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.

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