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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Missing Letters of Mirinda Piper, part 4

Here is the final installment of letters written by Mirinda Piper to her soon-to-be husband, John Andrews, in the summer of 1858.

Lincoln, July 18th/58
Dear Friend:

No, I do not think, nor have I ever thought, that you would try to influence me in my religious views, nor indeed any other—I have too much confidence in you to ever entertain such an idea. If it seemed any way strange for my parents to speak of it you will please attribute it to their anxiety for my happiness. Often I tell mother she worries herself too much about her children, that she takes trouble when there is no necessity of it. Her whole life and happiness seems wrapped up in her children. That is one reason why I would like to be near her if it was convenient and pleasant for you, but I would not for anything try to influence you to leave your place unless you would rather do so. You might not like this country and then I could never forgive myself for persuading you to move. I know I can be happy with you almost any place and wherever you are contented I will be.

Yes, I am young and fear I am too young to take so great a responsibility. No doubt you will find imperfections in me you do not think of now—but perhaps you will have more patience to bear with me than if you were two or three years younger than you are. I do not know how much older you are than me (would like to though). I will be 18 the 25th day of this month.

Some time next fall will suit me as well as any other if it does you, but if it was not that we live so far apart and see each other so seldom I would certainly be for postponing it until I was older and more experienced. As it is, I am always uneasy about you and if your letters do not come quite as soon as expected I cannot rest until they do come. Perhaps I am foolish to be so but cannot help it. I am telling you all my thoughts but think I have a right to now. Perhaps, you will not like to be troubled with them though.

I ought not to expect a letter once a week. You have been very punctual, more so indeed than I have been. When it is convenient, I would like to have one, but when it is not, do not trouble.

Of course I had my miniature taken for you. If my parents want one, they can have another taken any time. How often have I wished that I had always lived in one place, but I have never had any place that I could call home but a short time. The longest I ever lived in one place was Posey Co. and you know that was not very long.

Yesterday was a great day in Lincoln. Stephan A. Douglass, the democratic candidate for senator was to speak. He was there but he was so hoarse from speaking the night before that he did not address the crowd. Lincoln, his opponent was there also [see note 1]. Dan Rice’s show was there. They said it was the largest crowd ever collected in Lincoln. We have a shower nearly every day. I fear there will be a great amount of sickness here this summer and fall. It certainly has every appearance of a sickly season; I do hope we will escape this time as we had so much sickness last fall.

Most Truly yours,
Mirinda Piper

I had forgotten to say that your religious views are known to me and if they were not it would make no difference. If you wish to write anything on the subject you can do so, I do not require it. You know what I said in relation to that matter when you were here, I want everyone to think just as they please on that and every other subject.

If more was conveyed than was intended by my parents’ letter, it was owing to the cause referred to before and not to any want of confidence in you.

Yours ever,

July 28th, 1858
Dear Friend:

Yours of the 18th was received yesterday and I was much pleased to get it so soon. I fear I have been hasty in wishing you to write every week. Perhaps it will trespass too much on your time and attention; if it does, do not fail to inform me as it will make no great difference if you do not write so often.

The rose you sent me is certainly faded but it still retains a portion of its fragrance and it makes me happy to think when we are separated you still remember me and send a flower now and then.

Please do not take the trouble to bring a dog along out here; of course, you know I was only joking about it.

I was truly pleased to learn your friends at home know of the arrangement between us. I thought perhaps they did, but did not know for certain. I thought it was not possible for you to be coming out here and no one suspicious there was something going on.

We are in the midst of our hay harvest now and your humble servant is engaged in the very delightful occupation of making “pizen things” [see note 2]. We have a shower every day or two so they do not make much progress. I think they will be done in a few days, and I will not be sorry.

I was much pleased with the description of your childhood in your last letter. It does seem you have such command of language, it is so easy for you to express your thoughts; your words flow along like water. It is not my gift, if gift it might be called. I often wish it was. Do not think this is said to flatter for it is not; it is just what I think. Perhaps I am too much given to saying what I think. Sometimes I fear I am.

You must not expect very long or interesting letters but I will promise to do better next time if I can. Hoping you received my other letters and miniature, I will close for the present.

Most Truly yours,
Mirinda Piper

Lincoln, Ill. Aug. 1st 1858
Dear Friend:

August 1st! How the weeks fly I hardly know where the summer has gone and it has passed so pleasantly, too. A letter once a week has been a great destroyer of time. I hardly get through thinking of the contents of one until another comes. I fear it is too pleasant to continue long.

I believe I do appear older than I am; almost all of my acquaintances tell me so, but I fear my actions make me seem younger than I really am. I grew up almost like a weed, so that at twelve years old many persons took me to be sixteen. I often used to wish I was small like other children of my age. I thought I appeared so green and awkward then and have not improved much yet. You talk and write as if you ought to be quite as old as you are but you look much younger [see note 3].

I thank you for the nice ring you sent me; it is very beautiful and I will wear it for your sake; indeed everything you have given yet is beautiful and in good taste. I feel that I am not deserving the regard you have for me, that I am not worthy of it. I hope you will never regret the step you have taken; that you will always think of me as you do now.

You wish to know what I would prefer your business to be as if it was my place to decide what it should be. When you were here you said you did not like farming. I certainly would not follow any occupation I did not like if I were you. It will be immaterial to me what your business is so it is honest and I know it will be for you would not engage in anything that was not. I do not know anything about your business or what would be the most pleasant for you to engage in. What ever will be suited to your feelings and disposition will be perfectly satisfactory to me; it can all be summed up in a few words, do as you please.

If our marriage is to take place next fall, I would some rather it would be near the 19 or 20 of September, though it makes no great difference to me and if that is sooner than would suit your convenience, you can let me know. It may be very important to you when it is and it is not at all to me. I only named that month because you said when you were here you intended coming then. You seem to wish me to name the time but I would much rather you would. I would like to know the time if it is convenient for you to tell me soon.

Yes, more is made of a profession than the subject deserves. I have been taught to believe that sincerety without profession is far preferable to profession without sincerety. Many who marry in their own church are far less happy than others who marry out of it.

I think your “industrious spells” last a long time. They are like mine, I am “industrious by spells” but those spells are almost all the time on me I see so much work to do that must be done; I am very seldom idle and I guess that is pretty much the way with you when you are at home. I believe I could get along very well without working very hard if I did not have it to do but I could not live perfectly idle.

If your thoughts are ever unpleasant to me they will be what they never have been yet. Sometimes I fear mine are not very pleasant to you, some of them at least. I will try and send you a flower some time if I can ever draw one I think is well enough. We have no flowers in our yard this year, it has been such a bad season the seeds all rotted in the ground.

I believe I cannot think of any more nonsense to write so I will close.

I remain most truly yours,
Mirinda Piper

August 8th 1858
Dearest Friend:

It is Sunday again; no doubt you will think I always write on Sunday. Your letters nearly always come on Saturday and that is my reason for writing on that day.

The weather is very warm; I think it is the hottest weather I ever knew. There has been no rain for four or five days and everything seems as if it would burn up or melt or something. I am writing in the woods about a quarter of a mile from the house, on a book seated on an old log and if it was not for the mosquitoes would have a nice time.

My health has been very good this summer or as good as it generally is. I never was very strong, as you know, and I regret that as much as anything else. Our family have all been well so far. My uncle’s family have had one case of chills but I believe they have cured it.

It does seem a long time since I saw you. How often I wish you were nearer so we could see each other now and then, but it is impossible to have everything as we wish. There is always something we would like to change, to have different, and the only way is to be patient and take things as they come but sometimes we are not content to do this.

If it is no trouble for you to write, it certainly is a great pleasure to me to receive your letters; indeed there is nothing could give me so much happiness (except your presence) as to receive a letter from you.

I do not think my letter of July 28th will be very interesting or entertaining as I was very busy at the time and wrote in a great hurry; I hardly know what I did write. I guess this will not be much better, but I will say as you did, will do better next time if I can.

Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain yours ever

Lincoln, Ill. Aug. 15, 1858
Dear Friend:

It does seem that I ought to have something to write after receiving such a cheering letter as yours of Aug. 8. It is so pleasant to receive such long letters I wish they were all that long, but I ought not to expect it as I do not write such often.

I do think farming the most independent calling in the world; I enjoy it the most. I do love a quiet retired life. True, it requires a great amount of hard labor, there is no occupation but what requires labor of the head or hands, though it does make more work for the women than any other business I believe, but if you conclude to be a farmer, I will try to do my part as well as I can. Of all things, I love to live in the country away from the hurry and bustle of a town or city. I have tried both and would always prefer the country.

It will suit me just as well to start away from home at that time as to wait longer; I can be ready then just as easy as to get ready afterwards. I shall not feel that I am leaving home never to see it again. I know I shall see my friends all again, so I would just as soon go then as any other time. I shall certainly have the wedding private; that is, there will be no one here except what it will be necessary to have, if it suits you so I mean. I never did like to see a crowd at such places and as there is no one in this country will know anything about it there will be no feelings hurt.

I do not know much about politics and would like to know less. I do not read political papers but hear it talked enough. Father and Uncle Louis are continually on that subject and no other, until I get so tired of it I wish to never hear of it again. I believe they are what are called Douglass Democrats. Uncle is very much interested at this time about getting a man in Lincoln elected sheriff, a particular friend of his. He spoke in Mt. Pulaski yesterday; in fact he does nothing but electioneer all the time. (Uncle, I mean). [See note 4.]

It is not any trouble for me to write now. I am happy to have the chance to write every week. Whenever I get so busy I cannot write, will let you know.

I was much amused at your description of Bob Murphy. I expect he is a live curiosity. Such customers are generally hard to get rid of.

It certainly is a great curse to be a worshipper of gold. I see so much of that here, everyone is for himself. They think of nothing but money. Several girls I have become acquainted with, whose fathers are what the world calls wealthy, cannot write a letter fit to be seen and can hardly spell their own name. I often think of the old man’s advice to his daughter; he says “be sure an never marry a poor man but remember the poorest man in the world is one who has money and nothing else.”

This is a very pleasant day, there is wind enough to make everybody feel pleasant and cheerful. How I do love such summer days, I could almost wish them to last always. I am positively ashamed of the letter I wrote last Sunday, it was such hot weather I could not write or think or hardly get my breath, but it is much cooler now and I do not think we will have any more such intensely hot weather this season, hope not anyhow.

You cannot imagine how much happiness it gave me to know that your friends were pleased with your arrangement. They know so little about me I feared they would think you had made a poor choice. I cannot tell what they will think when they are better acquainted, but I sincerely hope they may never have cause to think different.

                     Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain

Yours forever
Mirinda Piper
John Andrews

Aug. 22, 1858
Dearest Friend:

Another week has rolled around, is gone never to be recalled. Nor would I recall it if I could. Not that the week was fraught with sorrow or regret, for it was certainly very pleasant. The anticipation of anything is said to be more pleasant than the reality, but I cannot think so in this case. I have no doubt but that we will be much happier when our hopes are realized than we are now. Yes, I also have trembled when I have thought what may happen in the intervening weeks, for I know how many unseen dangers may lurk in our path, how many secret enemies we may have that we are not aware of. But there is one thing that you may know, come what will, you possess my undivided affections, that there is no other one in the world that I would be willing to have occupy the place you are about to in relation to me, and I firmly believe I am regarded by you in the same light, and therefore nothing could make me think you had changed in your feelings, but your own words.

I do not know how it will seem not to expect a letter but I guess it will be all right after awhile. I shall always preserve your letters with jealous care as the most precious mementoes. I can repeat nearly all of them in my own mind, I have read and reread them so much. I intend to keep them as long as there is any of the paper that is not worn out. I shall not regret the nonreception of a letter so very much for I have always thought a visit was far better than a letter and of course, when I am always with you, will not care about them.

Please tell me what day you will be here and be sure and give yourself plenty of time, for if you do not come as soon as you say you will, I will be uneasy for fear something has happened to you. The chills are very prevalent here now and it is the very kind of weather for the ague, very cool nights and hot sun in the day time.

I cannot think of anything more to write just now, so I will close for the present.

Most truly yours,

September 2, 1858
Dearest Friend:

You will be disappointed at not receiving this at the usual time, but if you have not caught the chills I have. When your last letter came I was quite sick but I am most well now. that is my excuse for not writing sooner. I did think the 19th would be the most convenient time for our wedding but owing to some reasons that I can better explain when you come, have concluded to have it on Tuesday the 21st and we can start on the next day, Wednesday, and as you know about how long it will take to get there, you can make your arrangements to suit. I do not know of any place on the route that I wish to stop at on the way. Don’t be uneasy about me; I am nearly well, but as I am not strong yet, they will not let me write any more than is just necessary. I shall await your coming with anxiety.

I remain yours as ever,

[Ernest wrote to his children:] They were married on September 21st, and they went at once to Farmersville, Indiana, to live for a time. But the farm there was sold the following winter to be turned over to the buyer, March 1, 1859. So they went to Lincoln to visit for a week and your grandfather then went to DuBois to build them a house. Your grandmother remained with her parents for three weeks. In the meantime, she wrote as follows to her husband at DuBois, Illinois.

Lincoln, Ill. March 15, 1859
My Dear Husband:

Perhaps you will not be looking for a letter from me so soon, but I want to hear from you so bad I could not help writing. I hope I shall receive a letter from you soon. I felt very bad and lonely the night you left but I slept tolerably well. I have nothing to write to you but to tell you how bad I want to see you and you know that anyhow.

I do hope you had a pleasant trip. How I wished I could go with you. I know it will not be very long till I see you again but will seem very long to me. I count every day until it is time to go to you. Do write to me very often and tell me how you are getting along with your work. I hope you will have pleasant weather for it.

Tell me whether you have heard anything from the sick folks [see note 5] and whether they have started for Wisconsin yet. I am quite well now. If you get a stove before I come I would some rather you would not get a very small one, but you can do just as you think best about it.

I am your loving wife,

At the end of three weeks, your grandmother could stand it no longer and went to DuBois.
Seventy years later.

Rockford, Illinois,
April 8, ’28.
Dear Ernest:

Your letter rec’d this morning. I was pleased to hear that you already had new clothes, for knew that if you took that trip East this summer, you would need them. The joke was on me, for I wrote the same request to Harry, and he informed me that he had just got them. Was glad to hear that Fred can pay for his home, for although he probably will be owing you and his mother-in-law on it sometime, it will be safe, and there will be no danger of a foreclosure if he should have some bad luck.
It is fine that you are to have a partner, for at your age you should get out of the office more. Also, that your business has increased to that extent that it can support two families. Harry is pleased too. I hope it will work out all right, that you will like the man, and that he will attract business.
Betty is pleased about her one hundred, said she would put it in the bank. She said, “But Grandma, why did you not get you some new furniture with the money?” I told her that I did not want any, have no callers now, but relatives. Have outlived all my old friends and the younger people don’t like to talk to deaf folks, when there are plenty to talk to who can hear. Do not think can possibly live much longer, for am much weaker than a year ago, and there is no use leaving a lot of furniture no one will want. My old stuff can be burned or given to the Salvation Army if they will take it. This is not gloomy, shall be glad to go. Do not want to live to be as old as Chauncey Depew. [See note 6.]

Monday 9th
I rather looked for you and Vinnie to drive out yesterday and make us a call. Looked for you for two Sundays before, now shall quit looking and likely you will come. The weather was disagreeable yesterday, with some snow on the ground, but this morning is fine with snow mostly gone. Last evening, Mamie walked over here with Harry, and I was so glad to know that she could. The girls came over. Ted and Betty were here and we had a pleasant time. Charles brought the Ford over, and took his mother home. He will go back to Madison tomorrow. Was glad to hear that Helen’s family are well again. Betty’s children started to school this morning. The whole family went to church three times yesterday.

Love to you both,

One week later we laid her to rest.

1. The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 were still a month away at this time. Abraham Lincoln had challenged Stephen A. Douglas for one of the Illinois U.S. Senate seats. They debated each other seven times from August through October. Lincoln lost the election, but the debates gained him national prominence, eventually leading to his election to the United States presidency.
2. “pizen things”: A pun in common use at the time: “pies and things” for the harvesters to eat.
3. John was nine years older than Mirinda.
4. Louis Dillworth Norton was her uncle. He and his wife, Loucinda, had at that time five children. Two baby daughters had died. They lived in Lincoln, Illinois, where Louis was a practicing attorney.
5. The sick folks were John’s mother, Elizabeth Andrews, and her foster daughter, Ellen Hall, who both had typhoid fever. They recovered all right and moved to Wisconsin to be with John’s brother, Seth.
6. Chauncey Depew was a railroad attorney and then a U.S. Senator from New York. He died just short of his 94th birthday on 5 April 1928.
Family Notes: In her final letter, Mirinda mentions her sons Ernest and Harry, their wives Vinnie and Mamie, and Ernest’s son Fred. She mentions her granddaughter Betty, the daughter of her deceased son Charles. Betty’s husband was Ted. She mentions Charles, who was Harry’s son, going to law school. She also mentions Helen, Ernest’s daughter.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Missing Letters of Mirinda Piper, part 3

Lincoln, May 12, 1858.
Dear Friend:

I have quite a task before me to answer three letters; but as it is my own fault (and really I do not consider it a task by any means) I have nothing to say. When I received yours of April 20th, I was undecided what to do and waited till I thought it was too late for you to receive a letter from me before leaving home. I am sorry now I did not write immediately for I know what it is to expect a letter and be disappointed.

I received the engraving Saturday night, about four weeks since. It is a beautiful picture, so life like; one almost seems to be in the midst of the happy group. I sincerely thank you for remembering me enough to have it sent.

Truly a private life is far preferable to a public one. A person that serves the public has a thankless office and he must be far happier who is aloof from all the harasses a public life naturally brings with it. If happiness is not to be found at home among our nearest and dearest friends, I ask, where is it to be found?

Please do not think your letters will ever be out of season or visits either. You need not apologize for your letters nor warn me of your visits; any time it is convenient I will not only be pleased but happy to see you or hear from you. I do not know how to express myself about burning your letters. I would as soon think of burning anything else as them, and you surely ought to know that by this time. (Excuse my impertinence)

Well, I was at the wedding. There was not much to describe, except that they both think they are the happiest people in this world, but as that is sure to be the case, it is not much use to tell that. The happy couple start tomorrow on the cars for Missouri where he resides. It is about 14 miles from Kansas in the south part of Missouri. By the way, her name was Miss Rachel Rush and his is Mr. Rankin. By the way (also), there was another of my friends married the same day; so they go, one by one, till there will hardly be any girls here at all after awhile; there is certainly few enough here now.

It has rained almost incessantly here ever since I can’t tell when. The farmers are nearly discouraged and think they will not raise any corn this year at all. The roads are perfectly awful and in many places are impassable.

This is certainly the most entertaining and interesting sheet imaginable. I think if you was to try to burn this, it is so “dry” it would flash up like powder.

I have often thought that my old friends have all forgotten me or only remember me as insignificant and hardly worth mentioning. I have so little confidence in myself some times I think I have not enough and very often I think I have too much.

As it is getting very late, I will close this dry epistle, although I have not written near as much as I thought when I began.

I remain yours                   
Most Truly,                 
Mirinda Piper         
Mr John Andrews

Lincoln, Ill. May 26th, 1858
Dear Friend:

Yours of the 26th was received today, and I was very happy to hear you would be here so soon. I hasten to say that I will be happy to see you and also at any time that it is convenient for you to call, as I said before.

There has more rain fell since you were here than I ever saw in the same length of time before, but as the “oldest inhabitant” is not at home, I do not know how much he has been. The roads are nearly impassable and it seems as if there would never be any more pleasant weather.

I answered yours of May 5th almost immediately on the reception of it, but I suppose the rain has deranged the mails so much that it is uncertain whether you ever received it.

The moon is shining brightly for the first time in a long time. Do you ever look at the moon? Of course you do, but do you ever think that the same moon is looking down on all our friends at the same time, and although we are separated we can be gazing at the same beautiful moon?

I sincerely hope you will have a pleasant journey and arrive here at the time you expected to. I will send this tomorrow and perhaps you will get it by Friday, but if you do not, it will not be much difference as you come soon.

You must not expect a very lengthy or sensible letter this time (but as you never receive any of the latter kind from me you will not be disappointed) as my ideas are very much scattered and confused this evening.

Once more wishing you a safe journey and a pleasant time, I will bid you good night.

Most truly yours,                                
Mirinda Piper                           

Lincoln, June 6th, 1858
Dear Friend:

Well, you did have a good time generally, on your way home and saw some sights. You saw “three drunk men and Miss Jackson”, I presume they were in different crowds. You did stay till “the rain was over” for that day and the next; but on Wednesday the rain came down as if we had not had any for a month. You ask “how large the moon seems to me”, well, about as large as a very small plate, is not that about the size.

Since you were here, I have thought deeply on what you spoke of at that time. I have certainly given you every assurance in my power that you are preferred. I have always had the most entire confidence in you and it has never been shaken since our association began. I believe I am not mistaken in your character—that I do know you, and oh! that you may never think of me different from what you do now. My heart has long been yours, as you already know. My spirit is always with you, whether in danger or out of it. Yes, I have trusted you far and will trust you farther if you can me. I can return no other answer,—although I sometimes tremble when I think that your happiness is involved. Oh! what would I not endur rather than be the cause of unhappiness in you. Destiny seemed to have thrown obstructions in my way from my childhood but could never blot from my memory the virtues I ever believed you to possess. Not even a sense of my deficiencies could make me forget you. But will not the course of the dearest and kindest of friends be a guide and a stay to me? The prospect cheers me and bids me hope I may succeed.

You spoke of my parents. The thought of being separated from me seems very painful to them, yet, to everything else they prefer the happiness of their children, and, honoring you as they do, will not stand in its way.

Now, I have written frankly just what my feelings are towards you. Have I spoken too plainly or said too much? You speak of my happiness. Could I have any greater earthly pleasure than to be loved by one so dear to me?

No doubt you have arrived safe at home before this time and picked up another of my letters on your way. I do hope the mails have not got so entirely out of order that we will not get our letters regularly, for that would certainly give me the “blues” and you know that is a very bad disease.

I was down to Salt Creek today and thought what a pleasant time we had there a few days ago. Your initials are there, just as you left them. Also, I was in town last week and had my miniature taken and our folks say it flatters “orfully” and I think it does too.

Well, I believe I have written all the nonsense I can think of so I will close for the night.

I remain yours as ever,                               
Mirinda Piper                                  
Mr. John Andrews

Lincoln, Ill. June 28th, 1858
Dearest Friend:

Yours of the 20th was received 5 days after it was written, as soon as could be expected, considering the roads and weather.

Although I know it will be a severe trial for me to leave my parents and would rather, if it was perfectly convenient, be near them, I will not be selfish and am willing to go with you where ever you propose. I have not the least shadow of fear that you will “deceive” me, neither have my parents, if I had, I would not have trusted you with my happiness. I am bound to my home by closer ties than most girls of my age. Father being from home so much of the time, I was almost the only companion my mother had, and never being away from home more than one week at a time, it will be very hard on me for a while; but, as I have never lived in one place long at a time, am of course, not much attached to any country. As Father never stays very long in a place, I could not expect you to live near him, and you know my sentiments in regard to changing residences.

You ask, what time do I propose. I would much rather you would suggest some time, as you are as much concerned as I am, and perhaps it would make more difference to you than it would to me; at least you can propose some time in your next; as you have all the trouble of coming, you should certainly have something to say in the matter.

I am glad you intend to write often, it is such a long time to wait for a letter, I get nearly out of patience. Your miniature is a source of great pleasure to me, there is nothing I prize so highly. Why did you not speak about mine when you were here? I would certainly have had it taken, bad as the weather was. If you wish it, I will send it by mail, although would much rather you would come after it, but know that is impossible as you have been here so lately and it is such a great distance.

The Art journal came duly to hand some days since and I am very much pleased with it. There are some very interesting pieces in it, but presume you have seen it.

Father has been very unwell for two or three weeks, so much so he has been on the bed most of the time. This morning he thought he would ride over to Lincoln and did so. He took my letter and on arriving there found it was gone. He looked everywhere he had been but could not find it. I was very sorry and so was he but it could not be helped. I concluded I would write another immediately. I would have waited until I received another from you but knew you would be uneasy; I know I would be. You have the advantage of me in that particular, you take your own letters to the P.O. but I have to send mine by someone else and do not always know whether they will go safe or not. I would not have troubled you with this explanation if I had not thought I might be possible some person would find it and put it in the P.O. and you would think strange receiving two letters so near alike. I know you will excuse it as it was an accident and one that I could not possibly avoid, nor any one else for that matter.

I was just thinking the other day how much we had been favored; none of our letters have been miscarried or lost before and this would not have happened if Father had been well. I have always feared something of the kind would happen ever since the correspondence began. This is truly a “tedious way of communicating with each other” but, as you say, “must be endured for a while yet”.

You do not know how much pleasure your letters give me or I am sure you would write every week. You know, I promised to write every time you did and I will. But I must “bring my few lines to a close.

I remain yours                                   
Very Truly,                                     
Mirinda Piper                             
John Andrews

Ernest John Andrews wrote: The lost letter referred to was no doubt picked up and mailed by some thoughtful person, as it was received, and here it is:

Lincoln, Illinois
June 28th/58
Dear John:

Yours of the 20th was received 5 days after it was written; much sooner than I expected, considering the weather. There has been no rain here for about two weeks and the farmers are complaining of the dry weather and wish it would rain almost as much as they wished it to stop some time since.

Although I know it will be a great trial for me to leave my parents and would rather if it was perfectly convenient be near them, I will not be selfish. I am willing to go with you where ever you propose. I have not the least shadow of a fear that you will deceive me, neither have my parents. I am bound to my home by closer ties than most girls of my age. Father being absent from home so much, I was almost the only companion my mother had, and never being away from home more than a week at a time, it will be hard on me for a time, but not having lived in one place for any length of time of course am not much attached to any country, and you know my sentiments with regard to changing residences. As my parents never stay very long in one place, I could not ask you to live near them unless it perfectly suited you. I am very thankful for your disinterestedness. Few men would be willing to surrender their judgment to any and I certainly do appreciate your kindness. May I ever prove worthy of such tenderness.

You ask what time do I propose. I would much rather you would suggest some time in your next, as you are as much concerned as I am and perhaps it will make more difference to you than it does to me; as you have all the trouble of coming, you certainly ought to have something to say in the matter.

I am glad you are going to write often, it is so long to wait for a letter I get almost out of patience waiting. Your miniature is a source of great pleasure to me; there is nothing I prize so highly. If you had just spoken about mine when you were here, I would have had it taken, bad as the weather was, and if you would like to have it, I will send it to you by mail. I do not think you can send me a dog; you will have to come and bring it and I don’t care how soon. The Art Journal came duly to hand a few says since and I am very much pleased with it but I presume you have seen it. The weather is so warm I can hardly get my breath. If it stays this way long, there will be nothing raised here.

I remain very truly yours,                            
Mirinda Piper                                     

John Andrews very properly wrote to Mirinda’s parents formally and asked for her hand in marriage. Ernest John Andrews wrote: Evidently, John Andrews wrote to the parents, asking for their daughter, as they wrote as follows:

Lincoln, Il. July 5th, 1858
Mr. Andrews
Dear Sir:

                                                                                               Your letter of June 28th was received in my absence and my wife wrote you on another part of this sheet— She was in bad health and perhaps you may not be able to decipher it all.

I join in the request she has made in regard to her religious privileges, etc. Tho’ I must say that I have not the remotest fear of any abridgement.

It truly is a hard task to give up a beloved and favorite child; but I have so much confidence in the hands of them she is confided to that it greatly lessens the pain.

I have not a shadow of reason to offer as an objection, yet, I could wish you could be nearer to us that we might enjoy your society more. But our lots are cast at present where they are and we must submit.

Yours truly,
                    B. B. Piper.

Dear Friend:

Your request recalls to mind a subject on which I have thought much. Not that I expect to arrive at any very wise conclusions by study or thought. But thought toils on like destiny. It is never idle even when the objects of its solicitude are wrapped in quiet slumber. What care, anxiety, on a subject that to all outward seeming should give only joy. Yes, care, not unmingled (I confess) with gratitude and hope. I am not ignorant of the truth that the union of fortunes so widely different in almost everything is a matter of no small moment. I say almost, for the true heart is a priceless gem that can never be excelled. We may speak thus of our human flowers, our coveted treasures; but others are not so partial. Therefore, no small share of wisdom will be required to perform successfully the duties of the new position with which you propose to honor my child; and, will that wisdom be granted in the time of her need? is the question I have asked myself, O! how often.

Even her untaught and absent minded mother might sometimes give counsel that would be useful. But she will need a stronger and wiser friend; and will that true friend, that faithful prompter be ever near; will he find means to impart what will be received in the same spirit of love in which it is given?

Her religious views are known to you. I scarcely think it necessary to say that I desire there may be no abridgement of those privileges to which she has been accustomed. The tenderness with which I have heard you speak of your mother and sister assures me that such a request would be unnecessary. Nor do I believe you would seek to draw her away from the principles whose strength and purity have sustained her under so many trials and which better than any other support can give the power to be a cheerful companion through life. How much you many need such an one is not now known, nor how much you may sacrifice for your fellow men. Minds are seldom endowed with such powers unless they are needed. The field will be shown sooner or later or I misjudge.

I strangely forget. Why do I thus weary you? None but a mother knows a mother’s heart. Your mother! O! that I could know she would never regret, with just cause, the choice of her son. May my child never be lacking to you and yours; and may every cloud and chill mist be driven away by the warm sunshine of affection, should any such arise.

Yes, should you be permitted to claim the performance of the promise so sincerely made you have my full and free consent. You are the only man I ever saw to whom I could willingly have given the child in whose life my own is so perfectly bound up that I tremble to think she is no longer mine. O! may your path be bright. Fain would I pluck away the thorns and leave only the flowers.

“Be pardoned one repining tear, for he who gave her knows how dear.” [note 1]

Undying Truth but claims its own; yet dreaded thought, alone, alone. [note 2]

With my best wishes for the welfare of you and yours.

I am your friend,
                                                     Delia D. Piper

Ernest John Andrews wrote:
This is a remarkable letter. It is the supreme renunciation of a woman of sorrow. Much of the time of her husband was spent away from home, ministering to his various churches, work in which he delighted, and among those who sought to make his life pleasant. While she struggled much alone in ill health against poverty and the sickness of her four young children. Her church ministering was largely to care for those who were often “visitors” but not “company”; who sought often bed and board for a day. Three times she had followed a child to its grave; and long since her own mother had died. In those days, not only were children afflicted with the ills of our day but many more. She, herself, when the letter was written was in “bad health”, and she soon after grew worse and died. She, perhaps, knew that her end was near, and she realized that parting with her “coveted treasure” would end her hopes for joy on earth.

But the letter discloses only respect, admiration, and best wishes towards the seeker of her treasure. She made no complaint. She asked for no delay, though her child was but seventeen. The little she desired was taken for granted. she was a devout church woman; a minister’s wife; and was giving her “child in whom her life was so perfectly bound up” to a comparative stranger who lived beyond the state, and who was neither a church member nor a believer in her creeds. And yet, with breaking heart she writes: “Should you be permitted to claim the performance of the promise so sincerely made, you have my full and free consent. You are the only man I ever saw to whom I could willingly have given the child in whose life my own is so perfectly bound up that I tremble to think she is no longer mine.”

Well may we be proud of her of whom she wrote, and of him to whom she wrote. And well may we be proud of her who wrote. It is such women as she who slowly lead humanity upwards. From this letter and from what I know otherwise, my admiration for her is without bounds.

The letter, too, is the inspiration of genius. Inspired, perhaps, by the crisis which faced her and with the philosopher’s vision, she has expressed truths and only as a poet can. What might she not have done with full opportunity to develop her gift. Without education or training; a mere woman before the woman’s day; without encouragement, without authority, perhaps, her soul bursts forth in imagery and language which puts to shame much of the twaddle of today.

“Thought toils on like destiny.” Who has not found it so? but who has expressed it so forcibly. “The true heart is a priceless gem that can never be excelled.” A profound truth, gracefully expressed, and graciously implying that her correspondent, as well as her own child, had this gem. And throughout the letter the spirit of the philosopher and the poet shines forth. How much is conveyed in the few words which seem to be her own: “Undying Truth but claims its own; yet, dreaded thought, alone, alone.” Bowing to the inevitable, her soul bares its woe.

Let us hope that this woman of sorrow has transmitted the germ of her gifts to her posterity, so that some descendant will benefit humanity as she might have done had she lived a century later.

And let us be thankful that her trust was not misplaced, and that for seventy years or more her child was granted the health and happiness which for so long had been denied to her. [note 3]

1. “Be pardoned one repining tear!/ For He, who gave her, knows how dear,” are lines from Sir Walter Scott’s 1810 poem “The Lady of the Lake.”
2. In Book II of John Keats’ 1818 poem “Endymion,” there is an image of mother Cymbele coming “alone – alone” which might have been familiar to Delia and may have been part of the inspiration for these lines.
3. My own thoughts on Delia D. Piper’s letter are somewhat in agreement with his, but first I note his tone of condescension, unconsciously adopted by a man who was used to a world in which women were second class, but who nevertheless consciously welcomed a change to more equal status. He was writing his analysis of her letter about the time that women were first granted the right to vote in the United States. He was ahead of his time as a genealogist in tracing the lines of all his female ancestors as well as those of his male ancestors. I love that he recognized and celebrated the poetic gifts of his grandmother. However, that he thinks she needed to live a hundred years later to have been able to express such gifts somewhat denigrates the women of her era who did write poetry and very successfully. And Delia herself denigrates her ability to analyze and present coherent thoughts, but her letter belies her modesty. She is perfectly articulate.
Delia Deborah Norton Piper came originally from a somewhat wealthy family, so when she wrote about the problems of a couple with widely disparate financial backgrounds, she knew personally the situation she saw her daughter entering. But where her daughter Mirinda was marrying a man with more wealth than the Piper’s, Delia herself married into poverty after being reared in a home with material advantages. Her father was a liberal man who tried to do for his daughter what he could, allowing for the natural pride of his son-in-law. It was a difficult situation, and perhaps that was part of the unhappiness Delia always felt.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Missing Letters of Mirinda Piper, part 2

Here are four more months’ worth of letters written by Mirinda Piper to her future husband, John Andrews. The beginning of this relationship is in “Mirinda’s Missing Letters.”  At this point they were still just friends, but the romance was progressing, albeit with a few bumps of misunderstanding. These transcriptions are from my great-grandfather’s transcriptions of his mother’s original letters, which my father’s cousin gave to a tiny museum at the south end of Indiana in 1990, and which has since closed with no information about what happened to its collection. I had the original letters when I was in high school and read them over and over. But I cannot remember enough to know whether these transcriptions are completely accurate. Ah well!

At the end are my notes of explanation on some of the obscure things in the letters.

Lincoln, Jan. 7th, ’58
Respected Friend:

Yours of the 31 was received today, and I hasten to answer, thinking perhaps you may not receive this before leaving home. Illinois is a large state, and as you did not say what part you are going to, I cannot say whether you will have a pleasant journey or not but I sincerely hope you will.

As the “Down East folks” would say, I “guess” I will have to walk over the style [note 1] a while longer as we are yet minus a gate. Well, the mails are tardy, and I will admit that my letter was delayed rather longer than perhaps it should have been; but I think I am doing better this time.

Yes, hope consoles us ever. I have long lived on her smiles! Without hope, this world would be a dreary void, but with it always present, we would shrink from no trial.

“Sweet sister of my comforter divine,
Oft hast thou cheered this weary heart of mine.
Be thou! a resident within my breast,
And make me worthy of my noble guest.”

I too have nothing interesting to write, but it is not always the gossip of the neighborhood that interests me most.

I thank you for your kind wishes and I will return the compliment, hoping that this year will end as it has begun with every blessing that we need, kind friends, good health and a happy home. The wish is already half fulfilled in the reception of a letter from so sincere a friend.

Yours truly,
Mirinda Piper
Mr. John Andrews.

Lincoln, Jan 25th/57 [sic]
Dear Friend:

I hope you did not think me curious—what business of mine was it what part of Ill. you were going to. When I read yours of Dec. 31, I thought it might be possible you were coming to Lincoln and wrote in that way to quiz me. Now that was my reason for writing as I did. I was mortified to think I have given you cause to believe I was meddling with what did not concern me. Perhaps this is not the first time I have been misunderstood. I am apt to say what I mean and often mean only what I say, as was the case in my last.

No wonder “sage says beware”—let those who wish to be happy listen to her voice.

You say you “expect to pass a portion of the present year in Illinois”—I will be happy to see you at any time it is convenient for you to call here.

Your reflections on the Arctic Expedition are worthy of consideration [note 2]. I cannot help thinking the evil must out balance the good in such a case. You speak truly of the suspense of their friends while they were absent. Suspense! What a world of torture is in the word!

It is possible you will not receive this—but if you do not you will not lose much and perhaps you will not regret it. Your letters are always interesting to me, but I do think mine must be very dry to you.

We have had a beautiful winter, but it will soon be over now, and I hope we will not have to suffer for it in the spring.

I would not have written this so soon this time if I had not wished to explain myself in regard to that foolish blunder I made.

I remain yours very truly,
M. Piper

Lincoln, Ill. Feb. 4/58
Dear Friend:

Thanks! Thanks! I am myself again. I am not misunderstood; not thought a “Paul Pry.” I wonder if Eugenia and Victoria [note 3] are very happy? What is the influence of the one, or the empty title of the other, to the pleasure I now feel.

No, I am not corresponding with one unworthy of my most sincere respect, my most implicit confidence, and if I was, I need not fear now; the conflict is over, the victory won, and I am the stronger for the encounter. From the time the blinding, stunning thought first entered my mind, I could say with Burns “the wretched have no more to fear” [note 4]. But no, the selfish world would have nothing to gain, the designing nothing to admire.

“Nothing in my letter that should have been left out.” No, and not quite all that should have been put in, I knew and felt it at the time, but it was so unexpected, so overpowering, it took away the power to write, almost the power to breathe, the subject was too sacred for my pen, I dared not, I felt that I could not reply, so was silent; was the key in your possession and the writer not wholly insignificant, that letter would be highly flattering to you.

Your views on sacrificing so much to fame agree with mine exactly. Who knows better than I the anguish of loneliness and suspense? Perhaps my mother does, but I have suffered with her, and ever since I could understand her sorrow, I have been her confidant, almost her sole companion in affliction. No wonder then I am such a sensitive, impulsive, self accusing sort of being that I am.

Well now, I will tell you what I am doing; I am corresponding with the only man in the world who could obtain such a privilege, poor as it is; and I have refused it where education, position, beauty and wealth were in the premises, and why not now? ‘Because, when I was a little girl, I knew one who was incapable of a mean action. Is there a word in all my letters about deceit? Have you not wondered at it? Well, you might, because I would answer candor with candor. You are the only person with whom I ever converse long, without finding it necessary to refer to the subject in self defence. No! not distrust my correspondent, but of myself, and a dread that I could not make myself understood, has caused me to have so many dark scenes of doubt and self reproach.

If I may ask questions, guess what would be the first: Are the cars safe? Will the steamboat arrive at port without accident? Are there no causes of fever in the atmosphere?

I know, in the sight of our great benefactor, there are no distinctions, but with men it is different. How much do you think the thought has caused me? More than I can express. Here again, I was afraid of being misunderstood. I know how utterly false and worldly are many of my sex; but I trust you believe there are exceptions.

Oh! what would I not have given had things been different. You need no stronger proof of my sincere esteem than is seen in the fact that I have not closed the correspondence on this account. Reverse the case and you will understand it better; as Burns says “suppose a change of places” [note 5].

But I will close, fearing I have already wearied you. I hope if you come here, you will feel at home and enjoy yourself also.

I remain yours as ever
Mirinda Piper

P.S. I find, on reviewing my letter, I have made a great many mistakes; will you please excuse them? M. P.

Lincoln, Ill.
Feb. 10th, 1858
Dear Friend:

I do not think I have anything to forgive—there was a misunderstanding on my part, and if I had not been so sensitive I never would have construed yours the way I did; but suppose we drop this unpleasant subject forever.

I thought the day for “ox wagons” were passed away. We often read of such things in old times, but I suppose the Egyptians still preserve the manners and customs of their forefathers [note 6].

Instead of the people of Lincoln and vicinity having great times sleigh-riding, it is quite the contrary, as there has been no snow until last Monday, when there came quite a snow, and the weather is so cold I think it will stay some time.

You are mistaken if you think I ever “sing a genial song”, after reading your letters. In the first place, after reading them, I have to give them a second perusal, and very often a third before I am willing to relinquish them. Secondly, I do not know any song that would suit the occasion; and thirdly, I am not a very good singer; and therefore I do not wish to disturb my pleasant reflections by any discordant notes.

You will probably receive my last in answer to yours of January 30th before this time. As it was written almost on the impulse of the moment, it may not contain exactly what I would wish it to. I expect I wrote too soon. I should have waited until my mind was clearer when, in all probability, I would have written with more wisdom and prudence. Perhaps, it would have been better had I committed it to the flames before sending, or you can do it for me when you read it, and I assure you I will not regret it. If there is anything wrong about it, it is too late for me to recall now. If there is anything in it that will wound your feelings, I hope you will not hesitate to let me know it. I have thought very much about some portions of the letter and fear that my remarks were illtimed but I trust you will not censure my motives, but let my inexperience be my excuse.

I remain yours truly,
Mirinda Piper
Mr. John Andrews.

Lincoln, Ill. Feb. 28th, 1857 [sic]
Dear Friend:

Like a beautiful dream all too quickly passed is the answer to that letter which has caused me so much anxiety. Oh, there is surely trial before me for life is made up of changes, and I feel so unworthy of the sunshine that it almost alarms me, lest a cloud should follow; yes, I feel that it is a dream.

Accident has caused me to write things I never intended to write. Perhaps you do know me better than I had thought, for childhood knows nothing of policy, and therefore I think “truth is strange, stranger than fiction”. Well, as it was then, so it is now. I have no wish to deceive, or make a fellow being unhappy. This is why I have said I was “overrated”. I have been borne along by circumstances, I scarcely know how, I was resolved to be candid. The perfectly honorable course you have pursued from the first has at least deserved this and the sentiments expressed in your last makes me feel my insignificance more than ever. May I be worthy to retain such a place in such a mind.

You say my letter gave you pleasure—how unworthy I feel of such happiness—and yet how sincere the happiness. “Treasure, do you indeed deem it such, then cast it not away; worthily your own and nobly won”—under the circumstances were it not already surrendered, it would scarcely be worth the possessing.

Your views on a special Providence are doubtless correct as far as they go, but I am so ignorant of Philosophy that I must account for things in a different way. It is pleasant in the sunshine of prosperity to trace effects to their causes, and then I love to study your beautiful theory; but, when the dark clouds close around me and shut out the light, how can I see my way in the darkness? not by human reason; no, it fails me; the waves would soon overwhelm my poor bark. Here the question arises, if the foundation is taken away, what will the righteous do? The answer is “the everlasting arms are underneath” [Deuteronomy 33:27]. O, what a soothing thought “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” [Zechariah 4:6].

The winter kind has made his appearance at last but the season is so far advanced I think his reign will be short.

I shouldn’t wonder if the cars with the mails were snowed up, they come so slow.

I am yours
very truly,
M. Piper
Mr. J. Andrews

Lincoln, Ill. March 5th, 1858
Dear Friend:

I do not think power or fame will give happiness. They say “Contentment is the true Philosopher’s stone” [note 7], and if any one is contented with their lot in life, they are truly happy. Although the dispositions of our friends add very much to our happiness or misery—within our own heart lies the true secret of enjoyment. If we are of a crabbed or churlish temper, we will not be happy, no difference how amiable and pleasant our friends and acquaintances are.

“Trifles make the sum of human things
And half our misery from our folly springs.”

I know this by experience. [Note 8]

No, I did not think that letter was undeservedly flattering to you; but that it was too impulsive, that perhaps it was uncalled for; but I do not think so now; I am convinced that it was only imagination in me.

I do not see anything wrong about your letter, nor indeed any of them, so far. Now, I do not wish you to think me silly, but, really, if I had such a fund of thought to draw from as you have, I would not have any trouble about writing.

It seems as if Spring is determined to take vengeance on us for the mild winter we have had. I do sincerely hope cold weather will not hold on as long as it did last spring.

There has been a considerable amount of sickness here this winter—fevers of different kinds, but I suppose it is owing to the sickness last fall. We have all escaped though.

Well “Patience is a virtue” but I do not know whether it is hardly fair for you to claim all the honor—I think you should give me some of the credit. I have been very patient.

I am yours very truly,
M. Piper
Mr. John Andrews

Lincoln, Ill. March 15, 1858
Dear Friend:

Yours of the 7th was “unexpected” but not unpleasant or “against my will”. I am never displeased on the reception of a letter from you anytime. I was just thinking before the letter came, I was sorry it was not time for a letter yet.

No, I do not think there is any harm in writing on Sunday. In my opinion, there are a great many worse things practiced on Sunday—reading novels, talking nonsense, visiting, etc. I once heard a couple of young ladies talking, one said “Is it possible you write letters on the Sabbath?” “O”, replied the other, “I only write moral letters on Sunday.” Now, I think I never write any other kind but moral ones, but I presume she meant religious letters. I do not know why you do seek my company, I have such a poor opinion of myself I cannot think there is anything attractive about me. Perhaps, it is better for me that I am not so. I might have had a great deal of trouble about it, as it is I have nothing to fear.

The weather is very mild and pleasant, the birds are singing and seeming to rejoice in the return of the Spring, and everything looks like we would soon have warm weather again. The summers in this country are as pleasant as the winters are disagreeable and unpleasant.

I have answered both of your other letters and, no doubt, you have received them before this time. What you will think of them I do not know, as they were written in my usual “scatterbrain” style.

I have nothing of importance to write as the gossip of the neighborhood would not interest you, and if it would I do not know any of it, therefore cannot retail it.

Yours very truly,
M. Piper.
P.S. March 21.
You will see this was written one week ago, but thinking I would receive an answer to mine of Feb. 28, I did not send it, but I have not received any yet, so I have concluded to send this. Perhaps you have not received mine. I am sorry now I did not send this but neglected it as I said before, thinking I would receive another very soon.
Yours very truly,

Lincoln, Ill.
March 29th, 1858
Dear Friend:

Yours of the 15th was received some days since, but, owing to a combination of circumstances, I could not answer it right away. I did not speak of your “beautiful theory” jestingly. I do think it is pleasant to contemplate and perhaps it is right. At any rate, I cannot argue. I know you would beat me in an argument any time.

I did receive a letter from you dated March 7th and was pleased to think I was remembered in the far off city.

The weather is fine now. Spring has come at last.

I am uncommon dull today and you must excuse me, if this falls short of your expectations. We have had a continual stream of company the last two or three days and I am “tired to death” to use a common phrase.

On looking over this, I find it is the dryest letter I ever wrote, but I will say as you did, I will try and do better next time, you will see it is written in haste.

Yours as ever,
M. Piper

P.S. “They say a lady’s letter cannot be written without a postscript”. All I wish to say is, if you knew how much pleasure your last gave me you would not complain of my correspondent.

The following note was written by my great-grandfather between these two letters. What he did not explain was that there was a personal visit between these two letters: 
The last letter was directed to Du Bois, Illinois, where John Andrews was for a short time, assisting in planting some 3000 fruit trees on the farm purchased the fall before.
The following letter refers to “Egypt” which is often the name given to southern Illinois and includes DuBois.

Lincoln, April 11th, 1858
Dear Friend:

No doubt you are very popular in “Egypt”. I expect the “Natives” think you have a great deal of “booklarning”, and perhaps if you would stay there they would elect you to some office, at any rate, if I was you, I would rather risk that than going to Utah [note 9]. Of course, you were joking about that. I would be very sorry if I thought you was not. There will be plenty ready to go that will not be missed very much; perhaps someone will miss them, I won’t though; no selfish motive in that!

I did understand you in regard to your religious principles and was very well satisfied that you spoke so. It is right that there should be no misunderstanding on that subject. My opinion is, in anything of that nature, human beings have to answer to their own conscience, not to another.

You must know that if I had not received considerable pleasure from your letters and visits I never would have permitted them this long, and the happiest period of my life has been since this correspondence commenced; although dark clouds have occasionally hung over my spirits for a short time, the bright sun would again shine forth and I would know that my gloominess was occasioned by my own foolish fancies.

If my letters afford you any pleasure, you are welcome to them, such as they are, and it is only for the happy privilege of receiving one from you; but I must not be selfish.

I know what it is to leave unsaid things I should have said and say things I should not have said, but I think you said a great deal that was interesting and instructive to me, and I always feel, after I have been in your company, as though I had learned something new. As for me, I am always making some blunder, and sometimes feel afraid to say anything in company for fear I will say something green.

By the way, there is to be a wedding in the neighborhood in a few days. One of the fairest flowers of Logan is about to step into the matrimonial noose. If I get an invitation to the wedding and go, I will give you the proceedings.

We have had rain, rain, rain! since you left here, and there is not very much prospect of fair weather soon; the clouds look very threatening now, and I do not know where it will end.

I was very much pleased to receive your letter so soon, and I will try and be more prompt hereafter—I do not know whether you can read this scribble; there is something the matter with the paper, pen or ink, so the words are hardly visible to the naked eye, but if you will take a microscope perhaps you can make them out.

My parents are both gone away and I am rather lonesome but now while I am writing, I enjoy myself very well.

Enclosed, I will send you some wild flowers, the first of the season. Please excuse mistakes!

Yours very truly,
Mirinda Piper
Mr. John Andrews


1.  A stile is an arrangement of steps that allows people but not animals to climb over a wall.
2.  In 1857 Lady Jane Franklin hired Francis McClintock to search for the remains of her husband’s lost Arctic expedition of 1850. McClintock’s ship was frozen into the ice for the winter in December 1857.
3.  Eugenia was the empress of France at that time; Victoria was the queen of the British Empire.
4.  From “Farewell Song to the Banks of Ayr” by Robert Burns.
5.  From lines about Bonnie Jean Armour by Robert Burns.
6.  Mirinda was not referring to the ox-drawn covered wagons even then crossing the Great Plains; she was making a pun about the nickname for southern Illinois, which was called “Egypt” in those days.
7.  “Contentment is the true philosopher’s stone”—The Ladies Wreath, published in 1852, page 347.
8.  The verse is by Hannah More, quoted in an 1836 book called The Puritan: A Series of Essays, Critical, Moral, and Miscellaneous, Volume I, edited by Leonard Withington, page 150, no. 17.
9.  U.S. President James Buchanan had sent an army the previous summer to Utah to put down the Mormon rebellion. The Mormons of this time were blasphemers and licentious, according to popular opinion.