Henry Townes Medlock grew up on a farm. He worked alongside his father and older brother on the family farm in Meriweather, Edgefield County, South Carolina. Records indicate that it was a modest farm with a few farm animals that produced butter and eggs and the family harvested corn, oats, wheat, cotton, and peas.
As an adult, Henry supplemented his farm work with bookkeeping in the town of Edgefield. The local newspaper reports that in April of 1911 he was helping the county treasurer, who was also his cousin, with the rush of tax payments that were coming in. It’s not clear if this was the first year of this work, but it’s clear it wasn’t his first time to town.
In 1910, Henry was exchanging letters with the beautiful Martha “Heart” Carmichael. We only have her letters, but the very first letter seems to indicate that Henry was looking for a word of encouragement. Heart doesn’t give him an answer in that letter, saying that she’s still too mad (for unknown reasons). In the second letter, she expresses satisfaction in knowing that Henry believes he came to Edgefield to meet her and mentions the ease of their relationship. They continued to write regularly for four years. Heart tells about housework, painting, books, films, parties, picnics, car rides, weddings and other happenings such as getting electric lights, Halley’s Comet, and a small earthquake.
In September of 1912, Henry sent Heart some fresh grapes and she expresses gratitude at his thoughtfulness and then tells Henry of a book she had read called “The Harvester” by Gene Stratton-Porter*. She says, “‘The Harvester’ is just fine. I wonder if there was really just such a man. Read it and tell me what you think about him…and her.”
The following month, Heart writes, “While I was away I got a beautiful bunch of red dahlias and ferns. The one that bought them reminds me of ‘The Harvester’ in books.” One can only assume she is talking about Henry.
Beginning in July of 1913, Heart begins addressing the letters “Dear Harvester.” In these letters, she is visiting relatives for the summer, missing Henry, and it’s clear her affection has deepened. Perhaps his duties on the family farm prevented him from visiting as he had done earlier in the summer. Heart continued to address him as “Harvester” for the rest of the year and into the following year even when it seems Henry had relocated to the town of Edgefield and taken a job as a bookkeeper.
Heart and Henry became engaged at the end of February 1914. While they were eager to marry, Heart’s father had died earlier in the month and they wanted to wait an appropriate time before even telling anyone. In a letter to Henry the same month they were engaged, Heart writes that after consulting with a friend or relative, they should delay telling her mother of their plans to marry. Henry doesn’t tell his mother of the engagement until April. Heart and Henry married on 30 April 1914. The letters cease at this point, but perhaps Heart still called Henry “Dear Harvester.”
*Having just recently found this detail in the letters, I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve added it to my phone’s Kindle app. On Goodreads the book has glowing reviews, with one reviewer saying,
The Harvester is such a wonderful character, an ideal man. He is noble, caring, patient, smart . . . I could go on. This is a wonderful love story. It is passionate while still appropriate. The characters are quirky and endearing. The story is captivating. I love the messages of good moral values, forgiveness, and hard work.