This Week in History: November 20

This week, big broth­er Hugh sends Robert a note fol­low­ing up from his recent trip back to Ire­land.  The broth­ers just lost sis­ter Eliz­a­beth, and, affec­tion­ate­ly, Hugh reveals that — of all their fam­i­ly — he could not bear to lose Robert, too.  And he has some inter­est­ing things to say about the state of his love life, and he encour­ages Robert to get hitched.  You know, only if he feels like it, of course.  Debt is a com­mon theme in let­ters from this peri­od.  When Hugh and Robert’s father died in 1810, he left a sub­stan­tial debt from build­ing Augh­a­lane, the fam­i­ly home.  The broth­ers are still try­ing to remit mon­ey back to Ire­land to pay this off.


Mil­ton NC Novem­ber 27th 1824

My Dear Robert,

From con­tents of a let­ter just received from our mutu­al friend James Reed I am aston­ished to find that you have not received my let­ter of 18 Sept.  He does not speak of anoth­er from Andrew for­ward­ed at the same time which I pre­sume has met the same fate.  These cursed irreg­u­lar mails and neg­li­gent post­mas­ters are like­ly to break the chain of our cor­re­spon­dence and give us both cause for anx­i­ety and unhap­pi­ness.  Here­after I wish you to write me once every two months, whether you receive a let­ter from me or not, and often­er when you hear from me — I will pur­sue the same plan in future.

Since my return to this place, I have had two let­ters from Andrew, one from Mr Boyle, one

Augh­a­lane, Robert and Hugh’s fam­i­ly home in Ireland

from Mr. Beaty, and some oth­er friend in that coun­try — all of which con­tains the most pleas­ing intel­li­gence from home, except what relates to our dear beloved & lament­ed Eliza.  Let us not repine Robert — It was God’s will & it is our duty to sub­mit.  My Moth­er had received your let­ter direct­ed to me in Ire­land and one from Mr. Wiley, describ­ing your new sit­u­a­tion in St. Louis.  I have writ­ten her and Andrew last week & request­ed both to write you immediately.

When I last wrote you every­thing rel­a­tive to my late vis­it was fresh in my mem­o­ry & I gave you a gen­er­al sum­ma­ry of all news in which I thought you would feel any inter­est.  Per­haps I may fail to do as well now but I will try to con­dense as much as pos­si­ble in this sheet.  Tomor­row I start to Rich­mond via Raleigh in busi­ness — on my return I shall write you again.  Dan Wil­son of Omagh died sud­den­ly in July last — Sis­ter Peg­gy died in April — Sis­ter Margery & hus­band are some­where in this coun­try, but not con­tent­ed — Sal­ly Cather­ine & Mary much as usu­al — Our dear sis­ter Anne is unhealthy and has begun To spit blood — Moth­er is quite well — nei­ther could write me.

While in Ire­land I rent­ed out the land held by the dif­fer­ent ten­ants for the space of 10 years from Nov 1824 (present) at the annu­al sum of about £66.10s.  Moth­er retains about 9 acres around the house.  Her rents are to be paid over to Andrew McFar­land.  Gabriel Walk­er lives in Glen­co­pa­gaugh at the year­ly rent of [miss­ing].  There is a new house there and I sup­pose it will here­after be well tak­en care of.  Andrew is strug­gling along as usu­al.  His lit­tle daugh­ter Bess was a love­ly inter­est­ing child when I was there — anoth­er (called Mary) has been born since I left Ire­land.  I was high­ly pleased with Andrew & his lit­tle fam­i­ly when amongst them.  He don’t drink a drop of spir­it now of any descrip­tion except a lit­tle wine.  I set­tled with Bil­ly of Glen­gaw for £53.13.9 — paid him £15 and gave notes for bal­ance @ 18mo.  I expend­ed $500 amongst my friends includ­ing expens­es of tour and did every thing in my pow­er to make all hap­py.  My efforts were suc­cess­ful — they were pleased beyond my expec­ta­tions with every thing I did — but I left them with­out bid­ding farewell!  I could not sup­port a part­ing scene with Eliza.  None of them wish you to go home, untill you are inde­pen­dent at least.  I have arranged busi­ness in such a way, that they have now no trou­ble with farm or ten­ants.  Don’t stay in St. Louis, if you think it unhealthy — no mat­ter about your sit­u­a­tion — go else­where should there be the least dan­ger.  I could bet­ter sup­port the death of any oth­er of our fam­i­ly (except Moth­er) than yours — if you can do half as well else­where, leave it in the spring.

Page one of this letter

With respect to my wor­thy friend James Reed’s affairs, they shall be attend­ed to — Uncle John could not at this moment spare $30 to all the friends he has — of course John Reed’s jour­ney here will be fruit­less, and indeed worse than use­less, though we shall be very glad to see him.  The old peo­ple are becom­ing less able to attend to busi­ness & con­se­quent­ly more embar­rassed in mon­ey mat­ters.  I see them often and do all I can to assist every way in my pow­er.  Their house will always be open, as their hearts, to their rel­a­tives but their purs­es are too tight to be of any ser­vice at present.  We shall be required to see James here should he come this way in the spring.

A few weeks ago I had a let­ter from David Kyle Junr offer­ing to take me in as a part­ner in Rich­mond — William & David Kyle will dis­solve at Christ­mas and William pro­pos­es giv­ing up the old house In Rich­mond to David & me.  Our Mr. K. is not will­ing to part with me & offers to give me five thou­sand dol­lars in VA mon­ey as a present at the expi­ra­tion 2 years from my return (Sept. 1826) and the use of his cred­it to any extent, to estab­lish busi­ness on my own foot­ing if I stay with him untill that time expires.  Either propo­si­tion is beyond my expec­ta­tion — I have not yet resolved which to accept, but will deter­mine in a day or two.  I will write you on my return from Rich­mond more decid­ed­ly on this impor­tant sub­ject.  You see for­tune smiles on me at length.

Should I con­sent to stay in Mil­ton I will remit one thou­sand dol­lars to Ire­land for the use of my good old moth­er for pay­ment of debt in the course of a year.  In either case should I become pos­ses­sor of more than a decent sup­port, the sur­plus shall go to my friends — mar­riage I have no idea of at present and in all prob­a­bil­i­ty nev­er may.  Let such be your views Robert, and our change of res­i­dence will not be in vain.  You ought to write home direct­ly.  I under­stand that sis­ter Ann has writ­ten you on 7th Sept.

I pro­cured sit­u­a­tions for four of my ship mates today — George Boyle with W & D Kyle, James McKim­mon of Tri­na­madin with R & H Kyle Raleigh.  David Rogers with R. Kyle Oxford & Robert Steven­son of Stra­bum in this store. Robert Wiley is still the same ami­able char­ac­ter — Ezekiel Ander­son is doing pret­ty well in Rock­ing­ham — Mr. Kyle’s fam­i­ly are always friend­ly — I sub­scribed for the Mil­ton Gazette for you — Do you receive it?  Shall I send you any oth­er papers?  Or can I do any thing to add to your hap­pi­ness — If so, write me & it shall be done.  The Doc­tor is still the same — our busi­ness has been quite brisk late­ly — Kerr has opened at Clarksville VA about 44 miles east of this & is doing tol­er­a­bly — Fare thee well, Robert

Hugh Camp­bell

Short­ly after my return to Mil­ton I had rea­son to sus­pect James Math­ey (the young fel­low who came short­ly after depar­ture).  I searched his draw­er and found that he had pur­loined from the firm between 200 & 300 dolls.  Mr. Kyle was not at home — I took what cash he had from him & dis­missed the scoundrel — His par­ents live in Der­ry & are very mean — this you see we had a sec­ond edi­tion of John Mon­aghan in Milton.

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When I advise you to adopt a plan sim­i­lar to mine I don’t mean to delay you from offer­ing at Hymen’s altar — I should rejoice (my dear Robert) to hear that you had made choice of a help­mate for life if it were a pru­dent one — but in this I shall leave you to act as you please

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I received yours of 13 Oct & a Mis­souri paper — I trust [?] you write bet­ter than for­mer­ly — If con­ve­nient you can send me occa­sion­al­ly only any paper [miss­ing] some­thing curi­ous — don’t make me a reg­u­lar sub­scriber — your west­ern papers are not worth esteem here.