As I think about your sorrow, I have wished I could have taken Beatrice’s place

Posted by | February 28, 2014

My dear children, Herbie, Chedie, and Constance, my mind has been with you every moment since I received Chedie’s letter —that was the 8th—except when I was asleep, and then often dreaming about you.

I think there is no one who can so fully understand the extent of your sorrow as myself. I know what it is to put away all the little clothes and the playthings. I had all of that to do. Although it was over forty years ago, it is as fresh in my memory as though it were but a day. I remember how I felt, how I thought I never could become reconciled.

I tried to think how much worse it would be if the children were left without a father, or if I had been taken away from them. And I would think about a neighbor whose husband died and left her with nine children, and they were very poor. And I would think of another neighbor with whom we were very intimate who had two nice little boys drowned in Skunk River, about two weeks before our little Lottie died.

Well, I tried to think of other people’s sorrow and so, in a measure, forget my own. Besides, I had plenty of work to keep my mind busy, which was no doubt a good thing for me. Yet, with all the effort I had made, grief would overcome me, especially toward evening, and I would give way to weeping.

Grandmother Brown's hundred years

Chapter header illustration for Chapter X, from which this selection is taken, of ‘Grandmother Brown’s Hundred Years.’

Finally, one day when I was feeling so distressed, I went out to take a little walk. I took Gus with me. He was then eight years old. We were walking along and suddenly he stopped and spoke more like a person of eighty than one of eight years. “Mother, you must stop feeling so bad. You must not do so any more. Lottie was so good and so handsome. You love to think about that. We don’t know what might have been her lot. It might be good or it might be bad. As it is, every recollection of her is pleasant and we know she is happy. So you must not worry and grieve any more.”

This little lecture did me good. It was beyond his years. I was surprised. Had the same words come from an older person, they would not have affected me as this did. It seemed to me almost supernatural, and I had great control over my feelings from that time on.

As I think about your sorrow, I have wished I could have taken Beatrice’s place. I would have been glad to have done so and spared her to you.

—1908 Letter by Athens County, OH native Maria Dean Foster Brown (1827-1929) to her children

from Grandmother Brown’s hundred years, 1827-1927, by Harriet Connor Brown, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1929)

One Response

  • Hello All,
    I am glad that I came across this blog site as my father was born and grew up in Montana Mines, WV (just outside Fairmont, WV). I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland about 1/2 hr. from the ocean but still have family in the Fairmont area. I am a descendent of those from Prickett’s Fort. My grandfather was a union coal miner and my father was born in 1921 and has since passed away so I do find some comfort in this site. When we go on vacation, I go to the Moorefield, WV area within Lost River state park. From there we go to Blackwater Falls, Seneca Rocks, etc.

    I will be adding this site to my favorites.

    One of my favorite poems is by Carl Sandburg addressing the non-union company coal mine towns and the conditions those miners had to work under trying to feed and raise their families.

    Company Towns
    By Carl Sandburg

    You live in a company house
    You go to a company school
    You work for this company,
    according to the company rules.

    You all drink company water
    and all use company lights,
    The company preacher teaches us
    What the company thinks is right.

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