Reading materials limited at turn of century

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.

"There were fine butternut trees on the farm and sugar maples enough to supply the family.

The evenings were spent in knitting and sewing. Mother either told us stories or Jane read aloud. Neither interfered with the knitting as it was a poor knitter who could not knit without looking at her work."

3rd Letter:

"There were few books available. A school library with a limited number of books, a Sunday School Library, and a weekly newspaper constituted our resources for literature. The paper was loaned to neighbors so that one copy served for several families. Children's books were rare - even school books - children being put into advanced Geographies, Grammar, and Mathematics. A spelling book served for first reader. An occasional book found its way among us. Two or three I well remember - such as "Thaddeus of Warsaw" and Children of the Abbey". These were read aloud in the evening. We children found great pleasure in utilizing some huge ledges of rock near home, converting them into Chateaux and Abbeys and living over the stories. Scarcely what would satisfy a modern child, with so many pleasures ready made for them, but, living on a farm, we were somewhat isolated and had to originate.

We had many other pleasures of our own invention - we had our own horseback rides, using broomsticks, putting mother's side saddle on the fence, and even trees. One tree is still a witness of some of my journeys, having a peculiar bend, for which I think I am responsible as I used it when it was a sapling. We had playhouses with bits of broken crockery for dishes and many other ways of diverting ourselves.

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