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Esther L. Munro
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Born 2 February 1900, Piper City, Ford County, Illinois
Died 15 December 1997, Muncie, Delaware County, Indiana
Married Robert H. Cooper
Esther's father, Asa C. Munro, was born in La Salle County, Illinois in 1865. According to a September 26, 1919, letter he wrote to Esther, his father's family was from Seekonk, Massachusetts and his mother from Dayton, Ohio. He was recorded in the 1885 Nebraska state census, in Kearney, Buffalo County. By 1890, he had made his way northwest to Box Butte County, Nebraska, where records show he farmed land near the town of Alliance. It's likely that he acquired land in the Nebraska Sand Hills region as part of the 1862 Homestead Act. In an effort to tame and populate parts of the west, the United States government gave away land to homesteaders. In order to fulfill the terms of the agreement, the homesteader had to live on the land for five years and build a home on it. It seemed like a win-win situation: people were able to obtain land for free or at a greatly reduced price and the wild and sparsely populated western territories were able to lure new residents. In Nebraska's Sand Hills region, the program was less than successful, because the land was unable to support cultivation. Most of the homesteaders in that area gave up and their lands reverted to the U.S. government.
Asa C. Munro seems to have been one of those who gave up his homestead claim. By 1898 he had returned to Illinois, where he married Edith E. Dillon in Livingston County. Their first child, Esther, was born in 1900 in Piper City, Ford County, Illinois. Some time after her birth, the family moved to Geneva, Adams County, Indiana, where they remained.
In Geneva, the family successfully famed sugar beets. Though the work was quite hard, they were well off enough to afford good educations for all of their children. Esther attended Indiana University during the early 1920s, where she studied to become a teacher. After graduating, she taught primary school.
Esther's family were supportive, loving, and close-knit. There is a an almost palpable sense of warmth emanating from the letters from her family. Even her father, who corresponded infrequently and conservatively, wrote with love.
Religion played an important part in the lives of the Munros. They were Methodists, and attended church regularly. During her high school years, Esther taught Sunday School. At some point, she must have chided Richard Glendening for his lack of religious commitment, because in his correspondence to Esther, he frequently comments on the discrepancy between their respective beliefs (or, in his case, the lack thereof).
Esther's family were friends of the Glendening family. Their children spent a good deal of time together, and Richard Glendening was especially close to Esther. In 1918 Richard enlisted in the armed forces, and was stationed at an Army training camp at the Interlacken School in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. He was discharged later the same year, without being sent to fight in Europe. In 1919 Richard began studying at Indiana University. His letters to Esther, who was in her last year of high school, began in earnest then. Their correspondence continued after Esther left for college. Richard transferred to Purdue University, while Esther attended IU. Both Richard, and his sister, Luella, wrote regularly to Esther, though Richard was the more prolific writer. There was a great deal of affection between the two. The relationship cooled after a few years, for reasons unknown. There are gaps in the letters, so it's impossible to know what happened.
1. I have been unable to determine the names of Asa C. Munro's parents, or to follow that branch of the family tree any further, though I have been able to determine that there were possible Munro/Munroe/Monroe family members in Seekonk, Massachusetts during the relevant time period. It is unlikely that they are Asa's ancestors, though they are likely related in some way.
2. It may be that Esther herself disposed of the letters in question. It's also possible that a family member disposed of them after her death, though I think that is unlikely. The likeliest explanation is that those particular letters were sold piecemeal.
[Photo: Esther at the Indiana University Cosmopolitan Club's International Banquet 2 June 1923.]