Governess Della Hottel (Gist) in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, 1892-1893

The letters of Della Hottel describe her daily life as a governess in the family of the American consul in Frederiksted, St. Croix, Danish West Indies.

Selections from the Ariel Idella Hottel Gist Papers

In 1892, three years before she moved to Marianna, Arkansas, from Winchester, Virginia, Miss Ariel Idella Hottel was employed as a governess in the family of Major William F. Moore, the American Consul in Frederiksted, St. Croix, Danish West Indies. Miss Hottel (“Della”) served as instructor and companion for the Major and Mrs. Moore’s five children: Edith, 17; Tillie, 15; Nina, 11; Edna, 9; and Wilmerding, 6. 

Seven of the letters in this digital exhibit offer lovely vignettes from Miss Hottel’s perspective, starting with her year-long adventure on a steamship journey on the S.S. Caribbee from New York City, past the Statue of Liberty, to landing at Frederiksted, St. Croix, one of the three islands in what is today the U.S. Virgin Islands. (The U.S. acquired the islands from Denmark on March 31, 1917.)

Della describes her daily life as a governess watching over the children, attending church, observing shipwrecks, becoming proficient at tennis, and lamenting the slow arrival of news from home and the cost (ten cents) to mail letters back home to the United States. Della apologizes to her sister, Neva, for her tiny handwriting (on both sides of translucent onionskin paper) as she acknowledges that she can no longer just go to Papa to pay for everything, now that she is employed. 

Two letters written by St. Croix friends Edith Moore and Ethel Woods in 1894, a year after Della’s return to the United States, bring Della up to date on people she knew in St. Croix and show the personal bonds that developed during her stay. Other items are a letter of introduction from Miss Hottel’s bank in Virginia, used as a sort of identification card, and an invoice showing various pharmacy items Della purchased--including a thirty-cent toothbrush. Photographs depict Miss Hottel, the “tennis group” and the “fan dance” in St. Croix, and people in eastern Arkansas.

In 1896, three years after her sojourn in St. Croix, Della Hottel moved to La Grange (Lee County), Arkansas, to be a governess in the family of Dr. C.T. Chandler. In 1900 she married Bogan Gist, Sr., at Edgewood, Arkansas, 8 miles south of Marianna. They had one son, Thomas H. Gist, Sr. Della’s grandson, Thomas H. Gist, Jr., continues to reside in the environs of Marianna. Ariel Idella “Della” Hottel Gist died in 1928 and is buried in Cedar Heights Cemetery in Marianna.

So now relax and visit the Virgin Islands through Miss Hottel’s now-digital eyes in an era of green lushness of tropical flowers, plants, and light mists and breezes; friendship walks and leisure conversation; and handwork and fresh-baked cakes and homemade entertainment.

Ariel Idella "Della" Hottel Gist, ca. 1892

Della Hottel’s 1892-1893 home in the residence of Major William F. Moore, U.S. Consul to the Danish West Indies (now U.S. Virgin Islands) (1968 photo; check Google—it’s now a restaurant)

This digital exhibit is drawn from the Ariel Della Hottel Gist Papers (MC 51), a collection donated by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas H. Gist, Sr., in 1968.  Please see the following link to the finding aid to access the complete collection.

Ariel Idella Hottel Gist Papers Finding Aid

The Ariel Idella Hottel Gist Papers is one example of family manuscript collections held in University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections. Please visit the Special Collections website to learn about other collections or contact for more information.

Project and Technical Information

University Libraries project participants included Deb Kulczak and Julie Thacker, Cataloging; Michael Davis, Lee Holt, Wendy McClean, Ella Nwude, Martha Parker, and Osbourne Smith, Digital Services; Angela Fritz and Janet Parsch, Special Collections; and Dylan Hurd, Web Services.

Images were digitized and processed with Epson Expression 10000XL and Epson DS-6500 document scanners. Image optimization was performed using Adobe Photoshop; transcripts were created and encoded using Notepad++. OCLC’s CONTENTdm digital asset management software was used for displaying the exhibit. Dublin Core standards, Library of Congress Name Authorities, the Art and Architectural Thesaurus, and the University of Arkansas Libraries CONTENTdm Cookbook were used in creating the metadata. The project was completed in October 2016.

Project Citation

“Governess Della Hottel (Gist) in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, 1892-1893.” Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, October 2016.