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Letter:
Susanna Moodie to John Moodie
Date:
February 14 1839
Collection:
Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing Family Papers (National Library of Canada)
ID:
22

Douro
Feb. 14, 1839

Good morning to you Valentine!

Dearest and best, I have been anxiously looking for an opportunity of writing to you with the books; but no such occurring, my heart is sore to write to you, and I can delay no longer. Your affectionate and welcome letter made me very happy, and has done more to restore me to health, than all the Doctors in Canada. God bless you for all your goodness to me. My breast is quite well now, and I am beginning to gather strength again. We have suffered dreadfully from cold, these heavy gales, not daring to put much fire into the stove on account of the bad pipes, but the worst is past, and I begin to look forward with hope to the spring. Your tenderness, reconciles me to every thing and while you continue to write me such kind letters, I could bear ten times more privations without a murmur.

     The contents of your letter deeply interested me. I am glad that you have sold the Groote Valley. It will do more to reconcile you to Canada, than anything else, and I have no doubt that the hand of Providence guided us hither. I grieve for Stockingstrom's delinquency. When such men are found out to be villains, it lessens our respect for human nature. What will Miss Brown say to this? –

    I am curious to know how you got Donald's letter. I suppose Ben was the bearer, whose presence in Scotland, I hope will expedite the settlement of the Dundass Business.1 Courage, beloved one! God will yet redeem Israel out of all his troubles. Your letter has filled me with hope and excellent spirits.

    Have you been able to settle the Bill at Cobourg, which came due on the 1st of Jan? The money you so kindly sent me, just came in time to pacify the Jorys for a little. I did not give them all, for I wanted to buy a little tea, and a couple of pails for the sugar making, and a few other absolute necessaries, which I could not do without. They wrote me the most curious note you ever read signed – 'So no more from we – James and Stephen Jory.' They are all sick it seems and greatly distressed. That pretty little boy of Joseph's having broken his arm, in several pieces, and the girl her leg, by a fall upon the ice over an iron pot. When you can spare them a few pounds do, it will keep the poor creatures quiet. Their note was not very civil, but I excuse them – they have waited a long time very patiently. I gave them 4 dollars, and if I have any wheat to spare, I will sell it, and give them the returns. And now I am talking of the wheat, I must tell you, that old Sibbings behaved like an old rogue and changed my good flour at the mill, for his own black trash, though he sold a bushel of mine for cash, at the highest market price. When I told him of it, He said the 'flour was changed, but he knew nothing about it – he was sure' – and very insolently threw up the threshing. I took him at his word, and the young Goddards are threshing the rest. They are very kind and attentive, feed the cattle and bring in wood for me, when they are at work. They have fixed the shanty for the oxen, for Buck, began to look ill during the severe weather. They chop and draw the wood for me, to work out their debt, which they frankly own they cannot at present pay. I thought it was better than giving ready money to Sibbings and Sol. As to poor old Godard, he is nearly broken hearted, I sincerely pity him, and if he never had paid me, I could not find it in my heart to distress him. He was for years in the Commisseriat, and he tells me, that Goverment [sic] are bound to pay all your expences, but you must always make an account of them every journey and lay before the officer commanding the District, and he puts it in the proper channel for payment. Colonel Caddy told me the same – and both should know. Poor Mrs. Caddy has been alarmingly ill, supposed dying. Agnes was out, and I went, to her, and staid two days, during which period I thought she would die every moment, with spasms and obstruction in the stomach. We sent off for a Doctor, but no Doctor came. Her cries were dreadful and all remedies failed – no medicine would stay a moment on her stomach the vomiting was bloody the bowels unmoved and I thought her sufferings were drawing to a rapid termination when I remembered your instruments. Henry went in the dead of the night for them and the use of these and hot fomentations and a large mustard plaister over the pit of the stomach at last relieved her from unutterable agony. I am sure I made a good doctor, and the poor dear thanked me when she recovered herself sufficiently to know me with tears in her eyes. 'If you had not come,' she said in the morning, 'Where should I have been now' – I believe she must have died. I have left little Katie with her to fetch her medicine, and little things and stay in her sick room till she is better, and Katie is very proud of being little nurse. It will be a useful moral lesson to the child who I wish to consider kindness to the sick as an imperative duty. She begged me to return you her grateful thanks for your kindness in trying to serve James. She is really a most generous affectionate woman, and I begin to love her very much and to be very sorry that I ever suffered my prejudices to overlook her real merit. She has offered me Woods house, (which Edward is going to rent for seven years, that wight having got an appointment in the Hudsons bay Company) for as long a period as I like to stay, and an acre of land for a garden and potatoe ground, rent free and her boys to draw all my goods and chattels thither. I think the offer needs some consideration before I refuse it. The house tho' small is good. A comfortable fireplace, cellar and out houses and a good well if cleared out. I have wheat enough for this year and enough in the ground please God for the next and as the Oxen would have to be at the farm with who ever took it on shares I should only have the two cows and pigs to feed and our half of the hay would more than do that. Even if you were at home, I think we should be better off than working the farm, it would leave you time to write and the cultivation of a good large garden would feed pigs and give sufficient exercise to amuse till better days came and you could afford to build a house on Melsetter. We could likewise cut and save the Beaver Meadow hay. Mr Goddard is anxious to cultivate the farm on shares, or on a clearing lease, and he would do it justice in manuring, working, and fencing, and I am confident now, that the poor fellow has been unfortunate more than unconscientious. I shall look for your reply soon on this subject. It appears that Joe Dunlops place is not so elligible as I at first supposed. The land that is cleared is bad. The road so infamous that it is shut in for 9 months in the year, a perfect mor[ass] impassable for almost man and beast. At all events, I think it would be best to let the farm on shares for this summer, as you cannot return before the middle of June, too late for any spring crop. The frost has severely injured the potatoes. I fear we will hardly get enough for seed good. One of the sows pigged under the barn in the middle of January six beautiful pigs. We fed her well, and the pigs all throve well inspite of the dreadful weather, until the foe who comes every day, took away three, but the rest are alive and likely to live if he lets them remain. The other sow Traills big dog bit so severely that I was forced to have her killed to save her life. She was my little sow, and weighed eighty pounds, and was one of the fattest we have killed.

    Traills have returned from their visit to the front. Mr Bridges received them very kindly. Miss Brown is staying with him, as governess to the little boy, so I cannot send the books through her. He offered the Traills his house during his stay in Jamaica rent free. I do not know whether they will accept it. Mrs Traill was forced to wean little Annie, who is a beautiful babe, before she went, as her breasts were very sore. But the child was dying in consequence and they have been obliged to hire Miss Sibbings as wet nurse to save its life. Poor Traill was greatly distressed about the child. I am so glad now, that I persevered in nursing my beautiful Johnie or I might have lost the lamb, as I think it doubtful whether little Annie ever recovers. I could fill, a whole page with the witching wiles, and smiles of my rosy dimpled John, who is the prettiest baby I ever had. A credit to you – and to my good nursing. The other dear children are all well. I was forced to scrig your grey frock coat for to make Donald a suit, and he looks such a funny quiz in a coatee and trowsers. He says, 'I am a man now, me never wear girls pettiacoats again.' I must tell you something droll about Donald. The other day, he had a pain in his stomach. He came to me, and said with the gravity of a judge, 'Mamma something hurts me here. But I will go down and see what's the matter.' Katie and Dunnie have laughed at Donald ever since, and Dunnie says, 'Donald how will you get your feet down your throat dont do it, till I am there to see.' Aggy is still with Mrs Hague, who brought her the other day to see me, with the present of a nice pair of shoes for Katie. She stays with Mrs H. all winter, who has dressed her very handsomely and teaches her to read and work herself. George Crawford is perfectly terrified with the gun which went off all charges at once whic[h] quite confounded the brains of the silent gentleman. I do no[t] think they will venture to purchase it. I gave Mr Crawford t[he] Japanese dagger, with which he is greatly pleased, and means [to] brighten it up, and give it a conspicuous place among his ar[ms.] He enquired most kindly after you. Copperthawate is married to Miss Christy Wright, Mrs Erskines sister – What a match – It has surprised all the gossips in Douro. At the intercession of Bolton,2 the Bank, has given Traills a year longer to pay their debt, but he is in wretched spirits. The corps containing Birdsall, Bill Shairp, and Tom Fortune have been dismissed from the Peterboro' Battalion, their services not being required. To them a great disappointment. The officers sent me a very polite invitation to their subscription Ball. But I had enough to do to dance about little Johnnie at home – Katie sends you plenty of kisses and says you must give her the new brown dog, and she will call his name Fidler, which she says will be a capital name for him. I received a letter from Cobourg the other day, from a Mr Morze, informing me that he had been the bearer of two parcels for me, intrusted to his care by Mr Hodson. That they were at the Albion Hotel, and could be procured at any time by an application from me. The letter was very kind and polite, and he said he had taken care that they should be free of all charge. You may be sure, that I am rather on the que vive about them. Major and Mrs Shairp, have gone down to Cobourg, and return to Peterboro' to night. They have promised to bring them up for me, and I will let you know the result in my next. Mrs Caddy and I, are going to make the sugar this year on shares. She is to lend me two large sugar kettles and a great iron pot and a large brass stew pan for sugaring off, a hundred and forty troughs, and Cyprian to help Jenny while the season lasts. James and Henry are to make the spiles and tap the trees, and all this for only half the sugar. Tis a magnificent offer three times better than Traills. We hope to make 400 weight of sugar with four kettles. Poor old Jenny is behaving better again and talks of nothing but the sugar making. I have never received any answer from Mr Lovel, about contributing to the Garland, but he sends me the mag – tis a wretched performance, but the typography and paper is good. I must say, I do not much like being the lioness of it. I am delighted with your portrait of the excellent Baron, whom I quite love for his goodness to you. May God bless him for it. It gives me the most heartfelt pleasure that you are so comfortably situated. How differently last winter. I shall rejoice to see you up here once more, but parting with you again would be dreadful. I will be patient and of good cheer, you have inspired me with hope, but do my precious one take care of your health, remember how dear you are to poor Susy and the wee things.

    I should be very glad to sell the books, could I get them sent down but the roads are so bad with drift snow that they are almost impassable. Could you make any engagement, for the hundred copies that are unbound I would sell them cheap for cash and transmit them by coach to Belleville. You could lay out the money in necessaries for the house, and the children which could be procured cheaper and better at Kingston. And now my dearest love I must conclude this long rambling letter, in which I have left unsaid, a thousand things I wanted to say. The darling children all unite with me in fondest love. Particularly Katie who wishes you were here to spend her birthday with her tomorrow. The Traills desire most affectionate regards and I remain Your faithfully attached and loving wife,

Susanna Moodie

Notes

1. The Dundas business was the long-drawn-out litigation over the settlement of the Melsetter estate of the Moodie family in Orkney. Letters from John Phin, John Moodie's lawyer in Edinburgh, reveal that in that settlement Lord Dundas was overpaid £2,000 in February 1819. The Moodie family claimed that Dundas was obligated to repay that sum plus interest, a total of £3,700 by 1835. In spite of legal judgments on the account in the Moodies' favour, Dundas used avoidance tactics at his disposal, and in September 1835 Phin feared that 'by an appeal to the House of Lords etc. he may still put off the day of payment for years.' Before the death of Major Moodie, John's father, there was another claim initiated by him against the owner of Toftingall, Sir Patrick Murray Threpland Rudge. In the winter of 1838–9 John's eldest brother, Ben, was in Britain trying to settle these two claims. In an 1845 letter to John, Phin recalled that when Ben returned to South Africa, he expected Phin to carry on the lawsuit and act on behalf of the absentees, but since there was no guarantee against loss, in the event that the defendants won the case, Phin refused the undertaking. In fact, Ben left Britain without paying Phin even the money owing him for time devoted to the investigation of the Moodies' claim. It would appear, then, that the Melsetter estate was never settled to the satisfaction of the Moodie family. (See PHEC, nos. 98, 99, 100.)

2. George Strange Boulton (1797–1869), brother of D'Arcy Boulton, a prominent member of the family Compact, was a Cobourg lawyer and registrar of deeds for Northumberland County. A son of a wealthy family, George Boulton was 'active in business affairs and took part in various phases of Cobourg developments, including construction of the harbour' (Percy L. Climo, Early Cobourg [Cobourg 1985], 57–8). Boulton was connected with the Moodies through the sale of their farm in Hamilton Township and John Moodie's purchase of shares in the Cobourg steamboat venture.

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