My first recollections in life reach back a long way, more than three-score years and ten now. We, my gentle mother and little brothers, were on the south end of the front piazza at our old home, White Haven. We had just arrived. Dear papa, coming out with seeming great pleasure, caught me up and held me high in the air, telling me to look, the very trees were welcoming me, and, sure enough, the tall locust trees were tossing their white-plumbed branches gleefully. I watched too the white clouds flying across the blue sky. All this I distinctly remember. It must have been early in May, for the locust trees which surrounded our home were in bloom. The following June, 1828, my little sister next to me, Nellie, came. Life seemed one long summer of sunshine, flowers and smiles to me and to all at that happy home. Father and mother were great favorites in St. Louis, where they had resided for ten or twelve years, and ten miles over a very bad road was not considered too great an effort for friends to make a day spent with Frederick Dent and family. Our home was then really the showplace of the county, having very fin orchards of peaches, apples, apricots, nectarines, plums, cherries, grapes and all of the then rare small fruits. Our flower garden was the admiration of the county. Papa kept an excellent gardener, old Sturdee, who later challenged my father's vote during the Rebellion, thereby questioning his loyalty. Dear father was very, very indignant at this, as he considered it a downright insult, and told the patriotic old foreigner to be d--d, swore a blue streak at him, refused to vote, and threatened the poll guard with a caning. During my childhood, I remember very pleasant interchanging of visits with friend in St. Louis and at Jefferson Barracks, and of many friends coming from Pittsburgh: the Nevilles, O'Haras, Wilkinses, Robinsons, Dennys, Ogdens, Etc. Our friends from Jefferson Barracks were many and changing. Louisville and Cincinnati also furnished us many who did not think the road too long from St. Louis to White Haven, our home to prevent them visiting their old friends.
Mamma was a generous housekeeper. She trusted her servants. There was no help for that, for she was delicate and often unable to attend personally to such matters. Frequently, Kitty, one of mamma's devoted maids, received her orders and carried them out perfectly. Mamma, like my father, was a great reader, fond of poetry and music. She was beautiful, kind, and gentle. She spent much time in reading aloud to us her favorite authors, calling our attention to some passage that pleased or touched her. She loved to hear us sing her favorite old ballads to Emmie's guitar as we sat on the piazza in the summer moonlight. Happy days those. Most of our colored people were from Virginia and Maryland, and papa used to buy them for great barrels of fish - herring from that part of the country. Molasses, tobacco, and some whiskey (on cold, raw days) were issued regularly to them from the storehouse, and then they had everything the farm produced, such as vegetables, bacon, beef, and, of course, poultry. I think our people were very happy. At least they were in mamma's time, though the young ones became somewhat demoralized about the beginning of the rebellion, when all the comforts of slavery passed away forever. My father was most kind and indulgent to his people, too much so perhaps, as later in life, as the old Kentucky song says, "By'n by Hard Times comes a knocking at the door," and how hard this was for him who had been so independent, helping by endorsement ( and invariably meeting the notes himself when they came due ) many of the small farmers to secure their homesteads, and not a few impecunious relations who wanted to turn over a new leaf and begin again; and so it came about that late in life this dear, chivalric, generous old gentleman heard hard times knocking at his door. My four dear brothers, John, George, Fred, and Louis, were brave fellows, and to my mind and also papa's and mamma's were heroes. Such eloquence, when they began to learn their speeches, I have never heard surpassed, and they were wonderful athletes too - such leaps, handsprings, pitching of quoits, as papa, mamma, Nell, and I used to witness from the front of the piazza! They were usually performed on the lawn in front of the house; in the trees above were small houses for the swallows and martins; when the boys would begin their sports, these feathery habitants would really join in. Fred said it was "fight in them," and that they meant to protest against such intrusion into their leafy homes Coming as I did to the family after the forth great boy, I was necessarily something of a pet. I cannot remember ever having been coerced into doing anything. It was always, " will little daughter like to do this?" "No!" Then little daughter did not do it. But I think I was a good little girl, not the least spoiled by this unprecedented indulgence; on the contrary, I remember doing many little kindnesses for the menservants, uncles Charles, Bob, Willis, William and Jim, who invariably came to me when they wanted a little tobacco, whiskey, or money. Any of these men would say, "Won't little Mistress tell Master I would like to go home tonight'" or, "Our tobacco's gitten mighty low, "or, " Won't little Mistress tell Master the cold's mighty penetratin' this mornin'," or, "Little Mistress, won't you tell Master I's going to see my old wife this evenin' and would like to take her some sugar for her coffee." In I would go and thrust my hand into papa's pocket up to my elbow until my hand caught a half dollar or a quarter. When my dear papa would say , " What are you doing, you little rascal?" I would draw out my hand in triumph, showing a coin or two saying, " Uncle Willis or Uncle Charles is going home tonight and wants to buy something for his wife." And these dear old black uncles always brought to me pet rabbits, squirrels, and all the prettiest bird's eggs they found. The first ripe strawberries, and the reddest apples, and their first melons were brought to "Miss Julia." During the next four or five years, my time and sister Nellie's was passed mostly out-of-doors. I had my nurse, dear old black Kitty, and Nell had Rose, A pretty mulatto. Besides, we all had a dusky train of from eight to ten little colored girls of all hues, and these little colored girls were allowed to accompany us if they were very neat. We would wander by the brookside, catch minnows with pin- hooks -- or try to. I, being of a provident nature, required these little maids to each carry a bucket to bring home my captives. Sometimes I would catch a minnow, sometimes two or three. Oh! what happiness to see that nibble, to feel the pull, and to see the plunge of the cork; then the little quivering , shining creature was landed high on the bank. The whole cavalcade rushed to take the minnow off the hook, which I could not do. I would then have one of the numerous buckets filled with clear water and plunge my little captive happily in its depths. I remember when we went to gather wild strawberries I required abundant preparation to be made for the quantities we expected to gather but which were never realized, usually finding that a few oak leaves fastened together were sufficient to carry the store we had gathered to bring home to dear mamma. We were so very much out-of-doors that I attribute our good health to this fact. Our playhouses were first under the Judas trees; we played under their brilliant boughs until their blossoms were scattered on the ground; then the sweet dogwood was our home, later the apple and wild cherry in turn. Once, when I was about nine years old, I , with my dusky train, had wandered far up the brook and deeper than usual into the woods when we came upon a beautiful, shadowy, moss covered nook. My little maids exclaimed: "Oh! Miss Julia! Have this for your playhouse, and we will mark it out with all the pretty stones we can find." Hastening to the brook, they gathered all the "petrified honeycomb" and round boulders they could find, placing these so as to mark the supposed walls of my mansion. Anne (my special maid) and Susanna disappeared for about a half hour, and, to my astonishment, when they returned, I found they had been to the house, had gone into the sitting room, had filled their aprons with mamma's beautiful shells (she had many of these treasures of the sea), and had brought them to me for decorations for my sylvan bower. I told them they ought not to have done this, but the shells were so very, very pretty that I let them remain for a long time. One of my brothers while out hunting about three weeks afterwards found them still in our pretty haunt. These little maids of mine were full of fairy lore. I had read to them all of the pretty stories of the times, and when they built this bower for me they declared the fairies would be sure to come there and dance that night, would be so pleased with all we had done for them, and be glad to know such a pretty, nice, white lady had come to live during the day in their pretty bower.
We returned immediately to St. Louis, where we had a pleasant winter. In the spring, we went up to Wish-ton-wish, which belonged to my brother Louis (Judge Louis Dent), but, as he was called back to California, he was delighted to have us occupy it. My daughter Nellie was born their July 4, 1855. Mamma, papa and my sisters called during the day to congratulate me and bless my little pet. And all of the servants, young and old (through the kindness of black Mammy), sought a glimpse of the little fairy before she was a week old, the older ones saying, "Really, Miss Julia, we all think she is going to look like old Mistress" (meaning my mother), which they thought would make me very happy, paying this compliment to my little darling. The younger ones said " We have all been calling on the good fairies to give her everything good -- beauty and, Miss Julia, we ask she may be gentle and kind and beautiful like Mistress, her grandma."