On Age Tuesday, Apr 22 2014 

I was perusing some photos on the internet the other day of Los Angeles at the turn of the last century.  Of course, for all intents and purposes, LA didn’t exist.  It is always a little disconcerting to consider cities of that sort.  To realize that this house existed as Esperanza before several of the major cities in the U.S. were anything more than waystops on the map.

Having lived in the UK for a few years, and for one year in a building built in the 1600’s, the discrepancy is even more apparent.  When the streets existed before this continent was known to Europeans?  It permanently warps what is or is not considered history. At the same time, the comparison can hide just how much have things have changed.  Esperanza existed 130 years ago, but it was a very different Esperanza in some respects.  In others not.  Recognizing the correct balance between the changed/unchanged and should change/should not change…That is the challenge.

Card Games Saturday, Apr 12 2014 

Circa 1920.  Do note the tea cups, with saucers, and sugar bowls! I am not entirely sure of who the people are; it is possibly Bradford Ellsworth and Juliet Inness.  But that is a guess. Note as well that the house still had the narrow wooden clapboards painted green rather than today’s larger, white asbestos. The change to the perceived size and weight of the house was unfortunate, on the other hand the paint bill is a lot smaller.  If one had unlimited cash….


On sewing machines Tuesday, Apr 8 2014 

From a letter by Morris to Julie, March 1860:

“If you get the sewing machine, get one of Wheeler and Wilson’s, and have Susan (Julie’s maid and general helper) learn how to work it. Dear Julie, though it may be pleasant for you to work on the Sewing Machine, please do not do it very much, as it might make you lame, besides other casualties which I have heard sometimes have come to ladies from the use of the machine. Don’t laugh. I think it will be a good thing and an excellent arrangement for Susan. If she can perfect herself in the use of the machine, she will never come to want and will always have the means of obtaining an excellent living. I trust however, she will never see the necessity of going about for sewing or ever leave the house at 31 Chestnut Street (their home) except when we go to a larger and more pleasant house.”

From the Guestbook Thursday, Jan 30 2014 

July, 1876


Note the modification to the bird signature on this one, with the hat and the little bird.

Nellie is Helen Yale Smith Ellsworth, Julie’s daughter and William Webster Ellsworth’s wife.

Happy (Belated) 142 Birthday! Wednesday, Jan 29 2014 

Julie purchased the Kellogg house in 1871, just to the south of Esperanza.  That house burned that fall, probably due to the spontaneous combustion of oil-soaked paint rags.  A house was later built on the site to serve as a farm cottage; it was sold off in the 1960’s.  Rather than go to the trouble of rebuilding, Julie and Morris decided to purchase the neighboring Lyman property.  There were probably two reasons for this: first, it meant they could move in that summer; secondly, the house prices for hilltop farms were sufficiently depressed that it was actually cheaper. (the majority of southern New England farmers had given it up as a bad job, the immediate area had close to a dozen abandoned farms at that time)

So, in January 1872, with the sales of her books going well, Julie purchased what would become Esperanza.

“hundreds of nights on the white road have I passed it by, in my lonely walk, and stopped and listened to it, standing there in its lights, like a kind of low singing in the trees; and when I have come home later, on the white road, and the lights were all put out, I still feel it speaking there, faint against heaven, with all its sleep, its young and old sleep, its memories and hopes of birth and death, lifting itself in the night, a prayer of generations.”

Gerald Stanley Lee, writing of Esperanza in his book ‘The Lost Art of Reading’ published 1902.

World War One logistics Friday, Jan 10 2014 

Finishing up a transcription here, from a letter by Capt. Bradford Ellsworth (306th Inf, 77th Division) to his sister Helen van Loben Sels, written in January 1919.  While those in the military are acutely aware of the headache that getting a force from one side of the globe to the other entails; those of us who are civilians tend to overlook it.  The almighty traffic jam after WWI is hinted at in this paragraph:

“Not much of interest happens now that Jerry has quit and even the threatened revolution doesn’t seem to come off and the only excitement has been the rumors which were many and interesting until last night when our preliminary order for going home came in. We leave this area (ed. note: unspecified area of Northern France) before 14th February and go to the delousing – pretty word- station at Le Mons and from there to the ports as the boats become available. We ought to sail about 15th March and be in New York 1st April, where a quarantine of 2 weeks will make us all sore. About 15th May we ought to be out of uniform and sitting around and telling ‘what a helluva a fellow I was’ and other stories. Everyone has cheered up immensely and we’ve forgotten to knock even the Y.M.C.A. which has always been a favorite indoor sport with the A.E.F. We say ‘the military police of Paris Won the war, the Marines got the glory, and the Y.M.C.A. got the money, where does the doughboy come in?’

His comment on the revolution, refers of course to the upheaval in Germany, and that rather nasty affair in Russia…in which a few American forces did end being involved in.  The rumors probably had been quite wild.

His estimated timing for demobilization wasn’t too far off, only about two weeks too optimistic, the advantage of being the I.O.

Letter Excerpt, Dec. 30th 1918 Saturday, Dec 7 2013 

Also known as: ‘And we think we have problems with the mail, and waiting more than five minutes for a reply? Horrors!’

“Dec. 30, 1918

My dear Dad,

Your letter of Dec. 9th and mailed on Dec. 12th just received so mail is going to be better perhaps. It usually has taken much longer you see. By Dec. 9th you should have heard from me, but Lord only knows what becomes of mail from this end. No! I’m not a Major but have had the pleasure of running three of them as operations officer thru the fighting and am back at my old job as Reg. I.O. and quite content as I’ve written before. When anything is fresh in my mind, it seems as if I could sit down and write reams of interesting stuff, but the old war is stale already and tonight no incidents pop into my head to come out on paper – when the things you wanted to know about happened old boy Censor was on the job, (he still is by the way on certain matters – casualties for one) and opportunities to sit down and write those reams were few and far between. What we want most is to sit down and talk about it and as the soldier was never accused of being any kin to the violet we will do some talking one of these days – even in talking amongst ourselves the stories that were originally concerned with patrols are now all about attacks – from some of the clippings you have sent, New York is already suffering. Wait ‘til we all descend on you!

New Year’s Eve is almost here and our mess is much troubled over the outlook – shopping for food hereabouts is difficult but today I managed to find some wild boar meat and know where the champagne tree grows – it still flourishes here – so we won’t fare badly at all. Our Xmas was a great success – did I write to thank you for the cigarettes? They helped a lot – at that time none had received a Xmas 9 x 4 brick and we All appreciated this one.”

From a letter by Capt. Bradford Ellsworth, A.E.F. 306th Infantry, 77th Division; to his father, William Webster Ellsworth, back home at Esperanza. (although by the time he received the letter, they would have closed the house for the winter and would have been in NYC, delaying its arrival even more!)

Yes, still working on that transcription project.

Gambling Man Saturday, Nov 30 2013 

From a letter by Morris to Julie, 1856 (she was in Brockport, NY; he was in New Orleans)  He was thirty (I think), managing the New Orleans branch of the business, in what was a boom town.  Julie was 38, managing three children (another on the way), and elderly parents in upstate New York.  The letters are a testament to a rock-solid marriage…

“For preface you must understand that Dick made a bet with John P. Fowler and Geo W. Helm on his account, in connection with Shepard and myself. As the odds were 1,000,000,000 to 1 in our favor, of course Shep and I went in. The bet was this. If Fowler got married the ensuing summer and Helm did not, Helm was to pay a dinner costing $100 – and if Helm was married and Fowler not – Fowler was to pay. If neither were married the bet was off. If both were married – Dick, Shep, and I were to pay.  The extreme improbability of our losing was great odds in our favor. I had forgotten all about it – and was surprised when called on for the payment of the bet.”

The company (it ended up being a dinner for 13) involved got their money’s worth…. “Among the curiosities that were shown me next day was the following wine bill: 1 Bottle of Hock, 4 Bottles of Claret, 6 Bottles of Sherry, 12 Bottles of Champagne, 1 Bowl of Whiskey Punch.”

I am hoping that either the Champagne was actually glasses, or the bottles were small, or something.  If not….

From the Guestbook Friday, Nov 15 2013 


‘Sketch of G.B. Bodwell engaged in playing whist; from the foreground.

July 5, 1879.  WWE (William Webster Ellsworth)

Historical Excerpts Sunday, Nov 10 2013 

From a set of notes written by Fannie Morris Smith, circa 1915, talking about her Grandmother (Charlotte nee Calkins, m1 Palmer, m2 Norton), the mother of Julie Palmer Smith, born 1804 and died 1874.


“Grandmother, like my mother, was a born nurse. In the frontier community where she lived people in an emergency came from far and near to ask her help. She enjoyed it as a spree, would put on her black silk dress and gold watch, and ride off to preside over life or death as the case might be.

Her life with John Palmer did not last long. His business in Brockport (furniture) went on the rocks and soon after he died. (I have a candle stand with exquisitely turned stem – the top one beautiful maple board – which he made to please his young wife.) Not long after his death she married Henry Pitkin Norton, a young lawyer. They had hard work to make a living at first, and grandmother raised canary birds, which, as she improved their song by whistling and singing to them, so that they had many beautiful notes, found ready sale. Every scrap of kitchen fat was saved and tried out, and in the spring the winter’s store of wood ashes was tried out and the lye boiled down to make a soft soap, which found ready sale, so did her vinegar, made of the odd spoonful of juice left from the preserves on the supper table.

Grandmother’s two leisure arts were quilting counterpanes – she drew her own patterns (one of her quilts is in the Conn. Historical Society collection) – and transferring embroidery on new linen to make fine collars and handkerchiefs exquisitely done. She used to knit red and white woolen stockings for her grandchildren, and make jars of preserves and pickles to send us. Nelley aged eight emerging from a stolen visit to the cellar, and exclaiming, “pickles, I love you!” comes back among my memories.”

*Charlotte married John Palmer at age 14, she had her only child: Julie Palmer Smith at age 15.  I think she married Henry when she was perhaps 19 or so.

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