The saga of Rose and Fred, at last revealed

In 2006, I wrote a story about a mysterious, long-lost letter discovered behind a wall in Grants Pass' historic Galvin House, which was being converted to offices.

The century-old love note had slipped out from behind a baseboard shortly before Valentine's Day. It contained carefully penned prose telling of a love-sick suitor seeking the hand of a young woman.

"Rose darling," began Fred Norris' plaintive request, which was mailed to a Miss Galvin with a 1-cent stamp on some long-ago Tuesday of an indecipherable year. In flowing black script, Fred filled four, small, weather-yellowed pages telling Rose of his decision to leave the resolution of their relationship squarely in her hands.

"The more I study it, the less I know what to do, at last have come to the conclusion to let it be decided by you," Fred wrote. "Whatever you say I will do."

What was troubling this suitor so? Might a clue be found in Fred's peeved frustration with Rose's mother, who was an apparent thorn in his romantic side? Further perusal showed Fred surmised his lack of maternal favor was due to his nonCatholic status.

"Sweetheart you will have to write and let me know what I am to do, for I won't come over any more because I won't give your mother the satisfaction of telling me my room is worth more than my presence," Fred whined ... err ... wrote.

In closing, Fred urged Rose to "Think well darling before you write to the one that loves you better than life," before signing off, "Lovingly, Fred."

The original story included the history of the house and what little we knew about its long-gone occupants. Admittedly, not much.

So everyone was left with a lot of questions: Did Rose write back to Fred? And, if so, what did she say? And why was the letter tucked in the wall? Did Rose hide it from her mother? Or did Rose never get a chance to see it? Perhaps the mother kept it and hid it. Was her name Vera? Did she regret her meddling?

My phone rang off the hook with curious readers. Six years ago, I had no answers. And it bugged me. A lot. But not quite enough to do anything about it.

Recently, however, I received some juicy information from a Grants Pass historian. (Luckily for the rest of us curious folks, historians can never let the dead rest in peace. Or leave a mystery unsolved.)

Michael Oaks, a former president of the Josephine County Historical Society, explained how he'd spent countless hours at his home microfilm viewer since the initial story ran. Oaks poured over archived newspapers, squinting at clippings and peering at county and state records. Eventually he unearthed enough clues to convince him Rose and Fred did get together. Eventually.

"I picked apart everything I could about Rose and her family," Oaks said.

Based upon his research, Oaks said he believes Rose succumbed to her mother's desires and threw Fred over for another suitor — D.G. Curtis from Ludlow, Penn.

Crushed, Fred fled to Portland to pursue a career with the railroad.

Rose and her new husband married on April 24, 1894, at her parent's Grants Pass home, then the two went to Chicago on their honeymoon.

But the marriage was short-lived. Rose's new groom died just three weeks into their marriage while they were on their way to Pennsylvania.

Rose's father headed back East to pick her up. Rose returned to Grants Pass, then moved to San Francisco, he said.

Fred may not have been Rose's first choice. But her marriage to D.G. Curtis was not a loveless arrangement, Mr. Oaks said.

"She was broken-hearted," Mr. Oaks said. "She kind of lost herself for awhile."

Somehow Rose picked up the broken pieces of her life and managed to reconnect with Fred. How they reconnected is still fuzzy. But Oaks found records that show Rose married Fred in Portland in 1897 — and that they had a baby the following year. A little Freddie, in fact.

"It's as simple as that," Oaks said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.


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