By Sue Collins © 1984
Issue: July, 1984
Hello, my name is Lettie.
Many years ago two little sisters would take the "long" journey from the "big" city of Roanoke to Wytheville, Virginia to have their hats made by a very talented lady. On one of these trips, their mother asked if she had ever used her sewing talents to make dolls. Miss Lettie Richardson then set to work making my sister doll and I to be playmates for the little girls.
In a very short time my little mistress left us and went to Heaven and I was wrapped in tissue paper and placed in a drawer. I remember my sister doll, but she must have gone to Heaven too, for after my playmate's sister grew up, no one seemed to remember what happened to her doll.
For many years I did have an older friend who stayed in the drawer. We had little to talk about, however, for our lives were so different. She is wax with glass eyes and had come from the far away place called Philadelphia where they have great Expositions. I am plain, unbleached muslin but with her fine ability, my creator shaded my eyes and they are as pretty as glass ones. Those pesky moths nibbled my shoes but thank goodness they stopped before they got to my toes. Although I have my modesty protected by several petticoats, I do receive company in my flannel nightgown.
When Mrs. Elizabeth Friel Graham Calwell found out that her neighbor, Sue Collins, was collecting dolls, she asked if my friend and I could come to live with the other dolls. Of course, we were welcome and although my companion needed a new wax complexion, my oil painted face is still in remarkably good condition. Now my days are not lonely and several years ago I was honored with my picture on the Historical Society's brochure. However, sometimes I wonder what happened to the lady who made me, and if my sister and I were her only doll creations.
Editor’s Note: I have tried to find out more about Lettie’s maker. I called Dr. W.R. Chitwood of Wytheville, Virginia who is active in the Wythe County Historical Society. He looked up information on the milliner for me. It seems that a Mrs. William (Charlotte) Richardson, born in Belfast Ireland on February 16, 1838 and died January 8, 1913, was running a millinery shop in Wytheville as early as 1887, according to old city directories. She was still listed in the 1893-94 directory as owning a "Dry goods and millinery shop." Later, the shop was sold to Miss Janie Baldwin.
Mrs. Charlotte Richardson had a close companion and friend who lived with her for many years. Her name was Lettie Obenchain. I couldn't find out if Lettie worked in Mrs. Richardson's shop.
So, Lettie's maker is a mystery. Was she made by Charlotte Richardson or Lettie Obenchain? Were any other dolls made by either of them? If any readers know any other information that might add to this, just write to us. It's a pity we can't ask the doll.