Monday, August 22, 2016

A Letter to Mary Tisdale from Theresa Bienvenu

Carte de Visite by A. Constant

Theresa Bienvenu, New Orleans, Louisiana
circa 1870

This photo of Thérésa Bienvenu was in an album 
that belonged to Arabella Maria “Belle” Tisdale.
Identified by W. T. Booksh Sr.
Page 1 and 4 of letter

Page 2 and 3 of letter

Letter dated September 1, 1871 from Thérésa Bienvenu to Mary Tisdale, written in ink on 
8 3/4” x 7 ¼: paper folded in half to make four pages. Orignal in possession of writer. 
Good condition. Transcribed exactly as written.

[Page 1 - Embossed initial B top center of page]
New Orleans September 1st 1871.
My darling Mary.
You can scarcely imagine how glad I was when I received your letter, for to tell you the exact truth I thought already that you have forgotten me, and I am determined not to write you the first, I think I was perfectly right, I dont know if you do. Dear Mary, I cannot tell you how sorry I was the day you went away and to think that you have missed such a splendid party, I was thinking of you and Belle all the time, this was one of the finest

[Page 2]
party I went to, we had such a good music and delightful company. I had a very nice time, would you believe that I danced [illegible word crossed out] till half past three in the morning without missing once one dance, but I tell you I was very very tired the neset [next] day. If you was here I would have a heap to tell you about the beaux I met there, especially a certain one, but it is too long to write now. I went to see your mother last week, and there I had the pleasure to be introduce to your aunt, she told me that you have not been well lately, I was very sorry to hear it, and I think you ought to come back as soon as possible, as you seem not to enjoy yourself up there. Dear friend, you ask me for my likeness, but I cannot send it to you, I have not one for myself

[Page 3]
the last one I had was stolen by a gentleman who came home last week, but I will try to have it again, if I succeed you may be sure that I will give it to you. Ask Miss Laziness when does she intends to write to me, and tell her also that it would not hurt her much if she had said something to me at the end of your letter. I am very much afraid that I shall may not be able to come over to you this year, for we are expecting my sister-in-law to be sick, in the beginning of the month, and if this happens it will be impossible for me to go, but I hope that you will come back to us soon. I have forgotten to tell you that Mr. Scandrrell? is not in the city, he went to the country since three weeks, but we are expecting him every day. Richard Rowley is always asking

[Page 4]
for you, he send his best love to you and to Belle, also Mr Goat. Would you believe that Richard is over to Mobile since three weeks and has not come back yet, but this does not astonish me at all, when he is with Kate he does not know anything else. I hope you will excuse my writing, and spelling but you know that I scarcely write in English, French being my native tongue. But Mary, as it is getting late, I think I must close this already too long and bothering letter, so give my love to Miss Laziness, and for you my darling Mary, a sweet kiss from your
ever beloving friend
Thérésa Bienvenu
(Write soon dear)
(Dearest dont you show that letter to anyone will you?

Thérésa's letter gives us a snapshot of a young lady's life in New Orleans in 1871. Although New Orleans was still an occupied city, the social atmosphere seems to have improved. At least the young ladies are again enjoying dancing at parties. The political atmosphere was still in turmoil though. Joel Gray Taylor in “Louisiana: A History” says “The political maneuvering from 1870 to the election of 1872 was constant and almost Byzantine...”

Occupied New Orleans was still a dangerous place. It wasn't until April 24, 1877 that the last federal troops left New Orleans. In a comment on Louisiana politics, Taylor writes, “In every Louisiana election from 1868 through 1878 there was so much fraud, intimidation, and other skulduggery that it is impossible to say who won a majority of the votes actually cast or who would have won had an honest election been held. In passing, it might be noted that almost the same thing could be said for elections long after Reconstruction was over.”

It appears from Thérésa's writing that Belle has gone back to her grandparents house near Baton Rouge in August and September of 1871. It was not unusual for people in New Orleans to go “up the country” during the Yellow Fever season. There were 588 Yellow Fever deaths in 1870, which made it a moderate year. In 1869 there were only 3 deaths, but everyone still remembered that 3,107 Orleanians had died in the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1867. In the fall of 1871 there were only 54 deaths, but one never knew. (New Orleans Public Library web site:

Thérésa reports that Richard, mentioned in Kate's July 13 letter to Belle, is visiting Mobile and it appears that he and Kate have reconciled. Thérésa refers to Belle as Miss Laziness several times because she has not written.

Thérésa writes that French is her native tongue. The French and American communities had remained quite separate for many years after Louisiana became part of the United States. Belle's Uncle Nathan O. J. Tisdale was the first in his family to marry someone of French descent. His second wife's father was French and her mother was Irish. It is likely that Belle and Mary Tisdale became friends with Thérésa Bienvenu through their cousin Kate Tisdale and her mother Rosa Pailhes Roux Tisdale.

Gary Van Zante writes in New Orleans 1867: Photographs by Theodore Lilienthal that “New Orleans was still a polyglot though segregated city of French- and English-speaking cultures, each with its own hotel, theater, cafes, and law courts.” He quotes a visitor as writing, “New York and Paris are not so widely separated as the French and Yankee portions of New Orleans.”

I found Thérésa, age 18, on the 1870 U. S. Census living in the 7th Ward of New Orleans in the household of Alex Bienvenue [sic]. He is 45 years old and his occupation is Bill Broker. He has a personal estate of $4,500. He and the rest of the household members were born in Louisiana, but his father and mother are of foreign birth. He is old enough to be Thérésa's father, but his wife Emily is 28, too young to be her mother. Alex may be her brother and Emily may be her sister-in-law that she mentions in her letter. “...we are expecting my sister-in-law to be sick, in the beginning of the month...” This was the polite way to say that she was pregnant and her baby was due in the beginning of the month. Other members of the household are Celia Bienvenue, age 54, Ceres Bienvenue, age 27, Clerk, and Smité Bienvenue, age 78, a Domestic Servant.
(United States Census, 1870, database, FamilySearch ( citing p. 62, family 552, NARA microfilm M593; FHL microfilm 552.021)

The 7th Ward runs from the Mississippi river to Lake Pontchartrain, downriver or east of Esplanade Avenue to Elysian Fields. Rosa and Nathan Tisdale's last home before his death in 1870 was on Esplanade in the 7th Ward. Directions in New Orleans were never given as North-South-East or West, but as downriver and upriver, toward the river or toward the lake.

The only other record of Thérésa I have found is the December 9, 1877 report in the Daily Picayune of her death on December 3, 1877.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Letter from Kate to Belle in July 1871
Kate Tisdale, circa 1860, by Chauncey Barnes, Mobile, Alabama

This Carte de Visite photo was in a photo album that belonged to Olivia "Lee" Tisdale, Belle's younger sister. Written on the back in pencil is "Either Marie or Kate Tisdale."

It was taken about 1860 at the Mobile studio of Chauncey Barnes. His occupation was described as "photographist" in the 1860 U. S. Census and he is listed in the Mobile City Directory in 1861 and 1866.  I believe the photo is of Kate based on the age of the sitter. Marie would have been 13 years old in 1860 and Kate would have been 7. Both girls were Belle's first cousins.

 In 1871 Kate Tisdale wrote this letter to her cousin Belle Tisdale in New Orleans:
     Kate's cousin, George Layet, added the note at the end of Kate's letter.

Letter dated July 13, 1871 from Kate [Tisdale] to Belle [Tisdale] with note from George A. Layet.
8” x 10” black bordered  paper, folded to make 4 pages, poor condition. Original in possession of writer. Transcribed exactly as written.

[Page 1]
Mobile July 13th 1871
My Dear Belle
            We went yesterday down to depot as you told us to do but we could find you no where, so I suppose we missed you, and I this write tell you I had been down, that you might not think that we did not want to tell you good bye. Georgie was very much disappointed indeed, for he wanted to tell you all good bye so much. He is looking forward with pleasure to next winter, when you both, if nothing happens, will come & spend sometime with us.
Belle, Richard answered my letter, but he was cold in it and did not seem glad that I had written to him, I want you to explain to him what my feelings were when I wrote that letter

[Page 2]
how lonesome I feel here without him Belle, he also misunderstood my letter he thinks I meant that I was caught & conquered by some gentleman here. I wish you would make it all straight and ask him if he is mad with me. Tell him I will not write any more letters I will not send any love to him until I know whether he is mad with me or not, for you know yourself that I love him dearly & that I would not give his little finger for any of the gentlemen I know here. Belle, please explain all to him & please Belle do not keep me in suspense. Let me know the result at once. Georgy says he had such a pleasant time when you and Mary were here he speaks of you both very often & wishes very much to see you again he sends his love and a kiss to you Belle & his regards to Mary. Tell Mary I

[Page 3]
have not heard from Johnnie yet. But will send her word when I do. Give my love to Uncle Frank Aunt Eliza and all the children (Mary included,) for me. Kiss my god-son every day for me, and make his god-father (if he is not mad with me mind you) kiss him for me too Belle do not show this letter to anyone, for I consider it as being strictly private – from people that it does not concern Write soon Belle & tell me everything about the matter.
I will have more news for you the next time. Good-by dear friend & cousin.
Your affectionate cousin     

P.S. Georgette sends you both her love I saw her yesterday evening.

[Page 4 in different hand]
Yes you have no idea how much I was disappointed. Why I havent slept a wink since you left.
You may know how badly I must look. Tell miss Mary to get a bottle of Houdees Eye wash & use it
till her Eyes get entirely well. And as for you if you dont answer Kates letter & Send me a smile (a ghastley smile) if you have one to spare why I will take a dose of Soothing Syrup or cut my throat whichever you please
Good bye. Keep Cool. (if you can). Laugh as much as you please & write often to Kate and note to
C P.
Ever Thine        
Geo A Layet   
Kiss Mary's Eye for me
& let her kiss yours  X
                      G A L

Kate Tisdale (1853-1935)

Catharina Margaretha “Kate” Tisdale was born 19 January 1853 in New Orleans, Louisiana, daughter of Nathan O. J. Tisdale and his second wife, Rosa Pailhes Roux. Kate was 18 years old when she wrote this letter.

Kate's half sister, Marie Eulalie Julie Roux, was born 24 January 1847. She was the daughter of Rosa and her deceased first husband, Monsieur Gonzague Etienne Roux, who died between 1847 and 1851. After Rosa's marriage to N. O. J. Tisdale on 31 July 1851, Marie was always referred to as Marie Roux Tisdale.

Belle and her family had evidently been to Mobile by train and Kate and George had missed seeing them off at the railway station on their return to New Orleans. The family had probably gone to visit B. F. Tisdale's oldest sister, Mary Eliza Tisdale and her husband Jacob Magee who lived in Kushla, Alabama, just north of Mobile, now swallowed up by Mobile's suburbs.

It was at the Magee farm where Kate's father had died on August 9, 1870. The black mourning band on the paper alludes to that death. Soon after Nathan O. J. Tisdale's death Rosa and the children moved from the big house at 193 Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans to Mobile. 

In the 1872 Mobile City Directory, Mrs. N. O. J. Tisdale is listed at 72 St. Michael Street. In the 1880 U. S. Federal Census the family is listed in Mobile at 205 Conti Street. Rosa is age 53, Marie is listed as 25, Kate as 23 (although Marie would have been 33 and Kate 27.) Brother Clarence, age 21, is a clerk for the railroad, Louis, age 16, is a messenger for the telegraph office, and nephew George Layet, age 27, is a book keeper for the railroad. Rosa's mother Mary Pailhes, age 83, is also living with them.

Kate is pining for her beaux Richard and asks Belle to talk to him for her. We know that Kate eventually married Louis Touart and that they had six sons. (More about them when we post Kate's next letter to Belle.)

Kate sends her love to Uncle Frank and Aunt Eliza. This is the only reference we have to Benjamin Franklin Tisdale being called Frank. We do know that his son, Benjamin Franklin Tisdale Jr., was called Frank. Kate also asks Belle to “kiss my god son for me.” This is very probably Belle's new baby brother, Marion Eugene Tisdale, who was born March 21, 1871.

George A. Layet (1849-1888)

George Layet was only 3 months old when the census enumerator visited his family in New Orleans on 28 February 1860. The family name is hard to decipher but may have been spelled Langet or Lanyet. Either would have been pronounced Layet in French and that is the way George spelled it. He had an older sister and two older brothers. The next record we find for George is the 1870 census when he is listed as an 11 year old student at St. Mary's Academy, a Roman Catholic boarding school for boys.

Caldwell Delaney, Director Emeritus, Museum of the City of Mobile, writes in the preface to the book “Gulf Stream” by George Layet's daughter, that George “had fled to Mobile from New Orleans at the age of seventeen to escape the attempts of his staunchly Catholic French family to force him into the priesthood.” (Gulf Stream, Marie Stanley [Marie Layet Sheip], University of Alabama Press, reprint, 1993. page vii)

This is evidently why we find George living with his Aunt Rosa Tisdale on Conti Street in Mobile in 1880. He was listed as her nephew so we can assume his mother was Rosa's sister. George is listed as 27 years old, but he would have been 31. He is working as a bookkeeper for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.

George appears to be quite the flirt in his note to Belle. He may be the George that she mentions in her poem “On Our Fishing Excursion” posted on this blog in October 2015.
Then all retired for the night,
Except Eugene and George,
They rowed down to their set lines,
And found they'd caught two gars.

She also mentions George in her February 1870 letter to her mother:
 George is comeing next Sunday, at least he said he would if he was not sick, he has been having fever of & on for the last two weeks.”

Whether it was flirtation or friendship, we can only guess. We do know that Belle married Sam Booksh in 1878 and George married Josephine Garner in 1882. They had one daughter, Marie Tilney Layet, who married Stanley Sheip. She used his first name as her nom de plume.

In 1888 George was comptroller of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and was subpoenaed to appear before Congress to testify in the investigation of the Standard Oil Trust regarding “oil handled by the Mobile and Ohio Railroad Company from January 1, 1886 to April 18, 1888.”

George died November 22, 1888 and his wife died soon afterward, leaving Marie to be raised by her maternal grandmother.

In 1930 Marie Layet Steip, using the pen name Marie Stanley, wrote the historical novel Gulf Stream.  It was reprinted by the University of Alabama Press in 1993 as part of the Alabama Classics Series.Caldwell Delaney described it as “One of the earliest and best contemporary novels by a Mobilian...” If you would like to read more about this fascinating woman, see Gulf Stream on Google Books.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Nathan O. J. Tisdale 1816-1870

 Thursday, August 11, 1870
Mobile Register, page 2
  On August 11, 1870 the Mobile Register carried a death notice for N. O. J. Tisdale, B. F. Tisdale's older brother. It said that he died on August 9, 1870, at 4 o'clock P.M. of consumption at the residence of Mr. Jacob Magee in Kushla, Alabama, now part of Mobile. Jacob's wife, Mary Eliza Tisdale, was the older sister of B. F. and N. O. J. Tisdale.
New Orleans Times Picayune
August 11, 1870, page 4

  The New Orleans Times Picayune also published an obituary:
   On Tuesday, Aug. 9, 1870, at Kushla, Ala., N. O. J. TISDALE, Gen'l Sup't N. O. Gas Light Co. aged 53 years, born in Newbern, N. C., and for twenty-five years a resident of this city.
   The funeral will take place from his late residence, No. 193 Esplanade street, Thursday, August 11, at 4 o'clock, P.M.
The friends of his family are respectfully invited to attend.


Nathan O. J. Tisdale is most often referred to in print as N. O. J. Tisdale. The name is often mis-transcribed as N. O. I. or N. O. L. His first name appears on his marriage license, on the birth and death records of several of his children, and on the 1840 and 1870 censuses. There is no record of what O. J. stood for. He was born in New Bern, North Carolina, on March 4,1816.

He was named for his father Nathan Tisdale (1766-1839) who was a silversmith and watch maker. His father in turn had been named for his uncle, noted Harvard educator Nathan Tisdale (1732-1787) of Lebanon, Connecticut. The name was very popular in the Tisdale family. N. O. J.'s mother was Nathan's second wife, Mary “Polly Wade (c1780-1839).

N. O. J. and B. F.'s grandfather, William Tisdale (1734-1797), had come to North Carolina from Connecticut in the 1850s to join his uncle Antipas Tisdale. William was a well-known lawyer, silversmith, and watch maker who was a delegate to the Provincial Congress of North Carolina in 1775. He engraved and printed the state's Bills of Credit and engraved the state seal of North Carolina. The family was proud of their connection to Benjamin Franklin and Nathan O. J. Tisdale's younger brother was named for his grandfather's famous cousin.

Rosa Tisdale in her book, Meet the Tisdales, says, “The Tisdales of Lebanon were good friends of Governor Trumbull and during the Revolutionary War often met with him in the “war office” to plan ways and means of aiding the patriot forces. Here they met and conversed with General Washington and Lafayette and Franklin and other men of distinction.”

When the family decided to emigrate to Alabama in 1830, Nathan had three living brothers, Joseph Wade, Benjamin Franklin, and John B. Tisdale, and one sister, Mary Eliza. He also had three older half siblings. The house where the family lived in New Bern is still standing and is on the National Register of Historic Places as is the home of his grandfather.

Marion E. Tisdale, Jr. in “Some Memories of the Magee Farmhouse” writes that Nathan and his family bought “a small plantation on the Tombigbee River” and traveled there by wagon train in 1830. Nathan Tisdale and his family are listed on the 1830 Federal Census in New Bern, North Carolina, so they moved to Alabama some time after June 1830. There was an economic decline in the New Bern area at that time, mostly because of the silting in of the approach to the harbor from Okracoke Inlet. Many families joined the exodus to Alabama where cheap, fertile land was available.

On January 25, 1832 a deed was recorded in Marengo County, Alabama, for land in “Range 1 East Township 17 North (Moscow-Saltwell vicinity). Robert Goodwyn Jr. of Marengo Co. [sold] to Charlotte Wade of Craven Co. NC as trustee for her daughter Mary (Mrs. Nathan) Tisdale, for $650, fractional section 9 and West half of Northwest quarter of section 15. [Fractional sections bordered the Tombigbee River.] Witnesses George Cuninghame,clerk of court, and James H. Adams. (Deed Book B-344).”
(Marengo County Genealogical Society Newsletter, Vol. 13, No. 1, Autumn 2001, "First Recorded Deeds of Lands in Range 1 East" found in Deed Books A and B, Marengo County, Alabama.) Marengo County was created by the Alabama Territorial legislature on February 6, 1818, from land acquired from the Choctaw Indians by the Treaty of Fort St. Stephenson, October 24, 1816. (Wikipedia)

Rosa Tisdale in her book “Meet the Tisdales” says that Nathan and Polly moved their family to Mobile, Alabama in 1833. This may have been because of increasing violence in the area that led to the Creek War of 1836. Nathan O. J. was 20 years old when he served in Crawford's Company, Alabama Mounted Volunteers. (U. S. Indian Wars Pension Application number 647, certificate 2352)

On September 29, 1838 Nathan O. J. married Maria Louisa McCrae in Mobile. The household is listed on the 1840 Federal Census of Mobile as Nathan O. J. Tisdale, 1 male under 5, 1 male 20-30, 1 female 15-20, and no slaves.

Nathan O. J.'s father died in September 1839 and his mother died in October 1839. Nathan and Maria and their two sons, Eugene and Victor moved to New Orleans sometime in the late 1840s. His older brother, Joseph Wade Tisdale had been living in the city since 1842. On November 3, 1849 Maria McCrae Tisdale died. No cause of death is known but there was a cholera epidemic in New Orleans that year. There were also 739 Yellow Fever deaths.

In the1850 census in Lafayette Ward 2, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, just west of New Orleans, we find N. O. J. Tisdale, age 35, clerk, and sons Eugene, age 8, and Victor, age 6, listed in the household of Jerome Tuitchel, OSP Minister, along with 14 other people. Tuitchel may have been running a boarding house. The house is next door to the State Prison. In City Directories of that period he is listed as a clerk at 120 Common Street, which was the New Orleans Gas Light Company. The company furnished gas to the street lights that still line the curbs in the French Quarter.

On July 31, 1851 Nathan O. J. Tisdale married Rosa Roux of New Orleans. Rosa evidently had been married before. Her surname is listed as Pailhes on the birth registrations of children Catherina, William, and Clarence. In the 1870 Federal Census at Mobile her mother is listed in the Tisdale household as Veuve [widow] Pailhes. Her daughter Marie Roux Tisdale's death record says she was born in 1847, before Rosa's marriage to Nathan, so it is likely Rosa was a widow with a young child when they married.

I could not find the family on the 1860 census, but N. O. J. is in the New Orleans City Directories of the period and by 1861 he is listed as Treasurer of the New Orleans Gas Light Company at 120 Common. His domicile is on Jackson near Prytania. His oldest son, Eugene, is also working for the Gas Light Company as a clerk.

N. O. J. Tisdale's name appears in New Orleans newspapers throughout the 1860s. In an article published January 5, 1861 in the Daily Crescent, besides announcements that the U. S. Arsenal at Mobile had been seized and that Fort Morgan had been taken by Mobile troops, there was an article titled Local Intelligence:

THE SOUTHERN RIGHTS MASS MEETING AT ODD FELLOWS' HALL -- The Southern Rights mass meeting last night crowded Odd Fellows' Hall, with a fair representation of the better sex in the gallery. It was in all aspects an enthusiastic and fiery Secession meeting – just such a meeting as the times call for.
The following gentlemen were announced as officers, who were received with acclamation:
President GEO. W. HELME

There follows a list of 186 names, among them N. O. J. Tisdale.

The Southern Rights party had broken off from the Democratic party and supported nominee John Breckinridge who won the 1860 Presidential election in Louisiana, but ultimately lost to Abraham Lincoln. On January 7, 1861, N. O. J. and B. F. Tisdale joined other males in New Orleans in going to the polls again to select delegates for a convention to decide the secession question. It was no surprise that secession won out.

The State Convention convened at Baton Rouge on January 23, 1861, and three days later an Ordinance of Secession was adopted. A chaotic and difficult time in New Orleans had begun.

As I wrote in my blog posts of December 2014, New Orleans business was brought to a standstill by news of native son Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard's bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on April 14, 1861. The Civil War had officially begun.

A new militia act was passed on January 23, 1862 ordering all free white males between 18 and 45 years of age capable of bearing arms to enroll in the State Militia.
Nathan's oldest son Eugene King Tisdale was 20 years old when he enlisted on March 6, 1862. He was a private in the 5th Company, Washington Artillery Battalion.

On April 24, 1862 the bells of all the churches in New Orleans began ringing. It was the signal for all military organizations to hasten to their armories. (Charles Dufour, The Night the War Was Lost, p. 289) While Eugene left for Baton Rouge by train with his company, younger brother Victor evidently went to Mobile where he later enlisted in the 3rd Company, Washington Artillery Battalion on June 3, 1863.

Business had been slow because of the Union blockade of the river, but as news spread that Farragut's ships had passed the forts and were heading up river, the city dissolved into panic. Nathan may have stood on the levee with the crowds of people and looked across the crescent bend of the Mississippi River for a glimpse of the Union fleet. Like writer George Washington Cable, he may have watched the masts of Farragut's vessels, engaged in silencing the Confederate batteries at Chalmette.

Our next peek into N. O. J. Tisdale's life comes on March 19, 1863 when he petitions the Union Provost Marshal in Occupied New Orleans for a new trial. His three and a half page deposition gives a good picture of the conditions in the city.


N. O. J. Tisdale being duly Sworn deposes & Says that the fair which took place at his house on Coliseum Street, on the 11 Instant, was given for the exclusive benefit of the Infant Asylum on the Corner of Magazine & Pace Streets, to the aid of which his wife has been in the habit of Contributing, more particularly by means of a Sewing Society of young girls who have met weekly for Sometime past at his house. That as the Condition of the children at the asylum was one of almost destitution, the idea of raising a fund for their wants by means of a fair Suggested itself to Mrs. Tisdale & other ladies & everything was contributed as is usual on such occasions & the fair was given & it was conducted by the young girls of the Sewing Society, assisted by their relatives & friends & those young girls were distinguished by a badge of deep blue ribands with “St. Vincents Sewing Society” in gilt letters upon it.
He further deposes and Says that the parlor, in which the tables were placed, was simply decorated with wreaths of evergreen flowers & that no flage or mottoes of any kind were placed amongst them nor in any other part of the house nor was their any flag dis-
-played or placed upon any of his galleries, either in the front or rear of his house.
He further deposes and Says that he did not apply to the Authorities for a permit to hold the fair, because he was informed that a Similar fair had been held by ladies at the residence of Mr. Sumner in St Charles Street & that upon enquiry then made the answer had been given that for such an occasion at a private house, no permit was necessary; and this deponent particularly declares that he had no idea that any City ordinance or regulation had reference to Such Cases & that in not applying to the Mayor for permission he meant no disrespect to that Officer.
This deponent further deposes & Says that in giving his Consent that the fair should be held in his house, he expressly requested that nothing having any political Significance should be permitted, that the fair was an open appeal to the charity of all & that he should be pleased to See all parties, officers of the United States, Union men or others present at & contributing to its objects, and that accordingly when it was found that amongst the many articles received there was an iced pound cake decorated with the Confederate flag Mrs Tisdale had it Scraped off; and this deponent further
declares that he saw nothing and heard nothing offensive to the keenest susceptabilities himself; and he expressly denies that there was any cheering for Jeff. Davis, or for any other person.
And he further avers that Since the trial of this Case, on enquiry he has learnt that a piece of verse called the Battle of the fair and a Small Composition in prose were offerred for Sale in the fair, during its progress, but this was done without his knowledge or consent & he has never even to this moment Seen or read either the piece of poetry or prose and knows nothing of their Contents; and this deponent further Says that being unconscious of having done any thing wrong, and not knowing the precise nature of the chaarge preferred Against him, he was taken altogether by Surprize by the testimony of the Witnesses introduced against him; that the most imprtant part of said testimony is founded in error as above set forth; That in learning the Court room has informed his Counsel that he Could prove by the most respectable witnesses, who were present at the fair, that the testimony of the witnesses against him is erroneous and that the State-
-ment herein made by this deponent is Correct; That this application for further evidence is made Solely for the purpose of having Substantial Justice done, and of enabling this Honorable Court to form a correct Judgement of the real facts as they occurred.
N. O. J. Tisdale
Sworn to and subscribed before me,
at New Orleans, on the 19th March 1863.
[W.? M?------ Illegible signature]
3rd. J. D. [Judicial District?]

The Union Provost Marshals' Papers, 1861-1867 (database on-line, Provo, UT, USA; Operations, Inc.,2012) do not tell us the outcome of Nathan O. J.'s request. Many citizens were tried and fined or sent to prison at Ship Island for equally petty offenses. Having two sons and two brothers in the Confederate Army would have been reason enough for official harassment.

Son Eugene was discharged from service after several hospital stays and after battling variola, an archaic term for smallpox. Victor served until the end of the war and was paroled at Lynchburg, Virginia on April 13, 1865.

There were no City Directories published during the war so we have no record of where the family lived during that time. In the 1866 and 1867 New Orleans City Directories N. O. J Tisdale is listed as General Superintendent Gas Company,120 Common, domicile 233 Jackson. In 1868 N. O. J. is still General Superintendent at the Gas Light Co. and living at 193 Esplanade. Son E. K. Tisdale is collector City Gas Works and son Victor is a clerk at J. K. Ashbridge & Decan.

Nathan's final mention in the New Orleans Times-Picayune was on August 11, 1870:

The entire community will be shocked to learn of the death of one of our most estimable citizens, N. O. J. Tisdale, late General Superintendent of the New Orleans Gas Light Company. Mr. Tisdale was 53 years of age, had been for many years a resident of New Orleans, and a wide circle of warmly attached friends will deeply sympathize with his bereaved family. The funeral will take place from his late residence, No. 193 Esplanade street, Thursday, August 11, at 4 o'clock, P.M.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Joys of Childhood

Essay presumed to be by Belle's younger brother Benjamin Franklin Tisdale Jr. (1860-1893) circa 1873 about childhood events in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Photocopy of handwritten document on three sheets of legal sized paper. Location of original is unknown. Transcribed exactly as written.


[Page 1]

The Joys of Childhood

O! Childhood Joys are very Great
Aswinging on his Mothers gate
A Eatin Kandy till his mouth
Is all stuck up from North to south

I selected this subject because I once was a child. You may regard that as an extraordinary statement nevertheless it is true. I remember that one of my favorite Joys, was to go out in the big road, (up in country) and pile dust on my head and when I got tired of that I used to throw it at Willie and try to stuff it in his ears, eyes, & nose, but when we went in the house Mama would take us out into the bath-room & suddenly sounds as of applause mingled with piteous wails would rise on the air. When we came out we felt warm and naturally supposed that one of mama's slippers did too, But the interview in the bath room was not one of our Joys, though we did think it was one of mama's. When we got ourselves muddy dabbling in the Bayou (which was another innocent little Joy) the dirtiest places used to be the nicest to us.

[Written in the margin]
If there was company I would say I'm a good boy ain't I mama You Wont Whip me will you Mama but I felt much like a fly and Mama looked like a spider and then there would be another interview in the Bathroom.

One day while we were in the city (we were in the country in the summer) Mama sent Annie (the nurse) with us to get our hair cut Annie and mama a few days 

[Page 2]

before had been talking about shaving hair and one said it would make the hair come out curly, the other said it would come out black, and so Annie took it into her head to get our heads shaved and so we went to a shop I got Shaved first without any thing happening of any note, but when Willie got in the chair the barber lathered half his head and shaved it he Jumped out of the chair and said: You shan't put any more white sugar on my head; and we had to go to another barber shop where Mary, Belle and the rest of Willie were shaved. When we got home Mama & Papa were Just sitting down to dinner We all came in single file. Papa was Just opening his mouth to receive a piece of meat & Mama was Just going to cut a piece when they caught sight of our heads. They looked like paralysis had struck them, I was going for my chair (for I was as hungry as a wolf) when Papa Jumped up and said: Get out of my sight we all got into back parlor, I was so mad I kicked over some chairs etc but finding this was not enough to appease my anger I went into the back yard and caught a little chicken & bit its head of. After that I went in the house and eat some dinner which set me all right. 

[Page 3]

 Soon after this we went up to the country. Well the night we started there was dancing on the boat and Mary & Belle had gone to Bed on account of their Heads. They were in the top berth and poked their heads out to see the dancing & some boys were on a sofa opposite and commenced to laugh at them they laughed too, not knowing what they were laughing at. But Belle happened to throw her hand up & it fell on her head She yells out: Oh! Mary its our heads. In they went like a retiring & modest turtle does his head. When we got home the folks were all at breakfast & when we appeared like four bald headed Ghosts there was a laughing and spitting & coughing for half an hour after we came. One of my pet little Joys was to bite my Tongue & go out in the Kitchen & yell Put Lard on it! Another was when I was hungry to go out on the Back steps & Bellow!!!; I'm Starvin on Earth These are all the Joys I remember now (except a Propinquity to hit every thing that came in our way that was smaller than ourselves.) so I'll take my quietus.

Judging from the handwriting Frank's essay was probably written about 1873 when Frank, born March 1860, would have been about 13 or 14. He mentions older sisters Mary and Belle and little brother Willie, born November 1861, but not sister Lee, born February 1864. Willie is able to jump down from the barber's chair and speak which would date the events to about 1863 or 1864.

There is another essay in the same handwriting on the same type of legal sized paper titled "Mr. Perkins At the Dentist." I was able to find that story published in several newspapers in the mid 1870s identified as being "From the Danbury Newsman." 

According to Wikipedia The Danbury Newsman was James Montgomery Bailey (1841-1894), an American journalist from Danbury, Connecticut. Montgomery established the Danbury News in 1870 and wrote humorous sketches about commonplace happenings that won him a national reputation and made his paper known throughout the country. They were often picked up and reprinted in other newspapers. His first book, Life in Danbury, consisting of selections from his newspaper articles, was published in 1873. “Mr. Perkins Visits the Dentist” appears on page 95. See Internet Archive .

I could not find “The Joys of Childhood” in any of Montgomery's writings but the style is similar. Did Frank copy a story by Montgomery and change the characters' names to those of his own family or did he just mimic the writer's style in his own original writing? In either case it is an entertaining look at the Tisdale children's life in the 1860s when they were riding the steamboats up the Mississippi from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to visit their grandparents.

I did find the opening poem in The Singing School from Laura Ingalls Wilders Little House Books. Evidently it was a common children's song of the period.
Oh, childhood's joys are very great
A swingin' on his mother's gateA eatin' candy till his mouthIs all stuck up from north to southAnd other things he likes quite wellThat I ain't time just here to tellBut though I have to mind the ruleI'd rather go to the singing school!
Oh the singing school's beautiful

Oh, the singing school's beautiful
If you'll have me for your teacher
I shall be a happy creature
For I dote upon the singing school

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Two Drawings by Belle Tisdale

A Devil of a Sight by Belle Tisdale

Among the old papers, letters, and photos in Belle's trunk were two faded pencil drawings on yellowed 8 1/2" x 11" paper. The drawing style is similar to several that Belle did in her letters. The thermal copies made many years ago are in my possession, but the location of the originals is unknown.

The first drawing is titled "A Devil of a Sight" and shows a wind and rain storm. A child stands by the open gate, presumably at Grandma and Grandpa Pratt's Oakland Plantation.

A Gallivant by Belle Tisdale

The second drawing, titled "A Gallivant" is even more faded. It shows three horseback riders. One gallops out ahead, one is in the process of jumping a fence, and the third trots along behind. A man stands on the far left exclaiming "Well I'll swear by the living God!" Could that have been Uncle Jene? Were the riders Belle's brothers?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Letter from Belle to her Mama

Undated original letter, , 9 1/2” x 15” folded in half, written in pencil from Belle Tisdale to her mother Eliza Helen Pratt Tisdale. It includes a drawing of the girls in the buggy and a note in ink from Grandma Bernice Pratt to Eliza. Transcribed exactly as written.

Although there is no date on page 1, Belle writes Feb.17th on page 2 when she closes the letter. On page 1 Belle mentions that she and Kate weighed themselves on a trip to the store. “Kate is lbs 52 & I am lbs 117.” In her letter of April 27, 1869 she gives her weight as 104 and Kate's as 67. On the basis of Belle's weight I estimate the date as February 17, 1870, even though Kate's weight does not make sense. The Kate mentioned may be Kate Tisdale and not Kate Craig. The paper is also identical to that used for the poem about “Our Fishing Excursion,” posted last month.

Page 1
[imprint upper left of a domed building with word CONGRESS above it]

Dear Mama
We received your letter yesterday, I was surprised to hear that Martha's baby was born already.
Kate and I went to town yesterday, & were both frightened into sick head aches & cramp colics by nearly turning over in the mud 3 different times, in one of those places Rhodie fell down, one wheel went up on a bank, the other went down in the stiffest mud above the hubs & that brought the buggy exactly in this position [drawing of the buggy] only it was on the side, & just as I thought we were over; the mule gave a jump & jerked us out of the mud; I was so glad, that I had to cry; when we got nearly to millers we had to stop on account of a horrible mud hole just ahead of us, we never would have got through, if a man had not come and led us up the bridge & along the side walk untill we had passed it.
We went into Jackson's, bought some tobacco & soda, & weighed; Kate is lbs 52 & I am lbs 117; George is comeing next Sunday, at least he said he would if he was not sick, he has been having fever of & on for the last two weeks.
We have got our bundle at last, & are delighted with all our things the shoes are beautiful, but they are to large for me, so I sold them to Mary (they fit her to perfection) I will enclose

Page 2

$5 for you to get me another pair exactly like these, only a whole size shorter, I tried these on & they were much longer than my foot _________ even when my foot had spread around, please get them as near like these as you can.
I am so glad Papa's salary is increased, it will be a greater reward for his hard work than what it was before.
Give my love to all, and kiss them for me; I am glad Aunt France is well now & hope she will remain so, tell her the old lamp no longer sits on the jam in vain, for Kate & I dance in the dining room every night.
We did not get to the ball after all, so I must teach myself not to look forward to anything but disappointment & that will come with out anticipation. Grandma is in a hurry for the light so I must stop.
Feb 17th Good bye your affec daughter Belle.
I will give you a better drawing of us in the mud.

[drawing]      the bridge

The mud

Page 3
[note in ink from Bernice H. Connelly Pratt to Eliza Helen Pratt Tisdale]

My dear child

We recieved your letter yesterday and was glad to hear that all were well, and also to hear that Mr. Tisdales sallary  was increased, I don't know what put it into your head that Mr. Tisdale asked for that sugar he did not do it and I sent it of my own free will; you have given me many a thing and dont know how long I will or what I may need before I die; give my love to France and all the children Robert as well, I have no news,
Your aff ma
B H Pratt

Page 4
[Belle's PS to Mama is on page 4 of the folded paper]

direct to Mr. W. Pratt
care P. Milletré [?]
Please send them immediately.
We have not spoken to Uncle Jene for a month; one day he & grand-pa had been in town & when they were eating supper they happened to speak of some murder that had been committed in town; & Kate as was natural asked: who was it? Or who did it? & they both snapped her up & said: what buisness was that of hers, or something to that effect; of course she told grand-ma; then she blased away at them & said there we were working our selves to death for them, & then when we asked them a civil question we could not get a decent answer & she would be glad when we could go home & Kate could go to her ma & she would go somewhere, then they might stay here & growl & snap one another up as much as they liked; next day we spoke to him he would not answer, several times I spoke to him, he would not answer. Now he has my pride roused & I would not speak to him to save his soul.
Good-bye. Belle.

On August 1 the 1870 census lists Belle as “Isabella” age 15 in dwelling 327 with her mother Eliza and sisters and brothers Mary, age 17; Frank, age 10; William, age 8; Olive Lee, age 6; and Robert, age 3.

In dwelling 326 are her grandparents, William, age 68, and “Bernea,” age 63, and Uncle Eugene, age 22. Aunt Albina and her husband George Durr with daughters “Bernece and Levilna” are in dwelling 328. Next in dwelling 329 is “Emmett" Craig with daughters Katie and Mary.  So it appears they are all living on the Pratt's old Oakland Plantation property.

Where is Belle's father, Benjamin Franklin Tisdale? We can't find him in the 1870 census anywhere. He is listed in the 1867 and 1868 New Orleans City Directories as working for J. B. Murison at 234 Calliope Street. Belle wrote to her Papa in April 1869. We know he and Eliza were still together because two more children were yet to be born, Marion Eugene in March 1871 and Charles Harry in May 1874.