From the Letters of Mary Carpenter and Family

These letters are selections from a larger collection that includes letters from other members of Mary Carpenter's family (P1487). To view the complete letters, visit the Minnesota Historical Society library.

For more information on Mary Carpenter, read: Sarah Brooks Sundberg, "The Letters of Mary E. Carpenter: A Farm Woman on the Minnesota Prairie," Minnesota History, (Spring 1989), p. 186-193.

July 19, 1870 (from Rochester, MN)

Mary describes a box of clothing and other articles that her relatives from the east sent her family. A storm destroyed their crops and any chances for an income. Mary says they will leave their farm in September.

April 24, 1871 (from Rochester, MN)

Mary talks about her poor spirits. George is seeding. Mary describes the general rules of obtaining a homestead.

August 17, 1871 (from Rochester, MN)

Mary describes how her family helps her mother, father, and her brother Frank by sending them food from their farm.

August 18, 1871 (from Rochester, MN)

It is harvesting season, and Mary describes all the work she has done. It is also the anniversary of her daughter Laura's death.

June 1, 1873 (from Rochester, MN)

Mary writes of her family's upcoming journey to Marshall, Minnesota. She describes her children and their ages.

July 10, 1873 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary tells of their 200-mile move to Marshall. She explains their rough living conditions, poor financial situation, and her expectations for the future.

August, 1873 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary writes about Marshall's growth over the past year. She is feeling better and is pregnant. George is working on another farm. Mary describes her children in more detail.

October 26, 1873 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary had a baby boy three weeks earlier. Her family is trying to return to Rochester for the winter, but has no money. She asks her aunt to send her five or ten dollars for the journey.

November 22, 1873 (from Rochester, MN)

Mary explains their temporary living conditions in Rochester and George's work hauling wood. She thanks her aunt for a box of presents she sent them. Mary describes a female homesteader she knew in Marshall.

February 10, 1874 (from Rochester, MN)

Mary says she is not feeling well. Three of her children are all in school. In two months they expect to return to Marshall.

July 9, 1874 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary describes what crops they planted and the work that the children do. She claims that George is hopeful for their future and has learned how to make brooms to earn extra money.

August 5, 1874 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary tells her cousin that she will be thirty-four this month. George is earning extra money harvesting another farmer's wheat crop. She describes the prairie, their vegetable garden, and her desire for a better house.

Eight Years Pass

January 1, 1882 (from Marshall, MN)

George has been sick and Mary describes how she helped treat him. She gives the names and ages of her children, who range from ten months to eighteen years old. They had a poor harvest, which Mary describes it in some detail.

July 22, 1883 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary talks about her daughter Mamie's engagement and future plans. She gives updates on her other children. It is close to harvest time and their crops look healthy.

December 17, 1883 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary describes how they heat their house during the winter. George's ill sister and her two children are staying with the Carpenters for a long visit. She talks about Mamie's wedding, poor crops, and her desire to get out of debt.

September 30, 1884 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary outlines the work she is doing to prepare for winter. A child in the area recently died from diphtheria, the fifth in three months. She talks about the journals and newspapers she reads and about the farming endeavors of her sons.

July 8, 1885: Mamie Hurd [Mary's daughter] to Mary Carpenter (from Reynolds, SD)

Mamie is teaching in SD. She and her husband's family might take land claims in the Turtle Mountains. Mamie tells her mother that neither she, nor her husband, want to be in debt. She talks about her husband Charlie and her housework.

July 7, 1886 (from Marshall, MN)

George's sister passed away and her son Eddie now lives with the Carpenters. Mary's two oldest sons sold food and firecrackers on the Fourth of July to earn extra money. George bought another farm.

November 21, 1886 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary is now a grandmother—her daughter Mamie recently had a baby boy. Mary and George had another bad year of farming, but raised a nice vegetable garden. Their son Georgie is attending school in Owatonna.

March 26, 1887 (from Marshall, MN)

Another of Mary's children, Henry, has left home. Mary talks of the difficulty of living on the prairie without enough wood and of the new French and Belgian Catholic immigrants.

March 31, 1887 (from Marshall, MN)

Mary updates her aunt on the doings and whereabouts of her children. She complains of debt and admits to feeling "very blue."

March 4, 1888 (from Larimore, SD)

Mary is in South Dakota visiting her daughter Mamie and her mother. She talks about being sick, her grandson, her three younger children, and her mother.