We’re lucky enough to hold within our collections some of the correspondence between members of the Butterfield family, who were the owners of Cliffe Castle.
They offer a fascinating insight into the past of the family, and as we begin to delve into them we are finding some wonderful stories. We have a volunteer, Ian, busily working on transcribing the letters (a slow and painstaking process), and I will frequently pop into the office to ask for an update on the latest ‘gossip’ from the letters. There’s normally something interesting or entertaining to be revealed!
He kindly agreed to write some blogs for us based on the letters as he finds some interesting stories.
This is one of a series of occasional blogs drawing on the letters of the various members of the family.
The early blogs will draw on the letters of the Butterfield women. In this entry they are ones are written by Kittie Butterfield.
Kittie was the sparky and articulate American niece of Henry Isaac Butterfield, the builder of Cliffe Castle. She was the daughter of his youngest brother, Frederick.
Via the letters, we first encounter Kittie as a school girl in Germany in 1872, writing to her cousin.
“my first day at school was very much like other days are , all the girls stared at me for the first 10 minutes then being recalled to their work by a very nice gentleman Mr Lapper, who looks like a sunbeam one day and like a thundercloud the next, they were obliged to put off further scrutiny until a more (blank )period.
After that I enjoyed myself immensely as you can conceive for I heard nothing but German until 12 o’clock. In the afternoon I had a sewing lesson, imagine my felicity, sitting two mortal hours plying my needle and thread. Everyone in Germany can knit and sew, in fact they are so zealous that a pair of stockings is a difficult thing to obtain. Not my dear that I intend to say anything against them but sewing is not in my line at all”
Kittie had an amazing way with words which is possibly why she married a journalist Eustace Ballard Smith in 1890 (of which more later).
Despite the tragic early death of her brother at 17 (he was killed in New York when he was driving a carriage to meet his father at the train station) and then the later death of her father, Kittie and her mother Caroline were very adventurous , travelling “way out west” in 1884, visiting the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Salt Lake City and California. She paints a vivid picture in her letters.
“We spent the night in a shanty of boards through which we could see and the stars were visible through the openings in the boards from our beds, imagine the situation! Still it paid, in the evening in walking abroad for a little fresh air we had the felicity of nearly stepping on a little snake that was coiled ready to spring on the one that got nearest to it first. Fortunately it had the consideration to give us warning and was dispatched in consequence before anyone had been bitten”
Later, on the same eventful trip
“ I wish you could have had a glimpse of mother entering the promised land (California) ………….The river had washed the bridge away and all passengers walked over half way on the planks and thence on a single plank into a boat , poor mother gave out half way and said she could go neither forwards or backwards. There she sat surrounded by her bags and baskets and finally by dint of tremendous efforts a boat was brought to her rescue and she was conveyed over to California”
As you will see Kittie was very much her own Woman not least in regard to her marriage. She wrote from the Grand Hotel Paris, May 30th 1890.
“I write this to say that I am marrying Ballard Smith on Tuesday the 3rd June in London , of course you know I have been engaged a very long time but three weeks ago I decided it was useless to wait any longer and so I began my preparations and now it is nearly here, the most momentous day of my existence…
Mama is most unhappy, for which I am most sorry, but she has been very nice giving me my trousseau , a lovely one and she goes with me to London -she declares she will not be present at the (wedding) but I think she may after all.”
Unfortunately, and somewhat ironically, neither the recipient of the letter, who was Kittie’s cousin Frederick William Louis Butterfield (Henry Isaac Butterfield’s son who was known as Louis within the family), nor his American born wife Jessie were able to attend as they were in the USA at the time.
The event must have been far removed from the grand Society wedding which was originally anticipated by the family, which would have required more time to prepare, but her quick decision and the subsequent marriage within the time frame she set out give a good indication of her dynamic personality.