Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
I took a break from Estrella's memoir but hope to finish it before too long though I have a ways to go:
School Days, Part 1:
"When the school term commenced I entered into an entirely new life. Even my name was changed. In New Jersey I had been called Charlie for Charlotte, now I was Essie from Estrella. I could not be Charlie in school and as Aunt Lottie was living with us they did not want another Lottie so Essie I became. I was now nearly nine years old but thanks to my Mother's teaching was able to enter a class of girls of my age. I was shy and nervous at first, but when I became used to the teachers and the school routine and friendly with the girls I was much interested and very ambitious to be perfect in my lessons and head of the class. Before long I succeeded in gaining that coveted position and keeping it most all the time. When I was sick and had to be absent I had to go to the foot and work up again. Unfortunately I was often sick. I had inflamed eyes and could not look at a book for quite awhile. I had the measles and the mumps and when about eleven years old the typhoid fever. I was very ill then and when I went back to school could only stay for half a day for some time until I was quite strong again. But in spite of these set-backs I obtained the prize one year, much to my surprise.
The school we attended numbered about 120 girls. This seems small compared with the big public schools of this time, but it was one of the largest girls schools in New York. The principal Rev. Henry P. Tappen was a man eminently suited for his position. He possessed a combination of dignity and kindliness that won the respect and love of all his pupils from the little girls in the primary to the young ladies preparing to graduate. The teachers were pleasant lady like women. I was happy there and very sorry when obliged to leave.
When the first summer vacation came our Grandmother decided to visit he daughter Emeline Mayer [daughter of Mary Green Smith and Jacob Coles Mott, Emeline Laura Mott was married to Frederick Mayer] and take Evy and me with her. Uncle Fred Mayer was the son of a Lutheran Minister living in Albany. Uncle Fred had recently taken a farm in Western New York and moved his family there. We went first to Saratoga, Uncle Thomas Smith, our Grandmother's brother and his wife accompanied us. We went on the Hudson river boat to Troy and then by train to the Springs. We stayed a week at the Family Hotel where people with children were received. I enjoyed myself very much, the other children were friendly and there was plenty of room in the large grounds for us to play but Evy was one of those unfortunate girls who grow up so young there does not seem to be any place for them. She was too tall to go with the children and too young, only thirteen, to associate with the ladies and I fear she did not find much pleasure in our visit to the Springs.
Uncle Thomas and his wife remained at Saratoga when we went on our travels further west. We took the cars to some place that I do not remember and from there the canal boats. Grandmother made a mistake and went on a freight boat instead of the one for passengers. A man on the wharf told her it was the wrong boat but she would not listen, she was always determined to have her own way. We had not gone far before she saw it was wrong. There were no accommodations for passengers. The little cabin was filled with bunks for the men. There was a small space at one end with a curtain across and some little bunks where we slept that night. When we went to supper we had to walk over the roof of the cabin and down some steps into a hot dingy place where a table was set. We had some yellow biscuits that tasted of soda and a black-berry pie. I do not remember what else, but the pie made me very ill that night so I had cause to remember it. The next day we left the boat at the first landing place and waited at a hotel for the regular passenger boat, which was much larger. It had a long cabin with tiers of berths down each side, three in a row. At meal times a long table was set down the middle of the cabin, when the dishes were taken away the boards were taken out and the table reduced to a smaller size. The only place to sit outside was on top of the cabin which had a railing round the edge and wooden benches. Sometimes we went under bridges, if the bridge was low a man called out Low Bridge and the people on the roof were obliged to throw themselves down on their faces to avoid being struck. Evy and I often sat on the roof and sometimes our Grandmother also, I thought it very funny to see everyone go down, even out dignified Grandmother.
There were quite a number of passengers on board. One night there were so many they could not all have berths. We had ours secured, mine was the upper one, I climbed into it and watched with interest and I fear amusement, the unlucky women who had to sleep on the floor. The poor chamber maid, who was quite young and pretty, brought all the pillows and blankets she could find but some of the women found fault and quarreled with each other. The men's end of the cabin was divided from ours by a heavy curtain, they could not see us but they could hear. One woman was scolding and talking very loudly when a man called out "Hello Sue, what's the row? take care you don't roll under the curtain." "