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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

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