Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010!

Dear all,

Just a note to let you know that I'm still here, and still researching. Other projects have surfaced in my life, but I still have a special place in my heart for this project! One of my resolutions for 2011 is to uncover more about the family, and maybe even get to building that new website that I've been yammering about. If you have any comments or questions, please email me, as always! Warmest wishes to everyone in this holiday season!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Ugh. The dreaded day has finally come. Google Pages has turned into Google Sites...and I now have a huge amount of work to do in regards to formatting. My favorite part of web development - aside from the chance to make all of this information available to whoever is interested in it - is making my pages pretty and pleasing to the eye, and unfortunately the switch has undone a lot of the hard work I put into the aesthetic part of things. Please forgive any strange formatting over the next few months but I just haven't the heart to spend a great deal of time fixing it up since I'm planning to make a brand new website anyway.

Ugh again.

This is yet another sign that I really need to put together my own website, where I will have total control of everything. Thanks to all who have offered to help. I'm so excited about the possibilities that are opening up. I'll keep you posted in the coming months.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Exciting news!

I mentioned in my last entry that I have some exciting news about this project. Well, enough time has passed that I feel I can let the cat out of the bag...

I have hundreds more letters to add to my collection!

I have been in contact with Barbara Loftus, Carroll's grand-niece (Mary's granddaughter), and she very kindly loaned to me several boxes full of her family's papers to sort, scan, and transcribe. I admit I may be biased, but I feel that her collection is one of great historical importance to Minnesota, and I can't wait to share it with you.

Some highlights of the collection -

- All of the letters Carroll sent Ellen after being drafted in WWII
- Letters Ellen sent her parents while teaching school in the teens
- The Simmons kids' report cards, including Carroll's
- Many drafts of letters that Nellie wrote and never got a chance to finish, describing life at Cloverly
- Letters to Fanny Pringle, Nellie's mother, and Florence Simmons, Frank's mother, discussing life in the 1860s and 1870s
- Hair belonging to Frank; Nellie; Nellie's sister, Mary; and Florence (Frank and Nellie's baby who died at eighteen months)
- And so much more.

(I feel like I'm starring in an infomercial here. "Order now, and we'll throw in a vintage marriage license from 1886!")

I've been looking over the papers for the past week. I have now arrived at the question -

How do I best "preserve and interpret" this rich mine of information? And more important still, how do I use modern technology to share it with those who are interested? I am blessed to be in a unique position: I have access to a huge family archive - an historically important family's archive, besides - that stretches over a hundred and fifty years. That's lucky in and of itself, but on top of that, I don't need to follow any guidelines or historical society protocol or what have you, as most researchers have to do. I have the chance make my own rules, my own standards, and come up with my own ideas how this information can be shared. This is an opportunity that a university professor would drool over, let alone a nerdy twenty-year-old girl with nothing but a high school degree. I am so blessed. It is an opportunity that I really hope to grasp and make the most of.

Consequently I am thinking of hosting and creating my own website from scratch so that I can have more control over the design, the layout, and the content. There are some ideas kicking around in my head that I don't think Googlepages - as nice as it has been to have when there were only about fifty letters to share - can accommodate. Yes, I realize building a website showcasing hundreds and hundreds of pages of letters is a tall order for someone who only had a semester of web design class several years ago in high school. But if building my own website is the best way to preserve, interpret, and share this information...then that's what I'm going to try to do. The historical value of these papers is due nothing less. In other words: if I'm going to do it, I might as well do it well.

I'll close with a quote from a letter that Carroll wrote to Ellen from New York in March 1943 -

I left Wed by bus for Geneva...back by way of Le Roy - to see Mrs. Spinner - she told me of an old house being broken up - so I hiked out to it - and spent four hours rummaging in attics, sheds, barns, etc... It was the most fun I have had in months -

I was lucky enough to have my own antiques loaned to me, but, like Carroll, this is surely "the most fun I have had in months."

I'll keep you all posted. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Note about Benjamin Pringle's letter

There have often been times during this project when I've read a sentence from a letter and gone "hmm, that doesn't quite make sense." More often than not I stumble upon the answer while I'm not looking for it. Such an "a-ha" moment happened earlier this week when I was reading the excellent book Crazy Quilts by Cindy Brick (which, incidentally, features many Victorian quilts from the Minnesota Historical Society). The book discusses not only Victorian quilts, but the culture that gave rise to them. Here's an excerpt on Victorian children from page 56:

Children were some of the Victorian age's greatest joys, but also its sorrows. Children in the nineteenth century were subject to cholera, typhoid, smallpox, measles, mumps, and other disease that today are preventable... At least one of every four children died. (Miscarriages only increased this figure.)

It was not uncommon to wait days, weeks, or even months before naming babies, to see first if they would survive. Pincushions with "Welcome, Little Stranger" spelled out in pins were a popular new-baby gift.

As soon as I read this I immediately thought of this letter from Judge Benjamin Pringle to his son George. He was replying to a letter that was written on November 9th, 1863; Nellie, his granddaughter, had been born on October 19, 1863. In the letter he wrote: "I am right glad to have a granddaughter and I congratulate you and Fannie on the happy event and pray that the little one may have health and happiness and be so well brought up as to do good in her generation and be an honor to her parents. By the next mail I shall expect to learn her name [italics mine] and that she has been baptised, and in the future I shall expect to learn that she is being instructed in all that was promised at her baptism." When I read that for the first time, I was a bit puzzled. George didn't send along his own daughter's name? Did he not care? That seemed inconceivable. But when I read this book, it all made sense. It all seems a bit surreal to me. I'm at an age now where my friends are starting to get engaged and get married and have families, and those who are pregnant have been absolutely relishing the chance to pick out names. We're so blessed to live in a time when we have that luxury.

* * *

Since my last post, I've gotten some great news about the whole Pringle-Simmons project. But since the details are still being worked out, I'm not going to say anything more until I have more information. Suffice it to say though that this website is likely to get a lot bigger before the end of the year! Details in my next blog post.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September musings

It's amazing how the time flies by, isn't it? Hard to believe my last post here was in February.

I don't have much new to share. I just wanted to check in and assure everybody that I'm still here. Over the past year or so, I have gotten some questions about whether I'm still interested in the Pringle and the Simmons families. Of course the answer remains a resounding yes! The project has been going for about nine years now - almost half my life - and once you've been doing something like this for that long, it's tough to stop. Actually, when personal circumstances allow, I hope to move to Hastings or someplace nearby - and stay there for a very very long time. I feel sorry that it hasn't worked out yet, but I'm sure you all can relate to the fact that sometimes life throws us circumstances that we don't have as much control over as we'd like. But obviously the fact that I'm even considering moving is a testament to how the whole researching experience has shaped the course of my life in a rather dramatic way. I can't imagine myself ever quitting. I'm reminded of a quote of Carroll's that I decided to put on the home page of this website - "There is a feel about this town...once you have it, the thing is in your blood." He said it much better than I ever could.

I have two tidbits of news to share. I've been reading Larry Millett's book The AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, which is a really invaluable contribution to the history of architecture in the Twin Cities. I found an entry devoted to some surviving Victorian rowhouses from 1886 from the 1200 block of Hawthorne Avenue; as you'll remember, in these three letters, Nellie was visiting residents of the 1000 block. The neighborhood was apparently quite upscale, which lends credence to the idea that Nellie's reference to Mary Hill was a reference to the Mary Hill, the wife of J. J. Hill, the (in?)famous Empire Builder. I also was able to read a little bit about Crocus Place, which is the street where Margaret Dunlop, Carroll's wife, grew up on. Apparently the houses there were originally numbered in the order they were constructed, rather than the order they came on the street. This obviously made for some confusion and the street was renumbered later on. The house that her parents lived in during the 1930 census (917 Goodrich Avenue) is actually listed in the guide. I'm hoping to get up to St. Paul to look at some of the houses in the neighborhood that have connections to the family. When I do, I promise to take lots of pictures.

This weekend (September 26) is the LeDuc-Simmons Country Market on the grounds of the LeDuc. It promises to be a fun event. I'll be there with Cloverly Images merchandise - my original digital photography, as well as some reproduction prints and notecards. I usually have a poster board with information about Carroll on it but it looks like it might rain or drizzle and so I'll probably not bring that out this time.

I saw today that the LeDuc estate is looking for a new site manager. If circumstances were a little different, and I was a little older, I would definitely think about applying! But since I can't, I want to help get the word out. If you are qualified or interested, or if anybody you know is, please contact the Dakota County Historical Society for more information about the position. Such a glorious house with such a glorious history deserves a caretaker who will love it as much as Carroll did. I look forward to meeting whoever gets the job.

As for what comes next for the website and for the project in general, I'm honestly not sure! But since the whole thing has kind of taken on a life of its own, I'm confident it will continue to evolve and grow. Once again, anyone who knows anything about the Pringle or the Simmons families is totally welcome to contact me. I would love to hear your advice, opinions, or memories, as always.

- Emily

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Just a mid-winter check-in

Just a short note to let you know that I'm still here. Winter is always an "off-season" when it comes to researching the Pringle and Simmons families, since the LeDuc is closed in the winter and it is hard to travel to Hastings in the snow. However, I am still available if you have any comments or questions, so feel free to email me!

One little bit of news is that I have begun to sell some of my photography along with some vintage reproductions and even some digital collages inspired by vintage designs. Since I first became interested in vintage papers when I started researching Frank and Nellie and their family, I named my little venture after their farm: Cloverly Images. I know that many people who have checked this website are also interested in Victorian ephemera, so perhaps you might be interested in checking out my website.

Best wishes to all. It will be spring before we know it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Auspicious anniversaries!

While cleaning up the house today I came across some papers that I acquired in July in Hastings. I put some of them up here for the convenience of anyone who is interested in reading them.

An obituary of Martha Delano, also known as Cousin Mat.

Historic LeDuc Simmons Estate brochure.

Hazel Jacobsen's Tour Guide of the LeDuc House.

"From Here to Antiquity," an article about Carroll from a 1985 Mpls / St. Paul Magazine.

There may be more coming; I still need to sort through my archive. So stay tuned.

A fun, if somewhat random, note: 130 years ago today, President Hayes came to visit Hastings. One of Nellie's aunts was involved in planning the reception for the President at the LeDuc house. (No pressure there!) Carroll kept a framed 1878 newspaper article detailing Hayes's visit in the LeDuc for many years.

An equally noteworthy event: exactly one year ago today, this website went live! *insert wink here* Thanks to everyone who has visited it over the past year. There's one snafu in the foreseeable future: Google Pages is turning into Google Sites later this year, and although the site should stay live through it all, the address to it will probably change. Sigh. I'll let you know on this blog when/if it does.

On Saturday September 27th I'm going to be at the LeDuc House for the Second Annual LeDuc-Simmons Country Market. Like last year I'll be bringing my Carroll Simmons informational board, but this time I'll also be a vendor. I'll be selling notecards and prints of my digital photography, as well reproductions of some Victorian postcards. (Finally, proof that I do have other non-Hastings related hobbies!)

As always, thanks for taking the time to visit this site. Let me know if you find any errors. See you in September!