Texts Related to the Works of Sarah Orne Jewett
from LETTERS AND DIARY OF LAURA M. TOWNE
WRITTEN FROM THE SEA ISLANDS OF SOUTH CAROLINA 1862-1884
RUPERT SARGENT HOLLAND
NEW YORK: NEGRO UNIVERSITIES PRESS, 1912.
[Description before Illustrations list and introduction,
The setting for Jewett's "The Mistress of Sydenham Plantation" 1888.]
LOW-LYING cotton-fields, with here and there a sentinel palmetto; roads arched by moss-clad oak boughs; stretches of unclaimed timber and undergrowth; wide-sweeping marshes reflecting the moods and colors of the sky; the salt breath of the sea, softened by its passage over many islands; such is St. Helena. The cabins stand lonely and apart, most of them white, some painted pinks and reds. Here a woman, a bright bandana wound turban-like about her head, looks from her door; yonder the patriarchal figure of a man toils over the ploughed field. It is a land of great distances in a small compass, of soft colors, of a people utterly dependent on the soil and weather, primitive in their faith and courage, long-abiding, and wonderfully patient. Gratitude comes easily to their lips. Thankfulness for what they have received still seems the keynote of their lives.
1877FROGMORE, January 28, 1877.I no not envy you the sleighing, not I. I never want to see any snow again as long as I live. Just think how much nicer our good, smooth, safe sand is, and our winters, with the gardens blossoming right through, as they have done even this hard winter. Old Mr. Hazel, who thinks there never was such a winter here before, says that if the cold had continued one more day, he should have died of it. He seems to think so, confidently.
I have to go and pay our taxes soon. They are called for by both Chamberlain and Hampton, but they say we are quite safe to pay to our present treasurer, Dr. Wilder, who was appointed to take Holmes' place before the election. I suppose the old assessment holds good as a basis of operations, and that all I have to do is to pay for what is called for.
I saw lame-leg Diana yesterday. She has just returned from Savannah and has brought her younger sister to live with her to work the crop.
Ellen has just got home. An old woman was baptized to-day who is a hundred and twenty years old, they say. That of course they can't prove, but it is a fact that her daughter's granddaughter has a granddaughter, so that makes six generations living together. She has "tried to pray" all her life, but was always "turned back," and to-day she was triumphantly baptized, with all her family about her. She sat up, but could not walk at all, and it took two elders to take her to the water.
It is a pleasant, warm day. Hyacinths and violets out in the garden, wallflowers in big bud, maples red in the woods.
April 8, 1877.More than once folks have told me they would like to give me some money for the people here, and that is the last I have heard of it, so I am not surprised now. There are few as faithful friends to the freedmen as Mr. Gannett has proved to be. He has paid over three hundred and fifty dollars a year for six or eight years. Pretty well for a young man's charity! The school will, of course, be kept up, but not as steadily, I fear, and not for such long terms. The teacher he has employed is one of the regular missionary kind, and will cling to her scholars through changing fortunes and all doubts, and uncertainties. I wish Mrs. Cabot would or could maintain a teacher for Mr. Gannett's school, but of course that is a wild dream, not likely to come to pass. If I am turned out of the trusteeship, as is very likely next June, there is no certainty of any school there at all, unless a teacher is maintained by private means. Of course the trustees of the township would not refuse any such benefaction, and, though the public funds might be misappropriated by them, this could not be if the teacher and supporter alone had the handling of the pay. Mind -- I am expecting no such good luck for St. Helena, not even actively hoping for it. I am just saying, "What if a kind fairy should," etc., etc.
Perhaps I ought to tell you how I got through the affair of appointing that old rebel, Mr. P., teacher here. As I said, the people protested, after the contract was signed, so I would not "go back of my word," as they call it here, but kept him during the two months over which the district money was expected to extend (but didn't). Then I notified him he must quit, but he begged to stay and take the risk of pay some time in the future. I was inexorable and he went, but I hear from Beaufort that he is loud in my praise, and puts all the blame of his going on the state of the funds. He never kept a good school. He only tried to kill time, though he was in the school-room the required number of hours. So I told him I should never employ him again, for we must have the best teachers for this rising generation, and he knew as well as I that he didn't know how to keep school, however much he might wish to do so: He took it good-humoredly, gave me a moss-rose bush, and we parted friends.
April 15, 1877.It is a fine day at last after so much rain and cold that we have half believed spring was never coming.
I am having a tight time to get along, of course, with our diminished income, and I am drawing mildly from the Fidelity, upon the supposition that money must be there, so that when statement time comes I shall find my deposit very small . . . . I have contracted, too, as much as I can. No more olives and dainties from Savannah! We buy no butter, as we have cream to make our own -- no eggs, no poultry, no meat except pork, and we can get but few hams. Mr. Macdonald has two stores now -- the corner one, from which Walter R. has departed, ostensibly for his health, but really because he doesn't make enough, and the store that Edgell had, where Mr. M. has been these two years. Mr. M. is very nice, gets everything we want, either from Beaufort or Savannah, charges very moderately, and every way does all he can for us. I like him better and better. He is a noble, splendid fellow.
I have been in raging indignation at Hayes. (1) I hope we have not another Buchanan in the President's chair, but I fear we have. He is too easy and ready to think well of everybody. He won't believe in rebellion till he sees it again, I suppose. Nobody seems to remember that the South is only half-civilized, and that the negroes are nearly as well informed and a great deal more loyal than the whites. I think Chamberlain's (2) letter to the people, about his retiring from further contest, is fine, every word true, and nobly said. In Hampton's speech at Columbia, he gave an ass's kick at the dead lion, when he said he should not occupy the State House till he had had the fire engines in, and the convicts scrub the place out. I try to smother my rage, but I wish I could speak out or write out what blazes inside. Ellen is as indignant as I am.
April 29, 1877.We are in the midst of an April thunderstorm, and I have been all morning sauntering about the gardens, so you may expect a little rhapsody, for I never saw such splendor as this welcome rain is falling on. The phloxes are in full glow, and the roses amazing. The rose from Seaside, that the old man said came from the "Rock," proves to be a cluster-rose, something like the little multiflora of the porch, only not so double, and bright crimson. It is a tremendous grower, and will have to be moved. Several tea roses are of a very beautiful kind, white, tinged with pale pink, fragile, large, and perfectly exquisite as buds. Several are the yellow, or saffron-tinted rose, like the one from Givins', and from Seaside. My Lamark, with its thousands of clusters, spraying from one porch pillar to the other, is too beautiful, especially by moonlight. Both Ellen's moss-rose and mine are covered with buds; my cloth-of-gold is just opening its first bud -- a beauty, and true to its kind. The little eglantine is in blossom, and the tiny blue convolvulus. A splendid bed of red poppies overtops the phlox around the pampas grass. In the vegetable garden there is a bed of the pure white phlox as large as our dining-table, and two beautiful seedling verbenas a deep purple and a pink. If you want pure white phlox, send; I can secure you any quantity of unmixed . . . . The yellow bladderwort is out now in all the ponds, and it has water enough to swim in, for this has been a rainy spring, though the last week bas been dry. Corn and cotton are up finely, but the people are afraid to be glad, they are so doubtful about Hampton. (3) So are we, too. He takes things with a high hand, indeed.
Just think! in six or seven weeks school closes! There is much that ought to be done to the house this vacation. The woodwork is crumbling around the windows for want of paint; the need of whitewash is frightful; there is a new vegetable garden to be fenced and begun, for the old fence is almost past propping; the roof should be painted again; the front porch re-roofed. The porch steps are so rotted that they are hardly safe, and when I do have another set, I believe I will have them made of brick like most of the Beaufort houses, for these wooden ones have to be so often renewed. Now where is the money to come from to do all this? -- to say nothing of going to Oakshade?
May 6, 1877.L.'s letter set me such an example of rhapsodizing over spring that I am not only not afraid to hold forth in this letter, but I regret having felt ashamed of my former letters in which I could not help giving some voice to my inward feelings by sending long lists of flowers in bloom, etc., etc. Now I have courage to say that every day grows more beautiful and delightful -- that the garden, ablaze with phloxes, is beyond compare. But yet L.'s description of a Northern spring made me more homesick than anything for a long time. I am fair crazy to see your new surroundings, your magnolia, the grove, and hillside wild flowers, and the crocuses in the garden. Some day I must manage to go North in spring . . . . I do not think I shall see the North this year. I just can't.
When this month's statement comes I think like as not it will say that I have overdrawn my money, and have less than nothing to go upon until August. Yet some things must be done to Frogmore. I shall do as little as I can to live comfortably.
We are in the midst of blackberry-time, and this morning I picked about a quart of strawberries from our garden, also the two last cherries from the dear little Mayduke. If I have a cent to spare, I shall certainly invest in another Mayduke next fall. It costs twentyfive cents.
The crops look well, but the cold rains have made it necessary to replant much of the cotton. The people ask me for nothing.
Mrs. Cabot sent me Miss Martineau's life. I have begun it, but it is a big book and my time scant.
May 13, 1877.Provisions have gone up with a rush; flour two to four dollars a barrel and grits from .90 to $1.10 per bushel. Cotton, meanwhile, will be nowhere, they say. So our island will pay out for food and lose on its own production -- its one staple.
Meanwhile the island was never more lovely -- so luxuriantly green. It is raining again, and, though splendid for the garden, this constant rain disappoints many a plan.
I pay lower wages than I ever did, and we do without all we can, for times are tight.
Is there any hope of railroad troubles ending? Do tell me some cheering financial news. As for politics; they say Hampton is having a hard time restraining the fireeaters, and that they are worrying him well. One paper says "he knows how it is himself" now. He will never be able to keep his pledges about equal justice and all that, and he might have known it -- probably he did before he made them.
May 27, 1877.This week has brought us neither newspapers nor letters, and I feel banished from the world. We have had two hot days when the thermometer was between 80° and 90°, but it is blowing cold again from the coast. It is very unlike the first May down here when I thought myself undergoing the fires of purgatory for the whole month of May. Still, the fruits and vegetables like this style of weather. We are now through blackberries, have had one cucumber, and are coming into plum and peach time. I have one peach almost ripe, the fig tree is loaded with figs, and the grapes are the size of large peas -- the catawba grape. The wild grapes are only just in blossom, so the roadsides are sweet as we drive along. L.'s berry-spoon has done noble service. How I have enjoyed using it! I don't believe any table south of Mason and Dixon's old forgotten line has so many elegant things on it as mine, with its pickle and jelly jars, its various spoons and knives and ladles.
I shall be much hurried till exhibition is over. Hannah Hunn is to come on Wednesday, and she will probably be our only white visitor, except Miss Dennis who is not going North or West this summer. She will remain on St. H. all summer, so I shall not be so much alone.
June 17, 1877.I could get no time to write a word, because after exhibition we had Hannah Hunn and Mr. Macdonald to entertain after a late dinner. I was so tired, too, that I could not think -- just exist -- till bedtime, and that was all. It was a great success, though, -- the best and prettiest closing day we have ever had. The weather was fine, the church crowded, the children eager and merry -- not a failure in the whole of it, and everybody was happy. T.'s drum was a great feature. Scipio Garrett played marches on his accordion, to which the drum kept time, and "the band" was the delight of the day to many of the people. Hastings made his usual eulogistic remarks, and told what "Lawyer Elliott" of Beaufort said of "Miss Towne." Hannah got up and told the people that I was teaching for nothing, and so was Ellen, so we were duly glorified and abashed. Of course Miss Winship's school was there, and did their part to perfection. Walter spoke remarkably well, and was much approved. Tell Amy that one of the most taking little pieces was when Victoria, holding a pretty white pup in her arms, said Amy's verses about the dog. She patted him, and the little fellow put up his face and pressed it under her chin so lovingly that there was a stir and smile all over the crowded church, at the little doggie's doing his part so well. Two of my best readers read Whittier's "St. John de Matha," and well, too. Ellen had a dramatic representation of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, with Julia Singleton for Pocahontas, Sam Hazel for "that paleface" prisoner, and Thomas Chaplin for Powhatan. Miss Winship had the "Examinations of a Teacher by a School Committee," and the fun of it brought down the house again and again. The singing was the best we ever had . . . .
To return to the exhibition. Hannah, Mr. M., and Miss Dennis were our only white visitors, but every inch of room was filled by the people, and we never before had such warm praises and thanks as were showered upon us after we closed the exercises. The people manifest their gratitude and affection more now that they feel their friends are departing, and under a cloud, too. Hannah is going North to teach. There is no prospect of any schools worth calling so, after this, and there will be an almost total retirement of all Northern teachers. The time is approaching for our annual School Meeting, but as we are forbidden to raise any money for school purposes, -- that is, to levy the usual three-mill, or any school tax, -- there will be nothing to do but present my report and accounts. I shall have a busy two weeks to look forward to -- my correspondence is so in arrears, and I have the report and speech to prepare.
Walter is to be baptized in a month or two, and is as good as he can be, trying to forget no duty, and not "to take a frown upon his face" at any requirement, however inconvenient or distasteful, and not to answer back at a reproof or quick word. So we are having a good time. I intend, after Ellen goes, to get Candace Baker, a nice strong young girl, to come and sleep in the house upstairs, so that I shall have some one near to send on errands, etc.
June 24, 1877.Tim's turns have increased in frequency, and for two days now he has refused food. He has a very distressing cough. Pets give us grief as well as comfort and pleasure, but I think the latter greatly counterbalances, and besides, I think we ought to take some pets to our hearts and homes to ameliorate the condition of something in the world.
I don't know how it is that I have so much better health than any of you, except that I live in a healthy climate on the seashore, and it suits me. I have been alone these two days -- that is, by day. At night Candace comes and sleeps in the next room to mine, so that I can call her at any moment. Walter and Thomas are to run for the house at the sound of a big bell, which is outside of Candace's window, and large enough to alarm the neighborhood. So, please, all friends, I have provided for every dangerous emergency, in a place where we have forgotten what danger feels like, we are so safe! Bruno sleeps beside my bed and Tim at the foot of it -- a place he has chosen for his special corner. I leave my door open, and dogs and cats walk in and out as they like. I never dream of having anything to fear, in spite of all these precautions.
There is much to do in the house for the first week, and after that I expect to begin regularly writing something every day, either to keep things in remembrance, or to set them forth for others. I have just finished Miss Martineau's "Autobiography," and it is enough to inspire the stupidest person to use the pen; she did so much good with hers. But I can't say that I am inspired by her example. I am only pushed to it by a sense of duty; for the things going on here ought not to be forgotten, nor lost, as a lesson.
July 1, 1877.I am so afraid Ellen will not be able to come down here to live without salary, now that the Benezet Fund is exhausted, and then what shall I do? That is, how can I live alone? I suppose E. and, Mr. M. may do, for the one winter they will probably stay, but how after that? I have here now, nursing, a teacher -- Miss Dennis. She was taken with fever, or weakness, last Sunday, was utterly destitute of care or help, and would probably have died before long. The people brought me word of her state, and yesterday I went to see her, found the case one of great need, and, as I could not possibly desert Mr. Gannett's teacher, nor go there to nurse her, nor leave her in such a bake-oven of a house, I brought her here, and here she will be for some time.
The school meeting came off yesterday, but there were too few present to do much, so we adjourned, to meet next Saturday. The reason was that the people wanted to make more preparation and give a wider notice, and asked us to adjourn.
Rina is sitting with Miss D. while I write, and I must relieve her, for the good old woman's time for a smoke has come. All the servants are comforts, especially Candace, except Thomas, who is to be married in November, and "don't care," generally.
July 15, 1877.Our little island has been expressing itself. We met as usual on the legal day for the district school meeting, June 30th, but we could not vote to levy any school tax, because the Democratic legislature had forbidden it. The meeting was small, and we adjourned till July 7th. Meeting small again, owing to baptizing arrangements for the day after. Adjourned again till yesterday, when we had a large meeting of the most influential men among the blacks of the island, and Mr. Macdonald and myself representing the whites. Sam Green, senator of the assembly (from Ladies Island), Kit Green's son, was there and made a long and pretty good speech in favor of some resolutions which I wrote, and advocated their adoption by the meeting. They were to the effect that St. Helena might be excepted from the operation of the new law which forbids district axes, because the people here are the taxpayers, there being on the island five thousand blacks and not fifty whites, twelve hundred and eighty black children of age to attend school, and only seven white children, and because the few white people here are as anxious for schools as the blacks, and as willing to pay the tax voted at these meetings. This is to be published in the newspapers, and will show not only the injustice done in forbidding people's providing for the public schools adequately, -- and as handsomely as they please, -- but also that the St. Helena folks are awake to their rights. If I can get a paper in which they are published, I will send you one. The resolutions are mild as milk and water. They were passed unanimously. My report as clerk of the board of trustees was read and approved. We had, during the two hours we waited for the assembling of the people, some political talk. How bitterly the poor fellows who stood out at the peril of their lives for Chamberlain and Hayes denounced Hayes! They wished heartily that Tilden had got in, for he could not have done them so much harm. I protested against this, but Hastings said, "If Tilden had put in Hampton, every friend we have at the North would have cried out against it, and we should have had our national protectors looking out for us; but now Hayes has not only done all Tilden could have done here, but he has shut the mouth of all our Northern friends, and turned them to the counsel of our enemies, and we have no one to speak for us." The general opinion seemed to be that Hayes was a weak man, "a kind of backing-down man."
You don't know how I enjoy the newspapers you, S., and Mr. Wild send me, now that I have time to read them. Fred Douglass disappoints me. The idea of apologizing to his old master! I liked better his laughing at the Washingtonians, which set them in such a buzz, but it was not exactly wise. These apologies by colored men don't mean what they would from whites -- a surrender. They only mean a little condescending courtesy towards those whose weakness demands a little humoring.
August 12,1877.The Philadelphia Ledger gave our school district resolutions a nice long notice, and quoted them in full. If you have that paper, or can get it, be sure to secure it for me. I want to read it to the people, both to encourage them and to justify myself for making such a fuss to have the resolutions passed. I want to keep it too. No other paper that I have seen has taken any notice except the Charleston Journal of Commerce, Rhett, editor.
August 19, 1877.How refreshing it was to get T's. letter last night, and be made aware of a placid and happy world where folks can "dash in palms and ducks, rushes and storks, in India ink" on their window curtains, and paint tiles, and sit in groves, and talk gardens, and watch roses -- utterly oblivious of the trouble and struggle all around, and the brimstone smell of the social and political atmosphere. What with strikes and riots and old slavery reviving here, and base treachery at Washington, etc., etc., I am not in a frame for pretty work or peaceful repose. I want to agitate, even as I am agitated. I am glad to say that five newspapers have already noticed our St. H. resolutions. By the way, not one of my own family, East or West, North or South, has said one word about those resolutions -- not even that they were received. I sent papers to you all, and hoped for your opinions, even if adverse. The papers which have noticed them are the Ledger, the Commonwealth, the Nation, and the Charleston Journal of Commerce. All praise the action of St. H., which pleases me, of course. If all would denounce the repeal of the law which made such resolutions necessary, I should be better pleased still. I wrote a letter to Dr. Furness, who replied to it promptly. Such a cheering, delightful letter as it was! It denounced exactly what I wanted denounced. It rated the Southerners as I wanted them rated. It advocated just what I wanted advocated, and altogether it was intensely satisfactory and consoling. It was so good to find one person with the right views and to think there might be more of the same mind. I wonder what view N. takes of the facts, that for non-payment of the poll-tax, and of the fine for not doing so, a man can be put into the penitentiary, and sold out of it as a slave for the time of his sentence. That is why Mr. Gleaves, Sally Fassitt's connection, fled to Canada, because he would, without perhaps even a show of trial or justice, have been condemned to the penitentiary, and from that hired out on a nice plantation, subject to rules made by three directors, regarding "the quality of his food and clothing," the time of his labor per day (ten hours unless in agriculture, and then at the pleasure of the hirer), and "the nature of his punishments." There was an item in the Beaufort paper, too, which shows which way the wind blows. It was to the effect that a man charged with hog-stealing -- not convicted nor taken in the act, but only charged with it -- was taken by a party and severely whipped, "so saving the expense of a trial," the Beaufort Tribune said. If that doesn't look like slavery times, what could? Ellen says she saw Mary Grew and Mr. Burleigh, and had a long talk with them, and they say that things are as bad as I think them with regard to the South. Garrison and Wendell Phillips are of the same mind. I wonder how Lucretia Mott feels.
How I am to get through till next November I don't see. I suppose the Lehigh won't pay a cent, nor the Reading, nor the Pennsylvania Railroad. What is there, then?
I am going to contract still more here. Walter wants to go to the "Rock," (4) and to earn his own living after this, so I shall get a girl and dismiss Mrs. Ford. Walter is to go for a week's trial, but I have little hope of his ever settling quietly here again. He has been restless all summer. The new phosphate mining just off Edding's Point is setting all the boys wild.
John Chaplin wouldn't touch the front porch. He says it will hold up another year, and if touched now would have to come down altogether. It looks badly, but must do! I can do no more than must be done.
September 9, 1877.My mind is a little more tranquil about politics, because I see that the North is not quite dead asleep. The letter I wrote Mr. Gannett he sent to Richard Hallowell, who noticed it in his paper -- then the Nation took it up, and someone in Columbia replied to it. This reply I did not see in time to answer. Then the Boston Journal had some remarks to make on it, and the Tribune (New York) gives its facts one small paragraph. If the people were determined to acquiesce in all things, the statements in that letter would have been unregarded. I sent a communication to the New York Tribune about the hiring-out-of-convicts plan. It has not published it that I have seen. Mr. Macdonald sends me all his Tribunes, but I may have overlooked it. It is very possible, too, that it was too "partisan" to be published by an ardent justifier of Hayes, which the Tribune is. How I have enjoyed Gail Hamilton's letters, though I do not agree with her in all things, nor admire her way of saying some things. But in the main she is admirable, and so sensible, and so witty.
Now to get back to old Frogmore. It did look beautiful this morning, with the tide so high and so white-capped by the wind that we seemed on the edge of the ocean. The causeway and even the waterline pasture fence were under the water. There was a great float of sedge, with about twenty white cranes on it, that started by the Katy Island, and sailed away down towards the point, without disturbing the birds. I couldn't resist the tide, so I took the doggies and went in, and had a splendid swim. The water was just cool. It is a splendid windy, cool day. Thermometer, 76° this A.M. at 7 o'clock, the coolest we have had yet.
I have been planting cabbages, and having turnip, cabbage, carrot, beet, and lettuce seed put into the ground, so you can see I am preparing for winter, when I hope to have lots of my own dear family to entertain. I have to wait so for John Chaplin that the house is all confusion yet. Mrs. Rice and Miss Hazel were here sewing for a week, but have gone. I am having real comfort in Candace and Julius. They are both good children, and do "as near as they kin," as Rina says. Walter wrote a letter to tell me of his adventures in seeking work at the "Rock." He now has a place as cook at five dollars a month, clothing and board. That is better than I could do for him, so I suppose he will not come back. I think he is too mannish to suit me now, so I am content, and Ellen says she will miss him, but thinks it best he has gone.
In a little more than a month school begins. I shall be so glad if I am only ready, as I hope to be.
September 18, 1877.I was so surprised yesterday by receiving from Alice a nice letter, enclosing two hundred dollars for our school. Hurrah! We are safe now for two years more, with Mrs. Cabot's donation, Alice's, and the remains of the Benezet. Ellen, you know, takes no salary, nor do I, so we have only the five assistants to pay, and their highest salary is ten dollars a month. I feel as rich as Croesus. But yet, truly we have personally little cause for a rich feeling, with railroads cutting up so and cutting us out of all our income.
The health of the island is good. There is yellow fever in Florida, and Beaufort is a fussy little place, so that steamers that usually put in at Port Royal are now not allowed to stop. They worship health at Beaufort, and take every precaution that can be thought of against every imaginable disease. It does me good to see it, but I can't help laughing a little, for I thought I was the most nervous and precautionary individual that was about, but I am nothing to the Board of Health of that town. It is rewarded, though, for Charleston, Savannah, and all our neighbors may have epidemics, but Beaufort never has any. There is a funny state of things there in one respect. The children never have measles, whooping-cough, scarlet fever, or any of the things it is thought they ought to have. Whole families grow up without anything of the kind. Diphtheria, too, is almost unknown in this entire region. One man had it, but I never heard of a child's having it. None of the children (colored) on this island are vaccinated, so I fear there will some day be another terrible smallpox scourge like the one we went through in 1863.
I never was better in health in my life than I have been this summer. I couldn't afford expensive improvements, but with whitewash and paint I have made a very telling change in outside appearances, and I have kept alive a family of poor whites, doing it.
I have just re-read Olmsted's "Cotton Kingdom" and found it true -- true and exact. I wish Hayes had read it before he adopted his policy.
Ellen and Elizabeth (Winship) come back in a week or two. School begins October 15th. I am reappointed trustee for two years more, but the public schools will have no money.
Our boy Walter went away to seek his fortune at one of the phosphate "mines," as they call them. He has come back sick, crestfallen, and disappointed.
September 30, 1877.The S. C. N. S. Com'rs (5) (Mr. Gage and Company) are going to employ Miss Winship and Mr. Davis' niece, Mary Barber, for five months each. Our school will go on swimmingly now, with Alice's donation and Mrs. Cabot's to give it a shove. Messrs. Cope Brothers write that they will gladly add Alice's two hundred dollars to the fund in their hands, and that they "rejoice with me in the 'cruse of oil' being so opportunely replenished." The Benezet is going to send Christmas gifts as usual, and early, too, so I shall not have that on my mind. I have some of Alice's last year's money to spend on the usual little treat. Our children seem wild with joy that school is to begin again soon. Candace is a nice little thing -- bright and industrious, and funny. She tells me all the children say. William Prichard has put up a store close by Miss Winship's school lot, and every evening the dogs are kept barking the whole time by the shouting, laughing, and talking going on there . . . . I heartily enjoy the summer here. It is not so warm as it often is at the North, for the sea breeze keeps it cool. I think September is about the most unpleasant month. There is apt to be less sea breeze, more rain and dampness, and quite as hot a sun, besides frequent storms. Watermelons and peaches and figs have gone, and we have only the pomegranates to take the place of better fruits. Oranges will not come for two months yet. I have one apple ripening.
This is my last Sunday alone. Ellen will be here on Tuesday. I never had a healthier summer in my life.
October 7, 1877.The yellow fever broke out in Fernandina and was brought in those steamers to Port Royal, or Battery Point, and two of Apple's clerks, being scared, ran away from Port Royal and walked up to Beaufort at night. They were taken down with fever at Apple's old store in Beaufort, and though Dr. Stewart says they have not got yellow fever, yet several of the white people have gone away, afraid of the fever's coming.
There is no sickness on this island. Not a case of anything like yellow fever, or severe fever of any kind. They say that yellow fever is a disease peculiar to cities, and that scattered people never have it, unless they have brought it from a city with them. So we feel perfectly safe, even if it should come to Beaufort, and we are both perfectly well now.
Ellen came last Tuesday. They had a very rough passage and she was sick the whole way. The Magnolia, of Savannah, we hear went down off Hatteras the day after Ellen passed it. I went to Beaufort for her Tuesday, and it was a showery, windy day, so that I had hesitated whether to leave her at Mrs. Hunn's till Wednesday. If I had done so she could not have come over for two days, for we had a fearful easterly storm. As it is, we have had a good time gardening and setting things to rights, so that we shall begin school next Monday week, unencumbered.
The coldest weather we have yet had was about sixty-two or three, and I felt perishing with it, in spite of fire in the parlor. It is growing warm again.
We have been horribly plagued with mosquitoes and "burr," or cockspur grass. The wet weather brought them both, and I never before knew the extent of the plague of them.
This morning I went to the Methodist church to a funeral sermon which was a real treat. The man who preached -- Rev. Mr. Harris, colored -- did it well. The invitation to stay to communion was given so heartily and in such a liberal fashion, that I could stay, and did so.
Robert Smalls has been arrested. They have two objects in this. One is to prevent his taking his seat in the approaching Congress, and the other to bring odium upon him and give his opponent in the contested seat a better chance. They are keeping the facts against the Democrats who were guilty, in the dark, till the political aspect is settled, and then, for decency's sake, they will bring them forward, for they are too notorious and too much implicated to be let go. But see the cunning of the examiners! They call up and expose all the Republicans now, so as to affect the approaching extra session of Congress, and when political action is taken in their favor, they can afford to try their own guilty.
Hastings Gantt has not yet been arrested, or accused. Indeed, I doubt if they have anything against him. He refused to take Democratic bribes, and that may be his ruin, for they will want him out of the way.
October 21, 1877.To-day I have sacrificed some of my correspondents to my dogs. It is a fine, windy autumn day, and the rascals teased me so for a walk that I could not refuse, so I went along the shore to the boat-landing, then up across the field to the swamp and woods, and home through the "task-paths" through the long cotton-field. How I did wish for you all, and how I bore in mind the walks we took along there when you were here. I got some flowers -- blue lobelia, yellow sunflower, cotton bolls, red and white, with open cotton, and a tuft of broom grass. The red, yellow, and blue and white make our gayest bunch of the season. The warm weather has kept the plants blossoming. The people are getting a very fair crop, in spite of the worm, but the staple may be injured for all I know.
My vegetable garden is fine; such growing I never saw. We have green peas, lettuce, cocoas, lima beans, eggplant, spinach, and onions in use, and coming on, a splendid lot of cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots, beets, salsify, turnips, and later peas. The dear little "Tom Thumbs" were planted about the middle of September, and are just now bearing nicely. I shall never fail to have a plentiful supply.
Yesterday I picked our one apple, a Romanite, -- a beauty! I love them best of all apples. All the trees look uncommonly healthy, and next year I think there will be lots of fruit.
The hawks have begun their depredations, and Tim and I are driven wild by the screams of the poor hens and the cries of the chickens "carried." I have told Reynolds that I will not "buy hawk" this winter, because he was so industrious with his gun last year that hawks cost me more than the poultry came to.
We hear no more of the yellow fever in Beaufort, and the island surely is very healthy. The weather is dry -- windy; not either very warm nor very cool, and I can't see any reason for anybody's getting sick, unless by going right into the midst of the disease. Beaufort keeps up its sanitary precautions. It looks ominous to see fires in the streets smouldering and smoking all day, and burning at night, but it is only precautionary. I have not been there myself, for Mr. Macdonald brings all I want from there, or makes York do so.
October 28, 1877.The colored people here are all ardent and settled Baptists, with a little sprinkling of Methodists.
Our school is a delight. It rained one day last week, but through the pelting showers came nearly every blessed child. Some of them walk six miles and back, besides doing their task of cotton-picking. Their steady eagerness to learn is just something amazing. To be deprived of a lesson is a severe punishment. "I got no reading to-day," or no writing, or no sums, is cause for bitter tears. This race is going to rise. It is biding its time.
November 11, 1877.If it were not for the almanac I should declare the last twenty years were only twenty months. Every year gets shorter too, and the next twenty may seem like twenty weeks. We have all had exceptionally happy lives, I think, so far, and I hope our years will grow only pleasanter and pleasanter, and I do not see why they shouldn't for a long time to come, for the health of the whole family seems improving, and I trust we shall live together for many, many years.
I feel that we are together, though I am here and you there, because all our hearts are so together, and when that is the case, and we can communicate, there is no separation in its worst sense. These thoughts are apropos of the death of poor old Aunt Cilia, of "The Oaks," who died this morning after months of great suffering. The old people here do not need our care long. They seem to drop off very fast. She was very old, but was not feeble until this last illness began. I am sorry for poor old Uncle George, and for the tribe of grandchildren whom she helped to provide for.
The sharp, brisk cold weather puts everybody into a good humor. The thermometer was 42° last night, and we all found it hard to keep warm at night under piles of bed-clothing, and to-day we have enjoyed the fire. It has been sunny and delightful.
I had to go to church to tell the people about the schools, and I walked home, leaving Saxton for the two E's after Sunday School. I got a beautiful bunch of autumn flowers.
December 16, 1877.I have been busy as ever lately, and the worst of it is that age begins to tell in one way -- increased sleepiness. I drop asleep so easily at all times, and in the evening especially I cannot keep awake to read the paper, nor write, nor do anything that requires thinking, and at night how I do sleep! To be sure, we get up at six and I am pretty active all day, but yet I think it is partly age -- age. This loss of the evenings makes my time for writing very scant, Sunday being all I have.
I have just had a fright that has unsteadied my nerves, I can tell you. Tim, Bruno, and I took a short walk and encountered a drove of pigs in the lot just below the turkey-house. There were six smaller pigs and two huge hogs, all black. Tim and Bru pitched into them, and at first the swine ran every way, but the two hogs rallied and charged at the dogs, and when the biggest one was just upon Tim with his mouth open and tusks showing, the poor little dog fell in one of his fits. This astonished the hog and he paused an instant. I had been hurrying up and arrived just in time to seize Tim by his hind legs and drag him from under the hog's nose, and then lift him up in my arms and run, for those big hogs will fight and are formidable. Bruno, meantime, was in the midst of the herd, and all turned upon him. He had to defend himself on all sides, when suddenly he gave out, began to stagger, and barely kept his feet. The hogs, seeing me coming at them again, but too far off for them to turn in self-defence, began to trot off, and finally ran down the road. If this should happen sometime when we are at school, it would be the end of my poor Tim. It was a long time before Bruno recovered, and neither of the dogs seems well after it, but they lie about languid and inert.
This great herd of ferocious hogs is no joke, and they will have to be encountered every day, I suppose, now that they have found their way here.
Yesterday the Benezet box arrived. It was full of such nice presents for the school, -- aprons, housewives, balls, knives, books, scholars' pencil-boxes, caps, hoods, scarfs, toy sets, -- a real satisfactory and abundant supply. There were some nice books for Ellen and me, and extra presents, such as collars and cuffs, for the colored teachers.
The election here passed off quietly, and all through the county wherever the Republican vote was large, there was perfect peace. The Democrats were not molested, but voted as they pleased, but up-country, where the Democrats were in a majority, the Republicans were driven from the polls with knives and clubs. Some of them were badly wounded and came down to Beaufort for protection and legal redress.
December 18, 1877.The box was obtained yesterday -- after provoking delay, because York wouldn't bring it on account of its weight. Mr. Macdonald got a chance to send for it, so thanks to him there was a great opening last night, and such a chattering over it, and admiring and thanking as you would have been amused to see.
The old linen is ever useful. The costumes and handkerchiefs will come in in some of our temperance pieces. We have quite a respectable stage property now, with our tambourine, drum, flags, etc., etc.
The people, whose minds are much "confuse" just now, with the fear of losing their lands, and with the condemnation of Robert Smalls to field labor (and to the whipping-post, which is almost an established fact, the country papers are all howling for it so), are pining for W. They say if Mr. Towne only "bin dedda" he would see them all defended and righted and counselled and led safely through. They think he could settle it all as easily as he settled George Wood's land case. Rina says the whole island would "heardee what he say," and no doubt he would have talking enough to do. How the people here do want a leader!December 30, 1877.Such a stormy end to the year! It is not very cold -- thermometer in the fifties, but it grows colder and colder, and blows hard, with dark, gloomy clouds hanging over. I should not care, as it is holiday, only that we have so many young things to suffer -- three young calves, one sick yearling, and a colt born to-day -- to my great regret a little mare colt. It is to be my colt.
Our county is divided in two, thank goodness. It is now the old Beaufort County, and the upper part is Palmetto County. Though the election here went all one way, they say it will be disputed in Columbia and up at Sumter, where the majority of votes were Republican; the ballot boxes were stolen, opened, stuffed, and everything done to make a new election necessary, when intimidation could be brought to bear, so as to get a different result. The News and Courier of Charleston, a Hampton paper, says it is disgusting to hear of Republican victories in these two places, but that as they are undoubted victories, let the elected men take their seats.
FROGMORE. May 26, 1878.THE school is crammed, and in the hot weather it is swingeing -- the closely packed benches, small windows, and sunned roofs accumulating heat. The trees have grown up so as to keep off the stiff breezes that used to moderate the heat. I am so glad we do not teach till July, as we used to.
June 16, 1878.Our exhibition was a success, as usual. The church was packed, and I think a hundred or more people could not get seats -- many could not get in at all. I think we have had more attractive days before, but the people all seemed enthusiastic and well amused. We had no white visitors but Mrs. Davis and her niece, Miss Dennis, and Mr. Macdonald. It was a cloudy day with constant threatening of rain, but cool, and so pleasanter than usual. It is a great trouble, but, as it is the great event of the year on the island, -- the day that brings back our old scholars, flocking from Savannah, Charleston, Bull River, and all about, to witness the exercises, -- we ought not to feel it a trouble. We are well tired when it is over.
September 22, 1878.Here I sit at my desk, sole alone on the plantation, and thinking what a contrast this is to every Sunday since last July.
It is lucky I am here to look after things. Mrs. R. has done as well as she could, but there is plenty of room for the spending of money in fences, etc., and that she had no right to do. General dilapidation stares me in the face. I suppose I notice it more after seeing the beauty and order and trigness of the North, but certainly it seems very forlorn. The mocking-birds, however, make all lively by their perpetual singing, in every direction, and it is good to be back where you are really needed. If you had seen the three little skeleton babies that were brought to me to-day, and if you had heard one poor mother, whose baby seemed dying, say, "Ale been-a-pray day and night for you to come and save my baby," you would have been better than I am, and have never given a look back to the flesh-pots of Egypt, or even to the enjoyment of family, as I do. I think that baby will die before the woman can get it home, but the other two I have some hope of, now that the mothers have advice and medicine.
September 29, 1878.I found things in pretty good order, but the owner's eye and the owner's energy are always necessary to keep things as they should be. The vegetable garden, that I left in perfect order and just planted, is now a wilderness, and will cost a little fortune to put back again as it should be. Other things, too, seem neglected and dilapidated. At first I was shocked at the difference between what I had left and what I came to, but I am getting used to it. There is always so much to contend with here. For instance, the fox comes every night to eat my little chicks, and I can't either catch, shoot, or prevent him. My whole stock seems likely to go. The people are all very busy picking cotton; the man who brings his trained fox-dogs is away, and all I can do is to suffer the loss. Bruno runs the fellow off a dozen times before we go to bed, and then gives it up.
Since I have been back it was excessively warm and damp, the thermometer nearly ninety, or above it, all day, and over eighty every night. It was foggy and damp, too, without the wind we generally have, and the mosquitoes were as thick as bees about a hive. It was dreadful, but to-day we have a fine strong breeze.
October 20, 1878.The school is enchanting, and I am happy as the day is long. I did think things disgusting when I first got back, coming as I did from the lap of luxury. I ought to be ashamed of myself to have worried you about it, but that letter was stung out of me by mosquitoes. We have had another spell of that torment.
October 29, 1878.The sun is just hazy and nothing could be more perfect than the temperature. Everybody is agog to-day, for it is "baptizing Sunday," and there are to be about six weddings among our old scholars. I have got to go to the church to announce the opening of the public schools on November 1st.
Political times are simply frightful. Men are shot at, hounded down, trapped, and held till certain meetings are over, and intimidated in every possible way. It gets worse and worse as election approaches. Mr. French, of the Beaufort Tribune, says, "In order to prevent our county falling into such hands (Republican), any measures that will accomplish the end will be justifiable, however wicked they might be in other communities." Upon this plan is the whole campaign conducted.
November 6, 1878.The election was a most quiet one. It was opposite our school, but so still that we said it was impossible to believe that hundreds of people were just outside. The Democratic Commissioner of Elections appointed none but Democratic managers throughout this whole county. Our three were C., B., and one of the drunken C.'s, -- the one who used to be so cruel and burn the people with pine tar dropped blazing on their backs. They were all watched by the people, who appointed a committee for the purpose, and numbers of them stayed to see the votes counted at night. On Saturday I went to a Republican meeting at the church. Robert Smalls told of his mobbing at Gillisonville. He was announced to speak there, and when ten o'clock -- the hour -- came, he was on the spot and with him about forty men. The stand was in front of a store in the street, and men and women were coming up the street to attend the meeting, when eight hundred red-shirt men, led by colonels, generals, and many leading men of the state, came dashing into the town, giving the "real rebel yell," the newspaper said. Robert Smalls called it "whooping like Indians." They drew up, and as a body stood still, but every few minutes a squad of three or four would scour down street on their horses, and reaching out would "lick off the hats" of the colored men or slap the faces of the colored women coming to the meeting, whooping and yelling and scattering the people on all sides. This made the colored men so mad that they wanted to pitch right into a fight with the eight hundred, but Robert Smalls restrained them, telling them what folly it was. Then the leader, Colonel somebody, came up and demanded half-time. Robert S. said there would be no meeting. Then they said he should have a meeting and should speak. He refused to say a word at a Democratic meeting, and as there was no Republican one, he said he would not speak at all. They gave him ten minutes to make up his mind. Then he withdrew into the store with his forty men and drew them all up around it behind the counters. They had guns. He told them to aim at the door, and stand with finger on trigger, but on no account to shoot unless the red-shirts broke in. Meantime, when the ten minutes were over, the outsiders began to try to break down the door. They called Smalls and told him they would set fire to the house and burn him up in it. They fired repeatedly through the windows and walls. He showed us two balls he had picked up inside. He would not come out, and the leaders led off part of the red-shirts and began to make speeches, leaving the store surrounded, however, for fear Smalls should escape.
The people who had come to the meeting meanwhile ran to raise the alarm in every direction, and in an incredibly short time the most distant parts of the county heard that their truly beloved leader was trapped in a house surrounded by red-shirts, and that his life was in danger. Every colored man and woman seized whatever was at hand -- guns, axes, hoes, etc., and ran to the rescue. By six o'clock afternoon a thousand negroes were approaching the town, and the red-shirts thought best to gallop away. They left twenty armed men to meet the train upon which Smalls was to return to Beaufort and to "attend to him." He had to go away ahead of the train and jump on the tender in the dark, and so he got back safely. At every station they met troops of negroes, one and two hundred together, all on their way to Gillisonville to the rescue. Smalls thinks this attack was caused by Hampton's saying in a public speech that there was but one man he now thought ought to be out of the way, and that man was Robert Smalls, who, by giving the Republicans one more vote in the House, would strengthen them in the choice of the next President, which would probably take place in the House of Representatives. I think if Robert S. does meet with any violence there will be hot times between blacks and rebs, but of course it is not likely they will touch him, after election, -- unless he is elected, when I do not think his life would be worth a button.
Our poor county was chuzzled out of one of its greatest privileges last week by that rascally old turncoat, Judge M. By a trick, Dr. White was put into the Board of County Commissioners. That was the beginning of the train. Then, Renty Greaves, chairman, and the other county commissioners were all arrested for not keeping the roads and bridges on St. Helena in order, and were held on $5000 bond for Renty, and $1000 for the others, including even the clerk -- our school commissioner, Wheeler. Besides this, they arrested them late on Saturday night so that they should have to spend Sunday in jail. But they found bondsmen, -- Mr. Waterhouse and Mr. Collins going bail for them, that is, for all but Dr. White, who was, of course, bailed by his Democratic friends. Then the Judge bulldozed Renty Greaves -- told him he would have a term in jail, but that if he would resign his chairmanship to Dr. White, he should be set at liberty at once, and his bondsmen released. Renty, by virtue of his office, was one of the Board of Jury Commissioners, and the only Republican on it. If he resigned to Dr. White, all would be Democrats and the juries chosen by them. He was scared into doing it, and so we have three Democrats in that office, where the whole county is Republican! I see danger to the lands in this move, for one of the papers said last winter that now that they had all Democratic judges on the bench, it was time to bring the titles to these lands before "an intelligent jury of the former residents of the island!"
The people at the election yesterday seemed much impressed by the importance of this election, and there was no sky-larking. They meant business. Only nine Democratic voters here, and all but one of these white men!
November 10, 1878.Our election was quiet, of course. The people seemed thoroughly in earnest, and voted steadily and silently without the usual play and laughter. The four Democratic managers were well watched by various parties, among others by a committee appointed for the purpose by vote of the people. The count of the vote at night was specially attended to. The result on this island was nine hundred and eighteen votes, only nine of them Democratic and only one of the nine a colored man's vote. This is much fewer than at the election two years ago, and shows that here Democracy does not gain ground. Of course, Robert Smalls was defeated and the people are greatly grieved about it, and are not reconciled to the result.
November 17, 1878.We had another "chiel, takin' notes" on Friday, but I do not know whether he intends to "prent 'em." It was no less a personage than Sir George Campbell, member of the English Parliament, who is here on a "tour of inspection," the papers say. Robert Smalls brought him over, and we had a good lunch together -- we three, Sir G. C., Robert S., and I. I had stayed at home on account of the raw, damp day, and had a cold in my head, which is now much better. Sir G. stopped at the school, and made some remarks at the church convention, which was being held at the brick church opposite. He was a pleasing and very gentlemanly person. What he came to inspect I do not know. He questioned me chiefly about the people, and their rate of progress. Robert S. is very cheerful, and says the outrageous bulldozing and cheating in this last election is the best thing that could have happened for the Republican Party, for it has been so barefaced and open that it cannot be denied, and so much depends upon having Republicans in Congress now that he thinks it will not be negligently passed over, as it has been before.
1879FROGMORE, May 11, 1879.THE concert is over. It was not the success the first one was because Kit Green and Robert Smalls divided the attention of the audience. The church was so crammed that the children's voices were smothered (in the pieces) but the singing went well. Robert Smalls is going to Arizona to look at lands, with a view to emigration -- not of himself, but of such as will go somewhere. He has a free pass.
I had a singular letter yesterday from an old scholar, Andrew Seabrook. He was the grandchild of old Don Carlos, and when he left the island he gave me my first hen pigeon. He writes from the studio of D. H. Huntingdon, artist, and asks for a letter of recommendation to aid him in getting admission to the New York Academy of Design, as he wishes to be a landscape painter. I never was more surprised. He is acting by Mr. Huntingdon's advice, too. The curious part of it is that he is nearly white, and belonged to the Allston family, of which family Washington Allston came. Is it heredity? He has been making a living as a waiter, and is just twenty-one. I shall write what I know of him to Mr. Huntingdon, and send him a letter for the Academy but I don't suppose I can do anything for him worth speaking of.
June 1, 1879.W e are busy hunting out exhibition pieces, making the usual reports, etc., and if I do not write much for a week or two, or till after exhibition, do not be alarmed. It is only hurry, and I will soon send a line or two. We have all the merits and demerits for the year to count out -- no joke!
On Friday [Decoration Day] Ellen and I went to Beaufort to the National Cemetery, carrying a quantity of ivy, several wreaths of cedar and oleander, one of the exquisite white myrtle, and a wreath banner full of little bunches of all kinds of flowers. The myrtle is so beautiful for cutting that we are always rich when it is in bloom. There were not very many at the ceremonies, but Mr. Crofut and the ladies of Beaufort had a large wreath for every state, with a flag stamped with the abbreviated name of the state in the centre of it, and these made the ground look pretty well decorated. Ellen took the Vermont boys, and I the Pennsylvania boys, to do honor to, and I assure you their departments were the best-dressed of all. Mrs. Bennet, as usual, had the large cross for the monument. I like the inscription on the granite obelisk very much. It is, "Immortality to thousands of the brave defenders of our Country from the Great Rebellion." It is out of fashion now to use such plain words, but there they stand, in granite. 'Mr. Judd was not there, but sent an ode. Mr. Gage read the same poem that he read last year; a colored minister made the prayer, and Mr. Crofut was master of ceremonies.
June 22, 1879.Great events crowd so upon me for chronicling that I hardly know where to begin.
Closing of school is the event of the year to hundreds on the island as well as to ourselves. Our boys came on them. I have some fine fruit trees and they ought to bear next year. I want a Concord grape, for mine is dead, after a long struggle. The catawba bore well this year, but has not grown at all. I fear that looks like dying.
I am getting the house really beautifully cleaned. I enjoy it, I assure you. We have a new calf and so a promise of plenty of milk this winter. We have but one milch cow now, all the others are coming in. We have made butter all summer, and I have not bought six pounds this whole year.
October 24, 1879.Now for T.'s letter. I am so pleased to get her suggestions about the library, for it is well said that two heads are better than one, and especially is it so when hers is such a good planner, and mine is so preoccupied with other work.
Alice's plan of charging would cut them off from books about half the time, for at some seasons of the year they live without money. The use of this library is to be not so much to furnish food for an appetite as to create an appetite for the food, and the slightest penalty attached to the use of books would greatly discourage the appetite. But of course there must be rules, and fines for infringement. I loan some books now, and no one can keep one more than a week, and must return it clean, or not get another. They have been returned with scrupulous exactness, but only our nicest boys have borrowed them.
October 26, 1879.Don't take too much trouble about that library, for it will be a long time before it gets going, and a few books will do for a while. I have had a case made to go up over the high shelf in my recitation room, so that I can get the books down easily, and keep them locked and under my own care. In time we shall no doubt want a librarian, but now some one is needed to hunt out and recommend the books wanted, and none of our boys could do that yet. Great oaks from little acorns will come, I hope, for our acorn will be very little at first, -- that is, our patronage. How good you are to take so much trouble about these things!
I don't know what to do with the sewing-school. I want to start it on November 1st. We have been admitting new scholars, classifying, and making new teachers acquainted with their duties, but when these matters are settled, the sewing must begin, and who, who will look after Mrs. Ford and the work? One of the first bits of work will be to finish that quilt, and then it shall warm some old woman's bones.
We are having a cold snap -- thermometer, 44° at 6 A.M.
It is baptizing Sunday, and our Renty was baptized early on this cold windy day. Poor Kit Green had sixteen to "immerse" and was suffering from toothache. That is martyrdom, indeed! Julia had on to-day my little old brown corduroy jacket and a flannel petticoat. I asked her if she were warm enough. "Oh, yes, ma'am. If I ain't hear de wind, I ain't know he blow. I ain't feel him at all, only on my face."
November 9, 1879.Our school goes on as usual. The shaft that held the bell broke in two, and let the bell topple over. It is a wonder it did not come down and smash. The break, which was clean and fresh on one side, revealed a flaw in the casting of the other side, which might have brought the bell down at any time -- long ago. Joe Savage put on riveted bands, which will make it stronger than ever. The old belfry nearly came down, too, and we have had to have it made over, with new rafters and sills. So there has been some cost of repairs, but Alice's money of last year and this will amply pay for it. With the children's ten-cent money we put up shelves (for the kettles and hats) that are a great convenience.
I cannot well leave here till after our school festival, which we shall hold in time for me to reach you on Christmas Day. By that time I can sign the December certificates and swear the teachers, for their month will be out, Christmas week being a holiday. I can then stay North till the last week in January, and be back by February 1, to make out the pay and swear the teachers for January. In this way I shall not neglect my public duty. My own school will be under pretty efficient teachers, so that I shall not worry about it.
November 10, 1879.I am going to have a cistern some day, but now I shall have several large barrels full of water from the eaves ready. The kerosene barrels prevent mosquitoes breeding, so that old objection is removed. I never would have a water barrel about, till I found that a teaspoonful of kerosene every few days on the top of the water, kept it free from insects.
FROGMORE, April 18, 1880.WE had a grand party on the island last week. The "Round Table" met at Mrs. Ward's. The steamer Pilot Boy brought over fifty people from Beaufort, and everybody from the island was there, -- nearly, -- so that the rooms were crammed. Music, recitations, readings, etc., formed the amusements, and Mrs. Ward had a grand supper. Ellen and I went with James to drive us, so we were truly stylish. The Southerners, of whom there were several, regaled us with fresh new songs like the sexton's song in Dickens -- "I gather them in," and "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep." That is as far on in the century as they have got. Everybody was to go prepared with something, so I took Bret Harte's cat story, and Ellen a piece about Paul sailing across to help the Macedonians. I did not read mine because the programme had to be shortened, but Ellen said hers and was much commended. It was quite an event on our humdrum little island.
May 23, 1880.I have been this week distributing the Bibles (100) that the good gentleman of the Benezet, Mr. Philip Garrett, sent us. It is a great trouble, but the satisfaction of supplying a great need pays for it. Any time but just now, when every moment is precious, it would be only a pleasure. We are much behindhand in planning out for our exhibition, and I have not yet selected my amusement piece. Ellen has Tennyson's" Harold," abridged, for hers, and, as that is tragedy, I have to provide comedy, and don't know what to have. If I only had L. here now to suggest! It is some trouble even to arrange the lessons, as all the questions have to be written out for the teachers to ask, and we have so many divisions and teachers now that the task is heavy.
Evening.Rina and Ellen are all excitement about the sermon of to-day. The young minister, who has been to Columbia to a theological school, went to the penitentiary to see some people he knew, and the description he gives of the state of the convicts is too horrible to tell. He says "the Democrats must think there is no hell for bad people, for they make a hell of that prison." Men are there chained with their necks in an iron collar and joined to ankle chains. They never take these off. A young boy of fourteen, sentenced to five years for only being in a whiskey shop where a man was killed, wears hand-cuffs, and the poor fellow says he prays night and day that God will let him die. The irons have cut into his wrists. The beds are rotten straw, full of vermin.
The keeper said to Ishmael Williams (the minister) when he paid his entrance fee, "You have come, I suppose, to see how we take niggers down. I'll show you." Then he began with the treadmill, in which he said they soon took the stiffness and strength out of the newcomers. I can't tell you all, but the whole church broke out with groans, and the elders cried and shook their heads and wiped their faces as if every one had a friend there.
If you could see how beautiful the tide is, and the full moon through the oaks and over the water, you would all flock here and stay.
July 13, 1880.Our Fourth was a perfect success. I think that literally thousands of people on St. Helena turned out, and such a jolly day as everybody had! I will send you the newspaper account. Beaufort will "cuss" the promoters of this movement! It takes many a penny from their whiskey tills and others. I did not compete for a prize, but I exhibited watermelon and cantaloupe, tomato, eggplant, butter, and biscuit. Ellen had the horticultural department. There was a lovely show of babies, and Caroline's nine are a charming set -- really beautiful. She took the prize over Dinah Caper's baby, though Miss Dennis dressed that. It was too fussed-up with sash and cap, shoes and stockings; so the prize went to the most comfortable baby.
FROGMORE, June 11, 1882.WE are so sorry that vacation is coming and our delightful vocation ends. That it will give me a chance to see you all, is my only consolation, but that is one that suffices to make me welcome it.
June 16, 1882.The school exhibition was a brilliant one and there was no failure or mishap. The children's dresses were really stunning; they were in such good taste and so well made. Our pretty little Louisa wore white with a blue sash, and a little blue bow, like a butterfly, on her hair. Ellen had two charming pieces, one not original, for her infants. The first piece was all for boys, -- little tots, -- and they told how they would take care of horses, oxen, cows, dogs, cats, and birds. It was a splendid lesson for them and for all the island. Hastings Gantt's little boy said, "I will feed and curry my horses when I am a man, till they are as fat and shiny as Miss Towne's," and this brought down the house.
The other piece was for the tots of girls. They all had on -- sixteen of them -- white aprons and white caps, like Jenny's. They sang a little piece of Mrs. Slade's, about their getting supper, since their mother was away, so that their father would be pleased when he came home, and they actually set the table, beat up cakes, and did various work, while singing, to the great delight of the audience, white and black. Of course, our Louisa, who is a pretty good waiter, was head and front of this piece.
FROGMORE, December 26, 1883.THE "School Christmas" went off well and the hall was quite prettily decorated with those large palmetto leaves only. I did not go to the decorating and I had a heavy heart, as I sat as a stranger and spectator where we were all so busy together last year. The pieces were pretty and more distinctly spoken than usual, but my thoughts were too busy for me to enjoy them. The Benezet sent nice presents and some I got with Alice's money. When it came time to distribute them, I went to my class and gave each one his share. The teachers (colored) handed round the cakes, candy, and apples (oranges are too scarce to allow of them), and Ellen and Miss Yetters attended to their classes, with pleasant results to all. A general "thank you" to the donors followed, and we got home pretty early.
Yesterday Ellen went to Beaufort to church, and Miss Y. and I dressed the beautiful pine tree that we had on the parlor table for the abounding children of Caroline and James. It was perfectly charming when the candles were lighted, and I never saw white children more delighted. They jumped and laughed and shouted and made a jolly noise. These children are generally so unmoved apparently by any amount of astonishing beauty, or decoration, or gifts, that we were quite taken by surprise. When it was time for them to go, and I suggested as much, they said they would sing for us first, and so they sang three "spirituals," all new to me and very pretty. Then they went out with a perfect chorus of "Thank you, ma'am," even the little tiny ones piping up that refrain.
To-day we are cleaning up the rooms after the hurry and mess. Ellen gave most of the decorations for the tree, candles, etc., since she could not be here to do much of the dressing of it.
Next Sunday the Frogmore Sunday School is to have its jubilee, and then all will be over for this occasion.
FROGMORE, May 22, 1884.THE people all seem pleased to have a doctor of their own, and all have paid Dr. Peters so far, but he charges very little -- fifteen cents for ten powders was one charge. It will be a blessed thing if he and they agree, and he makes a good enough living to remain. He has not yet gone to see about his office, as he has no horse, but to-morrow he goes to secure that, and he will then be right in the way of all who want him.
The Sunday School to-day was not so large; only about sixty-three there. The Quarterly Meeting of Methodists interfered. The children are so nice and orderly now.
We are in the midst of preparation for exhibition, and I have begun to teach "Pinafore," but oh! what an attempt! I am going to have "We Sail," and "I am the Captain," with the salutations before it, -- "I am Monarch" and "Cousins and His Aunts"; also "Buttercup." This will fill out my time. Another of my exercises will be "Political Economy," -- just a little of what relates to capital, labor, and money, -- the uses of rich and poor men; and that piece will wind up with Burns' "A man's a man for a' that." We have chosen a beautiful anthem, which is not so difficult as our last two. The Benezet books are so nice -- just the things wanted. Easy lives of great men, histories, etc. Not a book will go to the big Pierce Library till I see how that is managed.
MILFORD, 2 P.M., Monday, July 9.Here we are, apparently fixed for the day, and why we don't go on, I don't know. The conductor said, "Ten minutes for lunch," and we have been here three quarters of an hour! I am afraid there will be great dashing along to make up time, by and by. We have come so fast already, and so roughly, that I have been just half sick south of Washington, but I doze away the time, and am feeling more settled since my good lunch, for which thanks to L.
I hear that we have had a slight accident to the engine. I hope it won't be enough to detain me till to-morrow. Oh, dear, how I groan over leaving you and going so far away! Though I will never live away from "Old Frogmo'," to which I believe you will come every winter, yet it seems as if I ought to be with you more, now that we are growing old, and there is no way to do it but for you to come to me, so tend your thoughts that way steadily.
YEMASSEE, Tuesday morning, 9 o'clock."McGregor is on his native heath again." Here I sit a-waiting till six this evening, with a blazing sun above, a cool breeze, a breakfast (bought of a fat old darky woman) consisting of fried chicken, good Maryland biscuit, and a watermelon. I have just finished the breakfast, which cost thirty cents, and feel refreshed as only watermelon can refresh you. There is a nice new station-house here with comfortable ladies' room, and a much more civilized look about everything. Even South Carolina grows. I shall read the magazines, eat watermelon for dinner, and pass a very comfortable day, for I have learned to wait with utter submission.
I want to tell you what the last two months have been to me -- a most precious season of sisterly affection that I shall never forget . . . . I blame myself for not doing more to cheer you up, but I am one of those disagreeable prophets that always see the dark side, and I suppose I couldn't help it.
12 noon.It is wearisome to stay here when, if Ellen is to leave to-morrow, every minute would be of value at Frogmore, in consultation over the past and future. I have read the magazine through, watered my little pot of plants, which looks wonderfully well, and have watched a shower come up the railroad, Savannah way, and go over. Nary what to do, I don't know. A freight train or two has gone crawling about, a hungry dog has been fed with my "remainder biscuit"; I have a flock of goats and kids to watch, and so I must content myself till 3 o'clock, when a freight train and caboose will get me to Beaufort by six. Too sunny to walk out.
BEAUFORT, Tuesday evening.I have just been out to the telegraph office to let you know of my getting here all right. The telegram I sent to Ellen came on Sunday night, and was sent over by York on Monday, he says, so I have no doubt James or Ellen will be over for me to-morrow. I got here in plenty of time to go home to-night, but that was unexpected. I had a very pleasant trip down, in the long freight train, which was just as fast as the passenger train, and two hours earlier. The lunch just held out, for I did not go to a single eating-house on the way, and lived on my basket, except the breakfast I got from the stall. Didn't I enjoy the melon! That old plague, the North Penn conductor, came and talked to me a long time at Yemassee. He says the Reading has bought the Newtown, and is going to make a connection between Fern Rock and Bethaires which will cut off nine miles of the distance to New York. He said the whole race of niggers ought to be swept away, and I told him my business was with that race and that they would never be swept away, so he was disgusted and went away, leaving me to read in peace.
(1) President Rutherford B. Hayes.
(2) Republican candidate for Governor of South Carolina.
(3) Wade Hampton, a Democrat, had been elected Governor of South Carolina.
(4) Phosphate works near Charleston, South Carolina.
(5) South Carolina Negro School Commissioners.
Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College