A bit of graupel fell overnight and, at present, a blue sky peeks through the clouds to the west. Darker clouds hang over the mountains to the east and we are expecting snow. Icy sidewalks are thawing out leaving slush and puddles in its place. It feels like spring and it’s cold.
February 18, 1883
My Dear Charlie,
…Valentine’s Day has just passed and Oh! The fun!!
I saw Mrs. Merry at the store buying such a love of a valentine – all posies and skewered hearts, and I just withered her with one eye of my spec’ and she dropped it and bought a prayer book instead…
~An early letter to Charles from Alicia
A Valentine’s Day article by Lynnette Hintze about Charles and Alicia Conrad is a charming account of a couple who would become early pioneers of the Flathead Valley.
The story begins with Charles and Alicia as newlyweds on Valentine’s Day in 1881, after having been married earlier that year on January 4, in Fort Benton, Montana. It was a bitterly cold Tuesday morning, 31 below, and despite the weather, the couple began their lavish honeymoon by sleigh-ride to Helena.
From there, a stagecoach took them to Odgen, in the Utah Territory, where they caught a train for the east coast. After visiting a number of major cities, the newlyweds traveled to Halifax, Nova Scotia to meet Alicia’s seven step sisters.
Before returning to Fort Benton, they visited Charles’ boyhood home in Virginia. The honeymoon trip – in the fashion of Rhett and Scarlett – lasted for about 8 months, into the month of October.
What a honeymoon that must have been!
Additional background information on Charles and Alicia, before they married:
In 1879, Alicia Davenport Stanford was only 18 years old when she arrived in Fort Benton, Montana with her widowed mother. She had come from a family of affluence in Halifax, but the death and bankruptcy of her father had prompted them to move westward. By November of that same year, Lettie as family members called her, had opened a Select School for Young Ladies and Children. She intended to bring culture and instruction to the raucous Fort Benton.
Charles on the other hand had been raised a Southern gentleman. Although he continued to educate himself, his education was hampered by the Civil War. At the tender age of 13, he joined the Mosby Rangers as the youngest member of the 43rd Battalion, 1st Virginia Calvary.
Later in Montana, he met Alicia through her brother, James. Charles began courting her in the formal manner of which a lady deserved. He loved Alicia and was concerned about his character and of his marriage to a Blackfeet princess. He evidently told her all about his deceased wife and his escapades prior to his proposal of marriage. Alicia accepted the proposal.
I’ve often considered what life was like in the early days of Kalispell and the frontier. I’ve wondered if Alicia and Charles, when starting out on that frigid morning in 1881, had any notion they would become Kalispell’s, and the Flathead Valley’s, most prominent couple.
Alicia and Charles had 3 children and lived happily ever after.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Alicia loved to throw parties and her had a quite memorable Halloween bash!
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The source for this article is the story Terms of Endearment, published in the Daily Interlake.