Sunday, July 02, 2006

The birth and infancy of Bertha Stoddard as told by her mother

The following is the text of a letter from Druscilla C. Allen (Stoddard) to her daughter Bertha Stoddard telling the story of Bertha's birth on March 3, 1850 in
Nowgong, Assam, India where Druscilla and her husband, Ira Joy Stoddard were Baptist ministers and events of Bertha's infancy.
[Bertha Stoddard was the mother of the Barrett brother's maternal grandmother Edith Whitney (Whitson)]

March 3rd, 1909
My dear Daughter,

I suppose you have no recollection of the important event that took place in a low roofed and large Bungalow not far from the Kallung River, Nugong, Assam the third of March, 1852.

To the two lone missionaries it seemed a very important one, the birth of their first child, a sweet little daughter. No relative, friend, or white person of any nationality to rejoice with them. Though this I am sure did not detract at all from their joy, never again could they feel so entirely lonely – “A babe in the house is a well spring of pleasure,” so said the poet Tuppor – and the Brahman Pundit said, as she was creeping near him, “Lora ghorst takiler unanda lagge” which was almost a translation of the poet’s words. Quite unknown to the twice born Aryan, who had no son and was so anxious for one, that he wanted to marry another wife, for a son he must have to perform his funeral ceremonies.

Of the next two years you have no mental remembrance, of the terrible pain and suffering during the third and fourth month of the weakness and debility following, a very severe illness the beginning of the second year. You were not especially interested in the canoe journey to Yowhatty to consult the doctors – nor frightened as was the boatman, as darkness fell when one night the dugout, one was the cook boat, were beached for the night, they heard a family of wild elephants come down from the jungle and swim across the river not far above us.

I wonder how far back your memory goes, not as far as when at twenty months of age you were able to make good headway on foot; or even when a little past two years you told Bravo, who hearing a new voice had rushed into the room: "Bravo this is little sister, kiss her," which he did and from that moment adopted and added her to his other charges and would have risked his life to fight for them.

Few lives are passed without their trials and dangers. You have had yours from the beginning but they have brought their discipline that so should strengthen character and help the better to an appreciation of the great blessings that have followed, then have they not been in vain. I have been trying lately to go over my past years and have been more than ever tempted with the idea that it is safer to do what seems to be duty, though in this life we may never learn why the act did not bring us what we hoped for.

Currier regrets that he did not keep a journal while he was in Pella, says that forty years of absorbing work at the State University renders it very difficult for him to recall enough to write it down. I wanted him to write out the early history of the school for future historians who might want to go back of those who are now "the people," and with whom no doubt "wisdom will die." Were it not for old letters, I should be quite at a loss for dates. I recall incidents, characters, anecdotes and impressions, but to which year they belong is not quite clear oftentimes.

If I would have kept a journal from the time I was four and a half years old, it would be at least to me interesting – then bears, deer, wolves and even panthers still had their homes in the woods.

The ways of living, entertaining, and dressing have changed since my childhood and this brings to mind what people are saying about Lincoln’s early life, "brought up in poverty" means to the most of peoples especially in cities, the living in slums, not being healthily housed – often going hungry – crowded among the vile and the wicked.

The sleeping on a straw bed in a house ventilated by an open fire place – the eating of hoecake and milk or other home made breads, the fish and game – or the barn yard fowls, the beechnut fed – or corn fed hogs, and the home fed beef no doubt he enjoyed. An ill fed child could never attained to his strength and stature, bare footed, in homespun – how much better he was situated for a clean healthy life, than the child dressed in velvets who hears from morning to night, "don’t go there," "don’t do so…" from perhaps a nervous mother, or an ignorant nurse.

Well – all our papers about the 12th of Feb. vexed me with "Lincoln’s poverty." I had no thought of running into this.

With my sincere wishes for many returns
of your birthday, I remain your love,


No comments: