04 December 2014

19th Century MeetUp at Belle Mead

"My darling:  Just before I left the house this morning I received two letters from you, one postmarked July 3 at Philadelphia & the other July 4 at Belle Mead.  I was glad to hear that you are feeling better."  So begins the letter written by thirty-one-year-old patent attorney Edmund Brown to his wife Mary on the evening of Thursday July 5, 1894.  Just two ordinary people engaging in typical 19th century communication - no Facebook, no Twitter, no email, no texts;  an era before the ubiquity of the telephone when your arrival by train at your destination could easily precede the posted announcement of your travel plans!





Mr. Brown was writing from his New York City office to his wife who was staying with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. James. L. Brush, in Plainville - a small village in Montgomery Twp. which has since been subsumed by the Carrier Clinic's East Mountain Hospital.  Mary had recently been in Philadelphia, but was feeling poorly.  It was hoped that a short stay "out in the country" would restore the twenty-nine-year-old city-girl to good health.  Could either husband or wife have known that Mary was as much as two months pregnant with their first child who would be born in February of the next year?

Plainville is just a short carriage ride from Belle Mead Station
 as depicted on this turn of the century Somerset County map.

After encouraging his wife to take her medicine, and describing how he eventually was able to get some relief from his hay fever by trying a new remedy ("I feel like another person today"), Edmund Brown continued the letter by laying out his travel plans.


Southbound passenger train at Belle Mead Station.
"If you hear the train, remember that your husband is passing by within a few miles of you."

The next day he would take the 11:30 from New York to Philadelphia, conduct some business, and return the same day on the 4:34, passing through Belle Mead at 6:46 pm.  If Mary had a message for him, she should write it out and have someone bring it to the station.


Northbound, approaching Belle Mead Station
"I will be out on the platform of the car as it stops, and on the lookout for a letter.....tell Harry to stand on the station platform, on the side of the track away from the station, and to look for me on the platforms of the cars"

Belle Mead Station, looking north

If Mary desired a brief visit, it might be possible for him to disembark at Belle Mead, and then catch the 8:10 pm train from Flagtown Station to continue to New York.  Considering the travel time by horse drawn coach between the stations and Plainville, this would have to be a very brief visit, perhaps only a few minutes.  Between this paragraph and the concluding one, there is a two sentence disclaimer, probably inserted just before sealing the envelope, advising Mary to not be bothered with any of this just to please him.  Perhaps on reading through his letter, Mr. Brown felt that his plans sounded too much like orders.


"If you want to see me, dearest, very bad, and can arrange with somebody
 to drive me to Flagtown to get the 8:10 p.m. train from there to N.Y.,
 send me word and I can stop off at Belle Mead & come up to the house for a little visit."
Finally, we are left with this last paragraph.  In my opinion, unmatched in the era of the emoji. Read and enjoy:

Dear little wife - I don't dare to make my letters too affectionate for fear you will think I am missing you so much you must hurry back - and yet I must tell you that I love you, darling, and long to have you with me again.  But I want you to stay there as long as it does you good, and then come home, to your own little house & to your husband that loves you so much, and let him try with all his heart to make you happy.  May God bless you, darling wife, I love you, dear, dear, little girl. - Goodbye - Your Husband




1 comment:

  1. Too bad there still isn't a passenger train running along those tracks.

    ReplyDelete