Lost and Found: An Irish Letter

Con Shea LetterWhen Curtis Smith began remodeling his 1917 house in Casper, Wyoming, he hoped that he would find something interesting, but who would have expected a letter from Ireland?

Addressed to Con Shea, c/o General Delivery, the letter arrived during WWI, probably in 1914, and ended up behind a wall in a house built three years later. Con’s sister thanked him profusely for a gift he had sent and told him, “You may bet I was delighted when I got your letter for I always know your writing before I opens them.”

Con Shea & John O'Brien

Con Shea on the left and John O’Brien on the right.

And Con must have loved hearing from his family because he saved that letter for at least three years before it was walled in for the next century.

A sheepherder, Con rode the hills and pastures around Casper. The west was still wild in 1914, and the last deadly confrontation between cattlemen and sheep ranchers in the state had taken place just five years previously when masked men attacked a sheep camp, killing three herders and burning their sheep wagons.

Sheep grazing

A few years ago, my parents paid a herder to graze sheep on their California property to thin the grass and lower the risk from fire.

Con himself was gunned down in 1928, but not by a disgruntled cowboy. Fellow herder Frank Bennett killed him after they argued over how much Frank ate for breakfast.

Sheep continue to roam Wyoming, but the number has fallen from millions to 500,000. Peruvian herders watch the flocks now, still riding horseback, so isolated they can’t receive a cell phone signal. Like Con and his family, perhaps they turn to letters.

Read a full transcription of the letter from Ireland and more about both the find and Con Shea in the Casper Journal.

 

5 thoughts on “Lost and Found: An Irish Letter

    • Susan Lendroth says:

      Receiving any letter nowadays, even one mailed to someone else a century ago, is a treat.

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  2. Terry Lim Diefenbach says:

    We left a time capsule in our old house in Oakland CA in 1975 when we remodeled it but our lives have not been as dramatic as Con Shea’s and it doesn’t include an address. It does have pictures of the neighborhood kids of that time though, including our own one and only.

    • Susan Lendroth says:

      Fantastic! Just think how thrilled some new owners years hence will be to discover that.

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