E.E. Wise's letter to his sister Lotte, August 12, 1878


I came across this letter, and many others, while in California researching the start of various food processing industries in Sonoma County. This witty and charming letter was a keeper and somehow feels right in The Wilderness of Wish both as an ode to siblings and as grounding while I begin to prepare a talk that touches on the Granger Movement.

One of the Movement's hallmark pieces of legislation was the commencement of rural free mail delivery. It saddens me to think of how the US Postal Service has been systematically dismantled over the past several decades.

I wonder how Mr. Wise's winery turned out and if a boom ever found its way to him. Hope so. 


Aug 12, 1878

My dear Lotte,
I'm the poorest correspondent in the World I think, for it must be a coon's age, and an old one at that since I wrote, but I work hard all day sometimes with my hands sometimes with my brain - and when I've had dinner I want to smoke and read the paper. Man is a selfish brute at best and everything is sacrificed to his comfort. 

Latterly I've been building a stone winery and am now started as one of California's wine makers. I have spent nearly all the money I possess, but we are in a state of speculation and look for a boom in everything. If I don't get a boom I will bust, and then I will go to work for somebody and with nothing to bother me but Marion, be tolerably happy. As it is I am a nervous, bony, irritable piece of humanity, and am never happy except when I am asleep. 

I was very much interested in the papers you sent me and I have them carefully saved to send back. The photograph of the children was lovely. My Godson is a beaut. and they are both a credit to you Mrs. Hopkins. How much I would like to see you all. Your letter made me as homesick as a child, and I am only waiting for the Boom to go East.

The whole business about Etta is tough, but I think she is as weak as skimmed pump water - to use a rural phrase - not to take a stand and fire him. Blue the Divorce Court! I would fit it up as a sitting room, and keep getting married and divorced until I got a husband to suit me. Storrow's behind the age. It's the swell thing to do here, to get a divorce. 

I suppose Kate and her whole convey are blooming like a green bay tree. She never writes to me, but I never write to anybody. Give her my love and to Etta too.

If any of you people get real rich, so that the money bulges out your pockets and spoils the fit of your clothes, just remember that you have a brother out here struggling along the rough uneven path of a Farmers life, or better still if you know any Tenderfeet, who are positive that Ranching in California is the vocation, send them out and I will satisfy their longing. 

Your affectionate Brother,