Tag Archives: family letter

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.

Letter from brother Alanson Platt

In June, 1933, Alanson Platt/Lanson visited his brother Asahel Platt in Killbuck, Ohio.  Alanson was a farmer who lived near Attica, New York at the time. In August, he wrote to Asahel worrying about the fact he had not heard from him. (See the story of Asahel Platt and his relationship to our family here.)  Asahel was the first husband of my 2x great-grandmother.

Platt letters

Asahel Platt’s brother Alanson Platt writes to him from Attica NY

Alanson Platt to Asahel 1833 pg 2

This letter was saved my my 2nd great grandmother Mary Platt Morgan and passed down to her daughter, her grand daughter, and her great grand daughter, my mother. I have a photo copy, and so this scan is not of the best quality.

Alanson had good handwriting, and was obviously educated, particularly in religion.  He spells well given that spelling was flexible to say the least in the era, and has the customary fancy handwriting.

Asahel might have been seriously ill. That is hinted at in the letter and in fact, he died in November, two months after the letter was written.

Alanson Platt wrote the letter September 13, 1833 and it was postmarked in Elyria, Ohio (near Cleveland) on September 16 to be directed to the post office in Millersburg, Ohio. Oxford/Killbuck did not yet have a post office.  From Elyria  it would have taken another three days or so to reach Millersburg, Ohio 14 miles from Killbuck.  I wonder if Asahel was well enough to read the letter, which was meant to solve perceived problems in his spiritual life. Presumably  Alanson feared Asahel would soon meet his Maker.

The letter comes in three main parts: Inquiring about the family and complaining about not getting mail; description of farm activities; concern for the soul of Asahel Platt.  In the following introduction, my  notes are in italics.

The Letter Transcript

Notes

Alanson Platt writes from Attica New York to his brother Asahel who is in Killbuck, Ohio. They were both born in Connecticut, but Alanson has lived in Attica for a year. He will later move to Ohio and is buried in Oberlin. Alanson is at least one year younger than Asahel. Asahel died in Killbuck in November 1833 at the age of 42, approximately 2 months after this letter was written.

I have inserted periods at the end of sentences and a few commas, as Alanson used no capitalization at the beginning of sentences, and no punctuation. He does capitalize words randomly (or if considered important) as they did in early 19th century.

Postal Rates

What is all this about sending as far as Cleveland by private conveyance, and filling up the paper? Until 1846, postal rates were based on sheets of paper rather than ounces, so a frugal person would fill up both sides of one sheet of paper for a bargain, which is what Alanson did. In addition to sheets of paper there were zones–so many miles meant so much postage.  Attica to Milersburg would have been 18 1/2 cents, whereas Cleveland to Millersburg would only be 10 cents–half as much!

Attica Sept 16th 1833

we feel very anxious to hear and hope if you have not already written that some one will write immediately

Dear Brother, having an opportunity to send as far as Cleavland (sic) by private conveyance, I take this opportunity to write a few lines in great haste. [We] have been looking for a letter from you for some time past and have sent to the office often for I long to hear from you not having heard anything since I left your house in June last And we have not heard anything from Lester [Alanson’s son] since he started for your house on the 3rd of July last and we feel very anxious to hear and hope if you have not already written that some one will write immediately And let us know if he has arrived. And let us know how your health is and all our friends there in Ohio.

Temperance and religion continued to flourish and increase
 

I have not received a letter from Csn [cousin] since I returned from Ohio but I have from brother Isaac several. [I]n his last report they were all in good health and he wrote that Temperance and religion continued to flourish and increase in that region of Country.

A Farmer’s Lament About Weather

[O]ur family are enjoying good health at present and have through the summer. I have been very busily employed since I returned from your house. the crop of grass has come in very abundant. I have but 50 tons of hay and between 20/30 loads of oats although they were not more than half a crop in consequence of the rains Mowing them on the flat ground, but the frost has cut short the corn here. [T]here has been 3 frosts in succession three nights past. we hope it has not entirely finished corn.

I feel that from a Child you have known too well the Holy Scriptures to be led away by the errorists that are around you

I want you to write me respecting the exercises(?) of your mind and whether you have a Comfortable hope that you do truly love the Lord Jesus and confide in him as your Saviour & Redeemer from sin & hell. I know that we are so inclined to look on ourselves with Complacency, that it is hard for us to come out of ourselves entirely and trust wholly in the merits of Christ for Salvation. But when we look at the Glorious plan of salvation provided in the Gospel we must admire it as the infinite wisdom of God whereby the Chief of sinners may be saved from eternal misery and make(?) him of everlasting Glory and hapiness (sic) through the atonement of Christ. I feel that from a Child you have known too well the Holy Scriptures to be led away by the errorists that are around you and I earnestly and affectionately intreat (sic) you to study the word of God with Serious & Prayerfull (sic) attention looking into and trusting in God for direction(?) and no doubt your faith will be like that of the just that shineth more and more unto that Happiest Day.

(page two)

I want to fill the sheet but have not time at present But I would commend you to God and the word(?) of his Grace, Praying that you may be led in the path of Duty by the power of the Holy Ghost through faith unto salvation. Give my ____to Mrs. Platt for I hope these few lines will find her enjoying the Comforts of a Good hope through Grace. But if they should not, tell her to continue in the exercise of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and hope will follow sooner or later as the jenuine (sic) fruit & love of faith.

Give my love to her two sisters that I saw at home and tell them that I have not forgotten to pray for them and I hope that they have not forgotten to pray for themselves if they have for me. I hope they will not forget the Lord Jesus Christ and his counsel to them in the Gospel if they should mine. O that they would be sure to ____the Saviour now in their youth for he will deliver them from the snare of the Devil.

[Mary Bassett had four sisters. The two he saw in Ohio were probably Martha Bassett Smith and Eliza Bassett Emerson, both of whom continued to live in Keene, Ohio. I have a portrait of Eliza]

Give my Love to Sister Phebe, [Their sister who lived in Mill Creek Township, Coshocton County, Ohio] and our friends and relatives there in Ohio. Likewise to Eldon Pendee(?) and all those around you that Love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

[O]ur family all send their Love to you and your and all inquiring Friends.

I ever remain your affectionate brother,

Lanson Platt

A Platt

P.S. I wish Lester Would be sure to write us soon and let us know his designs and wishes.

Note: Alanson had good reason to be concerned about Lester. He seemed to be quite the adventurer. He went from New York to Ohio and then struck out for Nebraska Territory where he was a farmer and an Indian Agent and started a school for his and his brother-in-law’s children as well as Pawnee children. The story I read covers the 40s into the early 60s of their lives. The two families lived in a Pawnee Village that was frequently raided by Sioux. After about twenty years, and being replaced by an Indian Agent who was an alcoholic (the Platts were Temperance and anti-Slavery advocates), Lester and his wife finally gave up and moved into a small town in Iowa.