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Letter from Gertrude Perkins Gearhart Lightle to Daughter Bessie, April 6, 1940

Posted in Letters, Photographs, and Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

My cousin Dara sent scans of the following letter from my great-grandmother, Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart Lightle.  I have discussed her story previously on this blog.

Kiona, WA

April 6, 1940

Dear Bessie,

I was sure glad to hear from you again. I looked in vain for a letter all winter.

I have been sick so much but did not go to bed as I had too much to do.

Alice and her baby were here after she left the hospital [Gertrude’s daughter Alice]. She was too weak to do anything for quite a while, then the baby got sick, too. He just began to get better when Tom came home from PWA camp sick with the “flu.” He took that & was a very sick baby. They went home with him so they took care of him, but I took it too.

I  was in bed off and on for a month, then I began to be bothered with my eyes & they are bad yet. I wear glasses to read or sew, but I couldn’t do either one for several weeks. Now I can only read a few minutes at a time.

I am glad you [sic] Mother Zeiglar is better. I think of her so often.

Now for your questions.

  1. You were born in Metaline, Pend O’Reile Co. Washington [Pend Oreille County] March the 26-27 or maybe 28th 1924. I have forgotten the exact day, but you have that already.
  2. My maiden name was Gertrude Nettie Perkins.
  3. I was born at Hector, Minnesota September 13, 1887.
  4. Your fathers [sic] name was Omar Alfred Gearhart born in Iowa (I don’t know what town) February 29, 1884.
  5. [Omar Alfred Gearhart] Died in Spokane, Washington December 29, 1930 age 46.

I never had a birth certificate for you.

Your father was Holland Dutch decent [sic] [actually Pennsylvania Dutch, or German] and his ancestors settled in the Ohio Valley. If you will write to Grandma Gearhart she can tell you more than I can. Mrs G.D. Gearhart Box 196- Maxwell, Iowa.

I am English on my fathers [sic] side. His folks settled in Virginia shortly after the Revolutionary War and were English Quakers. My mother’s folks were Scotch & Irish & one Great-great-grandmother on her fathers [sic] side was English, named Smith.

Granny’s father came to this country before the Civil War & settled in Wisconsin. His name was Montgomery & his wife’s name was MacGregor, both scotch [sic]. My uncle Sherm Young at 1320 So. 7th Street in Yakima can tell you about them.

You had mumps and chicken-pox and no real accidents & was never inside of a hospital while I had you.

I had 13 children, one was still-born (dead) and one premature as far as I know [word missing] are 11 living.

The one[s?] born dead were never named. The others are:–

John Douglas Dec 25, 1911
Ruth Isabelle Apr 9 1913
Eva Marie Aug 13 1914
Jessie Nadine, Apr 6, 1916
Alice Gertrude, Nov 23, 1918
Donald Omar, July 11, 1920
Edwin Guy, Dec 29, 1921 [my grandfather]
Frank Manley, July 12, 1923
Bessie Louise, Mar 27, 1924
Margery Feb 2 1927
Alfred Aug 5 1929

Do you know whether Margery is adopted or not? I forgot to ask them when I was up there.

Lots of love & kisses,

Your [missing word]

It’s important to know the family background in order to put this letter in context, and the story I linked at the beginning of this post is the best place to start. Until this week, I had never seen a photo of my great-grandmother. Within the space of two days, I have received two different photos from two cousins and an additional photo of Omar Alfred Gearhart, my great-grandfather.

This first image depicts Omar Gearhart with his brothers John and Earl:

Omar, John, and Earl Gearhart

This image is of Omar Gearhart and his wife Gertrude Nettie Perkins with their oldest child John Douglas (circa 1912):

Omar Gearhart, Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, and John Douglas Gearhart

This final picture is of Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, her mother Isabell Lowe (sometimes listed as Mary Isabell, Mary Isabelle, or Isabell M. on the census; Lowe is the surname of her second husband, Guy Lowe), and Isabell’s mother Ophelia McKilrick (name unverified) with John Douglas Gearhart in 1912:

Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, Isabell Lowe, and Ophelia McKilrick with John Douglas Gearhart

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  1. NF Lightle
    NF Lightle

    Hi Dana,
    I’m not sure I have followed all of this, or maybe I have missed some of the articles. But, Did your Great Grandmother remarry a Lightle? If so, was her husband from IL or OH originally? (Our family originates in Ireland and came to the US via Ross County, Ohio in 1800 and Pike, IL soon after. Our last name comes from the Irish name Lytle, and only 2 of Martha Lytle’s children took the american spelling of the name “Lightle” after coming to the US.

    I was trying to find more information on my greatgrandparents when I found your site.


    November 22, 2009
    • Yes, she did remarry a Lightle, but I know nothing substantial about him, not even his first name. I don’t know where he came from. He would have been in Washington State by the time they married because my great-grandmother stayed there until she died.

      November 22, 2009
  2. Sandra Elgas
    Sandra Elgas

    In response to Gertrude Gearhart marrying a Lightle. Gertrude was my grandmother and she did marry Rolland Lightle. For years, I thought he was my real grandpa, but as I got older I learned otherwise and the story behind it. The Lightles are burried in Kiona Wa Evergreen Cemetery. I visit the cemetery every time I vist WA. I live in Michigan now, but originally from the west. I was fortunate enough to know many of my aunts and uncles over the years. I am so glad you created this site and hopefully there are more cousins out there looking for others like us.

    December 15, 2009
  3. I just discovered your blog. I am going to subscribe so that I can keep up with what you do and how you do it.

    I started a similar blog in February, since my house is full of old family photos, letters, and other documents, the oldest of which is from 1819. I am writing mainly for the benefit of the youngsters in my family, but I try to make the historical observations relevant to anyone.

    I love reading old letters to get clues about how people thought about things and solved problems in the past.

    My main blog, , is an art-related blog and my shovelmaster blog is a sort of hobby, so does not get full attention.

    May 2, 2010
  4. Johnny Gearhart
    Johnny Gearhart

    I was very surprised to find this. I am the Grandson of John Douglas. It caught my eye because my Grandmother has 2 of the pictures above in her living room. I don’t know to much about him because he passed away when I was about 2 years old but if you have any questions about John Douglas and his addition to family tree I will be happy to ask Aunts and Uncles and my Grandmother for any dates and information

    July 18, 2010

    I am related to the Gearharts from Alsace Lorraine. They migrated to Iowa (Dubuque area) and were mostly farmers, though, one of the brothers (second generation – Napoleon Bonaparte) was a doctor who was the first graduating class in the medical school at Iowa State University. My gg grandfather’s name was Herley, who lived to be 95. He was a very successful farmer in the area and a very upstanding citizen. He and his wife, Cynthia (Green) had 6 children, I believe.

    I hope to hear from you at some point.

    Thanking you in advance.

    Jan Bailey

    May 23, 2011
  6. Michelle

    Marjorie Ann Gearhart child of Gertrude and Omar born Feb 2, 1927 in White Swan, WA was adopted by a family named Narum, they lived in Cowiche, WA. She is on the 1930 census with them. I recently started researching this line for a friend. Marjorie is her grandmother, recently passed away.

    September 19, 2012
    • Michelle, I am sorry to hear of Marjorie’s passing. She was my father’s aunt.

      September 19, 2012

    ,I am as you know the oldest child pf John Douglas n Maria Celia Gearhart. They were married on April 6, 1952 in Cabos San Lucas Mexico I was born on Jan 5, 1953 my Sisiter Juamita Diana was born on Dec. 29, 1953. She is my Irish twin followed by ny brother John Jr born Nov 15, 1955 we were all born in Tijuana Mexico. Johnny was hit by a drunk driver in May 1976. He was pronounced brain dead pn the 25th. His wife Terry Reederr Gearhart pullrd the plug on the 26th Donald Ramon March 13,1958 Marjorie Marie Marie Oct 3 1963 and Rpnald Thomas Feb 19, 1965 all were born in San Diego Ca, We grew up knowing my Aunr Bessie and Uncle Earl and the boys. We also spent tine with Uncle Al, Aunt jessie her son Ronnie and his wife Arlene and their bpys Tho I never got to meet my grandma Gertrude we wrote to each other regularly. I get my love of reading from her. I have some pictures i will share with you via emal

    October 22, 2014

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