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.
These letters were sent to me from Bill Knowlton of Liverpool in 2002. Ellen Atwell was his great aunt.
"The next pair were Adelaide (Betsy Ann) and Emily, two years apart. Adelaide was a blond and Emily a decided brunette and they were also perfect opposites in character.
Addie was very persistent in whatever she undertook, which was usually something beyond her capacity and which she had been told she could not do, and if she failed, she was never troubled over it, and if her kind attentions were not appreciated, it amused her greatly; and if they were angry with her, as sometimes happened, she would hold her sides with laughter. But the work which she was expected to do was generally left till a more convenient season. She often planned great things but, after getting her materials around, would decide she did not feel like it and leave things as they were and feel sorry that someone had been to the trouble to put things to rights when she going to do it.
She had golden, tightly curled hair, grey eyes and a pink complexion. She was amiable in disposition but would not be driven or imposed on.
Emily was very dark. I remember her when a few months old. Before the days of baby-jumpers, they used a sapling fastened to a ring in the ceiling at the large end and again at the middle. A harness was made and fastened to the small end and attached to a band with shoulder pieces, which were around the child and a strip brought up in front which without brings seat support to the child and giving a little kick with the foot, it would send her up, the sapling being very elastic. It was good exercise without bearing their weight on their feet. Her hair was dark and straight and Father, when she was older, would call her his little "Indian girl" much to her delight and would Whoop to her. She was quick-tempered like all her dark sisters. She was easily imposed upon as you will see. She would not stand up for herself - except in the chimney-corner, where she planned wonderful feats of valor but, when confronted with the enemy, had nothing to say. Em did not like to be outdone and would follow Addie to the tops of houses and sit on the ridgepole - Addie having distinguished herself by climbing to the top of a woodshed before she could walk.
Addie, being older, thought herself competent to guide her younger sister and generally emphasized her remarks by saying, "You must mind me - mother said so," which she had been told once to do. Sometimes, after getting Em so angry that she was obliged to resort to profanity, she would start downstairs to tell mother and Em would throw boots, shoes and whatever came to hand after her and was often punished before Mother knew of the provocation.
Notwithstanding all this, she had great faith in her. Addie once told her if she would eat a raw potato, she would; which she did - but Addie ate a boiled one instead. Another time, Addie was invited to a party and Em cried to go. When Addie came home, she told her she had brought her a cookie because the woman was so kind to send it to her. This pacified her and she enjoyed the cookie because the woman was so kind to send it to her - but she was very angry when Addie informed her that it was a yeast cake which she got from the pantry."
Joan Daby is town of Moriah historian.