approved.

It was a long time since I had got a letter.  I guess our letters are kept from us or at least a great many are.  We cannot get one Democrat paper to the regiment and we get that lieing (sic) Holmes County Republican regular.  It spoke of the joys and satisfaction old Abe’s proclamation received in the army.   There never was such a cursed dissatisfaction in the army about anything as is about that.  It is the Republican postmasters that stops the papers and letters from us.

This sentiment points back to the 150-year-old argument about the purpose of the Civil War.  Erasmus has consistently spoken in favor of keeping the Union together, but he does not believe he is fighting to free the slaves. In fact, his language and attitude reflects a strong prejudice against blacks (and liberal use of the “n” word).

As for “Republican postmasters” it is true that postmasters were eagerly sought political appointments.  While I doubt that postmasters would actually hold back mail, no doubt the Postal Service was censoring mail, but mostly from the Union to the Confederate states. The more pertinent question here, I think, is how did Erasmus get away with his attacks on the government and the army if someone was censoring him?

On January 29th, Grant arrived to personally get the troops ready for the assault on Vicksburg. See Grant’s thinking on the preparations for taking Vicksburg.

Erasmus is not impressed with the idea of digging a canal.

I think Lincoln would do well to send some old crazy woman down to oversee this great expedition.  It would make any old woman laugh to see the great canal they are digging.  It just puts me in mind of little boys play.  If they had anybody to oversee that knew anything they could had it ready to run boats through by this time and saving any more fighting at Vicksburg.

Erasmus is thoroughly sick of seeing illness and death, although he never complains about personally being affected. He must have had that Iron constitution, when he says “I don’t know how long we will stay here but not long I hope for a constitution of steel could not stand this long.”

Our army will soon run down for it is alarming to see the deaths that occur daily.  This is a flat swampy country, very muddy and we are miserably fed….If we stay here until warm weather they will die like old sheep….If this nation can stand this all it has a stronger backbone than I think it has.  I just want to see if the people of Ohio will stand another draft or not. Any man that would volunteer or go drafted now ought to be shot the very day he goes.

Wolbach’s account agrees about the health of the men.

The sick list of many regiments grew alarmingly, and the death rate was a matter of seriousness…The number of deaths in the 16th was small compared to the number under medical treatment.

As usual, Wolbach, twenty years after the fact, has a somewhat more sanguine view of affairs than Erasmus. He points out that those lower down the slope plus the work crews have beautiful views of Vicksburg. And he says: 

It is curious that amid circumstances that look dismal when viewed in retrospection, the majority felt little concern and even enjoyed themselves.

Some “boys” even built boats out of scrap material and caught fish in the river. However he also mentions desertions and an attempted suicide.

Both Wolbach and Erasmus refer to Cpl. Thomas Phillips of Co. B, who disappeared on January 12 while they were still on the White River in Arkansas.  Wolbach says that he went west and became a hunter and trapper.  Erasmus says, at the end of his letter:

We heard from T. Phillips the other day.   He was at Memphis and is likely at home now and I think he knows enough to stay there.

Erasmus is convinced that the Union is losing the war, and thinks they might as well just give the South their independence and get it over with. As in the last letter, he is still tempted by dissertion, but ever logical, he weighs the pros and cons.

Though I am as much opposed to a dissolution of the Union as any other man I will bet all I am worth, it will be done before we have peace…Oh I wish the strong war men of the north had to stand in our place, they would soon be like us, be in favor of peace…I would like to get out of this honorable but which would be the most honorable, to fight in this war or throw my gun down and go home is the question. I know which the most of the boys will do if they was paid off and was where they could get home, but I believe they are afraid to pay them off just on account of that, but it would be hard to get away from here without giving oneself up to the enemy.

While Wolbach, in Camp and Field refers to the back-breaking work of the “contraband”, the term used for escaped slaves, Erasmus, predictably, sees them differently.

We have thousands of old helpless negroes hanging around the army being fed and clothed by the government and not benefiting us one cent.  That’s the way the war is carried on.

The second half of his letter turns to affairs at home.  He has learned of the death of Ephraim Cellars since his last letter, and he sympathizes with the family, particularly since Ephraim was the only son in a family of daughters. This death only compounds his despondency. Further illustrating his attitude toward the war and blacks, Erasmus says

It seems too hard for them to lose him in such a wicked war as this but it can’t be helped now for it is too late but I have this to say let no more come for we have enough out to lose now and the war will never end as long as a man will fight for the n_______s.

The Union soldiers still have not been paid–going on seven months now–and nevertheless suttlers are charging extortionate prices–30¢ a pound for cheese; 30¢ for dried apples; boots from $6 to $20; and a can of peaches for $1.50.

Oh, I often dream I am at home getting something good to eat, just anything exept fat pork and crackers would be so good.  I want you to save me a can of peaches and all I ask is to get home to eat them

After saying, as he as before, “I want you to get along the best you can,” and he is hoping for peace and that he can get home to his family,” he ends his letter abruptly.

It is plum dark, good-bye.

E. Anderson

Oh, it is so sad to hear him yearn for peaches, and so eerie for him to end this dark letter with this brief farewell.

See the prior letter, #7, Civil War Deserters, is here.

The following letter, #9, In the Dark Woods of the Mississippi, is here.

Notes: Besides the transcriptions of his Civil War letters  which I use with the permission of a descendant of Erasmus’ widow and her second husband, sources include:

  • A site devoted to the 16th OVI that is a real treasure trove of information about Ohio’s soldiers in the Civil War. That site is the source for Cpl. Wolbach’s “Camp and Field” report which was published in the 1880s.
  • Ancestry.com where I find birth, census death, military and other records of my ancestors and the people that Erasmus mentions.
  • All photos and the maps in today’s post come from the Michael K Wood site devoted to 16th OVI, and the photos are linked to that site.
  • Other websites are linked in the body of the letter