Valentine's Day - Old Cathedral, Basilica of St. Francis Xavier
Old Cathedral, Basilica of St. Francis Xavier
Here is a
common letter written to a friend which would have little meaning to any of us. However, in it Peggy talks about her a Valentine's Day party she attended. Not only that, but she mentions her impressions of the Presidents of the day. The foundation for the Catholic church she was referring to was laid on March 30, 1826 and became the cathedral of the new Diocese of Vincennes in 1834. It is the oldest church in Indiana. Vincennes, established as a second French fur trading post in 1732, is the oldest European town in Indiana.

Feb. 19, 1834

My Dearest Patty:

It is now six months since thee left us at Vincennes, and pursuant to your request I will at once answer your kind letter which Capt. Freeman brought last Seventh day. The roads are so deep with mud, even the National road, that often two good horses can do no more than fifteen miles in a whole day and that with only two passengers, so thee sees why the mail should be several days late.

This I will send down the river tomorrow. There is a new river boat which came up from the Ohio since the Wabash is high. It is run by steam power and has two huge wheels at the sides which churn the water frightfully but carry the boat along at good speed. No doubt thee has traveled on such in the East. This one is to tow some flat boats with loads of corn to New Orleans I suppose and it will carry the mail as far as the Ohio.

And you have seen John Quincy Adams. Is he a handsome man and does he have a charming manner with ladies?

They say the new President, Andrew Jackson, is a very plain person and not very polite. If thee should go to any routs at the White House please save up everything to tell me - and how the girls are dressed. Of course it is vain of me, but I should like to know.

And tell me has thee yet been down the Potomac to see the home and tomb of Gen'l Washington? Thee must write down the names of the fine gentlemen thee meets and then thee can remember to describe them to me next summer when thee comes again. Are they still wearing the wide stocks? I hemmed Brother James one yesterday but Father frowned and thought it vanity. Of course there is no spinning for thee in Washington, but here in Vincennes we are busy spinning now. Mother says it is time a lass of seventeen were beginning her blankets, so we shall spin and weave two pairs this winter and then will follow the linen for sheets. I am really trying to settle down to what an industrious Quaker maid ought to be, but there must be a flighty streak somewhere inside me. Mother says there is, for I love to cross the river and hunt wild grapes, and run wild just as well as ever. My nature must have as many rebellious crinkles as my hair. The young folk are going over to Sugar Loaf hill coasting tomorrow night, there is such a fine snow today. I wish thee here- and so does John Ellison. He has made a fine bob-sled, and he also wears a new beaver hat which much becomes him. He longs for thee, I know.

Valentine's Day Picture
I must tell thee about the St. Valentine party. It was at the Governor Harrison Mansion and was a large party, about sixty being there. It rained the day before as it can only rain in Vincennes, and all the roads were deep with mud. I wore my flowered wool delaine, and full, so full, and my nankeen petticoat to hold it out. Thomas came to see me there a little before seven. He seemed to think I looked well in my new style finery, but mother looked grave. And when we started, Father took down the lantern from its peg and lighted it, and handing it to Thomas said, "It is much too dark to see how to walk in the mud." Poor Tom, poor me, no matter how we felt we had to Carry that tell-tale light. I once had a mad notion to blow it out but that would not be honorable thee knows. But I was glad I didn't, for as we went along the second road from the river, we came to a vast mud hole and Deacon Jones' hogs were all lying there and one great beast, seeing the light sprang up with a great squealing grunt, and would have run against my precious new gown but Tom brought down the lantern on his head with a great whack and all the pigs ran away, but the blow put our candle out. Since we did not put it out purposely it was surely ordained that we walk to the party in the dark, and we reconciled ourselves and walked slowly.

We had a gay party and made and sent valentines, unsigned of course, but mine was poetry and it spoke of a lonely road and protecting beauty in distress and said "My hearts thine own." So I knew who wrote mine. We made taffy and had crullers and cider and cracked nuts and popped corn. All the friends asked for thee, and wished thee there.

We lighted the lantern to come home again and the others seemed glad for they all came down town quite a ways with us. As we came down Second street we found where a herd of cows had broken down the Widow Brown's garden fence in front and were tramping every bush in the yard down, so we girls got up on the big weed pile in front of the gate and held up the lantern, and all the boys went in and chased out the cows. Then they picked up the widow's axe, straightened the fence and drove down some stout props and we went on home. The poor widow heard the noise and stuck her night-capped head out the window long enough to say "much obleeged."

I believe there is no more news to tell thee except that the Catholics are intending to build them a new meeting house soon and 'twill be something fine to see. Their chapel seems well enough to a simple Quaker, but they want a large building and they say they will put in the tower the first church bell that was ever rung in Vincennes, over a hundred years ago. Isn't that a long time for a bell to live?

I must tell thee poor Granny Lefarge passed on yesterday. I can hear the carpenter across the road tick-tacking away at her coffin. We know she has passed from pain to peace.

Thy friends the Bayards have another son. The name of Bayard will remain it seems.

Dear friend I must say farewell. Please send me a letter soon as the mails get regular, and come back next summer.

As ever your Peggy.

P.S. Does thee believe in large weddings or small and does thee always like white best for a bride?

Source: Research & text by Bryan Wright

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