December 20, 1843 letter from Mary Campbell to her cousin and sister in law Virginia Campbell. This letter was chosen for the week of Thanksgiving because Mary talks about having Thanksgiving just a few days before Christmas! Apparently, Mary thought the Philadelphians were rather stuffy on Thanksgiving — “We have Thanksgiving tomorrow — everybody must go to Church. They are trying to make it a strictly religious festival, not a nice merry-making time as in good New England.”
How times have changed! Thanksgiving has not only been moved from December to November, but it’s gone from a religious holiday to one of family celebration, big helpings of turkey, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football. But throughout history, Thanksgiving has been about counting your blessings. Happy Thanksgiving from Campbell House Museum!
Mrs. Robert Campbell -
Saint Louis -
Philadelphia Dec. 20th / 43
My dear Virginia
I have been particularly anxious to write you since the receipt of you very kind + interesting letter. There is a subject therein mentioned upon which I wish to give my advice. You seem to think it absolutely necessary for you to be at housekeeping before we go to St. Louis. Now I think this entirely wrong + I hope you will not attempt it. In the first place the season would be the very worst in the whole year. The most stormy + inclement requiring all the winter comforts & before you can at all enjoy them, summer comes on + then it is so bad a time for providing for your table, you could not at all do justice to your culinary talents. Seriously Virginia I think the early spring a most unprofitous time for beginning so serious a task as housekeeping must at all times prove. And you know your mother thinks the Planters Houses would suit me a great deal better. We would you know be just as much at home with you + Robert + the children + then we could see all the world then besides + then later in the spring when I return from visiting all my people, let us then have the pleasure of assisting you in getting all things ready. If you do not take my advice in this matter I will be quite offended _ not stop at your fine house at all in St. Louis, but go straight on to Jefferson City — after taking a peek at James + Hugh.
[Pg. Break] We were all deeply deeply grieved for the situation of our kind friend Mr. John Kerr. Robert’s letter to our house yesterday announced the hopelessness of his disease — how unexpected to his family this must be — what a change a few months has produced. the husband has taken the dying wife’s place + she is restored to health, at least your write as if she were again in good health. He is happy + resigned, that is the only comfort left his friends — his death you + Robert will sincerely lament I know + all that knew him well will mourn for him, for he was a good man. How much I will miss him when I go to St. Louis, for I knew him longer & liked him better than any one else there except our own.
Christmas is almost upon us, + I have done nothing for it except make some mince meat. I will give very few presents for my money always runs short a the close of the year + I do not expect any for myself — all our gift-givers are married + away. Your husband was more famous in this like than any one else + most of our presents went with him. We have Thanksgiving tomorrow — everybody must go to Church. They are trying to make it a strictly religious festival, not a nice merry-making time as in good New England.
We were all at Tom Smith’s wedding last week — he married Miss Leiper — we took Archie + John Miller in the carriage with us, their wives were not able to go. Mrs. Archie’s infant too young + Matilda suffering from severe cold. We went to John Leiper’s, then dressed + drove over a mile to the brides father’s where 150 friends were assembled. We had a very pleasant time, plenty of eating & drinking — no dancing. The bride is a very sweet lovely girl — Tom is most fortunate in
[Pg. Break] getting such a wife. Elizabeth Lapsby was also married to a Mr. Willson — she had a very gay wedding I am told + has had a great many parties given to her. It is like taking Meg’s head off to get her to go any of them — I’ll give her up as a bad job.
As to news, I fear I have not a word. Mr. & Mrs. McConley are coming on to spend Christmas — she is following your example for little Sophy Mouyes [?] is now very sick with intermitting fever. I trust the dear little creature will be well soon. Mrs. Zucker has been very sick for a week past with severe cold — every body has the influenza. Matilda Miller looks very badly + always complains, I think if she had a child she would be well enough, but there is no prospect yet. Mrs. Baker is better + is able to come round + spend evenings with us again. Harriet Oakman is as strong + well as any one.
I have not written your mother for a long time, but will soon. i have heard from all my own family recently. Mr. Clark says the kindest things of you & your children. Tell Robert we have all been quite amused at the Irish gentleman that has been flourishing in all our papers. Mr. Tagert thinks he will hardly speak to us ow he has become so distinguished a personage + so Sir William Stewart has become Earl of Losh [?] will he receive an accession of fortune with the title.
Little Robert Campbell is coming to spend the day with us, he has been very delicate + I almost fear will soon follow Callender. I have to take him to a fair to buy some things + I must make one as two visits. The Millers, Oakmans & all drink tea with me to night. I wish you + yours could be with us at Christmas. You have at least our best wishes for happiness + many returns.
[Pg. Break — 3rd page margins]
Give my kindest love to that Irish gentleman. A thousand kisses to Jem + the baby + regards to all friends, particularly the Kerrs. Meg of course sends oceans of love to all — she will write you soon. Your cousin as ever
I had quite forgotten how bossy Mary could be, and I highly enjoyed this letter, which I did not remember at all. I especially loved her mention of Virginia’s culinary talents! How could I have missed that?
I still wish I could edit these letters.….. that is a long-distance project I would really enjoy if I could get started. 🙂
Thanks Megan! Yeah Mary’s definitely a character — there must be something with the Kyle women that they don’t have a problem telling it like it is :-). We’re so glad to have avid readers, especially those that know the family like you — enjoy!