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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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

Mirinda Piper was the eldest living child of the traveling Baptist preacher Beverly Bradley Piper and his first wife, Delia Deborah Norton. At the beginning of 1856 the family were living in Charleston, Coles County, Illinois. Mirinda turned 16 in July of that year. Her younger siblings were Asa, Charles, and Ann. She married John Andrews when she was 18 years old.


We lived in Charlestown 18 months; March 1st we broke up housekeeping and started to move back to Posey County, Indiana. The furniture was shipped by railroad and river, and we went in the carriage by way of Grandpa’s as usual. Aunt Mirinda stayed at Uncle William’s; we stopped a few days and pushed on to our journey’s end. We settled in the old Bradley house two miles from Mount Vernon, Indiana.

The house was quite large and was partly occupied by John Hall’s family, old acquaintances of ours and Baptists. It was a lovely old place with plenty of fruit, cherries, apples, and pears.

I taught a little school that summer but did not like school teaching and was determined not to follow the business. As Mother’s health was so poor I was always needed at home, and neither of my parents wished me to teach. I never taught another school. There were a number of young people in the neighborhood, and most of them I had known before, so in a little while I had all the company I wanted. That summer passed quickly and pleasantly. I had some beaux, but Father discouraged their visits, and as he was a minister they were rather shy of him.

This was the presidential election year. The Republican candidates were Fremont and Dayton, the Democrats were Buchanan and Breckenridge, who were elected. The American candidates were Fillmore and Donelson.[i]

1856 wedding dress
One of my young lady friends was married in September. She was our nearest neighbor on one side. I was very intimate with her, and helped her sew some of her wedding clothes. There was a large wedding, most of the guests stayed all night, and we had a big breakfast party as well as supper the night before. 

During the summer Father took a trip through central Illinois. He had never been there before and was very much pleased with the country, and the people who were very kind to him and urged him to come and live among them. As he had some money to invest, he bought a farm one mile from Lincoln, Logan County, and in October we started to move there. 
Logan County, Ill.
Oh how I hated to leave my young friends! I thought it was too bad while I was having such a good time to break away and go among perfect strangers. But go we must, so I tried to make the best of it. It seemed nice to own a home of our own once more; we had been renting for two years. We were four weeks making the trip, as Father had appointments to preach all along the way. I remember one day when he had meeting we stopped at an old Brother Baptist’s house, and I stayed at the house and read Jane Eyre instead of going to meeting. I wonder Mother allowed it, but I went to all the other meetings.

Father had a bone felon[ii] on his hand and suffered greatly with it. We went by Grandpa’s of course, all roads led to Grandpa (not Rome), and now I think of it, that was our last visit there. When we arrived in Lincoln we went to a Mr. Rankin’s, who had kindly invited us to stay there ‘til we could get settled in our new home. We were there two weeks when the family in our house moved out and we soon got settled. Our land was mostly prairie, lying on the edge of the timber, through which ran Salt Creek. There were 160 acres in the farm. I used to roam through the woods and along the creek when I had nothing else to do, but Mother and I did all the work, sewing and all for six of us, and it kept us pretty busy, especially as her health was rather poor.

The house was very old fashioned, consisting of two large rooms with a big fireplace in each room. Father soon put on an addition of three more rooms, and divided one of the large ones so we had six. There was an orchard of excellent apples, and several cherry trees which bore heavily on the place.
We were all pleased with our new home and neighborhood; we were only a mile from Lincoln, which was in plain sight from the house. Our church, which was held in a school house, was only half way to town, but we usually rode to it, as Mother was not able even to walk that little distance. The three children went to school. 

Father had some acquaintances by the name of Landis, who lived sixteen miles away near Mount Pulaski. We visited them as often as possible and they came to see us. There was a large family of them, three young men and four girls grown, besides three little girls. The eldest of the family was a maiden lady of thirty named Elizabeth, whom we liked very much indeed; it was always a treat to us if we could persuade her to come and stay a week with us. At one time there was an association held at their church, and Father and I went in the carriage; there was no railroad communication between Lincoln and Mount Pulaski. What a grand time I had. I knew many of the young people and made the acquaintance of many more. Father enjoyed it too, but in an entirely different way.[iii] 

Mirinda, 1857
The only time I ever attended camp meeting was this summer. A young gentleman, who had been paying some attention to me, and one of the Landis boys hired a double carriage and took Miss Rankin, a friend of mine, and I one Sunday. We took a lunch, and as the meeting was several miles from our house, we were gone all day. We had a very pleasant time indeed.

This fall we had considerable sickness; in fact I know now that the farm was malarious as there was a pond of standing water only a few rods from the house, and the family who owned the place before us, seven in number, all died but one of typhoid fever. Father and Mother had a sick spell, and brother Asa was very sick with typhoid fever. I kept well and by the middle of October all had recovered. 

At this time my Aunt Mirinda Parker made us a visit; we were all delighted to see her and wanted her to stay all winter, but she would not hear of it. She staid a short time and left with John Andrews who had come from Indiana that fall to see me. We had been corresponding for some time before he came.
Mirinda's first letter to John Andrews

I don’t remember much about the winter of 1857 and ‘58. I was comparatively happy, but not entirely so, for Mother always told me her worries, and I had to share the burdens of the whole family. I had my letters to read and answer, which gave me much pleasure and occupation. It snowed a great deal that winter, indeed as we had never lived so far north before, the snow was quite a surprise to us, but it was not an extremely cold winter. Father was away much of the time preaching. Mother, the young ones and I were not afraid to stay alone, and as we had plenty of wood and enough to eat we had a very good time. We took two newspapers, had quite a number of books, and with our work, time never hung heavily on our hands. But we were poor, our income was small, and the family was growing older, so Mother and I had to plan considerable to make five dollars do the work of ten.

In the spring of this year Uncle Louis’ family moved to Lincoln; he wanted to build a house so Father asked him to remain with us ‘til it was finished. We were a little crowded but got along very well. His family consisted of his wife and four children. Aunt Mirinda came with them, so you see we were pretty thick. They came in April and stayed until October. 

In June John Andrews came again, and on the 21st of September we were married. The ceremony was performed by Mr. Moore, an old Baptist preacher long since dead. We went to live at the old Andrews place with John’s mother and brother Seth. Grandpa Norton was visiting at Father’s at the same time and left when we did; he was to stop at Vincennes, Indiana, but concluded to go on to Evansville [Indiana] with us. It was the last time I saw him; he died the next year at the age of 78. We spent one day at Vincennes, arrived at Farmersville in the night and were met by Seth and James and Harriet Hinkley (they had been married two years before). They brought carriages to take us home in, so the next morning we started for a twenty-mile ride. The day was pleasant and everything lovely.

[i] According to Wikipedia (August 2014), incumbent president Franklin Pierce was defeated in his effort to be re-nominated by the Democratic Party. James Buchanan, an experienced politician who was serving as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and won the nomination instead.
   The Whig Party, which had since the 1830s been one of the two major parties in the U.S., had disintegrated and new parties, including the Republican Party and the American or “Know-Nothing” Party (which ignored slavery and instead emphasized anti-immigration policies), competed to replace it as the principal opposition to the Democratic Party. The Republican Party nominated John C. Frémont of California as its first presidential candidate. The Know-Nothing Party nominated former President Millard Fillmore, of New York.
   Frémont condemned the Kansas–Nebraska Act, and decried the expansion of slavery. Buchanan warned that the Republicans were extremists whose victory would lead to civil war. The Democrats endorsed popular sovereignty as the method to determine slavery’s legality for newly admitted states.

[ii] A bone felon is an infection of the fatty tissue that can lead to an abcess with infection attacking the underlying bone.

[iii] Mirinda’s father married Elizabeth K. Landis soon after his wife Delia Deborah died.

Other Posts about Mirinda:

One-Room Schools, a Romance, an Earthquake

Mirinda and Slavery

The Further Adventures of Mirinda Piper (first part)

The Further Adventures of Mirinda Piper (second part)

Memoirs of Mirinda Piper Andrews: Married Life 1858 - 1872

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