My great-great-grandmother Cornelia Andrews Hall was a stern woman. At least that’s the way I always pictured her. A portrait that used to hang in the living room of the farmhouse is said to be of her. She has a serious and tired countenance, and she wears a brooch containing a lock of an ancestor’s hair.
Five years before she died she tried to evict my great-grandfather William E. Hall from the farm. Her husband Salmon had been dead for thirteen years, and it would be five more years before her own death. William wrote a comment on the eviction notice that says “Thirteen years of pleasure – five years of hell.” Something went amiss between Cornelia and her son William to cause this rift. I’ve never been able to find out what it was or if my great-grandparents actually had to leave the farm for awhile. It’s another mystery waiting to be solved.
Until last fall I didn’t know much else about Cornelia. But after my cousin Ellen sent me a photo of Cornelia’s childhood home in Sheffield, Massachusetts, and I was doing research about that homestead, I stumbled upon a letter Cornelia had written home to her family in the third month of her marriage to my great-great-grandfather, Salmon Hall:
Wallingford, August 12, 1832
It has been three months since I left you. I enjoy good health and am perfectly contented with my new situation, and much pleased with my new neighbor. I should like to have brother Dwight with me. He would find enough here to amuse him. He could pick whortle berries and go to school, drive my cow and feed my chickens. Last Monday we went to the sea. We had a very pleasant time and I enjoyed myself very much. We sailed to Kids Island and took a pleasant walk. I went in the water over my head. Mr. Hall gave me my choice to go to Sheffield or the sea. I hope my friends will not forget me. We have long waited for a line from you but have not received any. Mr. Hall says he shall not write anymore unless you write to us. I hope you will come and visit us this fall. I shall expect a visit from grandpa and grandma this season and I hope they will not disappoint me. Give my love to all inquiring friends and tell them I have not seen one homesick moment yet. Tell Brothers and Sister to write to me.
Good evening parents – This is from your daughter C.T. Hall & S. Hall
Her home in Sheffield was a stately-looking place. A photo of it hangs in my cousins’ cottage in Madison, Connecticut, but until last fall I didn’t realize it was the Andrews Homestead. The fact that she chose not to go back home for her outing, but to have an adventure at the sea gives me a younger and more lively picture of her.
Nearly one hundred years after Cornelia wrote this letter, her granddaughter, Ellen Hall Norton, bought a cottage near Circle Beach in Madison, Connecticut. A copy of the above photograph of the Andrews Homestead hangs on the cottage’s living room wall. Later this summer I’ll write about the cottage – a place loved and often visited by our family. I’m glad that Cornelia “chose the sea,” and glad that my aunt Ellen did the same. My aunts and uncles and cousins have generously shared their cottage with me, and I’ve enjoyed painting the views into and out of its windows and doors. When Cornelia went to the sea for an outing it must have been a welcome respite from the busy life of the farm. Our family on the farm always kept a close connection to the sea – a connection I try to continue through my paintings.
On Wednesday: July Window