Monday, June 27, 2011


Whenever I watch "Antiques Roadshow" or any other show in which family treaures are displayed, I cringe. Our family has very few things handed down through the years, and none of it is monetarily valuable. We do have one momento I treasure, though.

Those who know me are aware that I have been researching my family almost from the time our eighth grade American History class was asked to do a short pedigree chart. Unfortunately, I did not learn to keep good records and ask pertinent questions until after those who were well informed in our family’s history had passed on. Luckily for me, a kind third cousin once removed (see, doesn’t that sound like a dedicated family historian?) passed me a family heirloom. Not our direct line, but from an ancestor’s first wife. 

Sallie circa 1869
Her name was Sarah Margaret Bailey, and she was called Sallie. She was a cousin to our ancestor, but I can't remember offhand how many times removed. Anyway, the heirloom is an autograph book about six by eight with a dark blue cover decorated with painted flowers and leaves of abalone shell. After all this time, the handwriting is fading until it’s barely legible. Some inks retained color better than others. Most legible are the pencil inscriptions. I love reading the remembrances for their odd spellings, strange punctuation, and saccharine sentiments. I’m positively fascinated by this book! Sallie was dearly loved by her family, and by mine. I see her as a carefree young miss at school, then opening her home to friends and soldiers during the Civil War. Some of the entries thank her for time spent in her home, which may mean an hour or a day or longer.

Southern Belle
This little book lets us see into the life of a lovely Southern belle in northwest Georgia, at school before the Civil War began, a young woman whose callers were soldiers, who became a bride, a mother, and a young woman on her deathbed. The inscriptions change in tone. Please let me share some of them with you:

The flowery words of a dashing suitor:

Ah would the hands that write these lines
Were fondly clasped in thine
Ah would the lips that read these words
Were once more pressed to mine

Those happy hours with thee I spent
Those like I nere shall see.
If fortune smiles or darkly frowns
Still Ill forget thee not
Farewell the word I scarce can write
Farewell to love and thee
On by-gone days then think of me
Farewell remember me
Your friend

Silly words from a discouraged would-be beau:

Miss Sallie wont believe me when my love to her I swear
She teases me so very much I believe I’ll pull my hair
I’ll tell you what the fact, if she keeps on treating me bad
I believe I will go crazy. I know I will go mad.
Yours in a hurry

From a female school friend:

Miss Sallie               Jan the 27 1860

In memory’s tears
O, May I share
One lonely vacant spot
Of all the names recorded there
Let mine not be forgot
Your Sincere friend

Then, the Civil War began, and the ancestor she later married wrote:

Confederate soldier
To Miss Sallie
A place in thy memory dearest
Is all that I claim
To pause and look back when thou hearest
The sound of my name.

Others tried to sway her heart:

To Miss Sallie
But once I dared to lift my eyes,
To lift my eyes to thee
And since that day beneath the skies
No other sight they see

In vain sleep shuts them in the night
The night grows day to me
Presenting idly to my sight
What still a dream must be

A fatal dream – for many a bar
Divides thy fate from mine
And still my passions make war
But peace be still with thee.

And another:

To Sallie dear,
Oh may each flower that greets the spring
And glistens in the sunny light
And every bird with sportive wing
Whose song is measured by its flight
Bloom brighter when thy form is near
Sing sweeter when thy face they see
A life of joy without a tear
Is what I wish and pray for thee

As the war progressed, our ancestor sounds war weary and fearful of death. Definitely not an eloquent, flowery suitor, is he?

Remember me when I am gone,
think of me sometimes,
pray for me often
& I’ll remember thee

But he’s the one who won her hand in marriage. Family lore is that she didn’t recover from a second pregnancy. The last entry is when her first child, a boy, was almost two. Childbirth carried so many serious complications in 1870, especially for the “proper” ladies who wore tightly laced corsets. We are only speculating, of course. Would the following cheer you if you were gravely ill? I think not!

What shall I wish for thee?
What helping invoke? I might wish that thy barque would glide sweetly o’er the bosom of Life’s
Troubled ocean, without a ripple to disturb its easy course. And that thy fair and beautiful brow
Would never receive the fingerprints that time always writes to mar the beauty of loved ones –
Again I might wish that your life might always be one bright dream of pleasure – But how vain
Would be that wish – There never was a bright eye but it was dimmed by tears – not a true and
Happy heart -- but it had its share of sorrow – for we are all mortals and we are doomed to some
Trouble at least. So I will not make vain or silly wishes. But let my heart dictate my wish – You
Have suffered long and painfully – none know what agony you have endured. But now I hope
your sickness is at an end – and that you may soon rise from your bed with the same good health
you enjoyed in the days of long ago – and that you may realize what it is to be a devoted wife &
Mother – for little Ossie needs a Mothers love. But should it so please God that my wish may not
Come to pass, may you submit humbly as becomes a christian – knowing that “He doeth all
Things well – and in ______ resignation acknowledging His supreme power say “Thy will not
mine be done” – Then at last when He sees fit –for you to linger no more in this “vale of tears” –
may your soul wing its way back to the “God who gave” – There to await the loved ones in the

Very truly your friend

Thank you for reading. Please stop back again soon!

1 comment:

Janelle Rydell said...

What a wonderful post. I have just discovered autograph books from the 1800s and enjoy reading the ones I have acquired so much. None that I read am I related to, so it is so nice to read about your relations and how much pride you have in that fact.