Letters from aSaugatuck Pastor's Wife
(Continued from Page 307)
SaugatuckFeb. 8, 1878
Mydead sister Hattie,
While the water isheating for the bleach I will commence a few lines to you. If I stop to preparethe vegetables for dinner, I fear something will occur to prevent my writing.The basket of flannel clothes to be washed is standing in one corner of theroom as I am in the kitchen. It is Friday and James wishes to go down early forthe children as they wish to have him in town the moment school is out. Theylike to be home as early as possible.
Your barrel reached us one week ago last Wednes. butit was left unopened until Friday eve at the urgent request of the childrenespecially of Mabel. As they walked home in a storm and as the hired man, Graceand Willie were all to be fitted off for Saugatuck again that eve. I suggestedthe propriety of opening the barrel Sat morn. when we were all fresh and therewould be less confusion. This proposition was very unpopular and nearly cost memy reputation for sanity. Willie declared that he would be responsible for thesafe transportation of the barrel from the new part to the parlor whereupon itcame thundering along at the imminent peril of all misplaced furniture orgaping by-standers. I was too busy in the kitchen hurrying for the supper toenjoy the fun but could hear frequent bursts of applause and rollickinglaughter. Mabel's greatest desire was to reach the arctics. She had beenwaiting for them for some time and has been somewhat mortified by theappearance of her feet. They fit her nicely are a great comfort especially nowas the weather is quite cold. Sat. morn she was up before light seated at thebreakfast table with her dress and cloak and arctics on. I asked her why shehad on her cloak &c. She replied that she thought that she might want torun outdoors a good deal that forenoon, so she thought she would get ready.Grace and Willie went to a little party in Saugatuck that night and Gracieremained all night as it was so intensely dark. She did not reach home untilnear night Saturday, so there was no time for writing. I am afraid they willbring company home with them tonight. The winter gloves are all nice andcomfortable and all appeared with them on last Sabbath. Willie found his sashjust the thing and Anna wore the red necktie which is very becoming to her.Papa is much pleased with his black neck-tie. It suits him much better than anywe can get here. The little girls here wear these silk hhdk's [handkerchiefs?]around their necks to church so Gracie and Mabel have made an arrangement withpapa to wear his each alternate Sabbath. Mabel wore it last Sabbath. Mammacarried the new muff which is very nice. Oh! dear. It is time to get the dinnernow so goodbye.
[Lillie Porter apparently died betweenthe beginning of this letter in February and its conclusion in April. There isa portrait of the three sisters, that shows Mary and Hattie as mature women,and Lillie in extremely frail condition. Mary visited Penn Yann at some pointbefore Lillie's death.]
April 10, 1878
Dear sister Hattie.
Here lies this unfinished letter. It was slipped intothe drawer Feb. 8 on the arrival of company just as we had completed ourdinner. I am now trying to write and attending to the dinner at the same time.We have recd. several postals from youthe last of which contained the cabbage seed from Mother Taylor. I wrote toMother Porter a few days since. We recd no further word for our onions. At halfthe price for which they sold last year we should have cleared $250 from them.As it is we have had but $90.00 and do not know as they will see well enough toallow us to retain this. This $90.00 does not include the expense of thebarrels so we shall not grow very rich out of our onion labor. We might farbetter have spent the time in bed resting from our other toils. 0f course thisleaves us much embarrassed and perplexed. We have excellent credit - but I amdisgusted with credit . and sometimes feel as though I will dash ahead and feelno apprehension as to the consequences. It seems as though we ought to stumbleon some way of earning a livelihood so that we can pay our necessary expensesas we feel obliged to make them, Joseph Book is right in his estimate of theeffect of low salaries on the matrimonial relations.
This extremely mild winter has affected business in Chicago and its lumbertributaries very disastrously. There has been a mud blockade upon the prairieswhich has been almost without a precedent. You and I from our Newark experience can imagine somewhat of itsaffect upon business. All of these disappointments seem necessary. We have verymany mercies. The children have enjoyed better health than far years beforewhich is a great blessing as my own health cannot be relied upon at all. I havefrequent sick days when I cannot sit up at all. As these come most frequentlywhen there is the greatest pressure of work it does not seem to be the part ofwisdom to try to do without a hired girl especially if we keep a man. WE havethought somewhat of discharging both but James thinks we cannot force a livingin that way so we trudge along in the old ruts. We have worked in Saugatuck forthe last three days moving the children again. This is the third time withinthe last year. Their carpet has been put down four times. We supposed theycould remain where they were during this term but Friday eve after dark camethe word that they must leave immediately. So Saturday morn. we commenced workin good earnest and concluded that this time we would be independent. So wescrubbed out our onion barn thoroughly and fitted up the upper story for theirreception. They can be very comfortable there during the warm weather. Thelower floor will furnish the little girls a good play room in wet weather. Thebarn looks very neat with its white curtains and hanging baskets. I told themthey can learn just as good lessons as if they issued from a palace.
Now our dinner work is over. The day isvery bright and the breeze is brisk enough to make the white caps roll inmajestically. The lake is like a dear friend to me. It seems to possess a soul.I like its influence on the tastes of the children.
You ask at what season of the year it would be mostsafe for you to come West. Saugatuck has been quite free from ague for the past2 or 3 years. The healthfulness of the place is very much improved. I think youwould be safe enough in coming whenever you could be best spared at home. Iwish you could all come and spend the entire season as an invalid's retreat. Ifyou did not like our quarters the little house next beyond us is vacant and Ipresume could be rented for a trifle. We could set you up in housekeeping withthe furniture the children now have in Saugatuck. The same little cook stove webought far aunt Lillie. We have milk, eggs vegetables &c in abundance. Inthis way you could lead a very quiet life which I am sure you all need. Ibelieve it would be far better for you all than any medical prescriptions. Weignore company as much as possible. Your nerves have been so far overtaxed forsome many years that your all need an entire change. You ought to go back toprimitive abandonment and, if need be, ride on horseback like the little girlsdo "ala clothes pin." Ha ha, how would you like that? The school willclose about the middle of June. You speak of taking one of the girls back withyou. I cannot get James' consent to this arrangement but presume he could bewon over. When I sent for the catalogue of the Penn Yan Academy last Spring I was thinking quiteseriously of sending Grace to you. I was anxious that she should see more ofher Aunt Lillie and I thought that she might assist you much in the capacity oferrand girl. But then came Gracie's sickness, James' resignation, the burningof your store, Lillie's uninterrupted decline and I felt obliged to abandon theproject. Now I am trying to put her wardrobe in as respectable condition as Ican with but slight expense. I wish to have her clothing comfortable for theabsence of a year if it should seem best. Mrs. Pond is now at work making overthe plaid silk dress I wore to teach in Philadelphia.I have tried to crowd a good deal of sewing this winter.
I do not know whether Grace would help you much ornot. She is a fleet child in errands and could take many steps for you in thehouse. Her music has been entirely dropped for a long time. You must have goodpianists there. What are the usual terms per quarter. I would like to have hertake some lessons in drawing.
I do not wish to have her overtaxed inthe school room She had been accustomed to much outdoor exercise. I think halfa day in the school room, music and drawing extra, would be all her strengthwould bear. I do not know what Mabel would do without Grace. The latter is agreat favorite among all the little folks. They seem to think no game perfectwithout her. I have always favored her playing with those younger than herselfrather than older. One of the greatest faults of western society is pushinglittle children forward socially in advance of their years. I am sorry Mother'shealth is so poor, though I presume she welcomes every pain as a blessedforerunner of the even that will reunite her with her beloved Lillie.
Sabbath eve Feb 26 1878
My dear Grace: I donot know whether I will have time to write anything to you before I must sendthis letter to the office or not. The mail route has been changed and the mailsleave so early in the morning that it is very inconvenient far country people.Farm work progresses as it does usually at this season. The want of a barnmakes the work much more perplexing than it would be if we had a sufficientshelter for our products. The onions are all doom in the Saugatuck barn. Mabeland I helped a good deal on the topping. Papa will ship them as soon as he canattend to them. The potatoes are not all dug yet. The buckwheat is partlythreshed and the apples partly picked. If the weather is favorable we hope tohave products better secured in a few days.
I notice that all the papers seem very hopeful for a revivalof business in many departments. We already feel this and prices for farmproducts are increasing. Your papa feels quite encouraged and we have somelight hope of selling a lot or two more in Saugatuck between this time andmidsummer. If we can do so, I think your papa will try to build the longdesired barn. I will try to help when I can. I live, but I cannot work asunceasingly as I have done in the past. My strength seems to be very rapidlyfailing me. I must have absolute zest - I hope you are improving your opportunitiesin the best possible manner. We never know in this world of change when ouropportunities for self improvement may be brought to an end. Anna and Mabelwalked over to see Eda Flagg today. Eda's mother is very sick. She has beenovertaxed on that new farm. Eda's hands and heart are full. She has a family ofnine for whom to labor. Mrs. Mason is very low with consumption. You papavisited him today.
Mrs. Thomas Wallin called here Friday.Jessie has returned from her eastern visit and is again in school. Luman Wallinis in Chicagoattending commercial Coll. He boards with his Uncle Thomas. Charles Thompson isdead, and his mother is sick.
We had a wedding here last week. MissElma Collins was married in our parlor to a Mr. Granger from Coldwater, Ithink. I had to repeat my part in "Seven times seven" one eveninglast week. This is the only time I have been to Saugatuck in a long time. Ihope you will try to help your Aunt and Uncle as much as possible about thehouse. I am finishing drying apples for my usual barrel. I hope they will sella little better than they have done for the two past years. Uncle White has notcome yet, neither do we hear from him. I hope he will come this week on accountof Anna's being at home. It would be hard work for me to entertain them withsuch an unskilled cook as Mary. Mary is strong and pleasant and I would like tokeep her all winter if I could. God bless you and make you a blessing to all
April 15th 1878
Dear Mother Porter:
Mary is getting the children ready forschool, so I will write a few lines for her. Your letter came and since that,one from Mr. Mills containing a draft for $150. Accompanying this she will senda receipt as you desire showing that it comes from Father Porter's estate. Itis a great disappointment to us to have our onion crop sell so low. We hoped tomeet all our expenses with the proceeds of this crop even at a low price but wedid not expect to give them away. Our heaviest expense is for hired help asneither of us have strength to do all that seems necessary to keep thingsmoving. We can get almost any thing we want on credit, but do not like toindulge this deceitful luxury as May day will come, and then we never feel veryindependent while under obligations to others for goods or labor.
We do not however wish to curtail yourincome to the least inconvenience. As age comes on you will need more means tosecure the necessities. of life. We can with health, work through ourdisappointments. We fully appreciate your kindness in sending this money atthis time and hope it will not discommode you. We are all in usual health andremain truly and affectionately yours,
James F. Taylor
To Be Continued-page 324