Dear Little Friends
By Ann Middleton
A glimpse of everyday life in Northwest Louisiana around the turn of the nineteenth century can be seen in a collection of letters at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. Written to Misses Alice and Ella Walker of Doyline from a former teacher of theirs, the letters reflect many of the items of concern to Northwest Louisiana residents. Writing from Minden, Louisiana, Mary Peabody wrote about local events, illnesses and deaths, quilting, going to church, foods and gardens.
The collection contains occasional letters to "Dear Little Friends" from1898 to 1900. One letter written in September of 1900 is especially filled with news. Mary wrote that though her letters might be infrequent, they were like money owed for a long time-a long time coming, but good when it does come. She began each letter with gratitude for the letters she had received from Alice and Ella.
Some of the highlights of the letter are noted here:
Mary has been busy "putting in a quilt," something that she admits to enjoying, especially since she was gone last year and was unable to "quilt a stitch" for the entire year.
A mutual acquaintance of theirs who lives about four miles from Minden is reported to have smallpox. She also reports that her own grandfather is getting "right feeble" and is unable to go to church.
The 1900 Galveston hurricane had struck about two weeks before she wrote this letter and Mary commented that there were so many that were left without a home and so many drowned and others left alone in the world. (Editor's note: The 1900 Galveston hurricane is the deadliest storm in U. S. history. 6,000 people died in the storm.)
Vegetable and flower gardens were a favorite topic amongst letter writers. Mary had some very pretty morning glories and some roses. She promised to send some violets to Alice and Ella and reminded them that they bloom in the winter if they are covered with shucks when a freeze is eminent. Her vegetable garden yielded so many vegetables that her mother was able to give some away every day. In addition, they put up kraut, chili sauce, chow-chow, peaches and pears.
Mary had picked up some fabric scraps for the girls to use in quilts and she looked forward to seeing the quilts and telling Alice and Ella who had a dress like each scrap in the quilts.
The protracted meeting was to begin soon at the Baptist church and Mary looked forward to attending the services. Without a teaching position when the letter was written, she was working at home putting the border on a quilt and putting together her scrapbooks, having finished one large one and working on two others. One of her scrapbooks would have only pictures in it. A Bossier Parish former pupil had sent her a picture to include in her scrapbook.
A sawmill was under construction in Minden and Mary comments that there were a good many "strange" people in town and she predicted that more would come when the sawmill was completed.
School had just opened at the College [presumably the Minden Female College] where all the teachers were ladies.
This letter is the last in the collection at the Historical Center. It isn't known if Mary and her "dear little friends" continue their correspondence.