W0701 TO DR. CALVIN AND MARGARETTE MCQUESTEN from Hugh and Louisa McAllaster
Sep 11 1833
To: Dr. Calvin and Margarette McQuesten, Brockport, New York, [U.S.A.]
From: Sandbornton Bridge, [New Hampshire, U.S.A.]
Sickness and death has prevented me from seeing you before this & it is now rather difficult for me to leave. Louisa's health is not as good as it has been, she is verry [sic] nervous and discontented since the death of our little Ellen and mourns her loss much.1 Our other children have been unwell and L., though anxious to move W. could not think of leaving them to accompany me or have me go without her. We have been expecting to hear from you again every mail, thus you see we have been in rather a quandary for some weeks past. The Season is now so far advanced that probably it is too late for me to enter into Co. with Mr. Hunter or any one else this fall, therefore I have thought best to defer my intended visit for the present, without something should transpire that you should think would be for my interest to make the visit immediately.
I have made up my mind to leave here as soon as I can close my business without too much sacrifice. I have been trying to sell my house but meet with poor success.2 If I do not sell my stock in trade on house before spring I shall offer them at auction. From the description we have had of Brockport I think we should like--should money command as great interest as you represent I should as lives locate in your village and let what money as I could raise as invest it in trade for the present & find some other employment, say keep a boarding house tavern or be a gentleman at leisure. If you can let a few hundred dollars for me in safe hand at 20 prct or over & I will forward the same by Jonas. I have the impression that letting mony [sic] is better business than trade in your vicinity.
Business is very dull with me, & do not more than pay my expences [sic] this season. My net gain for the last 5 years has everaged [sic] about $600, per anum [sic] beside defraying all expences [sic] and throwing in $100 per anum from bad debts--but every dog must have his day & I have had mine here. I can never regain my former business in this place without the sale of rum & should I [do?] this it would be doubtful. Sanborn is doing as much business as ever. McQuesten & Gervish are doing a fair business & Treary has done nothing, he has sold his stock to [Vitan?] & rented his store, he leaves in a few days for Claremont. Lyn Gilmour has sold all his personal property at auction & going to Baltimore in a few days. [?] Taylor has left for Michigan 150 miles beyond Detroit. We shall expect a long letter from you by Jonas. Remember me to him & tell him we shall expect a long visit [when?] he visits N.H. Love to your wife, wishing you both the best of Heavens [sic] blessings.
I am [in?] your affectionat [sic] brother
[The following letter on the same page was added by Margarette's sister Louisa (Lerned) McAllaster:]
My Dear Sister,
For some reason unknown to us you & your dear husband have kept us waiting in anxiety for weeks past to hear from you. We can wait no longer! Did you not receive a letter from us in July stating the sickness of our idol babe, the reason husband did not go to Brockport? Have you not since received a paper with her death & that of Mrs. Page in it? If so then why this cruel delay? Why not send a word of sympathy to your afflicted brother & sister? We were expecting an answer immediately from you. Then after sending the paper husband still waited to hear from you.
A fortnight after the death of Ellen Margarette,3 Mary with her babe came to see us. She staid two weeks & three days, the second week of her visit here Mother with her three little girls came & staid a week. [?] their kindness & attention to me & their lively conversation added to the care of so large a family served for the time to refresh my drooping spirits. We had no girl & I worked harder than I was able to do & was threatened violently with the Dysintary [sic] the next morning after they left. I gave out the day they went--was weak nervous & troubled with nausea. Husband then thought of going immediately to the west, but my health was poor. I could not be reconciled to stay without him. Then the children have all been sick Jane with a cold & worms--Mary the prevailing cold--Sarah quite sick with a cold & diarrhea.
They were better & last Friday after the most mature deliberation after hours of thought & conversation husband came to the conclusion that he would start Monday. I gave up going & thought best to stay with the children at H., as mother & Mary were very anxious we should. But Providence desired it otherwise, Sunday I was quite unwell a very bad cold & nervous headache & Monday the day for hus. to leave, not able to sit up--Hugh came up at ten said he had decided: He should give up his journey & write to the Dr. I hope now he will feel better [since?] he has made up his mind, as he could not post [his?] [?] or do any thing else for weeks.
Oh how much I have thought of seeing you & folding you to this aching heart of telling you my sickness joy & sorrows for the past year. I knew you would weep & sympathize with me & would pity & pray for me. Margarett six weeks today since I imprinted the last kiss on the beautiful clay of your little namesake--beautiful in death!! six weeks today since she was laid in the cold & silent grave--six weeks this eve since husband & I sat down with our remaining children to weep & converse with them. What a sad fortnight the poor mother experienced before Mary came. I could not read or work, I could only go from room to room & from the house to the store but with this aching void. I knew not what to do with myself but I think now I am more reconciled, though my health has suffered I cannot live without Asafoetida,4 I have to sleep with it & burn it in the lamp. I do not wish to visit here or see any one, I feel as though I must be where there is more society more business & something to enliven me. Hugh says "nothing but Brpt [sic] for me" so say I indeed & Dr. do help us along--hus. says I am so disconted [sic] he will go in the spring, I hope making the necessary preperations [sic] will animate my almost lifeless soul. Can I get hired help there? Are the girls good for care &c. Is house rent dear. Shall I be contented? I should like to take boarders if a good profit arises. I do want to be more useful than I am or can be here. Mrs. Hazeltine has just called from Hebron. My good friend Mrs. [?] soon leaves & I shall have no one then whom I love, to leave behind but Mrs. Tilton. Mrs. Hazeltine lives here, we are the same as ever but M. you know she is not the one for me to enjoy her society.
Minister Chase & Bishop Griswold dined here on their way to Holderness [N.H.] two weeks since. Mr. Page to the astonishment of every one was published to Abigail in just three weeks after Mrs. Page's death & before you receive this we shall have another Mrs. Page. As soon as I can get ready I shall take one or two of the children & go to Boston with husband though I have no more ambition about it than I have to go any where here.
Dear Sister how is your health? I have worried much lest you was sick Mr. Chase said he told [sic] you must expect to have sickness as they were subject to sickness but no fatal maladies along on the canal & farther South & west. Caroline is still with me.
Dr. will you send some poetic frills by brother Jonas tell him we shall probably be at Hopkinton when C. returns from Windsor, her examination takes place 3rd & 4th of October & perhaps he will be there to attend it & accompany her home. Dr. [?] inquired her out during his lectures there at the Seminary, complimented her much--knew her from her looking so much like her dear father. Received a letter from her last week. She says she dont [sic] want to live in B. if Berry Capt. Flanders & so on go there. Horace Hazeltine is soon to be married to Mary [?] Widow [?] is with Mr. Hill till after "so so" is over with. Tucker has been at home. I have a little dog but my milk [letter continues on page 702] makes him poor & very sick.
Do write every thing you can think, your letters dear brother & sister are always interesting. I think my affections are much weaned from this world since the death of E.M. I hope they never will be placed here again. As soon as we are determined or settled in some place I intend to give myself & children up to this Saviour who is so kindly warning me to "arise & depart" for this is not my home. Husband loved our babe & felt her death very keenly he has been more affectionate than ever. Your loving sister,
L.M.A. [Louisa McAllaster]
Doct. Calvin McQuesten
Brockport, Monroe County, N.Y.
1 Louisa's baby, Ellen Margarett, was born May 29, 1833, and died approx. July 31, 1833, see W0675 & W0680, W0687, W0701, W0735.
2 Hugh was generally unsuccessful in business and moved his family numerous times in search of his fortune. However, few of his ventures proved to be lucrative--he often lost money--and his family spent much of their lives struggling financially. For more details and links, see W0889, and for a comment by Mary Farmer, see footnote 1 of W0175.
3 The spelling of the name "Margarette" varies sometimes. Louisa, both when writing about her child and when addressing her sister, writes "Margarett" without the final e.
4 "Asafoetida--(pronounced ass-a-fidity by some)--noxious smell, used in a bag around the neck to ward off illness. Other Names: Asafetida, Assafetida, Assafoetida, Devil's Dung, Devil's Durt, Food of the Gods (Persian), Laser (Roman), Stinking Gum. Attributed Medicinal Properties: Asafoetida is known as an antidote for flatulence and is also prescribed for respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough. Its vile smell has led to many unusual medicinal claims, mostly stemming from the belief that its foetid odour would act as a deterrent to germs. In several European countries a small piece of the resin would be tied on a string and hung around children's necks to protect from disease. The shock of the sulfurous smell was once thought to calm hysteria and in the days of the American Wild West it was included in a mixture with other strong spices as a cure for alcoholism." I have found nothing that suggests burning it in a lamp.
"Asafoetida." December 29, 2003. http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/asafetid.html.
5 To learn more about Margarette Barker Lerned [McQuesten] please see W0609.