The following is a letter written by Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck to Amelia Bowden Guion of Seneca Falls, New York in 1883:
“My grand-parents on my mother’s side were of royal descent. My grandfather Cadoret was guillotined in France for his loyalty to Marie Antoinette. My grandmother with her three daughters (my mother being the youngest) were secluded for months in a tower outside Paris and were released by being let down in the dead of night in a Cracker Barrel. This was suitably curtained inside and slightly ventilated, and with my grandmother inside was taken as freight on board a ship bound for Havana. My grandmother was of Spanish birth and it was deemed safer to send her to Cuba, than to Spain, as she might have been traced, and her head would have gone too. Of course they were rescued by friends, and when the ship was safe off, then my grandmother was released from her narrow quarters and arrived safely in Havana. Her daughters came on in the same way some months later. They came with their three brothers who had been in England during the worst of the trouble. They left the coast of France in their own vessel, laden with their own property, expecting never to see their country again. Their voyage was peaceful until they entered the old Bahama Channel; a violent storm sent the vessel on a rock, and the passengers and crew escaped by means of a life-boat, which took them to a desert island, not far distant. They hoisted the flag of distress, and were there three days, faint for want of food, being threatened to be devoured by the animals of the forests. When at last an American vessel bound for Havana from New York and commanded by a Captain Hicks saw the flag and came to them and saved them. They started from France with immense wealth. They arrived at Havana where their mother was with only a change of clothes, handkerchiefs, and a few jewels in their bosom, their ship wrecked and everything lost. Soon after, my Uncle took the yellow fever and died.
My grandmother sent the three girls to Philadelphia to school to learn English. My aunts did not like it, and insisted on returning to Cuba but my mother stayed and eventually married my father in Baltimore. He was a wealthy merchant, and had commercial relations in Havana. So he exchanged with his partner and went to Havana to live after they had been married about a year and a half. Her mother still lived, and also one sister. The other had died. My brother was born in this country, and was four months old when they went to Cuba. I was born in 1819. My father died when I was quite a child, and left a large fortune in slaves and two plantations of coffee and sugar, but lawyers were, in those days, like these in later days, and after gobbling up all they could, left my mother in very moderate circumstances. She decided to bring us to America and did so in 1832 or 1833.”
Next Sunday, I;ll continue the story of the Rev. Elijah Guion and his wife, Clara Maria de los Dolores Marina de Beck Guion.
Tomorrow, I’ll be start posting a week of letters written in the summer of 1944. Lad and Marian have returned to California after a furlough in Trumbull and Orida, California. Dan is in France, Ced is in Anchorage, Alaska, Dick is in Brazil and Dave is completing basic training. Grandpa is holding down the fort and acting as a clearing house for letters to and from each of the boys scattered around the world.