This week in history: May 17-May 23

May 20, 1843

Let­ter from Vir­ginia Camp­bell in Mount Pleas­ant, Ohio to her hus­band Robert Camp­bell in St. Louis, Missouri.

Camp­bell House Muse­um has deduced that this let­ter is from 1843, as Vir­ginia writes that their son James is teething.  The Camp­bel­l’s first child James Alexan­der Camp­bell was born May 14, 1842, mak­ing 1843 the only log­i­cal year that this let­ter could be written.

[Front Cov­er]

Mr. Robert Campbell
Sub­lette + Campbell
St. Louis

Near Mt Pleas­ant May 20th Sun­day [1843]
My Beloved Husband
I have a great deal to tell you and I have no doubt I will  omit that which I most intend­ed telling.

First of all dear I know you would like to hear how our dear  lit­tle James is for I call him all the time so and every one else does.  He has not been very well ell since we came here but is not very sick so don’t be at all uneasy about him.  I could not write you a let­ter with­out giv­ing a true account of him.  He was  slight­ly dis­or­dered on board of the boat and is cut­ting stom­ach  teeth.  I could not pro­cure any milk the last two days we were on the boat which was not very good for him.  Since we came here he has drank the hard lime­stone water and also ate an apple the  first evening we came all of which togeth­er with teething has  giv­en him the bow­el com­plaint this morn­ing we all came to the  con­clu­sion that it would be best to give him a good dose of oil  to him, we gave him about a cou­ple of tea­spoons full.  Tonight  Dr. Bates was here.  Cousin Mis­souri’s hus­bands broth­er-in-law —  he is a physi­cian in Wheel­ing and has a very good prac­tice.  I  asked him what I had bet­ter do he said give him a spoon­ful of  rhubarb and one of cacume­mag­ne­sium once in a half hour he gave  him it over and moth­er and aunt Bet­sy are now admin­is­ter­ing the  oth­er does, he resists very much my heart is wound up my dear child I hope he will be much bet­ter tomor­row.  Poor lit­tle fel­low he is devot­ed to me and won’t go to any­one if he can help it.  I have engaged a col­ored girl to nurse him that he may have  some­one to wash his clothes and walk him all about in the he brisk  air which I do not feel able to do.

Our lit­tle son has gone to sleep and I will now tell  you how I got here and all about the fias­co when we arrived in  Wheel­ing.  I had every­thing ready to lave the boat after a while  the Cap­tain and Mr. Boone came up and the Capt intro­duce Mr.  Bak­er the part­ner + Mr. Forsyth’s son in law.  He said that Mr.  Forsyth had gone with Mr. Brady and oth­ers on a fish­ing  excur­sion, but that he would be hap­py to get me a con­veyance to  Mt. Pleas­ant, he was exceed­ing­ly kind to me.  I took his arm and  walked up to the hotel with him which is on the wharf Mr. Boone  being so kind to car­ry — child for me.  When we got there I bade  Mr. Boone good­bye and the tears came up as I said for I wished I  was back with you.  Mr. Bak­er brought his wife down to see me and she invit­ed me to go up to their house to spend the day and stay the night.  I declined and said that I would go and vis­it them  with plea­sure on my return but that I had not seen my moth­er for  a long time and was desirous to get a con­veyance (the stage  hav­ing left ear­ly in the morn­ing) to go out to Mt. Pleas­ant.  Mr. Bak­er said that the road was a bad one that the own­ers would not let a nice car­riage go but he got as good a one as he could — I  expressed some fears of com­ing alone he said he was going to send Mr. Forsyth’s son Hen­ry a lad of about eigh­teen with me.  I felt thank­ful at the time but every step that I advanced I felt more  grate­ful for the kind­ness to me.  I shall nev­er for­get it and if  either of us ever have an oppor­tu­ni­ty I hope we will remem­ber  their kind­ness.  The road is the most awful one I ever was on in  my life.  Potomac Creek + Rock Spring are turn­pikes in com­par­i­son it would have been utter­ly impos­si­bly for me to have brought the child along for to save my life I could no sit still it was so  rough.  He car­ried my child for me and once when the hill was as so steep we could not ride up and  we had to get out and walk about a mile.  He car­ried my boy all  the way for me so kind­ly — I was scarce­ly able to drag myself  along pant­i­ng to near­ly choked to get my breath, we had to sit  down and rest sev­er­al times — James became very rest­less toward  the lat­ter part of the ride.  We enquired [inquired] when we got to Mt.  Pleas­ant we asked at Samuel Jones store where Thomas Ger­rill  lived and Moth­er and Aunt Bet­sy were there on horse­back come to  meet me.  I had to pay $5.50 cts for the wag­on which brought us  out here the agree­ment was $4.50 but as cousin Mis­souri lived  about 2 mines far­ther than he expect­ed he added anoth­er dol­lar.   For the baby’s wash­ing, milk and a present to the cham­ber maid of the boat I had to give about $4.00 more.  I would have [?]____  ____ [illeg­i­ble] on stage but it did not leave till tomorrow.

Cousin Mis­souri has a very pret­ty 2 sto­ry dou­ble frame house  plain­ly but com­fort­ably fur­nished they keep only one lit­tle girl  [?]_____ [illeg­i­ble] years old to do what work they do not do them­selves.   They do all their house­work cook­ing & wash­ing them­selves but not  with­stand­ing they thought it quite mar­velous how I brought my  child on alone with­out a nurse and I nev­er heard so much fuss about  any­thing.  I told them all that the child was not a great deal of trou­ble to me and that I had done it for econ­o­my and would do it again.  Moth­er blamed me very much for not bring­ing a nurse with me — how­ev­er I think it was right.  Moth­er thinks James the express  image of you + they all think he resem­bles your miniature.

Good­bye dear­est Moth­er sends her best love, the baby frets so I  must go to him.

Your devot­ed wife ever,

Vir­ginia Campbell.
[This sec­tion is writ­ten across the front cov­er] They are all extreme­ly kind to  me.  Moth­ers to will­ing to go on to Phi­la [Philadel­phia] with me but wants me to  wait until you come here — which I do not wish to do — pray write and tell me when you will be on — Moth­er’s going to Raleigh from Philadel­phia and says she does not expect to return with us to  St. Louis but to go short­ly after us.  Dear­est love I left you  and my home for the best and because you thought it was  for the best, but I can­not feel as hap­py with­out you.  May god  grant that it may prove best for James Alexan­der.  I should be  mis­er­able if I thought you were not per­fect­ly well — Mr. Camp­bell + Cousin Mary wrote Moth­er the kind­est of let­ters invit­ing her  to come up spend a few months with them.

Has Dr. McPheeters heard that James’ wife died in confinement.

The mail did not leave till  Tues­day or I would have writ­ten before.  I have writ­ten this  let­ter in a great hur­ry tonight, because Dr. Bates goes to  Wheel­ing tomor­row and offered to put this on the Mon­hon­ga­hela by  which you will receive this soon­er.  Very well [?]_____ [illeg­i­ble] every­one  is atten­tive to me Moth­er looks [?]_____ [illeg­i­ble].  Please write let­ters  [?]____ _____ ___ [illeg­i­ble]?

[Writ­ten on the side of the first page] I wrote to Cousin [?]_____  [illeg­i­ble] by Mr.  Boone [?]_____ _____ ______ ____ [illeg­i­ble phrase] night.
Read­ers should note that while Vir­ginia Camp­bel­l’s hand­writ­ingw as nor­mal­ly neat and cer­tain­ly bet­ter than her sis­ter-in-law Mary Camp­bel­l’s, there were still sev­er­al illeg­i­ble words or phrases.

1st page of letter from May 20, 1843

Front Cov­er of let­ter from May 20, 18431st page of let­ter from May 20, 18432nd page of let­ter from May 20, 1843

3rd page of letter from May 20, 1843

3rd page of let­ter from May 20, 1843