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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Letter Home: Of Cows, Calico & Consumption

Letter from Mary Cass (Eccles) to her mother Diantha and her brother Frank.



Transcription:

Tuesday Morning January 27th 1879
Dear Mother + Brother
I must write and say I am well and hoping to find you all the same. Poor Mrs. Corell is not any better is a failing all of the time she thinks every thing of me if she should be taken away I should leave right a way unless the old lady should stay a while.  I like all of the folks very much indeed they are all kind to me and I don't have to work any harder than I have before for $1.00 a week.  Mr. Corell paid me $2.00 yesterday morning and Ernest said that when I came home that he would see that I had the rest of my pay.  He wanted to know if that would be soon enough + I told him it would.

I think I shall be at home about one week from next Saturday and stay all knight (sic).  I may be at home before. I shall if she should be taken away.  Ma try and have my calico dress skirt done and put on three ruffles about one finger + a half wide and make the sleeves and then if I come home I can finish it.  I am in need of it for when I washed last week I hung the colored clothes on the railing and the old cow got my polania and tore out one of the sleeves and chewed it all up and so you see it leaves me with one dress.  

He is waiting for my letter and so I will have to close hoping to here (sic) from you soon.  Frank answer this as soon as you get it.  

Mary

I was in a hurry when I wrote this




Editor's note:  There are two possible back stories to this letter.  I was fairly certain the year on this letter was 1879 but checking with the archives suggests it is 1874 written in haste.  I have deduced this because Ernest Corell, the oldest son of Mr. Abram Corell from his first marriage was 16 years old at the time his step mother Mrs. Ellen Bickford Corell passed away in May 1874 from consumption while in childbirth.  Mary Cass (Eccles) was 18 years old and clearly hired to help the family out during this trying time.  I presume Mrs. Corell rallies in January only to die in May.

The other possibility is that it is actually 1879 and Mr. Abram Corell has taken a third wife that he is about to lose.  This wife would not turn up on the census for me and therefore entirely possible.  What I have found out is that the remainder of the family is living in Michigan by the 1880 census with Ernest at the head at age 22.  By 1900, Abram is listed as a patient in the Michigan Asylum for the Insane.  I'm thinking losing so many wives is not good for one's sanity.  By the 1910 Census he is out and listed as a gardener though he is 78 years old at that time.  What is that Oscar Wilde saying? "To lose a wife is a misfortune, to lose another is careless."  Something like that at any rate and he was actually talking about parents but the thought crosses over.

You know, I started this post thinking Mary's letter was adorable with the cow eating her dress leaving her but one.  And her instructions to her mother on how to sew ruffles onto the other dress amidst the somber background of a family preparing to mourn was very young and innocent.  I even tried tracking down "polonia" to see if it was some print or fabric style I should know. I couldn't find it.  But the post took a turn towards Bummer Town with the census search.  I do apologize. 

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