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Bonnets usually had capes. I remember how bare a bonnet looked without a cape, when fashion decreed its removal.
A freak of style for a time pushed the bonnet so far back that the only way to keep it from falling off was to have a kind of hat pin put through the hair as close as possible to the neck, to make it hold its precarious position. Ties were generally used, too.
Hats for ladies came in fashion about Civil War times. Many felt these exposed their ears so much that they attached rosettes to ribbon ties, the rosettes thus covering the ears.
Gowns for a great many years were made rather full, no gores, and gathered into the waist. Bishop or mutton-leg sleeves were the usual style. Waists were high necked, and plain or full, according to taste, though later echoes of very extremely low necks came from our nation's capital, and other cities. Hoops, and bustles, too, had their day, when the larger they were the better, apparently. Also dresses were very long -a lady would scarcely go on the street with one that did not trail.
I remember well the dress of a pretty young bride in the late forties. She came from the east, and the young couple lived quite near our home. The Sunday she first “appeared out” at church, was in the winter. She wore a light gray silk flounced gown, a black silk “vesite” handsomely made and finished, for a wrap. Her bonnet was rather a large white watered silk, with a long flowing white plume; a very large muff of a some light colored fur completed her costume.
We walked right behind the couple, and I thought it was such a good thing that she had a great big muff, for it was quite a cold day! And my sister and I had on our new pretty wool dresses and large wadded capes like the gowns, and were not too warm !
Little girls wore dresses that came several inches below the knee, and “pantalettes” covered the rest of the leg to a low boot top. We wore white “panties” generally, but sometimes in bad weather mothers put nankeen ones on us. We were very proud of pretty white ones, tucked, or embroidered, and tried to keep them clean.
We wore sun-bonnets for every day, and a little close bonnet for dress.
Ladies wore silk mitts, generally black. . Little girls wore mitts, too. I remember having a pretty light blue pair when I was twelve or thirteen years old, from the fact that teachers were so few in the Sunday School at about that time that I was called upon one Sunday to teach a class of little girls. I had on my blue silk mitts and one of the children seemed much more interested in my mitts than in my instruction, for she said, “Say, Miss, when your mother dies will you give me your mitts?" I was rather stunned, and hardly knew what to say, but finally managed to reply, “Well, maybe, I don't know.”
When I was five or six years old, the powers at home decided that it was time to send me to school. I could read very well, for my father, for the amusement of both of us, I presume, had taught me my letters when I was at the mature age of two, and for the same reason, probably, continued that pastime, with the result stated. There was a school not more than a block from home, but as I have already mentioned the unfinished condition of both Sixth and Jersey Streets left the ravine still unfilled. lIowever, as the school was the nearest to my home it was decided to send me there. Sometimes after a rain the little stream in the ravine was too much for me to negotiate, but quite likely one of the big Wood boys going to the same school would lift me over. Big girls went there too, but they were all very good to me. It will be seen from this situation that there were as yet no graded or free schools. Boys and girls, big and little, went together.
Pretty much the only thing I remember about it is this: One day a good many of us had been playing around the hill, and were very late in coming in when the bell rang. Teacher was very much put out, and made us stand in a row while he talked to us; then he asked each one separately how he or she would prefer to be punished! to be whipped with a switch, ferruled, or kept in after school! I stood trembling at the last end of the line, and when he asked me the question I truthfully replied that "I didn't want to be punished at all!” There was a little titter at this, but I was not punished—and I suppose
all the rest were! They congratulated me, however, and bore me no grudge.
I attended this school more or less steadily till I was seven. At that age I remember one day going home with my geography and passing as usual the cottage of a good Kentucky neighbor. She asked me why I was carrying my books home. I said, “Why, I am seven years old and father said I needn't go to school any longer.”
And right here Mrs. Marshall, for that was her name, deserves a paragraph all to herself. Her little house was in plain sight from ours, right across the ravine, and I passed it every day. She and her daughter Rebecca lived there by themselves. Her front door was open almost always, except at night, even in cold weather. She had a big fire-place, before and over the fire of which she did all her cooking. We could see it easily from our west windows, and enjoyed the sight. She quite properly prided herself on her cooking, especially on her "pound cake,” and made it for others when asked to do so.
She no doubt was an excellent housekeeper, and seemed to be at home all of the time. We knew that she had one or two sons, but they were not with her, were probably at school or taking care of themselves.
Rebecca was two or three years older than I, and bye and bye when I was bigger, we went to the same school and were good friends. She was, however, much more studious than 1, and doubtless learned a good deal more.
After I went away to school, Mrs. Marshall left Quincy, I presume to be with her sons, who as we learned had gone to Minnesota and had without doubt done well by themselves and could now help their mother and sister. Some years later we heard that Rebecca had married a very well-to-do merchant of St. Paul, a Mr. Cathcart.
We exchanged friendly letters, but I did not see her for many years. One summer, however, I went up to a small town on the upper Mississippi, for a little rest from the heat, near a family friend, and wrote Rebecca asking her if I might come and see her for a few days. Her reply was a cordial invitation for me to do so. I found her in a large and very pleasant home, evidently quite at ease financially. Her mother had died, but
for the first time I met her brother, who came to see me as an early friend of the family. He was a fine looking man, and was greatly respected, as was evident from the fact that he was then Republican candidate for Governor of the State. He kindly took me for a long ride, showing me all the country around, as well as Minneapolis, Minnehaha Falls, etc. In the course of our ride we rode over (I think) a snake and killed it, referring to his candidacy I said, "Now this is a good augury, and I believe you will be elected.” Of course he laughed it off,—but I am quite sure he was elected.
I have never seen any of the family since, though I urged Rebecca to visit me, and I never found it convenient again to visit her. I presume she has gone as so many of my old friends have,-beyond the reach of mortals.
I did, however, attend other schools that were opened for a shorter or longer time, and soon public schools were established. Some of our parents were still prejudiced in favor of private schools, especially for girls. Of these the teachers were of varying ability, some with fads which they wished to indulge in. One quite prim young woman from Ipswich, Mass., whose school I attended, taught us calisthenics of a very moderate and limited variety, how to rise and bow to the singing teacher when he made his visits, how to enter a room, and how to greet visitors and introduce strangers.
We studied the usual “three R's," and some "ologies” but I fear I did not learn much. Two or three of my friends attended, so as usual we had a pretty good time. This teacher left after a year or two. Others came, and taught for short periods, among them a sister of Henry Ward Beecher. Meanwhile public schools were improving.
Two teachers of one of these schools which I attended for a time were refined and competent women. They were Miss Ketura Wood, a relative of John Wood, and Miss Helen Mar Moore, whose name we thought quite romantic.
It was this school, if I remember correctly, that was in the basement of the Methodist Church, across the street from the ancient burying ground. Most of the remains had been removed. It had been the frequent custom in the early days to surround graves with a picket fence, and it was not unusual to
see one of these enclosures standing, though unoccupied. These vacant enclosures appealed to us school girls as "such nice little rooms for playhouses," so we took possession, no one, apparently, having authority to object. I think we found enough old bits of board to roof it, so to speak, and we brought old rugs and other discarded articles from our homes, used our shawls for draperies, etc., etc., until we felt we had a very cosy and comfortable little house. Two of the larger girls would play father and mother, and we smaller ones the children. We would spread out our lunches when meal time came, and have quite a happy sociable meal. One girl friend, among other admiring visitors, was a gifted story-teller. Her theme quite often was "ghosts,” and she narrated these tales in a very dramatic way, so that we would sit spellbound and shivering, yet so impressed with the reality of her spooks and so thrilled we scarcely dared look behind us for fear of seeing, perhaps, the ghost of the former tenant of our playhouse. Yet we enjoyed the playhouse, gruesome as it seems.
We did, however, sometimes have merrier entertainment. We skipped the rope, vying with each other as to how many times we could go without tripping. We played hide-and-seek, tag, etc., etc.
It was for several years an established custom to celebrate the first of May with a royal ceremony. We elected for Queen a girl who was either a great favorite, or whom we thought the most beautiful; then we selected a flower girl and maids of honor. These had all to practice their parts, of course, beforehand. We usually marched to some sylvan spot near town for the ceremonies, and subsequent fun. Watson Springs was the favorite spot. There was as the name indicates, a beautiful little spring there in the midst of a grove, with a grass carpet studded over with wild flowers. And by the way, I have found in this same grove, very far from any garden or cultivated spot, the most gorgeous pansies, as fine as ever grew.
We always dressed in white if possible, provided ourselves with lunches, etc. Strange to say, the first of May was almost always pleasant, sometimes pretty cool, but we didn't mind that. There were plenty of May roses and other flowers for our Queen's crown, and for the flowergirl to strew in her path.