Charlotte's Mail Order Husband (New Montana Brides series)

Charlotte’s

Mail Order

Husband

 

New Montana Brides Series

Susan Leigh Carlton

Susan Leigh Carlton

Copyright © 2013 by
Susan Leigh Carlton.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.

 

Susan Leigh Carlton

Tomball, TX

www.susanleighcarlton.com

 

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montana

The Treasure State

 

“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have a
dmiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

 

Montana seems to me to be what a small boy would think Texas is like from hearing Texans”


John Steinbeck
,
Travels with Charley: In Search of America

 

 

 


 

Description

Charlotte Jenkins is the oldest of four girls, two of which are married. At twenty-five
, and unmarried in post-Civil War Maryland, her prospects for marriage are dim. When her mother started eyeing widowers, and men as old as her father as candidates to be her husband, Lottie decided to take matters into her own hands.

An ad in the Baltimore Sun attract
ed her attention:
Prosperous, never married business man, age 28, is desirous of corresponding with a lady, with marriage as an objective. Interviews will be scheduled with those having an interest.

When she respond
ed to the ad, she found it was placed by the sister of a gold miner turned rancher in Montana, named Zebulon Parsons. Zebulon struck it rich in the Last Chance Gulch near Helena. He extracted gold from his claim for over two years, and then sold the claim to a mining company.

He
bought land, and began successfully raising cattle. Wanting a large family, he built a large ranch house, and outfitted it with the finest furnishings available. He had one problem remaining. He did not have a wife, and there aren’t any unmarried women in Helena, so he enlisted the help of his sister in Baltimore.

Read about the path that br
ings these two together in love and in marriage.

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chapter one

Prospecting For Gold

Zebulon
Parsons came to the Grasshopper Creek area prospecting for gold in 1862, as a member of a small group of miners from Colorado. He left the group to set out alone, and walked along the creek, looking for a place to make camp.

At a bend in the creek, he scooped a pan of sand from the outside wall of the curve. He shook the pan to wash the sand
and spotted some color in his pan. He had found placer gold. He backtracked up the creek to make camp, in an effort to conceal his discovery. After checking to make sure he was alone, he staked his claim, using piles of rocks as markers.

His luck held
. He was alone in the area for over three months, before others began coming into the area. It was not long, until the area was overrun with miners. Before that happened, he had accumulated a small fortune in the precious metal.

He stayed in the area for several weeks, traipsing up and down the creek
, but had no further luck. His wanderings led him to Last Chance Gulch in 1865, where Lady Luck smiled on him once again… Big time. His claim in the Gulch produced enough gold over the next two and one half years to allow him to give up the hard life of a miner forever.

In his correspondence with his sister
, Mary Tarleton, in Baltimore, he spoke of a lack of eligible women to marry, Together, they devised a plan, where she would interview prospects among the many available, unmarried women in Baltimore. If she found someone she deemed suitable, and who was willing to consider marriage to someone she had never met, Zebulon would pay for her transportation to Helena, Montana, where they would be married.

Zebulon
wrote to his sister:

My Dear Sister, I believe our plan has a chance of su
ccess. I would prefer you to limit your search to those you deem as strong women. Life in Montana can be harsh, especially in winter. To be sure, as a mining town there is a certain lawless element in Helena. I have established a ranch along the Missouri River, five miles from town. My nearest neighbor is about three miles away.

I would request someone with a comely appearance
, and weight proportional to height. They can be assured, should they not find satisfaction, I will provide return transportation, but I would urge you to look for a willingness, and ability to adapt in those you interview.

Your b
rother, Zebulon.

She placed an ad in the Baltimore Sun that read:

Prosperous, never married business man, age 28, is desirous of corresponding with a lady with marriage as an objective. Interviews will be scheduled with those having an interest.

Mary received twenty queries from young women in search of a husband.
She did not take her responsibility to her brother lightly, and was determined to find a suitable candidate. She dismissed five of them out of hand, when they were more concerned with the degree of prosperity. Her process took two weeks before she made her selection, Charlotte Jenkins.

Charlotte Jenkins was a red-haired daughter
in an Irish immigrant family. She was attractive with the unblemished fair complexion exhibited by many red haired persons, Her eyes were green, and she was five feet six inches tall, with a slender build. Her lustrous red hair reached to the middle of her back.

Mary handed her a book and asked her to read a passage, a challenge she met with no hesitation. “Miss Jenkins, what led you to choose this path?”

“Please, call me Charlotte or Lottie. I want to have children, and convention holds that you must be married in order to do that. There are very few eligible single men and I have found none satisfactory to me. May I ask questions?”

“Yes, of course you may. I would be disappointed if you didn’t,” Mary said.

“This man looking for a wife, who is he? How did you come to undertake the search, instead of him doing it himself?”

“Those are both good questions. To your first question, he is my brother. He is twenty-eight years old and has never been married. To your second question, he doesn’t live here. He lives in the Montana Territory, where the shortage of women of marrying age is as dire as the shortage of men in Baltimore.”

Lottie said, “Your ad said he is prosperous, in what business is he prosperous?”

“He is…
was a miner. He now has a ranch near Helena, Montana.” He completed the schools here in Baltimore and attended the University of Maryland before the gold fever struck him. He’s a very intelligent man, but he let his dream, or maybe greed, take over from his common sense.”

“Mrs. Tarleton, I must confess my ignorance. Where is Montana Territory in relation to Baltimore?”

Mary laughed. “Montana is almost across the country. I have never been there, but I have an Atlas that will give you an idea.” She produced a map of the United States, pointed to the Montana Territory, then said, “as I understand, Helena is a new town, barely three years old, and is near the Missouri River, about here,” indicating a small “x” she had placed on the map.

“My goodness,” Lottie exclaimed. “It never fails to amaze me how large this country is.”

“How would one get there?” she asked.

“I checked that at the train station.
Passenger service to Saint Louis would take one day, and then steamboat to Fort Benton, Montana, would take two weeks, then by stage the rest of the way. The stagecoach would be just over one day. The agent reckons the entire trip would be close to three weeks. It would be an arduous trip to be sure.”


Mrs. Tarleton, is your brother a man of faith?”

“To be truthful, I don’t know the answer to that. We were brought up to go to church, but since he went west, I don’t know. I do know there is a church in Helena. It is not a Catholic Church, however. You are Catholic, are you not?”

“Yes, would that be a problem for your brother?”

“I don’t think it would bother him at all. He’s not the type to be troubled by one’s religious preferences.”

“What would be the outcome if I were to find I could not marry your brother? Or, if he could not marry me?”


We discussed that. In either case, Zebulon would pay return transportation to Baltimore.

“I have given you a lot of information to digest. It is an important decision for you.
Zebulon has charged me with the responsibility to determine whether my selection could endure the life on a ranch, a ranch I know nothing of, but I do know my brother. His house will be a sturdy and serviceable home. He has told me, the winters in Montana are harsh.

“Correspondence by letter would take the same amount of time I mentioned
earlier. I believe his decision will be largely based on my recommendation. That being said, I feel equally sure, you would like a personal correspondence to take place. I propose this… take a week to think about all of the things we’ve discussed, and let’s meet one week from today and you can tell me whether you wish to pursue this.”

“I believe that to be a sensible suggestion. I s
hall meet you in one week, then,” Lottie said.

 

chapter two

Lottie Makes A Decision

At home, Lottie reflected on what she had been told.
It sounded honest, it was almost as if Mary had been trying to talk me out of it, yet she was the one that chose me. I guess it was a matter of putting the information out there. All of the information. Now all I have to do is decide.

A three week trip sounds difficult. I can do it. The train would be a piece of cake. Depending on the accommodations on the river boat, that could be good or bad. This trip will cost her brother as much as I
earn in six months. Did I say will cost? Well, I guess I have made up my mind.

Three days before the week was up, she went to Mary’s house. “I don’t need the rest of the week. I would like to write your brother.”

Mary said, “I wrote him the same day I talked to you. He will not have gotten that letter yet. I gave him a description of you, along with what I thought. I suggested to him you were a good choice. It will be a month before I hear back, so I’m going to give you his name and address, so you can write. I will let you know as soon as I receive a reply.”

“Thank you. I do appreciate your trust.”

* * *

Dear Mr. Parsons,

I prevailed upon your sister to give me your address. The month required for an exchange of letters seems such a long time, so I thought I would go ahead and write first.

My name is Charlotte Jenkins, but
I am called Lottie. I am twenty-five years old, and have never been married. Now with the war over, prospects of that happening here, are dimmer than before.

I was born in Ireland but came to America at a young age. My parents set great store in education, and I comple
ted the Catholic Schools. (Yes, I am Catholic.) I attended Saint Anne’s School for Girls. I currently have a position in a local bank as a teller.

I have red hair
, (and a temper to match). I am five feet-six inches tall, and have a slender build. I am the oldest of four girls, two of whom are married.

I must say, Mary did not gloss anything over. I have wondered whether she was trying to discourage my interest. I have
not spoken to my parents about what I’m doing. My mother would be appalled at the thought of me corresponding with a stranger, and one on the other side of the continent as well.

Until she showed me on
an Atlas, I had no idea where the Montana Territory is located. It certainly sounds different from Baltimore. If you are of a mind, I would appreciate a return letter.

Until then, I remain,
Sincerely,

Lottie Jenkins

Six weeks later, Lottie received a short note from Mary Parsons that read:

My Dear Lottie,

I have received mail from my brother. If you would be so kind as to call on me, I will be pleased to review his letter with you.

Yours truly,

Mary Parsons

Intra city mail was normally delivered within two days, and Lottie called on Mary the day after she received the note.
“I wrote the same day I was here last,” Lottie told her.

“His letter to me said he would be writing to you directly, the same day this was mailed.”

“Good, I have something I can look forward to receiving. I appreciate your help. Who knows, we may be related someday.”

Mary held
the cup of tea up in a toast. “Until then,” she said.

Two days later, Lottie received a letter at her home, from
Zebulon Parsons, General Delivery, Helena, Montana.

Dear Miss Jenkins,

Having received your name and address, I take pen in hand to give more information about myself. As Mary no doubt told you, I am twenty-eight years of age. I have dark hair and dark eyes. At the present time, my skin is dark from the sun. In winter, I become pale, like the snow fox. I am probably thinner than my sister remembers me; when you are alone, eating is of less importance. I take most of my meals with the ranch hands, numbering twelve at present. The number does vary depending on the time of year.

I live on a ranch, close to the banks of the Missouri River.
We are surrounded by mountains, giving us some protection from the snows of winter,

I currently live in the bunkhouse with the others, but the
ranch house is nearing completion, and should be so before winter sets in. It is going to be a large house, as I anticipate having children. That is the first secret I reveal to you.

Mary said you asked about church. Helena has a Chri
stian Church, pastored by a very nice young couple. It has what I regard as a well-stocked general store, a bank, and a livery stable. Now that it appears the gold is playing out, Helena is becoming a hub of commerce, supplying the needs of the mining factors in Montana. It has at present, a permanent population of around 2,500. I do not include the itinerant miners in that number.

Life on a ranch is difficult, but rewarding. We grow what we eat, from the beef, to vegetables during the growing se
ason, and then the vegetables that are canned for future consumption.

As one who has traveled, I believe Montana to be the most beautiful of all of the places I have seen.
The sky is the bluest blue you’ll ever see. With the mountains as a backdrop, the wonder of God’s work is everywhere.

I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have. Should you decide to come to Montana, I will make arrangements for you to stay in the newly constructed
Cosmopolitan Hotel, until such time as you’re comfortable with the decision to marry. Should you decide it is not in your best interest, I will provide return transportation.

Of course, as a practical matter, if you
should choose to marry another, I would expect reimbursement of my expenses. That may sound harsh, but I have no desire to pay for transportation for another man’s bride.

If I’ve said anything that offends you, then I apologize. It was not my intent. I plan to marry only once in my life, and since my dear sister has suggested you would be a good wife. I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Zebulon
Parsons

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