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Emma Crosby Letters

[Letter, Emma Crosby to Eliza Douse, January 5, 1875] Crosby, Emma, 1849-1926 1875-01-05

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 Fort Simpson, B.C.  January 5th 1875    My dear Mother,   What do you think has happened!  I have a startling piece of information to give you - and even   at the risk of stunning you all with astonishment, I must give it right off.  It is this - as I sit in   the rocking chair writing there is lying on a pillow on the lounge beside me a bundle of flannel and   other garments inside of which sleeps a wee little girl - just the sweetest, dearest little thing her   mother ever saw.  I am her mother - you know.  To say you will be surprised will be putting it mildly, I   suppose.  We were rather surprised ourselves - not that she should come but that she should come so   soon.  We were expecting her about the end of February - but it is all right and we are both of us very   thankful and happy.   And now I want to tell you all about it soberly.  We had been in our new house a week, but were   just beginning to get things a little settled - as it had been free of workmen but one day.  Then   Christmas was right at hand and we had ever so much to do to prepare for that - my chief burden was a   Christmas tree we were to have for the children for which I had been working for some time.  Wednesday   the 23rd Dec. I purposed making a lot of cakes for the children - a young girl was coming to sew the   sitting room carpet - and various other things were to be accomplished - but "the best laid schemes" &c.  I woke in the morning feeling Oh! so, so - you know all about it.  I was innocent - thought I must   have taken cold & feared inflammation and applied mustard & hot flannels &c still clinging to the idea   that I might by & by be able to get up and make my cakes.  About noon I thought it might do me good to   get up, so Thomas helped me to dress & took me out to the sitting room - but that did not seem to do any   good either.  I could only lie on the lounge & wonder how long it would last.  It occurred to me once or   twice that it might possibly be what it proved to be - but I dismissed the thought as extremely   improbable.  However in the afternoon Thomas had to go down to the village to a wedding and I said I   thought perhaps he had better go and ask Mrs. Morrison's mother to come and see me.  She is a woman experienced in nursing white ladies in the Fort & elsewhere and always said she would take care of me   when I was sick. So she came, and after a little Mrs. Morrison came too. This must have been near five o'clock. They seemed to understand it at once and when she said to my husband, in Chinook, "You had   better get everything ready," we understood it too.  Well, this gave me something to think about.  I had   not finished my sewing, and nothing I had made had been washed - and the house being so unsettled,   things were in every part of the house.  However everything necessary was at hand in a marvelously short   space of time, and airing before the sitting room fire -  powder & sweet oil & essentials such as those   I had provided long ago - and it was chiefly the finery - day dresses, & the shawl, that I had left.  I   was waiting for the Otter to bring me trimmings.  I had to tell where everything was to be found and   Thomas was flying about pretty briskly for a while.   About half past five I walked into the bed-room & undressed, and by six, my little daughter was   using her lungs most lustily and very shortly afterwards as I was lying comfortably in bed talking with   my husband our little girl was brought in from the sitting room where she had been dressed in the   clothes Susie sent, and a square of flannel pinned round her for a blanket.  She was, of course, very   small indeed, but is perfectly formed and thus far seems as strong and well in every way as ever a baby   could be.  She took to her natural food at once, and every day she seems to improve.  She has never   given us any trouble yet, night or day.  She sleeps on my arm at night and except the first night when   the nurse carried her round the bed to put her the other side of me, no one has had to be up with her at   all.  She wakes once or twice to take some nourishment and goes off to sleep again.  During the day she   sleeps most of the time too - but of course I do not expect this to continue long. Would you like to know what this far off little granddaughter looks like?  Her limbs are long   for her size but very thin - her face round and full.  She will look very like her father, I think.  She   has a great lot of brown hair.  It does not curl yet but it may by and by.  Dark blue eyes and well   defined nose and mouth - and rather a long chin.  It is a very sweet little face to us, and would be to   you too, I think, if you could see it.  Her father makes a very good nurse whenever he has time to take   her, and in case of necessity would be just as clever as any one could be in taking care of her, I know.    Our baby will be a great comfort to us, I believe, if she is spared.  We have a world of happiness in   our home anyway.  I often fear my heart is too much taken up with it.  I cannot help now feeling a   little anxious sometimes about baby, just because she came so soon and is so small, but I have really   far more reason to be thankful & hopeful than anything else.  She will be two weeks old tomorrow and   thus far has appeared to be in most perfect health.  We must do all we can to keep her well - and trust   her to Divine keeping.  The Indians seem delighted that we have - as they expressed it - "found" a baby   at Fort Simpson.  They come to see her - old men & boys, women and all - and take the tips of their   fingers and turn aside the shawl to peep at her as she lies asleep, and exclaim "so small," and   certainly compared with the great babies the Indian women have she is small indeed.  She is known   already by an Indian name they have given her - Asseh-e-gemk - which means Leg of the Moon - this is   moonbeam.  It is a name that could only be borne by a chief's daughter - and her father & I are spoken   of, after their manner with themselves, as the father & mother of Asseh-e-gemk.  Several curious little   carved wooden dishes, one in the form of a duck, another a frog, have been given her - and a square of   gray fur lined with white cotton.  And now I think I won't write any more tonight.  I will tell you all   about myself and other things some other day - perhaps tomorrow.    Jan 6th - The baby is asleep and I have just finished a little sewing I had to do, so I will write now   till my husband comes to dinner.  I will write about myself now a while.  I never told you about my   expectations for I thought you might feel anxious if I did and there was time enough yet.  I meant to   send you word by the next boat.  Susie I asked to send me some things I wanted but I said she had best   not mention it to anyone else for a while.  Whether she whispered anything to you or not, I don't know.     It is all right if she did.   Last summer I suffered a good deal in the mornings with sickness, owing I think chiefly to the   inconvenience of so much going about from place to place.  After we were fairly settled here a while   that ceased to trouble me and all the fall & winter I was as well as ever in my life.  I got quite fat   and was strong and well as could be.  I had both schools all that time - was away from them only two   days before I was sick and that was because I wanted to get on with the work in the house.  Whether   anything I did in the house brought on the event or not I scarcely know.  We had plenty of people to   help us and Thomas never would let me do any but very light work when he was by - but Christmas is such   a time of play with them that as it drew near the day they did not care to work.  The Monday before I   was sick my washerwoman was sent for in the midst of her work to stand up at a wedding, so she left ever   so much undone that I wanted finished that day.  The kitchen was in a dreadful state of disorder and I   felt as though I could not leave it so and therefore I proceeded to attack things myself.  I took one   brush and the little girl I have another & we scrubbed the walls &c. - not the floor - I did not attempt   that - and by and by a satisfactory change came over the face of things, and a satisfaction to my mind   also - and I did not feel so very tired though I had moved some pretty heavy things.  The next day I was   sewing on the carpets, and walked a good deal in the afternoon & evening and felt really very tired when   I got home.  Then the day after that was the eventful Wednesday. It may be that I exerted myself too   much - but I was so well all the time and had so much exercise every day which I am sure was good for me   that I did not feel afraid.  Indeed I never felt any fear in the matter, either with regard to the   nursing & care that would be necessary or anything else.  I was very glad & happy in the prospect of   motherhood, and always felt sure that all necessary provision would be made - that I should not be   suffered to want for anything - and so it proved.  Nature seems to do her work perfectly.  There was no   difficulty or trouble of any kind - everything seemed favorable - only, of course, the necessary pain   had to be borne.  I suppose I am scarcely qualified to judge, but my labor must have been an easy one   for I did not feel at all exhausted when it was over as I had expected.  I talked just as strongly as   though I was not sick at all and felt as though it would be no trouble at all to get up and walk about.    My nurse is I believe really clever and was very nice in her way of doing things.  We felt both of us -   I mean my husband and myself - very thankful that a kind providence brought us through this so safely   and happily - so our way seems to have been prepared for us all through - we have never lacked anything   that was necessary to our comfort and happiness.  My recovery has been as steady and rapid as one could   reasonably wish.  I felt strong from the first, but, of course, I knew I must be cautious.  The morning   after baby came - I had ever so much to think about - her clothes had to be found and counted out before   me for the wash - then the Christmas tree.  I had to talk about that ever so much.  The same afternoon I   sat up in bed and combed out and braided my hair almost entirely by myself.  Thomas was going to do it   for me but he was called away so I went on with it myself.  The next day was Christmas.  Early in the   morning the people came trooping up to the house in companies of twenty or thirty to wish us a happy   Christmas, till I suppose as many as three hundred men, women & children had shaken hands with me as I   lay in bed, had apples passed to them in the study and gone away.  All day long they kept coming -   sometimes the house would be thronged and I had to talk, talk, talk.  Still it seemed to do me no harm.    I grew stronger every day.  Sunday they gave me a little beef steak for breakfast - my appetite was good   from the first.  I wanted to be care ful, and meant to stay in bed patiently till the tenth day - but I   began to feel that I should really be better up, so the eighth day I was dressed and Thomas helped me   out into the sitting room and fixed me in a large rocking chair with a warm carriage rug thrown over it   and my feet on a hassock before a fine open fire - and I enjoyed it I assure you.  The view from the   window was in itself a delight.  It was a bright day & a quantity of fresh snow lay on the ground.  Just   below us is the village - then the sweep of water on one side of which stretches for miles a line of   glistening mountains and here & there dotted with thickly wooded islands.   I did not sit up too long the first day - but the next morning got up again & did a little   sewing.  And so every day since I have seemed to gain strength.  I feel very, very thankful that   everything has gone on so well.  No one could be kinder or readier in her attentions than the nurse I   have.  She is extremely careful about airing & warming everything for both me and the baby and is very   nice & clean in her ways.  Indeed the amount of washing she requires done is something appalling - but   that is better than the other extreme.  She washes & tends the baby very nicely and that I think more of   than anything else.  But she has very little idea of cooking and for a day or two I had rather a poor   time.  My gruel was either raw or thick with lumps and my tea tasted like nothing but lukewarm water   with a great deal of sugar in it.  But Thomas came to my rescue and by looking after things himself a   little got the good woman to understand better so that now I have splendid gruel every night and very   good tea.  Then my good husband has been getting up in the mornings early and in a very short time has   tea made & biscuits toasted for me.  He brought them in to me ever so many mornings before my nurse was   awake.  It is late before the family breakfast and I seemed to need something earlier.    Jan 26th  I am alone just now with my baby so I may as well go on with my writing.  It may not be for   long though that I can write - there are sundry noises proceeding from the rocking chair where we have   made the little girl's bed which indicates she would like to be taken up.  Thomas has gone to the   meeting we have Tuesday evening and our little servant also.  The nurse left us last Saturday - at the   end of the month.  She said she would come still & wash the baby but yesterday she went off to   Metlakatla so I am left to myself.  Excepting for the baby I did not care to have her stay longer.  Her   housekeeping was not after my heart.  The bedroom she did keep nicely - but beyond that - alas!  Of   course I had made no arrangements so everything had to be left to her and the little girl.  They did   their very best, I believe, the house was swept about half a dozen times a day - that is the broom was   flourished about in the middle of the room so as to send all the dust into the corners.  With the one   exception of the woman who comes to wash & do extra work for me I do not know an Indian who seems to   have an idea of thorough cleanliness.  The first sight I had of the  kitchen made my heart go right into   my moccasins.  Then tea, sugar, biscuits &c. seemed to have wings, and the dogs ran away with the meat,   and dishes were broken, and things in the wash were singed, and besides the constant use of one lamp and   sometimes two, two lbs. of candles were used in four nights and candles are fifty cts. a lb.  I did so   long to be about again.  Well, we struggled through, and now the house is quite settled and we have   something like a regular order of work.  My danger will be, I suppose, attempting too much - but I will   try to be careful.  This little girl we have is about fifteen - she is really a very faithful, devoted   cheerful little thing and, I believe, will do very well.  Indeed now she does very nicely as long as I   can direct her a little.  I have drawn on the inside of this sheet a plan of the house, which I hope   will give you some idea of the place we live in.  You must understand that it is entirely of wood.    There is no plaster about it - except indeed about the fireplaces.  It is lined with narrow boards which   in time are to be either painted or stained & varnished.  There is a good deal of work still to be done.    The mantel pieces are not on yet - nor the sideboard nor the upstairs finished, but we have it now so   that is very comfortable and it is not to be really finished till next summer when the lumber will be   perfectly dry & can be made quite tight.  You ask if we have a good bed.  It is as good as I ever slept   on I think.  The bedstead is a new one & quite pretty one we got in Victoria.  The mattress we got there   too.  It is made of something similar to wool.  The bureau has a large oval glass, marble top & white   knobs - the washstand of an approved pattern.  So with the new carpet and some of Auntie's little mats &   your nice one beside the bed, it is a cosy little room.  The sitting room is very bright & cheerful with   the bright carpet &c.  There is a green lounge in it, an oval center table & a little stand, a rocking   chair &c.  The study & dining room are plainly furnished - the floors covered with cedar mats.  The   dining room has a couple of tables, cane-seated chairs & a little low seat made of a box for me when I   tend baby.  The study we use mostly for our sitting room.  Thomas has to be there most of the time of   course.  It is hung with pictures & maps & contains the book cases, an oval table covered with green   baize, a little dresser, the melodeon, my rocking chair, a couple other chairs & two stained & varnished   benches &c.  This is where the people all come.  The space under the stairs we use as a wood-box, being   just at hand for all the fires.  A barrel sunk just outside the kitchen door - i.e. in the shed, gathers   water from a little stream running underground.  Altogether the house could not be more convenient -   thanks to the builder's energy & good sense.  I only wish you could see it.    Feb 11th  Yesterday the "Otter" came to our delight after an absence of four months.  We were O so glad   to hear from you all & so thankful that there was none but good news.  Many thanks for the handsome   breakfast shawl, and also the little ruff.  The shawl is just what I was wanting.  Thomas wanted to get   me one last summer but I would not let him.  It is really a beauty so soft and warm.   And now we have only two days in which to do ever so much writing.  I have told you nothing yet   about the village affairs.  Christmas was grandly celebrated.  The whole village was decorated with   flags & ever-greens, the bridge & walks arched over in many places.  The church, smoked & black as it   is, was made quite beautiful, hung with white sails, trimmed & festooned with greens & decorated with   mottoes.  The Christmas tree was a great pleasure to the children.  I should have been glad indeed of   your help, but we managed to get enough little things for all.  Then we had Christmas carols sung   through the village.  They came up to our house.  Thomas was with them & sang for me & baby.  About   forty young men & boys had been practicing for some time & they really sang very nicely indeed.    Christmas eve Mr. Morrison & Thomas together gave a feast to the whole village.  A few of the young men   managed the cooking &c., it consisted of rice sweetened with molasses, tea & biscuits.  The largest   house of the village was filled with tables - each person brought the dishes necessary for him or   herself and speeches followed.  Then portions were sent round to some forty sick who could not be there.    For a week or more there was continual feasting & playing through the whole village, but without any of   their old heathen practices whatever. New Year's night Thomas gave a Magic Lantern exhibition which was   a great wonder & delight.  Mr. Morrison & Mrs. M's brother helped to work it & it was managed very well.    Of course, I could join in none of these things - but I was just as happy, in bed with our baby.  I did   feel sorry that I could do nothing to make a cheery Christmas for my husband at home, but he was so busy   planning for the pleasure of the people that I do not think he missed it & he found his happiness in   making others happy & in seeing the baby & me well.     We have had some trouble, or rather annoyance from the neighbouring English church mission.  Mr.   Duncan reigns a petty tyrant in his village.  He is a J.P. which give[s] him a vast power - power to   frighten the poor people of the whole region with his court & jail.  Moreover he modifies & adapts the   law wonderfully to suit himself & adjudicates in cases in which he has no legal right whatever to do so.    It seems to afford him special delight now to bring up & fine the people of this village.  He appears   really almost demented on the subject of his power & authority, and resorts sometimes to the most brutal   methods of punishment with his own people - over them he exerts the most absolute control.  They cannot   leave the village even to trade or procure food for a few days without his permission.  That anyone   should presume to come within fifteen miles and start a mission & gain any influence over the people drives him almost wild though for fourteen years he never came near the place except to frighten or   punish offenders.  Every Indian who goes there from Fort Simpson has to listen to a violent tirade   against this mission and is told that it will soon fall, and so on.  The fact is that before we came, he   boasted that a missionary would never come here, that he had written to put a stop to it, and if one did   come he would send him over to Queen Charlotte's Is. and all such nonsense as that.  He always speaks of   Thomas to the Indians by an Indian name which means a wild bad man.  He insists upon being addressed   himself by the Indian name of "chief."  He seems to be constantly watching for an opportunity to give us   trouble.  Last summer it was found necessary to remove some graves from the site chosen for the church.    Many of the people were away fishing at the time, but Thomas took the trouble to send word to those   concerned and obtain their consent to the removal of the bodies of their friends & had them all nicely   interred in the grave yard.  However, it appeared afterwards there was one old man interested who had   not been consulted and visiting Metlakatla some time after was, according to the old man's own story,   put up by Mr. Duncan himself to lodge a complain against Mr. Crosby for the violation of his friend's   grave.  This gave Mr. D. the opportunity - though he did not venture to issue a summons at once - to   write some most insulting letters to Thomas threatening him with a summons unless he obtained a paper   signed by all concerned to the effect that they were satisfied or would forgive the act, and this paper   he - Mr. D. - would forward to the Government to obtain their sanction.  The fulsomeness of the letter   was really amusing.  Of course, Thomas replied that he would relieve him of that trouble as he was   himself in direct communication with the Gov. on the affairs of the village, and had already written the   Indian Agent on the subject.   The old man who had complained was found and on the matter being fairly laid before him he was quite satisfied & at once became a warm friend to us.  But in the meantime a woman was found in   Metlakatla who laid another charge on the same ground.  Her brother is a chief living here - and it so   happened that she was with her brother at their fishing station last summer when Mr. Crosby sent him   word about the matter and in the presence of a white man who wrote Thomas about it, she was consulted &   gave her consent.  So to put an end to it, Thomas one fine day went down to Metlakatla, taking the old   man with him and with the woman & the man before Mr. D., two white men & one or two other Indians being   present, he put the matter so plainly & cornered him so completely that I fancy he felt his own   importance less than he had for many a year.  It will be some other method of attack he will try next   time.  Thomas had to be away a night & stayed in the house of Mrs. Morrison's mother - of course the   hospitalities of the Mission house were not offered him.  Mr. Colinson a minister who assists Mr. D. was   polite as far I suppose as he dared to be knowing the spirit of the "Chief."   The effect of this will not be, as we believe, to at all hinder our work here in the end, but   for these poor, simple people to see that two missionaries cannot live peaceably together is not likely   to do them good.  Thomas gains constantly in influence over the people.  They come to him with   everything.  I wish I had time to tell you about some of the cases that come up.  But I must soon close.    A teacher for the school here put in an appearance yesterday on the arrival of the "Otter".  He is very   tall, stoops very much, has curly hair, a slow dragging gait, and is a Scotchman, named McKenzie, who   appears to make one or two complete revolutions of his body every time he shuts a door behind him.  I   won't say anything more about him yet.  We were not very well prepared to receive him - a part of the   upstairs is curtained off for his accommodation at present where he has the necessaries of a bed-room.   Our baby grows finely, and is just as well as a baby could be, I think.  Her hair is beginning   to curl.  She has a great quantity of it - and her eyes are big and so blue.  She grows sweeter - to us   - every day.  It is a real pleasure to me to take care of her.  I was a little afraid of washing her at   first, but now I feel quite at home at it.  I have been sewing for her a good deal, so now I think she   has as many things as she will need till she is to be put in short clothes.  She will be a great comfort to us, I am sure, if she is spared.  Her father is never happier, I know, than when he has her in his   arms - he makes a splendid nurse - nor prouder than when he carries her through the village and the old   women and all come to look at her as children would at a peep-show.  To take her into an Indian house   makes as much commotion as would the advent of a royal child.  It is wonderful how much these people   seem to think of her.  She has two cradles, both made by Indians in the village & given to her, and   really very nicely made they are.  One of them has posts that you would suppose had been turned & most   elaborately, but they were cut all with a knife.  I call them cradles, but we preferred them without   rockers, so they are more like little cots.  We have not quite decided what name we shall give her.  We   are thinking of Jessie.  I do wish you could see her.   I am going to trouble you to get something for me.  I find I have not enough of that crimson   curtaining.  Would you try to match it if you can, or as nearly as you can & send me two yards.  Susie   says she has some money to my credit.  Please get it from her for it & send by sample post.  When are   you & my father going to have those photos taken?  I have given your name to several in the village.    They so often ask us to choose names for them.  It is borne by a chief's wife & a little baby Eliza died   the other day.   I had a very handsome little present from Miss Stinson by the Otter - a silver mustard pot lined   with green.  I feel as well as ever I did in my life.  I am glad that Eliza has got over her trouble all   right.     Now I really must close.  Love to Auntie & Sallie & all friends in Barrie.   I must ask you to send this letter round to the girls.  I cannot write them all as fully as I   would wish.  Thomas will write to you I think.  I have astonished you, have I not?  I do queer things,   you know, sometimes.  Love to my father and yourself - we so often talk about you.  We shall have the   boat now likely every month, so please write often.     Again with love    Your affectionate daughter     Emma 


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