1879 Letters

January 1, 1879 letter to Margaret Stinehart from Julia Allen

January 1, 1879

To: Margaret Stinehart    

From: Julia Allen, Comstock, MI

Daily accounting of the family life.

Comstock, 1879

Dear Sister Margaret[1]

January 1st, We[2] went to Keiths[3] and held New Years, Hanks family[4] there too. Nancys Pa plays on a violin, & her Brother[5] on the Organ so we heard good music. Hank give both familys pictures of himself and family all framed (in a Group) and Nancy me one of the Baby (Lela May) taken with her night cap on looks cute.

2nd, Stormed all last night & all day & awful cold too, yesterday pleasant. A[6] has butchered a Beef for Mr Jackson.[7] W.[8] Lazyd around, done chores. M[9] is making him shirts. I am knitting some Blocks for a standcloth found pattern in Book. It will keep me busy a long time.

3rd, Everything freezeable was froze this morning. Men got wood, M sewd, I knit.

4th, Not so cold. Sister Mary[10] 56 years old today. Men to Burg[11] bought butter 14cts a pound got over 3 pounds. W. staid to Burg.

5th, Not a person here today, they have all gone to Burg, I would went but didn’t. M baked pies, fried cakes, popped corn. I done the dishes, swept. W. mended harness, A chored.

6th, We washed. Men got 2 loads of ice in the icehouse. Hank come here afoot took horse and Cutter went to Town after Picture frames. Says they got done washing at 9 oclock, then he mopped the House, retouched 1 picture, then come.

7th, Men got Ice. We ironed, I knit, read lots. M. sewing Carpet rags. Warmer.

8th, We went to Hanks, M. ironed for Nancy, I tended Baby. We come home before night. Mr & Mrs Flanders[12] here in the evening a visiting.

9th, Men to Streators[13] a helping clean up, and draw off wheat to Galesburg. Get all of 87cts per bushel. M sewing rags. I got your letter Margaret. Glad you got the things New Years.

10th, Men to Streator, M footing socks. Willis hasn’t camped out yet, to cold.

11th, A went to Burg sold 2 quarters of Veal 3cts a pound. Brought Nancy and her Grandmother[14] over. She went home tonight and Hank come. I began mittens for Will.

12th, One of A,s Nieces (Mrs Town) her husband and 2 children[15] here visiting today. W. has got a hard cold. Hank fishing, caught 2 nice ones. All gone home now.

13th, A butchered for Jackson, W. laid around. We washed. M has a bad cold.

14th, Mrs William Ralph & Baby[16] here visiting. He spent the evening here. A. has them spells again.[17] W. drawed load of sawdust to put on the ice.

15th, Storms again, & my knees aches like split. I have got 1 mitten knit. A and M went to Burg, she got binding for Coat, he, horse medicine.

16th, A caught a small Owl in the Doves box, (it had killed one), they put it in the Grainery and it has caught 2 mice that they have seen. Claude[18] and his Grand-pa Keith here to Dinner. W. chopped, we mended & knit.

17th, Men drawed some wood then A. went to Burg, & W. fishing, ——.

18th, W. went to Armses[19], this morning a fishing. A to Burg this afternoon, M. is writing to C. Lunn.[20] Got a letter from him last week, not a word about his wife in it, nor not much else. I have got Wills mittens done, got the blue too.

19th, A. has done chores, M has knit more than a sock foot, I, 1 block. Snow squalls.

20th, We washed. A. and M. went to the Burg this afternoon. I had M. get me a pair of Dollar Gaiters.[21] A. got his Calfskin Vest tanned with the hair on, is to pay 3 Dollars for making & Trimmings. Pretty but very light. Claude come with them.

21st, A done chores, borrowed a Churn, took theirs off to be fixed (the one they moved from York-State).[22] Claude talkes all the time been out to the Barn & brought in a Puppy thinks its nice. W. got home tonight got quite a many fishes.

22nd, A has been doctoring a horse that got kicked, it is Streetors. Last week he bled one, for the Mr Ralph that was here visiting. M has churned twice what she could done at once in her Churn. A took Claude home, Lela not very well. W. has chopped some. I am making him some blue Wristlets.

23rd, A. has been to Flanders a butchering. M churned again. Sent 7 pounds of butter to Town got 15cts a pound. W. went, he sold a Dollar & 70cts worth of fish, 8cts a pound for them. Got coat binding & Groceries. Took the Owl out but had to give it away. A Boy come (Willie Wagner)[23] home with him to stay a spell. There is lots to do here, 3 new milk Cows & 2 Calfs to feed. You see the men is away so much there is nothing got along with here. M is worried all the time, she always works. I am sorry for her (if we do have lots of Spats). They have gone to Streetors tonight. Claude 4 years old today.

24th, A went a butchering, W. shelled corn to grind. He went to a dance this evening.

25th, Both Wills went to Mill. A home. We worked, knit. Hanks folks come tonight.

26th, Hank fished. Boys rode down hill. They, Nancy & I played bards. M Churned 4 times last week and again today. Nancy had her hair cut off.[24] Hank gone home.

[No entries for January 27, 28 or 29]

30th, Snow going off fast. Nancy went home, I helped her to weave the hair she had cut off. It made a switch that looks nice (hers was falling out so). Marg, I have got a switch worth seeing that I made out of my combings, rooted it, & wove it all myself. They have got the Churn home. Like it well churns so much easier. Men has butchered the old Cow today. M. hopes it’s the last greasey job for this winter here, I too do.

31st, A. sold all the Beef of the Old blind Cow before he got in Town. Got 3 and a half cts a pound. Got 14cts for butter 18cts a dozzen for eggs. Willie Wagner went home. Will went to dance tonight & last friday night. Is to be 5 more. Hank & Nancy goes too.

February 1st, Colder again. A. and M. to Burg this afternoon. Took Claude home. W. draw’d a jag[25] of wood to burn, painted the Churn over once. Marked 10 Bags. I helped work, knit, had a good read. Its so still when Claude goes home.

2nd, A has done chores about all day. Brought a Lamb in and fed it half a dozen times. M finished a sock run heels. She has the toothache nowdays awful hard. I read & knit some. W. painted Churn again. Fixing Tent over some to paint it.

3rd, We washed, men got wood. A to Burg tonight, M to Lukes to get binding stitched on Wills Overcoat. The lamb is dead, for all they tried so hard to save it.

4th, They went to Town. M got Calico sixpence[26] a yard for her a dress, a rocking chair 10 shillings, chamber mug 6 shillings, 43yds factory sixpence a yard, got for me 12yds of Gingham 9cts a yard, spool of thread 5cts. I havn’t had a new dress before since a year ago last fall and that was 8ct Calico.

5th, A off butchering to Steators. We all made a visit to Jacksons to-night.

6th, Men draw’d some straw. M ripped up old Dress to get the lining. I done most of the churning this time, not hard work but my hand shakes yet. I had a numb spell this afternoon. We went to Hanks this evening. M got a letter from Saraetta[27] she is not very well, weighs 100, her Baby[28] 18 and a half pounds.

7th, M is making Drawers for Claude. A. has a cold. I am making a Dress shorter. W. to school, & to the Dance to-night. We to Flanders a visiting.

8th, Men draw’d 3 logs to the Sawmill. M done most of the work. I had another numbspell. Went to bed after I swept my room laid over 4 hours.

9th, Alone all day. W. off to-night. M Churned, knit, mended. A got shaved just night. I lazzy. That Ruth[29] M. wrote about Died last Thursday. M would write some but I have told it all, will 1 more sheet then think you will say enough. Will send piece of our dress cloth. Write when you can.

This from Julia A Allen


[1] History and Genealogy of the Pearsall Family in England and America by Clarence E. Pearsall (1928) shows Margaret first married a Mr. O’Brien, then Mr. Steinhart and then Mr. Cook. She is listed as Margaret Stinehart in the 1850 and 1860 census records, and as Margaret Cook in the 1870 and 1880 census records

[2] Julia lived with her sister and brother-in-law, Matilda & Ambrose Brown

[3] Charles “Luke” Keith Jr. and his wife Sarah (Crawford) Keith

[4] Their son, Henry, and his family: Nancy (the daughter of Luke & Sarah Keith), and their children, Claude and Lela

[5] Ethan Keith

[6] Her brother-in-law, Ambrose Brown

[7] Believe she is referring to their neighbor, James Jackson

[8] Willis Brown, Ambrose and Matilda’s youngest son

[9] Her sister, Matilda (Allen) Brown

[10] Mary (Allen) Calkins

[11] Galesburg, Michigan

[12] Neighbors, Joseph & Amanda (Hobbs) Flanders

[13] Neighbor, Marius O. Streator

[14] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[15] Eunice (Wood), Erasmus, Charles and Albert Towne. Eunice was the daughter of Ambrose’s sister, Reliance (Brown), and her husband Simeon Wood Jr.

[16] Neighbors, Emaline (Stone) and Elsie J. Ralph

[17] According to an article published in the Shortsville Enterprise (Shortsville, New York) on January 19, 1933, from their newspaper files of November 16, 1889, “Mr. Brown had a son, too, named Ambrose, known as ‘Tam Brown,’ … he had what was called St. Vitus dance. A person was kept in the room with him most of the time, playing on a violin to soothe him and keep him quiet. It is woderful what an effect music has upon persons having this terrible maladay. I think it was ‘Ash’ Harrington who officiated as ‘hygienic fiddler.’” Perhaps Ambrose’s spells were somehow related to this

[18] Henry and Nancy Brown’s son

[19] Ambrose’s sister, Cynthia, and her husband, William E. Arms

[20] Her sister, Sarah, married Samuel Lunn. They had a son, Charles Lunn, however, it does not appear that he ever married, so it is unclear who this C. Lunn might be

[21] Cloth or leather covering for the instep, ankle, and lower leg

[22] Ambrose and his family came from Sodus, New York, to Galesburg, Michigan, by oxen and wagon in 1853

[23] Perhaps this is the son of William & Anna (Yawger) Wagner, who lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan. As we have photographs of both Anna and her sister, Emma, it is apparent that the families knew each other

[24] At one point, Nancy’s hair was well below her waist

[25] A small load or amount, as of wood, hay, etc.

[26] Twelve pence made a shilling; a shilling was a coin of Colonial America which varied between 12¢ and 16¢

[27] Her sister Mary’s daughter, Sarahetta (Calkins) Tilton

[28] Claude Tilton, who was born in May 6, 1878

[29] Luke Keith made an entry in his diary on February 5 that “Ruth McLary died 6 oclock P.M.” Michigan death records confirm that Ruth (Scarborough) McClary died in Charleston, Michigan on February 5 and FindAGrave.com shows she is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Galesburg, Michigan. Although February 5th was a Wednesday it is believed this is the Ruth referred to

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