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While preparing the text for the upcoming Lone Scout of Letters, a collection of material honoring Herbert C. Klatt, I managed to get a hold of one of his relatives. She provided some great data as well as the contact information for another Klatt relative. Through their willingness to share information and photos, the Klatt collection has grown in size and scope, and should answer just about all the questions any Howard fan might have about the gent from Aleman, Texas. (His graduation program from the Aleman school is seen above.)
While certainly interested in items relevant to Klatt (especially the pictures), I was, of course, primarily interested in finding out if any of his papers survived, especially letters. On April 26, 1925, Truett Vinson wrote to Clyde Smith and told him that “H. Klatt is now corresponding with Robert.” In his May 27, 1925 letter to Smith, Klatt himself says, “It seems that I know you as well as I do Truett. So many references to you in Truett’s and Bob’s letters.” From this point until Klatt’s death in May 1928, a stream of letters flowed from Howard’s typewriter in Cross Plains to Klatt’s farm in Hamilton County.
On July 7, 1925, Howard asked Smith, “Did Klatt ever write you? He owes me a letter, too.” And there are several other mentions of Klatt sprinkled throughout the surviving correspondence. There’s also the post-Christmas 1925 visit that Klatt made to Brownwood, immortalized (and fictionized) in Post Oaks and Sand Roughs. Also at this time, Klatt was corresponding with Harold Preece and, later, Booth Mooney. While it would be fantastic if Howard’s letters to Klatt survived, I don’t doubt that Preece’s and Mooney’s letters mentioned Howard a time or two. And what about Vinson? By all indications, he and Klatt had been writing to each other since as early as 1923. Klatt’s relatives might be sitting on a gold mine of Howardian information!
While both of the relatives I spoke to were uncertain about what, if any, of Klatt’s papers were kept after his death, both were certain of one thing: they were lost by 1944. That April, a tornado ran through Hamilton County and left the Klatt’s two-story, “German designed” house upside down in the yard. (The photo above was taken in nearby Pottsville after the same storm went through.) Klatt’s mother survived the storm by clinging to a crab-apple bush outside. Herbert’s room had been upstairs, and the tornado scattered everything. For weeks afterward, neighbors would drop off items that they’d found in the fields. If Herbert and his family had saved the letters from his contemporaries, the storm did not.
So, another dead end. I don’t know where the single Howard letter to Klatt that we have came from—perhaps it was a draft that found its way into his trunk—but I know we won’t be getting any others. I am happy, though, to have met such nice Texas folks who were willing to share what they know about Herbert C. Klatt.