Great Grandma Bakes Cakes for 32 People

My first thought upon looking at Great Grandmother Harriet (Hattie) Morgan Stout’s letter to her daughter was, “I hope she wasn’t attempting to teach penmanship when she was a teacher!” I have the feeling Hattie would have more success when she bakes  cakes than when she tries to write legibly.

Letter from Hattie Stout 1910

Letter from Harriette Morgan Stout to her daughter Maude Stout Bartlett, May, 1910

I will spare you the chore of trying to figure out what Hattie was saying in this letter to Maude Stout Bartlett. I have transcribed the entire letter at the bottom of the post if you want to read the whole thing. But since it has references to unidentified people who are not of much interest to a reader 100 years after the letter was written, I will first summarize the letter’s high points.

Hattie would have been 68 years old that year, and her husband, William Cochran (Doc) Stout would have been 65. Maude Stout Bartlett was 35.  My grandmother, Vera Stout Anderson was 29 and had been married just six years but had three small children.

Last week I talked about this letter’s reference to my grandmother, Vera Stout Anderson who was planning to grill.  There’s another food reference in my great-grandmother’s letter which also left a few questions, when she bakes cakes for a Sunday School party. But there are more serious subjects here, also.

Doc Stout’s Ill Health

Hattie writes the letter on Thursday, May 12, 1910.  In the letter she worries a lot about her husband Doc Stout’s health.  He had a stroke, or perhaps more than one stroke, a little over a year earlier.  Hattie says

Pa is feeling about as usual but complains for the last week of his arm and leg being so much more numb than it was or has been for a long time. don’t know why it is so. It may be the weather has something to do with it. It has been so cold and disagreeable for the last two weeks. He can’t be so very billious for he has just finished a course of pills. He is asleep now on the davenport and snoring as usual. I do hope he won’t have another stroke. Seems cheerful & it is not that that caused the numbness.

In fact, Doc Stout did have another stroke. He died just three months after Hattie wrote this letter, in August 1910.

Doc Stout funeral

The Killbuck Community Band returning from the cemetery after funeral for Doc Stout. Grandfather Guy Anderson front left. Sign on left “Watch for locomotive.”

Focus on Daughter Maude

There is no question that the tie between Hattie and her older daughter, Maud, was very close.  When Hattie wrote this letter, Maud was 35 years old and had been married for twelve years. She lived in Buffalo New York, and according to the census form that she answered the previous month, her husband was a traveling railroad agent.  In other words he traveled around the country and promoted railroad travel during the Golden Age of train travel. In 1900 they had lived in Killbuck and he described his job as traveling salesman.  And the absences apparently took a toll on Maude.

Wish you were here to go up with us in the morning and you might as well be here all the time if you could content yourself as to be there all alone. Your visit quite spoiled us for Pa misses your smile as much as I do and always says wish Maud was here if anything out of the ordinary happens or if we were going some where Say Maud would enjoy this.

I don’t believe you are getting used to the staying alone biz very fast. Quite nice of Miss Pierce staying all night with you . Wish you had some one. Can’t you hunt up a young girl to come to stay at night with you{?} Even a day would help to relieve the monotony.

Hattie Bakes Cakes

Pa wanted to entertain the Sunday School another time So I had them Mond. evening. Had a nice time. Served ice cream, cake and coffee. Bought the ice cream of Robb & made the cakes myself. Had 32 plates including my own and Pa’s. The music was fine and the quartette sang lovely.

Good heavens, great-grandmother, for the sake of a descendant who writes about food traditions, could you not have shared at least what KIND of cake?  And I’m wondering what size pans and how many cakes it took to serve 32 people. Since Hattie was a reader of Godey’s Lady’s Magazine, perhaps she found the recipe there.  I’ll do some searching and see what cake was most popular in 1910 and give it a whirl. Although I can’t promise to bake cakes for 32.

Hints at the Way They Lived in Killbuck, Ohio in 1910

We learn that family is tight and see each other frequently. The people she writes about include her son-in-law’s family members–their whereabouts and health. Guy Anderson’s widowed mother, Mary, has been living with her other son, “Ben” until yesterday when Vera picked her up and took her to the farm where she and Guy live.

We learn that although Doc Stout is a doctor, he owns a farm and his wife is a bit concerned about getting the spring corn planting done. Guy is probably going to help with the corn planting and is bring them the planter.  After Doc Stout died, Hattie depended on Guy to manage the farm. (When I was a girl, my Uncle William J. Anderson lived on the farm and it remained in the family until we descendants sold it a few years ago.)

She mentions the weather–so chilly for May that they are burning the stove every day.

Hattie passes on a bit of gossip about townspeople–one woman who is going to Chicago and one who is pregnant (perhaps unmarried, since she says “is in a fix and begins to look plump a little.

In Closing

Hattie returns to both the subject of how much her father misses her  and Maude’s unhappiness and loneliness. Then she closes with a bit of advice.

Pa said how much Maud and Carlos would have enjoyed it—wish we had had it while you were here. He talked about it for a long time but I did not ______ it very strong thinking he would forget it but he kept it up so I let him go and done the best I could. We’re not very tired. Took things easy and did not worry and that is half the battle.

Good by. love to both. don’t get lonesome or afraid. Nothing to fear but the Comet and it is too far off.

I cannot make out that word about her reaction to Pa’s wanting to have the party, but it seems logical that she is saying she did not encourage his idea, but when he would not let go of the idea, she reluctantly went along.

The “Nothing to fear but the Comet” refers to the biggest news event of the year of 1910.  Haley’s comet came around on May 19, 1910 and was the center of attention for months, causing riots and stories predicting doom. The newspapers would have been covering it heavily about the time Hattie wrote this letter.  But she adopted a matter-of-fact scientific view rather than the less informed panic.

 

ENTIRE LETTER TRANSCRIPT

(With a few additional notes)

Envelope: Mrs. C. E. Bartlett, 16 Robie Ave. Buffalo NY

postmarked Killbuck, May 12 p.m. 1910 Ohio

Killbuck Thursday

Dear Maude and Carlos You see one day ahead but, I or rather we are going to go up to Vera’s in the morning and want to start from here by eight-o’clock so I know would be no time to write letters I have written one to Will [brother William Morgan Stout] one to Clem [I have no idea who this is] and now comes your turn last-of course but not-least for I cut theirs off short for I have some things to do this afternoon yet.

Vera is going to have a grilling tomorrow and will put in two grills – She has one in now & wants to put another in as soon as I get it there with the lining and bottom as she has asked about 10 or 12 and they all could not get around one grill to any advantage. We will take Sarah Jane [Probably Sarah Jane Brink Anderson, wife of Guy Anderson’s uncle] along with us if she wants to go. Vera was down after Mary [Mary Brink, Guy Anderson’s mother] yesterday. Ben [Bernard Franklin Anderson, Guy’s brother] fetched her this far and Vera met her. [In 1910, Mary was living with Ben and his wife She will stop up there until Sun. Net seems better now. don’t think it is anything permanent though. [“Net” is Nettie Andress Anderson, wife of Ben. In fact her illness was permanent, and she died the following year.]

Pa is feeling about as usual but complains for the last week of his arm and leg being so much more numb than it was or has been for a long time. don’t know why it is so. It may be the weather has something to do with it. It has been so cold and disagreeable for the last two weeks. He can’t be so very billious for he has just finished a course of pills. He is asleep now on the davenport and snoring as usual. I do hope he won’t have another stroke. Seems cheerful & it is not that that caused the numbness.

We have not any corn planted yet and we are just as well off as others. Guy [Leonard Guy Anderson, son-in-law of Hattie, wife of Vera] will finish his by tomorrow Eve and then we will have the planter Sat. guess he will come down and work it as Nett don’t understand it very well. do hope it won’t rain any more for a while. The sun is shining bright now but the wind is cold and we have the gem going all the time. [The “gem” “Gem” is a type of stove. They originally were coal burning, but by 1910 it could have been gas.]

Wish you were here to go up with us in the morning and you might as well be here all the time if you could content yourself as to be there all alone. Your visit quite spoiled us for Pa misses your smile as much as I do and always says wish Maud was here if anything out of the ordinary happens or if we were going some where Say Maud would enjoy this.

I don’t believe you are getting used to the staying alone biz very fast. Quite nice of Miss Pierce [Perhaps a Buffalo friend] staying all night with you . Wish you had some one. Can’t you hunt up a young girl to come to stay at night with you{?} Even a day would help to relieve the monotony.

I have not cleaned our bit of house yet and don’t care if I don’t as long as this beastly weather lasts but I expect when it gets warm I’ll be so lazy that I won’t feel like moving one bit. Martha [don’t know who this is] washed for me at lest{least} Sat & I ironed yesterday.

I guess the news is rare about here Glenner(?) is in a fix and begins to look plump a little. I saw it in her face.You know that __ are over there. [She appears to be speaking about a woman who is pregnant, but I have no idea who she is talking about.]

Clara Started for Chicago yesterday. [Another mystery person]

Pa wanted to entertain the Sunday School another time So I had them Mond. evening. Had a nice time. Served ice cream, cake and coffee. Bought the ice cream of Robb [1920 Census shows Joseph Charles Robb as owner of a bake shop in Killbuck] & made the cakes myself. Had 32 plates including my own and Pa’s. The music was fine and the quartette sang lovely. Star’d {Started}____about eleven oclock. Vera and Guy came down but left the kids at home.

Pa said how much Maud and Carlos would have enjoyed it—wish we had had it while you were here. He talked about it for a long time but I did not ______ it very strong thinking he would forget it but he kept it up so I let him go and done the best I could. We’re not very tired. Took things easy and did not worry and that is half the battle.

Good by. love to both. don’t get lonesome or afraid. Nothing to fear but the Comet and it is too far off.

Mother.

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