All content on this blog is copyright by Marci Andrews Wahlquist as of its date of publication.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mom and Her Latest Puzzles

My mom loves to do jigsaw puzzles (and so do I). She likes to sit in her big recliner chair with a special table that she can draw across her lap, but it isn’t very big, so most of the puzzles she has been doing lately are rather small. For her birthday this past week, my sister-in-law brought her a stack of puzzles, among which were some interesting small puzzles. First there was this tiny one with fewer than 100 pieces. It took her just a few minutes to put it together.

Just before this, we had a funny puzzle from my cousin that I don’t have a photo of—it depicted a small-town Christmas parade in folk-art fashion. There were dozens of little Uncle Sams running about, lots of US flags, can-can dancers, an old-fashioned fire truck, and three large balloons, one a snowman, one a clown, and the middle one was a huge Uncle Sam. There was also a smaller balloon of an ice-cream cone. You could see all the crowds and the store fronts and the candy and dozens of details for the puzzler to be mixed up in. It was fun.

After the little puzzle shown above, we put together this wooden puzzle of Bryce Canyon, Utah. It had only 140 pieces, so it took just a little longer than the one with the tree and the lake. This puzzle had some very odd shapes and as you can see, the landscape is a bit of a challenge. The pieces fit together loosely too. Some of them just sort of leaned against their neighbors, so at times we’d carelessly knock a whole section apart trying a new piece.

The puzzle company advertised on its box that it included novelty shapes, and we found them soon enough, all sort of Utah icons. When we were finished putting the puzzle together, we used a couple of cutting boards to turn it over so that I could put cellophane tape on the back to hold it together. You can really see the novelty shapes this way. See if you can find them all:
  •        Y
  •         U
  •         Skiier
  •         Salt Lake Temple
  •         Salt Lake Tabernacle
  •         Delicate Arch
  •         Covered wagon
  •         Bee
  •         Beehive
  •         Seagull

Finally, as you can see here, we are in the midst of putting together this one that another sister-in-law sent to the sister-in-law who comes to our house every week. It is a stage shot of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Mozart’s
The Magic Flute. You can just about hear Papagano singing his signature song, can’t you?

Where will our next puzzle take us?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mirinda and Slavery

My great-great-great grandmother Mirinda Piper was born in July 1840 in southern Illinois and moved with her family to Kentucky and many other places around that same area. Her father was a traveling Baptist minister. She was the eldest living of the seven children her mother bore. Three children had died as infants before her birth, and the three born after Mirinda lived to adulthood.

Here is what she wrote about living in Spencer County, Kentucky, from 1846 to 1849:

“While we lived in Kentucky I used to roam about the woods alone and was very happy. Father taught school and I attended, being the first school for me, but I could not go long, as some of the scholars thought Father was partial to me, so I stayed at home and Mother taught me. She was quite competent, as she had been a teacher both before and after her marriage. We were poor, as Father was paid no fixed salary. The church members paid what they thought they could afford to give. Much of it came in the way of food, and presents of clothing. A very poor way, I think, but times were hard then, and money very scarce. But being the Preacher’s family, we always went in the best society the neighborhood afforded.”

Writing her memoirs in 1888, she used terms that were current to her time but which we would never use today. I haven’t changed her words though:

A southern mansion with slave cabins in back
“I remember one of our neighbors, a member of our church, was a wealthy man for that time: he owned a large farm and many slaves (you will understand that this was before the great Civil War, before slavery was abolished, and churches at that time considered Negro slavery a divine institution, that the Bible sanctioned it). I used often to be at Mr. Norman’s, our wealthy neighbor, with my parents. The house was a large, old-fashioned one in beautiful grounds, and some way back of the house was a row of Negro cabins. I enjoyed visiting the darkies—they always petted the white children.”
Slave cabins

What a shock to our time are the sentiments she writes of so matter-of-factly! That she liked being with the slaves better than with the white children is explained by her feeling of inferiority to the wealthy children whose families owned slaves. It is sad to think that she too felt that black people were inferior to white people, so that if she were inferior to those she was with, she felt she belonged with people who were considered still more inferior than herself.

Her inferiority feelings are plain in her description of moving from Mount Vernon, Indiana (at the very southern tip of Indiana), up the Ohio River to Hamilton, Ohio, when she was 13:

“We went as far as Louisville and stopped at an old friend of Father’s who had often urged him to visit him with his family. We stayed there one day and one night. I don’t know how the rest of the family enjoyed themselves, but I wasn’t very happy there, although the family treated us very kindly. The man was a wealthy provision dealer named A.L. Shotwell. Their house was far grander than anything I had ever seen. They had ten Negro house servants (slaves). The children had beautiful clothes, and altogether I felt very shabby and out of my element . . . .”

Illustration from the original edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin
She had written about 1852, the year before, in this entry: “This summer I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was having such a great run, and the effect of which was felt all over the United States.” She must have felt persuaded of the evils of the institution of slavery after reading this book at the impressionable age of twelve.

Of course there were a number of different causes that all fed into the inevitability of the Civil War, but Mirinda’s feelings were strongly with the North when she wrote about it twenty-some years later. 

Concerning the summer of 1861, she said:

“Father urged us to come and spend the summer with him as he had no housekeeper, and sister Anne was only twelve years old [Mirinda’s mother had died in January of that year]. I disliked exceedingly the idea of going there to stay with my family, and the result proved that my intuitions were correct. But as we were unsettled we concluded to go.
Lincoln, Illinois was close to the Indiana/Kentucky border;
John & Mirinda's land at DuBois was at the southern-
most tip of Illinois
“In March Nellie Hall, baby Charlie, and I went to Lincoln. John came several weeks later. May 30th my second child came; we named him Henry Butler, but his name was soon abbreviated to Harry and remained that ever after. My Aunt Mirinda Parker was with me for several weeks. After that summer I never saw her again. There was a great deal of hard feeling that summer between friends on account of different views of the war, and our family was not exempt.”

It is sad to read that she and her aunt, who was her mother’s only sister, were divided on the issues of the War between the States. They had been very close before this.

Her feelings were made plain again in her description of her husband’s and her stay in southern Illinois during the winter of 1863–1864: “. . . political feeling ran high on account of the war; more than half of the people down there sympathized with the South. I was uneasy whenever John was away from home.”

Her mother participated in the cursed system of slavery in a small way those few years in the 1840s when they lived in Kentucky: “Mother generally had one of the neighbors’ black women hired to do the heavy work, or it would have been very hard on her, as her health was poor.”

However, when Mirinda’s mother was able to get her own household worker, she was not a slave: “We had a hired girl whom we got for 75 cents per week. She was not very bright but was strong and willing. She did all the rough work, but when Mother wanted any fine cooking done, she had to do it herself, as the girl could never learn. Her name was Charity Lewis. She came from one of the southern states and was addicted to the habit of snuff dipping. But we children loved her, and she was always kind to us.”

Charity Lewis shows up on the 1850 Census counted in their household and is a white woman, age 23, born in North Carolina. I am glad that my ancestor did not choose to buy a black slave but instead hired a woman—but I hope the sum of $39 a year was reasonable then! They kept her in the household for a number of years, so it probably was (or she would have gone somewhere else).

All in all, it is somewhat comforting to find out that my ancestors seem to have agreed with my feelings toward the very divisive issues of the mid-nineteenth century. 
Political cartoon of the early 1860s: Abraham Lincoln as a troubled shepherd
More posts about Mirinda Piper Andrews:

One-Room Schools, a Romance, an Earthquake

One-Room Schools, a Romance, an Earthquake

Here is an excerpt from Mirinda Piper Andrews’ memoirs from 1849 through 1851. I inherited a typed copy of these memoirs from my father, who got them from his grandfather, Mirinda’s youngest son. The illustrations are from the internet and are in the public domain or credited.

Notes: Posey County is in the extreme southwest corner of Indiana bordered on the west by the Wabash River and on the south by the Ohio River. Mirinda's father, Beverly Bradley Piper, was a traveling Baptist minister. The Piper family consisted of her parents: B.B. and Delia Deborah Norton Piper; herself (Mirinda), Asa, Charles, and baby Anne. Mirinda turned 9 in July 1849.

New Harmony, by Karl Bodmer, 1839

In the spring of 1849 we moved to Posey County, Indiana, five miles from New Harmony. We rented a small farm, and Father during the week did farm work and preached Saturdays and Sundays. I again commenced going to school. The distance was more than a mile through the deep woods, but there were some other children near us who attended, and I rarely went alone. Our teacher was a young gentleman. There were some hills and large rocks some distance away from the schoolhouse that we children very much wished to visit, but the teacher forbade our going, as there was a dangerous creek to cross to get there and we might fall in and get drowned. But one day at noon six or seven of us were on the banks of the creek, and we wanted to go over and visit the rocks so bad we concluded to go anyway, first taking the precaution for each one to solemnly promise never to tell. We crossed on a log very easily, and had a good run over the hills and rocks, and then started back. What was our horror to find while we were absent the creek had risen, and the water was flowing over the log! We had to cross it, for it was the only place we knew of for miles where we could cross at all. They all got over safely but me. I slipped off the log, but they got me out somehow and wrung out my clothes the best they could, but we were dreadfully afraid the teacher would find it out and punish us all. But he did not or at least did not say anything about it. I think if we had had a lady teacher she would have noticed my wet dress and brought us to time.

The school house was an old log affair, the windows were all on one side and writing desks in front of them. The seats were benches without any back to them. The teacher made our pens out of goose quills and wrote our copy. But we learned just as fast as if we had all the modern improvements.

In the spring of 1850 we moved to another part of Father’s circuit, three miles from Mount Vernon, Posey County, Indiana, at Farmersville. Father bought a farm here, we were all very much pleased to have a home of our own, the first one we had owned.

Census page taken by B. B. Piper with
Anson Seeley Andrews and family on it
That summer Father took the census of the county, and when I wasn’t in school, I spent much of my time reading the notes he had taken, for him and an assistant to copy on the schedules. I was very proud to be of help to Father, and he was kind enough to let me think that it was a great help to him. Our school only lasted three months during the summer, so I worked for him during the fall months until he sent in the returns.

Our school teacher this summer was Miss Sarah Stevens, daughter of the Mr. Stevens of Stringtown [in Vanderburgh County, the next county to the east on the Ohio River] before mentioned. She was a young lady about twenty years old and very pretty, her eyes and hair were black, her complexion fair, her cheeks rosy, and she was very good natured. She boarded at our house as we were old acquaintances. The school house was one mile and a quarter away. I had the pleasure of walking to school with her every day.

During the summer Mother’s brother Dr. Wellington B. Norton visited us, greatly to our delight. I supposed he came to see us, but two years later I discovered that his visit was quite as much to the fair Sarah, and I presume Mother knew it at the time. [Wellington B. Norton and Miss Sarah Stevens were married in November 1852. Sadly, he died in the spring of 1853.]

Our school house was a frame building with a desk for each seat. The Baptists had been holding their meetings in it. That summer they erected a church building. One evening we were at meeting in the school house, Father was preaching, when all of a sudden, we felt the building shake, and the windows rattled. Father paused a moment and remarked, “It is an earthquake,” and then went on with his sermon as if nothing had happened. When we arrived at home we found Mother and the little ones had been quite frightened, thinking someone had been trying to get in to the house, but finally Mother had thought what it was. It was the only earthquake shock I ever felt.

Log houses in New Harmony, Indiana

Our house was small, but most of our neighbors had small houses too, so it did not trouble us. We had the inevitable large fireplace. Father used to roll in a big back log (in the winter), put the heavy iron and irons in front of it, put some large sticks of wood on them, and we would have a roaring fire. But most of the heat went up the chimney so the room wouldn’t be very warm after all.

Miss Stevens went home in the fall. The school directors would not give her the winter term, for there were to be a lot of young men to attend school who worked on farms in the summer, and they wanted a man teacher. Mr. Howard, an Englishman, secured the position; he was a finely educated man and a very interesting teacher. I had made up my mind that I would not go to school that winter but study at home. I was only ten years old, but my parents were always so kind, I supposed they would give up to me if I teased them enough, but I was mistaken. They insisted on my starting to Mr. Howard’s school the first day. I cried considerable about it, but all to no purpose. It seemed to be fate, for that winter John Andrews attended school, whom I afterwards married. It was the only school I ever went where he did, and I don’t think he spoke to me during the term. I am quite sure I did not wish him to, for at that time I just about hated boys, except my brothers.

Mr. Howard took a great deal of pains with my education, and drilled me long and faithfully on my penmanship, but all to no purpose, as you will see by this manuscript. I never could learn to write well. I took drawing lessons at this school more to please Mother than anything else, as she was a natural artist, but I never had any taste that way, and of course it was just time wasted.
A sketch of the Farmersville School by Anne Doane

Where I went to school was a small village at a cross roads named Farmersville, but it had two other names, “The Corners” and “Yankeetown,” as there were several families of Eastern people settled there. In one of the corners made by the crossroads was situated the farm of Anson S. Andrews (the village contained a store, gristmill, blacksmith shop, church, school house, and several dwelling houses). His farm was the best one in the neighborhood and the house was in a beautiful location. The family consisted of himself, wife, and three children, John, Harriet, and Seth. The boys were intelligent and respected. Harriet was very pretty; indeed I have heard Father say that she was the prettiest girl in the county, anyway she was one of the best and sweetest girls I ever knew.

[Editor’s Note: Most of the settlers of southern Indiana had come from Southern states; however, Anson Seeley Andrews was born in Connecticut and his wife was from Massachusetts.]

We were not much acquainted with the Andrews family, for our society was nearly all Baptists, or people who leaned that way, and they were neither. Mr. Andrews was a man of importance in the county; he owned part of the store and mill and was an educated man, but he was getting old and did not live many years from that time. He died in 1854. The only acquaintance I had with the young people while we lived in that neighborhood was at Mr. Howard’s school.

The Piper family moved away from Posey County after three years there, and their further adventures will be the subject of more entries here:

Mirinda and Slavery

The Further Adventures of Mirinda Piper (part 1)

The Further Adventures of Mirinda Piper, (part 2)

Mirinda Piper's Adventures as a Young Lady of the 1850s

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Bombshell in Jane's Last Letter

Julia Esalina Palmer Barnes saved four letters written by her sister, Caroline Jane Palmer Alderman, from Ohio to her in New York where she was visiting their grandfather, Zephaniah Platt Palmer, and other relatives. These are the third and fourth letters. They mention their grandfather’s sister Lydia DeKalb and husband and youngest daughter, Betsy, who lived with her parents until their deaths. I may write more about Betsy another time.

Jane expected Julia’s visit to last a year, but it was nearly two years before Julia came home. Apparently Julia was persuaded by her relatives in New York to stay, and her final extension of the visit was to take a job teaching school in the fall of 1848. By that time Jane was nearly frantic for her sister to come home.

Did Jane Alderman have a premonition that her life would be cut short by illness? She died only a year later. After that time, Julia talked of herself to relatives and friends as a “child of sorrows”; she had lost all of her immediate family before she married.

Windsor July 17th [1848]
                                                                   Beloved sister I guess you have forgoten that you have a sister away in the Ohio that wants to see you or hear from you or else you would come or write I have looked for you every day for 3 weeks and no Julia yet not even a letter I am heart sick and tired and discouregd it seemes as if I should go crazy when I think of you some times I think we never shall see each other again but that is a painfull thought you and I know that sickness and death is severing the dearest ties that nature hath bound and we are as liable to be the victim as anbody still it is my prayer that we may live to see each other again I hope you are not so taken up a visating with the relatives that you cant come home and see your sister we used to think when we were both to gether that we were lonley as to relatives and how do you think I feel now I will tell you were it not for a kind husband and two sweet children I should be verry lonley indeed I thought you would certianly come before independence [day] but it has pased by and you have not returned summer is almost gone fall is aproaching and I fear you will not come this season the young people say that you will get married before you come if you do I shall give up all hopes of ever seeing you I never expect to move away from windsor and it has been my greatest anxiety that you would settle here some where and you know you might if you would and get the best man except mine that there is TB [Truman Barnes] has been here twice since you wrote the last time he was here he told me when I wrote to you to give you his best love and tell you that he was the same old chicken that he ever was
I think he is a verry worthy young man sis I hope you think as much of him as he does of you      I want you to write if you are not coming soon and tell me every particular about your self how your health is and how you are getting along what you are doing for a livelyhood  write all about Grandpa what the reason is that dont come with you and what his buisness that he cant come now as well as ever and if he is willing to have you come and if he helps you much if he cant come this summer dont you stay there any longer if you have the means to come with S  I know it is a great journey for one alone especialy a girl I want you to find out when you will come and be sur and come if your health is good  Jerome says he want to know when you are coming that he may know when to look for you he is discouregd as well as myself last fall when you wrote you should stay till spring I thought I could not wait till then to see you but the winter and spring and summer is almost gone and no Julia yet I do hope you will come before fall if you are not coming soon write immediatly and let me know every particular I want you to fill a large sheet full give my best love to Uncle and Aunt DeKalb and to cousin Betsy and all the rest tell them still I think verry much of my relatives and should be very happy to see them
I want to write to grandpa but I have not time now give my best love and esteem tell him to be sure and come with you I have always thought if i could see my dear grampa I should be made up       my self and children are well    Jeromes health is poor I shall have to close I have not wrote half I want to
         minna died since I commenced writing
         please excuse this poor letter  it was wrote in great haste
         this from your afectionate sister
                            C J Alderman
this makes /2 letters
since I had any from you                                 

                                                                                                Windsor Nov 26 [1848]

 Dear and affectionate sister I have taken this oportunity to answer your kind letter that I received Nov 21 you cannot immagin what a welcome messenger it was to me I was discouraged and allmost afraid that I should never see or hear from you again but I am happily disapointed and verry glad to hear that you are safe under the roof of that kind uncles house and an ascociate with that dear family I often think of them and wish I could see them and git acquainted with them all but this fancie I never expect hopeing dear sister you will do this for me through your own acquaintance – dear Julia I am happy by my own fire side this evening \while I write my little Lucy is verry busy at play trotting about making a noise now and then Jostling the table where I am writing Jerome seems to be verry happy and comfortable sitting in the rocking chair eating chesnuts Marcellus lives at his grandpa [Alderman] the most of the time I dont know but they will get him away from us entirley you know how much they think of him dear child I am afraid they will spoil him they are so tender of him as to myself I should be satisfied with my situation so far as this world is concerned if youre were here I had dotted so much on your company this [unintelligible words on this line along the fold] long and that this world is full of disapointments well I will try to be peaceable and wait untill spring and if you do not come then I shall have to give up I have troubled myself considerable lateley on your acount I have immagined all that was disagreable some times I thought your health was so poor you could not come home then again I would think you had started to come alone and some thing had befell you and I thought it would be imposible to gain any inteligence of you again I say I am happily disapointed I had much rather you would stay where you are then to have such a thing take place dear sister I entreat of you to be careful of your health it will be verry much exposed if you keep at school this winter you will be verry liable to get sick be verry cautious and prudent / I cannot write any more now it is verry late but time the rest are a bed and a sleep and I shall have to wait a more conveienent time to finish

Dec 3
My ever dear sister I have again sit down to finish my letter I supose you will think strange of me because I have not finished this before and sent it to you I will try to excuse myself this time I have so much work to do I have no time to write on a week day I hardley know what to write or what to say I want to say so much I do wish I could come and spend only one evening with you I could take more satisfaction and tell you more than I could write in a week still I esteem even this a privelige hopeing your own dear eyes will peruse this I supose you would like to hear from the people hear I think if you was hear you would say that a great change had taken place since you went away I think I have given you an count of all the deaths there has been I have intended to / now I will send you a list of the Mariges in short Mr J wiswell to Mis phila Wodworth of Morgan / Mr Nehemiah Parker to Mis Zilpha fenton/ Mr Ancil Hill to Mis Clarisa Marsh / I was mistaken little George Alderman as we used to call him was buried the first day of October he died of the consumtion / also Mis Zliga Alderman the 14 of the same month she died in a fit  Loeisa is verry sick she has been sick 9 weeks I cannot tell you what what ails her the doctters say that her liver and stomack and digestion organs are verry badly infected she is verry weak and low at present still he incourages thim abitt she is under the care of the doctter Judd    I supose you would like to hear from the Orwell friends they are well so far as I know
 . . . . I have not seen [Trumun] lateley he has been here several times this fall expecting everry time to see you the last tim he was here he wanted us to send word to him as soon as you come I think he will be disapointed when he hears you are not coming till spring   I forgot to tell you that the money you sent came safe the letter was kept in the post ofice some time although we caled there every mail thier excuse was they had overelooked it
I want to write a few lines to my own ever dear Grandfather inded he seems nearer to me than a grandfather and when I think of the happy days I have spent in his own dear family when they were all together and the care and anxity they had over my tender infancy my heart overflows with gratitude to him and to my dearest grandmother who has long since pased to that bourn from whence no traveler has ever returned I shall never forget her good instructions she have me and the prayers she has oferd up in my behalf  Others to have died and the rest scatterd to diferent parts of the world and none there but grandfather to corespond with it sims almost incridible that so few years has brought about so great a change  I feel verry anxious to see him give my best love to him tell him I want to have him come with you in the spring
Dear Julia I shall have to bring my letter to a close hopeing you wil not forget your sister this winter  I feel rather suspisous of you I am afraid there is a load stone there some where I want to have you remember me  and think how much I want your company my best love and well wishes for you my dear sister this from your loving sister            C J Alderman
Dear Sister Julia what can I find to write to you if you were here you would find what I could say to you I had hoped to have what such a chance long before this I realy believe if I could get hold of you I should squeece you as the dutch say [word?] but do come and see / Julia I never believed you to be a liar nor will I now if you come in the Spring dont talk of taxing my generosity with regard to the money I am happy to have accommodated you it is getting late Jane has said something of a load stone I cant hardly believe such a thing – if you can find a better one there than you can here I have nothing to say provided you bring him along with you there now I have called a thing excuse your friend and well wisher  T J Alderman

Did you notice I put an ellipse in the transcription of the last letter? Here is the bombshell out of that last letter of Jane’s to Julia:

Mis Eliza Barns I think is doing well they say she has a child 4 weeks old she swore it on Mr Henry Budell her sisters husband he setteled with her and gave his Note for 3 hundred dollars    I feel verry sorry for Trumun  

That news must have been distressing to Julia; Harriet Barnes Bedell, Henry’s wife and Eliza’s elder sister, was one of Julia’s close friends. At this time a scandal in a family reflected badly on all the relatives and could even make a prospective suitor look elsewhere. Jane’s feeling sorry for Truman might have been on that account, or it might simply have been sympathy for his sorrow over the situation.

It is impossible to know what the situation was—whether Eliza was the victim of her brother-in-law, or whether she was infatuated with him, or whether it was something else. Harriet stayed with her husband and her own letters sound pleasant, even happy, so this probably did not ruin her home life. Harriet had no children and died young, just before Julia married Truman.

Eliza and her baby, Olivia, lived with her parents for the next twelve years, and then Eliza married a Mr. Charles Peck, who informally adopted Olivia.

It seems that Henry Bedell wanted nothing more to do with his sister-in-law and his natural daughter—the $300 sounds somewhat harsh to me as a trade for fatherhood, but again, it is impossible to know the circumstances and feelings of everyone involved. After his wife, Harriet, died in 1852, Henry Bedell disappears from the area and I cannot find him on any record anywhere in the United States after that.

Eliza had a long married life with Charles; they had a son, and in old age died one day apart. Olivia married and had four children of her own. I “met” a cousin online a few weeks ago who is a descendant of Olivia. Their family tradition was that Olivia’s father had died before her birth and thus had been unable to marry the mother. They were both glad to know the truth and sad to find it sordid. Family history can be a mixed blessing when the skeletons come out of the closet.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jane's Melancholy Letters

Among the letters Julia Esalina Palmer handed down in her family were four written to her by her sister, Caroline Jane Palmer Alderman, from her home in Ohio when Julia was in New York visiting relatives. Julia had been living with Jane and husband, Jerome Alderman, at the time this visit started, in the early summer of 1847.  Among others, Julia visited their grandfather, Zephaniah Platt Palmer, in Jay, Essex county, New York.

Julia and Jane were orphans; their mother had died when they were little girls and their father left them with various relatives. They did not know where their father was—only a few years ago a cousin of my father found Henry Palmer’s death record in the military records of the Mexican War; he had died in June 1848 at sea in the Gulf of Mexico. The girls may also have had a baby sister that died with their mother—at least, the 1830 Census shows that the family had three little girls five and under.

In the letters, Jane mentions Truman—this is Silas Truman Barnes, whom Julia married in 1852. Julia’s other suitors are also mentioned; one is Edward Stickney (in New York) and another is a young man named Lepper (in Ohio). Jane’s two children are Marcellus Cassius Alderman (age 5) and Lucy Alderman (age 1-2).  Their aunt Ellen Palmer Pease and family lived in Ohio; Julia was probably reared by her after the death of their mother. Jane also mentions several neighbors who were sick or who had died.

These letters are remarkably poignant; Jane misses Julia extremely. Here, then, are the first two letters of Jane Alderman to her sister.

Windsor July 18 [1847]
Dear sister i received your letter the 16 of July it gave me great satisfaction to hear that no accident hurt hapend to you + i had began to be in trouble about you i think you was not in much of a hury to let know what had become of you it is now 7 weeks since you went away + however i was very glad to hear from you at this late hour + i almost envy your happiness in visiting our grandpa and the rest of the realatives there you think you cannot make it seem like home yet, i think if i could get back there and enjoy the society of my grandfather it would seem like old times i can remember so well when i was a child and lived with my grandparents and wuld have their good and pious instruction + it seem to me now when i think of the dayes of my childhood that it cannot be those dayes are gone forever but it is so \ Sister i was disapointed in your letter in not hearing more about grandpa and our uncles there and more about your self but i supose you are so engaged in visiting you did not think so much about me here in Ohio i want you to write about maters and things more particular You did not say anything about ever coming back i want you to persuade grandpa to come with you if you can you must give my love to all enquiring friends tell them i can remember the most of them verry well and should be very happy to see them all
i want you to keep this part of the letter i am now going to tell you the news here \ i have some bad and some good
little Merion Grover died the 27 of June she was taken on Monday 20th with a pain in her knee it continued to swell till the next sabbath she died \ Selima health is very poor she is now here at her fathers * Mr Hodskis folks have buried their youngest i have had two visits from Truman but not any from Almond he is cutting around with the girls to kill * but i belive that Truman will mind his business \ the first time he came to hear from you he got hurt he tied his horse to the north gate he put one foot in the stirup and the horse sprung so quick he fell his foot hung in the stirup and drawed him 3 or 4 rod I will not tell you any more about hime
Margret and Albert was married independence [day] \ Mr Widwell has had 2 letters from Edward he wrote he had not heard from you since he left you he sayes he shall go and see you the best of the news yet to tell we live in our own house we moved the 29th of May so mis Julia now come home and se us make no delay dont stay away * Jane Alderman
Miss Julia Jane has wrote all the news I suppose But she forgot to tell you that we have commensed haying grass here is verry good grain rather light. Corn bids fair verry warm & dry I am verry glad to hear that you are in good spirits dont get discouraged always hope for the best and be prepared to meet the worst my health is not verry good about as it was when you left – tell your grandpa that I am verry happy to hear that he is well I have heard you & Jane speak so much in his praise of his kindness to you I want to see him verry much give my respects to all your friends receive these few lines from your friend and well wisher
                                                                                                T J Alderman
[On the back of the second page of the letter is this:]
Dear grandfather  i feel i a great prvelige to write you a few lines at this time and send in this letter  i hope you will excuse me in not writing before now my priveleg has been verry poor as to schooling this has been one great reason why i have not writen before \ my health is good my little family are well * i hope thise few lines will find you engoying the same blessing
i suppose you have the company of my sister and she can tell you something of the triels we have pased since we have seen you ----------
the death of our mother was a great trouble and it seems as though it has been continuel scene of troubles for us ever since we left there  still i ought not to complain for the kind hand of providence has brought us safe thus far      i supose you would like to hear from Aunt Elena and her family she was here 5 weeks ago her health was verry poor she had just recovered from a fever her family was well Roseamond is teaching school this summer Hellen is learning the mileners trade Perlina is atending the high school the rest of the family well and smart   I should be happy to have you come out to the Ohio with Julia do come if possible
Please write me a letter as soon as you get this
            C J Alderman

Windsor  April 2 [1848]
                                                                                                Dear Sister I have taken my pen in hand again to write a few lines to you I and my family are well and hope these few lines will find you in the enjoyement of good health  I received your last letter in January I was much elated in the reception of it to learn that you was well and that you was a coming home as soon as the spring opend I thought then I could not wait untill spring but it has come and the time is just at hand when I shall be alooking out the doors and windows and expecting every minute when my dear sister and my much beloved Grandfather will drive up and I shall run out to meet them I shall look for you as soon as may now dont disapoint me but come as soon as it is safe    I suppose you would like to hear from your acquaintaces in windsor well I will try to tell you about some of them  I have the sad news to tell you that Mrs Dyre died last evening I expect to attend her funeral to morrow at ten oclot  Betsey Wiswell it is thought will not live long she is quite low with the consumption  also Minna Hill is not expected to live but a short time I can’t tell you what ails her the doctter dont know she is bloted verry bad she is the greatest sight I ever saw her bowels are bloated verry bad \ I will leave the rest to tell when you come so no more of this  your young acquaintances appear to verry anxious to have you come when ever I see them they are asking when your a coming but there none so ancious as Truman I believe he would have a fit if you should stay away 6 months longer  lepper says that your abcence makes him like you better he comes here now and then on pupose to hear from you and i let him read your letters for i think a great deal of him i can tell you and i hope you think more of him than I do for I think he is worthy of your love  I guess I had better stop for fear I shall try your patience   I want you to give my love to all of our relatives there for me tell them I want to see them verry much but never expect to if you should visit uncle Winter tell him and aunt Emily I remember them well give my love to all the cousins I want you to set your time for coming and write me a letter I want you to bring flower seeds and roots   answer this as soon you receive it I had forgot to write about the children they are well and mischevious Marcellus sayes if anty will come home he will kiss her and give her a cent and some rasons as to Lucy she is the prettiest little girl ever you see
                                                                                                So good bye  C J A
I have taken up my pen to make some excuses for the bad aperance that my letter makes you know that I am a verry poor writer at the best it was so dark before I finished I could not see the lines I did not intend to write any more  i left a space for Jerome to write but he went to metting in the evening and this morning he had to go away he is verry ancious to see you se says I may tell you how much shugar we have made well we have made 370  I want you to come heare first land to Ashtabula and not at fairport dont go to Uncles first            Caroline Jane Alderman

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In Search of Herdwick Sheep

Some time ago I became acquainted with the mystery novels of Susan Wittig Albert. She and her husband had been writing a delightful historical mystery series under the pen name Robin Paige that they brought to a close in 2006, and I wanted something more in the historical mystery line. She had recently begun a new mystery series featuring English author Beatrix Potter as a solver of crimes in and around her home, Hill Top Farm, in Near Sawrey, close to Windermere. These were fun mysteries, generally cozies with little violence and much charm.

Naturally I knew Beatrix Potter’s work. What child has not read The Tale of Peter Rabbit? When my son was small, I was given a large book with all the Beatrix Potter tales collected in it together with reproductions of the original artwork for each book. It’s a lovely treasure, and we read the entire thing several times.

My son became a firm Beatrix Potter fan, and from the time he was quite small he has also been interested in mystery stories, especially those of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. When he was in high school he began reading the Susan Wittig Albert mysteries featuring Beatrix Potter and became enthralled with the idea of life in the little Lake District village.

In the summer of 2012 we went to Ireland, and on our way to spend some time in Bath, we spent a couple of near-perfect days in the Lake District. One of Beatrix Potter’s interests as an adult with her own farms was the raising of Herdwick sheep. She became acquainted with the breed soon after purchasing Hill Top Farm in 1905, but her deep interest didn’t develop until in the 1920s she bought a huge tract of land in Troutbeck Valley and stocked it with thousands of Herdwick sheep, a breed indigenous to the Lake District. In the 1930s she and her manager, Tom Storey, won many prizes for their Herdwick ewes. When Beatrix Potter died in 1943, she left thousands of acres of farmland to the National Trust with instructions that the farms be maintained in perpetuity with Herdwick sheep on a good share of them.
Sketch of Kep Guarding Sheep by Beatrix Potter,
copyright 2006 by Frederick Warne & Co.

One of the things I was most fascinated to learn was that Herdwick sheep are “heafed” or “hefted” to the land, meaning they form territorial ties and seldom stray. This is an advantage when farmers have little fencing across the fells and moors, but it can be a disadvantage in times when disease has decimated the flocks and made it necessary to introduce new sheep to a territory, requiring the building of fences and the constant rounding up of sheep that stray because the ubiquitous tourists hiking all over the land can’t be bothered to shut gates.

We did our sightseeing from coaches, and it was hard, but I was determined to get a photograph of Herdwick sheep from the windows of the coach.

Here is one of my attempts, taken on the road between Near Sawrey and Hawkshead along the shores of Esthwaite Water. And you know what? Those are not Herdwicks. A true Herdwick is a little gray sheep with a white face, and the lambs are dark brown, almost black. They turn gray as they grow up. I don’t know what kind of sheep I photographed, but not one Herdwick. (This is the only photo by me on this page.)

Hurrah for Herdwicks!