LCGS documents homepage
LCGS Online Resource Library
Transcribed Documents & Lanark County Research
Homepage for Genealogy Resource Centre | Visit LCGS Website

Articles - return to table of contents

LETTER FROM JAMES DICK
TO HIS UNCLE

Submitted and transcribed by Carol Billingham.

Ballencreif,
New Lanark,
April 10th,
1822.

Dear Uncle:

We received your letters, the one through Mr. Bell of Perth and the other directed to us, and are happy to know you were all well. By this be informed that we are all well, hoping this will find you, grandfather, grandmother, and all the rest of our friends and acquaintances in the same.

However, we have had a great deal of trouble among us since we came here. Margaret was scarce recovered from her illness at the Rideau when Janet was seized with the fever at Perth on her way up with Margaret. She had scarce got the turn when Jean and Agnes were seized with it the ferry over the Mississippi. They had scarce got the turn when Elizabeth, William and Robert were seized with it, also Catherine and Alexander at the same time. Agnes and Catherine were also seized with the ague which is very common here on the sides of rivers and near swamps, but it is not a dangerous disease in this country.

During all this time we had got little or nothing done; however we had got a little chopped and were preparing to get up our house when I was seized with the fever on my way down from the lot. However, I reached the ferry where the rest of the family were. John was seized with it the week following, and we were badly near ten weeks.

Janet, at the time we fell badly, went up to the land, when she got a few of the neighbours gathered together and got up the house. The snow fell the week following, being the 15th of October, and the ground has been covered with it ever since, for the most part about three feet deep, and frost at times so severe that in the month of December the thermometer was reported to be as low as 36 degrees below zero, but I cannot vouch for the truth of it as we had not ours out till we came to the land, which was not till the beginning of January, when the sleighing came on. However, on the 24th ours stood as low as 12 degrees below zero at noon, but when the frost is so severe there is always a pure sky, and the sun had always a pretty good heat so that there was scarce a day but we could work without doors, and then at night the frost was so severe that although we kept on large fires, it was nothing uncommon to see the blankets frozen above us. We had a few days fresh weather about the end of February and on the 29th our thermometer stood as high as 85 degrees in the sun and 63 degrees in the shade, and we have had mild weather since and the snow was nearly all away in the clearances when a few days ago we had a fall of snow. It fell about nine inches deep but it is nearly all gone again.

We are very busy making sugar just now. We have made about 60 lbs. of it, and we expect to make as much more. We have also made some excellent molasses, which, had you it in Scotland you would scarce challenge it from your best virgin honey. It is only at this time that we can make it, when the sap is going up the maple trees, and we have a great deal of them on our lot. We have also a great deal of elm, ironwood, birch, beech and basswood (a very soft kind of wood, but in general pretty large). We have also a few pine, hemlock, cedar and butternut trees; the nuts are pretty large, being about the size of a pigeon's egg and after lying about a while become very delicious. The trees do not grow so large as is is general believed by the Bathgate people; the largest we have chopped -- and we think it the largest in the lot -- was about 3 feet through, but there are a few above three feet in diameter.

We have got about seven acres chopped. We sold two acres at the fall of the year, and we have added another five to it ourselves. We have also got a yoke of oxen with a cow and calf along with it.

Through the influence of Mr. Bell of Perth we have got places for Jean, Agnes, Elizabeth and Robert. Jean is about a mile out of Perth, where she gets about two dollars a month. Agnes is with a Mr. Ferguson, a storekeeper in Perth. He is one of Mr. Bell's elders and Agnes goes regularly to his Sabbath evening school. Elizabeth and Robert are both in one place, about three miles out of Perth, with a Mr. Adams. They take them regularly with them on Sundays to prayer-meeting and occasionally to sermons, and as they have no children of their own they use them every whit as well as if they were their own. Catherine is with Mr. Brice who came from West Calder about seven years ago. They have an excellent clearance and about twenty head of horned cattle besides sheep, hogs, etc., and as their family is all grown up she is just Mrs. Brice's companion. They are all liking their places well.

Alexander Kidd, who came from Blackburn, has also a good clearance with a good stock of cattle but on account of having a large family they are extremely ill off for clothing.

William Bryce, who came from near Airdrie last year, is about twenty-six miles from the village of Lanark and about thirty-six from us. He is in the township of Sherbrooke. A township consists of twelve concessions and a concession is 26 1/2 lots long and two broad, and the lots are nearly square, being eleven acres long and nine broad. They are all in good health.

Dr. Wilson who was with Mr. Weir in Bathgate attended the most of us when we were badly. He was very attentive, and at the time we were at the worst came regularly every day although he was two miles from us. We have been nearly forty dollars for doctors and medicine, and had Dr. Wilson charged in the same manner the rest did that we were employed, we don't know what it might have amounted to. My brother John saw Mr. Bell a few days ago, and he has his compliments to Mr. Brown of Longridge. His family are all well. David Young's family are all well and David is in high spirits as ever he was. He is away down to the front just now for two cows. Henry Mungal, who came along with us from Torphicher, is well and is following after his own business, as wishes you, if you can get an opportunity, to let his parents know to direct his letters to us and we will get them forwarded to him.

Mr. Oliver, at whose house Margaret and Janet stopped while they were at the Rideau Lakes, was an English rider in Scotland about eight or nine years ago. He knew you well and has dealt with you at different times. He was also acquainted with Major Shairp, who stopped in Kirkton, and Mr. Johnston of Bathgate and most of the merchants there. He was very kind to them while they were at his house, and they were not away from it two weeks when his wife died. The death of his wife, with the conduct of his sons, drove him to despair, and he put an end to his existence by shooting himself about a fortnight ago. They were in very good circumstances.

The people in Scotland have formed very erroneous notion with regard to the Indians as they are as peaceable a set of people we have met with. No more from -

James Dick