Letter of the week, June 21, 2010

Here’s a short let­ter Robert wrote to his niece Mar­garet Mac­Cul­loch in Ball­yarton, Ire­land.  He sent Mar­garet 5 pounds Ster­ling, which is just over $500.00 today.  Robert’s youngest child that he refers to is Robert (the third child who had that name, inci­den­tal­ly) who would have been five years old dur­ing their sum­mer trav­els.  He died the fol­low­ing sum­mer of diph­the­ria.  And par­tic­u­lar­ly time­ly is Robert’s para­graph about his finan­cial woes dur­ing the Civ­il War — depre­ci­at­ing prop­er­ty val­ues, peo­ple in debt — sound famil­iar?  Times real­ly haven’t changed much.


St Louis
June 21 1861
My Dear Niece,

Hav­ing net with the enclosed bill of exchange of the Nation­al Bank at Roscom­mon in the Nation­al Bank of Lon­don for Five pounds ster­ling I pur­chased it and con­clud­ed to send it to you as a present, and at some time to drop you a line to show that I have not for­got­ten you.  I have had fre­quent talks with my brother’s fam­i­ly about you and all our fam­i­ly in Ire­land and was grate­ful to hear such good account of them.

I had a let­ter yes­ter­day from your sis­ter Mary Clark in which she men­tions all her chil­dren who seam to be very promis­ing and affec­tion­ate to her. She has named her youngest child Hugh Camp­bell I think it is some four­teen months old and she says is a very large, fine boy- her daugh­ter are of great assis­tance to her.

Char­lotte is very com­fort­ably sit­u­at­ed at Kansas city and when I was last there had got into a very excel­lent house which John had just built and she felt quite com­fort­able- She had two fine boys and since then has added a daugh­ter to her fam­i­ly of which of course you have been advised. Your broth­er Robert B is in the gold region of the Rocky Mnts and through oth­er par­ties I hear that he is well, but I have not had any let­ters from him.

Your uncle Hugh lives but a short dis­tance from my res­i­dences and my chil­dren feel as much at home there as at their own home. They call it “ the oth­er house”. I was about to have left with my fam­i­ly for New Port, Rhode Island where we have passed the last two sum­mers but my youngest child has been unwell and we will not leave before tomor­row or day after as the child in improv­ing and we like to have it well before we start, my broth­er will fol­low with his fam­i­ly ten days or so later.

The “Oth­er House,” Hugh & Mary Camp­bel­l’s home on Wash­ing­ton Avenue. The Ely Walk­er Loft build­ing is now on the property.

You have seen by the news­pa­pers that our coun­try is in a very deplorable con­di­tion, and no imme­di­ate prospect of a change busi­ness is almost sus­pend­ed and rents great­ly reduced and such …. ……. To be the case until peace is returned. We are unfor­tu­nate­ly in a con­di­tion to feel these changes less than most peo­ple as we are entire­ly out of debt.  But we will be losers by the gen­er­al depre­ci­a­tion of prop­er­ty in val­ue and many who are indebt­ed to us will not be able to pay for some time and oth­er debts we will lose.

We have not had a let­ter from sis­ter Ann for some months and she was then just recov­er­ing from a severe attack of ill­ness. I trust that she is now quite well again as we all love her very much. I was glad to learn that your father and moth­er were in good health at last account. You will remem­ber me kind­ly to you hus­band and chil­dren and to your Father, moth­er Aunt and sis­ters- in short to all our relatives

I know you as a good child of some three years, and I like still to rec­ol­lect you, as such

Affec­tion­ate­ly Your Uncle

Robert Camp­bell