When I read this letter I was amused to find that the author of the letter, Margaretta Wissler, used that conversational mainstay--the weather. She also alluded to her weight. Fast forward 149 years and we still talk about the weather and women still worry about their weight. My first thought was that nothing changes. Yet, she startled me with a reference to her son, Frankey, who "plays all day long outside." What form of torture is that?
Margaretta Bowen Wissler married Jacob Hiestand Wissler (Whissler) on November 24, 1847, approximately twenty years prior to this letter.* When she wrote this letter, the Wisslers lived in Freeport, Pennsylvania roughly 200 miles west of Gettysburg (depending upon route). The letter was sent to Margaretta's sister in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Her sister, Eliza (Bowen) Kendlehart (1815-1902), was married to David Kendlehart (1813-1891) an established Gettysburg merchant.**
Margaretta's newsy letter discusses a house the couple built on Wissler Street, just west of Freeport. We may never know, but in a situation that might have been either good or bad, "Father Wissler" lived only a short distance away. She mentions that Jacob is no longer in the mills business, but is farming his father's place.*** For her part, Margaretta expresses regret that Jacob quit the mills business as he was successful.
She experienced the occassional pain and twinge and suggested she was "growing old, before my time." (I have been unable to come up with dates for Margaretta, by the time of this letter, she was probably in her thirties or forties). She also complained of "numbness" in her hands and arms as well as rheumatism in her limbs. In the ages-old dilemma women face, she discussed her weight, "I am fleshier than I ever was, I weight about 140 lb don't you think that is pretty good, for me?
As I said, the mandatory weather discussion is included. Margaretta addressed the coolness of the weather, but also suggested mother would have a nice visit given the chance. Since the cost of dried fruit was high in Freeport, she put in a request for a supply.
Naturally, Margaretta asked after the Kendlehart family. She expressed ire over Mary's failure to write and admiration at Sallie's spunk in beginning a business. Margaretta Kendlehart, her possible namesake, is not mentioned but Margaretta Wissler had received a letter from "Fleury." Perhaps Fleury is a nickname for Margaretta Kendlehart.
Unsurprisingly, letters of this time often mention the American Civil War. Margaretta's nod to that tragedy is a request for bullets from the two Kendlehart boys, John and Willie, as she had given hers away.
As for her own children, Maggie walks around the chairs and can already say a great many words while Frankie plays all day long outside. Whoa, plays outside? What on earth is that about?
**For more on the David Kendlehart family, Read Here.
** Evidently, as the provided link shows, Jacob Hiestand Wissler wrote a journal. This is not a link to the journal, rather to someone who has access to or a copy of it. In his journal, Jacob stressed the excitement over his marriage, among other things. It would appear both he and Margaretta were capable writers.