Letter #3; Early 1861; Baby Beulah’s Picture Book    

Dear Sister Mary,

I thought I would not write until I received the box you sent. The man has gone to Napa for it and I am almost childish in my eager anticipation of his return. Whatever you send will be acceptable. We do not have much money for clothing and cannot buy nice materials as you do. Our little girls are growing so fast, faster than they can wear out their clothing. My entire wardrobe consists of one dark calico, my green silk I brought to California, and one green muslin. The light silk, you gave me when I married, I sold in Sacramento for twenty dollars a year ago.’

‘Mary, you sent me so many papers I do not think I should mention any but Harpers Monthly. It has come regularly the past year and gives us much pleasure that we cannot get from other sources.’

‘We are about to get several swarms of bees. The 1858 Rural Register contains a treatise on that subject. Honey is a dollar a pound in San Francisco.’

‘The baby is crying and I must hurry. The poor thing has a cold now. I will write when the box arrives. Your affectionate sister, Susan.’

‘P.S. Please send Beulah a picture book. She is bewitched after books.’

As the possibility of a War Between the States loomed closer, Mary’s husband, Gardner Colby, had a good business in woolen mills. Susan and Emory remained poor during Susan’s life time of her last eight years while they lived in Clear Lake. The barrels and boxes of household supplies and clothing, that Mary and her other sisters and brothers sent to them, were the joy of their lives.

 Letter# 4; Late 1861,

‘Dear Sister Mary,

I received your box. Also, the day before I received a letter from Fanny containing two sovereigns (ten dollars). Today I received the five (sovereigns) and the one for which accept my thanks. We shall get better. Emory had a profitable law suit is likely to have more.’

‘It is a relief to give up school. I taught three months and earned sixty dollars. I received one-dollar cash but we got wheat and meat and I have a nice heifer we will not eat up and I got my sewing done.’

‘I want to chat about the box you sent me. The things were all valuable but more than that; I breathed the same air that you and Fanny breathed when you packed it. I stood breathless when the hammer and chisel lifted the lid and was forced open. It was such a Pandora’s Box. When it was opened, the scholars went home to tell everyone about the beautiful things Fanny and Beulah received. The shawl, Beulah drawers and undershirts… I did not expect such good supply and no more than needful considering accidents. They just fit her and the little thing is so comfortable in them.’

‘The black and white linen thread is another. It is hard to get thread in California. It is so coarse and rotten. I made an everyday dress for Beulah of blue delaine and Fanny has Beulah’s old flannel to creep in. She will walk in two or three weeks.’

‘Beulah was delighted with her book. I became weary of hearing, ‘There piggy, there piggy, there mammy, there mammy, there pappy.’ I have taken the pages and pasted them on cloth.’

‘Emory has gone to Napa Valley for a week to get grape vines and fruit tree scions (cuttings) to start a vineyard and an orchard. Your affectionate sister, Susan.’

‘P.S. There are no stamps here so I cannot get a one cent one. We have no coppers.’

This postscript was added because Susan knew that Mary’s boys probably had collected some stamps that would cost neither Mary or anyone any money. In those days, the postmaster noted the postage paid and placed the postmark, in his own handwriting, on the envelope. The stamps were untouched and could be reused. Susan does not mention Beulah is two years old. Such holidays were not mentioned in her letters.

Next Episode: Rain, Floods, and Fever come to Lake County

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

Website: genepaleno.com

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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