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This week in history: April 25-May 1

On February 5, we told you about the Risvold Collection.  Floyd E. Risvold collected pieces of American history throughout his life, including a large assortment of letters on the fur trade.  Robert Campbell was a prominent figure in this collection.  Risvold’s collection was auctioned off in January 2010, but Shelley Satke was able to transcribe close to 50 letters to and from Robert Campbell.

Today we post a April 30, 1836 letter from lot 160, a pair of letters from William Drummond Stewart.  Here is the description of Stewart from the auction house:

“Stewart, William Drummond, Choice pair of autograph letters signed by the Scottish sportsman (1795-1871) whose forays into the wild American West in the 1830s became the basis for dramatic paintings by Alfred Jacob Miller and also for his own frontier novels. The first, to Robert Campbell in Lexington, Missouri, in care of John Aull, is apparently sent from a boat on the Missouri River. . . . The death of Stewart’s brother [mentioned in 2nd letter] turned him from a former soldier and gentleman of leisure into Sir William Stewart, 19th Lord of Grandyully. Having gone to every rendezvous from 1833-38, he was now an old hand and had formed warm friendships with Campbell, William Sublette, and the other great fur traders and trappers. In 1837, he had hired Alfred J. Miller to come along and create sketches and watercolors of life on the western trails, which he later had Miller turn into full-size paintings. Letters from Stewart are quite scarce, though he is often mentioned by others. His charm in these letters gives a good sense of why he was so readily accepted by the traders, but his ability in the wilderness and with a gun are what allowed him to fit into the rough and tumble world of the mountain men”

In his April 30, 1836 letter to Robert Campbell, Stewart suggests that Robert take morphine and quinine when he resumes his “Shaking habits”.  We hope you enjoy this correspondence between 2 fascinating mountain men!


Saturday April 30th 1836

Dear Campbell
I was very sorry to hear
you had resumed your shaking
habits & would strongly recommend
some other religion.  Take a dose
of morphine when you first feel the
chill & one of quinine every two hours
& I think with bitters you will get
thru better.  This eased me.  I found
at Booneville that my horse had been
foundered I think he should be contd [?]
as a work horse & thank you
find a fast running horse
[next page]
Pay buy him for me in his
Stead as he will do for one
of the people you will oblige me
by getting me a pair of holsters
as Nelson has lost by old ones.
I fear we shall not meet so
I have only to wish your health
& prosperity.  The boat shakes like
An apere [?] & I find I am hardly
Yours faithfully,
WD. Stewart

Robert Campbell Esq
Care of Mr Aull
W Stewart

Capt W Stewart
April 30th 1836

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