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Life in Port Henry

The following are letters written by Ellen D. Witherbee Atwell in 1899 and 1900 to her nephew Tyler Reed Woodbridge of Victor, Colo. She was age 64 at that time. She tells of her family life, traditions, and some facts of history relating to the Witherbee family, handed down by her parents and grandparents, written at Port Henry. The nephew typed these up in 1900 and inserted some comments.

These letters were sent to me from Bill Knowlton of Liverpool in 2002. Ellen Atwell was his great aunt.

"It could be spun fine enough to pass a knot of it through a finger ring, which was considered a great accomplishment. They made very durable table linen, towels, sheets, pillow cases, and wearing apparel. My grandmother made her wedding dress of cotton, spinning and weaving it herself, and as it was not common, it was considered very nice.

Grandmother kept house till her children left her. Then she made her home with a son in Albany, making her other children long visits. She was a very bright woman, fond of reading - not novels but more solid reading. She read the Bible through by courses several times. It was used as a Reader in school. She traveled quite extensively for those days, going as far as Michigan in Packets and Stage Coaches, for this was before the days of Steamers or Railroads. It was not very rapid traveling - the passengers could get off and walk if they were tired of riding. The Packet was drawn by horses and it took several days to go from Albany to Buffalo. She had a traveling basket with two lids and it contained a variety of articles. She did fancy work nicely. She was a small black-eyed woman, and rather stern in manner. We stood in awe of her as she never noticed us by playing with us. But I have the greatest respect for her. She was a Universalist in sentiment, as were many of her children."

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