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Letter:
John Moodie to Susanna Moodie
Date:
December 25 1838
Collection:
Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing Family Papers (National Library of Canada)
ID:
19

Belleville
25 December 1838

My Dearest Susie,

I need hardly tell you that I arrived here safely on the evening of the third day after I left you. I stopped all night with our kind friends at Thorndale. They were all quite well and Miss Brown seemed much pleased with your review of poor Pringle's Book1. I found our worthy Chief the Baron de Rottenburg at Brighton about 20 miles from Belleville, with Dr. A. Commissary General Bailey instructing a batch of volunteer Captains in the useful art of making up their Pay Lists. I found the Baron, what I expected from the style of his letters, a gentleman in every sense of the word. A more amiable and delightful companion I have never met with. He is full of wit and talent united with the soundest judgement and decission of character. He puts me very much in mind of James Traill, but much his superior in industry and application to bussiness. I met with every kindness and assistance from Dr A. Comy. Gl. Bailey, whose wife he tells me is an Authoress and F.W.N. Bailey2 is his son. The Baron, Fleming the District Quarter Master3 and I live by ourselves at one of the taverns very comfortably and quietly smoking our cigars, and never tasting anything stronger than water – this is something new in Militia service. The Baron at first thought it rather odd that I had not got an appointment under Kingsmill, but as soon as I showed him K's letters, his eyes were completely opened, and he now takes the greatest interest in my favor, and I am persuaded will do all in his power to serve me should he have an appointment. I have just recieved my appointment as Paymaster for Presqu'Isle, Trent, Belleville Bath and Amherst Island. The two last mentioned places the Baron thinks are put in by mistake (as they are close to Kingston) instead of the Prince Edward District which is under his Command or else the latter has been omitted. I shall have to pay about 26 Companies equal to three ordinary Regiments. I shall have plenty to do, but the business is much more simple than I expected requiring only great care in the calculations (to save myself from loss) and a good deal of correspondence with the Military Secretary and the Commissaries at Kingston. The different, independent Companies are only engaged for six months and I fear my appointment will terminate with them, unless I may get some other appointment in the mean while. There will be an opening in the New District of Hastings, of which Belleville is the Capital, if I could make sufficient interest to get an appt in it. The New District will probably go into operation in the Spring as the Court-house is already built. I think it rather singular that I should have been appointed to this place instead of Peterborough. Possibly something more permanent is designed for me. The Baron asked me the other day 'if I was related to Col. Halkett's4 wife, as he seemed to take so great an interest in me.' When I got here on the 17th I had to go thro' the calculations of 18 Pay Lists for broken periods, and sat up the whole of the following night making out an estimate for the pay of the Companies. The future work will be much easier. The worst of it is that a number of the Captains are so ignorant or careless that they are making continual mistakes, and I must trust entirely to myself to keep out of errors. I have no risk to run except in recieving and making payments as the Commissariat are also responsible for the calculations. So much for my own matters. I had a visit from Col. Brown the other night on his way to Kingston to try to obtain A Company in Col. Hill's regt. He told of Mrs. Traill's safe confinement on which I heartily congratulate all concerned, but he could not tell me whether it was a boy or a girl5. I could not hear from Brown whether Traill had any chance of getting an appointment in McDonnell's regt. Indeed I do not think it would be any advantage to him unless in the event of selling his place. I hope and trust something will turn up for them when they least expect it, as has been the case with ourselves. I should have enclosed you some of the needful, but I have not yet recieved a penny as I cannot make out the Pay List for the Staff Officers until I can ascertain the dates of some of the appointts from the Military Secretary.

Decr 30th    I was interupted in my letter, and have [been so] much occupied with writing letters that I could not continue it till now. I trust you have been able to get a boy to chop wood for you, I fear My dear, that you are very uncomfortable, but we must be patient as I can see no help for it at present. Garbutt seems inclined to take the farm if he could get it for three years on a clearing lease. If I should get a permanent appointment, I should be glad to let him have it. I send you a 'Palladium' I carried off with me to file with the rest. Write me soon My love and tell me all about the dear children. Kiss them all for me and tell them papa does not forget them, and hopes they will be good children and learn their lessons well. The country here appears to be fine, and in the summer I believe it will be beautiful. The land is about the same price as in the neighbourhood of Cobourg but there are few British settlers, and the mass of the people are disaffected to the Govt. They were all prepared for a rising had the Rebels obtained any footing at Prescott. Secret societies were organized and considerable quantities of arms were secreted by them of which occasional discoveries are made. I met one of our fellow travellers from Montreal, 'Wilkins'6 the man with the lame leg and short-tailed coat, but he is now a great man, he has recovered from his lameness and his short tailed coat has grown to a superfine Surtout and he is now Colonel Wilkins, one of the richest men in this part of the country. Our other fellow traveller 'Cummins'7 drank himself to death, trying to poison the live oysters he swallowed at Quebec. I found three or four Orkneymen settled here – two of them 'Sinclair & Odie' from the parish of Holm have a Store in Belleville, and another Fidler8 the son of a boat-builder in Stromness is one of our Six months Captains, and has Mills & a farm near the mouth of the Trent, he has been doing well, but like many of us has burnt his fingers in the lumbering trade. Traill may know something about these people. I wish I could bring you down here though I do not yet know whether the society is particularly desirable. Still there are two or three very respectable families here, particularly our Surgeon Dr. Ridley's. I know you would be delighted with the Baron, who possesses the most extraordinary versatility of talent. He has a fine taste for poetry. He often asks me questions about you, and I am sorry you did not put a volume of your 'Poems' in my trunk, as I think he might be gratified by recieving a Copy. He has read my Book on the Cape, but did not know that I was the Author. He was surprised when I told him that I had not got anything from it. He thought from its popularity that I should have got £400 for it. We are thinking of taking a house for ourselves in the village, which will be more pleasant than in a tavern as our occupations require greater quietness than we can get here, but I doubt whether it will be quite so cheap. We pay 3 1/2 dollars per week for our board. We all receive a money allowance in lieu of rations of 9d a day and I am allowed a capt's lodging Money £31 Sterling per Ann. Altogether my yearly pay amounts to £324.12.9 Currency which is good enough if it would only last. Now I must finish up my letter with my kind love to all our kind friends, and the dear children & believe me Ever

Your Affectionate husband
J.W. Dunbar Moodie

When you write Direct to me Capt Moodie District Paymaster Belleville

Notes

1. Leitch Ritchie had edited The Collected Poems of Thomas Pringle (London 1835) just after Pringle's death in 1834. Susanna may have reviewed it in the Palladium.

2. F.W.N. Bayley (1808–53), a minor British writer and first editor of the Illustrated London News, is described as 'improvident' and 'constantly in difficulties' in the DNB. Some of his work was published in the Museum of Montreal. Moodie mentions him again in Letter 30.

3. Thomas Fleming of River Trent was appointed captain and quartermaster in December 1838, having applied to Bullock for a position 12 November 1838 (MR, 1B1, 23, 24, 33).

4. Frederick Halkett (1813–40) accompanied Sir Francis Bond Head to Canada as aide-de-camp and remained when Head left in 1838. He married the daughter of Colonel Robert Moodie and served as military secretary to Sir George Arthur. By the time of Halkett's premature death from fever, he had reached the rank of colonel. See Colin Read and Ronald Stagg, The Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada (Ottawa 1985), 154.

5. The Traills' fourth child and second daughter, Anne Fotheringhame, was born in late 1838.

6. The Moodies had originally met Robert Charles Wilkins of Carrying Place, Prince Edward County, when they travelled from Montreal to Cobourg in September 1832. Susanna identified him as the fellow traveller and 'backwoodsman' who had been involved in an animated discussion about eating oysters (RIB, 48). Wilkins (1782–1866) was a successful storekeeper at the head of the Bay of Quinte who had done well in timber and importing. Born of Loyalist parents and an area resident since the 1790s, he had, as a military captain, made a significant contribution to the Canadian effort in the War of 1812, supplying rations to the soldiers and controlling boat routes in the Bay of Quinte even as the Americans dominated Lake Ontario. In 1839 he was appointed to the Legislative Council of Upper Canada and functioned as a vigilant Tory and Family Compact supporter. Not surprisingly, he was not reappointed to the Legislative Council of Canada after the union of the provinces in 1841. He served as a colonel in the 2d Prince Edward County Militia.

7. RIB, 48

8. Edward Fidlar, 'an enterprising Orkney man' who opened a flourishing mill in Rawdon Township northwest of Belleville, was another good friend (LC, 67). While he would later be first warden of Hastings County (1850) and a founder of Belleville's St Andrew's Church, in 1839 he was serving as captain of the 2d Regiment of Hastings under the command of Major Thomas Parker and, at a higher level, Lieutenant Colonel De Rottenburg. His business energies were concentrated upon the village of Rawdon, later to be known as Stirling. His comings and goings occasionally provided Moodie with a welcome means of transportation.

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