Letter from North Dakota February 1887

Ella and Judson were in North Dakota in 1887. Why I don’t know. I do know Uncle Enos was born in Oregon, where they were headed in the last blog entry. So here is a letter she wrote home.
From Frances Spencer Powell’s  files
Letter from ND to IN 1887

First page of this letter, with Enos’ contribution in lower right hand corner

Written in FSP hand at top: “1887?”
Dakota, in the midst of a Simon-pure blizzard-Feb 10th
Dear Folks at Home:
Yesterday Jud went to town as the weather was reasonably good & as usual got caught in a blizzard. He hasn’t made but one trip this winter and had pleasant weather both ways & that was in December when I was with him. He said when he left that he should stay all night so that was all that comforted me for I knew he could never reach here alive through the awful driving storm. I kept watch through the window &  just at night when I saw a little let up I took my cat under my arm & ran to the stable. The lower door was drifted fast all ready so I climbed over it & threw the cat in ahead of me. Then I proceeded to fee the horse, cow & calf & chickens. Everything was inside right to my hand. I stuffed the mangers full for I made up my mind that if it was storming the the morning I should not go out. Now I climbed out again & gasping to keep my breath which the wind seems bound to take from me I brace the door firmly, scramble up the bank of snow & turning my back to the wind speed along to the house, wherein is warmth & safety. This morning the storm continued with unabated vigor but about ten o’clock Jud drove up to the door. He did not stay in town over night but came out as far as he thought best that night. Then stopped with a Mr. “Kee-o” at least that’s the way they pronounce it. I don’t think much of Dakota as a “winter resort” — it will do as a last resort which is what it is to us.
3
Feb 11th
I will return to the subject of blizzards in order to explain some statements I have made which sound contradictory. In the first place I will assume that you do not know what a blizzard is–I did not till I saw one. The air is full of snow driven before a fierce wind at great speed. If it is snowing the wind is in the north-east and not very cold; but it just as often happens to be in the north-west & then it is bitterly cold as well. The air is full of snow just the same for the snow here is dry & light and ready to move at a moments notice. When it is dark it would be impossible to travel without getting lost but by daylight if one is acquainted with the various landmarks it is _possible_ to travel if the cold is not too severe. Jud froze the top of his nose yesterday coming home. He was about 6 miles from home. He had on a buffalo overcoat & did not suffer otherwise. People here say this is generally the worst winter month. I am thankful it is a short one. Our blizzard ended about noon today having run its course of 48 hours.
Feb. 13th
My journal received no additions last evening as it was the appointed time for the fortnightly bath in which Enos & I indulge. This is a lovely day –warm enough that the eave are dripping some on the south side of the house a thing which has not occurred more than 3 or 4 times before this winter. I hear a dog barking too which is a sound I haven’t heard since early fall. Enos just came to me with the comb and said “lay on winnow mama” I worked up in a preoccupied way & he added “mama too busy now” to which I assented & he ran away & concluded he would comb his fathers hair. Poor child he feels the close confinement as much or more than I do.
5
Feb 13 continued
I am re-reading your letter as I write to answer questions etc. On the very first page Mother asks “did I stay along?” No my son is always with me and all the protection I need. I wouldn’t stay alone in town for a good deal I am far safer here. I have stayed alone 5 times now. The author of the “Transcendental Poem” describes in a quaint manner what a Scotchman would call “speering into the future” does he not? Speaking of winter I think we have had even more “to the cubic inch” than you have. Blizzard has followed blizzard in quick succession & when not actually storming it has be so terribly cold that no female could venture forth. Mr. & Mrs. Thompson slipped out “between spells” and made us a pleasant visit.
We were very glad to have you say that you thought there was no immediate prospect even of fathers marriage. All I have to judge from is his manner while here which certainly looked very much as though he intended to keep house again. Is it possible he would live alone? Sometimes I wish I had stayed with him. I think he would be contented then. As for Susan’s carpet, — she was making that the fall I was there and has made several and sold them at a fair profit I believe. No wonder Clara failed to smile. It was a cruel stab to her I have no doubt. She is a quiet little women but capable of considerable feeling. If she only had the right kind of a man to guide her! When I read your long welcome letters I think it was too long a trial for her age. I don’t see how you can keep up your choir–music being so far from you must be very hard for you to see. Who have you for soprano now either of the “Katies”? I see Father Gonanth [?] soon sets sail for France. I hope you will like his successor as well. While I was writing the closing lines Enos took occasion to write a few on page 1. He calls a pencil a “shirty” and insisting on dipping it into the “Coffee”. Father wrote us that he thought it was too hard work for Clara to take care of him–he preferred she should have her strength for her own family.
Feb 14 1887 Evening
We’ve got a new blizzard from last night somewhere midnight. It blew terribly in the night and for a while this morning; but through the day it has been less severe and even with occasional lulls of quite a period. So far the February blizzards haven’t seemed to have the power to hang on like the ones in Jan. and I am in hopes Winter is gradually wearing out. Thought I would mention the storm so that you would see we were still supplied& about how long a breathing spell we get between spells. Wonder what you & ma have bee doing today I have patched trousers [underlined and and circled–Libbi] all day. N. B. I have just learned that is the most correct thing to say. I sat right down after breakfast & went to work–mended two pair. Jud washed the breakfast dishes and got dinner; made his first mess of biscuit–drop biscuits. They were good.
I have been weaning Enos from his thumb, in fact–I may say he is weaned. Had very little trouble. I put on thumb stalls or mittens when “the fever was on” and talked him out of the notion. Sometimes in the morning before we are up he will ask if he can suck his thumb. I say no but you can suck your toe. “No taint good”, and that ends it usually. He is very fond of nursery rhymes and keeps me telling over & over what I can remember. He can almost repeat “Tommy Tucker” and “Jacky Horner.” He is learning to count too. While of think of it did Dora or anyone save me and garden seeds? she has never written anything about it. I made Enos such a nice comfortable dress of the dolman. He hasn’t worn it any is keeping it for nice or when the weather gets so we are seen and &can see. Rachel sent him cloth & buttons for one. It is wine-colored tricot. Well the room is getting cold & I must go to bed. We go to bed at 8 every night to save coal–think of it!
Feb 15
Just heard from a neighbor that there had been no trains through for five days. Hope the blockade won’t last much longer we miss the mail so. Weather warmer and quite pleasant. Washed today & baked some excellent bread and sweet biscuits–have some? I thought I was quite a kinttist till I had ma’s report. I have knit four pair of stockings for baby and now am knitting for myself. One pair most done. I might not to have written this I forgot your eye.
Feb. 18th
My journal has been neglected for two days and Dickens is to blame for it. I have been reading “Little Dorrit”. We have been very fortunate in the way of reading matter having been supplied by Mr. Blymer. It has all be of good quality too mostly old numbers of the Century, though we have read two of Coopers novels one of Mrs. Alexander’s and this one of Dickens.
I had such a fright the 16th. Enos, disappointed because he could not go and ride with his papa, threw himself (in grief and anger) on the floor & came to me crying terribly & refusing to let me move one of his arms or hand. I thought is was either broken or disjointed so ran and called Jack back. We undressed him & tried every bone & joint from the shoulder down to the finger tips and finally found it was only a sprained hand. You can imagine my relief.
We had two day of fine weather right together the 15 & 16. The night of the 16th the wind came up again and has been giving it to us ever since. Will probably wind up tonight. It is not very cold. The enclosed clipping Cara sent us I thought it was good enough to pass on.
We saw the smoke of two trains on the 15th so know we will have mail in town. Jud goes in tomorrow if pleasant.
Feb. 19th
Pleasant this morning as I predicted so this journal will take its winding way to “Wolfs Hall.” I like this method of letter writing as I think of a good many things I have been wanting to say or ask that I neglect in writing a hurried letter. You know the old saying, “dream of fruits out of season etc.”? If there is any truth in that I surely worry for nothing. IN fact I have dreamed of everything under the sun this winter from fruit to setting on the ridge pole with Frank R. looking over a box of views!! Jud says I eat too much, perhaps I do. Well the time has come to say “adios” and I hope you will won’t add like Artemus or Mark Twain may she never “do us” again. Ella Miner

About Libbi

Writer for 30 years. Genealogy a hobby for about 40 years. Yes, I’m in my 50’s, I learned about genealogy at my mother’s knee!

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