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Susanna Moodie to John Moodie
March 06 1839
Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing Family Papers (National Library of Canada)

March 6, 1839

My dearest Husband

I have been anxiously looking for a letter from you for some days past, and I can no longer repress the strong desire I feel to write to you. Since the date of my last, I have been occupied incessantly at the sick bed of two of our dear children, whom I expected every hour to breathe their last. You may imagine the anguish of your poor Susy, and you so far away. Poor little Donald, was first taken, with sudden inflamation on the lungs, attended with violent fever and every symptom of croup. I had to put him in a warm bath, force castor oil down his throat and apply a large blister to his chest. Poor little fellow his cries were dreadful and his entreaties for me to take all the pins out of his belly which was the violent pains in his chest and at the pit of his stomach. Dear Mrs Traill came to me at the break of day, and Traill went down to get advice from the Doctor if the could not bring him up. That night my beloved baby was struck in the same manner. Only he was to all appearance dead. It was about five in the afternoon. He had been in a heavy dose all day. I was busy doing something for Donald when I saw Johnnie throw up his hands in an unusual way. I hastened to take him up. But all sense appeared to have fled. His jaws were relaxed the foam was running from his mouth and my lovely dear's beautiful limbs fell over my arms a dead weight. I burst into an agony of tears in which I was joined by poor Katey, and putting my insensible lamb into her arms, I ran and called Jenny who was with the two young Godards in the sugar bush. Thank God she came directly, and there happened to be warm water on. We got him into the bath but it was a long time before he gave any signs of returning to life. In the mean time kind Cyprian Godard ran off for the doctor, sending up in his way Mrs Strickland and dear Catharine who was at tea at Crawfords. Neither could give me any hopes of my darlings recovery. But we did all we could for him, we put on a blister, on his white tender chest and forced some tartar emetic down his throat and put hot flannels to his cold feet, and sat down to watch through the dreary night the faint heavings of his innocent breast. In the mean time my kind messenger sped on to Peterboro', and met Mr Traill who was bringing up medicines for Donald, and dear Mrs A Shairp who would come up when she heard my dear child was so ill.

    Oh what a comfort this warm hearted friend was to me in my dire distress for though she could not stop my streaming tears, she helped me nurse my poor suffering children, and shared my grief. It was four o'clock in the morning before Cyprian returned faint and tired. Dr H. would not come, but said, that he would send up Dr Dixon in the morning.

    The next was a dreadfully severe day of wind, frost, and drifting snow. The dear babe was apparently worse and no Dr came, when Cyprian, again volunteered to go down for a Dr. But Dr H. would not be entreated. 'If you do not come,' Cyprian said, 'the sweet babe will die,' 'I cant help that,' was the unfeeling reply. 'The roads are too bad, and I cant leave Peterboro'.' Cyprian then went to old Dr Bird, who came up inspite of the bad roads and the dreadful night. Good old dear how kind he was – He told me, that without medical aid the child must have died. That he was still in great danger, though the remidies we had applied had prolonged his life – 'I am an old man,' he said 'to come thus far, through such weather, but I did it to serve Mr. Moodie, when I heard Hutchison would not come, I was determined that the child should not be lost if I could save it.' He told me Donald was out of danger, but that I was very ill myself. I had not even felt the effects of this horrible influenza – so great was my anxiety about my children. Numbers of children have died with it. Holland, Benton, Humphreys, Wein, and a host of other people have each a child dead with it. Oh how thankful ought we to be, that he who smote, in mercy has deigned to spare – My dear Donald is out of his bed, but looks thin and pale, the dear baby is only rising as it were from the very grasp of death and I have still to sit up with him all night. Katie is well, Aggy with kind Mrs Hague, Dunbar at mamma Caddy's – I have been ill myself, but have followed Dr Birds receipts and am better. In this time of universal sickness, how anxiously my thoughts turn to you. I hope my dear one is well. Do write me on the receipt of this, if only a few lines to dissipate my fears –

    I have much news of various kinds to tell you, in which you will feel interested. 1st Traill, has sold his farm to the Wolsleys, for 400£ a hundred and seventy to be paid down, the rest in instalments of 40£ yearly – They leave us in a week, and have taken the house which Stevenson,1 left near Mr Stewarts, for a month, till they can look about them. Bridges, has written to offer them the use of the tower, during his absence in Jamaica. He goes in April, and will not return before the fall. They are to have the use of the live and dead stock, and the crops in the ground. Their ill luck appears, poor things upon the turn. There has been a challenge between Col. Cowell, and Duffy. But the latter got his wife to apprize the magistrates of the meeting and the duel, did not take place. The gallant Col. and his second were on the ground – Mr Stewart called the other day with Mr & Mrs Haycock.2 He advised an exchange with Joe Dunlop, whose land he says is excellent. His house the best log in Douro, and the place must rise in value. Joe, however seems not inclined to change, by what I can learn. Willy Rae was here to day, (and indeed this is the principal object of my letter). A M. Drury, who has a capital cleared farm in Clarke, on the Toronto Road about 14 miles from Port Hope, wants to exchange it for one on these back waters. Rae says, he is sure that could you see Drury's farm you would be anxious for to get it. The lot is on the front road, contains 100 acre 60 of which is under cultivation. The house is new, cost 200£ and has good cellars and every convenience. There is an excellent barn and stables, a young orchard, and a good well of water at the door. It is 3 miles from the lake in a very respectable neighbourhood consisting of English and Scotch settlers. I was to write to you, and if you were willing to make any exchange Drury would communicate his terms, and you would name yours – and this is all I know on the subject. Bolton has sold to another person the land Rae wanted. So that negociation is at an end. Mr Casements friends are coming out in the Spring, and Sam says, that he wants to buy a part of this land. I would exchange on fair terms if I were you, for a cleared farm, or – sell, all but Cambells lot, which I should like to reserve for one of our dear boys. Mrs Shairp wants to sell hers. Godards have finished thrashing the wheat. It only yielded 36 and 1/2 bushels in which we were all greatly disappointed. The upper field contained whole sheaves of little else than smut. The wheat crop has yielded in all 61 1/2 bushels. The lads have been very kind and attentive. Have fed the cattle for me during the winter and done a hundred odd jobs – They take a third in the sugar making, have drawn wood to put up a shanty in the bush, and we hope to make about 200 [cwt] for each family. Mr Godard takes the spring cro[ps on] shares. Traill has given them his oxen for their keep [until] the fall. Rae told me to tell you, that if we left this place he would trade with you the pretty grey mare you liked for cattle or farm stock. The young lads here, are all greatly excited by the proposed expidition, to take possession of the Origon Territory. Captain Fraser, they say is to head it in behalf of government, to find the source of the Columbia river.3 The expidition is to consist of 1000 active young men from this country. Alured Godard, Cyprian and their cousins George and James Caddy, talk of volunteering. It is for five years. Each private individual to be given 1200 acres of land, and all their expences paid by government. I am glad you are already engaged another way, or I fear your love of adventure would tempt you to join the perilous, but certainly interesting band of pioneers – Of those who go out full of hope and vigorous life, how few, if any may ever return –

    Sam was here on Sunday last. He brought me a letter from home to read. No news, but what will grieve you to hear. Poor Bird is dying of a broken blood vessel. James is engaged with a party of surveyors who are surveying the parishes in Great Britain for Government, and is not likely to return to Canada.4 Mamma has gone to law with the Norwich corporation, and lost her suit – and of course a good deal of money with it. Miss Acton, is dead, and left Agnes a beautiful old family ring as a legacy. They were all well at Reydon. No news of the marriage between Agnes and Mr Kirby. Tom Wales, has lost his wife and child, and poor Rachel Wales, Mrs Wood, died in childbed of twins greatly to the grief of all her friends. The other night as I was lying thinking of our affairs a thought struck me which I think might be of use to us. What if you and I were to edit a Newspaper in some large town on conservative principles and endeavor to make it a valuable vehicle for conveying intelligence respecting the Colony to the old country as well as this. I am sure we should get a multitude of subscribers, and I should enjoy the thing amazingly. Mrs Shairp thinks, that such a paper would be taken by all the Peterboro' folks. Think over it a wee bit. The successful Editors of papers like Adam Thom, T Rolph and Dr Hamilton find it a sure step to preferment – I could take all the light reading Tales, poetry &c. and you the political and statistical details. Without much effort I think our paper would soon be the first in the Provinces. Perhaps some wealthy bookseller might start such a thing paying us a salary for the first year, and giving us two thirds of the profits afterwards.5 You have not told me what your Baron's christian name is. But remember my beautiful baby is to be called Johnny. You may add De Rottenburg if you like. Do dearest write to me to cheer me up a bit directly you get this. Katey and Donald send their best love and many kisses. I wish you were here dearest to receive them, together with affectionate love from your truly attached wife

Susanna Moodie

March 7. Poor little Johnnie is worse again today. I shall be obliged to send for advice to the Dr – Adieu God bless you.


1. Frances Stewart mentions a Mr Stephenson who was in partnership with Thomas Stewart in 1834 (Our Forest Home, 83).

2. The Haycocks were neighbours of the Stewarts near Ashburnham (Our Forest Home, 104).

3. 'Capt. A. S. Franser, Esq. half-pay Lieut. 42 Reg't 1st Dec'ber, 1828' (Poole, A Sketch, 34). Apparently Archibald Fraser, who owned a barley mill in Cobourg, did not undertake the Columbia River exploration as he appears in Peterborough as a returning officer in the 1841 election and subsequently became a JP for Peterborough (Poole, 48, 121).

4. Susanna's old friend James Bird died in Suffolk in 1839. His son, however, returned to Upper Canada (see Letter 69).

5. Susanna's plan was eventually realized, though less successfully than she hoped, when she and John edited the Victoria Magazine for Joseph Wilson in Belleville from September 1847 to August 1848.


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