As a teenage girl in 1865, Mary’s days at school were coming to an end. As I wrote in my last post, most girls Mary’s age were heading to the mills, “working out” on nearby farms, teaching school, or thinking about marriage. Since Mary was only 14 one would assume that marriage thoughts would be far from her mind…
The days and evenings following Valentines day in 1865 were quite romantic for Mary. She wrote that Albert came to visit her and her friend Mary Sproat in the evenings and that they had splendid and pleasant times, staying up until 11:00 on some nights.This is the first time Mary seemed to have had a little crush. Although she didn’t outwardly express her feelings for Albert in the diary, she did seem to write about him a good deal. Albert went away in March and poor Mary was left missing him, writing: “Oh Dear! It is dread full lonesome tonight” (March 5). Upon his return later in the spring, Albert visited Mary off and on and finally in June she recorded in her diary, “je lui aime… I shan’t own it to anyone excepting himself. Guess I shan’t nor him either.” (June 18)
A few days later some of the girls at school joked about her getting married–a rumor Mary quickly shut down. After this incident, she didn’t write about Albert again. I wonder why? It is quite clear that love was on the minds of the girls at school with lots of flirting going on. On April Fools day Mary joked that she sent Albert an April fool letter and fooled him.
This is the first house on the left after the intersection at Turnpike and New Boston. I think this could have been James Sproat’s house.
Then Mary met James Sproat…
James was the much-older brother of Mary’s friend Mary Sproat who lived up the road from the Slack’s and who had just returned home from the war. Since Mary Slack and Mary Sproat were such close friends, our Mary often went to the Sproat’s house and this is how she got to know James. In the midst of getting to know James, Mary mentioned her old crush Albert who wrote a letter to Mary telling her that he would be back in four weeks. How confusing for both her and us! It seems like Albert might have sensed something.
Thursday July 20
Got a letter to night from Albert. Says he thinks I am in rather low spirits and I think he thought pretty near right. James Sproat was down here this evening.
Finally it seems Mary made a choice. On a summery, Friday evening in July, Mary went up to the Sproat’s after tea. She saw James there and wrote that he “is real pretty”. The rest of the summer was filled with evening walks, buggy rides, and even a concert, all with James.
Wednesday August 9
Went to the concert to night with James. I had a splendid time. Never had as good time before in my life I think. I got home about twelve o clock. James wrote a verse for me on some paper. Jennette and Homer were there.
Also on those summer evenings, James and his sister Mary went down to the Slack’s to play games such as backgammon and euchre. One Sunday, the trio went into the village, probably Norwich, to get their pictures taken. Mary gave her picture to James and in return, he gave her “a pretty belt buckle”.
Mary first seriously mentioned their relationship in late August when James brought a picture of himself to Mary and she wrote in her diary that she loved him “more and more every day”! This was quite the blossoming romance. James even told Mary that he might marry her in the spring. Quite ambitious (remember she’s 15– and he was 24)! A bit later in the diary, I found a section of writing written by someone else and signed J.S.S. Was this James writing a love letter to Mary? The image is below.
Sunday December 31
Father came up to Homers this morning and was awfull mad because I staid all night. He says James shant come down to see me again never but I’ll bet he will. He came down this evening and he and Father had a long talk, but I know if he cant come then I will not stay here. Tomorrow is “Happy New Year” but I don’t think there is much happiness in store for me. Nett says I can love someone else just as well as I do him. Perhaps she thinks I can change my mind as many times as she did hers.