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Kate Stone’s Civil War: The very poorest people

September 11, 2015

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

A reluctant Stone leaves Tyler to return to Louisiana, but one minor disaster after another make it a bitter journey.

 

Sept. 11, 1865

Hopkins County, Texas

Here we are … wearing away the time as best we may for two days and nights in a real prairie hut awaiting relief from our place, thirty miles away. The carriage stands in the yard with a crushed wheel, and we are mired up in all sorts of dirt and discomfort in the middle of the wildest prairie with not a tree or a house in sight. We broke down two miles from here journeying on our way to Lamar County with nothing in sight but the broad sweep of the prairie and one lonely tree. We made our way to that. No gentleman with us, no money, no possible way of getting on, and in a great hurry. We were in despair. Richard mounted a mule and scoured the country to find a carriage, wagon, or wheel to take us on, while we with parasols, books, and cushions, betook ourselves to the grateful shade of the tree to await his return. I was fast asleep in the tall grass, and Mamma and Sister were dozing when Richard got back. He could not find any conveyance, but a lady two miles away would give us shelter. So there we were in for a two-mile walk under the burning sun and over the shadowiest prairie with a wind blowing hot as a sirocco of the desert. The prospect was appalling, and I foolishly burst into tears. Mamma scolded. I remonstrated. But soon we cooled down in temper., if not in person, and commenced our weary jaunt to shelter.

It is the roughest two-room affair with six or eight people living in it, and with nothing to eat this last day but bread and milk and butter. They killed their last chicken for us yesterday, an old, old hen, but the people are as kind as they can be, and as hospitable. They give us of their best and are really sorry for us. There are two women and a girl and not a scrap of ribbon or lace or any kind of adornment in the house. I never saw a woman before without a ribbon. They have not even a comb. They are the very poorest people I ever saw.

We — that is Mamma, Sister, Johnny, and I — broke up our establishment and started on short notice from Tyler on last Friday, and our entire trip has been a chapter of accidents since. A wheel crushed four miles from town, and after spending most of the day in the woods we returned very reluctantly to Tyler, We had gone the rounds the evening before making farewell calls and hated to return after so many solemn leavetakings, but go back we must.

The room is filling with the family so must close my book.

The bugs are awful, and so we three slept last night on the carriage cushions and a bolt of domestic out on the front gallery, much against the wishes of our hosts who seemed to think it inhospitable to allow it. But it is impossible to sleep in the rooms with four or five untidy folks, being bled from every pore by the voracious bugs. The natives do not even toss in their sleep from them. They do not know the bugs are there.

A glorious full moon, light enough to read by, and a pleasant breeze. We quite enjoyed our outdoor bunk, especially as we had not slept for two nights. Oh, the happy summer days of our life in Tyler. … And all this discomfort would have been spared us if My Brother had only come out when Joe did and made this trip to the farm in Mamma’s place. Poor Mamma, what a weight of responsibility and trouble she has had on her hands. …

Mollie Moore gave me a pretty copy of The Lady of the Lake as a souvenir of our happy friendship. Shall I ever see her cheerful face again? …

 

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3 Comments
  1. I love reading things like this! These words and scenes are lost without diaries. Not only the details, but the way it’s all conveyed. It’s a treasure.

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