Mary drinks beef tea for breakfast when she comes down with a fever.
Mary drinks beef tea for breakfast when she comes down with a fever.

Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary each week to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America.

My tummy doesn’t feel too good today.  It keeps making funny noises and feels funny.  It feels like the water looks in the pond after I throw a stone in it. And my head is sore.  Mother is making me just lay here and rest for the morning.  I did not even have to get dressed.  I really don’t mind that part very much.  She soaked a cloth in fresh, cool water and keeps turning it over on my head. I think I could smell some vinegar too.  Mother said I was warm. And I had a special breakfast today of beef tea.

Brent and Josh are by my bed and I keep expecting them to leave and find something to do.  But whenever I peek out from the cool cloth I see them still there, being very quiet.  Even when I fall asleep for a bit, they don’t leave.  I am so happy they stay.  I have my rag doll next to me.  She likes my pretend friends too.  I was going to make a cave for her under the covers but Mother told me to just lay still.   I don’t like it when the damp cloth slips off my head and makes a wet spot on my pillow.  And then the feathers smell

Mother changed my bedclothes during the night and now they are smooth and cool.  When my head stops hurting she said she would bathe me to keep the fever away and I know I will feel much better.  Everyone walks very quietly and whispers when they come to see me.  Josh and Brent are always quiet when other people are around.

Beef Tea

Cut into small pieces a half a pound of beef.  Cover it in cold water in a stew pot.  Allow it to simmer until beef is done.  skim it well and it is ready for use.  Season it with salt and pepper.

by Mary Beekman

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Sleep tight, Mary. Drink your tea, and stay away from pigs. And birds. And Mexico.


Dear Nancy,

I am glad you enjoy hearing about me. Mother says diaries

tell a lot about the person who writes in one. I am very careful

with my letters. I do know them all now.


Phyllis, I am feeling better. I am almost well. Thank you for

asking. My mother's name is Joanna. I wonder if she knows

about potato water.


What a delightful story — please keep telling about little Mary Beekman!


Dear Mary, I hope you are feeling better and better. My Granny used to boil potatoes and have me drink the potato water for fever. This wsorked, and we also had mashed potatoes to eat, and that made us happy. The potato you eat today is the energy you have tomorrow! I know you are happy to have Brent and Josh nearby. They are even better than mashed potatoes! Could you tell all of us what your mother's name is? Bye bye!

Your friend, Phyllis