A Christmas gift from Pleasant View

By
  • Heather Vogel Frederick
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A Longyear member recently shared a unique item with us – several pages of memorabilia belonging to Gilbert C. Carpenter, who served as a secretary in Mrs. Eddy’s home from March 1905 to March 1906. Consisting of a receipt, five thank you letters, and a brief note of explanation, this item prompted further investigation on our part. The end result is a wonderful story of Christmas generosity.

Memorabilia from Gilbert C. Carpenter. Private collection.

As 1905 drew to a close and the mercury in the thermometer fell at Pleasant View, Mary Baker Eddy’s home in Concord, New Hampshire, Gilbert Carpenter called the household together.

Gilbert Carpenter at the side entrance to Pleasant View with his wife, Minnie (center), and an unidentified woman, on a wintry day circa 1905. Private collection.

Christmas was just around the corner, he told his colleagues, and it was customary for members of the Pleasant View “family,” as Mrs. Eddy referred to them and as they referred to themselves, to exchange presents. However, the demands of their work supporting Mrs. Eddy as she labored for the Cause of Christian Science left little time to go downtown and shop. So Mr. Carpenter had a different plan to propose this year: Why not pool their money and help needy neighbors? Specifically, with a gift of coal – much welcome fuel for warming homes as everyone braced for the long New Hampshire winter ahead.

A brief note tells what ensued.

“So they found names from the charity organization and wrote to each one to see if the coal would be acceptable as a Christmas greeting.”

Lilian Streeter

The “charity organization” referred to in Carpenter’s note was likely the Concord Charity Organization. Lilian Streeter was serving as its vice-president at the time, as well as on several other state and local charitable boards, and as the wife of Mrs. Eddy’s attorney Frank Streeter, this would have been a natural connection for the household to make.1

Perhaps Lilian provided suggestions for potential recipients, or perhaps the staff had a few in mind already. However the final list came about, once the recipients were selected, each was notified of the intended gift.

“Dear Mr. Dow,” began Carpenter’s letter to local farmer Samuel Dow, “The family at Pleasant View ask if you would do them the favor of accepting ½ ton of coal as an expression of good cheer and the Seasons greetings.”2

Receipt listing some of the Pleasant View household’s gift recipients. Private collection.

The total for half a ton of coal for six families (and 3/8 of a cord of split firewood for Mrs. O. A. M. Robertson) was $25 (about $735 in 2018 dollars).3 Although no record remains as to who exactly chipped in, those serving in Mrs. Eddy’s household at the time in addition to Gilbert Carpenter included Calvin Frye, Laura Sargent, coachman August Mann and his wife Amanda, groundskeeper John Salchow, housekeeper Anna Machacek, cook Minnie Weygandt, and either Grace Greene, Julia Prescott, or Ella Willis as a metaphysical worker.

The Christmas gifts were received with enthusiasm and heartfelt gratitude, as evidenced by the thank you notes that were speedily sent.

“I don’t know of anything I need at present more than fuel,” wrote Archie McCoy, an African-American laborer living in the city. He and his wife Alma’s three-year-old daughter, Bertha, had been joined just that month by baby Harold. Archie signed his letter “gratefully yours in Truth and Love.”4

“No gift could bring me more ‘Good Cheer’ and comfort than the one which you have so generously sent,” assured Olive Ann M. Robertson, an elderly widow.5

“You do not know how pleased and grateful I was,” wrote Mrs. Boudreau, wife of Frank, another local laborer, “for we have a very cold home and could not keep the little ones from cold at night. . . . You could not give me a better gift for Christmas.”6

Snow covers the lawn and summerhouse in the front yard at Pleasant View. Longyear Museum collection.

The list of gift recipients included at least three families who had already benefited from Mrs. Eddy’s charity, and another who soon would. In fact, it may well have been Mary Baker Eddy’s example that inspired the household to their own act of generosity.

Well known for her philanthropy, Mrs. Eddy donated liberally on both the local and national scale. Her staff would have been well aware of this, and they were certainly aware of the kindness she showed each of them.

“While Mrs. Eddy was very generous in her donations to public interests and gave liberally to the support of her home town,” Minnie Weygandt recalled, “I think it was the smaller examples of loving interest to those within her immediate circle that counted most with me. It is easy enough to be large-handed in public, but what really tells the story about one is his attitude toward others in private life.”7

One particular home-town cause that Mrs. Eddy supported has an interesting connection to this story. Since 1900, the year of her first visit to the Concord State Fair, Mrs. Eddy had made a practice of providing shoes to needy children in Concord. The footwear was given out each year on “Children’s Day” at the fair, and this generous gesture would benefit hundreds of little ones over the decade that it continued.8

“My small gift to the children came from my love for children,” Mrs. Eddy explained.9

Rear grounds of Pleasant View. The boathouse is visible in the center, and the Concord fairgrounds in the far distance. Longyear Museum collection.

One family that had previously received shoes and that would also receive coal from the Pleasant View family for Christmas was the Pollards. Martha Pollard, a British-born widow with four children – Annie, 11, Cecil, 9, Gertrude, 8, and Amelia, 5 – had written to Mrs. Eddy earlier that fall thanking her for the gift of shoes for her children. Mrs. Pollard’s letter had been published just a few weeks before in the November 25, 1905 Christian Science Sentinel.

Concord, N. H., October 8, 1905.

Dear Mrs. Eddy:—I suppose you will be surprised to have these few lines from me, but I feel so grateful for your kindness to the poor children every year, in giving them shoes, that I thought I would send you a note of thanks. I have four little children, and being a widow, I have to work hard for them. I do find the shoes come in very handy every year. My little children would not have any to wear now but for your kindness in giving them away. I have had very hard times this last summer. I hope I shall not offend in writing you this note of thanks, as you do not know me, but I am a decent, hard working woman, and I thank you with a heart brimming over with gratitude to you. I remain your humble servant.

Martha J. Pollard10

The Charrette family had also received shoes. French-Canadian transplants Fred and Flora Charrette were the parents of four boys and two girls – Louis, 13, Joseph, 12, Thomas, 10, Fred, 8, Marion, 7, and baby Florence – and may have had their youngest son (and Fred’s namesake) write the thank you letter for the family.

Fred Charrette’s thank you letter. Private collection.

Written in a round, careful hand, the letter, which begins “Dear Mama Eddy” (at just eight years old, young Fred could be forgiven the mistake), thanks her for the coal and also refers to “the shoes that you gave us at the fair.”11

And finally, there was the Orr family – parents Robbins and Rosanna, and children Stephen, 17, Eva, 14, and Willie, 10. Rosanna promptly wrote a thank you letter after being notified of the winter fuel that was in the works. Her heartfelt thanks12 foreshadowed a note that her young son Willie would write to Mrs. Eddy eighteen months later:

Concord, N. H., Sept. 16, 1907.

Dear Mrs. Eddy:—I want to write you a few words to thank you for the nice pair of shoes that Mr. Thompson gave me. I needed them very badly, because my papa is not well and cannot buy me many clothes. My little school mate and chum, Paul Casey, got a pair too, and he wants me to thank you for him. When I am sick mamma sends me to a Christian Science lady. I like that way better than to have a doctor and take medicine. I am twelve years old and I live on Waverley Street, No. 15. I will close now.

Yours with love,
Willie Orr13

The ripples of love and charity that went out from the Pleasant View household that Christmas touched the hearts and lives of many in the community. The shoes, the coal, the firewood – these simple gifts help shed light on the type of practical generosity that Mrs. Eddy embraced, and the example she inspired for her household.

Notes


  1. “Lilian Carpenter Streeter,” One Thousand New Hampshire Notables (Concord, N.H.: The Rumford Printing Co., 1919), 27.
  2. Gilbert C. Carpenter to Samuel O. Dow, December 20, 1905, V04644, The Mary Baker Eddy Library, The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, Boston, Massachusetts, hereafter referenced as MBEL.
  3. There may have been more recipients, as Mr. Dow is not listed on this receipt.
  4. Archie McCoy to Gilbert C. Carpenter, December 22, 1905, private collection; 1910 U.S. Federal Census; 1905 Annual Report of the City of Concord (Concord, N.H.: Rumford Printing Co., 1906).
  5. Mrs. O. A. M. Robertson to Gilbert C. Carpenter, January 1, 1906, private collection.
  6. Mrs. Frank Boudreau to Gilbert C. Carpenter, December 23, 1905, private collection. In her letter, Mrs. Boudreau also makes reference to “your past kindness” – perhaps shoes for those “little ones” of which she speaks.
  7. “Reminiscences of Miss Minnie Belle Weygandt and of Miss Mary Ellen Weygandt,” MBEL, 102.
  8. Mary Baker Eddy initiated this gift to her community’s children in 1900 and continued it annually until her passing in 1910. For more information, click here.
  9. Mary Baker Eddy to Allan H. Robinson, September 7, 1901, L11187, MBEL. This letter was later printed in the Concord, New Hampshire’s Daily Patriot and reprinted in the Christian Science Sentinel 4 (September 19, 1901): 40, and The Christian Science Journal 19 (October 1901): 416.
  10. Martha J. Pollard, “Letters to Our Leader,” Christian Science Sentinel 8 (November 25, 1905): 202. Mrs. Pollard was indeed a hard-working woman, just as she claimed – the 1910 U.S. Federal Census lists her occupation as a laborer in a stone quarry.
  11. Fred Charrette to “Mama Eddy,” December 28, 1905, private collection.
  12. Mrs. R. M. Orr to Gilbert C. Carpenter, December 20, 1905, private collection.
  13. Willie Orr, “Letters to Our Leader,” Christian Science Sentinel 10 (November 2, 1907): 172.