As the boats might be expected in a few days, it was thought best to begin at once what preparations were in my power towards housekeeping. These were simply the fitting and sewing of my carpets, in which I was kindly assisted by Mrs. Twiggs; and the wife of one of our Frenchmen having come over from the Agency, and made everything tidy and comfortable, the carpets were soon tacked down, and ready for the reception of the rest of the furniture.
I had made many fruitless attempts, both in Detroit and Green Bay, to procure a servant-woman to accompany me to my new home. Sometimes one would present herself; but, before we could come to a final agreement, the thoughts of the distance, of the savages, the hardships of the journey, or, perhaps, the objections of friends, would interfere to break off the negotiation; so that I had at length been obliged to rest satisfied with the simple hope held out by my husband, that one or the other of his French employés, with his wife, would be contented to take up their abode with us.
In this state of things, all difficulties seemed to be obviated by the proposal of Major Twiggs, that we should take into our service a young colored girl, whom he had brought from Buffalo, in the spring, to wait on Mrs. T. until her own servants should arrive from the South.
Louisa was accordingly sent for, an uncommonly handsome young negress, with an intelligent but very demure countenance, who called herself fifteen years of age, but who, from the progress in vice and iniquity I afterwards discovered her to have made, must have been at least several years older. Be that as it may, she now seemed to have no fault but carelessness and inexperience, of both of which I had great hopes she would improve, under careful training.
My first week's visit with Mrs. Twiggs had just expired when word was given that the boats were in sight -- the boats that contained our furniture -- and the expected arrival of Louis Philippe to visit Queen Victoria could scarcely have created a more universal sensation, than did this announcement in our little community. Although we knew that some hours must yet elapse before they could reach the spot for disembarkation, we were constantly on the watch, and at length all the young officers, followed by as many of the soldiers as were off duty, accompanied Mr. Kinzie down the bank to the landing, to witness, and if necessary, to assist in helping everything safe to land.
Sad was the plight in which matters were found. The water poured out of the corners of the boxes as they were successively hoisted on shore. Too impatient to wait until they could be carried up to the fort, the gentlemen soon furnished themselves with hammers and hatehets, and fell eagerly to work, opening the boxes to explore the extent of the damage. Alas for the mahogany! not a piece from which the edges and veneering were not starting. It had all the appearance of having lain under the Grande Chûte for days. Poor Hamilton was loud in his protestations and excuses.
It was the fault of the men, of the weather, of the way the things were packed. "Confound it! he had taken the best care of the things he possibly could -- better than he had ever taken before--it would get done!"
There was nothing but to be patient and make the best of it. And when the pretty sideboard and worktable had been thoroughly rubbed and set up, and all the little knickknacks arranged on the mantel-piece -- when the white curtains were hung at the windows, and the chairs and dining-table each in its proper place in relation to the piano, our parlor was pronounced "magnificent." At least so seemed to think Hamilton, who came to give one admiring look, and to hear the music of the piano, which was a perfect novelty to him. His description of it to the young officers, after his return to the Bay, was expressive of his admiration and wonder -- "There it stood on its four legs! Anybody might go up and touch it!"
In due time the dinner and tea sets were carefully bestowed in the "Davis," together with sundry jars of sweetmeats that I had prepared in Detroit; the iron and tin utensils were placed in a neat cupboard in the kitchen, of which my piano-box supplied the frame; the barrel of eggs and tubs of butter, brought all the way from Ohio, were ranged in the store-room; a suitable quantity of salt pork and flour, purchased from the Commissary; and there being no lack of game of every description, the offering of our red children, we were ready to commence housekeeping.
The first dinner in her own home is an era in the life of a young housekeeper. I shall certainly never forget mine. While I was in the lower regions superintending my very inexpert little cook, my husband made his appearance to say that, as the payment (then the all-absorbing topic of interest) would not commence until afternoon, he had invited M. Rolette, Mr. Hempstead, and four other gentlemen to dine with us.
"So unexpected -- so unprepared for?"
"Never mind; give them anything you have. They have been living for some days in tents, and anything will taste well to them."
My dinner had been intended to consist chiefly of a venison pasty, and fortunately the only dish among my store was of very large proportions, so that there was already smoking in the oven a pie of a size nearly equal to the famous Norwich pudding; thus, with some trifling additions to the bill of fare, we made out very well, and the master of the house had the, satisfaction of hearing the impromptu dinner very much commended by his six guests.
Mrs. John H. Kenzie, Wau-Bun, the "Early Day" in the Northwest. Chicago : D. B. Cooke & Co., 1857. p. 94-98.
From the Memorial Library Department of Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison.