Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stockbridge correspondent "Jeannie Deans" on Berkshire in 1855

Glendale via RootsWeb -
A native "westerner," formerly of Galena, the poet and journalist who signed herself "Jeannie Deans" after the heroine of Scott's The Heart of Midlothian (but not Jane Grey Swisshelm, the better known "Jeannie Deans") was a regular correspondent of the St. Paul Minnesotian in the early to mid 1850's. In the summer of 1853, "Jeannie Deans" visited Baltimore and Norfolk, Virginia. In August of that year she wrote about socializing with G. P. R. James in Nags Head, North Carolina (Weekly Minnesotian, September 24, 1853). In 1854 the Minnesota editor politely declined to reveal the identity of his gifted correspondent:
We have been asked a thousand times, "who is Jeannie Deans?" That question we are not at liberty to answer as yet. We can only say, although now residing in Massachusetts, she is a lady identified with the West from infancy, and with the North-West since the first settlement of northern Illinois. Galena particularly should be proud to claim one who has it within her power to assume a position in literary circles alongside of "Grace Greenwood," Miss Cummings, or any other famous names among our younger lady authoresses. --St. Paul Weekly Minnesotian, June 17, 1854
By that time "Jeannie Deans" had moved to Stockbridge. In the summer of 1855 she would move again, to New Jersey. Transcribed below, her piece "For the Minnesotian" dated March 26, 1855 features the obligatory reference to Berkshire resident Herman Melville and his "charming Typee." However, this particular selection of "Village Sketches" by "Jeannie Deans" seems more interesting and important for her contemporary description of the Glendale Woolen Mills.

From the St Paul Daily Minnesotian, April 13, 1855; reprinted in the Weekly Minnesotian, April 14, 1855.

[For the Minnesotian]

Village Sketches.

Our village is like any other village. It has the same broad street, swept clean just now, by the old woman March, who has come down from the sky, and clashes the branches of old trees together into a rude timbrel music. Well, to retrace our steps, return to our street. On each side of it are ancient elms, turf and white fences, with here and there beautiful cottages nestling like birds, closing their wings around the house tree. Cottagesornee and gabled, in every variety of architectureporches, bay-windows and verandah "all around the house." We have one Doctor, ditto Shoemaker, the Store, a Blacksmith, Carpenters, Cows, Horses, fowl and flesh. A poor-house, crazy man, two superannuated colored people, a gossip and a bad boy. But it is unlike any other little place in its wealth of intellect, high orders of mindrefinement, cultivation and accomplishment. The air is filled with inspiration. Where congregates more genius than in Berkshire? Is not Monument Mountain a granite column to Bryant, that no time shall effect, but stand his soul-marks through eternity? Is not every tree, rock and stream, around her native place crowned with the ever living wreath of fame by the talented Authoress of Berkshire?
Near us are Dr. Griswold, Herman Melville, the author of charming Typee, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and in the summer, Henry Ward Beecher and others. We catch glimpses of these shining lights sometimes. Shakespeare must have had a prophetic one, when he said,
"How far that little candle throws his beams."
Now-a-days we see all the great minds face to face, thanks to Photography and Railroads.

Aproprosthe latter brings to mind a ride of last week. Seven ladies and one gentleman took the eleven o'clock train for Glendale, a beautiful place two miles distant; beautiful as its name; but doomed to bloom unseen, for utility had turned it into that destroyer of beauty, a manufacturing town. Its rippling stream was damned. Its finest rocks became a gas fixture, and its trees fell in its defence. We were going to the Glendale Mills, "Woolen Factory," (as the card expressed it,) to see all that was to be seen. And we didfrom the commencementthe great furnace, with its red jaws, glowing and flaming, setting all the machinery in motion, to the spinning room, next the roof. 
"Here are the dyeing rooms;" a general smell of bark, a huge vat of boiling indigo, two gloomy phantoms looming up in the mist, "true blues," rolling up cloth on windlasses from the tubs beneath. A peculiar, cloudy, damp feeling, a dyeing sensation prevailed.

"Oh! the ladies' bonnets, the ladies' bonnets," screamed the foreman. "Mr. G., they will all dye!"

A concert scream and a rush followed. I am sorry for the sake of mankind to add, that the one gentleman was just as much afraid of dyeing as the ladies, and his new hat gave him courage to precede us in the melee. We who wore black bonnets and hoods returned, those whose new felts and velvets vanity had prompted to wear, stood
"Like Tantalus without the pale."
The finishing room was filled with roll upon roll of shining cloths of every hue, "grey, black and brown." The carding was new to all of us; each machine keeps one man busy. One little boy, scarcely fourteen years of age, had the care of one.

The spinning room at the top of the building employed but five men. One of these attracted our attention and interested us. His years numbered more than fifty; his clothes were poor and threadbare, but scrupulously clean; his face wore a resigned, melancholy look. Mr. G. told us that he had been absent from that mill but three days in the last eighteen years. Regular as clock-work he entered the door and walked fourteen hours daily in the winter, behind that machine. Think of it. What a tread mill life. Day after day to stand in the same room, on the same boards, rolling that pile of springing machinery. What is winter, summer, year in, year out, to him? Is it any wonder that he has grown mechanical, subdued, with a vacant, thoughtful face, chained to a rock by poverty. I felt as though he must fly. I wondered he did not open the window and dash out, down four stories; "anywhere, anywhere, out of the world." 
The weaving room was airy and spacious, the floor white, for the girls "holy-stone" it. Pillars through the center of the room and many windows. The whirr and clash of the shuttles was deafening. Here we had more interest. This was the woman's department. One had the charge of the looms, and it was quite enough to keep them busytaking out empty bobbins and replacing them with filled ones; tying weaver's knots and heading pieces. One little girl of twelve years was commencing the web of her life. Her looms wove and wove and the little hands flew from one to another without cessation. Her cheeks had an unnatural glow; want of air and exercise were weaving the warp of disease through the woof of nature.

Each factory girl had her window, filled with green plants, prayer books, looking glasses, bits of colored papers, and treasures that looking at helped to cheer them. Here was a casement void of green, a little red shoe and a half made apron and sewing implements filled the seat. The owner of these looms was a tall, slender woman, transparently white, hollow-eyed and negligently dressed. She seemed exhausted and harrassed. She dropped into a chair after feeding, as though she could stand no longer. I imagined her thinking of a little one at home; perhaps it was sick, or would not receive attention. Her face haunted me all day.

In contrast to her, the next looms were under the care of a bright, rosy Irish girl, neat and tidysinging at her task, as pretty and healthy a specimen of the country girl as I have seen. Two roses were in full bloom in her window, and a vine with a small yellow blossom twining the pillar in the sunshine.

The shears and napping were inspected and then we went to the store while the gentlemen went to dinner; officiated and rummaged the drawers, dined on crackers, raisins, confections and cinnamon. Were obliged to wait two hours for the cars at the depot, some of the party took high seats on the desk for want of chairs, others played "Tee-to-tum." Several poetical discussions took place, with a general dissention of mind. Did any two ever agree entirely on Religion or Medicine, on Poetry or Philosophy? The boys who had been playing base around the station, called vociferously, "the cars; the cars." Imagine the sensation we created in the cars. I heard a gentleman whisper that we must have been to a woman's convention. I wonder if we looked strong-minded, or which he took for the Rev., the Dr. or the Lawyer.

Stockbridge, March 26, 1855
St. Paul Daily Minnesotian - April 13, 1855

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