Friday, July 10, 2015

Letter to Belle from her Papa

B. F. Tisdale,
B. F. Tisdale
Carte de Visite c.1860

On his 45th birthday, March 19, 1868, Benjamin F. Tisdale sat at his desk in New Orleans and penned a letter to his daughter, Arabella Maria. He addressed the letter to her "Care of Wm. Pratt Esqr., Baton Rouge."

The first page of that letter forms the background of this blog. Belle and her sister Mary were staying with their grandparents, William and Bernice Pratt at their plantation, Oakland Place, about five miles east of the city of Baton Rouge. The situation in New Orleans was still very chaotic with business at a standstill and goods and money scarce.

The original letter is on a page of thin legal size paper, 8 1/2" x 14", in my possession. There is an embossed imprint in the upper left corner of the page that looks like a large building with the letters O & H. Although there is no year written on the letter or on the postmark we know it was written in 1868 because of the mention of the baby Robbie "beginning to talk." Robert Rafael Tisdale was born on 24 October 1866 so he would have been almost 18 months old in March 1868. Belle's sister, Lee (Olivia South Carolina Tisdale), was born 8 February 1864 and would have been four years old. Mother Eliza would have been busy preparing for her steamship trip up the Mississippi to Baton Rouge.

The transcription is exactly as written.
New Orleans March 19th
My Dear Daughter
I received Your very Welcome letter Yesterday and Was Satisfied to Know that all Were Well and that You had not forgotten Your Father. I have to apologize to You for having remained So long Silent. I have been busy and in Some trouble, but that is No excuse for Neglecting to answer Your letter to Me. If We have not the love of our Children to Comfort us as We grow old life loses half its Autumnal Charms, and the Winter of Age Comes upon us Cold indeed. I love My Children as Well as I Was loved by My Parents and in their Smiles and affection for me I find Much Consolation for the troubles that have borne Me down for Years past. Children do Not Know the Sorrows and the Anxieties their Parents have, and Should always try to be as Kind and obedient to them as they Can. I am Sorry you did Not Write to Me as You usually do, and tell Me all the News of the place You did Not Mention Franky Nor Willie.Why? Dont You love them any More? Or, Was it that You Were Angry With Me and Would Not gratify Me even So far? Very Well. Perhaps, You will Know Some day What it is to have trouble and then in the Midst of Your trouble to lose the love of those You love the best. God does Not prosper the Child that Ceases to love and honor its Father and its Mother. Many Cases are in the Bible, as Well as in profane history, illustrating the punishment inflicted upon Children for not honoring their Father and their Mother. You have always until Now Seemed to love Me. Well, I have done Nothing to forfeit Your love, and if I have lost

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it I suppose I must bear the loss as best I May. If I Were rich I Could Console myself With the pleasures Money Would buy - but now I am poor indeed if With My fortune I lose the affection of my Children.

Your Mother goes up on Saturday and Will arrive Sunday Morning. Before You Get this however You Will get my Dispatch of today announcing her departure Next Saturday.

Robbie and Lee are Well. Rob is the Sweetest little fellow ever You Saw. He is beginning to talk, and understands everything You Say to him. Lee is Well and as mischievous as ever.

I will Not tell You any of My plans When Your Mother is gone. She Will tell You What We going to try to do this Fall With the help of God. Tell aunt Margaret I Send her a pipe by Eliza.

Give My love to Frankie & Willie and Kiss them for Me. This is My birthday and on it Now, in this letter I say to You My Dear Daughter God bless You and So good bye.
Your affectionate
Benj F Tisdale

P. S. I will try and Send You Something When they start, 
for You and the other Children. The Moneys so scarce it Cant be Much.