Friday, June 29, 2012


The letters found by C. while remodeling the Fred Blanchard home show that families
in late 19th century America had problems and secrets like those that beset
families today; they were just better at hiding them. The following is a letter from
Columbia (Briggs)Ellingwood, Fred Blanchard's  former mother in law. Her late
daughter had been Fred's first wife and the mother of his three children, Helen,
Jessie and Adnah. Reading the letters it's important to keep in mind that all three
eventually turned out well despite the problems the letters discuss.

It's also important in regard to the following letter not to jump to a conclusion. What
might have been scandalous behavior back in the 1890's is oftimes totally innocent
in today's society. As the song goes, "In olden days a glance of stocking was looked
on as something shocking...".

So here are the images of the letter and my transcription: 

Mechanic Falls  November 30th 1898
Dear Son Fred you said in your last letter you wrote me now give  me a rest
but there was something I thought might do you good so I wrote some but
you have never answerd either of them but Fred I have never laid up
anything against either of you for I know you have poor health both of you
that makes lots of difference with us all I have a clear concince I know I
have allways tried to have the children hear to you and Annie and use her
well I have never said anything against her to them I can see just how it is I
was afraid it would be so

 (page 2)
when they got grown up I have had children enough of my own to know
how much a Mother had to put up with I didn't expect she could put up
with them as we Mothers have to with our own Children but I did hope
they could stay at home untill they had a home of their own God only
knows how I have felt for the Children because they couldn't see or
realize what they was doing no Child can until it is to late how many
Children have run away from good homes to have their own way and
ruind by so doing now you are thinking Jessie has a good place now
fred she is with me and for the price of her life I can't let her

(page 3)
go back there only to get her cloths the man told her she couldn't  stop
there any longer and do you want to know why I will tell you but don't
you let any one I told you this dont even tell Annie unless she will never
tell it to anyone Jessie has never told no one but me and she dont know
I am telling you I am down to my Brothers to see his Widdow and see if
she will Board Jessie and let her have use of the instrument to take
lessons on she will and let her Board here if you will pay what the raw
materials will cost and let her help her to make up the rest She hasn't
any thing to live on only her Pension so she will have to have that  

    (page 4)
now Fred if you ever tell what I am going to tell you as a secret I shall
never tell you anything come what will never tell Jessie I wrote this  to
you she came to me for advice Mr Trask hant what a Man ought to be if
I could see you Fred I would tell but dare not put it in black and white
for fear of trouble but I shant let her go back there only to get her clothes
Mrs Trask told her she might stay all Winter and help her do the work
oh Fred it is too bad but I thank God she came to me she didn't know
what to do the poor Girl is to be pittied if she hant done right she cant
see it she thinks she is the one who has been misused and she cant see
she is to blame but if she l.ives to have a Family of her own

(page 5)
she will see who was to blame Jessie cant do housework for a living she
hant strength I have tried her she will work then she will look pale no
Collar in her Lips or Ears if she comes here to board Mrs Hawks will fit her
for a teacher 15 dollars a quarter She is the one to fit her if she had 6
Bottles of Ayers Sassaparilla I think she would be lots better I dont say
without knowing  what it is for if you cant get it at wholesale I can if she
is sick I will take her home

(page 6)
I'll do the very best I can as I would have one for my own Child
Have got to close  let me know what you will do for her at once
If I had the means I would use it but I hant  God knows my Heart if we
deceiver ourselves and others God we can't deceive
Love to you both as dear Children
Mother of Old.

Despite all this early furor Jessie Blanchard eventually became the wife of J.J.
White, a successful and prosperous jeweler in Providence RI and the mother of
children of her own.


Marian Pierre-Louis said...

How interesting! Fascinating post Bill! I can't say that I understand exactly what Jessie did but clearly there is a lot of drama here.

Dorene from Ohio said...

How wonderful that these items were preserved!

Michael Davies said...

Fascinating, I love a find like this!