Visitors to the Homestead parlor will notice a portrait above the fireplaceA note from Edward McPherson, Stephen Mather’s son-in-law, tells us that this was his great-great-aunt, Margaret Henderson. When, in the fall of 1820, Margaret was sent away to school, she wrote several letters home. We are fortunate to have many of these letters in a volume that is now in the Homestead parlor.
Margaret was born on April 9, 1805 to Daniel and Sarah Henderson of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. She had an older sister Elizabeth who married Reynolds McPherson and she had a brother, Samuel.
In 1820, Margaret was sent to Lititz, PA, home of the Lititz Seminary, a school founded by Moravians and which later became, and remains, Linden Hall. Margaret’s letters show that this all came without notice: “…you were surprised, when you heard I had gone to Lititz. It was very unexpected to me too. I did not know I was going three days before I left home.”
Besides the typical student request for money, Margaret repeatedly indicates
her distress at not receiving letters from home: ”Tell her to please answer my letter,
for I think she has more time to write to me, than I have to write to her.”
The Linden Hall site tells us: “Ornamental needlework was a hallmark of the student experience in the early years…students were famous for creating beautiful needlework at the highest level, and these early pieces are highly sought after by collectors.”
In a letter, Margaret writes: “I am also learning painting, am likewise embroidering two pincushions, one for Sister and the other for myself which I shall have done against Christmas.”
We know that Margaret married Robert Cochran on December 25, 1824. When Margaret’s father died in 1852, his will, written in 1849, made bequests to both Elizabeth and Samuel, but not to Margaret. Whether she predeceased her father or had children is not known.