This week’s letter was written by Mary Campbell (Robert’s brother Hugh’s wife) to Virginia. Mary had an endearing sense of humor and she was well-loved by Robert, Virginia and their children. Her style was chatty and self-depreciating, and all of her letters contain a good bit of gossip. We’re particularly fond of the final paragraph, which is exemplary of her personality. The adorable James (sometimes Jamie) Mary refers to is Robert and Virginia’s first child who was born in May of 1842. See the notes at the end of the post for lots of interesting information. Thank you to volunteer and lead reseacher Tom for his hard work transcribing this letter and creating the notes.
Mrs. Robert Campbell
Saint Louis Missouri
Philadelphia Oct. 2nd / 43
My dear Virginia,
This morning our visitors have all departed, even Ponsonby leaves at 10 o’clock – we breakfasted at 6 – & the first act of my liberty is to write you, who must feel a wee bit neglected by us all – Mag you know never can write in a hurry, & indeed she has had full occupation; for my whole time has been passed in the streets, & all the housekeeping has devoted on her as well as entertaining the friends that remained at home –
Miss McKimmon was with us nearly 3 weeks, a Miss Oakley was here before her, & a Miss Atkinson came the very day Miss O left – & of course many others have been spending days & evenings with us – I have had in addition numerous orders; all which are now closed except yours & I shall wait for further orders from you in regard to your bonnet as I know you cannot wear ours for some weeks.
About the last of this month the winter fashions will be opened, & then I can get you what you like – the mousse linen you marked, were not new in style & they were in 12 yd lengths – so I did not take them – I have since chosen a cashmere for you, but that has only 13 yds – it is impossible to get of any thing very new or stylish, a larger quantity – but if I can I will exchange yours or keep it myself – Mrs. McKimmon had 18 yds put in a dress – but it was too much of a good thing – Miss Rodgers won’t use 20 yds if you gain it here. [End page 1]
I have been looking for a hat & coat for dear little Jamie, the weather has however continued so warm, that nothing has yet been made up – I hope the few cold days of last week will bring out something – this morning however gives promise of a “summer’s day” & I never suffered with the heat as much as during the last month – this very day work was almost insufferable – how have you born it –
I cannot tell you how relieved I was at the receipt of your letter from home – I had seen Mrs. Phillips the day before & had heard from her sister at Cincinnati, & you were all suffering from the heat & uncomfortable bouts & you worn out with nursing James – I feared you would not get safely to St. Louis but you can bear a great deal, not one of the delicate kind at all – I wish I knew how you were at this moment – I was dreaming about you all Saturday night – I thought the little boy had made his appearance & all were doing well – I awoke calling to Mr. C. that Jamie had a little brother – you will be pleased if it is so but I would prefer a girl –
In accordance with Robert’s desire, I selected a present for Mrs. McKimmon – I tried to find out if they wanted any thing about the house or table, such as a cake basket, etc. but they have everything – Mrs. McK had no jewelry but a simple mosaic breastpin – so I ordered a very pretty amethyst bracelet & pin put in a very nice case – all costing $22.25 – which I gave Mr. McK for his wife a few days before they left – they all seemed delighted, but Mr. McK thought the obligations were all on his side & that he should be making you the present – he said he would with Robert very soon – he is a most estimable man – his wife a merry hearted thoughtless creature – she kept us all alive while here. Mag & she carried on in great style – you would have been amused. [End page 2]
I heard with great regret of Mr. John Kerr’s ill health – I thought he had attained an age when diseases of the lungs were not to be at all dreaded – his wife’s care engaged all our sympathies; how little could we foresee, that our fears would be so soon called forth for him – I trust he will yet be well again – present my kindest regards to both – how is your friend Mrs. Lee – getting well I hope – [torn] McCausland an [torn] died – the poor little orphans what will become of them.
I received a letter from Mrs Ashley a few was ago – full of affection & sentiment, the meaning of which was to hang on a box of articles from Miss Brinton’s (the nantinamaker [?]) for Mary’s wedding – which event she announces to us in great confidence. I was amused at such excellence of distinguished consideration – it was a [ ] the news was so stale – the match is all she could desire except on account of Mary’s extreme youth – The box was sent a week ago & will be there before you receive this –
Mrs. Baker continues confined to bed – & has become extremely nervous; imagines she has all sorts of diseases – but I think the nervousness is by far the worst – as more as she goes out & is amused she will be well enough – Matilda complains too greatly – Mrs. Archie quite nears you in size now – she expects another
Campbell in 6 weeks or even so – so all complaints last summer will end as I expected – Mag & me have our new bonnets, we got them at Mary Wharton’s opening – Mag’s is even firm enough to please you – it is yellow however, that is not your taste but very becoming to me with a beautiful feather – mine is blue again – not dark – a French bonnet every thing matching beautifully – very genteel – I intended to get white, could not find one ready made, & all thought this so becoming. I advised Mag to exchange the silk you gave her for one of longer length & less like the silk she has – she did so with great reluctance
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but as you wanted her to be so fine when she comes to St. Louis it was the only chance she had of getting a trimmed silk dress – I have gotten nothing for myself yet – I send out a box to my sister Betsy today containing some things for her, my mother & Mrs. Reynolds – I hope they will go expeditiously. There is nothing new among our friends – I have been too busy to visit anyone. I have not called at Mrs. Jennings since you left but I must go there some time today to ask when Mrs. Phillips goes to St. Louis – Give my best love to Mrs. Kerr – I hope her teeth are all now right & comfortable
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I have not received a letter from your mother yet – Mrs. McK saw her the night before she left Raleigh – she was very well as all your friends were – she hears Ellen is very happy – Mr. Otey very kind – Weston Gales has been on here & several Raleigh people – Mr. G. has courted Mrs. Nelson twice – she objects to the children but I think she will yet marry him – Bob Johnston is engaged to Miss Norris of our city – pretty but poor – how comes on Marcellous & Miss G.F.? Miss Tevis is to be married next month – I expect your uncle David & wife soon to make us a visit – I hope they will not come until I get the carpets all down & the house a little in order & something to put on my back –
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Dear little Jamie we talk of him every day – Mr. C quite longs to see him, does he begin to talk yet – kiss him a thousand times for us – he is remembered by all & your friends make the kindest inquiries for you – Ponsonby goes to school to Hartwick near Cooperstown in the state of New York – a school recommended by Miss Craft – he dislikes going again among strangers – & I presume this will be the last trial –
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Robert I suppose is as busy as a bee – the business is all over here – Market it looks quiet & orderly again too much so to please the merchants – Mr. Moore has sent for me to look at a secretary he has finished that he thinks will suit Robert – I will call in a day or so – I am pleased you have not taken that house of Larkins – I would rather have a worse habitation & a better house – get a new one if possible.
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Farewell dear Virginia – we await with anxiety news from you – I trust we will soon hear that all is true & well with you – Mag sends a thousand loves & kisses to James – she is writing her sister Ellen to whom she has not any of written for a long time – we had a delightful letter from her recently – she is very happy – James & all well – James cautioned traveling with ague & fever – Do you hear from Harriet – I expected visiting her soon after you left but have not done so – My best love to your [ ] of a husband – May God bless you all – I am still growing fatter – don’t you pity me – I threaten to sleep only 3 or 4 hours & to eat very little & walk all the time – but I dare say I will pursue the even tender of my way – although it will shock you to see your fat cousin next spring – Goodbye again
Mother & friends send love – I cannot read this over now will you be able to make it out I fear
Note: Ponsonby Kyle was the son of William Kyle, brother to Hazlett Kyle (the father of Virginia Campbell).
Note: The Campbell’s first child, James Alexander Campbell, was born 14 May 1842 and therefore would have been 1 year and 5 months of age at the time of this letter.
Note: The Campbell’s second child, and the first to be named Hugh, was born on 9 October 1843, one week after this letter was written. Sadly he died of pneumonia four months later, on 15 February 1844.
Note: Miss E. Brinton ran a dressmaking establishment at No. 122 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Curiously enough, “Nantina” is a contemporary maker of wedding dresses in Athens, Greece. I have not been able to determine if this was a term used in Victorian times.
Note: Hartwick Seminary was founded in 1797 through the will of John Christopher Hartwick, a Lutheran minister from Germany, who led several mission congregations of early settlers along the Hudson River and the Mohawk River in what is now upstate New York. Shortly after his death, his dream of establishing an institution of higher learning became a reality with the founding of Hartwick Seminary in 1797. The New York State Legislature in 1816 incorporated the new school – the first Lutheran seminary in America – as a classical academy and theological seminary, in the Town of Hartwick, just southwest of the village of Cooperstown. The school moved to its present location in 1928 with land donated by the City of Oneonta, when it was incorporated as a four-year college. Assuming that this letter has been correctly transcribed, it is unclear why Ponsonby Kyle would attend a Lutheran seminary, when presumably his family was either Presbyterian or Episcopalian. However, the will of William Kyle, Ponsonby’s father, stipulated: “I bequeath to Ponsonby Kyle the son of Sophia C Longins and now residing in the City of New York the like sum of thirteen thousand dollars to be paid him by my Executors when he arrives at the age of twenty one years on the following conditions and reservations: He shall be placed by my Executors at some respectable seminary of learning where he shall have the means of acquiring a good education until of age if he manifests a disposition and capacity for study. But if my Executors think otherwise then it is my will and intention that they bind him as an apprentice to some respectable mechanic or tradesman until he arrives at age, and that they withhold the above sum of thirteen thousand dollars furnishing him only with the yearly proceeds thereof until they are of opinion that his conduct and disposition is such as becomes the character of a peaceful & worthy citizen to be then paid him by my Executors & not sooner.”
Note: For what it is worth, Harriet Kyle McCausland was the daughter of William Kyle, a Virginian of Irish birth, who married Sarah A. Stephens, by whom he had a large family of children. This William Kyle could possibly be the brother of Hazlett Kyle, though only two children are mentioned in his will, William Sheridan Kyle and Ponsonby Kyle. Another William Kyle was listed as a brother of David Kyle, the father of Mary Campbell, in his brother’s Robert’s probate records. But that record contains no spousal information and indicates no issue from William Kyle. In any event, William Kyle was a farmer by occupation and paid particular attention to the breeding of fine horses. His residence was near Faircastle, VA. Harriet Kyle was born on Catawba creek, in Botetourt county VA. Her husband, John McCausland was a native of County Tyrone, Ireland. He left Ireland around the age of 21, landed at Baltimore, and eventually settled in Lynchburg VA, where he found temporary employment with David Kyle. From there he went to Huntsville AL, where he established a branch mercantile house, making a specialty of Irish linen. Branch houses were also started in Nashville and St. Louis, where John McCausland established his permanent residence. In St. Louis, Gov. Polk appointed him commissioner to arrange the basis for taxation for St. Louis. John McCausland married Harriet Kyle while she was visiting friends in St. Louis. They had three children: the eldest, Laura, died in infancy; Robert K. became a physician, and John A. (b. 13 Sept 1837) entered the military and was a famous Confederate Civil War general.
Note: Weston Raleigh Gales (20 April 1802 – 23 July1848) was the son of Joseph Gales (1761–1841), a printer in Sheffield, England, who founded the Sheffield Register and got in trouble with the authorities for supporting the French Revolution. In 1794, he fled to the free city of Hamburg, and immigrated with his family to Philadelphia in 1795, where he was employed by the American Daily Advertiser, where he covered speeches in the U.S. Senate. He founded the Independent Gazetteer and did printing work for a number of congressmen. In 1798, members of the North Carolina delegation offered him the state-printing contract, and he sold the paper to Samuel Harrison Smith in 1799, moved to Raleigh and established the Raleigh Register. “It was the leading political voice in North Carolina, first for the Republicans and, after 1824, for the National Republicans of Adams and Clay.” He took William Winston Seaton as a partner in 1806, who married one of his daughters. An apprentice, Francis Lumsden, was the cofounder of the New Orleans Picayune. Joseph Gales was editor until his retirement in 1833, at which time his son Weston Gales took over. Joseph Gales’ wife was Winifred Marshall, a writer and also cousin to Lord Melbourne. The office and the Gales’ home were in the 300 block of Fayetteville Street, directly south of the Wake County Courthouse. Their first son was Joseph Gales Jr. (1786–1860), who had been expelled from the University of North Carolina, became a partner of his father’s old associate from Philadelphia, Samuel Harrison Smith, in the National Intelligencer in Washington, D.C. His second son, Weston Gales (1802–1848)(who was expelled from Yale) joined the Raleigh Register in 1821. He married Love Swain Freeman (23 July 1806 – 24 Jan 1842) at Sandwich, Barnstable, MA on 22 April 1825. They had four children: Annie Freeman (b.1826‑d.1894); Seaton (b.1828‑d.1891); Altona Forster (b.1831‑d.1860); and Weston Jr. (b.1833‑d.1835). Following the sudden death of the first Mrs. Gales (at age 35) in 1842, Weston never married “Mrs. Nelson.” Instead, on 8 January 1844 he married Mary Spies, the eldest daughter of John J. Spies, in New York City. Weston had become editor of the Raleigh Register following his father’s retirement in 1833 and continued until his own death in 1848. Weston’s son Seaton (1828–1878) then became editor until the paper was sold in 1856 to John Symes of Virginia. The Gales had been Unitarians since their days in Sheffield, where they knew Joseph Priestley, who also became a refugee in Philadelphia. Joseph Gales Sr. and Weston Gales are buried in Old City Cemetery in Raleigh NC (same as Hazlett Kyle).
Note: “Mrs. Nelson” is Margaret Poumairat Nelson, the older sister of Amelia Poumairat McKimmon, the wife of James McKimmon. Margaret’s first husband was Dr. Arthur Nelson (b. c1791 – d. 5 Oct 1841). Margaret Poumairat (oldest daughter of John Poumairat) m. Arthur Nelson 28 March 1835 in Baltimore MD (according to Baltimore marriage records. However, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly states they were married 30 March 1835). Dr. Arthur Nelson had previously been a doctor in St. Louis. A professional card was first published in Missouri on April 24, 1818 — “Dr. Arthur Nelson tenders his professional services to the citizens of St. Louis and its vicinity.” On 25 May 1819 Arthur Nelson married Miss Eleanora Gantt, the daughter of Dr. Edward S. Gantt. Until 1820 he operated a drugstore with his medical practice, however he appears to have left St. Louis by 1821 and died 5 Oct 1841 in Raleigh NC. He is buried in the City Cemetery (close to the McKimmon graves). Note too that Dr. Nelson was the bondsman at the McKimmon wedding, he possibly having introduced James McKimmon to his wife’s sister when the sister was visiting Raleigh from Baltimore. After Arthur’s death, Margaret Nelson lived with the McKimmon family until she married Judge Robert Strange (b. 20 Sept 1796 in Virginia – d. 19 Feb 1854 in Fayetteville NC) on 11 Oct 1853 at Christ Church in Raleigh NC. Strange was a former U.S. Senator from North Carolina and then a lawyer in Fayetteville NC. Following his death in 1854, Margaret moved back into the McKimmon home. Within the course of five years, numerous tragedies impacted the McKimmon family: the family businesses slid into bankruptcy as there was nothing to sell and no one to buy; Amelia McKimmon died in 1861; Margaret Nelson Strange died in 1863 of scarlet fever; James McKimmon had to sell his interest in his hotel business and later sell his house; James died in 1866. As a result the five children, three of whom had fought in the Civil War, had nothing but debts when the war ended. One teenage daughter received a letter from her brother who had returned from the war that there was no place for her to live and that she would have to stay at school. A younger daughter evidently had to be put up for adoption.
Note: Eleanor (Ellen) Kyle (b. c1815 in County Tyrone, Ireland – d. March 1844) – married James W. Stephenson on 12 December 1834 in St. Louis, MO. James W. Stephenson was born in1806 in Brooke County VA (now West Virginia). His family moved to the Illinois Territory (in present day Edwardsville, IL) in 1808, where Governor Edwards appointed his father, Benjamin Stephenson, the first sheriff of Randolph County under the territorial government. Benjamin Stephenson also served as representative of the Illinois Territory in Congress and register of Lands at Edwardsville. James Stephenson went to Galena in Jo Daviess County in 1828 at age 22. In 1832 at age 26 he organized a band of mounted rangers in the Black Hawk War and was named captain. In July 1832 he was named lieutenant colonel of Dodge’s forces. Following the Black Hawk War he became clerk of the county court, clerk of the circuit court, county recorder, and looked for political opportunities. He also sought appointment as a government surveyor. He was elected to the Illinois Senate in August 1834. Col. James Stephenson married Ellen Kyle on 11 Dec1834 at Christ Church in St. Louis, MO. In February 1835, he was appointed Register of Lands at Galena and Chicago. In that same month, David Kyle, father of Ellen, died in St. Louis. Hugh Campbell, in a few letters to his brother, reported how he solicited “Major Stephenson’s” assistance to settle the David Kyle estate. Therefore, it was not until 22 April 1835, in a letter from William Sublette to Robert Campbell was it reported “Mr. & Mrs. Stephenson leaves to day for Galena.” By 1838, James Stephenson was a candidate for IL governor, but withdrew because of health and personal circumstances. They had two children: a son DeKyle (aka Kyle) (b. c1836- d. c1864) and a daughter Lucy (1837–1838). James Stephenson died in Galena on 12 August 1838 of tuberculosis. The daughter Lucy died within the same year. Ellen Stephenson moved to Freeport IL with her son Kyle, to live with her sister Jane, the wife of John A. Clark. On 4 May 1843, Ellen married Col. James Mitchell (b. 14 June 1810 – d. 12 August 1874), one of the most prominent bankers in Freeport. [This letter, dated 2 Oct 1843, thus refers to Ellen’s second husband James Mitchell.] Ellen died of tuberculosis in March 1844 at age 29, nine months after she remarried. A few months after Ellen’s death, James Mitchell married John A. Clark’s sister, Catherine. John A. and Jane Clark (Ellen’s sister) raised her son Kyle. Later, Kyle had his father’s remains moved from Galena and interred in Freeport City Cemetery along with his mother and little sister. Kyle Stephenson died of tuberculosis in Arkansas in 1864.