On Thursday, March 14, 1895, 127 years ago, a farmhouse in Billerica, Massachusetts, caught fire in the middle of the night and burned down. The owner of the farm had moved to California. The owner's daughter and her husband, who lived in the house, were unhurt, but the house was a total loss.
That farmhouse, known as Hillside Farm, was once the home of Texas Jack and his wife, Giuseppina Morlacchi. To be more precise, the house and the farm both belonged to Giuseppina. And to be 100% accurate, the house was deeded to Giuseppina's sister Angelina, as she lived in and maintained the house while Giuseppina and Texas Jack were away from the home on tour. Giuseppina had purchased the house in 1869, well before she ever met Jack, and it served as her refuge from the demands of her fame and her profession. Here, she didn't have to be The Peerless Morlacchi, the world's most famous ballerina. Here, she could be at home. This was the house that she brought her father Antonio to in 1870, the house he spent the last three years of his life in with two of his daughters.
This article, from Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly on July 30, 1870 gives a good glimpse of Morlacchi at home. This is after Giuseppina's sister Angelina sailed back to Europe to get their father, but before they had returned. Woodhull and Claflin's was a magazine published by Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin, two sisters who founded the first female-owned Wall Street brokerage. Victoria was famously the first woman to run for President, and both were famous suffragists. This article, probably more than any other, gives a complete picture of who Giuseppina was and what her home there in Billerica was like.
From Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, July 30, 1870
MLLE. MORLACCHI ON A FARM - At this season of the year, when the amusement-loving portion of our citizens are obliged, through the discomfort of the heated term, to abandon the various places of amusement, and to depend entirely upon the blessings of memory for the pleasures of the mimic world; and when the mind, by the summer vacation, is forced from the cares of business, it loves to ruminate over its various past enjoyments and call to mind the happy hours passed in witnessing the impersonations of the favorite artist - either in opera, drama, pantomime, or ballet. Nor is this all. The artists, no matter in which of the above walks their professional ability may have been directed, who have by their superior talents and culture attracted our admiration and esteem, always create in us a desire, a burning curiosity to know something of their private life, their likes and dislikes, their habits and customs, and above all (if they be not of the make sex) their personal qualifications and moral worth.
From these thoughts, and the memory of Mlle. Morlacchi’s representation in the Queen City, I came to the conclusion that no more agreeable letter could be written, or one that could give the majority of your readers greater pleasure than a description of a visit to the country seat of the renowned premiere danseuse, Mlle. Morlacchi, who has purchased a farm on the outskirts of the town of Billerica, on the Boston and Lowell railroad, about twenty miles from Boston.
The farm lies about half a mile from the station, and is easily reached by a pleasant drive through a quiet piece of woods. The farmhouse, if such it might be called, is close to the roadside, under the brow of a thickly wooded hill. It is a modern wood-framed building, painted in light drab color; there are two parlors on the first floor, which are elegantly furnished with all that art can suggest, and arranged with exquisite taste. Rare pictures adorn the walls, several of them being the original works of old Italian masters. At one end of the larger parlor is an excellent library case, entirely filled with rate books in all the modern languages, the perusal of which seems to afford the subject of this sketch no little enjoyment. Lying upon the several marble-topped tables in the room were, as though just from the hands of the reader, a volume of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” in French; “Don Quixote,” in Spanish, Goethe’s “Faust,” in German; a large volume of Shakespeare in English; besides several other of the lesser, though more modern writers, in various languages.
In the smaller parlor is the writing desk, at which Mlle. Morlaccchi corresponds with her numerous personal friends, answers the frequent applications for professional engagements, and assigns to paper the various musical thoughts and melodies which are constantly running riot through her brain. Here, too, she has a piano, and in the quiet of the evening, after the duties of the day are disposed of, she amuses herself and gratifies her listeners by her artistic rendering of her own compositions, as well as the works of the best masters.
Her farm consists of about forty acres, the most of which is under a good state of improvement. It is stocked with all the implements necessary for its proper cultivation, besides having the usual complement of horses, cows, sheep, poultry, etc. Her ambition has been to send early vegetables to the Boston market as soon as, if not in advance of, her country neighbors. This she has succeeded in doing, and she speaks, with delight, of having green peas and new potatoes ready for delivery some days before the old resident farmers had thought it possible.
She keeps several horses, two especially for her own use; one of them for driving in a basket wagon, the other as a saddle horse, used only by herself, and she is au fait in all the appertains to riding and driving, she excites no little curiosity as she canters through the streets of the town, making her hour of pleasure also one of business, by attending to errands “up in the village.”
Mlle. Morlacchi gives her personal attention to every detail connected with the proper management of her venture; rising in the morning at 5 o’clock and spending the greater portion of the day in performing the various duties appertaining to the care of her country place. Alternating her hours of leisure between music, reading, and horseback riding. When attending to her household duties, Mlle. Morlacchi wears a close-fitting calico dress, her hair hanging below her waist in two plain braids; but when going into the woods she dons a pair of trousers, a coat and a hat, and those two remember seeing her on the stage in male attire will easily picture to themselves the jaunty figure she makes. She has with her, as companion and friend, Mlle. Teresa Antonino, an artist of excellent reputation, who will probably give your readers an opportunity of judging of her ability during the coming winter. Certainly, if appearances are to be relied on, she should at once rise high in the scale of public opinion, for she is a lady of undeniable beauty, refinement, and grace.
Mlle. Morlacchi’s sister is now in Europe, but will return in the fall, bringing her father with her, as she says she has formed such an attachment for this country that she cannot leave it now, and the family must be here to enjoy its many beauties as well as herself. She is daily receiving letters from various managers urging her acceptance of engagements for the coming season; but she is, at present, unprepared to make definite arrangements, her mind being too much occupied with her novel home cares. She will, however, at the proper time, make her selection of associate artists, and you may, with reason, expect to renew during the coming wither the pleasure of last season in witnessing the performances of this talented lady.