Name:write on line Date:write on line

Finding Letters from Past Times:
Yesterday's Voices

History can be more than important dates and events. It's a record of the hopes and fears of ordinary people. The words in the letter below were written by a Texas farmer named George Green. Old letters like this one can tell a personal story about the past.

July 6, 1855

Dearest sister Nancy,

Our business has not been as good as we could have wished this summer on account of the great drought...
The weather is awfully hot and so dry, corn is dead and dying...

Where to Find it
Letters and diaries are called primary sources. Primary sources are accounts written by someone close to an event -- often an eyewitness. They give us details about an event that only someone close to it would know.

Here are some good places to look for letters about your state's history:

  • Many libraries have books of letters. The letter above came from a book called The Marlin Compound. It has letters written by one Texas family over many years.
  • Libraries also have books about a state's important people. Those books often contain letters that each person wrote.
  • Your town or county historical society may have letters you can copy.
  • Your family may have saved letters from great-grandparents or other relatives who lived in your state long ago.

How to Show It
When you use a letter in a report or a project, it's important to identify it. Tell who wrote the letter. Tell who the letter was sent to. Also tell when and where the letter was written, if you know. List your sources.

For more practice, try Finding Letters from Past Times: State History Comes Alive.

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