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Mystery Valentine appears in Elgin mailbox, more than 100 years later

The back Valentine postcard sent Huffman house but intended for residents who appeared have left Elgmore than 100 years ago.

The back of the Valentine postcard, sent to the Huffman house but intended for residents who appeared to have left Elgin more than 100 years ago. | Janelle Walker~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 11, 2013 11:51AM

ELGIN — Cheryl Huffman found a mystery in her mailbox recently.

Her son brought in the mail on Sept. 27, and she didn’t know what the yellowed card was among the stack — perhaps a funeral card she’d misplaced.

But when she took a closer look, Huffman realized that a vintage Valentine’s Day postcard had shown up in her mailbox.

Even more curious for her was that while the letter appears to have been mailed recently — the front of the card has the ink coding the U.S. Postal Service uses to identify and route mail — the cancellation stamp was very different.

The postcard originally was mailed and stamped at the Elgin Post Office at 2:57 p.m. Feb. 12, 1910. The stamp cost just 1 cent.

There is no note, no return address, and no other indication of who sent the love note to the original intended recipient — H.S. Jewell. Nor does it show who recently mailed the note to Jewell’s former home at 915 Prospect St. — where Bill and Cheryl Huffman and their children have lived for the past 25 years.

Family history

According to the Elgin Historical Society, the card likely was originally sent to Henry S. Jewell, who in 1910 was 65 years old.

His wife, Mary, had died in 1907 — the same year the Prospect house was built. Henry S., Elgin records indicate, lived in the home with his son, Henry E. Jewell, and daughter-in-law Estelle.

Henry E. and Estelle operated a grocery store at 608 E. Chicago St.

“In the 1910 census, Henry S. was living at 915 Prospect with Henry E. and Estelle,” said Liz Marston, director of the Elgin Historical Museum. “In the 1915 directory, Henry E. and Estelle were not listed as living in the house, and no Jewells are listed anywhere in the Elgin directory.”

Marston guessed that someone — perhaps a post card collector — had dropped the note into the mailbox. But that doesn’t account for the recent postal markings.

It is likely the card wasn’t lost at the post office or found in a corner somewhere either.

The yellowed card shows that the corners were protected, somehow, for several years, perhaps in an album.

Postcards are one of the most-collected items and could have just been part of a collection someone was weeding out, Marston said.

It is likely the postcard came from an Elgin collector, said Beverly Howard, a U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman.

If the letter had gone through one of the regional sorting centers, it likely would have been kept or returned for insufficient postage, Howard said.

However, since there was no return address or note on the card, there would have been no address to return it to, either.

The postcard is one of a few things the Huffmans have found connecting their 106-year-old home to its past.

“The kids have done some digging in the backyard and have found glass and medicine jars” and some broken pottery, but nothing that connects the home to its former owners, Cheryl said.

Although records at the historical society show the Jewell family left Elgin, Cheryl said she’d like to pass the postcard on to any relatives who might still be around

“I would love to be able to give it to the grandchildren, whoever is left,” she said.

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