W0508 TO MARGARETTE B. [LERNED] MCQUESTEN from her friend Mrs. Nancy Webster
Pekin Ills. March 2nd
Mrs. Margarette B. McQuesten
Brockport, Monroe Co., New York
Feb 21 1836 [estimated year]1 Sabbath morning
To: Margarette Lerned McQuesten Brockport, Monroe County, New York
From: Pekin,2 Illinois
My Dear Mrs. Mac,
Yours of the 25th I received a week since but have not had time until now to answer it. I am very much obliged to you, it came in good time, with a great comfort to my wounded spirit. I have indeed been afflicted since I last saw you, the Lord has taken for his glory, and my good, a lovely little flower, a bud of immortality, my sweet little babe to dwell with him in heaven, my comfort, my joy, and the pride of my heart has been removed to a fairer and better world. She has gone to join her twin spirit in praising God. In his immediate presence they are spared the pain, trials, troubles, sorrows and afflictions to which they would be exposed in living in this cold and uncharitable world. I feel the loss deeply, feel it more sensibly every day. I mourn the loss and comfort that they would have afforded had they been permitted to live. I mourn though not as one without hope, they have gone from me never more to return. I must go to them, I cannot in my heart wish them back again. I know that God is merciful and just and does not willingly afflict any of his children. I pray that it may prove a blessing and be sanctified to my present and everlasting good. I felt at the time little Louisiania died it was hard indeed to part with her, a severe trial, and a sore affliction. It seemed to me I could not have it so, she had been spared long enough to engage my affections and to twine herself completely around my heart. She had lain upon my bosom and knew a mothers love, blessed spirit! has taken its flight, a happy change, never to wander, never to sin, forever to be in the presence of God, ever learning, ever growing in the knowledge of his holy Character and divine perfections.
I have never felt to murmur or to repine or to charge God with injustice for I know that he is good, all love and mercy, it is in mercy to me that he thus deals with me. It is no more than I deserve. Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth; he that knoweth his masters will and doeth not shall be beaten with many stripes? here we are taught that if we wander from God, and stray in bye and forbidden paths and obey not the dictates of the spirit, we are to be chastised and corrected, and it may come in severe afflictions in order to bring us to a deeper sense of our entire dependence on that Being who alone is able to sustain and help us. I feel that I need much, very much more of the wisdom and grace which is imparted by our blessed Saviour, to prepare me to endure patiently the trials, troubles and sorrows, attending through the journey of this life. I feel the want of more faith, more love, more humility, more of the holy spirit's influence, to wean my heart and affections from this vain world; from all things here below that is fleeting and perishing. Oh for a closer walk, and a near communion with my God and Saviour; to be rich toward God, rich in faith and heir of grace and glory, if I know my own heart, is the desire of your unworthy friend. In your prayers to a Throne of grace may I not be forgotten. In your desires to a dear Saviour, full of love and mercy; and possessing an abundant fulness may I yet be remembered.
My dear friend you will recollect that I told you, you must not expect much from me, so you will not, I am a poor and weak creature, and regret very much my limited advantages, and my inability to convey my thoughts handsomely and easily on paper. But I feel as though I was writing to a friend who will not expose, or treat with indifference and contempt, a few unconnected and scattering thoughts. I am sensible of writing to one who is far my superior in intellectual attainments. But no matter for that. You know my heart, and art well acquainted with me, you know that I have ever proved to be what I professed, your friend. And in this sacred tie do I ever wish to hold you in the dearest remembrance.
Perhaps a brief relation of our journey from St. Louis to Pekin would not be uninteresting. You probably have an account from Brockport to St. Louis, by Sister King. We realised some of the hardships and trials which people going to a new country have to endure. We took a miserable old Steam Boat, the only one that was going up Illinois river heavy laden with freight, and both cabin and deck passengers we suffered much for room, cleanliness, and something comfortable to eat. We proceeded up the river at a very slow rate until we reached the mouth of Apple Creek, there the Boat struck on the bottom of the river, the Capt. not wishing to go any farther, declared to the passengers he could not get the Boat over, pretending it was a Bar; which are frequent in the Illinois, so he without mercy or any apparent feeling, sent us all ashore, to find our way as we could to different places, but one house in sight to accommodate all the people, two and a half miles across the prairie to the nearest house no means of conveyance to get away, men had to go five and six miles to get teams, and then return to get their families. It being on the Sabbath made it still more unpleasant. The course we adopted with a number of others, was to hire a small open boat which lay at shore, and one man so undertake to row up the river as far as Naples, the first place on the river where we could get public conveyance, and which it would take three days to arrive. After being provided with everything from the old Steamer, we set sail about noon, exposed to the wind and weather, we made our way six miles, the weather turned cold and commenced snowing. We landed and directed our steps towards a light, it was a poor miserable log cabin a mere shelter from the storm and tempest, the people as poor as the house but they seemed friendly and willing to accommodate as far as their means would permit. We were welcome fourteen in number a sorry but a thankful company as you ever saw. We got our selves some supper from a ham of venison and a Johnny cake as we called it, after waiting for the corn to be ground in a hand mill, we then spread our cloaks and a buffalo skin which belongs to some of the company on the floor, and thus made our bed. One of the ladies fortunately had two of those blankets which we spread over us, so we lay down four women and their children to rest our weary bones, but not to sleep. The men lay down and sat up just as they could, the wind and smoke poured down the chimney in torrents; a long night I assure you. During the night the river froze over, and to proceed up the river was impossible so we turned our course backward to the place we started from, got down after noon, cooked some more venison and ate which was all we had. By this time it was most night, what were we to do next, not a horse, nor wagon to get away with, and only one poor log cabin and that was crowded full of the poor sufferers many who had lain on the riverbank all night. We took our baskets and children and walked two and half miles over the prairies to the first house, there we had the same fare as the night previous. Three of our company had to go two miles further, where they obtained a team and came after us the next morning. Two days more brought us to Jacksonville tired out and my husband quite sick. I have extended my narrative until I fear I have intruded on your good nature and wearied your patience but forgive me, I have not told one half.
I am much pleased with Jacksonville, staid there three weeks, formed some pleasant acquaintance. There are many Eastern people and some very genteel ladies. I attended an Episcopal ladies fair, which was something of a novelty to me the object of which was to get an organ for the Church I was pleased with St. Louis, think I should like to live there. Tell Mrs. Sandborn that we called on Mr. Smith, spent a day and night with them, found a very pleasant family. The Mississippi is a grand majestic river, beautiful sailing, but with a constant fear of snags which destroy so many boats. I had a pretty correct idea of its appearance and therefore was not disappointed. Ohio is handsome as you approach towards its mouth. When I left Jacksonville sister's health was very good. I have not heard from her since I travelled from there to Pekin in the stage alone the distance of a 100 miles. I am now keeping house in Pekin, of all places you ever saw or heard of the meanest, the place and even the people are forbidding, very little sociability. Each one for myself as they say. I dislike it very much and cannot be content to remain long. It is the most sickly place in all Illinois, fevers, chills and [?] and ague prevail the year round, it is a deathly place for children in particular, three quarters of the children died here last year. There is but few who dare stay in the village during the sickly season, we shall go out into the country a few miles, and Mr. Webster will go to New York Mrs. King[?] has gone to bed today with the chills and fever, a little over doing brings them on.
Saturday Eve. My dear friend Margarette another busy week has passed, and this evening finds me enjoying a comfortable domestic fireside but alone and rather lonely. My husband has gone to St. Louis on business and hopes to meet brother Mr. King there as we have heard of his being on the way to Pekin; will be absent two weeks two long weeks to me.
O what a treat it would be could I see you this eve and your dear companion, me thinks we should have a visit whether it were a good one or not, I have a great many things to tell you that perhaps would not be worth while to write.
It is with pleasure that I think of many happy seasons we have passed together of the sweet converse and union of our hearts, the interchange of thoughts and feelings; indeed it makes me sigh to think they are past yet I hope not for any great length of time, how cheering and how comforting is the voice of sincere friendship and especially in the hour of trial how consoling to unbosom the heart to one who can sympathize with you and on whom you can rely as a friend and trustworthy. Methinks if it were not for this tie of friendship which links kindred spirits so closely together we should pass through the world desolate forlorn and heartbroken. I have reason to thank God that this principle is implanted in the human heart, for I have found those who have ministered unto me under various circumstances and times of sorrow and affliction.
I think there is a prospect of removing to St. Louis but how soon I cannot tell, perhaps in a year. Mr. King may go this spring. I hope you will write soon and tell me all about Brockport, I feel more anxious to hear the news now than I did to know it when there. I should be glad to see New York once more but do not promise myself that I ever shall. I hope you will come to St. Louis if we go there; I think you would like it. Tell Sister I shall write to her soon. My love to all who inquire.
You see that I have used all the paper that can be spared. I would close by again requesting that when you have a little spare time you would remember your friend,
N. J. Webster
[P.S. written at side, very crowded script] Doct. Johnson lives a few miles from Pekin has quite an extensive business, lost only one patient, says the fevers are not as difficult to manage here as in New York. My health is very good now if better than it has been before since I left Brockport. I took cold soon after I came here and had a very hard cough which held me three weeks that I have been well I cannot tell what effect the climate will produce until warm weather. My husband has been more or less sick ever since we came here but his complaints are of dyspeptic nature. A gentlemen was in the other day and remarked that Mr. [?] was the picture of health, [?] said he; he will not look so next summer.
O you cannot think how much I miss my sweet baby, not a day or scarcely an hour, but her form is present with me. Mr. Webster intended to have filled half of the sheet to the Doct. but was hurried of to St. Louis, so you will take the will for the deed so write to us again. He thinks very much of you and yours, and often speaks of the enjoyment your society would afford. May a kind providence bring us once more participate in each others enjoyment.
Remember me kindly and affectionately to Mrs. Hill I suppose she is taking much comfort with her little babe, tell her not to love it to well, our dear Saviour should possess the first and warmest affections of our souls, tell her I should be glad to hear from her, if you see brother [?] again give him much of [?] love, accept the love and best wishes of your friend Nancy
1 The letter is undated for the year, however, February 21, falls on a Sunday in 1836, and Margarette was living in Brockport in 1836.
2 Pekin, is in central Illinois, not far from Peoria. The journey that is described here is from St. Louis, Missouri to Pekin, Illinois, a distance of approximately 175 miles. By auto this would now take about 3 hrs.
3 To learn more about Margarette Barker Lerned [McQuesten] please see W0609.