It was a beautiful Delaware Spring day in April 1802. Albert Woodridge, 40, a widower with six children, went into the barn to saddle up Chester, his beloved horse for a ride into town to pick up materials he needed.
“I have to go into town to pick up bullets for my gun. With rattlers coming out soon I should like to be prepared. Better safe than sorry in case any rattlers come out.
”I also need other supplies.”, he told his children. He was a very good shot, and could kill a rattler from 20 or more yards away with one shot right between the eyes. He'd done just that a few days earlier while out in the wagon with Frederick.
He hooked Chester up to the family's wagon cart as he was taking his children into town.
He loved getting them little treats when they went with him, usually buying them some candy and a new doll for his two youngest daughters, plus material for his oldest daughter, an excellent seamstress.
Mary-Catherine was six and Rebecca was four. They adored dolls, something that Amelia, 15, Albert's oldest daughter, had enjoyed when she was their age. Beatrice was nine and loved reading. She loved dolls as well, but reading was her passion.
Matthew and Frederick, his 18 and 12 year old sons, were happy about going with as well. Albert was picking up some sacks of flour and sugar, and they liked to help their dad.
Spending time with his kids, along with doing chores and various errands, kept his mind off his loneliness since losing his beloved Annabel during childbirth four years earlier. He loved his children dearly and was a very hands-on father.
Albert rarely spanked them, instead preferring to explain things to them and use it as a teaching moment. He allowed them to be children, but insisted that they use proper manners at all times. He taught them to be proper ladies and gentlemen. As a father, he was well ahead of his time in parenting.
"Alright everybody!", he called to his kids. "Let us away! Climb in the cart and off we shall go!" The children all climbed in the wagon, with Matthew sitting beside him as he said,
"Off we go, Chester!" before driving the wagon cart to town. He and Matthew chatted about the knife he was making for Matthew.
Like all Delawareans, they spoke with the distinctive Delaware dialect and accent.
Albert was a burly, muscular, 6'5" gentle bear of a man. He had deep blue eyes, medium brown hair that was slightly longer than shoulder-length, a chestful of hair, and a neatly trimmed beard and mustache.
His mind drifted to memories of his wife until Mary-Catherine and Rebecca asked Chelsea if their dolls could have nice doll-sized quilts.
"Of course I shall! As long as Father says 'tis acceptable to buy material.
“Pray, what color would you like it to be?", Chelsea asked.
Eventually Mary-Catherine decided she'd like a nice green quilt for her dolls, a nice dark forest green that was the shade of green that matched Amelia's outer petticoat. Rebecca wanted green as well.
"An exceeding agreeable choice, girls! I shall make one for you as well, Beatriceif you would like.", she exclaimed.
”Thank you, Amelia.“, Beatrice replied. She was a painfully shy girl. She had been deeply affected by her mother's death and, in some ways, had never truly recovered.
"I do believe you have just enough material from making your petticoat to make the dolls beautiful quilts!", Albert replied, smiling broadly.
Mary-Catherine and Rebecca both beamed with sheer joy and excitement, as did Beatrice.
"I shall make them this evening after supper.", Amelia said, "and shall present them to you on the morrow when you arise. Would you like to help me with making it?"
The little girls squealed with glee. "Oh Catherine! We should love to! Father shall be so proud with how helpful we shall be to you! Father, pray, would you be able to build our dolls each a bigger bed?"
"It shall be an honor, Milady!", Albert replied, smiling, making a quick chivalrous bow towards them, sending all four girls, even Beatrice, into a fit of giggles.
"Boys, what should you like for a treat in town?", he asked.
"We should like some candy and perhaps something for fishing.", Frederick said.
"Oh yes, the river and streams should be exceeding perfect for fishing soon!", Matthew replied, then continued. "I can almost taste the trout!"
"Trout and bluegill sound most delicious, especially after the hard Winter we have had.", Albert agreed. "Perhaps we shall find some rabbits for stew as well."
"MMMM...!" everyone said. The whole family loved rabbit stew and were excited about having a change from the venison and bear stews they'd had most of the Winter.
They'd occasionally had beef, pork or chicken, but mostly depended on venison and bear meat to get the family through the cold winters.
"As long as 'tis not squirrel, Amelia will be most happy!", Matthew said, laughing. She did not like squirrel meat at all. She'd eat it if that was what was being served, but it was absolutely not her favorite thing to eat.
She was not much of a picky eater, but avoided eating squirrel if possible.
"Here we are!", Albert exclaimed as he stopped Chester in front of the General Store. "Matthew, please take Frederick and get the flour and sugar. Two large sacks each, please. Oh, and cornmeal. One large sack, please.", Albert said as he handed him some money for the purchase.
"Here is abit extra for you to buy yourselves candy and the fishing supplies you desire.", he said, smiling.
"Thank you, Father! Frederick, let us away!", Matthew said as the brothers went to run their errands.
"Alright ladies, let us go shopping, shall we?", Albert said as he took Rebecca's and Mary-Catherine's hands in his, with Amelia and Beatrice walking with them, before heading to the millinery.
"Good morning, Mr. Woodridge and Misses Amelia, Mary-Catherine, Beatrice, and little Miss Rebecca,”, Mrs. Porter, the shopkeeper said. "How may I help you ladies and gentleman this morning?"
Mrs. Porter was a friendly woman who'd been widowed at a young age. A year or so later she'd met her current husband, whom she'd been married to for 14 years.
They owned both the millinery and the General Store. Mr. Porter's children from a previous marriage were grown and lived in New Orleans, a good 21-day journey by horse and covered wagon.
She and the girls curtsied deeply to each other. Albert bowed a proper Delaware gentleman's bow.
"Hello Mrs. Porter! How does your family?", he asked.
"They do very well, thank you!", Mrs. Porter replied. "Benjamin's wife Polly is with child and plans on having her mother there with them for her confinement.
"How does your family?“
"Oh a baby! What wonderful news!
"My family does well. Thank you ever so much for asking. Pray, has any of that material or lace Amelia ordered arrived?"
Mrs. Porter said, "I was hoping it would arrive last night, but the stage must have run into something along the way. I do hope they have not lamed any of their horses.
“Hopefully it shall be here later this evening or by late morning. Is there anything else I can interest you in since it has not yet arrived?", she asked. Albert turned to Amelia.
"Well,", said Amelia, "Indeed I could use some muslin if you have some. I need to make caps, shifts and dressing gowns."
Mrs. Porter replied, "Now that I do have! Pray, how much would you like?"
Amelia answered, "I could use eight yards if you have that much please."
"I most assuredly do!", Mrs. Porter said as she proceeded to cut the fabric.
"Thank you ever so much, Mrs. Porter!", Amelia said as Albert handed her the money to pay her bill. Mrs. Palmer and the girls curtsied to each other, and Albert bowed.
"Have an exceeding agreeable day, Mrs. Porter!", Albert and his daughters said with a wave as they turned to leave.
"I shall! You ladies do the same! You too, Mr. Woodridge!", Mrs. Porter said as she waved back.
Once outside, they met up with the boys.
"We shall be ready momentarily.", he said. "We have just two more quick stops to make. Would you care to join us or would you prefer to stay here with the wagon?"
"We shall stay here, if that is alright with you, Father.", Matthew said.
"That will be fine.", he replied.
After trips to buy the girls each a new doll, some candy, an apple for a snack for Chester, and some apples and venison jerky for himself and the children, they arrived back at the wagon cart.
"Are we all set to head back home?", he asked before giving Chester his treat.
“Yes, we are!", they said.
"Alright then. Let us away!" he said after they'd all climbed into the wagon and Chester had finished his apple.
"A quick trip to the trough for some cool water for you, then 'tis time to head home, Chester!"
Later that evening, after the family had enjoyed a delicious meal of venison stew and crusty bread, Amelia sat sewing her sisters' doll quilts.
Albert, along with the children, sat in the main room of their cabin. Dozens of candles filled their home with soft light to read and sew by. Albert read the day's newspaper.
The girls gleefully helped Amelia with cutting the blocks for their doll quilts as she started sewing the pieces together before lining the inside of the quilts.
Soon it was time for Frederick and the younger girls to head to bed. Amelia promised them the quilts would be ready by morning.
"Amelia, would you be able to darn the boys' socks for me when you have time? I have a full day's worth of work in the shop tomorrow."
"Of course, Father!", she replied. "If 'tis not too late when I finish the girls' quilts
I shall darn them for you right away.”
After breakfast, Albert brought the older children to school, milked the cows, collected eggs from the chickens, then churned some butter.
He loved churning butter, enjoying the exercise it gave him. Rebecca sat on the bench next to him, playing with her new doll.
When finished, he collected his gun, gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek then, with Rebecca in tow, Albert headed out to the stable to groom Chester and the other horses.
Chester shook his head as Albert nuzzled him, cuddling his horse and giving him a relaxing brushing. "There", he said, smiling and hugging Chester once again.
"Now you look extra handsome for all the beautiful mares!"
He then got ready to head over to his shop. Albert was a smithy, a blacksmith. His shop was there on his homestead.
It had been in town but, after his wife died, Albert built a shop on his homestead so he could better take care of his children, especially his newborn daughter, the now four-year-old Rebecca.
She'd grown up in his shop. At four, she knew to stay away from several things, especially the forge, when he was working.
He'd had the tanner make her a leather apron she could wear over her dress when she was there with him. He lovingly called her his apprentice, even though ladies rarely became blacksmiths. It simply wasn't considered a ladylike field.
Albert didn't care, though. He enjoyed teaching her. His boys enjoyed learning the craft as well when they weren't in school.
Rebecca sat a few feet to his right, playing with her dolls. While he worked on an axe he was forging, he heard the door open. He looked towards the door and saw two people with their backs to them.
One person had brown hair styled in a ponytail, and wore what looked to Albert to be a one-piece pants and shirt. The material was shiny and metallic-looking, something he'd never seen before.
The other person was dressed the same way, but had short brown hair. They both wore black knee-high boots.
“Hello. Pray, excuse me. May I help you?”, he asked. Albert assumed they were traveling through the area and in need of something forged, despite the odd way they were dressed.
They turned around to face him. He immediately drew his pistol.
Merci pour la lecture!
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