|Stewart, Frances to Atwood, Annie, 1871
|Revisiting Our Forest Home, The immigrant letters of Frances Stewart [J. L. Aoki]
|Douro Township, Newcsatle District, Upper Canada
|Gore's Landing, Ontario, Canada
|family, family life
|1871: September 25
To Annie Atwood, Gore's Landing, Ontario
Douro 25th Sept'r 1871
near 10 Monday Night
My dearest Annie
I have just read your kind and most welcome letter which I received this
evening and truly sorry I am to find you are still so weak. How often I
wish you were nearer to us yet this seems a nonsensical wish because I
have many very dear friends & even my own dear daughters who I see
but seldom tho' living within a few miles of me....
I am sorry you have not a comfortable servant but you are fortunate
to have one at all, to relieve you of the heavy part of the domestic work.
Bessie has only just succeeded in getting one after being a whole year
without any. She had engaged three at different times but they disappointed
her as there was such a scarcity of girls that wages were exorbitant
& they are so saucy about not having their meals with the family
or require to have a horse & buggie to take them home every fortnight!
This of course we could not promise as we have no horse for ourselves.
Bessie & I are depending on the farm horses which now all belong to
Robert as I have not had one for nearly two years. Consequently I can
very very seldom get out & Bessie has to take a chance when anyone is going which puts her about greatly & prevents us from seeing our dear
friends as formerly. But dear Annie you know this is a world of changes!
— & we ourselves change as time passes & we find we are not what we
were a few years ago.
We have had a long season of illness amongst our children both here
& in Kates family. I am happy to say dear "Kitten" is much stronger than
she was during the former three summers and one reason is that she has
had a very good servant. Unfortunately she (the maid) she has been very
ill & was obliged to go home for three weeks and Kate was nearly used
up but last evening her servant came back, recovered in health & in good
heart for working. She is a fine strong woman & very good natured to the
children & trustworthy in every way. Robert looks very old & is much
broken down. He wishes to give up farming & take some less laborious
employment if he could procure anything suitable. But there lies the difficulty.
Situations are so hard to get into & so many are seeking them that
a person so little known and who has lived so long in retirement has but
a little chance of succeeding. Their house is too small for their family
now tho' it is not so numerous as you suppose. Her number is only six —
Fanny, Jessie & Helen, Herbert, Cecil & Percy. They are all growing up
fast & are useful & intelligent but are sadly backward in education since
Mary Mathias has gone into Peterboro but we can't help that.
Kate has Henrys youngest child under her care but Caroline takes
charge of him & little Helen which is some help to Kate, though now
of course she is a good deal taken up about her own arrangements. As
you have heard she is engaged to Henry Stewart but I don't think they
can marry for some time as Henry has been most of the summer busy
surveying on the continuation of the Midland railway near Orillia &
Georgian Bay. His eldest boy is here & has lately been very ill from the
"dregs" of Scarlet fever which the younger ones of both families have had
followed by mumps.
I am happy & thankful to say our dear boy is now nearly as well as
ever but he is looking very pale still. He is a very fine little fellow & one of the best children I ever saw. Bessie is as fond of him as if he was her own child. Our dear little Harriet is grown very tall & slight & is a very sweet child & a great comfort to her Mama, & so is Mary Brown who is quite the elder daughter of the family & a very fine girl in every way,
both in character & appearance. Indeed I think her very superior to the
[generality] of young girls of these days. I was very happy to see dear
Kate at Annie Collins's wedding & we hoped to have had her here for
some time but the children here had just got over scarletina & were ill
with mumps & Kate was of course unwilling to bring her little Katie into
the infection and I have not heard from either Kate or your dear Mama
since but I have been dilatory about writing, for I am grown so stupid &
slow both in thinking & acting that letter writing is now quite a task to
me. I sit alone a great deal & when in the social circle my deafness keeps
me from joining in conversation so that my mind is becoming dull tho' I
still have many resources & even enjoy reading, tho my sight is far from
good. But I have no reason to complain for few woman of my age (77)
are as well as I am now for which I have reason to be thankful. I should
much enjoy having dear Mrs. Traill with me for some time & still hope
that in sleighing time (DV) we may have that great pleasure.
I must now come to our household affairs. Bessie has only two cows
now as Robert has had the farm during the last four or five years & she
can hardly make enough butter to enable her to lay by for winter as the
dry summer burnt up all the pasture so that there has not been much
dairy produce nor poultry either. The stock of hens was so reduced that
we had to exchange eggs with some of our neighbors & now have about
30 young fowl. The crops have been very fair except hay which has failed
everywhere. Stewart & Frank have done all the ploughing and all the
farm work with their uncle for the last two years & he has had no hired
man at all. They are very industrious & steady. Stewart is very tall & a
very handsome fellow. Frank is not so tall nor so well looking but he is
full of fire & makes us all laugh nearly to "high [striker]." Rolley is now
in town in Mr. Erskines shop & boards with his Aunt Hay....
I am so tired writing I can hardly guide my pen, so will release you
from the task of reading all this & only add my kindest regards to Mr.
Atwood & kisses to the chicks in all which Bee joins with your ever affect'
old Mama F. Stewart....