Archive for the ‘Braxton, Mary Blair’ Category

“scarce an Evening . . . but we are entertained . . . “

ANNE BLAIR was born in May 1746, the seventh child of John and Mary Monro Blair. Her father was President of the Virginia Colonial Council. Anne concludes her letter to her sister MARY BLAIR BRAXTON writing about what was going on around her. Her sister had visitors who knew much of what she had planned to tell her. Nevertheless she added some interesting details. I am sure you have noticed that Anne uses apostrophes in plural words not just in possessives. A common practice at the time.

They are Building a steeple to our Church, the Door’s for that reason is open every day; and scarce an Evening . . . but we are entertained with the performances of Felton’s, Handel’s, Vi-vally’s. &c. &c. &c. &c. I could say a great deal about this, and that, & tother, but knowing the company you now have can tell all that I know, with greater ease than I can write it——will refer you to them; do ask a Thousand question’s, there is an abundance of New’s stiring. . . .

Did I tell you Major Watson’s Family was arrived? No, pshaw, yr Guests could have told you that. Oh! but they were not so polite as I was, I went to wait on them; the Eldest is about eighteen, a young Lady of good Sense, with an easy affable behavior, and I think handsome. The other about fourteen, has a Charming complexion, with good nature stamp’t in her Countenance; she wears her Hair down her Forehead & almost to her Eye-Brows, wch gives a just Idea at first sight, of what on a little acquaintance you find in reality——She is a Wild Philly.——Well come! I will rejoice you by telling you I have a pain in my Rist, consequently it obliges me to conclude: tho’ cannot without assuring you I am
yr truly Affec. Sisr.
A Blair

William Felton (1713-1769) was a British composer whose works were quite popular. I love Anne’s reference to Vivaldi; at least I think that’s whom she means.

On February 26, 1779, ANNE BLAIR married Colonel John Banister whose first two wives had died. They had two sons Theodorick Blair and John Monro Banister. The younger son married Mary Burton Bowling. Their son John later migrated to Alabama. Anne’s husband died in 1788; she survived until 1813.

In 1787 she wrote at least two letters to Thomas Jefferson in Paris requesting his assistance for Madame Oster, the wife of the French consul, who had been misrepresented by her husband to the French minister and was “suffering in a strange country.” She mentions Jefferson’s kind letter to her “better half.” (I was surprised to learn that the expression dates to the 16th century.) Jefferson replied to her and said that the matter of Madame Oster had been resolved. He asked: “Do all your desires center in your friends? Is there nothing you wish for yourself? The modes of Paris, it’s manufactures, it’s good things, do they furnish you no temptation to employ me?”

William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XVI, 1908, 179-80. See this SITE for more information about the Banister family history. Consult also the Blair, Banister, Braxton, Horner, Whiting Papers, 1760-1890. See Jefferson’s letter to Anne HERE.

posted June 12th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Banister, John,Blair, Anne,Braxton, Mary Blair,Jefferson, Thomas,Music

“it is time to spruce myself for dinner”

Below, ANNE BLAIR continues her long and frequently interrupted letter to her sister Mary. I love the way she refers to handkerchiefs——spelling it just the way it was/is often pronounced. I had no idea the word “duds” was in use back then. When I did a quick search I found that it had been used to refer to clothes for hundreds of years, since the Middle Ages in fact. Regarding Anne’s remark “it is time to spruce myself for dinner,” I was fascinated to learn that “spruce” originally had been used as an adjective describing items brought from Prussia, as in “spruce leather.” Toward the end of the 16th century it began to be used as a verb “to make trim and neat.”

I am sorry I gave you so much trouble about my long lawn aprons as I have them all; I lost the last of my Cambrick in King William (Hankerchiefs I mean) so that I did not bring one down with me——am much obliged for the care you have taken to get all my dud’s together. I have found one of ye Shifts which I will give Mrs. Starke for you. I cannot find that you have neglected putting up anything for Betsey [Mary’s daughter] [t]hat was necessary——adieu till tomorrow, it is time to spruce myself for dinner——after wch expect Company to Tea.

Good Morrow to you, Sisr. we spent a cheerful afternoon yesterday——Mrs. Dawson’s Family stay’d ye Evening with us, and ye Coach was at ye door to carry them Home, by ten o’clock; but everyone appearing in great spirits, it was proposed to set at ye Step’s and sing a few Song’s wch was no sooner said than done; while thus we were employ’d, a Candle & Lanthorn was observed to be coming up Street . . . no one took any notice of it——till we saw, who ever it was, stopt to listen to our enchanting Notes——each Warbler was immediately silenced; whereupon, the invader to our Melody, call’d out in a most rapturous Voice, Charming! Charming! proceed for God sake, or I go Home directly——no sooner were those words utter’d, than all as with one consent sprung from their Seats, and ye Air echoed with “pray, Walk in my Lord;” No——indeed, he would not, he would set on the Step’s too; so after a few ha, ha’s, and being told what all knew——that it was a delightful Evening, at his desire we strew’d the way over with Flowers &c. &c. till a full half hour was elaps’d, when all retir’d to their respective Homes.

Mrs. Dawson was the widow of the president of William & Mary College. The visitor was Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botecourt, royal governor of Virginia. It sounds as if a good time was had by all.

William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XVI, 1908, 177-78.

posted June 5th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Blair, Anne,Braxton, Mary Blair,Clothes

“to-morrow is Dancing day”

Although this excerpt of the letter of ANNE BLAIR to her sister MARTHA BLAIR BRAXTON appeared in an earlier post it seems appropriate to revisit it as it follows the previous post chronologically and is worth repeating. Anne in Williamsburg is describing the education and antics of her sister’s daughter Betsey who is in her charge.

August 21, 1769.. . . . Betsey is at work for you. I suppose she will tell you to-morrow is Dancing day, for it is in her thought by Day & her dreams by night. Mr. Fearson [the dancing master] was surprized to find she knew much of the Minuet step, and could not help asking if Miss had never been taught, so you find she is likely to make some progress that way. . . . her Reading I hear twice a day and when I go out she is consign’d over to my Sister Blair: we have had some few quarrels, and one Battle; Betsey & her Cousin Jenny [Jane Blair, daughter of Judge John Blair] had been fighting for several days successively, and was threaten’d to be whip’d for it as often, but as they did not regard us——her Mama & self thought it necessary to let them see we were in earnest——if they have fought since [I] have never heard of it——she has finished her work & Tucker, but the weather is so warm, what with all ye pains I can take with clean hand’s [sic], and so forth she cannot help dirtying it a little. I do not observe her to be fond of Negroes Company now nor have I heard lately of any bad Word’s [sic]; chief of our Quarrel’s is for eating of those Green apples in our Garden, & not keeping the Head smooth. I have had Hair put on Miss Dolly, but find it is not in my power of complying with my promise in giving her silk for a Sacque & Coat; some of our pretty Gang, broke open a Trunk in my absence and has stolen several thing’s one of wch the Silk makes a part——so immagine Betsey will petition you for some.

Instruction in dancing was commonly given to girls (and boys) from wealthy families as it was considered a social asset and also played a role in the courtship ritual. It is not clear whether the remark about not being fond of the company of Negroes is intended to be positive or negative. The word “now” may indicate that Betsey had enjoyed the company of Negroes and perhaps this was not considered a “good” thing.

More from Anne in the next post including some modern-sounding words.

William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XVI, 1908, 177.

posted June 1st, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Blair, Anne,Braxton, Mary Blair,Education,Virginia

“they say she rules the Roost . . .”

ANN BLAIR wrote to her sister MARTHA BLAIR BRAXTON (portrayed) telling her about the goings-on in Williamsburg, Virginia, in August 1769. Ann obviously has a sense of humor and, in addition, uses some phrases that need explanation or sound modern to our ears. In the first line “I nick’t it” means “I just hit the right moment”. Later Ann says Governor Tryon’s Lady “rules the Roost,” calling this a “pity.” The expression is an old one dating to the 15th century when it referred to the person in charge of the kitchen who therefore “rules the roast.” In the mid-1700s, “roast” morphed into “roost.”

Well! I just nick’t it, governor Tryon [of North Carolina], his lady, and Mr. Edward’s [Tryon’s secretary] was to drink Tea at our House the day we came to Town . . . so that I had an opportunity of hearing the Conversation of this fine accomplish’d Lady. You may remember we heard she took not notice of the ladies; I therefore, resolved in myself to have nothing to say to her, and accordingly took my Seat as far distant from her as the room would permit; but with all my resolution I could hold no longer; the Lady had unfortunately scall’d [scalded] three of her Fingers (I say unfortunately, for else she wou’d have play’d the Spinnet) so that the speediest method of cure became now the Topick; the company agreed it would heal sooner for having ye Skin cut off the Blisters; Mr. Edwards and self as yet, had said nothing about it——to be sure your opinions was necessary——so the Lady call’d first [page torn] who judged it best to let ye Skin remain; next cones the latter, and having view’d the Wound with all the Sagacity of a Surgeon——agreed with Mr. Edwards (as he was singular) in every thing he said exactly. She reply’d with a smile that notwithstanding there was two to one of the opposite opinion, yet her inclination consided much with us; for to own a truth, she was so far a Coward she did not like her Skin to be cut. Thus much for her Fingers; and as to ye Lady herself, I think what was heard to her disadvantage, proves from a little acquaintance to advantage; they say she rules the Roost, it is a pity, I like her Husband vastly; they have a little Girl with them that is equally to be pitied, this poor thing is stuck up in a Chair all day long with a Cotter on [something to hold her in place], nor dare she even to taste Tea, fruit Cake, or any little Triffle offer’d her by ye Company, but to return to ye Lady’s Finger’s——the old Gentleman squeezed her Hand a little too hard in handing her to the Coach (for one of her Delicacy) she, however, had so far the command of herself as not to fall in a Fit till she got to my Lord’s: Pasteur [William Pasteur, a distinguished surgeon of Williamsburg] immediately was Call’d in. who did in one Minute, what had just before caused us a debate of half an Hour long——he perform’d ye so much dreaded operation of Cuting the Skin after wch he was presented with a Guinea he laugh’d & said, he had no objection to be squeezed into another.

I have a letter from Sisr Cary, telling me I ought to have been at Hampton, instead of King & Queen [William and Mary], for that there had been the Viper sloop of War Commanded by one Cap: Linsey, a Bror. of Mr. Hood’s. a most agreeable Gentleman; the first Lieut: Mr. Frederick, a relation of the Dutchess of Beaufort——extremely cleaver——and several others equally as much so. She thinks it advisable to go down in readiness for ye next that come’s . . . perhaps if I go down I may be as lucky as Bett, other way’s I most shrewdly suspect I very reluctantly shall join that set of animals destined to lead apes.

Don’t you like Ann’s reference to William and Mary as “King & Queen”? Her comment in the last line means that she may end up an old maid, a reference to an expression common at that time that says in hell bachelors are turned into apes and are led by women who die as maids. More to come.

William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XVI, 1908, 174-76. The portrait of Martha Braxton by John Wollaston is in the collection of the College of William and Mary..

posted May 25th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Blair, Anne,Braxton, Mary Blair,Virginia

“I give . . . to my daughter Anne my negro Girl Fanny”

The next post will include a letter from ANNE BLAIR to her sister MARY BLAIR BRAXTON. For this post I am including several provisions of the will of the girls’ father, John Blair Sr, written in October of 1771 and recorded in November of that year in York County court records. Blair, Sr. was a member a prominent Virginia family; he served on the Virginia Council and was for a time acting royal governor. His uncle, James Blair, was a founder of the College of William and Mary. John Blair’s wife had died before him and so, according to his will, Blair’s children, including Anne and Mary, were provided for. All were married except for Anne.

Item. I give and bequeath to my Daughter Anne Blair one thousand Pounds Current Money part of my stock in trade with John Prentis and Company with the profits thereof from the Division made in August one Thousand Seven hundred and Sixty Nine and to my Son James Blair the like Sum of One thousand Pounds part of the said with the profits thereof as to my daughter.

Item. I give to my Daughter Mary Braxton my Negro Gurl called Sall Cooper to my daughter Sarah my negro Wench called Great Hannah and her child Kate to my son James my Negro Barbary and her Child Johnny to my daughter Anne my negro Girl Fanny to each of them and their Heirs forever. . . .

Item. It is my will and Desire that all my Slaves and Stocks of all kinds (including my Horses) not before Disposed of be divided into five equal parcels three of which parcels I give and devise to my Son John Blair and his Heirs forever and the other two parcels to my Son James Blair and his Heirs forever. I have given the Greater proportion of my Slaves and Stocks to my Son John he being my Eldest Son and having already a family and several Children.

I have quoted from Blair’s will because I am constantly jarred by the fact that slaves were commonly bequeathed to family members. I am also distressed at the way they are referred to——the females as “wenches”——and how they are casually listed along with horses and other stock. Slaves were often given as wedding presents: when a slave called Oney Judge found out she was to be given by her mistress, Martha Washington, to her granddaughter Elizabeth Custis upon her wedding, Oney ran away. It was also common practice for a child to be given a slave of the same age as a “present,” perhaps for a birthday.

Source for the will is John Blair House Report, Block 22 Building 5 Lot 36 Originally entitled:
“John Blair House Colonial Lot 36 Block 22,” Mary A. Stephenson, 1963, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series—1493, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1990.

posted May 22nd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Blair, Anne,Blair, Sr., John,Braxton, Mary Blair,Staines, Ona "Oney" Judge,Virginia,Washington, Martha

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