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Thursday, June 23, 2011

"I thought your little heart would break"

George Washington Estes Row

Lizzie Houston Row with her son, Horace, 1883
Mabel Row, 1883

Houston Row, 1883

Lock of hair from Robert Alexander Row, 1881

A year after the death of her husband, George Washington Estes Row, Lizzie Houston Row wrote a letter which was a meditation on his life and death. The letter was intended to be read by her children when they were older. By now it had been thirteen months since her beloved husband had died at Sunshine farm. This had been by far the most difficult period of her life. Lizzie now had sole responsibility for her children. She had to manage Sunshine, a 342 acre farm, without the help of her husband. This included hiring, managing and paying a work force. She was the administratrix of George's estate. Lizzie had to deal with creditors, wind down the saw mill business, find a buyer for the steam engine bought from Benjamin Bowering, contract for the sale of the thousands of shooks lying in the mill yard. The accumulation of her cares and sorrows bore heavily upon her.

Lizzie Row's letter to her children, May 10, 1884

May 10, 1884. The little white gown with a border of black stitched around it was made for Houston [1] by his Father & I before he was born, in Aunt Nan's room at Greenfield. All four of you [2] have worn it & now it is in my trunk as a keepsake. The little pink dress was given to me by coz Julia for Robert, he wore it during his sickness & had it on when he died.
I held Houston's head in my hands and his Father cut his hair the day he was ten months old...Two little bouquets in a large Houston envelope were worn, one on my neck and the other on your F[ather's] coat the morning we were married. It was Dec 14, 1875. You can see from letters rec'd from your Father before and since our marriage how kind hearted and affectionate he was.
     During his sickness before he was unconscious we were alone. I asked him if he still loved me he said 'yes' and put his arms around my neck [and] said "I love you the house full the barn full and all out of doors." This is what he used to teach you all to tell him. Your Father was not a church member but I think a Christian. His motto was "Do justice love mercy & walk humbly with thy God." He was not sick quite two weeks, was not conscious when he died, but breathed quietly. Mabel was at Greenfield, Horace asleep, Houston by me on the bedside. I hope you all will meet him "on that beautiful shore."
     Mabel your Father loved you dearly and I thought your little heart would break when we came back from the burial. You went through the house calling "Father" and asked me "Why didn't God let Father stay until tomorrow when I come and wanted to see him so bad."
     Dear children you are bright and happy now. You don't know your loss while I am so sad and lonely. Dear little Hossie [Horace] as Father used to call you can't remember sitting in my lap and holding Father's hand while he was sick in bed. This large red & green woolen counterpane was woven by cousin Rachel Farish in your Grandmother Row's lifetime & it was your Father's & now Rachel says Mabel must have it now, as she is the only daughter. The comforter made of scraps of my dresses & put together with dark red calico (Pa bought me) is Houston's & also the cradle quilt Grandma Houston quilted for him when he was two weeks old. If I live I will make a quilt for my baby Horace (I did).
     This mustache cup was given to Father his last Xmas at Shady Grove as a present for teaching Bible class...One of you take the cup, the other the razor. Mabel asked for his harp that he used to play on to make his "little chirrun [children] happy."

[1] George Houston Row (1877-1899), the oldest of the Row children.
[2] The other Row children were Nancy Mabel (1879-1974), Robert Alexander (1881) and Horace (1882-1939).

1 comment:

  1. What a treasure! A poignant example of the love and losses within families, from a women's point of view.