Maritcha Lyons, Grandmother Marshall

Grandmother Marshall (1780-1860) knew personally or by reputation, every colored person in the city. Also, she had many acquaintances among those of English and Dutch extraction. During her periods of widowhood, she had to work abroad to support herself and her family, and she always said her employers were of the “quality.” Five days a week she toiled outside of her home, Saturdays she reserved from domestic duties, on Sunday, she kept the “Sabbath” this meant a scrupulous avoidance of all but the most necessary secular labor.

Going uptown meant for her a going about as far as Bond Street, the journey consuming half a day, for a team was required and the horses had to be fed and rested before the return trip was undertaken.

Up the Hudson to Albany, in a sailing vessel was one of her annual recreations though she worked so hard she always indulged in a vacation once a year, however busy. The length of a water trip was always uncertain and preparations had to be made in consequence. This indulged various wraps, extra garments, bedding, and a full hamper of food of all kinds. The first day young Lord and Taylor opened a dry goods store on Catherine Street, she hurried over to make an early purchase, of a yard of white ribbon, to give the “boys” good luck, for she knew them both very well. When the DeForrests, former employers, found coal in Pottsville, Pa., she was always sure of a full bin in the winter; when their supply came to the city, as it did by the boat load, her stipend was included; something to be thankful for as winters then were long and continually severe. November snow usually remained until the latter part of next April. The East River was so regularly frozen over that it was expected to include walking across it among one quainter recreations. My father said that he recollected seeing a barbecue on the ice in celebration of Washington’s birthday.

From: Maritcha Lyons, “Memories of Yesterdays, All of Which I Saw and Part of Which I Was—An Autobiography”