• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 07


August 20, 1893

My dear mother Josephine,

I write you today in all good hopes of your good health and happy temperament. The weather has been mild and fine, and early-season troubles with the natives have given way to what looks like a bounty. There is quite a bit of hustle and bustle, imagine it!, with the movement of almost a million plants to the fields all the Leggett boys had a hand in the work.

The children are growing like tobacco themselves – tall and hale striplings under the care and attentions of our negress Jenny Lee. We’ll be pegging four of the boys to the military academy soon, and little Kenneth will stay here with me one more season. The children are doing quite well at their and letters.

Louis has imported a Javanese man, of Sumatra, who has brought with him some interesting methods to the crop. He says, “wheat may be wheat the whole world over, and bake a bread just the same in any place, but tobacco is as native as you and I and must be respected as the mayor of any great land.” His first command as overseer was to cease the rotation of indigo crops. Louis agreed immediately, and they are always in thick consult in the offices.

But that reminds me that I and Louis are a different flavor from the natives. I see it in the way my children have bonded to this land and this people in ways beyond my grasp. The games they play, the language at the dinner table, the quickness to forget prayers at vespers. I see it in this Sumatran, who became one with the soil with his first bootprint. I sense it in the way the negress looks through me when speaking with me, and how her buck is quick to leave when I approach the pantry.



Louis, of course, has his hands full with the plantation. He has grown to know the better varieties through touch. Mother, I feel shame having written that. Forgive me.

Will you forgive me, sinner and wretch that I am. I am lonely for a confidante. I have enclosed a letter that will grant you passage to visit us and stay for the holidays this year. Please say you will come soon and bless us with your company.

In faith I am,
Your daughter in law and letters,
Ottile Merrit Leggett

My fair and dear Ottile,

I will be departing on the twelfth of October, with arrival in Saint Croix by November 15. I will be with you and make everything right. I will send you a letter on the mail boat upon arrival. I have arranged for Mme. Frederik Christian at St. George to greet me, and I shall make my way to you before the Christmas holiday.

With fair greetings to come, I am
your husband’s mother and loving guide,