It was a beautiful Missouri Spring day in April 1810. Catherine Rose Jessup, 23, known in the Jefferson City, Missouri settlement as both Mrs. Jessup and Widow Jessup, went into the barn to saddle up Bessie, her beloved mare, for a ride into town to pick up some materials she needed for her sewing.
She'd run out of lace after making ruffles for the sleeves of her new dress and needed more for the towels she was making as a wedding gift for her best friend Lila. She hooked Bessie up to the family's wagon cart as she was taking her younger brothers and sister into town.
She loved getting them little treats when they went with her, usually buying them some candy and a new doll for her sister. Mary was six and adored dolls, something Catherine had enjoyed when she was Mary's age.
Matthew, her 17-year-old brother, was coming with as well, since she was picking up some sacks of flour and sugar for her mother. Usually he stayed home and helped their father in the field, but decided he wanted to go to town instead, showing off his muscles by loading up the cart for Catherine.
Catherine joked with her mother and father that she thought he had a certain young lady in town he was sweet on.
"I confess I am sure he's set his cap at Miss Penelope Livingston, and she has done the same with our Matthew!", she'd said one night to her parents, smiling.
"I suppose I should enquire after her favorite color and flowers so I can start their wedding present. Pray, do you think they shall be betrothed by early June?"
Catherine loved doing needlework, as well as crocheting and tatting. She regularly made hand-sewn gifts for her friends and family.
That, along with helping her parents out with chores and various errands, kept her mind off her loneliness since losing her beloved Wallace the previous Summer, then losing their unborn child 2 days later from the shock of seeing Wallace shot dead right in front of her.
"Alright everybody!", she called to her siblings. "Let us away! Do climb in the cart and off we shall go!" The children all climbed in the wagon, with Matthew sitting beside her as she said,
"Off we go, Bessie!" before driving the wagon cart to town. She and Matthew chatted about Miss Penelope, his favorite topic.
Along the way, while he was singing a song with the younger children, Catherine's mind drifted back to when the family had left Williamsburg, Virginia in 1803. Despite being an old established Virginia family that had been in the Commonwealth for over 150 years, they had journeyed to become settlers of the Territory of Missouri, which had been part of the recent Louisiana Purchase just a few months prior.
Catherine had been 16 and her father had let her drive their covered wagon for a full day since she was the oldest. Her two siblings from her father's first marriage, Patrick and Elizabeth, had stayed behind in Williamsburg with their spouses. She had thoroughly enjoyed driving the covered wagon that day.
Her mind drifted back to the present when Mary asked her if she would make her dolls a nice doll-sized quilt.
"Of course I shall, Mary! Pray, what color would you like it to be?" Eventually Mary decided she'd like a nice green quilt for her dolls, a nice dark forest green that was the shade of green that matched Catherine's favorite outer petticoat.
"An exceeding agreeable choice, Mary!", she exclaimed, turning to the child with a broad smile and giving her a wink.
"I do believe I have just enough material from making my petticoat to make your dolls a beautiful quilt!" Mary beamed with sheer joy and excitement. "I shall make it this evening after supper.", Catherine continued, "and shall present it to you on the morrow when you arise. Would you like to help me with making it?"
The little girl squealed with glee. "Oh Catherine! I would love to! Mother and Father shall be so proud with how helpful I shall be to you! Matthew, pray, would you be able to build my dolls a bigger bed?"
"It shall be an honor, milady!", he replied, smiling and making a quick chivalrous bow towards her, sending Mary into a fit of giggles.
"Jonas, Arthur?", Catherine said to her two other brothers, "What would you like for a treat in town?"
"We would like some candy and maybe something for fishing.", Jonas, age 8, said.
"Oh yes, the river and streams should be exceeding perfect for fishing soon!", Arthur, age ten, replied, then continued. "I can almost taste the trout!"
"Trout sounds most delicious, especially after the hard Winter we have had.", Catherine agreed. "Perhaps we shall find some rabbits for stew as well."
"MMMM...!" everyone said. The whole family loved rabbit stew and were excited about having a change from the venison and bear stews they'd had most of the Winter.
They'd occasionally had beef, pork or chicken, but mostly depended on venison and bear meat to get the family through the cold Missouri winters.
"As long as 'tis not squirrel, Catherine will be most happy!", Matthew said laughing. She did not like squirrel meat at all. She'd eat it if that was what was being served, but it was absolutely not her favorite thing to eat.
She was not much of a picky eater, but avoided eating squirrel if possible.
"Here we are!", she exclaimed as she stopped Bessie in front of the General Store. "Matthew, please take the boys and get the flour and sugar Mother requested. Two large sacks each, please.", Catherine said as she handed him some money for the purchase.
"Here is abit extra for you to buy yourself and the boys some candy and the fishing supplies they'd like. Oh, do be sure to stop and buy your Miss Penelope some flowers.", she said, smiling.
"Young ladies love flowers from their gentleman callers, you know!" Matthew blushed, but appreciated his big sister's advice.
"I shall most definitely do so, Catherine! Thank you most kindly for the suggestion! Boys, let us away!", he said as the three Stonebridge brothers went to run their errands.
"Alright Mary," Catherine said, "let us ladies go shopping, shall we?" as she took Mary's hand in hers before heading to the millinery.
"Good morning, Mrs. Jessup and Miss Mary!", Mrs. Porter, the shopkeeper said. "How may I help you two ladies this morning?"
Mrs. Porter was a friendly woman who, like Catherine, had been widowed at a young age. A year or so later she'd met her current husband, whom she'd been married to for 14 years.
They owned both the millinery and the General Store. Mr. Porter's children from a previous marriage were grown and lived in New Orleans, a good 10-day journey by horse and covered wagon.
Mrs. Porter, like Catherine, was originally from an old Virginia family and had the same formal manners they were both raised with, something some of the newer settlers didn't have.
They still also spoke with the same distinctive Williamsburg dialect and Virginia accent.
She and Catherine both curtsied deeply to each other. "Hello Mrs. Porter! How does your family?", Catherine asked.
"They do very well, thank you!", Mrs. Porter replied. "Benjamin's wife Polly is with child and plans on having her mother there with them for her confinement.
"How does your family? I hear your brother Matthew has set his cap at Miss Livingston."
Catherine replied, "Oh a baby! What wonderful news! Yes it most assuredly seems Matthew has set his cap at Miss Penelope Livingston!
"My family does well. Thank you ever so much for asking. Pray, has any of that material or lace I ordered arrived?"
Mrs. Porter said, "I was hoping it would arrive last night, but the stage must have run into something along the way. I do hope they haven't lamed one of their horses.
“Hopefully it should be here later this evening or by late morning. Is there anything else I can interest you in since it has not arrived yet?"
"Well,", said Catherine, "I could use some muslin if you have some. I need to make some caps, shifts and dressing gowns."
Mrs. Porter replied, "Now that I do have! Pray, how much would you like?"
Catherine answered, "I could use eight yards if you have that much please."
"I most assuredly do!", Mrs. Porter said as she proceeded to cut the fabric.
"Thank you ever so much, Mrs. Porter!", Catherine said as she handed her the money to pay her bill. The ladies, and Mary, curtsied to each other.
"Have an exceeding agreeable day, Mrs. Porter!", the sisters said with a wave as they turned to leave.
"I shall! You ladies do the same!", Mrs. Porter said, waving back.
Once outside, the sisters met up with their brothers.
"We shall be ready momentarily", she said. "We have just two more quick stops to make. Would you care to join us or would you prefer to stay here with the wagon?"
"We shall stay here, if that is alright with you Catherine.", Matthew said.
"That will be fine.", she replied. After trips to buy Mary a new doll and some candy, plus an apple for a quick snack for Bessie and some apples and venison jerky for herself and her siblings, Catherine and Mary arrived back at the wagon cart.
"Are we all set to head back home?", Catherine asked before giving Bessie her treat.
“Yes, we are!", they said.
"Alright then. Let us away!" she said after they'd all climbed into the wagon and Bessie had finished her apple. "A quick trip to the trough for some cool water for you, then 'tis time to head home, Bessie!"
Later that evening, after the family had enjoyed a delicious meal of venison stew and crusty bread, Catherine sat sewing Mary's doll quilt.
Mr. and Mrs. Stonebridge, Catherine's parents, along with their other children, sat in the main room of their cabin.
Mr. Stonebridge was reading while Mrs. Stonebridge sat doing her embroidery. Dozens of candles filled their home with soft light to read and sew by.
Mary gleefully helped Catherine with cutting the blocks for her dolls' quilt as Catherine started sewing the pieces together before lining the inside of the quilt.
Soon it was time for Mary and the younger boys to head to bed. Catherine promised her the quilt would be ready by morning.
Eventually Matthew decided he was tired and, after giving his parents and Catherine a hug goodnight, went off to his room. The Stonebridges looked at their daughter as she lovingly worked on the blocks for Mary's quilt.
They'd worried about her after she was widowed so young, barely a year after marrying Wallace, and were relieved when she'd moved back home with them two months after he died.
They appreciated her help around the house, especially since she could have stayed living on her own, and they made sure to give her the freedom she had as a married woman to come and go as she pleased, and to live her own life as much as possible.
Catherine was grateful her parents allowed her such freedom, and made sure never to take advantage of their kindness in that matter.
"Mother and Father,", Catherine said, "Mrs. Porter did not have my material and lace in when I was in town this morning, but they should be in on the morrow. I am thinking about having a relaxing lunch in a field and doing some sewing before heading into town to get the items. Is there anything you would like me to sew or pick up for you?"
Mr. Stonebridge replied, "Pray, would you pick up some bullets for my gun, Catherine dearest? With rattlers coming out soon I should like to be prepared."
"Of course, Father! They shall be the first things I buy!", she replied with a smile.
"Would you be able to darn the boys' socks for me when you have time, dear?", Mrs. Stonebridge asked. "The morrow is laundry day and I am not sure if I shall have time to do so."
"Of course, Mother!", Catherine replied. "If 'tis not too late when I finish Mary's quilt I shall darn them for you right away."
Her mother said, "Thank you ever so kindly dear!"
The next morning, true to her word, Catherine presented Mary with the quilt for her dolls. "Thank you SO much, Catherine!", Mary exclaimed gleefully as she hugged her big sister and gave her a big kiss on her cheek.
"You are so very welcome, Mary!", Catherine replied, returning the hug and giving her sister a big kiss on the cheek as well.
She'd also finished darning the socks before going to bed and handed them to her mother.
After breakfast, Catherine milked the cows and collected eggs from the chickens, bringing the eggs to her mother and then churning some butter. She loved churning butter, enjoying the exercise it gave her.
When finished, she collected her purse, sewing basket, a blanket, dive apples she'd bought the day before, her purse, a paring knife and her gun, and said,
"Mother, 'tis very fine out. If you do not mind I think I shall take Bessie out for a ride to a field nearby to have a picnic lunch and do some sewing. Afterwards I shall head into town to pick up Father's bullets and the material and lace I ordered."
"Alright dear. Have a good, enjoyable lunch! I shall see you when you get home.", her mother said, giving her oldest daughter a hug and kiss on the cheek before continuing. "I love you, Catherine!"
"I love you too, Mother!", Catherine replied with a hug and kiss on the cheek in return.
"Good morning Bessie dearest! How are you this fine morning?", Catherine said to her mare, giving her a hug and kiss. "Pray, what do you think about going to a nice field for lunch before heading into town?"
Bessie shook her head as Catherine nuzzled her, cuddling her horse and giving her a relaxing brushing. "There", she said, smiling and hugging Bessie once again.
"Now you look extra beautiful for all the handsome male horses!" She saddled Bessie up, putting her arm through her sewing basket handle, and off she and Bessie went.
When they got to the field Catherine had chosen for her picnic, she dismounted Bessie and, going into her sewing basket, pulled out an apple, a surprise treat she'd brought for her.
After making sure Bessie was under a nearby tree in the shade, Catherine pulled the blanket out of her basket, spread it on the ground under the shade of a tree, and sat down on it.
Keeping her bonnet on because of the sun, she leaned her head back against the tree and relaxed.
"Is there no greater felicity in the world than a picnic under a tree on such an exceeding fine day?" she asked aloud to no-one.
The temperature was still abit chilly out since it was mid-April in Missouri. She was grateful she had her wool socks and an extra petticoat on underneath her dress along with her long cloak.
She got her gun out of her apron and laid it alongside her on the left since she was left-handed.
'Better safe than sorry in case any rattlers come out', she thought to herself. She was a very good shot, and could kill a rattler from 20 or more yards away with one shot right between the eyes. She'd done just that a few days earlier while out in the wagon with her mother.
Wallace had bought her the gun shortly after they married so that she'd have some protection when he was in town at his shop. Wallace was a smithy, a blacksmith, and would sometimes work late. He'd also made her an axe and she kept it, along with other mementos from him, in her sewing basket and purse.
After getting her paring knife out of her purse, she sliced the other apples she'd brought for her lunch, savoring them as she ate them.
When she finished her lunch, she put the paring knife into the pocket of her apron. She then got her embroidery out.
She was determined to finish Lila's wedding gift as soon as possible, since Lila had hinted she and her fiance were going to elope with a "spousal", also known as a spousal contract, very soon instead of waiting until their wedding date in a few months.
Catherine and Wallace had done a spousal when they'd married as well, as had her parents. It was a very convenient option for couples who wanted to get married right away, as happened quite often both in the Territory of Missouri as well as in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the States.
As she sat stitching, she stretched out her legs and wiggled her toes, her dress and petticoat reaching just below her ankles. She concentrated on her sewing, occasionally glancing over to her left to check on Bessie.
As she stuck her needle in the fabric to make a stitch, all of a sudden she felt very lightheaded and nauseous. She looked up from her sewing, her needle still in the fabric, and held on tight to her sewing kit, turning her head slowly and glancing towards Bessie.
Despite being lightheaded, after looking at Bessie she kept her eyes open as she slowly turned her head from left to right, trying to figure out what was happening.
As she turned her head, she saw Bessie and the field she was in with the sun shining down on her. Then as she slowly turned her head to the right, within a split second she was in a stark hallway with curious-looking sconces on the walls with light that came out of them.
She'd seen the field change right in front of her eyes from a field to this strange hallway which had no windows but, somehow, had plenty of light, despite the fact that the sun wasn't shining into the hallway. The blanket she'd been sitting on was there along with her sewing basket and gun.
Bessie, however, was nowhere to be found. There was no longer any soft grass. In its place was a cold hard floor. There was no sun, only those odd-looking sconces that somehow provided light in what should have been a dark room.
There was also a curious-looking section of wall along the wall to her left. It looked different than sections of the other walls. She wasn't sure why, but it definitely looked different than the others.
"Bessie", she called. "Where are you, dearest?" Catherine took the needle out of her embroidery, packed it up and put it, along with her blanket, in her sewing basket.
Getting her purse out of the basket, she put her gun in her apron pocket and walked along the hallway, looking at the sconces and calling for Bessie.
When she got near the strange-looking wall, she reached out to touch it.
Immediately it slid open, revealing itself to be a door.
Catherine screamed in terror, jumping back and pulling her gun out. Slowly, turning around as she did so, she went through this strange wall that was a door, her gun at the ready.
She looked around and saw she was in another hallway with no windows for the sun to come in but, just like the previous hallway, more sconces that somehow provided light.
"Where am I?", she said aloud to herself. "What is going on? Am I dreaming? What IS this strange place?"
She screamed as she heard a loud voice say, "All pilots to their fighter ships for training sequence. All pilots to their fighter ships for training sequence."
"I have to find my way out of here, wherever this is, and get back home!", Catherine said aloud. "Am I dreaming? Where am I? I need to get home! I need to get HOME!”
Merci pour la lecture!