|Union Block, 1870, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (Wiki Commons)|
Many thanks to William Myers, Mary Davy, Sally Young and Sue Davis for their ongoing research collaboration; specifically to William for providing a scan of the original document, and in turn many thanks to Peter Binckley and Patricia D'Arcy "Trish" Binckley (1951-2007), at the source.]
When I was eight years old, we went to Norfolk. Lovely seagirt Norfolk, with its magnolia-lined streets! In the Spring the great white blossoms filled the air with their intoxicating fragrance. They are very sensitive flowers, and will not brook a touch. When friends send magnolias to one another, there is but one way to assure their arriving unspoiled. The big glossy dark green leaves with their brown undersides are gathered completely around the blossom, completely covering it, and tied with a ribbon. It doesn't mind its own leaves, but a touch from anything else makes a brown mark on the creamy whiteness of its petals.
We lived on Freemason Street, not very far from the sea wall at the end of the street. We children used to get down from the sea wall to the beach below and play there. We loved it. I don't seem to [remember] much about our life there. One thing I've always remembered. A neighbor, Miss Krutsch, [used] to play an exquisite thing on her piano. She was a musician. I was too young to think to ask her its name. Years after, I heard it played, and found it was a Mazurka by Chopin.
The other thing that I remember was something that happened when we moved into a different house. Grandmother was with us at that time. She had had a first floor room before, but in the new house she was on the second floor at the back. She never cared for cats[,] and in the afternoon of the day we moved in, when the maid had got the beds made up in the bedrooms, Grandmother went to her room and to her disgust, saw a cat curled up in the middle of her bed. Forgetting that she was now upstairs, she caught up the cat and pitched it out of the open window. Then she remembered and was overwhelmed with horror and remorse. She crawled downstairs to giv orders for the mangled remains to be removed. Sitting placidly at the back door was the cat, putting her fur in order, all her nine lives evidently unimpaired.
Then later, [about 1872 -- M.J.B.] we went to the Northwest to live in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. It was all very different there. In the South, everyone had servants, but in Iowa there were none. All the ladies did their own work. I remember Mother saying how wonderful those Northwestern women were. There was a co-educational University there [Iowa Wesleyan University] and boys and girls came in from the country to study. The girls did all the cleaning, cooking, mending, washing and ironing for themselves and their brothers, and kept up with their studies besides. Some were so poor that brothers and sisters had to live in the same room, with a curtain across. The professor of Mathematics at the University was a young woman, but her chief claim to distinction in the town seemed to be the fact that she got her family wash out on the line on Mondays earlier than anybody else.
Mia and I had been very sorry to part, but we promised to write to each other. The Suverkrops went abroad a year or two after, and never came back to the United States. But Mia and I kept up our correspondence for many years, till she died in England in November, 1939. In her last letter she said, "Well, we're at war." Much as I grieved for the loss of a lifelong friend, I was thankful she was spared the horrors that followed. She had a house in London and a charming cottage in Herefordshire, on the river Wye. She sent me photographs of it. The cottage had been brought fro Norway. She died there. She had written me that the authorities would not allow her to return to her London house, on account of the war.
In the Northwest, Mother found it very difficult to get a ham she liked -- they were all so big and fat and porky. In Virginia, life is incomplete without a ham in the house. It's a standby. No Virginian housewife is every without one. But the hams there are always small and lean and thoroughly cured, often in the family's own smokehouse. It was awfully cold and snowy in Iowa, so later we went to Chicago.
But it was just as cold there. We didn't like Chicago. A pall of smoke hung over the city practically all the time. And a more than occasional hideous whiff from the Stockyards, when the wind happened to serve.
So Father rented a furnished house in the suburbs owned by the artist cousin who had made the sketch of The Cottage long before, and who lived in Chicago. His studio was the first one I had ever seen and I was fascinated.
In our suburb, the streets were laid out with wooden sidewalks, but it was sparsely built up as yet -- only about one house to a block. It was right on the prairie, so the wind had a free sweep. (The wind was always blowing.) And the mercury habitually sank down to the bottom of the thermometer.
I remember Father and my two brothers went rabbit hunting one day when it was 32 degrees below zero. One evening I was sent out to mail some letters in the letter box at the corner. I put on a heavy cape with a hood, but did not bother to put on my mittens. The wiond blew my cape open and I put out my hand and pulled it back around me. When I got home I found blisters on my fingers as if I had touched a hot stove.
[Ellen/Nellie/Nella Fontaine Binckley (September 1, 1860-April 27, 1951). Family names and dates were whimsically tweaked by their owners during their lifetime, adding mystery and sometimes causing confusion. For Binckley's "Artist's Life," I'm opting for the full artist's signature name, Nella Fontaine Binckley.
Grandmother = Jane Johnston Mitchell/Michel (1811-1892).
Mother = Mary Louisa/Louise Mitchell/Michel Binckley (1838-1930).
Father = John Milton Binckley (circa 1831-1878).
Two brothers = Harvey Mitchell Binckley (1864-1928) and George Sydney Binckley (1870-1941).
Euphemia/Mia Alberta Suverkrop (circa 1859-1939). Astonishingly, see "The Suverkrop Letters, 1842-1887," link here.
See also The London Gazette, page 629 (January 30, 1940): EUPHEMIA ALBERTA SUVERKROP, Deceased. Pursuant to the Trustee Act, 1925. ALL persons having claims against the estate of Euphemia Alberta Suverkrop late of "Braeside" Whitchurch [Symonds Yat, Ross] in the county of Hereford, and of 89, Sunderland Road, Forest Hill in the county of London, Spinster, who died on the 22nd day of October 1939 and whose Will was proved in the Principal Probate Registry on the 15th day of January 1940 by National Provincial Bank Limited, the executors named therein, are required to send written particulars of their claims to us, the undersigned, on or before the 31st day of March 1940, after which date the executors will distribute the assets of the deceased among the persons entitled thereto, having regard only to the claims of which the executors shall then have had notice —Dated this 26th day of January, 1940. STURTON and STURTON, 74, Great Tower Street, London, E.G. 3, Solicitors for the (004) Executors. Link here.]