Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Letter from Papa to Belle

l874 letter from B. F. Tisdale to Belle Tisdale
Original 9" x 11" thin paper with light blue lines, manuscript writing in ink on both sides with bleed through from back, condition good, original in possession of
V. B. Zimmerman. Transcribed exactly as written.

This 1874 letter to Belle from her Pa was the most difficult to transcribe because of the heavy bleed through of the ink. I used photo editing software to adjust the contrast and brightness and was able to improve  it somewhat.
Edited portion of page 1 of 1874 letter from B. F. Tisdale to Belle Tisdale

Page 1
Will answer Frank

Octo 22 1874                            

My Dear Belle.         We got Your and Franks letter and Were Well pleased to Know that our dear Children were Well, as also the kind relatives at Kushla. As for us I mean myself – and old ['Ma?]
[“Banch”?] we have nothing to Say Save and except that under Gods Prov[iden]ce We are at least well. Thus far we have had bread and butter enough to eat how long [term?] this will be so I Know not. Mr [Sheppen?] Left us today and as a consequence “Bill Pike” was a “hornet” all day. Oh if I Could only leave him at once and forever, it would a release like that of the Prisoner of Chillon, or Eurydicé from Hell. Today, he Would have made me laugh, but that the tears of anger & Mortification drowned the laughter and turned the ludicrous into the Melodramatic, for indeed I Could have stabbed him where he stood, so exasperated he made me. But poor child this is not interesting to You – Nor indeed to anyone. I Smell of brimstone. Mr. [Majer?] or his Ghost I don't clearly Know which took dinner at our house on Sunday. He Came – He saw- he left. He Was there Just ¾ of an hour. I had no Chance to talk to him at all, even if I had Wanted to & I did not Care to - for he Seemed annoyed about Something – and my “bald dysjointed chat”, as 

Page 2
Shakspeare Says – Would not interest him - There was also a Cousin or something from “Ky” Mr. “Nip” Moore – He Came down to a “State dinner” with us. Your Mother had “felix” to bring it -  [illegible] Soup – Fish - but Stake - and I Went in debt for a bottle of wine- Whether Mr. M liked it or not I dont Know, for he bounced up from the table and Shot off for the Cars in Such a hurry You would have thought he had an appointment With ___ Grant.
About the box – Send it how You please to Me at Pike Brs. Co or let me Know When You Send it if You Can & I will be on hand to get it at the depot tho this Seems to be a bad Way too – At All Events fix it Some way – So You dont bother anybody over there With it. They have enough trouble of their own Without having any of ours to grieve them. The baby is all You Could Wish him – in beauty – Sweetness – goodness  angel like & all  Kiss Frank & Give love to all. Say to Sister M I will write to her Soon if I live. Your Pa! BFT

B. F. Tisdale and his wife are living in New Orleans with their youngest children, while Mary, Belle, Frank, and possibly Willie are visiting "the kind relatives at Kushla." This is undoubtedly the Jacob Magee family. B. F. Tisdale's sister Mary Eliza married Jacob Magee in 1834 and lived in Kushla, just north of Mobile, Alabama. We visited the Magee Farm, just north of Mobile, several years ago when it was operated as a historic landmark and open to the public. (I plan a separate blog post on the visit.) 

Belle's Pa is still unhappy with his boss, Bill Pike, and his anger shows in this letter. His literary allusion to the Prisoner of Chillon refers to a 392-line narrative poem by Lord Byron, written in 1816. It chronicles the imprisonment of a Genevois monk in the Chateau de Chillon from 1532 to 1536. Eurydicé, of course, refers to the Greek myth of Orpheus trying to retrieve his wife from Hades. The Tisdale family evidently loved poetry. My father remembers his Grandma Belle quoting entire poems while the children helped with housework. One in particular he remembered was Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith."

B. F. Tisdale appears to have carried his anger home with him. I wouldn't have wanted to be at that dinner on Sunday! I can see him staring resentfully at the steak and the bottle of wine and making sarcastic comments to the guests. (There is a family rumor that he had a drinking problem.) The cousin from Kentucky was Eliza's relative, probably a son of her aunt, Ann Elizabeth Pratt, Grandpa Pratt's sister, who married a Mr. Moore. 

The one happy note in the letter is the description of the "angel like" baby. This was Charles Hiram "Harry" Tisdale, born 30 May 1874, the last child of Eliza Pratt and Benjamin Franklin Tisdale.

Monday, April 24, 2017

1874 Letter from B. F. Tisdale to his son Frank Tisdale

September 3, 1874 Letter from B. F. Tisdale in New Orleans to his son Frank in Mobile

Original letter dated September 3, 1874 in envelope. Manuscript writing in ink on 8 1/2" x 11"
Pike, Brother and Co. stationery with faint blue lines. Good condition with some ink bleed through. In possession of Vera Booksh Zimmerman. Transcribed exactly as written.

[Envelope with imprinted return address PIKE, BROTHER & CO. NEW ORLEANS, LA. 
Stamp corner torn off, postmarked New Orleans Sep [illegible]
Addressed to Master Frank Tisdale (Care) Messr. N. W. Perry Co. Mobile, Ala
Postmarked on back Mobile Ala., Sep 4

Folded inside the envelope is one page of stationery imprinted:
NEW ORLEANS, Sept 3rd 187 4

Dear Frank, 
I received your letter and Your Aunt's to us and am pleased to find You have the promise of Your Kind Uncle Frank to interest himself in obtaing [sic] You employment over there. Should he do So You must bend every energy to the task imposed, and only thinking of the future which is always propitious to the honest and industrious Boy, work Your way to Success. I commenced in Mobile 41 Years ago at a very Small Salary (Something more than my Board) and had I Saved a little at intervals when I Could, up to this time, I should not now be delving at my Desk in this One Horse Bank and Town, at a Salary less than enough to Support me & my Family. But retrospection Serves no Good purpose unless to profit by the lessons of the past. Endeavour [sic] to So deport yourself towards Your Elders and Superiors as to Merit their approbation, Control Your temper, let Your manners be that of a gentleman – even, Suave, Courteous, obliging- Avoid the use of bad language or Slang. In all Your reading do You not perceive the inevitable result of the practice of the

[page back]
of the Social Virtues – and that vice and immorality are the Sure Concomitants of disappointment pain that dreary animadversion of the World So hard for the proud man to bear. Many of the Tales You have read have taught You this. I Know it.
Mr. Pike has determined to quit business at once, or as Soon as he can liquidate or wind up his Bank - He has already reduced the Wages of his employees to 150-80-75. Alfred and Blane $150. Tisdale $80 – M. Duralde 75. Ernest Landry 70. How we shall live on the Stipend of $80 God knows. I am Striving to get something to do away from this Treadmill and its Owner. The Times are hard with all. The Citizens Bank Closed her doors Yesterday with $290,000 – owing Depositers [sic] alone, and a portfolio full of poor paper often renewed and Country Mortgages Worth perhaps 20%. Her Stock is Dead. It has paralyzed trade shaken all manner of Securities and is indeed a Wide spread “Calamity.” But this is yet too early for you to understand.
Give my love to Belle & kiss her for all of us. Poor Creatures – The Baby is the Sweetest and best thing in all the World – no trouble - Well as he can be, and Notices Now so much. Dont fail to give my love to all the rest and say to Uncle Frank  I will write to him soon.
This is written in [written in the right margin] a hurry and may be full of mistakes for we are upside Down. Your Aff. Father  [written in the top margin] All Join me in Love and Good Wishes.

B. F. Tisdale wrote  this letter to his son Benjamin Franklin Tisdale Jr. who would have been 14 years old at the time. It was not unusual at that time for boys to start working at such an early age. In the 1877 New Orleans City Directory Frank is listed as working as a clerk for N. D. Wetmore and living at 508 S. Rampart Street in New Orleans. "Uncle Frank" referred to in the first sentence is Marion Franklin Pratt, brother of Frank's mother, Eliza Helen Pratt Tisdale.

The baby B. F. Tisdale mentions is Charles Harry Tisdale, born 30 May 1874 in New Orleans. He was the last child of B. F. and Eliza Pratt Tisdale. Also living in New Orleans with their parents were Willie, Olivia “Lee,” Robert,and Marion Eugene.

B. F. Tisdale describes the bad economic situation in New Orleans in 1874 that has turned his world "upside down." Conditions in the rest of the United States were not much better. Triggered by the international Panic of 1873,  the financial crisis in North America and Europe lasted from 1873 until 1879, "even longer in some countries (France and Britain)." It was called The Great Depression until that name was attached to another economic downturn in the 1930s.

The political situation in New Orleans was also deteriorating. Resentment of the Radical Republicans who had seized power in the state had seethed under the surface for years. Paramilitary White Leagues were formed to oust the carpetbaggers.

Just 11 days after B. F. Tisdale wrote this letter the Battle of Liberty Place erupted at the foot of Canal Street between White League members who supported Democratic Gov. John McEnery in the disputed 1872 gubernatorial election and the Metropolitan police who were loyal to Republican Gov. William Kellogg. The White League held the State House (the old St. Louis Hotel), the Cabildo and Jackson Square for three days before Kellogg was restored to office by federal troops. (

(Coincidentally the monument erected in 1891 to commemorate the battle was removed Monday, April 24, 2017 as I was typing this blog post.)

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Paper in New York reported on the Battle of Liberty Place. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Another letter from Cousin Kate

Letter from Kate Tisdale to Belle Tisdale, September 19, 1871

Pages 1 and 4

Pages 2 and 3

Letter dated September 9, 1871 from Kate Tisdale to Belle [Tisdale], written in pencil on 8” x 10” paper with black border, folded to make 4 pages, good condition. Original in possession of writer. Transcribed exactly as written. 

[Page 1]
Mobile  Sept. 19th 1871

My Dear Belle,
I know when you will see this letter you will say, “The mean witch has at last written to me.” In the first place I want you to excuse my writing with lead-pencil but my ink is so light & I am too lazy to hunt for more. at any rate I am going to do away with all ceremony with you, because you know we understand each other perfectly do we not? Richard has been here but he is now in N. O. we had a pleasant time while he was here. 
Belle you are very foolish I must say to go & fall in love with Mr. P. it shows you to be very unwomanlike & with very little pride to turn round & love a man when

[Page 2]

you have already refused him. Try to conquer that love for it bodes no good to you. I could whisper two small items in your ear that would turn your love to dislike & well as repugnance! I will tell them to you when you come over next winter, but enough of Mr. P. let us turn to pleasanter things.   1- We have got a house a very nice one & on a pleasant street.   2 - I made the acquaintance of three more beaux, very nice gentlemen to flirt & have fun and you know Belle you like those kind as well as I do, (so does quiet Marie & Mary, between you & I) I hope you still think of coming over next winter – do you not? We will have so much fun to gether – Maman has already succeeded in getting some boarders  amongst them are Mr. John Touart Mr. Guiner a Mr. Nevil

[Page 3]

who is a very pleasant young man. Last night Joe, John Touart & a Mr. Gwin spent the evening here. we played Poker until half past twelve (we commenced at half past eight) You know when we play Poker we use corn to count our stakes with, - towards eleven o'clock we commenced to cheat and the fine time we had was a caution; just as Mr. Gwin was getting up from the table to go he pick up nearly a hand-ful of corn & threw it in my face then you may be sure we all joined in, & the way the floor of the parlor was streewn with corn and the way I had to pick it up next morning was extraordinary  dont you think that was pretty behavior for grown up people? But I know you would participate in it with as much zest as I do. Let me know about what time you will leave Baton Rouge

[Page 4]

for N. O. so I count about how many weeks it will be before I will see you and Mary. Marie received Mary's letter and will answer it soon  give her my love & kisses  You must excuse this badly written as well as badly composed letter, but I have sore throat head ache and growing pains that is a catalogue is it not, Belle. I have got something to tell you very private - I have not even told it to Marie. I will tell you when I see you not before. I do not not like to trust to paper But I must stop- All send love & kisses.
Good-bye cousin                  
mine    Au revoir        
Kate Tisdale           
 More about Kate

As mentioned in my August 5, 2016 blog post, Catharina Margaretha “Kate” Tisdale was born 19 January 1853 in New Orleans, Louisiana, daughter of Bellle's uncle Nathan O. J. Tisdale and his second wife, Rosa Pailhes Roux.

This letter tells us that Kate has evidently made up with Richard, mentioned in her previous letter, and he has recently visited her in Mobile. Kate chides her cousin for falling in love with Mr. P. We  know that romance failed, perhaps because of whatever Kate whispered in Belle's ear, because Belle married Samuel Booksh in April 1878.

Kate mentions that her mother has recently taken in several boarders. “Amongst them are Mr. John Touart...” who participated in the rowdy poker game. This is interesting because in 1881 Kate married widower Louis Eugene Touart (1835-1904), who was 17 years her senior. John may have been a relative.

On the 1900 census Louis and Kate are living in Napoleonville, Mobile County, Alabama, with five of their children, Kate, Hinton, Anthony J., Clarence N., and Rupert G., and Louis's nephew Joseph. Kate is the mother of 8 children, 7 of them still living. Louis also had four children with his first wife, Isabella Bobe. One daughter was named Emma Layet Touart, so there may have been a connection to George Layet's family. 

Louis died 23 January 1904 and is buried in Mobile's Magnolia Cemetery. On the 1910 census their son Max D. Touart, age 24, Doctor of Medicine, is listed as living with widowed Kate and Hinton, Anthony, Clarence, and Rupert. Son Tisdale J. Touart, age 27, Attorney at Law,  lives nearby.

In 1920 Kate is listed along with her half-sister Marie, as Lodgers with the Leslie Bride Sheldon family in Mobile. Kate lived until November 5, 1935 and is also buried in Mobile's Magnolia Cemetery.  (See my August 5, 2016 blog post for a photo of Kate Tisdale.)