A Family to Love, Part 2
A little music for the soul.
The hunting cabin we stayed in.
Alone at Last
Michael and I, after the wedding, drove the buggy to his father's hunting cabin to spend a week. We had stocked some things the day before the wedding and Mama had put a basket of food from the wedding feast in the back of the buggy. We probably wouldn't have to cook much. When we got to the hunting cabin, Michael went in and lit a lantern and the fire that was laid in the fireplace. It was just a tad chilly and the extra light would be welcome. We carried the bags and baskets in and I put things away. It was already after midnight so we needed to get settled.
Michael went back out to care for the horse, putting her into the corral, which had a lean-to attached to the cabin. He fed and watered her, and then brushed her. She was a gentle mare, with a good heart.
I pumped some water for a sponge bath and drew the curtain across between the kitchen part of the cabin and the main part. An indoor pump in a cabin was a nice luxury. Most of these little cabins, you had to carry water from the creek. The pot of water heated quickly and I used a cloth and some soap to wash the dirt of the day off. It had been hot out there dancing and we had all been perspiring.Then I slipped into a nightgown and robe that Mama had made for me from some fine cotton lawn.
It was thin but masked things. Mama and Cleo had embroidered flowers all around the edges of it. The neck of the robe was almost stiff with the embroidery. The sleeves were loose and flowing with embroidery all along the edges. This held the fabric out away from my wrists. There were pretty freshwater pearl buttons used as the center of the flowers. The placket down the front also had the flowers embroidered around the buttons and the crocheted loops were green and looked like stems and leaves.
I opened the curtain and Michael held his breath for a moment. I guess the outfit was a success. I switched with him so that he could wash up. I sat down in the chair by the fire and started brushing my hair. One hundred strokes, every night. My arm would get so tired from the action of taking those strokes all the way down my waist length hair. The waves from the hair style that my hair had been in made it fall in ringlets if I twisted the brush slightly. I was playing with one of the springy tendrils when Michael opened the curtain. He smiled and came over, bending down to kiss me on the temple. Then he took the brush and started to brush. I did not know it then, but this is what we would do every night for the rest of our lives together.
After it was brushed, I braided it to keep it from getting tangled and we sat and talked. Cuddling on the wooden settee in front of the fire was a wonderful way to end our day. Cuddling led to kissing and kissing led to passion. We made our way to the bed in the corner. Quilts were piled on it and pillows were piled high; on this, our first marriage bed.
We Started our Family on the Honeymoon
The next week was spent loving, walking in the woods, along the creek, and being close together. We talked late into the night; discussing books, ideas, and children. When we went back, we would find that we had made our first child.
I was sick from the beginning of that pregnancy. I would wake up, eat crackers, and lay really still. I was hoping it would not come back on me. That stopped after just a couple of months and life was sublime. We lived in the upstairs of the General Store. There were three generous bedrooms and a parlor, with a generous sized kitchen. There was a door leading from the parlor onto the roof at the back of the store. We had some chairs out there for in the evening, when it was cool. The stars seemed so close. Michael's Mama and Papa had lived there until they built a house next door to the store. During the day, I spent time learning about the business and helping with whatever I could.
Mama Kate, which is what Michael's mama asked me to call her; helped me order some furniture to round out what we needed. There were cupboards and tables left there and my Mama had some furniture that she gave us. We also ordered a few rugs to warm the place up during the winter. The cradle was pulled out of storage and scrubbed. Thinking of Michael being in that cradle made me feel warm and comfortable. Mama gave me some dishes that were her mothers. Friends came with gifts to decorate our home and make it comfortable. We were set up to live a comfortable life.
We sold everything that people wanted in the General Store. If we did not have it, we ordered it. This had the effect of making us very prosperous. The community was growing and had a four block area with streets laid out. There was a school and even a town hall. We were going to be a township soon. The post office was in the General store and Michael was certified as the Postmaster.
The Whitewater Canal was being dug along the State line that ran along State Street, just a block away. Our little town was straddling the border of Ohio and Indiana. The canal was going to connect from Lawrenceburg, Indiana; to Hagerstown, Indiana. This was a really big thing for our town. We were one of the few towns in Ohio to benefit from it. It stretched seventy-six miles. The towns all along would not need to haul everything to Cincinnati by mule wagon to get it shipped on the Ohio River. They would only need to haul it to one of the canal stops and then it would go by barge, down the canal to Lawrenceburg and then it would be loaded onto bigger barges and go up and down the river. Bringing things in had become so much easier and faster. It used to take a week of traveling along muddy, rutted roads to go to Cincinnati and back. Now, we could order it and it would arrive on a barge a few days later.
Michael and several of the other shop owners along Market Street, decided to dig a tunnel between the basements and the canal. It was only a couple of hundred yards from our basement, at the far end, to the canal and the dock. We still had Indian attacks occasionally and it would be nice to send everyone down into the tunnels and out to safety. There was usually a barge down along there and it could be used to escape. We all felt a lot safer.
We Have a New Baby to Add to Our Family
Baby Michael was born on March 3, 1840 at eight o'clock at night. I had been in labor all day. This was a joyous occasion for us all. Mama and Papa came in with Cleo and Rosemary. My sisters just couldn't wait to see our baby boy. He was a big, healthy baby who screamed loudly for his supper. I nursed him in the bed with Mama and my sisters along to keep me company. Mama Kate also kept us company after they all fed the men at her house. The men had kept out of sight in the store all day. They didn't want anything to do with all that woman stuff and they wanted to keep Michael occupied.
Mama and my sisters left when Michael came in. They wanted to give us time together and needed to get something to eat. Michael was totally awestruck at the sight of our baby boy and fell instantly in love with him. He was such a beautiful boy, with downy dark curls all over his head. Michael lay next to me on the bed and we cuddled our baby boy between us.
Papa told Mama that every time they heard a scream from upstairs, every man in the store would head outside. Michael would turn white and look at the stairs. I laughed when Mama told me that. I thought it was so funny that these big, tough men could not handle a little baby business. Mama explained to me that so many young women died while giving birth that men just couldn't handle it. They did not like that they could not protect their womenfolk from everything. I am still learning, I guess.
Many of the town's women dropped in over the next few days, to see the baby and assure themselves that all was well. They brought gifts for baby Michael. Booties and dresses; some cloth nappies, washed and beaten soft; blankets stitched with such care and tiny little caps to keep his head warm. Some of the men brought handmade toys and rattles made from gourds, the handles smoothed and sanded. I felt so truly blessed by the people of our small community.
Sunday dawned and we all went to the church for our baby to be blessed and given to the Lord. We wanted to get this done as soon as possible because we never knew if some disease was going to come around and make him ill or worse. We wanted our baby in God's hands.
While we were there, a Doctor, who was traveling on the canal, asked to see our baby. We let him and watched anxiously as he looked at our son. He finally looked up with tears in his eyes and my heart stopped. Was there something wrong with Michael? But no, the Doctor explained, he had lost his own son at this age, along with his beloved wife. I felt so sorry for him and at the same time, felt so selfish for my joy. He was a good man.