Monday, September 28, 2015

1869 Letter from Belle Tisdale to her Papa, B. F. Tisdale



Among Belle's letters was an envelope addressed to B. F. Tisdale, Care Chas. Bilchin Co. (or possibly Chas. Kitchen Co.) New Orleans, in his own handwriting. 

I could not find Charles Bilchin in the 1868-1869 New Orleans city directory, but I did find Charles Kitchen, a steamer pilot living in Mobile, and a Mason Pilcher, cotton and sugar factor at 11 Union Street. Was the steamer pilot in New Orleans? B. F. Tisdale had relatives in Mobile and may have traveled there. Or maybe accountant B. F. Tisdale was working for Mr. Pilcher. The economic situation in New Orleans still had not recovered and jobs were hard to find.

Written in pencil on the front of the envelope is the word “Rose” and, sure enough, inside the envelope are three dried rose leaves with crochet thread knotted around the stem. Had  Belle tucked a pressed flower into the envelope?

On the flap is a poignant note, "Dear Papa come soon many love you   good night"

1869 Letter from Belle Tisdale to her Papa, B. F. Tisdale

[Original letter dated April 27, 1869, on 8" x 10" paper with faint blue lines. The paper is folded in half to make 4 pages and the letter is handwritten in ink on pages 1 and 2. The condition is good except for the top of page 3-4 which is torn off. Transcribed as written.]

[Page 1]
Apr the 27th 1869

Dear Papa
I would give any thing for you to be up here now; we intend to go to the Amite next Friday to stay all night and all next day and come home late in the evening; it will be splendid, but it would be so much nicer if you were here to go with us.
We are all well except Mama, she is not sick enough to go to bed; but she has a boil under her arm, so that she can't use it at tall. Robert and Lee are so fat they can hardly waddle along; a few days ago Willie and Frank went rideing on horse-back, they had not gone far, when suddenly Douglas commenced to back, (he had got frightened at something in the road; then he kicked up and run away; they both fell off; Frank got on him again and rode along, but Willie was scared and come back home; he had a bump on his forehead as big as a hen egg; Frank was sick that night, but is well now.

[Page 2]

This morning I had Robert in my lap, talking to him about the Amite, how we would play on the big sand bar, and pick up pebbles, and then jump into the water and bathe; and he says, and my Papa too!
We all weighed the other day, t'was on the 24th.

                     lbs
Grand Pa,    190      [William Henry Pratt]
France,         164      [Aunt Frances Pratt McCaughey]
Eliza,            150      [Eliza Pratt Tisdale]
Susie,            112      [unknown]
Mary,           104      [Mary Bernice Tisdale]
Belle,            104      [Arabella Maria Tisdale]
Annie,          128      [unknown]
Kate,             67       [Cousin Catherine Bernice Craig]
Frank,          50       [Benjamin Franklin Tisdale Jr.]
Willie,           50       [William Pratt Tisdale]
Marion,        45       [unknown]
Lee,                36      [Olivia South Carolina Tisdale]
Robert,         28       [Robert Rafael Tisdale]
Jessie,           22       [unknown]
Uncle Jenie, 140    [Uncle Joel Eugene Tisdale]

I have told you every new that I can think of, that shows how few there are.
Oh! yes, yesterday evening Uncle Jenie went over to the pond and caught 25 fish, two of them were big, one was a Trout, and it weighed 2 lbs and the other 1 ½, write soon,
good bye your best                             
daughter                                 
Belle-eran;                        
When you receive this, I am afraid you will have to rush to the window to hide your emotions.
I believe that's all.

[Page 3, pencil note in different handwriting, possibly Grandma Bernice Pratt's]

to the left raises the pendlm
 “   “    right lowers it.

[Page 4 is blank]

If B. F. Tisdale had indeed sent for his family, as Mary wrote in her letter of August 4, 1868, their stay in New Orleans had not lasted long.  The continuing political unrest and violence may have been reason enough to send Eliza and the children back to Oakland.

At any rate in April 1869 they were all back at the Pratt farm near Baton Rouge. This time Annie, who is mentioned in several of Belle's letters, had come with them. Belle's brother Frank refers to Annie at a later date as "our Nurse." Jessie and Marion in the weight list are unfamiliar names and may be her children. Many Civil War widows hired themselves out as servants for room and board to keep their families together.

In her letter of April 27, 1869, Belle wrote, "...we intend to go to the Amite next Friday to stay all night and all next day and come home late in the evening; it will be splendid, but it would be so much nicer if you were here to go with us...." 

The Amite is the winding Amite River, pronounced A-meet in Louisiana. It flows south just a few miles east of the Pratt farm. Belle wrote a poem titled "On our fishing excursion" which paints a vivid picture of one such trip to the Amite. I plan to post it next week.
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