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#3161: Willa Cather to Willard Crowell, March 28, 1939

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My dear Mr. Crowell1:

I am enclosing for your consideration a letter which I today received from Mr. Foe3, and I will tell you such facts as I remember about this loan.

The loan was made by my father4, I should think five or six years before his death. The original mortgage was signed by Mettie Johnson5 and Haakon Johnson6. Those were the names in the record Father sent me. I wrote asking Mr. Foe whether Haakon had changed his named to Harry, but he did not give me any information. Perhaps this Harry7 is a son or brother of Haakon. Father never told me anything much about the husband who signed with Mettie Johnson, but he said she was a good woman, and he believed she would pay her debts when she could. I think (though of this I am not sure) that at the time of Father's death, the Johnsons were considerably behind in their interest, although those were good years for farmers. I wish, Mr. Crowell, you would examine the County Clerk's records and find out just when this loan was made by Father, and whether it was made to Mettie and Haakon Johnson. In Father's talk about the loan, he always said that the loan was made to Mettie Johnson. But Mr. Foe, in his letters, has spoken only of Harry Johnson. Is Mettie Johnson still living, and, if so, is Harry her husband, or son, or brother-in-law? From the fact that Father never mentioned talked to me about the man of the family, to me, I imagine he thought that the man didn't amount to much.


It seems to me, Mr. Crowell, that it might be wise to look into Mr. Johnson's general standing in his neighbourhood. Your remember J. P. Morgan8, the elder, always said that "credit was is simply character." If Mr. Johnson is an industrious man who really wants to be square, I certainly would not want to take away from him a farm which he wishes to keep, and I would be perfectly willing to reduce his interest to either 4 or 5 per cent, whichever you thought wise. My impression that Father thought him a happy-go-lucky fellow but and his wife a reliable person, may be a fault of my memory. Perhaps the wife in whom Father had great confidence may be no longer living. And whether Harry is the man who signed the mortgage with her, I do not know. The original mortgage would be in Mr. Sherwood'9s bank and you could find out exactly who the signers were. If Mettie Johnson is still living and active, that fact makes a difference in the case. Several times Father wrote me: "Mettie Johnson is considerably behind in her interest, but she is a good woman and will eventually pay."

I am asking you, Mr. Crowell, to decide Mr. Foe's questions for me, as you are in a position to find out whether there is a responsible person behind the debt, and I cannot get this information for myself.

If you write me instructing me what to do, I will write or telegraph Mr. Foe at once. Better still, if you can give him your decision on the matter verbally, I will follow it up with any necessary formal instructions of procedure.

Very sincerely yours, Willa Cather

P. S. When you write me, Mr. Crowell, please return Mr. Foe's letter for my files.