Jerry Wade, the Gault House barber, was a mulatto, who had bought himself and family, and acquired considerable real estate. In the back of one of his houses, lived his son with a wife and little daughter. We rented the front, and mother sent me furniture. This was highly genteel, for it gave us the appearance of owning slaves, and Olivia, young Wade’s wife, represented herself as my slave, to bring her and her child security. As a free negro, she labored under many disadvantages, so begged me to claim her.
In this house I started my school, and there were no lack of pupils whose parents were able and willing to pay for their tuition, but ruffians stood before the house and hooted at the “nigger school.” Threatening letters were sent me, and Wade was notified that his house would be burned or sacked, if he permitted its use for such purpose. In one day my pupils were all withdrawn.
After this, I began to make corsets. It was a joy to fit the superb forms of Kentucky women, and my art-love found employment in it, but my husband did not succeed, and went down the river.
A man came to see if I could give work to his half-sister, for whose support he could not fully provide. She was a Fitzhugh,—a first Virginia family. Her father had died, leaving a bankrupt estate. She had learned dressmaking, and had come with him to Louisville to find work, but she was young and beautiful, and he dare not put her into a shop, but thought I might protect her, so she came to live with me.
One evening an old and wealthy citizen called about work I was doing for his wife, became interested in me, as a stranger who had seen little of Louisville, and tendered the use of his theatre-box and carriage to the young lady and myself. I declined, with thanks. When he had taken leave, Miss Fitzhugh sprang to her feet, and with burning cheeks and flashing eyes, demanded to know if I knew that that man had insulted us both. I did not know, but she did, and would tell Edward, who should cowhide him publicly. I told her that if Edward attempted that, he would probably lose his life, and we would certainly be dragged into a police court. Even if we had been insulted, it only proved that the old man thought we were like himself—that we were told in the Psalms that wicked men thought God was like themselves, and did approve their sin, and he did not have them cowhided. After a moment’s reflection she sat down, exclaiming:
“Well, you are the strangest woman I ever did see!”
We never again saw the man, and I hope the incident helped the honest Edward in his loving task of protecting the fiery Fitzhugh.