Letter from Mary Carpenter, July 10, 1873

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Letters of Mary Carpenter
Minnesota Historical Society Manuscripts Collection P1487

Marshall, Minn. July 10,1873

Dear Aunt Martha,

Your long and very acceptable letter came to hand last Monday. I had one from Mother the same day, also one from Mrs. Walker, an intimate friend in our old home. Excuse my using pencil, as our ink is packed with goods we have not got yet. This paper is dirty and wrinkled but it is all I have at present, and no means to get more with. You kindly said that everything about our affairs would interest you so I'll try to tell you just how we are situated. Please ask Cousin Laura to take this letter as if written to her also for I may not be able to get writing materials & stamps to write again soon. We arrived here a week ago last Monday after a journey of two weeks. George and the children drove the stock on foot while I drove the load. George did not ride ten miles of the whole distance 200 miles. The older children took turns riding and driving. We camped in our wagon & cooked our meals by a camp fire. I was not romantic enough to enjoy it much, but endured it better than I feared. My health and appetite were very poor when I started. They have improved. I can work better than when I started. Our circumstances now are very discouraging. George is haggard & worn for his mind is ill at ease and he works very hard.

The freight on our goods was nearly 50 dollars. Thirty of it is yet due, & we have no means of raising it. The goods are at the depot only four miles off and have been for several weeks but we can't get them. I am afraid they will be sold to pay freight. Most of our clothing, &c. is there. The bureau & large wooden cupboard and several barrels crowded full of clothing, household stuff, &c. All my baby clothes are in the bureau. We had a horse we expected to sell, but find there is no sale for horses. There is no chance to earn anything in this region. The grasshoppers have destroyed the gardens here so all we have is a few potatoes growing. We have everything to buy till we can raise something excepting our meat & potatoes for a while, and not a bit of money.

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Our appetites are good which seems rather unfortunate. No house but a leaky ten foot shanty. We expected to build something more right off. Mother said when we started "You are going there to freeze and starve next winter." I thought not, but George said today it might prove so. We have sacrificed considerable just to get here. It makes it worse that I expect a confinement in October. My health is pretty good & if we had a decent house, & our goods here, it would look much brighter. George has learned to make brooms & if he could get a little money for stock he might do pretty well at that during the winter. Lumber is ten miles off & we have all the wood to buy before we haul it.

I try to trust in God's promises, but we can't expect him to work miracles nowadays. Sometimes, all that is expected of us is to do the best we can & that we shall certainly endeavor to do. Even if we do freeze & starve in the way of duty, it will not be a dishonorable death. I laid awake almost all night, one night, worrying about it, but that didn't do any good. "Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof." We have a little to eat yet & perhaps some way will be provided for more when it is gone. We sold all of our cows but two & a young heifer. Our best cow was sick on the road & does not yet recover. She will be no dependence this winter. The other often will give milk in a few days but we shan't have much butter to sell.

The first few years here will be hard very probably. If we struggle through them, then we stand a chance to do pretty well I think. As to clothing, we'll have to do almost without. I guess we came very poorly provided for in that respect. By the way, when you send Mother's box, if you happen to have any old things that you don't think worth sending, they would do us lots of good. I am an adept in using old things up - have served a good apprenticeship.

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Mother will forward to me, if it is convenient. And we are not able to subscribe for any papers. It is lonely enough without reading. We left our books with Mother for fear they would be spoiled before we got a house. Perhaps you have some old papers to spare. They would be appreciated. Do you not think me a consummate beggar? I'll run the risk of your thinking so. I am afraid you will not want to hear from me very often if I have nothing more cheering to write. Perhaps sometime it will be better. Our cookstove stands out of doors with no protection. Isn't this roughing it? You hope a double portion of the pioneering spirit is descended to me. I am endowed with very little of it. My taste runs the other way to conveniences, elegancies, comforts and all the paraphernalia of civilized life. The country here is very pleasant in Summer. We have the cars in sight for several miles.

The children are well and hearty and all send love to Aunt Martha. We had a good celebration of the "Fourth" at Marshall. Good speaking, singing, &c. Mamie and I went down with Mrs. Ross' folks, our nearby neighbors. I took our team last Sabbath, and Mamie & I went to meeting at Marshall. Congregational preaching in the forenoon, then S. School and Methodist preaching in the afternoon. Both sermons were good & the S. School interesting. My shoes were too poor to go, and I had no gloves which did not correspond with the rest of my dress, but I put aside scrupples and went. Geo. has no pants fit to wear, so he can't go. I have a number of things to fix over for the children, but can't do it because we can't get the goods. If I had fifteen dollars we could get all except George's machinery, reaper, horserake, plough, &c.. But fifteen dollars doesn't grow on any bush. Well, I mustn't worry. I should not have troubled you with all this only I could not tell you truthfully how we were situated without. Don't worry about it.

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I presume it is all for the best. "It is always darkest just before day." Mother's health is better than when I came away. She wrote that Father and Frank were feeling quite debilitated by the bad weather. Willie was well. Father thought he should never see me again when I started off. All the hindrance will be lack of means. It takes ten dollars to go there but a day and a half on the cars will take me there. I am owing Mother a letter, but am dreading to write for fear it will worry her. Tell cousin Laura I am always very glad to hear from her and will try to be prompt in replying. Please give my love to her and cousin Lowell and Joy. I have not forgotten the pleasant times we used to have in Fall River together. I cannot form much idea of your Connecticut house as I never was there. I don't know any news to write.

Do you want to know what our carpet is? Our cabin has a ground floor and we spread green grass over it for a carpet and change it occasionally. It saves scrubbing and mopping. But I would rather have a chance to do both. We brought a dozen hens with us, so we have some eggs. Our pigs could not start so we had to sell them all except that which we brought in the pork barrel. I am not fond of salt pork but it is a good deal better than no meat. George desires to be remembered. He feels better to be on his own place than he did where we were before. If we can get through next winter I hope we can do pretty well. With love from the children & myself to all & hoping to hear again from you before long. I am

Your affectionate niece,
Mary E. L. Carpenter