Lost letters tell of love, a long commute

Dick Kieffer points to a section in the ceiling of his Langley home where he found three 80-year-old letters written by the home’s original owner. - Gayle Saran
Dick Kieffer points to a section in the ceiling of his Langley home where he found three 80-year-old letters written by the home’s original owner.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

A home remodeling project uncovered a piece of island history recently when several 80-year-old letters tumbled out from behind the wall of a Langley house.

The home, now owned by Dick and Jenny Kieffer, sits near the top of Quigley Road. The road was named for the home’s original owners, George and Blanche Quigley.

The Kieffers have owned the home for 25 years, and have done a series of remodels, but it was during this most recent project when Dick Kieffer discovered three letters behind an old original wall. The yellowed letters were written during the fall and winter of 1924 to Blanche Quigley by her husband, George.

Dick Kieffer, a cabinet maker said apparently the letters fell behind a dresser in the second floor bedroom then slipped between the walls.

The letters, dated between August and December, were first written just two months after the couple wed on June 1. George apparently left his new bride to work for the railroad in Concrete, Wash.

Jenny Kieffer said the letters are a real find. She said they offer an interesting glimpse into George and Blanche’s lives.

“Things haven’t changed much on the island,” Dick Kieffer said. “Just like George, people still leave the island to work. The only difference is George commuted home once a week instead of every day.”

The letters, written with a fountain pen on lined paper, are in surprisingly good shape, still readable through several water spots. With flowing handwriting, George Quigley uses the letters to tell his wife about his daily activities.

In one letter he writes “this week will go pretty fast & I’ll bring home 40 more dollars. I’ll need a few dollars my shoes need sewing up all around and half soleing too.”

In another letter it was apparent George didn’t make it home for a weekend. He wrote to Blanche that she must have been “surprised when I didn’t come home.”

George tells her he was already to go when the “boss said for us to stay that there a wash out at Concrete so I guess there was nothing to do but to take it.” He reassures her they will “get in lots time anyway.”

Obviously, George carried his dirty clothes home every weekend because he told Blanche he could get a long with the clothes he had, noting that he would “wash his socks. More importantly, he wrote “everything will go all right on the money making end.”

He also tells her about a co-worker who was injured when he fell and hurt his tail bone.

He reassures her that he will watch that he doesn’t get in danger on the job.

“I’ll quit before I do that.”

On Dec. 1, 1924 he started to paint the depot and would be driving “piles” the next day. In this last dated letter, George tells his wife about a book he was reading about “Lucifer the fallen angel.” He said the book, given to him by his grandmother, “cleared things up more than before on hell or the second death or everlasting punishment and outer darkness.” He recommended that Blanche read the book. He then lists Biblical verse about “where the wicked will be punished.”

In the letters he signs off with Love George and several Xs.

The Quigleys lived on the island all of their lives, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in 1974. Blanche Quigley wrote “Bayview Notes” a column in the South Whidbey Record for a number of years. She was the daughter of one of South Whidbey’s pioneer families, Edward and Anna Metcalf. Blanche’s younger sister, Ruby, is the late mother of former Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman.

In fact, Furman was born in the old Quigley house, just five days before the Quigley’s son, Sam, was born in the same room.

The Kieffers are now remodeling that old house. Dick Kieffer said he is staying true to the style of the house in the remodel.

“I like to think George and Blanche would like the remodel,” Dick Kieffer said.

The Kieffers plan to document the history of the old homestead using copies of the letters and photographs.

Sam Quigley and some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren now live in North Bend, Wash.

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