The Story Behind the Story!

By about 1968, Ellen Eustis Haven's grand-daughter, Ellen Eustis Pugh McInerney, cleaned out her mother's house in Westchester County, N.Y. Packing everything in a big blue Ford station wagon, she brought it all home and, thinking it was worthless, threw it all into the trash cans.

That evening, her husband, John J. McInerney, an attorney, came home from work and noticed the trash cans full to the brim with what appeared to him to be old documents and letters. Because it was lightly drizzling, he moved the trash cans into his garage until he could investigate.

Ultimately, John J. McInerney went through every letter, and every document: there were hundreds of letters, along with photographs, account books, scrapbooks, and official documents from the Civil War. John took notes, did genealogical research, and reached out to locate those of his wife's relatives he could find. He tried to interest his wife and family, claiming that there was a significant story, a fascinating historical and biographical tale. No one listened.

He continued reading and researching and reaching out. He kept the letters safe, storing them in brown A&P grocery bags in various closets in his house. Many years later, his youngest daughter noticed the bags of letters and took a look.

That was the inception of a long project: realizing that the letters were extremely rich material and illustrative of the times, and particularly of the Civil War era in both the North and South, she transcribed the letters. The result was a 6-volume set called the Haven-Pugh Letter Collection. Then more material surfaced: it was too much to imagine that anyone would read through it all. The transcribing continued.

Then, a great story, rich with pathos, conflict, love and death, demanded to be told: Dear Nell was born.

This non-fiction book is based entirely on the the Haven-Pugh Letter Collection and tells the story of Fanny and Ellen (Nell), the Haven sisters.