In amongst the notes and letters and pictures that my mother has collected about the Patricks and the Brownlows, I found a copy of some reminiscences that Mary Birge wrote down. I don’t know when she wrote it. It came from a granddaughter of Mary’s brother,William Knox Patrick (5).
Her father is James Patrick (2). I haven’t written much about that line of the family yet. But will at some time. Mary’s reminiscences are of stories she heard of her grandparents and her parents before she was born. Her uncle William (1) and his family are mentioned.
You can read the entire reminiscences here. I broke up some of her very long paragraphs to help the reader and a couple paragraphs were re-arranged in chronological order. But otherwise, these are her words.
I once knew a lady here in St. Louis who told me that my grandparents stayed one night on their way to the ship at her mother’s home which was called High Top Farm. They settled in Pittsburgh where their oldest son, Hugh, was born December 24, 1806, and died February 6, 1807. Grandfather Patrick was a Master Mason and had the contract for the building of the Garrison at Pittsburgh…. My father, James Patrick, was born July 17, 1808, in a house opposite the Garrison which my father took me to see in 1869.
After my father married, he began having canal boats on the Ohio and Mississippi. He would take a load of coal or lumber down to New Orleans and return loaded with cotton and sugar. In 1844 my uncle William, Judge Warner and my father formed a partnership in the lumber business and Uncle William came to St. Louis to live and carry on the Business.
In 1849 there was a big fire took place in St. Louis which destroyed many steamboats. Also in 1849 there was a fearful epidemic of cholera in St. Louis. My father took his family to live on his boat, never allowing them to leave it even in port.
We had an Irish wet nurse who lived with us many years…. One Sunday morning when she was alone in the house with my brother and me, several Indians came in the front door, walked up the stairs to the attic and went to sleep.
My father had two sisters—Jane…. She lived with my Uncle William’s family and never married. She was one of the first women in St. Louis to volunteer as a nurse in the Civil War. She served on the Mississippi boats that brought up the wounded from the South. She contracted malaria while in the south and never recovered from it.
While we lived on Wash St., I remember seeing the hand fire engines—also remember some kind of riot. I remember the “Wide Awake Parades.” I also remember the colored bell men who used to go through the streets, ringing a big bell and calling out the description of lost children.
In the early 60s there was no bridge across the Mississippi. All the eastern trains started from East St. Louis. Large buses went around the city gathering up the passengers, they all met at the Planters House on Fourth St., then drove down to the Wiggins Ferry boats and so were carried across the river to East St. Louis.
It was my first railroad journey. I remember passing through Canada and how thrilled I was to see the red coated soldiers and be in a foreign country. I saw Niagara for the first time. On the way to Washington we stopped at Mount Joy, a place in Pa. where a cousin of mine was attending school. It was only a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg [July 1863]. The trains and all the hotels were filled with people returning from Gettysburg where they had been to assist with the care of the wounded and look for friends.
After moving to the country, I attended Mary Institute. I had to leave home early in the morning. Often I would hear the six o’clock church bells ringing as we went out our front gate. I would go to my Uncle William’s home on 17th and Washington Avenue, then wait until it was time to go to school.
The summer of 1867 I spent a few weeks at Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where I realized for the first time in my life what it meant to have the companionship of young people and have a good time. I was in the first St. Louis party that spent the summer at Oconomowoc which later became a very popular and fashionable summer resort.
A few weeks after I returned from Elmira College, I was invited by Mr. Nathan Cole, who was then Mayor of St. Louis to join a party he was taking to the Pacific Coast. My Uncle William and Cousin Eliza were in the party. We started about six weeks after the completion of the Union Pacific Railway. We had a very interesting experience as there were no station houses established—no hotels or eating houses—Indians still very much in evidence and the buffalo quite numerous.
The summer of 1871 I went with my father on a steam boat to St. Paul. I spent a month in Minneapolis as I was not very well. I stopped in Chicago on my way home, leaving there only a few days before the great Chicago Fire.
The summer of 1872 I went with Mrs. Sawyer who was a Mary Institute teacher and two young ladies to Europe. We visited England, Scotland, France, Germany and Switzerland. I enjoyed every day of it, supposing it was the only European trip I should ever have. Soon after my return at an evening party I met my beloved husband.
You will find her complete reminiscences here.