Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Merry Christmas, Sad New Year

Today we pick up where we left off, shortly after the birth of Sarah Eva Howe's little sister, Leonora. This Christmas, with a newborn in the house and Mama still "in her confinement" and unable to do her usual decorating, baking, and entertaining, is not as festive as usual. Papa takes the role of "Santa" as best he can – and makes Christmas 1896 one of the most memorable for his daughter Sarah. The New Year brings a loss – and stirs suspicion about some shady financial dealings within the family.
For those who are using this site for research, I have inserted explanations in brackets plus a few end notes to help define Sarah's references to various relatives. Throughout the transcription, I consistently use "Grandfather" for Sarah's maternal great-grandfather David Arnet, and "Grandpa" for Sarah's maternal grandfather Richard Henry Cost – even though Sarah tended to use those terms interchangeably.

Christmas 1896 came while Mama was still in bed, and therefore was not as gay as usual – no tree, but Papa filled my stocking, and as he couldn’t find the clean ones, after I went to bed, and didn’t want to wake Mama, he took one of the long black fleece-lined stocking I had taken off when I went to bed, and being a fastidious person, he wrapped up every piece of candy or fruit, even the nuts, he put in it! We had a good laugh together over it in the morning, and it is safe to say, that is one stocking I have never forgotten! (I didn’t hang one up, as I hadn’t expected “Santa Claus” to fill it, with Mama in bed.)

This was the Christmas Papa gave me the Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico and Conquest of Peru; on a previous Christmas 1894, I think, Grandma Cost [Sarah Evaline Arnet, wife of Richard Henry Cost] had sent me John North in Mexico (as related in the other book) by “Fred A. Ober” who turned out to be a learned professor at Yale or thereabouts, I learned afterwards, so the information was authentic. I hadn’t read it for awhile, but when I finally got around to it, I became such an enthusiast on the archaeology and folklore of Mexico as set forth in the book – and then, on my birthday, 1896, she sent me The Fair God by Lew Wallace. No, I am wrong – this was in 1897 and it was Christmas 1897 Papa gave me the Conquests. I have just remembered after writing the above, and will tell later what reminded me. Papa always loved to bring things from New York to put away for Christmas, especially books, and I get a little confused remembering just which year he brought which books.

David Arnet, c1806 - 1897

Early in 1897 Grandfather Arnet [1]  died at his home on Baymiller Street, Cincinnati, nearly 92 years old. Grandma Arnet [2] had died in ’92 or ’93 (and after that Grandfather was very lonely and easily deceived by his grandson Ezra Cross, Mama’s cousin (Aunt Mary's [3] son) who lived with him, managed his business (with considerable profit to himself – no one ever knew just how much money he got away with). Grandma Cost’s [4] family asked to have a guardian appointed in 1895, and the court put in Mr. Hunt, whose reputation was a trifle shady, and whom they suspected (tho couldn’t prove) was “in cahoots with Ez,” as I used to hear some of the family say.

But no one could do anything about it; and when [Grandfather Arnet] died, he left a house and $10,000 each to his two daughters [5], the surviving children. That there had been much more money before Ezra & Mr. Hunt’s regime no one doubted – in this way too Ezra’s mother got exactly the same as Grandma, tho she and her family had lived on Grandfather’s bounty rent free, for forty years at least, her husband being a nice man but “shiftless” while Grandpa Cost was proud . . .  and a “good provider” – wouldn’t even ask for an equal free rent tho he lived in one of Grandfather's houses. Grandma [6] decided to sell the house on Court Street which was left to her, and the family moved into Grandfather's home on Baymiller St. She and Aunt Mame divided the furniture left from that which was sold at auction, and Grandma got a very large bedroom suit, which [name unreadable] later sold to Blanche, a cousin. They paid rent for the Arnet home but they had been used to that and for the first time in years the family felt free & “well off."

And now, those explanatory notes I promised: 
  1. Sarah's maternal great-grandfather David Arnet
  2. Sarah's maternal great-grandmother Elizabeth Voris Arnet
  3. Mary Ann "Mame" Arnet, wife of John Cross, daughter of David and Elizabeth
  4. Sarah's maternal grandmother Evaline Arnet Cost, wife of Richard Henry Cost
  5. Sarah Evaline Arnet Cost and Mary "Mame" Arnet Cross
  6. Same as #4
Sarah, as you know, was an enthusiastic and voracious reader. In this post she mentions books she gladly received as Christmas gifts. The book John North in Mexico, subtitled A Story of the Silver City, was published in 1892 and apparently is now out of print. The book The Fair God was first published in 1873 and is still available in book stores and online.

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