W0680 TO MARGARETTE B. [LERNED] MCQUESTEN from Louisa [Lerned] McAllaster
Jul 22 1833
To: Margarette B. (Lerned) McQuesten, Brockport, New York, [U.S.A.]
From: Sandbornton Bridge, New Hampshire, [U.S.A.]
My Dear Sister Margarett,1, 2
Husband has hastily penned a few lines to the Dr. & now taken over our moaning little babe & wishes me to finish it. Week before last we visited Hop. [Hopkinton], a very pleasant visit. Mother all affection & kindness to us--felt much for my babe. The children all kind & attentive--Mary was indeed a sister & a [?]--she was very much affected to see our sick darling by the side of her great healthy babe. But the ways of Providence are mysterious. All the winter I was sick, a very bad cough not able to sit up all day for several weeks before my confinement--a good appetite but could not bear any thing but a cup of milk & water or very weak tea & half or whole cracker, then so distress'd that I could not lie down. Sleep was courted, but flew from me. I was said to be the poorest person that ever kept about. The Dr. thought me indeed in a decline & now thinks my little dove whose name is Ellen Margarette has taken my disease. She has had a cough since about two weeks old, she never gained but 5 ounces, was a little poor starved babe when born. She had a sore mouth for 1 day, it left all at once & her tongue has been very red ever since--her lips parched--mouth very sticky--Dr. Gregg visited her while at H. gave me some Viva Syrup & Calomel3 powders to correct her bowels which were never regular. She is now very weak, coughs very hard, sometimes an hour, till nearly exhausted & once I thought her dying--she breathes very short & hard shaking her whole body, appears very much press'd, she has had a blister on her left lung and one now between her bony shoulders. Every one that sees her except my good mother. Swasy exclaims, "I never saw such a poor little babe." "How dare you lay in bed with her." I should not think she would live half an hour,"--till I dread seeing any one but her dear father & Mrs. S. with Mrs. Tilton enter our doors. Mrs. August has just given me one of these discouraging calls. I never witnessed so much patience as this little sufferer shows. She never cries but moans & when washing her in hot [?] with some bark steep'd in it & dressing her blisters she says Ma-a ma-a, her wrist is the size of a large gold ring. She has wound herself around every fibre of our hearts by her patience & let me say a very sweet face. Mother called her nothing but a doll she is not much larger--her eyes are large & very bright--you know how they look as you have seen the same before. But oh dear Sister how hard it seems to give her up, to think Death is watching to snatch her from her doting parents, but she would be happy she would be welcomed by our Savior for she is his. I hope I have given her to him. Will not our dear departed friends welcome her pure spirit to their blissful abode? I do not think her so well today as she has been but still she may continue weeks.4 I have sent for Mother to come & stay if possible or Mary.
Now Margarette how I long for yours & your husbands sympathy & care--O Dr. do if you can recommend any thing to help, do it now. Vain is the wish for you to see her but pray for us. You know not the tender feelings of a parent but you can judge it is hard--it is trying.
Called to see Sarah Benning children in Concord they were both sick now dead & buried. He is a very fine man a devoted husband & father, but Sarah is altered. Report says she did not treat her babes well & was cross to her husband. I inquired of the lady with whom they board she said that week I was there she was so cross to him that before all in the chamber he put his hand on his heart burst into tears & said "Oh! my God! Why hast thou deceived me thus"!! Three persons were killed at once last week in N. Hampton driving a thunder shower [sic] as Mr. Hannaford & wife left Monday for the Institution at N. Hampton. Mother looked perfectly neat in the house--out doors very pleasant the back yard full of high grass & clover not even a footpath to the barn.
When I have such pleasant visits as the one I made last winter & now I feel as though I could not leave this section of the country but again when I see our society here--the ill fortune husband has with trade the disadvantages of poor meeting &c--I am longing to move to some better place. I do hope there is a prospect of success somewhere either at Brockport or here. I think now I shall be willing to go. Do you think I should be contented? Could we find a house equal to ours & one we should like as well? If Mr. Swasy moves I am sure we shall not be willing to stay. The children set a great deal by their sister they often find me weeping & tears soon find a passage to their eyes. Jane says she wishes Ellen M. had some of Sarah's fat. Sarah is a great white fat girl. Jane only weighs 9 & a half more than she does. Mary is said to be a perfect image of a certain Dr. who once boarded here Mr. Swasy's folks say her eyes & eye brows are exact. Dont be jealous--Mary is always teasing to send Aunt M. her bed quilt. She says "Ellen is sicker now than she is yesterday won't she mother." This is to let you know she attends a grammar school, she says E.M. has no nose, about--Augustus Perkins wife has made a visit at [S.?] & Hop.
Your afflicted Brother & sister Hugh & L. [Louisa] McAllaster
Doct. Calvin McQuesten
Brockport, Monroe Co., N. York
[P.S.] William Estabrook is married. Ellen Little is perhaps engaged to Herman Green not known for certainty. Paulina [?] is so so. Tell the Dr. I could not call our doll Calvin & thought we would add the name of his dear wife instead. You would be willing she should have it if you could but see the dear. Since writing she has had a most distressing turn of coughing--was afraid to hold her lest she should die in my arms--husband holding her & [bottom of letter cut off] says her family all as one send.
1 W0679 & W0680 were mailed in the same envelope and partially written on the same sheet of paper.
2 Louisa often spells her sister's name without the final e. Her baby's name is also both written Ellen Margarett and Ellen Margarette.
3 (A) "Calomel--A colorless, white or brown tasteless compound, used as a purgative. Calomel, or chloride of mercury, was a popular cathartic or laxative which accomplished little other than purging... In spite of these drastic side effects (salivation, soreness and/or inflammation of the gums... sometimes even loss of teeth due to recession of gums), calomel was a valuable purgative, even though the dangers of the cumulative effects from the drug were not known. Soon after the turn of the century, however, castor oil became a substitute for calomel." "Calomel medicine." December 10, 2003. "Various Treatments and Frequencies of Use." From the notebooks of: Dr. Samuel Overton (1821-97). http://www.rootsweb.com/~txsmith/Pioneers/Childress/treatment.html
(B) "Calomel: Synonyms: Mercurous Chloride; Calogreen; Mercury Monochloride; Mercury Chloride. WARNING! HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED, INHALED OR ABSORBED THROUGH SKIN. CAUSES IRRITATION TO SKIN, EYES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. MAY CAUSE ALLERGIC SKIN REACTION. MERCURY COMPOUNDS AFFECT THE KIDNEYS AND CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM." "Calomel." December 10, 2003. MSDS Material Safety Data Sheet. http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/c0550.htm
4 The baby, Ellen Margarett, was born May 29, 1833, and died approx. July 31, 1833, see W0675 & W0680, W0687, W0701, W0735.
5 To learn more about Margarette Barker Lerned [McQuesten] please see W0609.