Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria Mitchell, ca. 1865

Jan 23. {1857} Foreseeing that the thermometer would show a very low point last night, we sat up until near midnight when it showed 1 ½ below zero. The starts shone brightly and the wind blew fresh from WNW. This morning the wind is the same and the mercury stood at 6 ½ below zero at 7 o’clock and now at 10 a.m. is not above zero . . . .

There are 700 barrels of flour in town, it is admitted that fresh meat is getting scarce. The streets are almost impassable from the snow drifts. There was no ice in our lodging room last night and the thermometer in the sitting room was above 40 showing that the house is not easily chilled.

The Mitchells were living at the bank and the thick walls with a brick exterior as well as perhaps some more “modern” heat sources for the main portion of the bank, likely helped keep the family warmer – much of their living space was on the second floor of the Pacific National Bank. Given their cloistered existence during the winter of 1857 (and there were others as well), the Mitchells made do with what they had were quite creative in finding new things to do and even new things to learn – from Whist to making a new pair of boots or a morning dress, Maria Mitchell, her parents, and several of the younger members of the Mitchell family used the solitude to their advantage.