MRS. FRANCES FULLER BARRITT (1826-1902)
Frances Auretta, daughter of Adonijah Fuller and Lucy (Williams) Fuller, was born in Rome, Oneida County, New York, May 23, 1826, the eldest of five daughters. In 1830 her parents removed to the "pinery" of northern Pennsylvania, and in 1839 to Wooster, Ohio, where she entered a girls' school. She began to write when she was fourteen and, besides contributing to the local press, published a story, "Seventy Times Seven," in the Philadelphia Saturday Courier. In 1848 she was a contributor to N. P. Willis' Home Journal.
Having obtained some local reputation as writers, she and her sister Metta went east to try their fortunes and succeeded in interesting Rufus Griswold, who edited their first volume of verse, "Poems of Sentiment and Imagination: with Dramatic and Descriptive Pieces," which was published in 1851. Frances, however, soon returned to the west to be with her ailing parents, and in 1852 went to Pontiac, Michigan. In 1853 she was married to Jackson Barritt of that city. She subsequently moved to New York, and under her married name, Mrs. Frances F. Barritt, wrote a few novels for Beadle. For a number of years thereafter she published nothing. In 1862 she married her second husband, Henry Clay Victor, a naval engineer and a brother of her sister Metta's husband. In the following year they removed to California where her husband had been ordered for duty. Here she began to write again, contributing to the San Francisco and Sacramento newspapers and to the old Overland Monthly. In 1865, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Victor removed to Oregon and she began the publication of a number of historical and geographic books of the northwest; among others "The River of the West; Life and Adventures in the Rocky Mountains and Oregon," which was published in Hartford in 1870. "All over Oregon and Washington" was published in San Francisco in 1872 under the pseudonym "Florence Fane."(1)"Eleven Years in the Rocky Mountains and Life on the Frontier" appeared in 1877. Her husband was among those lost in the wreck of the Pacific, November 4, 1875, and thereafter it became necessary for Mrs. Henry Victor to support herself, which she did by writing. She soon became an authority on the history of the northwestern states and became one of H. H. Bancroft's staff writers. For him she wrote part of the "History of the Northwest Coast" in 1884, and all of the "History of Oregon," 2 volumes, 1886-88, the "History of Washington, Idaho and Montana" (1890), the "History of Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming" (1890), and volumes VI and VII of the "History of California" (1890). For a time after Bancroft's History was completed, she is said to have been in very straightened circumstances, and to have sold toilet preparations from door to door in Salem, Oregon. Later, she was able to earn sufficient for her support, and wrote up to the time of her death, aged 76, in a Portland boarding house, November 14, 1902.
REFERENCES: Alfred Powers, A History of Oregon Literature, 1935; W. A. Morris, "The Origin and Authorship of the Bancroft Pacific States Publications," Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, December, 1903; Nat. Cyc. Amer. Biog., XIII, 1906, 432-33; Drake, Dic. Amer. Biog., 1872, 66; Lamb, Biog. Dict., VII, 1903, 444; Scribner's Dict. Amer. Biog., XIX, 1936, 265; Obit. in Portland Morning Oregonian, November 15 and 16, 1902; William T. Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West, Columbus, 1860, 510-11; Willard and Livermore, American Women, 1897, with portrait; People's Home Journal, 1906.
The Home. Vol. IX. Romantic Husband.
Dime Novels. Nos. 35, 39, 514
American Library (London). Nos. 17, 19
Pocket Novels. No. 269
SPECIMEN OF MRS. BARRITT'S STYLE
"East and West; or, The Beauty of Willard's Mill." Dime Novel No. 35. Chapter VI, pp. 44-49.
One of the diversions of the cousins was to ride down to Frank's on the ox-wagon, when the men went to the woods for logs, and, mounting the logs on the return, ride home again. In these frequent visits of an hour, Constance had become quite at home with Frank's wife and mother-in-law. With her the latter was a favorite friend—as she was, indeed, with the whole population of the "bottom," for she was the universal counselor, nurse, and care-taker—an office which, though not remunerative in a pecuniary sense, lays up for the holder a goodly share of those riches which "moth doth not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal."
But perhaps nothing more augmented her influence than the reputation she had acquired of being a "prophet." Whenever Mrs. Gleason had dreams, or felt "on-easy," something was sure to come of it.
One morning, Constance, having taken the before-mentioned ride, found Frank and Olive absent, and their mother rather depressed in spirits—a fact which induced her to accept an invitation to stay until the last log for that day went to the mill.
"You see, I've been kind of oneasy this mornin'. I didn't sleep all night; an' I had sich a roarin' in my ears, an' I heerd people a hollerin' and screechin'! I hate to have sich a night; an' I disremember if I have had one sence the mill was washed away the last time."
"Perhaps," said Constance, "you have taken a severe cold in your head."
"Oh, 't never affects me in sich ways. I ain't like you city folks, with the nuralogy an' the like. You see, I never wear a bunnit only jist for 'pearances, when I go somewhere. I jist run out o' doors, in wind, and sun, and rain; so I'm toughened to 't. But it spiles the hair mightily. That shiny black hair o' yourn would soon git red at the eends, an' dry an' rough, ef you was to run out the way I do. But I don't care any bit about it—'specially since Gleason died—not but that I like it., Minnie, now; what purty hair she's got. But I reckon it's nateral in your family, an' her mother allus made her wear a hat. Minnie isn't the same kind o' stuff as most girls, noways. She's dreadfully taken with you, it 'pears."
"And I am taken with her. But I thought I heard you remark that the mill was once washed away. Was that since uncle lived there?"
"Yes; both since and afore. I reckon your uncle never spoke about it to you. He is powerful close-mouthed about his troubles, an' it's likely that's in the blood, too. You see, when he first moved here from Nauvoo, he was jist as poor-like—'cause there wan't nothin' in the country—as all the poor folks that had jist begun to live there then—"
"Excuse me," said Constance. "Did my uncle ever live in Nauvoo?"
"Oh, yes; to be sure. But mebbe, now, I haven't any call to mention it, 'cause I guess your mother, likely, was dreadful set agin it."
"I never heard of it before."
"Waal, Mr. Willard's jist as good a man as ever thar was any—not even 'ceptin' Gleason—an' he was the best man I ever did see; but them Mormons, they got hold of him in York State, an' they pretended to prophecy; an' they made him believe he heerd spirits a speakin' to him, an' I don't know what all they did do. But, any way, your uncle he come out to Nauvoo with 'em, an' was there when the soldiers drove the people all out of the city. That was awful times, I've heerd 'em tell. Your uncle, he gathered up what he could put in a wagon— 'twan't much money the church had left him—an' made haste to git across the river into Iowa—this was a Injun Territory them times—an' had nothin' to do but jist to foller the leaders across to the Missouri."
Constance listened with breathless attention to this revelation of what had always been a mystery to her—of the reason why her uncle had lived this wretched, fugitive life for so many years.
"Did he still cling to the fortunes of the church?" she asked.
"No, I reckon not. He seen some of the doins' of the elders, that summer; they crossed the country, an' when he got to the Missouri, he parted from 'em, an' moved down here, yit furder down the creek. Not that he dared to say he parted from 'em; but thar was a good many that stopped in this country to make farms to keep from starvin'. But Mr. Willard's suffered most—more'n any of 'em. They lost two children on the road, an' she was confined, an' lost that, too—no wonder, poor thing!—so't when they got here in the fall, they was jist able to put theirselves up a cabin; an' on their well days—for they all had the fever—they worked an' made benches, an' tables, an' sich like things as they couldn't do without."
"How old was Minnie, then?"
"Oh, five or six years old, or sich a matter. I reckon she remembers living in a wagon, for it made her dreadful sick. I've told her mother that's the reason she's never growed no bigger, for you're a likely race. 'Twan't so hard on her, neither, 'cause she's got time to outgrow it; but her father an' mother—what with losing their children all but these two, an' havin' sich hard work to git along, it was powerful disheartenin'."
"How did they get along, in a country where there was nothing to buy, and nothing to buy with?" asked Constance, curiously.
"That's what I'm comin' to. For the first winter or two your uncle used to go down to Missouri with a few skins an' furs the Injuns sold him, to trade 'em for flour an' meat. In the summer he tried to raise some grain of his own, an' did make out pretty fair; but he never took to farmin'—twan't his sort of business. It was about them times people from Illinois begun to move out here 'cause they'd heard of the settlin' up of the country, an' wanted to get land cheap. Gleason, he was sot agin Illinois on account of losin' all our boys there. First I know, he'd sold out to a stranger all our nice house an' store, and was fixin' to come to Iowa, with the first payment in his hands. Waal, I don't jist remember how he first got acquainted with Mr. Willard; but they took a powerful likin' to one another. Your uncle had set his mind to have a mill up on the creek, at a place he'd picked out. The first year we come here he got it nigh onto done ready to saw; but the dam wasn't built strong enough; an' there come an awful rise in the creek, an' washed it all away complete. Your uncle had spent all his means, besides being in debt some. Your aunt was clean out of heart, an' sick into the bargain. Then, says Gleason to me, says he, 'That's a good idea of Willard's, an' ort to come out right. He's bent on tryin' it agin, and I've made up my mind to go with him. I've got a few hundreds, an' they're jist his!" So they sot to work together. Mrs. Willard, she moved up here, an' we all lived in the same house that year. Waal, they got the mill goin' agin, purty near the same place. I reckon they sawed about enough to pay for the mill before the year was up. It was the summer of the great rise in the Missouri. The river sot back in the creeks and sloos, till they overflowed the whole bottom, clear back to the bluffs, all but some high places like, that wasn't quite under water."
"What! does the river really overflow all this land? Is there danger every spring?" cried Constance, quite appalled.
"No, not allus. There ain't no danger anyways, as I know of, only to mill-dams. But this sile can't stand the water—it jist melts right away. Waal, as I was sayin', when the rise come, it took the mill another time, spite of all the men could do—an' they had lots of 'em. The women worked too—even Minnie—throwin' in brush an' logs to hold the dam. 'Twan't a bit of use, the water works so quick—an' it went all to nothin' agin in one forenoon. Then your aunt and Minnie, they went into the cabin—they'd got the cabin built up there then—an' cried. But your uncle, he walked, an' walked, up an' down the creek-bank, nigh the place where the mill was, an' he never said a word. Then Gleason, he went up to him, kind of smilin', an' he says to him, says he, 'Willard, it's my turn to try agin now.' So Gleason went to Illinois about gettin' some more money to start the mill agin. But things was growin' worse an' worse. The man he'd sold out to had got the buildin's there insured; then burnt 'em up to git the money, an' run away. I never see anybody so consarned about any thin' afore, as Gleason was about losin' that property. He never had been a hearty man; an' now he jist pined away of layin' awake nights, thinkin' of bein' so poor, an' he a gittin' old. I seen trouble in them days, but 'twan't the worst yit. There was a man up to the Grove loaned your uncle some money to go to work at the mill the third time; an' Gleason kept his word, and gin all his time, an' all his means, to help your uncle. In the course of the year they got it goin' agin, better'n ever. They was sure it would stand this time. But we're never sure of any thin' 'cept dyin' when our time comes. The very next spring it went agin'."
Mrs. Gleason paused to wipe her eyes, while Constance found her own very misty.
"Gleason never got over it. It jist broke his heart like, an' he didn't live more'n two months. Nothin' could stop your uncle, though. He borrered some more money some place or 'nother, an' went at it more fiercer'n ever."
"Seems to me," said Constance, "he carried his perseverance too far in one direction."
"So some folks told him. But he didn't think so—neither did every other person; fur one day he was helpin' the men at the new dam, an' along came the man that loaned him the first money, an' says your uncle, says he to the man, 'This don't look like your ever gittin' back your money!' An' the man says, 'Don't trouble yourself, Mr. Willard—I ain't afeared for my money when I see a man a workin' the way you are!' Waal, it seems your uncle was right at last. The mill's been standin' these three years now; an' he's been pay in' off his debts, an' buyin' land, an' gettin' ahead a leetle. I reckon if he has good luck another year he'll be above-board."
† Correction made as per Volume 3.
|1||W. Cushing, Initials and Pseudonyms, New York, 1886, 98.|