We are as usual…

Nov 26, 2022 | 1 comment

Julia Jefferson Espy c. 1895

If my great-grandmother Julia’s letters are typical of those of others of the 1800s, it seems to me that  a good deal of time was spent discussing the various health issues of family members.  This was especially true in her weekly letters to her three eldest children, Edwin, Dora, and Harry (my grandfather) when they were away at school.

In those days, the 1880s and ’90s,  the Oysterville School went through the 8th grade but there was no practicaL way for students to continue with their secondary education here on the Peninsula.  For the R.H. Espy children, the solution was to send them to Grace Seminary in Centralia where they boarded during the school year, returning home for vacations much as students in boarding schools of today do.

It was Julia’s  habit to write to her absent children each Sunday afternoon, presumably the only time during the week that she really had to herself.  From reading those letters of long ago, I think it was a time (perhaps the only time) Julia had for reflecting on the everyday things that consumed her life as mother of seven, wife and helpmate to one of the most prominent men in the County, and the friend and acquaintance known as “Mother Espy” to every other woman, young or old, of the  village.

Harry and Dora Espy circa 1894

Besides village and family news, Julia’s letters are peppered with health advice for her children.”  On March 4, 1894, she wrote to my grandfather (then 17 years old): I am sorry you have such a cold and advise you to put a wet pack on your throat at night, not forgetting to rub it well with cold water when you take it off in the morning.  I think it would take 3 doses of Belladonna (not too large) about 6 hours apart for the sore throat.    If the croup indications continue, take Aconite and Hepar Sulphur alternately.  I will send you some Spongia, put 1 powder in 4 spoonsful of water and take 1 spoonful at a dose half an hour apart in the morning if you are threatened with croup.  Then in six hours take the Belladonna as directed above, if the throat is sore only and no croup, leave out the Spongia.   Be careful to keep the mouth closed and breathe through the nose when out of doors.  I hope you will soon be better.

Julia Jefferson Espy’s Funeral Cortege, 1901

Interestingly, Julia seldom used the word “Mother” in any of its forms to sign the weekly letters to her children.  Occasionally, she did use “Mama” but even that was followed  using her full name, “J. A. Espy.”  And, if she had not included specific health news about any of the family members, her final line before closing was, “We are as usual.”


1 Comment

  1. Caroline Miller

    Give Mother’s perscription I’d rather be sick. :Ha ha.


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