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Home » Public Programs » Online Exhibits » Margaret Bailey Townshend » Margaret Bailey Letter to N. S. Townshend, [1854]

Margaret Bailey Letter to N. S. Townshend, [1854]

Margaret Bailey Letter to Norton Strange Townshend, [1854]. Norton Strange Townshend Family Papers, Box 1, Folder 28.

Saturday A.M.

Was feeling quite sure I should hear from you this morning, when your letter was handed me, because I concluded I was about desperate enough to be gratified.

In answering, I will first give what you wish & should have had before & what I have purposed several times to give you but always get my sheets filled without as you do about yr. neighbors. viz. a history of myself parts of it you have had, but I will now try to present it as a whole.

I was born near Clarksburg, Harrison Co. Va. July 26, 1823 & am therefore 30 years old. When I was about a year old my parents left the state & went into Kentucky & resided there. I

[Upside down writing at top]: Just as I was closing my letter the beautiful lines I send were read me from the Tribune. They contain so much of myself, my hourly thoughts & feelings that I felt I must send them to you!

I think, three years, on a farm – & must have lived in very plain & simple style, for my father was poor. He next removed to Missouri & settled in St. Louis Co. where he resided dividing his time between farming & preaching till about 3 years before his death, he moved into Jefferson Co. adjoining St. Louis Co. My parents both died in August of 1835 leaving a family of 5 orphan children, the oldest my brother was 14 & my youngest sister two & I was 12 years old. Tho we did not then fully realize our loss – for we were too young – still our young hearts were very desolate & that was a sad P.M. when in one group with a colored woman & child belonging to my father, we were conveyed to the house of a

man who had been appointed guardian & adminstrator, leaving home entirely vacant. It would seem like home still, for my dear parents were still there. My much loved father chose to be buried there in a green mossy spot where many a time I had played & my mother was of course laid by his side.

At this time, I was very much a child of nature – had gone to school about a year, could read & write & was extravagantly fond of my books & nothing did I so much desire as a good education. Indeed I can scarcely remember when I had not of secret determination that somehow or other I would have one – & it grew with me. Soon after the death of my parents a brother of my father residing

in the northern part of the state made us a visit & took my brother to live with him. My two youngest sisters were put into a family to board for so much per year & 3 months after a physician residing in an adjoining neighborhood who had been married several years, but had no children offered to take my other sister & self adopting us as his own – saying that he would give us good educations & make us his heirs. The offer was considered a fine one & we were speedily conveyed to a new home promising much. But alas! we never knew anything in but servitude. I always think of it as the white slave period of my life. In this family we remained til I was 17. [three crossed out words] When nothing having been done for us that had been promised & my spirit having become a little too strong for longer oppression I penned my guardian a note entreating him to take us away & he did so, so soon as he understood the case. He was not the first appointed for us, but a much more intelligent & better man [crossed out word] he

had been our guardian only a few months – our first guardian soon after a home was found for us moved to another & distant part of the state & only saw us 2 or 3 times after, or our condition would probably have been sooner improved. The physician died not long after in a fit of delirium tremens && his wife of cholera & as they had no children his name is literally blotted out & I think of them as monuments of God’s displeasure towards those who oppress the fatherless. I never knew how much my father’s estate was worth, our guardian never told us & some say he cheated us greatly, but we finally received several $100s each. I now wanted very much to expend what was coming to me in going to school, but it was not convenient just then, so I waited another year which made me of age. That year, I had

a good home with a sister of my new guardian, a refined & most excellent woman – Mrs. Turner residing in Godfrey, 4 miles from Alton & 25 above St. Louis, in Illinois. Rather than expend any of the small patrimony coming to me I hired myself to Mrs. T. for a consideration – She was very kind, treated me with respect & confidence & introduced me into good society – & I very soon found friends in the best families in the place. I began to respect myself & to hope that my long cherished purpose might be realized for there was a flourishing female seminary in the place. During the year I became as I thought a christian & united with the Presbyterian ch. that worshiped in the Sem. chapel. My preparation to enter the sem. as a student, I knew was not what

it should be, so I commenced studying usually devoting the hours from 9 to 12 to my books, unless driven to bed before. I entered the sem. & graduated after taking a 4 years course, at the age of 22. My way was cheered by success in study & evidence of confidence, love & respect on the part of my teachers & mates. My funds were not sufficient to keep me in school so long, so I worked part of the time for 1/2 my board & part of the time boarded myself. About a month before graduating one of my teachers was invited to take charge of Putnam Sem in this state & she very considerately & kindly invited me to come with her, which I was very glad to do, instead of teaching a district school, as I had previously engaged to do. I taught in P. six years giving all that I earned, above what was necessary for a moderate wardrobe to pay off debt on the education of my two younger sisters – & now in dollars & cents I’m worth nothing & when I think of the love that I believe you cherish for me, its value is increased by the fact that I know you must love me for myself. this & the ability to return it in kind constitutes the greatest blessing of my

somewhat eventful life. I fear I have been tedious for my life is much longer than I meant to have it. Please dont let it be known what a fine biographer I am. I might be tempted to a post with Harpers or Putnam. Tis now quite likely that I shall make a visit in Cleveland but cant say when. My first business must be to put a long & much neglected wardrobe in something of a proper condition & while I do it shall remain here – Yearnings for a home many indeed I have – I’ve written myself so tired will stop here– Your Margaret