Friday, December 8, 2017

Lankford Family Santa Letters

I often search historical newspapers and at some point, discovered that the Athens Daily Herald, part of the Athens Historic Newspapers Archive, published lots of Santa letters in the early 1900s. As far as I know, I’ve never written a letter to Santa, but many children have. Now I make a point of searching for and reading these letters every December. I enjoy reading them. Times were so different then. These Santa letters remind me that I have much to be thankful for and to appreciate all the good that I have in my life.

In the process of my research, I’ve found three letters that were written my members of the extended Lankford family. Since ‘tis the season, I thought it would be a good time to share them.

Image from the Athens Daily Herald, Dec .24, 1915

The first letter was written by Ruhmell Swindle, daughter of John William Swindle and Eula Mae Patridge. Ruhmell was born in Madison County, Georgia on August 25, 1898. She would have been 15 years old when she wrote her Santa letter published in the Athens Daily Herald on December 17, 1914. It’s heartwarming to see that she thought about children less fortunate than herself and then she carried that on throughout her long life. Ruhmell died in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia at the age of 97 on November 16, 1996. Her obituary noted “… She served as a Salvation Army fund-raiser by playing her tambourine in downtown Athens for 42 years. She was often seen volunteering in a blue uniform and bonnet while standing on College Avenue. She would collect money for the Salvation Army from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., moving to different locations around downtown Athens on foot.” Her Santa letter follows.
Dear old Santa Claus:
I thought I would write to you to let you know what I wanted.
I want you to bring me a locket chain and please bring little Claud a rubber doll and a tie and please bring us some fruit too. Please don’t forget the poor and orphan children.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas.
Your little girl,
Ruhmell Swindle
Ruhmell would be my 3rd cousin 2x removed, with our nearest common relatives being my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Katie Lankford. 1910
The second letter was written by Katie Lankford, daughter of Wade Hamilton Lankford and Ada Blanche Culbertson. Katie was a Christmas Eve baby, born in Greene County, Georgia on December 24, 1906. She would have been 7 years old when her Santa letter was published in the Athens Daily Herald on December 19, 1914. Her Santa letter follows.
Dear Santa Claus: I wish you would please bring me a doll and doll carriage. My brother has been sick a long time, he had the typhoid fever, he has been sick seven months. Daddy had to spend all of his money for doctor’s bill and if you don’t bring me something I don’t guess I will get anything. My little brother said bring him a stopper gun and a wagon with horses to it. Bring my little sister a doll and tea set, she is 2 years old, her name is LILA MAE LANKFORD. Please don’t forget us. I know you want my name, KATIE LANKFORD, aged 9. My brother's name is CLEVELAND LANKFORD, aged 5. Be sure to come to see us.
I hope Katie got what she wished for that year because sadly, she passed away in 1922 at the young age of 16. Katie writes that she was 9 years old but her death certificate noted that she was born in 1906. Katie would have been my 2nd cousin 3x removed. Our nearest common relatives are also my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Clyde Lankford
The third letter was written by Clyde Lankford, Katie’s sister. Clyde was born in Greene County, Georgia on August 29, 1904 and would have been 11 years old when she wrote her Santa letter published on December 24, 1915 in the Athens Daily Herald. Her Santa letter follows.
Will Be Pleased With Anything.
Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl 11 years old. My brother died August 17, 1915. My mother died September 13, 1915. There are five children here, my papa and one brother and one sister works, the youngest one of us is a baby girl only 2 years old. My papa has to hire someone to stay with us every day, but I get up every morning at 4:30 and cook breakfast. I want you to remember us, will be pleased with anything you can bring us. My papa told me the other day that he had always given us a right nice Christmas, but was not able to get us anything this Christmas, so if you don’t remember us we will not get anything. I will tell you all of our names now, so if you can spare us anything you will know what to bring. My name is Clyde, I am 11 years old. My oldest sister is 14 years old, her name is Mozelle, Kate is 9 years old, Cleveland is 6 years old, Lila 2 years. Don’t forget us, dear Santa Claus. Wishing you a merry Christmas. Your little friend, CLYDE LANKFORD, 731 Satulah avenue.
Clyde’s letter pulls at your heartstrings it was so sad! She lost both her brother and mother that year and she didn’t know it at the time, but would lose her sister Katie in 1922 and sister Mozelle in 1926. Hopefully, Santa and his elves were able to bring something nice to Clyde and her siblings that year. Like Katie, Clyde would have been my 2nd cousin 3x removed with our nearest common relatives are also my 4th great grandparents, Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.


  1. Those are awesome! I can’t Imagine finding my parents or grandparents letters. Great find

  2. Denise, I do not know if you will see this, but I am investigating Rhumell's lineage for Rhumell's great grand-daughters. I was married to her grandson who passed.
    IF you have any further family history as to her grandparents, etc, I would very much like that information. Thank you.