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Miss Phelps Diary

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1 Miss Phelps Diary on Mon May 31, 2010 11:58 pm

Posted on Texas Civilian Yahoo list May 2009 by Vicki Betts

One of the items I looked at was the diary of Ellen Porter Phelps.....or at least the first part of it. They are still looking for the second part which seems to be missing. It is quoted in a 1930s era history of LaGrange, so I know it
exists, and the Archives *thought* they had it all, March 9, 1861-April 30, 1866, covering the time Miss Phelps taught in LaGrange and Rutersville, Texas, and including her trip home to Monmouth, Illinois and afterwards. Anyway, only parts of it are readily legible or else it would make a superb publication. For your Memorial Day weekend reading pleasure....

p.25, June 17, 1861-The sewing society was organized for making clothing for volunteers. A number of ladies were there, and they [ ] to work with hearty good will. A number of tents were commenced but I do not believe any were finished.

p. 27 June 18-A busy day. Several ladies and myself staid at Mrs. Price's, and basted for her machine, and these we sent to the court-house where the other ladies were assembled. Some of the ladies are about as patriotic as the men. Mrs. Sharp, an old lady of 72 [?] years, wished St. Louis might be laid in ashes if it offered any resistance to secession, said she had fitted out companies for five "wars," and wished she had 40 sons for the Southern Confederacy.

19-To day even more busy than before, but the tents here almost finished. A lady told me that a collection of arms and stores at Nashville Tenn had been fired and consumed.

p.26 20-Too unwell to assist at the tent making. I hear they were all finished off. The next will be the uniforms for the volunteers. great Job.

21-Suffered severely with the headache. But in the evening went out to call, and heard the ladies in town were making a flag for the Shropshire's company. Miss Julia Jinks is to present it.

p.28 June 25 Miss Julia Jinks presented a banner to Mr. Shropshires Company. The yard was full, and much enthusiasm expressed.

26 [companies left for San Marcos to drill]

[from now on at Rutersville, Texas, where she is the principal of
Rutersville Female College, I think.]

p.41 July 16, 1861-The effects of the blockade begins to be felt in the prices of many of the necessities of life. Coffee has risen, and all begin to talk of doing without. This gentleman who is a candidate for the legislature, says, as did another candidate who stayed here yesterday, that Galveston by at least one half the population would sustain, at least not oppose the U.S.-that he thought the country people had better look to it.
Gen. Van Dorn is on his way down, and it is probable [p.42] martial law will be proclaimed. At least the test oath administered. He says the same state of things exist in Austin, San Antonio and other towns. But thinks the country people are true. He was so severe in his remarks on Northern character that I very foolishly became angry, A very foolish thing in these
times when all, both North and South seem laboring under a kind of frenzy-Yet it is hard to listen quietly at so many bitter [ ] remarks.

July 25, p. 46 I have heard and seen so many strange things that scarcely any thing would surprise me, and few of the great items are worthy of credit-that is, I am surprised at nothing, and believe nothing. This is such a strange world. Every heart has its own history, and every roof covers its own romance. Stranger things pass before us, in the daily common walks of life, than are written by the novelist or sung by the poet.

p.47, July. 27-No more news-And as a consequence I am losing what interest I had. Then what information we receive is so unreliable. But I feel that events are with God, and will endeavor to be satisfied. Let them terminate as they will.

But weak woman as I am, all unused [to] calculating political chances, I can but think the termination of this different from what many of the sanguine predict.

p.49 July 30-Tried my hand at Housekeeping. It is enough to put one out of the notion of matrimony if ever entertained.

p.49, July 30--...in reference to the above which he seemed to consider authentic but to the frenzy which suddenly seizing on the whole people has seemed to render them incapable of sober thoughts and expression. An example too fearfully contagious,--so all have [ ] to ask for cool Judgment, and say "Lord enable me to keep a patch over my lips."

p. 53, Sept. 3-[still at Rutersville, started with one pupil, now up to 5 boarders]

p.57, Sept. 19-Coffee is becoming a scarce article. [hard to read, but Mrs. L____ proposed to get up a supply of ___ and blankets for the soldiers]

p.61, Sept. 26-The usual quiet of study hour, was disturbed this morning by the sight of soldiers probably designed for our Western frontier. The sight was too much for the patriotism of the girls, and all had to go to the door and take a look, at their brave defenders.

p.61 I noticed Mrs. Harell, looked unusually good natured as I came in. "I have just found I can make two pairs of pants," said she, "for the soldiers."

Still in 1861, still at Rutersville.

p.65, October 2-Some excitement has prevailed here in consequence of a general belief that Galveston is soon to be attacked. [ ] companies are being made up here, and have already gone from adjoining counties for its defense. Every day the smiles of my pupils and looks of admiration, cause me to look around, when a company of soldiers is passing.

p.71 October 13-A part of a company bound for Arizona passed through yesterday-looking cheerful in their red shirts.-A costume calculated to give them a wild picturesque look.

Visited a friend yesterday whose husband starts tomorrow for Galveston. She says the war never seemed so near. Before it was a great trouble at a distance, now it had entered her own house.

p.73 October 13-Texas is manufacturing firearms on a small scale at San Antonio, and is supplying herself with salt.Coffee and flour will probably not be so plenty as heretofore, but corn and
beef are amply sufficient to supply the state. A very good article of flour is manufactured in Texas now, but the prices were raised, and the land carriage is tedious.

p.76 October 18-Time has passed so quietly. We hear nothing new from the seat of war. But it is the sole topic of conversation, at least the getting up of clothing for the soldiers, is to an extent tiresome.

The School girls are working intently at their socks, and it is hard to see which is the stronger, intense patriotism, or enthusiasm in a new employment; combined they furnish a strong motive.

p.78 October 21-The ladies in La Grange meet tomorrow, more effectually to combine their efforts in supply in the soldiers with clothing, knitting soldiers' socks has become quite the rage, and such a demand has been made on the knitting needles, that it is difficult to procure a pair.

The long deserted spinning wheels are called in requisition, and even the sound of a loom is heard, as prices raise on apparel.

p.79 Oct 21-The citizens of Gonzales county held a meeting passing resolutions, recommending the exportation of goods, cotton to Mexico to be repaid in arms, and needful commodities. Those of Washington passed a vote of censure for the same.

Oct 25, p. 80
A friend mentioned a little incident occurring at Houston. Three gentlemen made their appearance at that place, on their way to Europe through Mexico. Some thing awakened suspicion in their appearance of one of the company, when it was ascertained [?] to be a woman in disguise, who was arrested, but showing authority from Gov. Moore of Louis', She was liberated. It seems she has been in the habit of travelling in that garb, having accompanied her husband on an expedition to Central America, that she adopted the dress from convenience. Their object was to purchase arms for the confederate states, and as further proof she showed bills of exchange, to the amount of $250,000. She is said to be six foot one inch, and looked like a great boy-It turned out they wished her "God speed"-

p.84 Nov. 4-The ladies' society seem to gather up a great deal for the soldiers.

p.85 Nov. 6-A new pupil came in yesterday, increasing my school. I have 19-better than any prophesies. That number if I can get any pay will make me independent. Nothing could be more unpleasant without actual calamity, than to be compelled to remain here, and unable to employ my mind, so to be so situated, as to feel my ability to take care of myself. But one who observes the motions of Providence is often surprised to see how all things work together for good.

Through the whole of this excitement, I have been sheltered in a
great measure from remarks. I could not have borne, and pleased, where the fury of angry words did not strike one, and kept from eating the bread of friendship, which how pleasant under some circumstances, would be bitter dependance now. And is a path I had not sought out.

p.87 Nov. 11 Some of the school girls coming home from the concert mentioned at the supper table the death of a young officer who went from here, and with whom I was very slightly acquainted. They reported his death as taking place suddenly from illness. A very beautiful girl, whom he was affianced,
sat opposite me, and heard the conversation. A deadly pallor spread over her face, and she soon quietly arose as she left the table. I had never heard her mention his name, and knew nothing but idle rumors before. How many broken hearts this war will make, but better a thousand times better to lose a friend by death, than to lose them as friends are often lost, by the
worldly passions which will at times divide living hearts, and leave them as mountains separated by torrents.

p. 88 Nov. 12 There has been a vacant place at the table since supper last night. I hear ____ is sick-All bodily disease is slight in comparison to that malady...

The pupils belonging to my own school in La Grange gave a
concert and tableaux, Friday. I hear the proceeds amounted to $68.00 [?], to be appropriated to the Texas Military hospital.

p.88 Nov. 13 Not having such enthusiasm as my neighbors my socks are not finished, and the box will soon be sent off. Others make up for me, in zeal and industry. They may not be wanted, if the change in the Northern cabinet betokens peace.

Nov. 30, p. 98 How unpleasant dependence would be now-on those however dear, who hate the land of my birth, my friends, and I hold dear. Then too, I might have been forced to submit to insults and covert sneers, undisguised sarcasms, easy for many to give, but hard to bear. Instead of this, I am for the present independent, sheltered from the strife of tongues, surrounded with comfort, with unusual health, & with many, who I believe to
be sincere friends-I cannot hear from home, it is true, but I have every reason to believe they are well whom I have any interest in. Many around me are bereaved. Every mail brings intelligence of death among the volunteers. Typhoid, measles, & pneumonia, carrying off daily their numbers. Thus the rust of the sword destroys more than the edge. 6 have died from Strobel's
company already, and it has been gone but 3 months.

[p.99] Many here are sending their cotton to Mexico. I hear of
loads taking that direction. I hope we shall receive money in return. An article now scarcely mentioned in a trade. It is amusing to notice into what extravagances, passion leads even the cultivated intellect. It is grossly asserted here by a gentleman of pretentions [sic] to science that, the North and South contained two distinct races. I do not know whether he
thinks them the descendants of two distinct creations or not. but he considers amalgamation between them almost impossibility.

[p.99] Many here are sending their cotton to Mexico. I hear of
loads taking that direction. I hope we shall receive money in return. An article now scarcely mentioned in a trade. It is amusing o notice into what extravagances, passion leads even the cultivated intellect. It is grossly asserted here by a gentleman of pretentions [sic] to science that, the North and South contained two distinct races. I do not know whether he thinks them the descendants of two distinct creations or not. but he considers amalgamation between them almost impossibility.

p.100 Dec 1-Monday Mrs. F___ came out looking so much better-Joy is such a beautifier. She laughed and talked as she used to do.

p.109 Dec 21st-Went to La G as I had a weeks vacation on account of the Christmas holydays

22d-Sunday. I had hoped to go to church, but one of my terrible headaches, and company frustrated. This terrible Sunday visiting. If it only could be stopped.

25-Christmas day. [news of Terry' Texas Ranger fight near Bowling Green, and death of Terry and others] I have been waiting in intense anxiety to know the result-whether any I know are among the number.

Some of those unfortunate ladies whose husbands were taken on the Royal Yacht, are boarding [ ]. The fate of their husbands shrouded in mystery. They begged Gen. Hebert to allow them to put out a boat at their own risk to enquire of the Federal commander of the fleet, whether they were dead or alive. A request he thought proper to deny.

p.111 Dec 31st-The last of the old year. 7 years ago I made my first visit across the Colorado. Since then what changes. Death has been busy.

[p.112] I was aroused this morning by the girls, with their "Happy New Year"-They were down before light, to get a gift from me. ... The air is soft and mile. We have no fire, And are walking out bare headed.

p.127 March 12-To day was the day for finding how many soldiers could be raised, and whether it would be necessary to draft. There was but one very small company raised in town Saturday. And I hear many said publicly they would not be drafted but would resist. I hear at Round Top a man was going around with a paper to see how many would stand by each other in not submitting to the draft.-

Such a change has come over the language of people, even those I
remember a few months since most violent.

p. 129 March 17-The draft is causing great excitement. Many are [ ] from one place to another. And many who think it just can scarcely reconcile their minds to going themselves. One young gentleman amused me by his [ ] sincerity. He says if he was married he could go very well. His wife would be sure, but to leave his sweet-heart is a different matter.

p.130 March 19-Great complaint is being made with Genl Hebert. His extravagance, silly pride &c.-There is said to be a special train fitted up for himself, the style and manner of which correspond illy with the aspect of the country and the gloomy nature of the times.

p.135 March 30 I hear many citizens are leaving for Mexico, to avoid the draft. A Party of near forty started in company not long since, and their numbers being unknown they were followed by some eight or ten to compel their return. The Pursuers having overtaken the refugees, found to their dismay they "had caught a Tartar in being so badly posted as to the number,
concluded discretion the better part of valor, and took the advice kindly offered to return and keep quiet, as they might be put where no secrets are told."

April 1, p. 135 As a specimen of the bitterness which prevails here, a little about ten, comes with a question in her lesson, "Who were the Puritans?" Before I could reply, she said, "[illegible--wish I could read it!] In a tone of contempt.

p.136 April 8-Yesterday, the sounds of martial music suddenly disturbed the quiet pursuits of the School room. We soon discovered the cause-a band of soldiers on their way to the camp were passing. A. Bower, either [???] The stars of the Confederate States, was waving. The School girls waved their
handkerchiefs, to which they responded in loud cheers.

Now in 1862, still in Rutersville:

p.136 April 8-Yesterday, the sounds of martial music suddenly disturbed the quiet pursuits of the School room. We soon discovered the cause-a band of soldiers on their way to the camp were passing. A. Bower, either [???] The stars of the Confederate States, was waving. The School girls waved their
handkerchiefs, to which they responded in loud cheers.

p.137 [girls watching teacher's face for reactions to news]

April 15, 1862, p. 141 The negros know there is a war going on. I suppose their ideas of course [illeg.] What the war was carried on for? He said "he thought the taxes." There has been good deal said of the taxes, on account of the high rates, and difficulty of getting money. [other probably good stuff, but un readable]

[oops! thought there was more!]
Rest is missing. The possibilities are 1) it never made it to the state archives, 2) somebody stole it, 3) it's badly misplaced, 4) it's with some other unidentified diaries that are held together in a box or boxes.

File -Papers (same box)
Envelope-Miss Ellen P. Phelps, Principal, Rutersville Female College
photo as old lady in 1890s
newspaper article-died at over 93, born 1827 at Fenner, Madison Co., NY,
came to Warren County in 1836, to Texas in 1854
Letter May 11, 1861, asking her to take charge of the Literary Department of Rutersville Female College

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