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In Their Own Words

January 27, 1870

Journal Entry Mourning Father

Though it had been six years since his death, Gertrude Thomas still mourned the loss of her beloved father, especially as her husband’s debts continued to mount, much of which was owed to family members:

“Reading over what I have written I have the consciousness of knowing that I am morbid. I know cousin Polly has a right to what is owing her, but her having advertised the house has caused others to present their claims and caused Mr. thomas great anxiety of mind. I have been sick with terrible cold for the last two weeks. Several days I was in bed from which at times I almost wished I would never have to rise again. One morning Mr. Thomas was leaving for town utterly unable to know what the day or hour would bring forth, what new execution would be levied… . ‘Oh Pa! Pa!’ I thought ‘if you were living this would not be so. You would help us with your good judgment, or cheer me with some kind word.’ As I thought of him I burst into tears and wept such tears as relieve the pressure of an overburdened heart… . And now my Journal let me tell you a strange thing which happened a few nights since. Before I went to bed I knelt and prayed earnestly to God to help Mr. Thomas, to show him some way to relieve himself of the terrible oppression of debt and while I prayed I thought of Pa, and I asked God if spirits were permitted to visit their friends upon earth to commission the soul of my father to commune with mine that night. I hoped that in the quiet watches of the night Pa would come to me and tell me what was best for us to do. I rose, took paper and pen from the desk and seating myself by the fire I thought if only Pa could guide my pen and give me his autagraph [sic] I would instantly recognise it. I had heard of such things as one’s feeling the pressure of the invisible hand which guides the pen. I felt nothing of the kind. My pen glided on and made the signature of T Clanton but I am almost certain I had no spiritual assistance… .”

Source: Virginia Ingraham Burr (ed.), The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), pp. 330-331.