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History camp middle-schoolers travel back in time with essays

By Susan Shinn
sshinn@salisburypost.com
Middle-schoolers at Rowan History Camp on Thursday spent time writing essays based on people who were part of the 1860 census.
Here are excerpts from some of those essays.
A young washerwoman
Hi, I’m Mary and I live with my mother Sarah Porter, a washerwoman. I’m 12 years old. I get up at dawn, get dressed and begin my chores.
The kitchen is hot because of the fire. I can hear roosters, birds and insects from the kitchen. Inside, some of the sounds are the fire crackling, the soup bubbling and the clanking of a pot.
ó Madeleine Nagy
A day in the life of William Vanderoort
July 16, 1838, Monday ó Today, there was a hanging. I opened my bar early so the people could get a beer. But somebody had 14 beers and disrupted the town and I’m still sore from the five hours in the stocks. I only had a total of a dollar today. I shall raise the prices to 5 cents. I would like to go back to my hometown in New York. I will turn 20 tomorrow.
ó Haley Bowler
A break from chores
Dear Diary,
Today I had a lovely time sitting in the gazebo. The sounds of roosters crowing and birds chirping were delightful. The flowers looked so pretty. The warm afternoon was peaceful. It feels good to finally have a break from all the chores Mother makes me do.
I can hear the sounds of horses as they are driven over the bridge.
From Mary Jane.
ó Kathleen Mowery
Tending the garden
Dear Diary,
Today I helped my mom tend the garden. James went to his job as a printer. I also helped Mom weave a basket and some belts for Lewis and James. When James got home, he helped Lewis go hunt for dinner. Our dad died a few years back. We had deer for dinner.
ó Kate Zimmerman
Working in the store
Dear Brother,
I hope the war is going well. Four Yankees raided the store and stole six new suits yesterday. A week ago, a very special visitor came to the store. John Henry came and bought and brand new suit and shoes for the guards. He paid for it with $100 to help the business. Since the war started, we have had a shortage of fabric. We only have enough for a few dresses and shirts. Lots of Confederates have been sleeping in the store. They said that the Battle of Gettysburg did not go well.
Hopefully the war will end soon.
Your brother,
F.R. Merony
ó Jonathan Matthews
Life in the poor house
Dear Elizabeth,
I come to you with horrible news. We have been moved to the poor house. William is going to go fight in the army to try to bring in some money. It is horrible. I have gotten one letter from William since he has departed. He said he was in good condition. But you know what scares me the most is the prison. The poor house is right across the street from that Yankee prison. What if they broke out and attacked me? Or worse, attacked Andrew. He loves to play ball with his friends right it front of it.
Do you remember Tabitha? She has come down with smallpox. She has been separated from us. I am allowed to see her once a day. She has the look plastered on her face. We still manage to bring her to church. The preacher gave her his prayer. Do you remember Victoria? When we moved to the poor house, she refused to associate with us anymore. She called us low lifes.
I hope your life is better than mine.
Love,
Your sister
ó Emma Labovitz
Another day of work
It’s another day in 1860. Another day of work. Another day in the blacksmith shop. I heard my mother ring the morning bell. I got dressed in my old blackened clothes and headed to the kitchen. I ate a small breakfast of oatmeal and then walked to the blacksmith shop.
When I got to the workshop, I put my stick of metal into the fire and then heated it up. It started to turn red. I took a steel mallet and started to shape it. The sound of metal against metal rang in my ears.
It went on like this for the rest of the day. When I got home, I went straight to bed.
ó Zane Gray
Trying to get home
Dear Diary,
This poor house is big and creepy. I want to go back home to Tennessee, where I can work on the farm and play.
Paulina hates it here and now has a disease from the other guests. Ruth, on the other hand, loves it! She’s made a new friend who is poor.
All of my siblings and I live in one red room. It has a fireplace, which is nice, but it’s too small for all eight of us. Mother is desperately trying to get us home. The people here, besides our family, are either poor, insane or crippled. We are poor.
The house is right next to a prison. Yesterday, we heard gunshots, and last month a Yankee escaped. I was watching him from my window. The police shot and killed him in the street. I was scared.
ó Lizzie Riggsbee
Singing at church
On Friday I will have tea with the ladies down the road. It will be fun. I will make a chocolate cake for the tea party. At church tomorrow, I will sing a song that Father Lewis asked me to sing. I wonder what dress I will wear. I guess I will wear my nicest dress and braid my hair.
And once again, thank you God for my family.
ó Caitlin Knisley
Earning only $1 a year
I am a washerwoman. Our mother is very old and sick with smallpox. My sister and I work day in and day out. The people who we wash for treat us like the dirt on their shoes.
I make only $1 a year. I got yelled at for not working fast enough. When I get lonely working, I sing. But I really like washing.
ó Carla Yost
A stone mason’s son
My day pretty much started and ended with me smoothing and placing stones to make a house. The chisel handle put blisters on my hand.
Every night, my mother would have a warm dinner for me. As I ate, I stared at the chair my father had sat in before the accident.
My father was a stone mason like me, but the best. My father was inside the building chiseling on a block of granite when it fell inward on top of him. No one could save him and no one knew why it fell.
ó Jimmy Ritchie
An early Christmas
Ma and Pa came to help us celebrate early Christmas today. They told us that Aunt Ellie and Uncle George, as well as their daughter, Annabella, had died of typhoid a month ago. They also told us that we would be taking in their son, William, because he is insane, or as Ma says it, mentally it.
So far, since they came this morning, William has managed to knock over the Christmas tree, spill the pot of cider that Ma was saving for Christmas dinner and open the sugar we’ve been saving for a special occasion and spill it out all over the straw floor.
As if all this weren’t enough, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ma this sad.
ó Allison Murphy
Preparing for funeral
My name is Mary. I have to work in the garden all day to help us have crops for the winter. Sometimes I get tired of it but I know it’s important so that keeps me going. It’s hard working in the blazing hot sun all day, but when winter comes, all the work pays off.
It’s 5 o’clock and I am covered in mosquito bites but I have to get ready for my grandfather’s funeral. It starts at 6 but it takes about an hour to get ready.
We must bathe for the first time in a few months because this is a very special occasion. Once we got ready, we got in the carriage and headed on our way.
ó Virginia Riggsbee
A loving family
My name is Edward Drew Watlington. I live with my wife, Jane, and my two kids, Usker and Bettie. Usker is 3 and Bettie is 4. I work as a drayman. I usually begin my day at around 5 in the morning. I get up and get breakfast, then I give the horses their food and water. When they are finished eating, I get the wagon set up to make deliveries.
When I get home, I am greeted by Jane and the kids. It is always nice to come home to your loving family.
ó Allana Ansbro
Making apple butter
My name is Rebecca Valentine. Today, I am going to get apples from the apple tree to make apple butter for the winter. When I’m done with that, I’m going to hang the wet clothes up to dry. For dinner, I’m making chicken soup for William and me. When William returns home from the barber shop on East Innes Street, he immediately starts milking the cow.
When it’s time for dinner, we sit down and eat.
ó Amelia Anthony

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