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|Abstract||Eliza Ann Marsh Robertson was born in Petit Anse Island (now Avery Island), Iberia Parish, La., to John Craig Marsh and Eliza Anne Baldwin Marsh. In May 1844, she married William Robertson (1819-1890), with whom she had ten children. She died in October 1878 in New Iberia, La. The collection is a diary/scrapbook (110 p.), 1849-1856, of Eliza Ann Marsh Robertson, apparently written at New Iberia, Iberia Parish, La., recording the daily life of a Louisiana gentlewoman. Robertson's brief though detailed daily entries document her participation in food production, clothing production, child care, and other household tasks, often noting which chores were performed by slaves and which she performed herself. Social activities are also described in detail, including arrivals and departures of guests, food served, the celebration of Christmas, games played, and events attended. Also included are six letters Robertson wrote in 1872 to her sister and her niece, and a page of recipes.|
|Creator||Robertson, Eliza Ann Marsh, d. 1878.|
|Curatorial Unit||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.|
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Eliza Ann Marsh Robertson was born in Petit Anse Island (now Avery Island), Iberia Parish, Louisiana, to John Craig Marsh, originally of Rahway, New Jersey, and Eliza Anne Baldwin. On 16 May 1844 she married William Robertson (1819-1890), an 1840 graduate of the United States Marine Academy. Eliza and William had ten children: Margaret (born and died 2 February 1845), Leila (1846-1930), Julius (1847-1889), William Kennedy (1849-1851), George Marsh (1851-1912), John Craig Marsh (1853-1903), Mary Avery (1855-1927), Helen (1857-1930), Sam Tate (1861-1867), and Katherine Baldwin (1864-1943). Eliza Robertson's family appears to have been involved in the sugar trade, although her husband's occupation is not surely known. She died in New Iberia, Louisiana, in October 1878.Back to Top
The collection consists of a 110-page volume, partly used as a scrapbook for newspaper clippings and partly as a diary, with a few other types of entries; a typed transcription of the diary entries; six letters; and a page of recipes.
The volume was used as a scrapbook and as a diary, with a few pages devoted to remedies and recipes, as follows:
Pages 1-18 scrapbook
Pages 18-23 remedies, and recipes for soap
Pages 24-27 scrapbook
Pages 28a-28c diary entries, Aug-Sept 1855
Pages 29-42 diary entries, Mar-May 1856
Pages 43-51 scrapbook
Pages 52-60 diary entries, Nov 1849-Jan 1850
Pages 61-105 diary entries, Nov 1854-July 1855
The scrapbook pages are covered with clippings from newspapers of poems, short stories, anecdotes, songs, remedies, and other material. Exceptions are pages 44 and 46 which carry poems, one headed "New Iberia June 25th 1843 To my Sister," and signed, "Margaret," and page 31 and 47 which carry drawings by others. It appears that some clippings were pasted over journal entries.
Diary entries, which are detailed, though fairly brief, document the daily routine of this Louisiana gentlewoman. Although little information regarding her husband or family's business interests can be found in the journal, entries indicate that the Robertson family retained a number of slaves.
Robertson described household activities in which she was involved; she was particularly thorough in her account of clothing production, describing the fabrics, patterns and processes involved as she produced and mended dresses, aprons, petticoats, pantaloons, shirts, nightgowns, shoes, and other articles of clothing for her children and servants, and for herself. Of special interest is the effect of the acquisition of a sewing machine on this work. Other tasks noted and described include the production of food, purchasing of goods, and even the making of toys for her children.
Robertson often made a distinction in her entries between work she herself performed and work she had done, providing some record of the chores performed by household servants. She noted a number of affectionate gestures toward her servants and her regard for them, as well as her frustration when illness or other circumstances limited their usefulness to her.
Robertson was equally detailed in her accounts of social affairs and visits. She noted the names of guests to the household, lengths of visits, dishes prepared for them, games played, lectures attended, authors and books read, etc. Of special interest are her descriptions of a family Christmas celebration and a celebration among African Americans at Eastertime.
When Robertson began her account on 21 November 1849, her husband was away. William Robertson appears to have travelled often, leaving Eliza home with the servants and children. Her father, John Marsh, was a frequent visitor, as was her brother Daniel. She corresponded with her sisters, Sarah and Margaret, who seem to have lived nearby.
After January 1850, there is a four year gap in entries, Robertson returning to her journal on 5 November 1854. During this interval her son William, two months old in November 1849, had died, as had her sister Margaret, while Eliza had given birth to two sons, George and Johnny. Entries continue to detail household activities and production.
There is some mention of Robertson's religious life as well; although an Episcopalian, she worshipped sporadically at the Methodist and Catholic churches until the arrival of an Episcopal Bishop, at which she expressed great joy.
Entries in 1855 indicate that William Robertson was a member of the " know nothings," and attended meetings of this secret society. Robertson also wrote of preparations for her new baby, primarily the making of baby clothes. Shortly after the birth of Mary Avery in July 1855, Robertson ceased to write in her journal, picking up her pen once again in March 1856. Her final entry is dated 26 May 1856.
Inserted in the diary were six letters, four dated 1872 from Eliza to, one of these to a sister and the other three to a niece, and two undated letters to a sister, probaby also from Eliza. Topics include items needed for Eliza's dining room, a Mardi Gras ball, and a fever epidemic, as well as family and local news. Included with the letters is a page of recipes for gold cake, pickle lilly, blackberry wine, lemon pudding, cocoa nut pudding, apple marmelade, and the curing of beef.Back to Top
Processed by: Marla Miller, October 1990
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008Back to Top