1855: Catherine Marsh Smith to Rebecca Cassandra (Jones) Smith

This letter was written by 16 year-old Catherine (“Katy”) Marsh Smith (1839-18xx), the daughter of Robert Marsh Smith (1813-1893) and Rebecca Cassandra (Jones) Smith (1815-1860). Robert was co-owner of the Baltimore Chemical Works — a wholesale firm dealing in drugs, paints, and other merchandise.

Catherine mentions her younger brother, Mathew M. Smith (1842-1883), several times in the letter.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Rebecca C. Smith, Care of William Woodbridge, Savannah, Georgia

Baltimore [Maryland]
February 27th 1855

Dearest Ma,

Pa has not as yet come home from the store and as it is eight o’clock, I begin to think he will not be here to supper so we have finished our tea. Mathew is busily engaged studying his latin, Cassie is siting near me reading doubtless awaiting her expected admirer (don’t know who he is). Ma, Cassie writes this herself having seized the paper. She declares she will tear it. I am therefore content when she proposes to add those few words you see above [in parentheses].

We were all, as you well know, delighted to hear of your safe arrival and received letters this morning. I hope you have become acquainted with agreeable persons and that you have seen the Bishop. Mr. Coy stopped Pa and I yesterday in great haste as he was going in the ____ ____. He wished to know how you were doing. Mrs. Riggin called to hear of you this afternoon & cousin Mary Blacklick was here this afternoon and Mrs. Nicholas has been here this morning. Indeed, we have constantly someone to see ____. Bettie Han____ took tea with us one evening last week.

Pa told you  about a pleasant Sunday we had when Miss Mary Burns and the others were here. We had fried oysters twice of evenings last week. I really do not know what to write first; I could tell you so much and for that reason you will excuse me when I write with out regard to times or places. I have not seen Aunt Emily since you went, being prevented from going there. I believe they are all well or if not, should have heard. Uncle James was in town on Sunday and went the next day to Wilmington. Uncle Isaac was going with him, I believe. Aunt Hannah is still at Grandfather’s and was not so well; the doctor attending her twice daily.

Poor Emily must not have very pleasant ____ ____ of the occasion. Miss Minnie’s sent my ____ to go visit her to church last Sunday afternoon but I will not leave the children alone with Martha. I went to church on Ash Wednesday. There were many there. Aunt Sallie and Lizzie went and were here after church. When Mrs. Hough and Mary called Cassie, H. seemed very stupid having had to come out of church because of sickness. She mistook the dose and took a large quantity of brandy. Eliza said she was afraid of her because she was drunk. I was at afternoon service on Thursday and Cassie was there this afternoon. The services are very well attended. Tomorrow morning there is to be a lecture to the late confirmation class and I hope I will be able to attend it.

Really I do not want you to think I am growing conceited but I think I get along very well with my household duties. You know you told me not to hesitate asking anything that was not manageable so last night Cassie made _____ ____ _____ and on Saturday Harriet succeeded admirably in green apple pies. This morning we overstepped ourselves but I try to get downstairs to give Pa his breakfast and tomorrow we are to eat together and have buckwheat cakes. I make Annie’s _____. She is so mischievous and when we ask her where you are, she puts her hands to her eyes and begins to cry. Today she would not take her usual nap and became fretful towards evening. Eliza is always asking me not to write to you and tell of her behavior which is the only authority Emily, I suppose, would allow me to exert.

Mary had several days one _____ last week. Mathew has just come into the pantry from the dining room. He told me to say that yesterday he was out skating. Next Saturday afternoon, Mr. Cox is to have catechisms for the boys. I am persuading Matthew to go. James says that you are to bring him a book and boy doll. He is very good. Mary Smith says she sends you her best wishes. Eliza spent yesterday with her Aunts. She said she made herself agreeable and had two large pieces of pie.

The children are all wishing to pay visits to the neighbors and Pa tells them to submit entirely to what I say and thinking the weather a sufficient excuse, viz.; they’re not going to return the Miney visit. They seemed perfectly satisfied. Miss C. Stewart is not any better. Mr. Keeling who was here last night thinks her recovery extreme,y doubtful. I made her some very nice tapioca which she liked very much. Pa bought at an auction some very nice books called the American Sylia ???. They are very interesting as well as ornamenting. I want after church to remain to go to Aunt Emily’s. Cassie Houlett’s is going home on Thursday. I will miss her very much. Sallie perhaps will come this week — at least I hope so as you know next Sunday is communion.

Pa has your diamong ring. It looks beautifully. I think it ought not to be put in a letter. Today the house has been filthy dirty because of the dust all around by cleaning the cellars yesterday. Martha gave the parlor a thorough dishing this morning. I always come in and arrange. Pa has just come in. I have his supper saved. I hardly think Emily’s patience will permit to read this letter, but really Ma, when I close I feel as though I would write as much again.

Mr. Robertson when here last evening wished to be kindly remembered to you. Everyone sends their love. Mrs. Riggins, Cassie, sends her very best. I am glad Grandfather seemed so well. Aunt Ann Mathews has gone to G________ and will miss hearing Sybil Jones¹ who is to preach in their meeting house this evening.  Yesterday Cousin Mary wanted us to come there to tea. She said it being Aunt Rachel’s last day, she wished to have a celebration but we could not go. I have nearly finished James’ white apron. I will have to get a piece of edging as there is none in the bundle large enough. I put the ruffles on his drawers and finished the children’s aprons last week. Mary Quigly is very patient with the children. I have had no trouble with Martha. Martha Gross stayed the whole of yesterday.

Ma, I know you will promise not to show this letter to either Grandfather or Grandmother as I would dislike exceedingly to hear the result of their criticism. Tell Emily not to forget she represents Baltimore ag____lity and to do full justice to our city.

The weather here is intensely cold — so much so that Matthew has condescended to wear his overcoat. Pa just tells me that Aunt Hannah received a very amusing letter from cousin Mary Yardley giving a description of the news she had whilst in her visit. She had to change and and was very talkative, inquisitive, and dirty. While she was in the act of going downstairs in the dark, she fell and came very near breaking her neck. Pa said he thought Aunt Hannah laughed so much over the letter that it did her good. My hand ____ pain linger awhile to glide carelessly over these pages, but as tea time approaches, I feel it necessary to close this s______. Tell Emily to write to me and my dear Ma will not refuse me a long letter in reply to mine when you know what an _____on it is to me to make up my mind.

I just asked Pa if he thought you would take the trouble to read this but I thought it would while away an idle hour in glancing over (and hearing) what we have been doing at home and more, my dear Ma. I must say good night and wish continually your speedy recuperation and enjoyment of your trip with much love to Emily, Grandfather, and ____. I still am your devoted and unworthy daughter, — Katy

P.S. The Colin will case is decided (in fair of the one of 1848). Richard Bayard gets all. Mrs. Ellicott nothing.


¹ Sybil Jones (1813-1873) was hailed as pone of the best women preachers among the Orthodox Society of Friends in America. She and her husband Eli Jones were Quaker ministers and missionaries from Maine.


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