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

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Civil War News and More: Letters to Julia Barnes

Civil War Era Letters to Julia Esalina Palmer Barnes

During the Civil War, Julia and her husband, Silas Truman Barnes, had a farm in Dover, Olmsted County, Minnesota, in the southeast corner of the state. Julia and Truman had been married about ten years. Julia saved many letters that had been written to her throughout her life, and these are the letters from the Civil War years. This is a fascinating glimpse into how people lived at that time and how the War affected those who were not in its actual path, with the exception of Julia’s nephew, who writes from a battlefield in Tennessee.

[A note about transcriptions: I have attempted to reproduce all original spelling and punctuation or lack thereof, but I did not include evidence of corrections the writers made; instead I copied their final versions.]

Letter 1: 
Silas Barnes to Truman and Julia Barnes

Silas Barnes was the father of Julia’s husband. At this time he and his wife, Mary, lived on their farm in Orwell, Ohio, in the northeast corner of the state. He was 73 and Mary was 71 at this time.

Orwell July 22 ’62
                        My Long Absent Children
            Your Letter Dated one month to day was duly Recieved and I intended to have Written to you Before this but I have not much News to write
            Wee are all as Well as usual My health is poor I do not do much and Cannot But I am Comfortable So that I Can get a bout and do a Little Every day, Mrs Peck died the 16th of June — it is healthy a Bout here
            Wee jest got news that the 6th Ohio Cavalry had had a battle of Which Esqr Bingham is major and Delop northway is Capt of one Co and Charles Bowe of Bloomfield Capt of another Co they killed Some of the Rebbls and took Some prisoners and none of their men killed
[next page] it has Ben Verry Wet here for a Bout 5 or 6 Week So that people Could not hoe their Corn— there is a good mony that have not hoed at all and Some pieces are not worth hoeing Grass is a bout 2 thirds Crop Wheat is the Best it has ben for Some years Oats are good Potatoes are good Where they was planted on dry ground
Wm Henry Runyan is in the army he has got Wounded Shot in the Rist another Ball Went through his Cap Just grased the top his head now in the hospital— Mr Chaffees Boys all Enlisted Averil got killed
Nathaniel owes So much that I fear he Will Loose his farm—though he has Sold Wool and Sheep Enough to Come to $360 odd dollars and if Wool Should hold up a few years he may get a long
[next page] Wee have ben Looking for you this Some time—as to fruit there is Considerable through the Country but my orchard is not Verry full but Wee Shall have Enough of Apples to make us Comfortable but not many Peaches not as many Currents as Common but your mother Says She Shall keep Drying and will Divide With you—yesterday the people of the town Carried in three Bushels of Currents and Cherries to the Soldiers aid Society Besides Dried Apples Cheeses and Clothing &c  Next Soturday the Little Girls have a Society Called the Lint Society to Scrape Lint—and on Wednesday of Every Week the Woomen have  a Sewing Cociety to make Shirts Drawers &c
            The People are Engaged for the Comfort of the Soldiers
            There has over 40 Enlisted in this town
[next page] Henry has Sent home to his Wife Some 50 or 60 Dollars and She Says She has not Spent a Cent of it and Says She Wont till he Comes home
Rulipaugh that married Loisa Chaffee has Sent her Some 50 or 60 Dollars and She has Spent it as fast as he has Sent it
            Henry Clute has Sold his farm
            Elys family is as well as they have ben Hiram is a Cripple and always will be
            Naths Martha has got married to a man by the Name of Hatch
I think I Said Enough about matters and things I do not think of any more only I have Lost all of my Bees
I must Bid you Good by
Write as often as you Can
Your father     Silas Barns

Some of the people he wrote about are neighbors, but he also mentioned his sons, Truman’s brothers Nathaniel and Ely. Nathaniel did not lose his farm after all. William Henry Runyan was a son-in-law, married to Esther, the one who saved all her husband’s military salary. Mrs. Peck, whose death is mentioned at the beginning of the letter, was the mother of another son-in-law, Charles Peck.

Letter 2:
Betsy DeKalb to Her Cousin Julia Barnes

Betsy was Julia’s cousin through her grandfather, Zephaniah Palmer. Betsy’s mother was Zephaniah’s sister. The DeKalb family lived in Jay, New York. Betsy never married and lived with her parents until their deaths. She wrote fairly often to Julia.

Jay Dec the 6 1862
Dear Cousn
I received your welcome letter in time I had been thinking of you through the day (I was fearful that the Indians had killed you) at night John Flanders came in and handed your letter I assure you it was read in a hurry, I have felt so anxious to hear from you  I wrote to you & received no answer  Mr Hall took your adds when he went to Minasota but did not see you he has moved away from Jay to Bloomingdale beyong St Arme  Mother is with me yet she sits a knitting at the table while I am a writing she is quite smart heares as well as most of young People she cannot walk as well as last summer she is almost 92 we have built a small house & live in it we rent the farm John lives with us or stays with us nights he has a Shop at the Villag he is not married yet nor not any of the family but Euretta & she lives in Illinois her husbands name is Basset he is a Doctor has gone into the army she thinks coming home this winter -----
Ermina DeKalb married Wallace Purmont went to Missourie had to leave in this war and come home but has gone back Betsey Ann lives near her Fathers she has buried two little girls from 19 monts to two years old it was very hard for her to give them up She has one little boy the youngest
Your Uncle Winter Palmer came from New York citty this last fall sick with the consumption he has been sick for two years he was at Mr Sheffields at the Forks the most of the time he was with us some he was reduced to a skillaton and very pittutent  he has gone or rather started for Washington we have not heard a word from him since he left about four weeks a go we expect him back I wrote to your Aunt Ellen Likewis your Uncle John but I get no answer I wish you would let them know he thinks that It will not be best for him to go to Ohio he is a man of testting but O how changed
I should like to hear more perticular your history in Minasota Doctor Fuller has moved back to Jay you never saw a happyer man than when he got hear he would lay on his lounge and say O I am so glad to get back now my horses hoofs will go clink clink up Peck Street Jay at this time is very lonely all the young men have gone to this unnatural war and of corse many families are left to mourn thear absent ones now my dear cousin I wish you to send me some of your writings I have a cousn in Panama Chetauqua Co that sends me some of hurs Uncle Zackeus daughter. Mother sends her love & best wishes do write
B DeKalb
[Side of last page] Mother said when I recvd your letter that her blood chilled in her veins

Most of the people Betsy mentions are her DeKalb nieces and nephews, and some neighbors. Betsy’s description of Julia’s uncle Winter Palmer is interesting. The last news of Winter was that his father, Julia’s grandfather, warned his family to have nothing to do with Winter. What had Winter done to incur his father’s wrath? And now here we find Betsy describing Winter as penitent (“pittutent”). The only documentary evidence I have been able to find suggests that maybe Winter left his wife for another woman, but that is not certain. So far, I have been unable to find Winter’s fate.

Letter 3:
Silas Truman Barnes to Julia Palmer Barnes

This letter is from her husband to her. Silas Truman Barnes had been drafted to serve in the Union Army, but in a common practice of the time, he paid another man to take his place and continued farming their land. Julia had taken their 7-year-old daughter, Mary, and their year-old son, Freddie, to visit their Barnes and Palmer relatives in Ohio and then on to New York to see the rest of her Palmer relatives.

Dover Sunday Dec 21st, ‘62
Dear Wife
            I have been thinking for some days of writing but have waited to see if I was sick or well I have been holding the bed & lounge down the most of the past week but am now quite well again I have had the worst kind of a cold but got well Rested by the same Friday I thought I was pretty well & started for Winona but was glad to go to bed when I got to Stockton by the by the cars are Runing to Stockton since Dec the 9th—I got home to day well as ever -- -- the weather is splendid what snow there has been is all gone ground as bare as June prarie fires show in all directions the ground is frozen only Just enough to prevent plowing since Nov 13 people sit about the doors in shirt-sleeves & go about the neighbor-hood without coat or mittens –we have not had an hour stormy weather since you left except in the evening of the 13th of this month when it Rained all the evening then cleared off pleasant -- --I have not been a lone any yet but expect I shall after this Mr Hall is going to Butcher the hogs tomorrow then he talks of going to Wisconsing the family are at Humphrys he dont go there much I let him the hogs after frank found he couldnt drive them off as he intended after feeding them till Nov 15th
            Dr Sackett lives in Henry Johnsons house they have a young son I hear she is quite sick Henry Hatfield has moved his house henry Laflesh has got back from the army -- -- frank sheeks has deserted now supposed to be in the Southern army so I hear
I hear John Evans has got his discharge coming home I met Mr Nevel on the street in Winona a short time since as soon as he knew me the first thing he said ( was you look tough – tough as a Bear your Brothers dont look so tough ) -- -- I havnt shaved since you left expect I do look tuff.) -- -- Ω  I have got as large a stove as I could find in Winona got it in the South Room with Elbows so as to put it Back against the north wall which makes plenty of Room & you dont know how warm nor how handy the house is nor what a good cook I am but that aint the worst of it—it is the best winter & the best weather that ever was & I cant do a Dam thing for as I always thought a man cant do any thing out doors if he has the work to do in the house == one can hear wagons 40 miles it is so pleasant & still thrashing machines are still Running there has been one in hearing all the week the roads were never so good -- -- Divel I forgot. Frank Hall went to Winona this fall and somewhere he come accross Fanny Lovekin they come back as far as Gordons and put up as Man & Wife Lovekin swears he will shoot frank it has leaked out you see
            if Marcelous comes around again alive make him come home with you for what I am to do is more than I know I shall have to let the farm go to weeds if he dont come is there any prospect let me know I should like well to have lucy come to so you see you must fetch them both else find a buyer for the farm there is no help here now
I will send you five Dollars in this letter & if it gets through safe then I will send you five more next time which will have to be your portion for you cant guess how awful spring poor I am coming out
I expect you will have to give up buying those twenty lbs feathers I wrote about before & perhaps one oil cloth will have to answer
I have written all I think of now oh no
I believe it is generaly thought that we shall have a hard indian war next Season
probaly the cars will Run to Rochester about harvest
Mary Be a good girl & learn your Book

Then sometime you & Ma and Freddy
Will come to Minnesota and see Pa
And see old Frank & Charley

I am going to write to Pratt in a few days I have got the promise of some money for him but shant send it without orders
I get all your papers and letters got a paper a day or two ago as I suppose from Pratt
                                                                                    write often
Your friend &
Silas T Barnes
Mr Andersons children have all had the measles the school up west is nearly Broken up with them irvin Wetmore has lost both of his children with the putrid sore throat I have heard his wife is down with it there is in the country about Measles Small Pox Chicken Pox & Scarlet fever but I dont know as there is many deaths
I send one five dollar bill to show what kind of change we have here this winter there has been several thousand dollars of it struck off


There was a $3 bill inside the envelope with this letter in 2012 when I went through my father’s papers. The bill was drawn on the Bank of St. Clair, which probably was the St. Clair that is in southeast Michigan (the town there was begun in the 1820s). Around the time that this bill was probably printed, the Barnes family and the Palmer family (the families from which Truman and Julia came) lived in northeastern Ohio, in Ashtabula County, pretty much a straight southeast line across Lake Erie from St. Clair. It is interesting to speculate what farming business transaction brought this bill into one of their families. It would have been wonderful to see the $5 bill that must have been printed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area during the Civil War! Alas, that bill was probably spent.
Aside from the neighbors in this letter, Marcellus and Lucy Alderman are mentioned, the children of Julia’s only sibling, Jane, who had died ten years before this. Marcellus at this time was serving in the Union Army. Lucy Alderman’s whereabouts in late 1862 are unknown, but she was probably either with the Palmer relatives Julia was visiting near Peru, New York (near Lake Champlain), or with her father and stepmother in Ohio.
Young Mary Barnes, addressed in this letter by her father, died about 18 months later. Fred Barnes, the baby, grew up and became a railroad machinist, first in Minnesota, then in Montana, then Denver, ending his long career in New Mexico. Truman & Julia’s farm survived.

Letter 4:
Julia to Truman

Orwell Feb’ 1st 1863
            I wish I could fly to your cabin to day & see what you are about and if you are as lonely as I am, I dont believe you feel any more so, although you are entirely alone. It has been the worst weather & the worst going that ever was sent upon Earth, the whole winter so far, There has not been a day of good going, since the 12th of Nov’ and not more than 4 days that were half decent.
            I have held up good courage and spirits untill within a few days & now I am quite homesick or sick of the mud & dull cloudy weather, There has been a great deal of snow here, but it has all come so as to do no good, for the right kind of weather, there has been snow enough to make good sleighing from the first of Dec’ to the first of Apr’ I hope you have had a better time there, why dont you write more I want to hear from you oftener, I have been to Mr Pratts visiting since I wrote, Jane Pratt is bad with consumption, Charles is anxious that she should go home with me and try the climate of Minnesota
            Feb 9th I wrote so far a week ago & have been waiting to hear from you, but Ely is here and I am going home with him in the morning & thought I would fill up the sheet send it along, I have been to meeting to day, which makes twice since I have been here, Old Mrs Chapman, Mrs Goodrich’s mother was buried to day, she was 91 years old. There has been a foot of snow fallen the past week & it is pretty good sleighing now, I saw a good many familiar faces, & a great many strange ones, I cant write all the changes there has been, but will try and remember them, so as to tell you
            I wish you would get some Cotton cloth before it gets any higher, for I dont see how we can keep house without it, they talk here that it will be 50 cts in the spring get as much as possible, I had rather have a good pounding board & pounder, than any washing machine you can buy, try & get us one wont you, Mary is learning some but slow I think I am afraid she will be a dull scholar, Freddy says a good many words, Every one notices him, a great deal, he trots from morning till night,
            I want to say a few words on a certain subject, & I hope you will read with candor & reflect seriously. I allude to the sinful course & life we have hitherto led, I feel as tho it was time that our course was changed & that we attend to the things that pertain to our eternal welfare, for my own part I have determined that it shall be so, I know how light you always treat the subject of religion, but I beg you will do so no longer, but reflect that it is not all of life to live, nor all of death to die, We must all die, we know that, & we read, that after death there is a judgment, I hope you will think of these things, when we are united again, you will endeavor to help me along, & let us try henceforth to perform our duty.
[Top of fourth page, upside down]
Do write oftener, I have only had two letters since I have been here Father & mother [Barnes] are both quite miserable in health.

This is the only letter we have that Julia herself wrote. In it she mentions Truman’s parents and his brother Ely, as well as her and Truman’s children Mary and Freddie. 

Letter 5:
Cassius Marcellus Alderman to his aunt, Julia E. Barnes

Chattanooga, Tenn.
Dec 25th—63
Dear Aunt.
I have neglected answering your kind letter for a long time. It being Christmas to day I was thinking of friends that I had left behind in coming to serve my Country. the thought came to my mind that a long time ago I received a letter from you that I had never answered & I must neglect answering it no longer. I hope you will forgive me in being so negligent. I should like to hear from you again and I will try and be more prompt in answering it. I am well and have enjoyed good health most of the time since I came to the Regt. We are now camped at Chattanooga where we have been since the Battle of Chickamauga in which our Regt took an active part. The loss of our Regt was quite heavy, especially in wounded. one Company lost 16 in killed and wounded. We were also engaged in the assault and capture of Mission Ridge on the 25th of last month. In the capture of that ridge we gained as brilliant a victory as has been achieved during the War. There was taken from the enemy on the whole length of the ridge 45 pieces of artillery. A piece of shell struck my bayonet as I wore it in the scabbard on my belt breaking it. but thus far I have been spared, for which I am thankfull. The last letter I recd from home the folks were all well. Lucy is going to school at the Academy in Orwell. The Small Pox has been in Windsor, there was 14 or 15 cases of it the last I heard. they were all getting along well. Our folks were vaccinated and Ma had Veryolyd [an older type of inoculation using actual matter from smallpox itself instead of the cowpox matter from which the vaccine was made—Ed.]. It is pretty cold weather here but we have had no snow yet. It is quiet times here in camp for Christmas.
I hope you and Uncle are enjoying yourselves with a good Supper to night. but I must close for this time. give my best wishes to Uncle and write soon. Yours Truly, from your Nephew C.M. Alderman

Marcellus mentions the Battle of Chickamauga, which was fought September 18 – 20, 1863 and resulted in a Confederate victory, but there were triumphant Union actions that allowed the troops to retreat without being annihilated, and the Confederates had more casualties than the Union. An excellent description of the battle is on the Civil War website, here:

Letter 6:
Betsy DeKalb to her cousin, Julia E. Barnes

Jay, Jan th 25th 1864
My Dear Cousin
It is a long since I received your letter but I know that you will excuse me when I tell you that my Mother my dear Mother is nomore she fell the 27th of last August she was taken sick the night before was much better in the Morning was much better she left her room cam into kitchen I was in the pantry I heard a noise stepted to the door saw she was a falling sprang caught her by the arms but to late to save her she fell to the floor said she was hurt bad we put her on the bed sent for the Doctor he found that her hip was hurt but could not be any use to her she lived untill the 23d of Dec a wednesday about two Oclock PM she fell asslep in Christ as we trust her last plain words that she spoke was praise praise praise her funeral was on Christmas the text you may find recorded in Luke 24 Ch 32 verse It was a solem day to me I have lived with her so long and for many of the past years she has required very kind care to keep her able to be about she told me above five weeks before she fell that she should not live long she wished me to send for Abba a girl that had lived with me I did send that day although I had a good girl at that time & Mother was as well as usal but but she never changed her mind respecting the short time she had to stay with us & said she should never get well nor did she wish to, you may well Judg how lonesom I am left I have no one with me at present but John I keep Abba Jaquis this winter we live in a house I built since Fathers death & when I look through the house how lonesome to me each door on its hinges doth mourn while searching I find not my love nor will she to me return dear Cousn will you in some of your spare moments write me a some of the production of your own pen in verse on my Mother’s death I would prise it so much It apeares that this year has been a year of afflictions as well as sorrews Ermina DeKalb that went to Missourie to teach & married Wallace Purmont came home last summer sick with the Consumption her husband came with her left her under the Doctors care he flattered him that she would get better she staid in Keesville a while then came home and died in a few weeks very suden they wrote to her husband in Missourie he left his business (he was County clerk) & came to Jay almost beside himself he went to her grave fell down on the grave she left two little boys the oldest five the youngest 3 she wrote to her husband the day before she died her last words were tell Wallice I sleep in Jesus so you see we have had to pass through many afflicting ceans but the Lord doeth all things well your Uncle William Palmer was at our house last week he said that he had been to Mr Georges staid over night they were well. Mrs G said your Father was a live please write in your next if you know about him he said that your Uncle Juba was alive that he had been to Pikes peak we thought he was dead
Please write your friend B DeKalb
[Side of last page and across the top] My love to your husband kiss the babies for me I think some of going Ohio next summer

This letter has nothing to do with the Civil War, but it deserves a place here nevertheless, and it is poignant in the extreme emotion of its writer in describing the deaths of her mother and niece. Betsy’s mention of Julia’s father was nothing but a rumor. Henry Palmer had been missing since Julia’s mother died, when Julia was about 5 years old. Julia at that time had gone to live with her aunt Ellen Palmer Pease in Orwell, Ohio, and her older sister had been sent to New York to live with her grandparents, Zephaniah Platt Palmer and Judith Manley Palmer. Henry Palmer was never heard from by their family again. In the 1980s a descendant finally found a record of his death during the U.S. war with Mexico, in June 1848 aboard a ship in the Gulf of Mexico. As for uncle Juba Palmer, nothing has been found about him so far whatever.

Letter 7:
Silas and Mary Barnes to Truman and Julia Barnes

Orwell jany 23, 65
My dear Children a far a Way
I can Say to you as before I have no news to Write my family are all well but my Self I am Lame can barely get a bout—I have thought Ever Since I Recieved your Letter that I Would write to you but I have put it off from day to day but I have no more news to Write today than I had When I Recieved your Letter only the Death of Capt Gordan he died 3 Weeks a go Mr Peck has got an heir 2 days old a young Prince you Wrote me the a mount of Grain you had I had 16 Bushels of Wheat from 5 Acres and a bout 60 Bushels of Oats Wheat is Worth now $2.12½ Cents oats 75 Cents hay 20 $ pr ton We have had Winter two months Steady Snow is as deep as Ever Seen it in the Ohio and it has been Steady Cold (Dre feed pork Worth 20 pr pound potatoes 62 Cents pr Bushel Apples about 62 I Wish you had some of ours though Wee have not many
You Wrote that you had a notion of Selling (if you Ever move Go South or Come back in to the Ohio
Our Rail Road is as yet a dead Set though I think there is Something more favorable a bout it
There is a going in to opperation a Cheese factory the man has Bought J B Phillips Big hall paid $800 for it Expect the milk of 700 Cows, J B Phillips has been verry Sick Better,  Col Howard has Sold the most of his Land Mr Lacky has Sold and Bought the Richard farm By the Congrational meeting house Col A Bingham has Bought the Chandler farm and Bought the Ball farm there has Ben Considerable Changeing farms Mart Bedell has Bought the frisby farm first a bove Joseph Chandlers                Skyler Crippin has got married to one of Mrs Fullers girls two of Mrs fullers girls married men from Cherry Valley the names I do not know oliver Russel married one of Mr Goodrichs girls
Willis Woolcot married one of Benjamin Binghams girls, Thomas Adiruts married one of Mr Whites Girl
Amos Morgan Married for his 2 Wife Mrs Earley (Col Pratt and Wife have gone to York State
Elys health is Better than it has ben—  Wee expect Mary Down in a few days and Will Spend the Rest of the Winter With us)  if you Should Still try to Get a place that has Some fruit on it Land is Verry high a bout here I think I could take $40 pr acre Col Howard Sold the Weed farm for 40 Dollars pr acre
I think I Will Close I have Wrote more than you Will find out
            Get a Bottle of Roe Barks Bitters for Mary I think it Will Be Good for her German Bitters
I Remain as ever your Father and friend
Silas Barns

[Between the 2nd and 3rd pages, sideways]
it Snows a bout all of the time the deepest I Ever See it in Ohio and Verry cold Write often    Jany 27th fodder is a getting Scarce

[Fourth page, from Mary Barnes]
From your Mother
Farther has left alitle space for me to fill I have been to meeting to day and feel some tried as I have not been this winter before I dont think of much to write my health is better this winter than it has been for six years but I cant endure much and I dont think I ever Shall again your Farther has given you alist of Mariages but slited Mrs hillyard and Mrs Covert a number Maried and a good many died a great deal of changes I hardly no any body when I go to Church which is not verry often Cyrus lives with us this winter or I dont no how we Could get along the friends are all well as far as I no of I would be very glad to see you all would be very glad to see you all once more if I could but I am afraid I never shall take good care of your own health and that of your Children I am sorry Mary is so so sickly
I have filled my space and must close wishing you all well
Eliza is smart

The family members mentioned in this letter include Mr. Peck, a son-in-law, whose wife Eliza (Truman’s sister) has just had a son two days before; Ely, their son and Truman’s brother; and Mary, Truman and Julia’s eldest child, who was sick. Sadly, little Mary died a year later.
The Civil War had the effect of raising prices for everything, a concern evident in this letter.

Silas lived four more years; Mary Rawson Barnes lived ten more years.

Here I have attached scans of all of these letters so that my interested relatives can have copies of the originals. The are in the same order as the transcriptions, but you will notice that people often wrote on a folded sheet of paper in booklet form, so pages 4 and 1 are followed by pages 2 and 3.
Silas Barnes to Julia & Truman, July 22, 1862
Isn't that topical stationery fun?

Betsy DeKalb to Julia; December 6, 1862

Truman Barnes to Julia; December 21, 1862

Julia to Truman Barnes; February 1, 1863

Marcellus Alderman to Julia; December 25, 1863

The envelope from Marcellus

Betsy DeKalb to Julia; January 25, 1864

Silas Barnes to Julia & Truman; January 25, 1865

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Further Adventures of Mirinda Piper

My great-great grandmother, Mirinda Piper Andrews, was the daughter of a traveling Baptist minister named Beverly Bradley Piper and his wife, Delia Deborah Norton Piper. They lived in southern Indiana, in the western corner at this time. Mirinda was born in July 1840.


This spring I joined the Baptist church and was baptised by Elder Joll Hume, a large man with a powerful voice and red hair, a very popular preacher who lived to an advanced age.[i]

Our school teacher this summer was a Mr. Gibson—we all disliked him exceedingly. I don’t think he had a friend among the scholars. Of course we did not learn as fast as we would if we had liked him better. He was not a fit man for the place.

Right here I will speak of the schools of the place. It was before the day of free schools. Whoever sent a scholar had to pay so much a term. Too many would only send one or two children, even if they had a large family, and some would not send at all, on account of the expense. But Father always managed to keep us in school when there was any, and there never was more than six months of school during the year.

Sometime during this year my dear Grandma died [March 18, 1850], we did not hear of her sickness until after she was buried. Mail facilities were poor, and people wrote seldom. My Aunt Lucy Mirinda Dillworth (I was named for her) Mother’s only sister, a childless widow, spent the summer with us and helped Mother do the work. Charity [Lewis--their servant girl] had left us.

Woman riding sidesaddle in the 1850s
That summer I attended another wedding. We were not very well acquainted with the couple, but they had a big wedding, and Father was the officiating minister, and as he had the right, he took me. We both rode horse back several miles through the woods. I enjoyed the ride very much and the wedding also, especially as there were several young ladies there I was acquainted with. Mother owned a side saddle and a gentle horse, so I had many horseback rides, in fact it was the only mode of riding we had, except a two-horse wagon.

In the fall, we went in a covered wagon to visit Grandpa and Uncle Louis. (My aunt had gone before.) It was a seventy mile trip. We took four or five days for it, as Father held meetings along the road where he had previous appointments. We had to cross two rivers in a ferry boat, White River and Wabash, the latter at Vincennes. Grandpa’s place was 14 miles from Vincennes on the Illinois side. We had a delightful trip, nothing in after life made me so happy as those Autumn trips to visit our relatives. How delighted we were to get there and see them all again, and they seemed as pleased to see us. We stayed three weeks but were not sorry to get back home again.

There was no particular attention paid to Christmas and New Years in those days where we lived. Mother usually baked us some fancy cakes, and sometimes we found some little presents in one stocking. We had an extra good dinner on Christmas. Thanksgiving was not observed at all in that part of the country.

I had now learned to do various kinds of work, especially sewing; it was before the days of sewing machines, and all of our sewing and knitting was done by hand. Mother and I made our own dresses, and she made the little boys’ suits. I never liked to sew on boys’ or men’s clothes but enjoyed the other sewing. There was a lady who had lately come from London, England, a dressmaker, who belonged to our church and often visited at our house. One day she told Mother that if she would let me go and stay a week with her, she would show me how to make my dresses. We made them very plain then, with a straight skirt, no puffing, tucks or trimming of any kind, so it was not the complicated affair it is now to make a dress. I went and made an alpaca dress while I was there, with her help, and enjoyed the visit very much. Her name was Mrs. Cooper. Mr. Cooper came over from London two years before to find work. After he got a job he sent for her. They lived in Mount Vernon.

There was a family in town I was acquainted with named Barter. I used to go every evening after we quit sewing to visit the Barter girls. Mr. Cooper’s brother was engaged to the eldest Miss Barter. We had splendid times and lots of fun.

This fall the Baptist Association was held at our Church in Farmersville. I do not know how many churches comprised an association. The church where it was held always entertained the members and we had quite a number at our house. We hired a young girl in the neighborhood to help cook, and I have a distinct remembrance of the many fine cookies and other good things we made. But we all enjoyed having the people with us and did not grudge the work or the cost of the food.

Our school teacher’s name this winter was Mr. Kinney. We liked him better than we did Mr. Gibson, but he was the saddest looking man I ever saw, and it was reported that he was very poor and unhappy in his domestic relations, two conditions of life which are apt to go together.

This spring Father and Mother took a trip to Ohio and left us children. I stayed with a Mrs. Milton Black, a lady I loved very much. They had one little girl, Margaret, 4 years old. Father got a neighbor’s family, who were Baptist, to stay with the other children at our house. I had a very pleasant time indeed, but we were all glad when our parents came home. They were gone four weeks.

During the summer the young people at and near Farmersville formed what they called a library society. They met at the school house once in two weeks and had some literary exercises. They had a small library and loaned out the books to the members under certain rules and restrictions. I was a member and enjoyed it highly, but as they met of evenings sometimes, I had to stay all night with one of the girls who lived near the school house. 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.

It was presidential year, and politics ran high. The Whig candidate was Gen. Winfield Scott. The Democratic was Gen. Franklin Pierce, who was elected. Father was a Whig, and the way the election went troubled him greatly.[ii]

In the fall, we made our annual visit to Grandpa’s. Uncle Almon Norton and his son William were there on a visit. Uncle was a lawyer, and lived in Goshen, Indiana [Elkhart County]. Cousin Will was sixteen, tall and handsome. I thought him very nice. He was a printer, in Indianapolis. We had a splendid time together, the relatives gave dinner parties for us, and one of our second cousins got married so we had a wedding to attend. The Baptists held their annual association at Grandfather’s church while we were there. It was only half a mile away, it lasted three days and we all went of course, and there was meeting at Grandpa’s every evening. We had several of the members and their families to cook for, but it was lots of fun to me, for I was visiting and did not have any care but helped all I could. Uncle Almon’s family were Methodists. Uncle Wellington was a Presbyterian. We had a grand visit.

“Uncle Dr.” as we called Wellington B. Norton, was to be married to Miss Sarah Stevens, and as they wanted Father to perform the ceremony, we went home by way of Mrs. Stevens’ to the wedding (Mr. Stevens had died some years before). There was not a large wedding, only the relatives being invited, but the supper was excellent, and the young Stevens girls and I were perfectly delighted to see each other again. We had so many things to talk about we were sorry when the wedding festivities were over and we had to start for home. [This was November 1852. Sadly, Uncle Dr. died only six months later.]

We stopped one day in Evansville, where “Aunt Sarah” (Sarah Stevens) had a sister living, Mrs. Ann Eliza Schnee, the lady my little sister was named for. When we arrived home we found there was another wedding on the taps. A mile or more from our house lived a family named Bradley, there was a large family of them, and the younger girl and I were great friends at school. Some of the older children were married. The oldest unmarried girl, Miss Louise, was to be married to a wealthy Kentucky gentleman, and Father was asked to tie the knot. There was no one invited outside the family except us, and Mother did not care to go, so she sent me with Father. They were married before breakfast, and immediately after that meal they started for their Kentucky home. She died of consumption four years later, leaving two little girls.

Mr. Samuel Annable taught the Farmersville school this year (or I think it was him) for some reason, I don’t remember why, I did not attend; perhaps Mother could not spare me as her health was always poor.

[i] This sect of Baptists did not believe in infant baptism.
[ii] In the election of 1852, the Whig party was split over the issue of slavery, with the Northerners preferring Daniel Webster as their candidate and the Southerners wanting incumbent President Millard Fillmore. As a compromise, they nominated General Winfield Scott, whose anti-slavery stance alienated the South while the Whig Party's adoption of a slavery plank in its party platform undermined its support in the North. This was the end of the Whig Party in America. Meanwhile, the Democrats nominated Franklin Pierce, who won the election.

More posts about Mirinda Piper:

One-Room Schools, a Romance, an Earthquake

Mirinda and Slavery

The Further Adventures of Mirinda Piper (part 2)

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

Memoirs of Mirinda Piper Andrews: Married Life 1858 - 1872

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Intrepid Eliza--an excerpt from her life story

Among my husband’s great-grandmothers is a woman I find extremely interesting as her tale begins in a purely Dickensian vein and progresses to an American pioneer story.

My view of Stonehenge, July 2012
Eliza’s father, John Brown, was born December 13, 1816 in the tiny village of West Lavington, Wiltshire, England, on the Salisbury Plain not far from Stonehenge. He was a farm laborer, working for 25 years on the same farm for 8 shillings a week. Poor as he was, he managed to marry and have a family. His bride was Sarah Mundy, a girl from the same town who was his same age. They had six children, but only three of them lived past infancy: Harriet, born in 1838 when the young couple were both 21 years old; Sarah, born in 1844; and their fifth child, Eliza, born January 30, 1847. Just three years later little Eliza’s mother died, and the sixth baby died also. Nine-year-old Harriet took care of six-year-old Sarah as well as she could, and their father helped them take care of the house at night after he was through working. But they couldn’t manage the littlest sister.

Eliza was sent to the home of her maternal grandparents to live for a time. They were William and Elizabeth Mundy, and Eliza spoke in later years of their kindness to her and her happiness being with them. They lived right in the village, and Eliza remembered happy times playing in the street in front of the house. She remembered having a little red chair that her grandfather made just for her. She remembered playing with her cousins and other children of the neighborhood.

One year after Eliza’s mother’s death, her father married Jane Wilkins, a very kind woman who was good to Eliza and her sisters. Eliza started school in a thatched-roof building, learning to read, write, and spell in the mornings and to sew in the afternoons. She was able to go to school only two and a half years, however, because at this time in England, child labor was the norm and she was expected to contribute what she could to her own maintenance and that of the family.
Main street through West Lavington, July 2012

She began work in a silk factory when she was eight years old, working long days for ten pence a day. There were 3 silk factories in Wiltshire in 1850 employing 300 workers; there had been more silk factories in the county earlier in the century, but increasing regulation closed most of them. The work was backbreaking—probably Eliza was a piecer, as most young girls were. Piecers were in constant motion bending over the silk to tie broken threads for ten hours a day. The buildings that housed silk factories were frequently crowded and had inadequate ventilation. Supervisors could be brutal, lashing children who fell asleep, who worked too slowly, or who somehow wasted the silk. Eliza had to pay twelve pence (one shilling) a week for her bed, and because she was a Mormon, she paid sixpence tithing on her earnings, which left her just under 44 pence to feed and clothe herself.  She worked at the silk factory for about nine months.

Locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal, July 2012
During her period of working there, in April 1856, as she was eight, she was eligible to be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church to which her parents belonged. She met with the people at night after her work was done, at the edge of one of the boat canals of that area, and there she was baptized. (If the silk factory was located in Devizes, the canal may have been the great Kennet & Avon Canal.) She nearly drowned though, because her small body slipped away from the elder’s hands and floated down the canal in the dark! The people raced after her and found her in the dark water and pulled her out. She always said it was only the faith and prayers of her family and friends that saved her.

Main road through Pottern, July 2012
In the late autumn of 1856 she went to Bristol, the biggest city in their area to the west, as a servant girl for her aunt Ann Dyer and then for two other households, but that did not work out long term and she returned home to West Lavington. She worked for a time in a bakery there, until her stepmother used her connections in the nearby town of Pottern to get her a job working for a grocer and his wife. She took care of their twin babies and their two other small children. But the grocer and his wife were hard taskmasters and stingy—they allowed Eliza only a meager diet of a small piece of bread and molasses a day, until she nearly starved to death. Jane and John found out about it and promptly brought Eliza home.
Thatched-roof house in Pottern, July 2012

It took some time to feed her up and restore her health and strength. In the summer of 1860 she got another job in another town, but we don’t know exactly what it was—it paid two shillings a week—and she worked six months at that job. Because there were no other Mormons near her, she attended a Baptist Sunday School every Sabbath day while working there. She would have worked longer at this job, but her stepmother had died and when in March 1861 her sister Sarah married, her father summoned her to come home and take over the household duties.

She was now fourteen years old, and she kept house for her father and young stepbrother (her other stepbrother had died as a toddler). Her sister Harriet had married a man named James Ward, and they had gone to America. It became Eliza’s and her father’s dream to go too, so every penny must be saved to make the journey. They were very committed to their religion, walking five miles to attend church every Sabbath, and five miles back. Her sister Sarah was not committed to their religion, and she had married a man who hated Mormons and had adopted her husband’s views, which was painful to Eliza and her father.

The Amazon in the 1850s;
In the spring of 1863 enough money had been saved up. Father Brown purchased tickets for himself, Eliza, and young George to go to America in a company of 882 Latter-day Saints.

In May 1863 after they boarded their ship, the Amazon, the famous author Charles Dickens was aboard inspecting and interviewing the Mormons, and it happened that Eliza’s father was the Mormon he interviewed for his article, which now appears in Chapter 22 of Dickens’ book The Uncommercial Traveler.

They were six weeks sailing. Eliza found the water ration, which was 1 pint per person per day, foul (because it was stored in new wood barrels, and as the wood aged, it tainted the taste and smell of the water so that the people had to hold their noses to drink it) and successfully managed to get one of the sailors to give her fresher water. She did not like eating raw food, but it was hard to get a turn at using the small cooking stoves. When they landed in New York, the travelers found to their dismay that the American Civil War had so disrupted travel that their arrangements were disregarded. There were soldiers everywhere, and soldiers had first rights to all available transport. They struggled up the Hudson River to Albany where they were shipped in cattle cars to St Joseph, Missouri, taking ten days to get there. Over one two-day period, the cars were so crowded that they all had to stand up; the conditions were filthy and horrible; there was little or nothing to eat and only a little dirty water to drink. The trip must have seemed interminable in those conditions.
At St Joseph they were able to get a boat going up the Missouri River to Florence, Nebraska. Here their overland wagon train was waiting. The Browns had not had enough money to purchase their own wagon; they had bought space for their luggage in someone else’s wagon and set out to walk the twelve-hundred-mile journey. It was now August and the journey began hot and muggy and dusty all at the same time. Their typical progress was about 18 to 20 miles a day, and the trail, well marked by the thousands who had traveled in the years before them, was dotted along the way with the graves of those who had succumbed to the illnesses of those days, cholera and typhoid and other fevers, accidents, and hardship. Amazingly, this company of 882 people had but one single death on the entire journey—when they reached the foothills of the Rocky Mountains one person died from cholera, though many came down with the disease.

Sixteen-year-old Eliza was an attractive young woman. She caught the eye of a fellow countryman, John White, who was from the same area of Wiltshire as she, who had emigrated a few years before this and was working as a teamster, ferrying emigrants across the Plains. They courted along the journey, and John let Eliza ride as much as was then proper for a courting couple in those days. Eliza remembered the journey fondly as a very, very happy time, with dancing and music every night, early risings and nearly every day having beautiful weather.
Eliza in middle age, her classic bone structure
still evident of her extreme good looks;
her expression evident of her generous nature

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Missionary Thought for My Nephew

One of my nephews is currently serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Quito, Ecuador. He arrived there in early March 2014 and will be there for almost two years. This morning I was listening to music and heard a familiar hymn that brought my nephew to mind.

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd; dear are the sheep of His fold;[1]
Dear is the love that He gives them, dearer than silver or gold.
Dear to the heart of the Shepherd, dear are His “other” lost sheep;
Over the mountains He follows, over the waters so deep.

Image of the Good Shepherd on the
ceiling in Roman catacombs
Jesus Christ lived and died for all mankind. On that primary premise rests all of our missionary activity. This poem expresses beautifully the natural results of that great love. He wants everyone to have His kind of happiness, and like the good shepherd, He will follow everyone around giving them chance after chance to turn and recognize the great gift He holds out to them. He follows them over mountains and seas. 

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd, dear are the lambs of his fold;
Some from the pastures are straying, hungry and helpless and cold.
See, the Good Shepherd is seeking, seeking the lambs that are lost,
Bringing them in with rejoicing, saved at such infinite cost.

He knows that those who are not within His fold are hungry for truth that they have either rejected or never yet found. He knows all are helpless to save themselves in a very real sense: because the price is beyond human life or ability, only His life and will could satisfy the demands of eternal justice.

Dear to the heart of the Shepherd, dear are the “ninety and nine”;
Dear are the sheep that have wandered out in the desert to pine.
Hark! He is earnestly calling, tenderly pleading today:
“Will you not seek for my lost ones, off from my shelter astray?”
Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue he hastens, bringing them back to the fold.

We who have accepted His gospel and are trying to live His commandments are the “ninety and nine” who are relatively safe within His fold. He asks us to do His work, to go out looking for those who are not within that safety yet. We are both sheep and shepherds—paradoxically we must leave the shelter to go looking, and yet we are always within that shelter so long as we are doing the work of Him who sent us out looking.

Green are the pastures inviting, sweet are the waters and still.
Lord, we will answer Thee gladly, “Yes, blessed Master, we will!
“Make us Thy true under-shepherds; give us a love that is deep.
“Send us out into the desert, seeking thy wandering sheep.”
Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue we’ll hasten, bringing them back to the fold.

The Good Shepherd
by Warner Sallman, 1942
copyright by Warner Press, Anderson, Indiana
The pastures He promises are green; the waters of His truths are sweet and untroubled. If we believe what He promises, we will do all we can to be like Him: we will go out to bring others back to Him, inviting them to consider His invitation and accept it. The more we invite, the more will have the opportunity to accept that invitation.

Love is a demanding taskmaster, but the payment for the labor is unlimited.

[1] “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd” in Hymns, (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985) No. 221; Text: Mary B. Wingate, 1899-1933.