He may not have even known they were missing, but 88 years after they were written, two lost letters addressed to former Firth resident Henry Peterson have been returned.
The coincidence that led to return of the 1901 letters is more interesting than the letters themselves. Peterson's sisters, Hatti and Tilda, wrote to him while he was attending community college in Missoula, Mont. The letters concerned the wedding of another sister, Jennie.The letters were found inside a wall, in a single envelope postmarked April 27, 1901, when Lloyd and Gilberta Bolander of Firth tore down their old house.
The Bolanders knew the names of the house's former owners, the Styhls, and before them the Petersons. The Bolanders were certain the two families were related. Bolander said he knew of an Ed Styhl, and wondered how he might get in touch with him.
Enter Terrie Maranda of Orange Park, Fla., who was in eastern Idaho visiting her parents, Prue and Joy Skelton of Idaho Falls.
Although she only barely remembers him, Joy Skelton is Peterson's niece.
The sequence of coincidences started when Maranda, who works in the U.S. Navy's housing office in Orange Park, decided to visit her counterparts in the Idaho Falls office.
During her visit, she met the Bolanders' daughter, Marge Lapansky, who works there. In casual conversation, the two learned both had lived in Firth.
As they named friends and relatives, Maranda told Lapansky she was related to the Styhls and Ed Styhl was her great-uncle.
She later told her parents about the encounter, and they drove to Firth to get the letters.
"We were quite excited about it," Joy Skelton said. "We just happened to be having a family picnic (the next week) while Terrie was here, so we read them there. It was terrific."
She said Peterson, now deceased, moved to California when she was very young.
"I didn't know him very well. I can barely remember him," she said.
How the letters got in the wall remains a mystery. Skelton said the house was built well before 1901.
Lapansky said she fished the envelope out of the wall when her sister, Connie Christensen, found it.
"Nobody knows how it got there, but it was right inside one of the walls," she said.