A Little Girl Sees the End – 1860 by Jim Surkamp

318 words

VIDEO: A Little Girl Sees The End – 1860 by Jim Surkamp TRT: 2:51

Mary “Minnie” Bedinger Mitchell

Mary or “Minnie” Bedinger was born in 1849 in Shepherdstown. The family sailed for Copenhagen, Denmark when President Franklin Pierce appointed her father, Henry, to be our first ambassador to Denmark.

When they were all reunited in 1859, her father tragically died of pneumonia after giving a prolonged political speech in front of the Entler (hotel). So, Mary returned to Willowbank, the home of her grandparents in Flushing, New York. The family had no slaves, but loved living in Shepherdstown. Nina Mitchell, her daughter who returned to Shepherdstown to live, reconstructed the memories of her mother. Mary wrote

I might be almost justified in saying that I began to live in the summer of 1860.

It is true that I was then already 10 years old and had passed quite an eventful life for so young a person. But, one day, in the August of that year, as we sat at the dinner table in the north room at Willowbank, I heard my grandfather say that the Union was about to be destroyed. There was to be no American Union in the future. His tone was very gloomy.

My grandmother began to cry.

and my own mother’s gentle face looked flush and distressed; and through my childish heart there shot such a pang of bewildered dismay as I could never describe: No United States? No world? No life? No anything? – as soon might the sun’s light be withdrawn.

I remember how I looked around the familiar room for comfort the dessert was on the table. Big melons that my grandfather was fond of raising in such perfection and that were certainly much appreciated by us youngsters. But that day, my slice went untasted and, in truth, I have never been able to see a watermelon cut at table without thinking of the extreme pain of that moment. But as children will, I kept my thoughts to myself. 318 words