A Sad Letter From the Past

My great grandfather, Arlie Arthur Alford

When I first started asking my dad for information about his parents’ lives I was very curious about my grandpa’s parents. All that I knew was that they died when he was young and that he and his sister, Annie Mae, were raised by his Aunt and Uncle in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It was not till I asked the question that I learned the sad truth of grandpa’s childhood.  My grandfather, Billie Thomas Alford was an orphan by the time he was 6 years old. His parents, Arlie Alford and Naomi Rosa Reynolds, both died of tuberculosis in 1928.  The entire family had been treated at the Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Booneville, Arkansas. Both of the children were  were eventually released to the care of family. Unfortunately, Naomi died on February 24, 1928 and Arlie died August 7, 1928.

As I began to reach out to my more distant cousins I was pleasantly surprised to find another genealogist on the Alford side of the family!  Hurray! And the great thing was that she’d been researching for much longer and had pictures and stories that I’d never seen before. Without her sharing I would not have had a single photo of my great grandparents or my great-great grandparents on that side!  One of the treasures that my cousin Suzy shared with me was a handwritten letter by Arlie, written in May of the year he died. After a more recent visit with my cousin I recalled that I wanted to transcribe the letter and so I did. Here’s the letter:





Envelope markings:

2 cent stamp

State Sanatorium, Ark.

May 29, 1928


Mr. Bernie Lakin

Hot Springs, Ark

Arlington Hotel c/o Chef


p. 1


State San

May 29. 28

Dear folks

Hope you all are

not sick i havent

heard from you

all in a couple

of day weeks

wich i guess i

am not doing any

good they tried

to discharge all

here they discharged

me i don’t know

what to do i think

i will stay and

make them throw

me out i don’t


p. 2

think they can

i am not coming

back to hot springs

if they throw me

out they said i

hadent improved

i think it is a

dirty trick to

sent us home

when we are

in kneed of care

i haven’t ben out

of be much since

i came here if

i cant don’t get

to go to glen wood

i am going to


p. 3

either knock a

mail box in i

am sure not able

to take care of

my self-

how are my dear

little children

would like to see

them also you all

if they get to much

trouble or any

think you all have

been so good i

can’t expect so

much and i don’t

know any thing

to do only when

you all have


p. 4

figured you are

have done a lots

more than your

duty send them

to the orphan

home but if i

stay here i do

hope you all will

come in June

Love to all



Dear babys I still

Love you both

daddy hopes to get

well some day

still love daddy

and think of me

Daddy x x x x


That last paragraph just breaks my heart. Obviously Arlie was having a tough go of it in the hospital and was not feeling much better. He probably knew that there wasn’t much chance that he was going to make it if they released him as threatened.  I asked my cousin Suzy about this and she said that the hospital manipulated their statistics to try and look better than other sanitoriums in the country. She had traveled to the museum there and from what she had learned it sounded like if someone wasn’t going to recover, the hospital would release or send those patients on to another location where they would die. Such a tragedy!  I found this rather interesting article online when I googled the Booneville Sanitorium, “Every Day was a Tuesday” by David Koon. Let me warn you this article is quite disturbing in the manner that tuberculosis was treated. I was appalled at some of the treatments described!


After reading this letter I wondered what my grandfather’s life would have been like if he and his sister were given to the Orphan Home as suggested by Arlie if they were “to much trouble”. While life with the Lakins was not ideal, they were family. My grandfather eventually left Arkansas, but he always returned to visit his sister and Hot Springs. He loved it down there and when I took my trip with my grandparents across the country we stayed for several days with Aunt Ann and Uncle Bob (her husband). We played many a hand of “Old Maid” while I was there. It’s been close to 30 years since I went to Arkansas and now that I’m old enough to appreciate it from a family history perspective– most of the family has gone. Perhaps I’ll make a connection with some Alford cousins at some point and we can rekindle the family that way. I will have to keep my eyes and ears open in the meantime!

One thought on “A Sad Letter From the Past

  1. Jennifer,
    Thanks for posting that letter. I only found that letter after my Mother died. She knew what her father wrote. Rereading that letter makes me want to cry. Aunt Mary and Uncle Ben loved them but never had children of their own.


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