Remembering 1838

Memory Monday

Let it be known that Martin Luther King Day (which is today) is my favourite Monday holiday. I even like it better than the Fourth of July. But I have nothing else to say about it, so I hereby acknowledge it, sincerely wish you a happy one, and am now going to talk about something else.

I have really early memories. I mean really early. But I’ll bet you didn’t know they go all the way back more than 130 years before I was born.

Back then, my name was Anna Russell.

Welcome, friends.

Welcome, friends.

I was the daughter of a Congregational minister. (These days, I’m the daughter of a Baptist one.)

Yo, 1830's Dad.

Yo, 1830’s Dad.

In 1838, I was 18, commuting to a nearby town each week and boarding with an older couple, so I could teach children in a one-room school. I would travel home, usually by wagon and the kindness of some passing tradesman on the weekends. While there, I would visit neighbours with my mother, knit, sew, draw and write. I joined the Ladies’ Charitable Society and many of my handcrafted clothing items were sent to mission efforts in wilder parts of America or sometimes even other parts of the world. I liked to take walks on my own or with a friend or two in the fields and paths of my small New England town.

We used to walk in the woods and pray. For reals.

We used to walk in the woods and pray. For reals.

I had two older brothers, one of whom had disappointed my father by taking a degree at Harvard, that somewhat newly Unitarian school. My parents and I were staunch Trinitarians and I was very serious about my faith. My other brother was a lawyer. We didn’t see either of them very often.

I was keeping a diary in those days, recording my hopes and dreams. There was a young man who had been paying attention to me, and I was intrigued by him, but also afraid, because I knew he did not share the same beliefs about God and the Bible that I did. I was contemplating joining a mission to the Indians (sorry–that’s what we called them in 1838) out west–like Ohio or something. This may have been because I genuinely wanted them to hear about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ–but it also might have been because I was afraid of my feelings for that young man.


Okay, not exactly, but kind of. This was my character when I worked at the Living History Museum in 2002. (They don’t role-play there anymore, but I’m sure glad I got to be there when they did.) The name, family and vocational details were all made up by others and assigned to me, and I made the most of it. How great is it when you want to spend your life talking to other people about Jesus, to get assigned to the one place in a secular job where you can talk about Jesus as much as you want? I made up the part about the guy, because there really was a guy working at the Museum at the time who seemed to be interested in me, but we truly didn’t share the same faith and he already had a girlfriend. But it was okay because I also really was going out West–as far as Denver, in fact–to get a degree at a seminary. Then I quit and started working at Starbucks instead, but that’s another story.

When the BroFam was here we visited the Museum together, and then I went back with two friends on New Year’s Day, and I am pretty sure that this means Anna Russell’s diary–completed and expanded–is going to be my next novel.

13 thoughts on “Remembering 1838

  1. Very creative. And Anna was quite the tomato, by standards of the era. I want an autographed copy of the novel.

    I’m pretty sure I was one of Poncho Villa’s henchmen in a past life. Or a really, really good chef.

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